APRIL 27, 2006
A little secret about Honda
Honda is not very keen on the current discussions about the curbing of technology in Formula 1. The company has always used the sport to help its engineers create new ideas and to learn how to react quickly to change. This has meant that many of the top people in Honda over the years have been men who were involved in competition during their careers. It is often said in Japan that Honda is a racing company that builds cars, while Toyota is a car company that goes racing.
In recent months Honda has been following the GPMA policy of quiet negotiation, rather than making public pronouncements about the politics of the sport. However there are a couple of signs that F1 people should bear in mind given the arguments in F1.
Honda recently began selling its new Ridgeline pick-up truck, which was designed and built by Honda engineer specifically for the US market. Although the company continues to say that it is not planning to go into NASCAR, quiet approaches have been made in recent months to a number of NASCAR engine builders with a plan to develop a suitable engine for a Craftsman Truck series programme in 2010.
At the same time Honda Performance Development, the company's American competition subsidiary, in Santa Clarita, California, has announced its plans to go into the American Le Mans Series. That programme will start with engines being fitted into customer chassis this year for testing. These will be raced next year but HPD's ultimate aim is to build its own chassis in 2008. What has been missed in the announcement is the Honda will almost certainly end up going to Le Mans in 2008 to challenge the big guns of sports car racing. There is speculation that this programme could involve Rahal Letterman Racing, which has strong links with Honda in the Indy Racing League.
There may be a subtle message in this announcement for the powers-that-be in Formula 1.
In the meantime Honda continues to try to get to the top in F1, despite the disappointment at Imola.
"We have a fast car and we just need a few things to go right in order to prove its performance," said Honda F1 team boss Nick Fry. "Honda are in Formula 1 for the long term and the pressure on us to perform is self-generated."
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