Honda's Racing Heritage

2/26/2003 8:56:47 PM

Racing is ingrained in the corporate culture of Honda, in a way unrivaled by any other automobile manufacturer in the world. A former racer himself, company founder Soichiro Honda believed in competition-and at the highest possible levels-as a means to improve his company, its people and its products.

"If we're going to build cars, it's better to do the hardest work now rather than later," Mr. Honda said when the company first entered Formula One competition in 1964. "The best place to learn is at the highest level."

In addition, Honda has always viewed racing as the ideal training ground for engineers and designers. The pressures of racing provide many valuable lessons. It challenges them, forcing them to find new solutions to problems as they arise. It also demands that they be ready on time-for the new season, for qualifying, for the race. Failure to respond quickly means being left behind. Finally, racing teaches the value of teamwork. No one individual can bring success; racing is a group effort. And winning is the only standard by which the group is judged.

Throughout its history, on two wheels and four, Honda has raced-and won-at the highest levels. From the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race (competing for the first time in 1959, winning the top five classes by 1961) to Formula One Grand Prix (60 victories and four consecutive Constructor's Championships, 1988-91) Hondas have often been found in victory circle.

Other Honda championships have included four CART Manufacturers' and six consecutive Drivers' titles (1996-2001); three consecutive World Motocross titles (1979-81); seven 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix championships in the last eight years; and three consecutive IMSA Camel Lights titles, including 23 wins in 38 races.

But Honda has not confined itself to fielding teams and engines. The company also has had a direct role in the creation of state-of-the-art venues as well. Honda began construction of its first race track, Suzuka Circuit, in 1962, before it had even begun manufacturing automobiles. Today it is the site of the Japanese Grand Prix Formula One event and Eight-Hour Endurance Road Race for motorcycles.

Still one of the world's major racing facilities, Suzuka was joined by Honda's incredible new Twin Ring Motegi in 1997. With a multitude of layouts and facilities-including the first American-style super speedway in Japan-Motegi hosted the country's first CART race in 1998 and this year will conduct its inaugural IRL IndyCar event.

"I think Honda has been so successful over the years because of the way they go about working," said former Formula One World Champion Sir Jack Brabham. "They're a team. They want to do it, and they always seem to have a goal, what they want to drive for. Everything they've done competition-wise for more than 50 years, it's incredible."