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Honda F1 engine making 'steady progress'

Honda says it is making "steady progress" with its Formula One programme and will have its dynamo and assembly facilities up and running in the UK by June this year.

The Japanese manufacturer is set to make its return to Formula One with McLaren next year and has been developing its V6 turbo power unit at a new facility in Sakura City, Japan. The company released a brief statement on its progress on Friday.

"For the FIA Formula One World Championship, which Honda will rejoin in the 2015 season, the company is making steady progress in developing the power unit," read the statement.

"In January 2014 Honda moved its motor sports development base from the Automobile R&D Center of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. (at Haga-machi, Haga-gun in Tochigi Prefecture) to a newly situated area in its facility in Sakura City (also in Tochigi), in a move to further strengthen its development organization for F1 and other races.

"At Honda's European base for F1 activity in Milton Keynes, UK, installation of the dynamo and assembly facilities will be completed in June 2014 to further reinforce the already solid setup in preparation for racing."



Honda aims to win fuel efficiency race in return to F-1

(Reuters) - After a seven-year hiatus, Honda Motor Co. is returning to the F-1 circuits next year, resolving to win more races - and learn how to build "greener" cars.

Honda is particularly aiming to turn exhaust gas that is mostly wasted in F-1 or conventional cars into energy. It is technology that Honda's F-1 chief, Yasuhisa Arai, says could give Honda an edge with its mass-market cars.

Cynics aren't buying the argument that Honda wants to use the F-1 as a technology incubator. They say Honda is trying to redeem its name after being a dud on the F-1 circuits from 2000 to 2008, when it quit the world's premier motor sport.

Arai doesn't necessarily disagree with that. He says Honda wants to be as successful as it was in the late 1980s when McLaren-Honda cars, driven by the late Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna and French four-time champ Alain Prost, dominated the sport. In 1988, Senna and Prost together won 15 of the 16 Grand Prix races.

"There's no point in racing unless you win," Arai said, strolling around a classic Honda F-1 car circa 1964 on display during a recent F-1 fan event at the Suzuka Circuit, 50 kms (30 miles) south of Nagoya in central Japan.

"That's why we teamed up with a winning team," Arai said referring to McLaren. Honda is set to supply engines starting in 2015 to McLaren, one of the most successful teams in F-1 history.


But Honda's return to Formula One is not just about the race, either.

Honda believes the new F-1 cars, which are now required to have gasoline-electric hybrid technology, offer an opportunity to make a technology leap.

The new regulations from the F-1 governing body require teams and engine suppliers such as Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz, to use a smaller engine, enhanced by turbo-charging technology, while using braking and exhaust to re-generate energy. Teams are also being given around a third less allotment of gasoline to race, compared to the previous race rules.

The regulations came into effect with the new F-1 season that kicked off in Melbourne this weekend.

Honda is particularly interested in the new requirement to use "exhaust-energy recovery" technology. Among other possibilities, it is looking at a way to use exhaust gas to spin a turbine in the car's exhaust system to generate electricity and store it in an onboard battery. A McLaren-Honda F-1 car, starting next year, could use such regenerated energy to go faster or farther.

Honda's move reflects what Arai calls a resolve by CEO Takanobu Ito to use the sport as a "laboratory on wheels," just as originally envisioned by company founder Soichiro Honda in the 1960s.

Establishing that exhaust-energy-recovery know-how should help Honda boost the so-called thermal efficiency of an F-1 car by as much as a third, Arai said.

Even the best of today's most advanced gasoline engines use only 30 percent of the thermal energy they create by combustion. The rest is wasted during braking and leaks out through exhaust pipes as heat. Arai wants to improve that thermal efficiency to as much as 40 percent.

"There's no technology like that available today," said the 57-year-old engineer, who is also senior managing director at Honda's R&D arm. "It's highly challenging, but if achieved, it could be applied in conventional cars."


It's not always easy, however, to use racing as a technology incubator. Current and former Honda executives who spoke on condition of anonymity said two forces often collide as teams prepare for each race.

"In the boardroom, managers can say all they want about the importance of using racing as a laboratory, but once the race starts, winning it becomes the No. 1 priority," one former Honda F-1 engine designer said. "New ideas often get in the way."

Where those two forces coincide is around fuel efficiency - with Arai hoping to apply the technology developed for Formula One cars to its mass production models.

For Honda, it is also an extension of a broader effort by CEO Ito, who has held Honda's top job since 2009, to regain the edge it once had as a daring, risk-taking automaker. Toyota Motor Corp. over the past two decades has been seen as the more futuristic company. That reputation was largely due to the success of the gasoline-electric hybrid, Prius - technology that Honda failed to initially embrace fully, though the company under Ito has since adjusted its strategy.

"Inside Honda, we call the 2000s a lost decade, void of progress and impact and momentum," a senior Honda executive said.

One of the company's missteps during those years, company insiders say, was remaining in F-1 racing from 2000 through 2008, during which time Honda won just one race. At the time, the sport was paying little or no attention to advanced technology - even as consumers around the world demanded more fuel-efficient cars - and thus contributing little to the advancement of conventional cars.

