Australian GP: Honda preview

Honda arrives in Australia for the opening round of the 2003 FIA World Championship having made significant revisions to its Formula One programme. Looking to increase its competitiveness both this year and beyond, Honda has introduced the all-new...

Honda arrives in Australia for the opening round of the 2003 FIA World Championship having made significant revisions to its Formula One programme. Looking to increase its competitiveness both this year and beyond, Honda has introduced the all-new RA003E engine and strengthened both its technical and commercial partnerships with Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda.

The new ten-cylinder engine has a revised V-angle and is lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. Honda's engineers have also achieved an improved torque curve to increase the drivability of the RA003E power plant - a factor which should bear fruit in the second half of the season after some of the current 'driver aids' including traction control are removed from the cars.

As well as providing B*A*R with an upgraded engine, Honda has also expanded its joint chassis programme with its British partner team since the end of last season. To reinforce this relationship, more than 20 of Honda R&D's chassis technology engineers are now based at B*A*R's Operations Centre in Brackley. The joint chassis programme is an essential part of Honda's core philosophy of developing its young designers and engineers by exposing them to the challenges of Formula One - a highly competitive training ground that demands innovation and quick decision making. Lessons learned at the cutting edge of motor sport are then transferred to the design and development of customer products as engineers move on within the company.

There have been other major changes at B*A*R Honda, too, with a new driver line-up as well as a new chassis. Jacques Villeneuve remains with B*A*R Honda to provide continuity but for 2003 Jenson Button and Takuma Sato join the Canadian former champion. Button has signed a long-term contract with the team while Sato has been named as 'reserve driver' and will play a major role in development testing of the latest B*A*R Honda 005 away from the Grands Prix.

The 005 is the first chassis designed under the guidance of Technical Director, Geoffrey Willis, and it is noticeably neater and sleeker than last year's model; encouragingly both race team drivers have voiced their optimism for the chassis during pre-season testing. B*A*R has also reinforced its management structure under Team Principal, David Richards, and now benefits from a stronger commercial partnership with Honda - a change that has resulted in stronger Honda branding on the two 2003 race cars.

The week leading up to the Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park will be a busy period for B*A*R Honda. Before anyone arrives in Melbourne, the team's top management will be in Japan on Monday 3 March for the annual Honda Racing F1 Press Conference in Tokyo. Those present from Honda will include Takeo Fukui (Senior Managing Director, Honda Motor Company, and President, Honda R&D), Takeo Kiuchi (Head of Worldwide Automobile Racing, F1 Project Leader, Honda R&D), Ken Hashimoto (Head of Chassis Technology Development, Honda R&D) and Shuhei Nakamoto (Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development) as well as Richards and Willis from B*A*R and both Villeneuve and Button.

Button will also make an appearance for Honda Australia at the Melbourne Motor Show on Thursday 6 March. Honda Australia has strong links with Melbourne not least because its power equipment subsidiary and Honda Manufacturing Australia are both based 30 minutes from the city centre at Campbellfield. The latter produces approximately 20,000 lawn mowers per annum, exporting to 19 countries as well as for sale in the domestic market. Melbourne is also the home for two of Honda's four centres for motorcycle rider training - a nationwide safety programme which trains close to 8,000 students annually.

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"We have had a really busy winter test programme in 2003. We have learnt a lot and as always with testing we've had some good days and some not so good! Honda has set aggressive engine performance and weight targets for Melbourne and our plan is on schedule. I am therefore confident of achieving a good performance platform for the season ahead. All in all I am looking forward to Melbourne because it will be great to be racing again."

-honda-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Jacques Villeneuve , Takeo Kiuchi , David Richards , Shuhei Nakamoto