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Honda confirms own team

THE HONDA MOTOR COMPANY has confirmed that it is going to return to Formula 1 racing with its own team. Last week the company president Nobuhiko Kawamoto confirmed that "a feasibility study" has begun. Our spies tell us that plans are rather more advanced than Kawamoto has suggested and that the team will be ready to go racing in 1999.

Honda has always wanted to win with its own team, chassis and engine but the first attempt to do this in 1964 was not a success. Kawamoto was himself one of the design team at the time and so F1 is unfinished business to him. The first attempt began in 1962 when Honda bought a Cooper chassis in which to fit a V12 engine but this project never got off the ground. Honda then asked Lotus to build a chassis but Lotus was forced to pull out at the last minute and Honda was left to build its own car, the RA271 which raced four times in 1964 without success.

The company won its first race in Japan the following year with the RA272 but at the end of that year the Grand Prix formula was changed and Honda had to start from scratch again. In 1966 and 1967 the company struggled with the RA273 chassis and gradually accepted that it must have European input in the project, establishing a British base and using a new RA300, which was built by Lola around the monocoque of its Indianapolis car. This was nicknamed the "Hondola" and took John Surtees to victory in Italy in 1967. The chassis was developed in 1968 with British designer Len Terry helping out while the Japanese built the remarkable RA302 chassis in Tokyo. This featured an air-cooled V8 engine and a magnesium alloy chassis. This crashed on its debut at Rouen and the driver Jo Schlesser was killed. At the end of the year Honda decided not continue in F1.

Honda returned to F1 as an engine supplier between 1983 and 1992, winning 69 races with Williams, Lotus and McLaren but the ambition to create an all Japanese car remains.

Many in F1 feel that it is not practical to try to build F1 cars in Japan, without the involvement of specialist British composite engineers. Currently we have heard of no British engineers involved in the project although our sources suggest that the company will establish a British headquarters, somewhere near London's Heathrow Airport, and will run operations from there, although the chassis will be built at the Honda Research and Development headquarters in Wako, near Tokyo.

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