Software issue caused Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Rahal problems

David Malsher-Lopez

Due to social distancing rules in place for the race weekend at TMS, neither Honda nor Chevrolet engineers were allowed to attend to their engines and plug in their laptops for the startup procedures. So when a glitch occurred on the two Andretti Autosport cars and on the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing machine, there was no way to immediately resolve the issue.

Allen Miller, HPD race team leader, explained: "The problem is the result of a software communication issue between the Honda electronics and Cosworth’s ECU that sometimes arises during the startup procedure.  

“While not a frequent problem, it is something that has occurred previously.  Our engineers are aware of the issue, and had they been in their normal position at the car for the engine start, could have quickly resolved it.”  

While Hunter-Reay’s and Rossi’s crew swapped out their cars’ ECUs on the dummy grid on pitlane, RLLR pulled Rahal’s car back to the pitbox to have a Honda engineer reset the electronics and fire up the engine. Unfortunately, all three cases breached IndyCar’s parc ferme rule preventing work on cars between qualifying and the start of the race in this one-day event.

All three were therefore assessed drive-through penalties, and Rossi’s delay was exacerbated by then speeding on pitlane and having to serve another drive through. Although Hunter-Reay eventually recovered to clinch eighth place, Rossi could only salvage 16th. 2016 Texas winner Rahal was a further place behind having also served a stop-and-go penalty for exceeding the temporary stint limit of 35 laps per set of Firestone tires.

This compounded RLLR’s misery, given that Rahal’s teammate, Takuma Sato, had been unable to make the start of the race at all. The 2017 Indy 500 winner crashed on a warm-up lap before his qualifying run. The team attempted to rebuild the car but, given the fact that there was little more than two hours between the shunt and the start of the race, they were unable to send it through Tech Inspection before the prescribed deadline.