OCTOBER 4, 2005

Where is the mystery new F1 team?

Honda's announcement that it will be supplying a second Formula 1 team next year and that this will be a new operation is most interesting, given that there is no real evidence to suggest that a new team is up and running.

Building up a fully operational F1 team is not going to be the work of a moment. The most likely operation to be involved in a new team is the Dome company in Japan. This has been building racing cars since 1975, although its founder Minoru Hayashi was constructing racing machinery for 10 years before he started Dome. The company built Formula 3 cars in the 1980s and then began competing in Formula 3000 and in 1994 Marco Apicella won the All Japan title. At the start of 1995 Tadashi Sasaki, the team manager of Minardi, joined Dome and that autumn the company announced its plan to enter F1. A prototype was built and tested by Apicella, Shinji Nakano and Naoki Hattori. During that period the company tried various ways to put together an F1 team, including talks with Prince Malik ado Ibrahim (who ended up with Arrows) and the Dutch electronics firm Philips. When these failed and Honda decided to join BAR, Dome turned its attention to other business, with plans for an Indy Racing League car. That was not a success but in recent years the company has enjoyed good results with the Lola-Dome Formula 3 car, the S101 sports car which is run by Jan Lammers's Racing for Holland team, a Honda NSX in the local GT series and with the design and production of Formula Dream cars in Japan. The Dome windtunnel at Shiga is used now by Honda engineers and is identical to the BAR facility in Brackley. The company is in the process of building a new factory at Shiga.

The ambition to be in F1 still exists, although Sasaki has now left the company.

"From 1986 we have set our goal to enter the F1 Grand Prix and we have shaped our activities around formula cars," the team says. "We have developed an F1 car of our own and we are currently accumulating know-how and building up our organisation to make it possible for us to enter."

Given that one of the reasons for the new team is the desire to give Takuma Sato a drive in F1, it is likely that the new team could be Japanese.

There was talk a few weeks ago of Japanese group Direxiv looking to fund an F1 team with McLaren. It is always possible that this group is involved, while there is also a possibility that Carlin Motorsport might try to step up to F1, Trevor Carlin having learned the hard way with Jordan earlier this year. Sato drove for Carlin in Formula 3.