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NEW CAR, NEW CHALLENGE
|January 29, 2008–The official presentation of the Honda Racing F1 Team’s 2008 challenger took place at the team’s operational headquarters in Brackley, UK.
The official presentation of the Honda Racing F1 Team’s 2008 challenger took place today at the team’s operational headquarters in Brackley, UK.
The launch followed an initial shakedown period with the all-new RA108 in Valencia last week, in which the team’s race driver line-up of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button put evaluation mileage on the car in preparation for the start of its pre-season testing program later this week. The role of unveiling the RA108 in the team’s 2008 livery today was assigned to new Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz. At the wheel of the car for the very first time, Alex drove the RA108 through the pitlane themed auditorium in front of the assembled crowd of 300 international media and guests.
Honda laid out its plans for 2008 and the longer-term, reaffirming its commitment to the sport and underlining the determination of a revitalized team to realize its ambitions. The team’s 2008 challenge sees a substantial evolution in three key areas, the most fundamental of which is a directional step change in the car design philosophy. The entire process from concept to launch has been re-evaluated. The new car is a considered response to the challenges of 2007, benefiting from the combined resources of the Honda Racing F1 Team’s three bases in Brackley and Bracknell in the UK and the Honda R&D centre at Tochigi in Japan.
The RA108 is also the product of a strengthened engineering team, combining the depth of experience of the existing resource with new and wide-ranging expertise in key areas under the leadership of new Team Principal Ross Brawn. In turn the team will benefit from the continuity provided by the race driver pairing of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello for a third successive season. Combined with the development talents of Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz, Honda will field the most experienced driver line-up on the Formula One grid.
The launch of the RA108 and its livery also saw the introduction of the team’s earthdreams program. earthdreams is the evolution of the award winning myearthdream concept launched in 2007 and represents the next stage of Honda’s long term commitment to harnessing the passion of Formula One and its partners to provide support and investment for good causes through a unique cause related marketing initiative.
Moving the focus from raising environmental awareness to action, the Honda Racing F1 Team and its partners have committed $1.2 million, with $700,000 already allocated. The first of the earthdreams supported projects was also announced. The team paid particular tribute to its partner Seiko (www.seikowatches.com) who have been generous supporters of the earthdreams initiative.
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
“The RA108 car is a wholly different concept to its predecessors, in terms of its aerodynamic layout and mechanical structure. The design philosophy has been developed to allow greater scope for aerodynamic packaging and exploitation, particularly to facilitate the introduction of performance upgrades through the season.
“The focus has been on attaining a high level of aerodynamic efficiency with stability and this is reflected in the way that the chassis has been revised to interact with the different aerodynamic features and the suspension. This approach should allow more potential for further developments to take place, the first of which will be for Melbourne when we will introduce a substantially revised aerodynamic package compared with the car we have launched today.
“The Honda RA808E engine is subject to the FIA engine homologation regulations and therefore the vast majority of engine components remain unchanged. The exhaust geometry and air box have changed to suit the RA108 aerodynamic package. An additional development is the FIA requirement that the fuel mix should now contain 5.75% biofuel - an initiative that Honda fully supports.
“Two of the most significant regulation changes are in the areas of electronics and gearbox. The implementation of an FIA standard electronic control unit and software has meant hard work during the winter tests to integrate the new system with the RA108’s engine, gearbox and chassis systems. With traction control and other driver aids removed from the car there will be a greater emphasis on driver skill.
“The RA108 carbon composite gearbox has been designed to meet the new regulations which require each gearbox to complete four Grands Prix. We have conducted extensive running on a test bed to optimize the gearbox design and ensure that we can be confident of meeting the levels of reliability required.
“The design of the RA108 ensures that all key areas comply with the FIA safety regulations and crash test requirements for the impact structures, such as the nose, monocoque and rear impact structure. We have also increased the protection for the driver around the headrest area.”
“Our target for 2008 is to get back to the position occupied during the second half of the 2006 season when Honda fought for points at every race. Only then will we have a stable base from which to target more ambitious results.
