|2004 Honda Motorsports Highlights|
|February 3, 2004—Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today presented the triple focus of its motor sports activities for 2004: successful racing in Japan and worldwide, developing new talent for the future, and popularizing motor sports.
Among Honda’s many endeavors, motorsports perhaps best represents the company’s spirit of challenge. In racing and in all its activities, Honda is setting lofty goals and striving to lead the way in advanced creativity, sharing dreams and excitement with its customers everywhere.
The Three Dimensions of Honda’s Motorsports Activities
Honda entered the field of motorsports to share dreams with its customers, to provide global challenges and help cultivate young engineering talent, and to strengthen brand loyalty. In motorcycle racing Honda has achieved three consecutive victories in the top class of WGP for road racing and motocross, and competes aggressively in world trials championships around the globe. Last year, for the first time, Honda participated in MTB downhill races. This year, in addition to the series of races in Japan, Honda is focused on the world stage. In auto racing, Honda, now in its fifth season of Formula One competition, has further deepened its ties with Lucky Strike B•A•R. The arrival of regular driver Takuma Sato, who will partner with Jenson Button, a newcomer to the team last year, further strengthens the team. Now in its second year of competition in the IndyCar Series, Honda has formed a technical partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc. to supply four teams running seven Honda HI4R V8-engined machines for the full season. At the IndyCar Series’ ‘INDY JAPAN 300 Mile’ event, which started last year and will be held this year on April 15-17 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japanese race fans will be able to experience firsthand the thrill of this world-class motorsports event. And for the All-Japan GT Championship, the Honda NSX-GT Project is looking to clinch titles in both the team and driver categories.
2. Developing New Talent for the Podium at World-class Events
To foster new drivers and riders with the potential and determination to scale the podium at prestigious events around the world, Honda is working closely with Suzuka Circuit and Twin Ring Motegi, advising in a range of areas on an ongoing basis. In motorcycle racing Honda has established Honda Racing Scholarships to develop young Japanese riders who can compete in world road race championships. In 2004, newcomer Hiroshi Aoyama will ride in all 250cc. races. Aoyama is a newcomer of Honda Racing Scholarship to compete in world road race championship. In auto racing, the Suzuka Racing School (SRS-J, SRS-K) has produced numerous drivers and riders competing both in Japan and abroad, including Formula One driver Takuma Sato and IRL driver Kosuke Matsuura. Honda is also working to provide an environment that encourages more people to become familiar with racing and helps foster new talent in each category through a variety of schools, races, Formula Dream, F3, and other ongoing programs.
3. Providing Venues and Opportunities to Watch, Participate in, and Enjoy Motorsports
Honda is working closely with Suzuka Circuit and Twin Ring Motegi, both of which have international racing courses, to present world top-level racing events and provide more venues and opportunities to watch, participate in, and enjoy motorsports. Of particular note is Enjoy Honda, a bi-annual event held at Suzuka in the spring and at Motegi in the autumn, which is designed to express Honda’s gratitude to its fans. Also continuing from last year is the Verno Exciting Cup Integra One-make Race, along with various school activities, participatory events and a broad range of ‘concept meetings’ held throughout Japan that allow fans to safely enjoy Honda vehicles while experiencing the thrill of circuit competition.
(Summary of Plans for Motorcycle Racing)
FIM 2004 Road Race Championship Series
In the MotoGP class of the FIM 2004 Road Race Championship Series (known as the MotoGP World Championship), Honda plans to race six RC211Vs, bikes that last year delivered Honda an amazing 15 victories out of 16 races. This year Honda is gunning for its fourth straight title*1 in the MotoGP class—the highest level of world motorcycle racing—and will field three teams in this quest. In the 250cc class, the only class in which Honda failed to prevail last year, Honda will field two teams and run four RS250RWs in an all-out effort to reclaim the championship.
In 2004 the “Repsol Honda Team” will be led by Nicky Hayden (#69, USA), who rose to the podium twice in his first year and was awarded the Rookie of the Year title*2, and new rider Alex Barros (#4, Brazil), who in 2002 scored two victories aboard an RC211V.
“Team Telefonica Movistar Honda” features Sete Gibernau (#15, Spain), the second-ranked rider who fought a furious battle for the championship last year, and Colin Edwards (#45, USA), who won the Superbike World Championship Series in 2002.
