PEOPLE: HIROTOSHI HONDA

Name: Hirotoshi Honda
Nationality: Japan

Hirotoshi Honda is the son of Soichiro Honda, the man who founded the Honda Motor Company. Born in April 1942 he was six when his father set up Honda and when Hirotoshi was in his teens the empire boomed. By the time Honda Jr graduated from Nihon University in 1965, the Honda name was famous across the world for its motorcycles - and was beginning to build cars.

After graduating Hirotoshi tried his hand at building his own racing cars in workshops behind the family home, but it was not until 1972, when Honda began to market the Civic, that Hirotoshi decided on his long-term future. Seeing big opportunities in automobile design, he established Mugen with Masao Kimura, an engineer with experience at Honda R&D and in the Honda Racing team.

The plan was to develop technology to be used on Honda road cars and develop racing engines for sale. The first Mugen engines were based on the Civic's 1200cc unit, but as the Honda range of cars grew so did Mugen. By 1984 Mugen had begun to market body kits as well as engines. In 1986 Honda commissioned Mugen to build an engine for the new Formula 3000. The prototype was tested in 1987 and it was raced successfully in 1988. The same year Akihiko Nakaya used a Mugen engine to win the Japanese F3 title. The following year Mugen won its first Japanese F3000 title and a second F3 crown. The decision was taken to expand abroad and in 1989 Mugen arrived in European F3000, winning seven of the 10 races and taking Jean Alesi to the title.

The 1990 season would be even better with F3 titles in Britain, France and Japan and both the Japanese and European F3000 championships as well. The only obvious step was F1. Honda Jr had harbored F1 ambitions from early on. In 1989 Mugen built its first F1 engine - a 3.5-liter V8 - but this was not raced. In 1991, however, Honda gave Mugen the job of preparing its V10 engines for the Braun Tyrrell team.

A year later - using the same engines, badged as Mugens - the company entered F1 with Footwork, finishing a promising seventh in the Constructors' Championship. The 1993 season with Footwork and the 1994 partnership with Lotus were both disappointing and, after a brief flirtation with Minardi, Mugen chose to supply Ligier for 1995 and the company won its first Grand Prix victory with Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996.

Mugen switched to Jordan in 1997 and in 1998 there was a second victory with Damon Hill at Spa. The 1999 season resulted in further success with Heinz-Harald Frentzen winning twice, but then the Honda Motor Company announced that it would be returning with its own engines in 2000 with British American Racing. Mugen pulled out of F1 leaving Honda to supply the engines to Jordan as well.

Based in Asaka City, in the northern suburbs of Tokyo - close to the Honda R&D facility at Wako - Mugen continues to do well in Formula 3.

In 1992 the company had built the prototype Honda NSX and has long-term ambitions to build its own road cars.

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