Allen Miller gets new responsibilities within HPD, talks IndyCar aero kits

Allen Miller spoke about the IndyCar Honda aero kits and the visible gap they need to make up in order to contend with Chevrolet.

Allen Miller gets new responsibilities within HPD, talks IndyCar aero kits
Carlos Munoz, Andretti Autosport Honda
Conor Daly, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Simona de Silvestro, Andretti Autosport Honda
Honda's speedway configuration aero kit
Carlos Munoz, Andretti Autosport Honda
Gabby Chaves, Bryan Herta Autosport Honda
Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda detail
Andretti Autosport Honda of Simona de Silvestro
Honda's speedway configuration aero kit
Andretti Autosport Honda of Simona de Silvestro
Honda's speedway configuration aero kit
Andretti Autosport Honda of Simona de Silvestro

Honda Performance Development (HPD) recently appointed 21-year team member Allen Miller as the leader with responsibility for its Verizon IndyCar Series, Pirelli World Challenge, TUDOR United Sports Car Championship and World Endurance Championship endeavors. That’s a heady level of responsibility, but one that Miller seems to have adapted to quite well.

Without going into specifics, I’ll say that we’ve started to identify where we have some deficiencies

Allen Miller on Honda IndyCar aero kits.

During this weekend’s Angie’s List GP of Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Miller talked about what his job entails, with particular emphasis on his Indy car duties and started by detailing how he got this job.

Miller's background

Miller started with the company in 1994, just a year after HPD was formed. He worked in engine assembly, slowly taking over all production areas of race engine build. He moved into project control, “Which then led to being in charge of the sports car LM P2 program. That’s been the last eight years, since around 2006,” Miller said. Earlier this year, Miller shifted his focus to the Indy car side, as Honda and Chevrolet began their aero kit competition - to go along with their manufacturers’ competition for engines.

While results to date haven’t been the greatest for Honda’s engine/aero kit combination in qualifying for the first five road/street races of the season, the result two weeks ago, where Graham Rahal brought Honda to the podium at Barber Motorsports Park and again Saturday in Indianapolis certainly lifted spirits. “There’s no reason to think we couldn’t or shouldn’t end up in a similar situation here at Indianapolis this weekend,” he said.

It’s been a long three, four months making all these parts as 17 cars mean 34 kits that have to come out on top of the original road-course kits ... We’ve got 50 people here, just from HPD

Allen Miller on Indy 500 preparations

“Seems like in the race we had a little bit of an advantage with tire wear, things holding up a little bit better. I think that may just be due to some differences in the cars and their kits,” noting the way in which teams adapt different configurations for their race setups. “We’ll look to see if we can try to repeat those results tomorrow.”

Identifying and rectifying aero kit issues

Miller does realize there are issues with the aero kits in road-course configuration. “Without going into specifics, I’ll say that we’ve started to identify where we have some deficiencies. We’ve got quite a big wind tunnel program going now, trying to improve where we think we need to make improvements, and staying within the limitations of the current rules.” Miller did note that HPD has been running full-scale wind tunnel testing and has expanded that to do 50% scale testing, “Just doing some other work we can’t get done. It’s so time consuming and so expensive to run the full scale, there’s smaller things we’re doing in the scale test now.

“We’ve got homologated parts,” items that have to remain the same throughout the season. “We’re just trying to figure out how to take advantage of what we have now and put it back in a better performance standard.” Both manufacturers agreed not to get into a balance-of-performance situation. Neither Honda nor Chevrolet wants to make changes throughout the season unless “there’s some desperate changes required. We’re fairly close between the two manufacturers, but obviously we’re behind. We’re taking every step we can through testing to try and improve.”

17 Hondas to attempt Indy 500

Teams at IMS have Sunday off and begin preparations for the 99th Indianapolis 500 on May 24. Honda has agreed to field 17 entries in the race - at this point - and has added staffing challenges to address beyond its standard 11-12 entries for the first five Indy car races.

“It’s been a long three, four months making all these parts as 17 cars mean 34 kits that have to come out on top of the original road-course kits. We’re in pretty good shape at this point,” he said. “But adding staff here at the track? I was just going over the list this morning and we’ve got 50 people here, just from HPD, support contractors and so on. It’s a pretty big effort,” Miller confirmed.

The open test a week ago for aero kits on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval gave Miller some cause for optimism, however cautious. “It seemed like it was a pretty balanced result between the two different cars,” he noted. “I think we started pretty conservative and the results, were good, I’ll say. I’m hoping for even more over the next week.”

More reliability

All IndyCar engines are intended to last at least 2,500 miles this year for a maximum of 10,000 miles between four engines for each car/driver combination. At this point, Honda has mileaged-out five engines, leading into the GP of Indianapolis while last year they’d had a few failures, giving Honda a sense of pride. Miller said it was, as expected, due to a lot of hard work by everyone at HPD.

After the season ended at Fontana last Labor Day weekend, “We took all of our trackside engineering staff, brought them inside the building (in Santa Clarita, Calif.), put them to work performance testing and durability testing. We doubled our test staff, which doubled all our test time, which has turned into making something that is pretty reliable at this point.” Miller expects the rest of of its full-season engines to be mileaged-out by early next week when practice begins for the Indy 500.

Miller said the team intends to put new engines in for qualifying and pull them for the race to install yet another new engine, reserving the qualifying engines for use after the 500. The second engine will be re-installed after Indy and will then be put through standard mileage until it, too, reaches 2,500 miles, at which point the Indy engines will be used as engine No. 3. “We want to mileage them out in the order we’ve built them this year.”

At this time ,Honda leads Chevrolet in engine manufacturer points, thanks to the competitor’s valve spring problem that necessitated breaking the seal on the engines for repairs and points deductions. Going into the 500, Honda (with a single win at NOLA courtesy of James Hinchcliffe) leads Chevrolet 441 points to 336.

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