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End of an era as Honda sells out of F1

Hand-brake turn: Jenson Button at the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix.

Honda’s cuts reliance on F1 as a sales tool as it looks to a new ‘green’ image

Honda logo6 Mar 2009

THE curtain was drawn on one of the motor industry’s highest-profile motorsport-based marketing programs when Honda Motor Co today announced the sale of the Honda F1 Team to team principal Ross Brawn.

The management buy-out for an undisclosed sum ends an on-and-off Honda F1 motorsport era dating back to 1964.

The global financial crisis and lean results on the track forced Honda to re-consider its commitment to F1. Instead, it will concentrate on developing new ‘green’ technologies for future-generation vehicles.

Honda placed the team on the open market last year, and after a couple of nibbles from prospective buyers, sold the team to long-time F1 engineer Brawn who is expected to race under the Brawn GP tag.

Honda was keen that the team continued, maintaining the UK facilities and car development until a deal could be closed.

Honda began its love affair with F1 in 1964, entering a factory team for a total of five seasons, securing two grand prix race wins.

After pulling the pin on F1 in 1968, the company returned as an engine supplier, becoming a powerhouse of motorsport. It supplied engines for six constructor champions, including Williams and McLaren in a golden era of F1 racing.

 center imageLeft: Ross Brawn.

It also powered five driver championship winners, with aces such as Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell Alain Prost all enjoying the Honda power superiority.

After taking another break from 1992, Honda returned in 2000 as an engine supplier for British American Racing and then Jordan, from 2001.

In 2004, Honda bought 45 per cent of BAR, before wrapping up the final 55 per cent in time for the 2006 season.

However, Honda was never able to reclaim its former F1 glory, earning only one grand prix victory, with Jenson Button, in Hungary in 2006.

Honda has used F1 and other motor racing imagery in its marketing initiatives for many years. In Australia, the company’s television and radio advertisements have carried the sound of a racing car as a common closing tag for about a decade.

While Honda is leaving F1, it is not withdrawing entirely from motorsport. It remains as an engine supplier to the US Indycar series, supporter of entries in the ALMS sports car series in America and Supertourers in the UK.

As well, its support remains for major motorcycle racing series, including MotoGP and World Superbikes.

In Australia, Honda has ended its flirtation with rallying, but continues in various forms of motorcycle racing.

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