Honda Performance Development is gearing up for some competition from Lotus and Chevrolet.

The Santa Clarita-based maker of IndyCar racing engines will face challenges from the two manufacturers starting with the 2012 season of open-wheeled racing.

The American Honda Motor Co. unit has been the exclusive provider of engines to all drivers in the IndyCar league since 2006 and continued when IndyCar and the Champ Car Series merged in 2008. But IndyCar has made no secret of its desire to expand its roster of engine makers – and Honda claims to be fine with that.

T.E. McHale, a spokesman for American Honda, said the addition of Lotus and Chevrolet means that Honda can reduce its IndyCar racing costs. Also, should Honda engines power the greatest number of winners and win the manufacturer’s trophy, the company will have a better marketing story.

“We are really happy to have competition. The cornerstone of our racing program is proving itself on the track against the best competition possible,” McHale said.

GM’s Chevrolet unit has a long history supporting open-wheeled racing going back to the mid-1980s, while a Lotus chassis was surprisingly ridden to victory in the 1965 Indy 500. The English sports car maker is now owned by a Malaysian company.

The three engines will be equally divided among drivers, though the Indianapolis-based league has not yet announced how it will assign engines to the teams.

“For awhile, nobody wanted to compete with Honda,” said IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard, in a recent swing through Los Angeles. “Now we have different brands representing different lifestyles that will be able to showcase themselves in this league.”

In an effort to reduce Honda’s costs prior to signing up Chevrolet and Lotus, IndyCar had already switched to a lower-cost engines for the 2012 season. The platform reduces the number of cylinders from eight to six, but the engine still will produce similar horsepower, about 550 and 700 depending on the track. Currently, Honda reportedly charges each team more than $900,000 to provide engines for an entire season.

It’s unclear what the cost will be for the smaller engines, but it’s probable that Honda could cut its IndyCar engine production by half. However, McHale said that with the completion Honda will have to ramp up R&D.

The engines are manufactured in Japan but developed and serviced by Honda’s facility on Anza Drive in Valencia.

The IndyCar season traditionally kicks off in March.

Easton Execs

Easton-Bell Sports Inc. is hoping that a new executive team can boost the company’s appeal in a digital age.

The Van Nuys company recently hired Duke Stump as senior vice president of culture, creative and brand innovation. He will work with a restructured management team that includes the recently promoted Matt Arndt, Mike Zlaket and Doug Appleton to unite the company’s baseball, hockey and lacrosse brands. The group has experience working for major brands such as Nike and Reebok, as well as experience at Easton’s baseball and lacrosse divisions.

“We don’t want to simply operate baseball, hockey or lacrosse, but want to have a singular brand positioning,” said President Chris Zimmerman, who joined Easton in March after a three-year stint as chief executive of the Vancouver Canucks.

The company recently launched its first viral video campaign for a hockey stick; it featured Montreal Canadiens player Mike Cammalleri handling the stick. The video received more than 100,000 views in its first few weeks on YouTube, far surpassing Easton’s expectations.

“That type of work hasn’t been used in the past, but it enables us to engage consumers in the digital world,” Zimmerman said.

On the manufacturing side, the executive group will work to share technology across sports. For example, the company recently opened a helmet technology center in its Scotts Valley office. It houses all of the research and development work for its various brands such as Riddell, Bell and Giro.

World Cup

Fans interested in finding out which countries will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments can gather Dec. 2 at downtown’s ESPN Zone to watch the 7 a.m. announcement.

The United States will make its final presentation to host the 2022 games to the Executive Committee of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, in Zurich on Dec. 1. The committee will vote the following day, with the results broadcast live from Switzerland.

Los Angeles is one of 18 cities included in the U.S. bid and has two venues entered: the Rose Bowl, host of the U.S. World Cup Finals in 1994, and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. L.A. Live also could be a potential venue should AEG move forward with a proposed downtown football stadium next to the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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