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GP Week : Issue 29
cing history Factory of dreams: JAS Motorsport, above, is responsible for building Honda’s rallying reputation, and have taken the project as far as Canberra, Australia, left. Schlesser at the wheel of the Honda RA302 in the 1968 French Grand Prix, the Japanese manufacturer withdrew from the sport. Although remaining in the single-seaters as an engine supplier to the Brabham F2 outfit, Honda also joined up with Brabham for a collaboration with Judd and produced an IndyCar engine in the 1980s. That same decade saw Honda re-enter Formula 1, but this time as an engine manufacturer rather than a constructor. Success flowed almost instantly with its relationship first with Williams and then McLaren bringing the For the first half of the season the car ran under Group A rules, as the car had been prepared before many aspects of Group R rules were finalised. After Sanremo and Catalunya in 2007, the car was converted to the proposed Group R rules. The original Group A engines had been built by JAS, but when it was moved to Group R the engines were prepared by Mugen. The difference was that the Group R engine could have freedom of exhaust manifold design, but a limit in valve lift and compression ratios. As a result, the performance between the two engines was comparable overall. There were also other changes. “In Group A we could also use 18 inch wheel on asphalt while in Group R we had to use 17 inch,”adds Mariani. “Rally by rally we are learning a lot. Technically the big lessons have been the failure of the drive shafts on the gravel in company 6 consecutive world championships between 1986 and 1991. The company withdrew at the end of 1992, keeping a toe in the water through Mugen-Honda, before returning again as engine supplier to BAR and Jordan. Honda bought out the BAR F1 team in 2005, and in 2006 Australia and Russia. A lot of forest tests were made with [Guy] Wilks in Finland and Italy to overcome that.” After several class wins in IRC and World Championship rallies in 2007, it was a really emotive moment when Wilks finished highest placed two-wheel-drive car on the 2008 Neste Oil Rally Finland, ahead of all the championship JWRC cars. Work with Honda’s specialist Mugen engine builders, meanwhile, led to an unexpected direction – they wanted Honda to enter two rallies in Australia. These were to be the Canberra and Melbourne events, but when Melbourne was cancelled, the rally at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, was substituted. The arrival of Honda in the rallies in Australia created big local interest, even though this was only a two-wheel-drive car. Actually, the fact it is ‘only’a two wheel drive car focussed attention on two factors; it was it was turned into Honda’s first full F1 works effort since the 1960s. Over in America, Honda has had much success and after joining IndyCar in 1994 it quickly became the engine manufacturer of choice. Honda became the sole engine- supplier of the IRL in 2006. necessary in the short term to encourage the concept of a new championship based around two-wheel-drive cars, which led to discussions with the IRC. And it also led to thoughts about the chance to move on into four-wheel-drive, which means Super 2000, in the future. “At the moment this is a budget issue,”says Mariani. “We believe this formula is a good way to produce a competitive car at a reasonable price, which in current conditions in the sport is very attractive. We now need time, however, to explain things to our Japanese masters. Our thought is that a Super 2000 car must be attractive to Honda’s marketing divisions in many countries, because it is the chance for Hondas to win rallies outright.” And seeing Honda’s name at the top of results sheets will make everything worthwhile … 35 Martin Holmes Martin Holmes