Honda Pons and Pramac Racing combined to form “Camel Honda”, which will compete on two bikes. From Honda Pons, Max Biaggi (#3, Italy), the third-ranked rider who posted two victories last year, will ride on Michelin tires. From Pramac Racing, Makoto Tamada (#6, Japan), who last year, in his first year, scored a third-place finish, will run on Bridgestone tires.
“Fortuna Honda” will be led by Roberto Rolfo (#2, Italy), the second-ranked rider who fought valiantly through to the final race, and Toni Elias (#24, Spain), the third-ranked rider last year.
“Team Telefonica Movistar Honda 250” will be led by Daniel Pedrosa (#26, Spain), 2003 champion in the 125cc class, and Hiroshi Aoyama (#73, Japan), last year’s champion in the GP 250cc class of the MFJ All-Japan Road Race Championship Series.
2004 MFJ All-Japan Road Race Championship Series
Honda’s participation in this year’s All-Japan Road Race Championship Series will focus on teams run by Honda dealerships and supported by Honda Motorcycle Japan (HMJ) and Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). In the JSB1000 class, Honda is aiming for the series championship and will introduce the CBR1000RR. Honda will race with the CBR600RR in the ST600 class and the RS250R in the 250cc class.
* The Honda support team and riders will be announced on February 3 by HMJ.
FIM 2004 Supersport World Championship Series
The Supersport World Championship Series will be supported by Honda Europe Motorcycle S.R.L (HEM), which will deploy four Honda CBR600RRs in an all-out effort to score back-to-back victories. Series riders flying the “Ten Kate Honda” flag include Karl Muggeridge and Broc Parkes, both from Australia. The “Klaffi Honda” team includes Sebastien Charpentier (France) and Max Neukirchner (Germany).
2004 British Superbike Championship Series
With its sights on the series championship, Honda will introduce two HRC Works CBR1000RRWs, which are based on the Honda CBR1000RR. The bikes will be ridden by Ryuichi Kiyonari (#23, Japan) from the “HM Plant Honda Racing Team”, who participated in MotoGP with the RC211V last year, and Michael Rutter (#3, UK), who was the third-ranked rider in the 2003 British Superbike Championship Series.
FIM 2004 Motocross World Championship Series
As with the Supersport Series, the FIM 2004 Motocross World Championship Series will be supported by HEM. Honda has decided to use three four-stroke CRF450Rs in the MXGP class and a four-stroke CRF250R in the 125cc class. With these four-stroke bikes Honda is poised for championships in both classes.
Riders in the MXGP class are from the “CAS Honda Racing” team and include Yoshitaka Atsuta (#27, Japan), the tenth-ranked rider who scored points in all races last year, Joshua Coppins (New Zealand), and Gordon Crockard (Ireland), all on four-stroke CRF450Rs.
The rider in this class will be Jussi Vehvilainen (Finland), also from the “CAS Honda Racing team”. Vehvilainen will race on a CRF250R.
2004 MFJ All-Japan Motocross Championship Series
Looking to regain championships in the All-Japan Motocross Championship Series in both the 250cc and 125cc classes, this year Honda will use a two-stroke Honda RC250M and a four-stroke CRF450R in the 250cc class. In the 125cc class, a four-stroke Honda CRF250R will be the bike of choice.
Riders in the 250cc class are from “Team HRC”. Takeshi Katsuya (#111, Japan), the third-ranked rider who posted two victories last year, will once again be ride the RC250M, while new-comer Kenjiro Tsuji (#36, Japan), the second-ranked rider in the 125cc class last year, will ride a CRF450R.
Riding in the 125cc class will be Naoki Serizawa (#40, Japan), also from “Team HRC”. Serizawa will ride a CRF250R.
2004 AMA Supercross/National Motocross Series
The AMA Supercross Series will have the support of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Two CRF450Rs and two CR250Rs will be primed for the 250cc class and four CRF250Rs and one CR125R will be readied for the 125cc class.
The championship “American Honda Team” will be led by Ricky Carmichael (#4 USA), who has dominated the circuit the last three seasons, taking the series title each year. Carmichael will be riding a four-stroke CRF450R. His teammates will be Ernesto Fonseca (#24 Costa Rica), the third-ranked rider last year, on a two-stroke CR250R.