“Since joining Honda my focus has been on evaluating the resources and practices of the operation and understanding how we can progress. I commend the entire team on the effort and commitment they have shown after a disappointing 2007. We will have to wait and see how much of a performance step has been achieved with this car, but in terms of people and resources, all the right ingredients are in place with which to move the Honda Racing F1 Team forward in pursuit of its racing ambitions.”
Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer
“Following a year where we failed to live up to our own expectations, the team has made a number of key appointments in the second half of 2007 to strengthen our existing resource as well as bringing on board new knowledge and different experience. In particular, the arrival of Ross in the position of Team Principal has brought new impetus and confidence to the whole organisation. This time last year saw the beginning of a downward curve for us and there is a determined sense that this year we are back on track. We have done everything possible to honestly address the issues, which we have to view as valuable experiences which have helped to put us in better shape for this year and for the years ahead. Every area, from technical and aerodynamics to marketing, has been strengthened with world class resource. The disappointments of 2007 power our desire to do well in 2008.
“I am very pleased for our whole team that their hard work has resulted in the RA108 meeting all its design targets on paper. We now need to work hard between now and Melbourne to make sure that those translate into good track performance and to discover whether these targets are sufficiently high compared with the achievements of our competitors.
“Today also sees the introduction of earthdreams, a global cause related marketing program inspired by the Honda Racing F1 Team and evolved from the 2007 “myearthdream” initiative. earthdreams’ mission is to harness the power of dreams by supporting, investing in and empowering inspirational projects that have a positive impact on the world around them which will be supported by Honda and its partners. We have already informed projects that have been supported by earthdreams so far and we look forward to working with existing and new partners to contribute to those good causes. In particular I would like to thank Seiko on behalf of the recipients for their generous contributions and support.”
Hiroshi Oshima, Operating Officer, Honda Motor Co., Ltd (Corporate Communications, Motor Sports)
“It gives me great pleasure to see the launch of the Honda RA108 car. We have put a difficult 2007 firmly behind us and, in the spirit of Honda, we are firmly focused on the challenge of 2008 and working hard towards our longer-term championship ambitions. Over the past few months I have been very pleased to see the steps which have been taken to strengthen the engineering side of our operation and gain maximum benefit from our Honda R&D facility to the benefit of the F1 team. The new earthdreams livery represents the fusion of the many years of motor sports heritage that is part of Honda’s DNA and the marketing program we announced last year. Our objective is to reward the great many Honda fans all over the world with an improved performance this season and continue the pursuit of our racing dream.”
Jenson Button, Race Driver, Car No 16
“My motivation is to be with a team that is setting its sights on performing at the highest level and in a car that is competitive and I have faith in Honda for the period that lies ahead. I want to win races and I want to be in contention to be world champion. The past five years have been challenging and last year was disappointing, but the team has recognized this and set about tackling the areas that have prevented us from achieving best performance. Everyone at the Honda Racing F1 Team has worked incredibly hard over the winter to develop the RA108 ready for the launch today. The changes that we have made to the team over the last six months of 2007 were exactly what the team needed to take us forward this year and I am confident that we have the right people, along with great support and resources from Honda, to achieve our targets.”
Rubens Barrichello, Race Driver, Car No 17
“I had the opportunity to drive the RA108 for the first time in Valencia last week and although I ran for just a few laps in the new car, we were able to complete the planned activity. It is too soon to reach any conclusions about the car’s handling and performance, but I am looking forward to the Barcelona test this coming weekend and really getting to grips with the development of the RA108. This year will be my 16th season in Formula One and my third season with the Honda Racing F1 Team, but my love of the sport and my enthusiasm is undiminished. In fact, this year I will become the most experienced Grand Prix racer of all time, which is something that I am very proud of. We have a very strong development base this year with Alex Wurz joining the team and I am really pleased that he will be able to input his experience and knowledge into the RA108.”
Alex Wurz, Test & Reserve Driver
“I have enjoyed getting to know the Honda Racing F1 Team over the past few weeks and took part in my first test with the team at Valencia last week with an acclimatization program in the RA107. So far I have only driven the RA108 for a few short metres at the launch event today so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to try out the new car later this week in Barcelona, when I will really be able to start contributing to the development program. All three of my previous teams have been world championship winners and I am very proud that I have the opportunity to play a role in the pursuit of Honda’s ambitions.”