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Honda to Return to Formula 1

Today Honda announced a return to Formula 1 as an engine supplier to the McLaren International team beginning in 2015. For many enthusiasts and race fans, the name McLaren-Honda conjours up fond memories of one of the most dominant performances in F1 history.

Through their history, Honda has participated in the top form of motorsports with varying degrees of success. Beginning in 1964 - 1968 they participated as an "all Honda" team including both engine and chassis. This combination only produced two wins before Honda withdrew to concentrate on environmental concerns for their road car engines. Their famous CVCC engine came from this and was the first engine to meet US emissions regulations without a catalytic converter in 1970.

Between 1983 and 1992 Honda participated as an engine supplier only. During this period Honda supplied its engines to six constructor champions as well as five driver championships. During the magical season of 1988 the McLaren Honda won 15 of 16 races that year. Honda's third stint in Formula One would begin in 2000 as an engine supplier that, by 2006, had developed into an "all Honda" effort. With only one when throughout this. It was considered a "failure" by most observers.

Today, Honda's president, Takanobu Ito said, "Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing. Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world's most prestigious automotive racing series."

The new engine formula which goes into effect for 2014 features a 1.6 liter, turbocharged V-6 engine with direct injection and energy recovery. Honda feels that this formula can yield benefits for our street cars. Honda has always tried to utilize racing as a test bed for consumer technologies, but also as a way to train young engineers.

Lurking under the veneer of the press release are several sobering facts. Honda did not do very well in their last try in Formula One. Also, McLaren is currently going through a difficult time. They have been a contender year in and year out but haven't won a constructors championship since 1998. The last time Honda powered a championship team was 1991 (with McLaren).

I am left to wonder if Honda's most recent Formula One effort failed to live up to expectations because they were unprepared for the "politics" of team ownership and the difficulty of manufacturing their own chassis. In the years since the last McLaren-Honda partnership ended, McLaren has fared better.

Both companies have enormous engineering resources and a wealth of talent. Maybe this marriage will allow both parties to excel? By relieving Honda of the "headache" of managing a team and developing the chassis, they can focus all of their effort on their new engine. McLaren, now freed from the necessity of buying their engines can allocate more funds to developing a race winning chassis.


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