Riders on “Amsoil Chaparral Factory Connection Honda Racing” will be veteran Mike LaRocco (#5 USA) on a CR250R and newcomer Kevin Windham (#14 USA), who finished second in the AMA National Motocross series last year, on a Honda CRF450R.
Riding in the 125cc class, from the “American Honda” team, will be Nathan Ramsey (#25 USA), and will be aboard a CRF250R.
Amsoil Chaparral Factory Connection Honda Racing riders include Travis Preston (#62 USA), Billy Laninovich (#132 USA), and Christopher Gossellaar (#35 USA), all on CRF250Rs. Ryan Mills (#44 USA) will ride a CR125R.
FIM 2004 World Championship for Trial
Seeking five consecutive victories, Honda will introduce three HRC Works Montesa COTA315Rs at the World Championship for Trial, where Honda Works team has claimed both the rider and manufacturer titles the last four years.
Champion “Repsol Montesa HRC” will be led by Dougie Lampkin (#1, UK), who has won the World Outdoor Championship seven consecutive years, Takahisa Fujinami (#2, Japan), who won six races last season and was engaged in a tremendous battle with Lampkin through to the final race, and Marc Freixa (#3, Spain), the third-ranked rider who won three races last season.
This year 18-year-old Laia Sanz (Spain), who last year became the Women's Trial Cup champion for the fourth consecutive year, has joined “Repsol Montesa HRC”. She will participate in the Women's Trial Cup and the Junior Cup in 2004.
2004 MFJ All-Japan Trial Championship Series
Honda’s participation in this year’s All-Japan Trial Championship Series will focus on teams run by Honda dealerships and supported by Honda Motorcycle Japan (HMJ) and Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). Honda is aiming for the series championship and will race with the RTL250R.
* The Honda support team and riders will be announced by HMJ.
MTB Downhill Races
2004 UCI Mountainbike World Cup/ NORBA National Mountainbike Seriess
Honda participated in the MTB Downhill races for the first time last year, scoring one victory in a JCF* Japan Series race. This year Honda is focused on the world stage and plans to participate in the UCI Mountainbike World Cup and NORBA National Mountainbike Series. Honda will introduce two HRC Works bikes, Honda RN01s, in its bid to win these championships. In the World Cup, “Team Honda”(TBN) will go with Greg Minner (South Africa), the fourth-ranked World Cup rider last year, and 17-year-old Cyrille Kurts (France).
2004 JCF Japan Series/All-Japan Mountainbike Championship
In the JCF Japan Series as well, Honda will introduce two Honda RN01s, the bike with which Honda won a race last year in its first season. This year the team will be managed by the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), which is geared up to take the series championship. “Team G Cross Honda” features Naoki Idegawa (#4, Japan), who won the fourth race last year, and Tadashi Takahashi (#3, Japan), the third-ranked rider in the JCF Japan Series.
(Summary of Plans for Auto Racing)
Formula 1 World Championship
As in 2003, this year Honda will also field one team and two cars in Formula One. The new Honda RA004E engine offers significant weight savings and a lower center of gravity, along with improved power output and torque performance. To conform to the new one-race, one-engine regulations, the all-new engine has been made durable enough to run the full 800km. Honda has further deepened its relationship with Lucky Strike B•A•R, carrying out joint development of a vehicle chassis that incorporates technologies from both camps. Drivers include Jenson Button, now in his second season with the team, and Takuma Sato, who joined the team as third driver last year and is now a regular driver.
IRL IndyCar Series
Honda will continue its participation in the IndyCar Series that it began last year. Honda Performance Development, Inc., a subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., has formed a technical partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc. to supply Honda HI4R V8 engines for the full season for seven vehicles fielded by the following four teams.
All-Japan GT Championship Series (JGTC)
For the Japanese GT Championship, Honda is working with M-TECH Co., Ltd. and Dome Co., Ltd. on the “Honda NSX-GT Project”, a machine development project that has been carried over from last year under the same name, to field four teams and four machines. With a new 3-liter V6 twin-turbo engine and a chassis featuring outstanding aerodynamic performance, Honda is looking to clinch titles in both the team and driver categories.