Now Formula One, thanks to the new rule change, has become an "enormously challenging" battle front for new technology, Arai says. By again competing on the F-1 circuit, Honda hopes to hatch ideas that give its engines an "unknown level of fuel-efficiency," he said.

(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu and Yoko Kubota. Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki. Editing by Bill Tarrant.)


Honda duo to 'observe' at 2014 races - report

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda's new F1 boss, and the Japanese marque's technical chief Kazuo Sakurahara were on an ununiformed mission to learn and observe as the 2014 season kicked off.

Mar.19 (GMM) Almost unnoticed in the Albert Park paddock last weekend strolled two Japanese with very big plans.

Speed Week correspondent Mathias Brunner reports that Yasuhisa Arai, Honda's new F1 boss, and the Japanese marque's technical chief Kazuo Sakurahara were on an ununiformed mission to learn and observe as the 2014 season kicked off.

It is not until 2015 that Honda, absent from the paddock since the shock decision in late 2008 to pull its Brackley based works team from F1, will return to the grid as McLaren's supplier of works turbo V6 engines.

But as F1's brave new era began in Australia, "It was the first of many visits this year," Brunner claimed, as the Honda duo embark upon a meticulous mission to be up to speed against experienced rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.

Arai is quoted as saying: "At the beginning (of the V6 programme) there were some difficulties, but at the moment we are quite satisfied with our level of development."

Undoubtedly, F1's smaller, greener and more relevant engine regulations lured the modern-minded Honda back to the sport, but Arai insists that the ultimate ambition is clear.

"There's no point in racing unless you win," he is quoted by Japan Today.

"That's why we teamed up with a winning team," Arai added, referring to McLaren, who in 2014 are spending their twentieth and last season with Mercedes power.


New regulations crucial in Honda’s decision to return to F1

After leaving the sport at the end of 2008, Honda is ready to make its return to Formula 1 next season with McLaren as the lure of going green proved to be too great to ignore.

For the first time since it was confirmed that the Japanese manufacturer would be powering the British team next season, a representative has appeared in the FIA press conference. Chief Officer of Motorsports Yasuhisa Arai faced the media on Friday in Shanghai, and revealed more information about Honda’s plans for the next few years.

“One of the major reasons for our decision was the new regulation introduced this year and that the various environment,” Arai explained. “I mean green technologies in the new Formula 1 power unit, as well as the total energy management are both very challenging and significant.

“The new regulation encourages each power unit supplier to pursue the ultimate combustions efficiency and high pressure direct injections, such as many, many new technology.

“Thus the challenge is to convert each unit of gasoline into energy and this is expected to be reflected on the huge production mode. That’s the reason why.”

The new regulations have been met with mixed responses, but in this case it is clear that they are doing some good. Honda will become the fourth engine supplier on the grid for 2015 alongside Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes, but for season one it will only be working with McLaren.

“For 2015, McLaren is our only customer,” Arai confirmed. “I don’t think about the future, because we want to concentrate on next season.

“If teams want to use our engine or power unit, we can deliver after year 2016 but right now there are no plans.”

Honda’s F1 operations are set to be run from Milton Keynes in England, and Arai confirmed that the factory will open in two months’ time.

“That, we will open June this year,” he said. “Now still under construction but that factory is to do the engine maintenance for the races and rebuilding the Formula 1 engine and also to go to the race-track for the trackside service. That’s Milton Keynes.”

The rekindling of the McLaren-Honda partnership undoubtedly stirs memories of their success in the late 1980s with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and although it might not quite reach such dizzy heights this time around, it certainly has the potential to take McLaren back to the very front of the field.


Honda exclusive to McLaren at least until 2017

Next year Honda will return to Formula One after a seven-year absence, bringing the first Japanese automaker to compete in the top-tier racing series back into the fold. But though it started in 1964 much as it ended in 2008, running its own team (much like Ferrari and Mercedes do today), its new F1 program will see it revert to engine-supplier status (like Renault did when it sold its team to Lotus).

The arrangement will be exclusive to McLaren for the 2015 Formula One World Championship. But what fans and insiders alike have been wondering is how it might expand after that. Well, now we have at least part of the answer.

According to the F1 business insiders at Pitpass, Honda motorsport chief Yasuhisa Arai told a group of journalists at this past weekend's race in Shanghai that the deal with McLaren will be exclusive not only in 2015, but also in 2016. In other words, it won't be until 2017 at the earliest before Honda might begin supplying engines to any other teams, if at all.

The last time McLaren and Honda collaborated, they proved an unassailable combination - one of the most successful partnerships in the history of motorsport. With Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost (subsequently replaced by Gerhard Berger) behind the wheel, McLaren-Honda won both the drivers' and constructors' titles four years running from 1988 through 1991, proving as winning a combination as Red Bull and Renault.

McLaren placed second under Honda power the following season in 1992, then meandered under Ford and Peugeot power before embarking on its long partnership with Mercedes that's still in effect this season. Meanwhile Honda left the series after 1992, only to return in 2000 with BAR, the team that it subsequently bought, then sold in 2009 to Ross Brawn who won the championship and ended up selling to Mercedes. That team is now leading the championship standings with nearly three times as many points as its closest challengers.


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