OCTOBER 7, 1996
Tom and Honda?
TOM WALKINSHAW will announce his complete 1997 program at the Bridgestone headquarters in Kyobashi, Tokyo, on Wednesday evening and while everyone in Formula 1 is expecting a long-term engine deal with Yamaha there are one or two normally-reliable sources suggesting that Tom is about to surprise the F1 world again by revealing a long-term contract with Honda.
The Honda Motor Company admitted in December last year that it was starting discussions to get back into Formula 1 racing. It has dominated Indycar racing this year with the Ganassi team and would like to take advantage of Renault's withdrawal at the end of 1997. Walkinshaw admitted as long ago as March that his prime target for an engine supply was Honda but when Mugen signed a deal with Flavio Briatore's Ligier for 1997 it was assumed that Briatore would take Honda to Benetton in 1998. Walkinshaw went into negotiation with Ford, Peugeot and Yamaha.
Honda and Bridgestone have long established links in racing and tend to work together and with Damon Hill leading the attack a Bridgestone Honda program would make a lot of sense.
Walkinshaw may also name the Arrows team's second driver on Wednesday night. The team has been talking to Pedro Diniz - who would bring around $10m of Parmalat sponsorship - but Japanese support might get Ukyo Katayama the drive. If Walkinshaw has no restraints he would probably choose Jos Verstappen and have a Japanese rising star such as Toranosuke Takagi as the team's test driver.
Walkinshaw is also expected to announce that the cars will be known as Arrows next year, ending the association with Footwork. After the Japanese GP the team will be leaving one of its FA17 chassis in Japan to replace the Ligier JS41 which Bridgestone has been using for tire testing to date at Suzuka.