A thermodynamical model of the ignition and flame growth process was developed to understand and minimize cycle-to-cycle variations in pressure due to minor differences in flame kernel growth at the spark plug electrode between cycles. Initial flame kernel size after the spark breakdown process was determined by solving the one-dimensional cylindrical shock flow equation. Overall reaction rates, flame speeds including turbulence and intensity, high temperature equilibrium and other thermodynamic properties were calculated by peripheral sub-models. Relative effects of spark power, heat loss to the spark plug, and the chemical heat release were studied under varying engine conditions. Results show that breakdown energy has a significant effect on the formation and size of the initial kernel and that the effect of flame kernel velocity on subsequent combustion was considerable at specific engine conditions. Additionally, an appreciable change of rate of pressure rise during glow and arc discharge modes was predicted with changes in spark power and engine speed. This was confirmed experimentally.