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Chasing Dreams

Honda’s journey into motorsports

You’d never think that a 17-year old mechanic’s daydreams of building the ultimate racing machine would someday come true. But never say never. As Soichiro Honda rode alongside famous race car driver Shin’ichi Sakakibara in 1924, with whom he would win that year’s Japan Automobile Competition, little did he realize that his name would one day come to be revered in the world of motorsports from Suzuka to Monte Carlo and from Silverstone to Sepang. As every sports enthusiast knows, determination is the single most important trait and young Soichiro had bucket loads.

Indeed, twelve years later in 1936, driving a supercharged, Fordbased machine he had built himself, he managed to unceremoniously turtle the vehicle and get tossed out. But though the broken bones and facial lacerations he suffered would sadly put an end to his days as a racer, it did reiterate his ‘winning isn’t everything’ belief and it would do little to keep the auto repair shop owner away from his love of racing. He would soon get behind the technological side of the wheel instead in his quest to be the fastest in the world. “Racing improves the breed,” he opined.

Ever the visionary, one of Soichiro Honda’s first ventures after WWII was the formation of the Honda Technical Research Institute (the forerunner of Honda Motor Company). Using cheap, recycled, 50cc war-surplus generator engines designed to power military radio sets, Soichiro Honda developed them into small half-a-horsepower bicycle engines, a precursor to the motorcycle engine. It was impossible to keep this man down.

Indeed, racing has always been at the core of Honda’s DNA. In 1955, Honda motorcycles emerged victorious at the inaugural All- Japan Endurance Motorcycle Road Race, running over unpaved routes in the forests of Mt. Asama. Soon after, Soichiro himself went on a fact finding tour to the famous Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) races held in England, where he returned truly inspired with ‘the ten commandments’ of how to take racing to the next level, a feat that his motorcycles. But to Soichiro Honda of course, that wasn’t quite enough. “Since childhood,” he once said, “my dream was to become a champion in the world of automobile racing with a machine I had made myself.”

And so the pursuit of producing a sports car began late in 1962 with Honda’s S-360, S-500 and S-600 series. It wasn’t long after, in 1964, that Honda produced its first F1 car, the RA271, and was taking part in Grand Prix races throughout the globe between 1964 and 1968. And after a 15 year hiatus, Honda returned to the F1 circuit at the British Grand Prix in 1983 teaming up with McLaren.

Following this, Honda-powered F1 cars began to regularly take the honours at Grand Prix races, an example being winning an amazing fifteen out of sixteen races in 1988! In fact, by the end of the 1992 season, Honda-powered cars had won an amazing 71 Grand Prix races. During this period, Honda supplied its engines to six constructor champions, as well as five driver championships. Among its drivers were three-time World F1 champion, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. In 2000, Honda provided engines for the British American Racing (BAR) team, which was re- established as Honda Racing F1 Team in 2005.

“My dream was to become a champion in the world of automobile racing with a machine I had made myself.”

Besides F1, Honda has also actively been involved in the Indy Car Championships, British Touring Car and Super GT races among other car races over the years, while in Malaysia, the Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT) build up their own race-tuned Civic Type R for the annual 12-hour Merdeka Millennium Endurance race.

Since 2003, HMRT have participated in the endurance race with supervision from the Mugen team. The team has managed to show their racing DNA and gained gradual independence since, and by 2008, Honda Malaysia introduced a 100% local team who built up the Civic Type R themselves for the race.

HMRT’s objective has always been a platform to allow local talents to thrive in motorsports, hence the team comprises of Honda Malaysia associates who apply their experiences and challenging spirit to their daily jobs at Honda.

But then again, you wouldn’t be surprised. Certainly not when you’re backed by Soichiro Honda’s driving philosophy. As the man once famously said, “If Honda does not race, there is no Honda”. Consider yourself told. in the years to come


Tags:Motorsports, Soichiro Honda, Founder
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