JULY 27, 1998

The secret life of Honda

HONDA is shortly expected to announce that it is entering Formula 1 next season with a factory team.

HONDA is shortly expected to announce that it is entering Formula 1 next season with a factory team. Although there have been rumors for some months, there were doubts because there were few signs of any activity suggesting that the new team could be ready in time for the new season.

We have recently learned that a number of Tyrrell engineers have slipped away from Ockham in recent months and have been designing the car in an office in the town of Leatherhead, in Surrey. Windtunnel work has been done in Italy, at the Dallara Automobili facility near Varano in the hills of Romagna, close to Parma.

The group includes all-round designer Tim Densham, chassis man Chris Radage, suspension expert Chris Cooney and aerodynamicist Ben Agethangelou. We are told that the designers have been working on a CAD system which is compatible with the one at Dallara and that the Italian company is producing the pieces. The first car is expected to run in November. A British factory will be set up shortly and many of the Tyrrell staff are expected to transfer to the new facility, which will be somewhere in Surrey.

We expect that the team will be headed by former Honda president Nobuhiko Kawamoto with Satoru Nakajima and Harvey Postlethwaite being the other team principals. Funding will come from PIAA and Mild Seven with Tora Takagi driving one car. The identity of the second driver is yet to be established but the favorite for the drive is believed to be Johnny Herbert, a driver with speed and experience and testing ability. He has experience with Honda personnel from his days at Lotus.

The program is understood to be causing some controversy within the Honda company as the Motorsport Department wants to be involved in the chassis as well as the engine and Mugen boss Hirotoshi Honda - who owns 40% of the shares of Honda - wanted the company to support his program rather than go it alone.

There have been suggestions that Dome is trying to win the engine deal away from the Kawamoto/Nakajima faction and recently ran its F1 prototype for this reason. It is unlikely to make much of a difference.