Mugen and Minardi

THE MUGEN COMPANY is expected to announce in Malaysia that it will be continuing its involvement in Formula 1 as an independent engine builder. The company is owned and run by Hirotoshi Honda - the son of Honda founder Soichiro Honda - and has been integrally involved with Honda motor sport activities since its formation in 1973. Mugen has been working on F1 engines since 1989 when the company built its first prototype F1 engine. In 1991 Mugen began preparing Honda V10 engines for Tyrrell but the following year the engines were renamed the Mugen and were entered for the Footwork F1 team. Mugen went on to supply Team Lotus, Ligier, Prost and Jordan. The company scored its first F1 victory at Monaco in 1996 with Olivier Panis driving for Ligier while Damon Hill and Heinz-Harald Frentzen have added victories to Mugen's list of success.

Mugen has always received help from Honda but now that Honda Motor has embarked on its own F1 program Mugen has been told that all Honda help will stop. Mugen is in a position to build its own engines but most of the designers are Honda employees who had been seconded to Mugen. They are now going back to Honda.

Mugen remains an ambitious company and the gossip in Japan was that Hirotoshi Honda has decided to buy a supply of AMT engines and run them with a Mugen badge. The stories suggested that the engines will be supplied to Minardi which will have backing from Japanese auto accessory and clothing company PIAA for driver Toranosuke Takagi. Takagi used to race in F1 but dropped out this year to rebuild his career in Formula Nippon. He has dominated the series and now needs to move on. We also hear that Hirotoshi Honda's right hand man Yoshi Ebihara will be drafted in to run the company.

Minardi had been expected to use Supertec engines next year but it seems that negotiations with Supertec were not agreed and that the Italian team (which has new ownership) has now changed its mind.

The AMT engines, which are really only rebadged Peugeot V10s, are expected to begin testing this week in Barcelona in the back of an Arrows.

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