Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Battle of Japan - mimitig

The Formula 1 season is about to get under way and two Japanese giants are going head-to-head, again. But it won't be to see who wins the World Championship.

Toyota: the epitome of Japanese corporate thinking. Honda: famous for winning in motor sport.

Between them, they spend more on competing in the premier class of motor racing than any other pairing of teams. Both have both illustrious histories of achievement but for some reason, success in the modern era of Formula 1 has eluded them and, particularly in the case of Honda, fans are wondering why.

In the past, Honda achieved huge success as an engine supplier to the British "garagiste" teams of Williams and McLaren. Frank Williams was the first to coax Honda into modern F1. The founder of Honda, Soichiro Honda was himself a motor sport fanatic and his spirit was inbued into what would become the Honda Racing Corporation. After years of winning in motor-bikes, they took a chance with Frank and supplied him with engines from 1983. In 1987 Piquet won the titles for Williams and Honda, but with Frank in a wheel-chair following his life-threatening car-crash near Nice in 86, maybe Honda had doubts about the future of Team Willy. The next year saw them start the season on board with Britain's most successful Formula 1 team: McLaren. OK, Bruce was a Kiwi, but by the late 80s, former mechanic, Ron Dennis was very much in charge at McLaren and he was more than ready to go all out to win, and win brutally. With the Ronster in charge and Honda engines, McLaren re-wrote the record books and in 1988 the MP4/4 won 15 out of 16 races, Prost and Senna the world-class pedallers.

1992 saw Honda withdraw, not to return until 2000 when they partnered British American Racing, buying the team in 2005 since when they have garnered just one win.

Toyota have no such wealth of Formula 1 history, but they have Mikkola and Sainz who gave them wins in World Rallying. In the late 90s they became a major force in US motorsport. Juan Pablo Montoya gave them their first ever open-wheel racing win at Milwaukee in 2000. They were a welcome entrant in the Le Mans 24 Hour race and with Brundle, Boutsen and Katayama at the wheel came perilously close to a win in 1999 before a breakdown scuppered their chances.

They entered the piranha pit in 2002 aiming to be the new team proving all critics wrong and achieving a win in their first year. They have still to win, or even mount a serious challenge, despite having one of the biggest budgets in Formula 1.

How then, can we come into the start of the 2007 season, not placing bets on which of these 2 will win the most races, simply wondering if either will live up to their dreams. Will Honda or Toyota win the battle of the Japanese giants?


thierryhenry said...

va va voom

nesta said...

I've never considered Formula One as sport. It was always my impression that it was a marketing event with 300kph billboards.

BlueinBetis said...


I'm with you on this one, ever since they introduced the "no overtaking" rule, it's been all downhill.

MotM said...

There is some fantastic stuff on ESPN Channel 442 showing old Grand Prix from the 60s and 70s. The feature last week about the Spanish Grand Prix of 1970 (I think) was incredible from the persepctive of 2007.

Nobody knew the rules, there was a crash between Jackie Oliver and Jacky Ickx which led to an inferno at trackside (both drivers survived) but the race just continued! Only 5 of 22 completed the race with Jackie Stewart (inevitably) winning.

Of those 22 starters, Bruce MacLaren, Rolf Stommelen, Denny Hulme (albeit of a heart attack), Jochen Rindt, Pedro Rodriguez, Piers Courage and Jo Sieffert were to die on the track, five of them within 18 months. Brave men in the cars and brave women who supported them.

Zephirine said...

Formula One doesn't fry my onions either, but this is a well-written piece and I know more now than I did before I read it, so thanks Mimi. And it's good to keep the non-football/cricket stuff coming in, don't we think?

bluedaddy said...

I am shocked to find out that you are not allowed to overtake and can only go downhill.

But then again, the last car race I saw, the cars had faces and drove themselves.

Rovers said...

Well written and a good read, Mimi. Thanx. I concur w/ motm - those '70's cars were deathtraps and not to be maudlin, the sport was riveting.

If you have a moment, check out Claude Du Boc's 1975 release 'One by One' for an interesting take on the F1 I became fascinated by.

guitougoal said...

fast, fearless, feisty, you are the driver of the year, the mimi are insight of the checkered flag, clear track in front of you and plenty of fuel.
nice going.

mimi said...

Thank you for your kind comments on my writing. I know F1 is a weird kind of sport, and often more politics and tactics, but we can't go back to times past, and if you like speed, there's nothing faster than an F1 car on the limit through Eau Rouge. This is what we've got now, and I happen to still love it! I reckon I'll give up when Frank and Ron do. Til then, despite falling asleep in more than half the races of the year, I'll still be a fan.

offtrack said...

Ah, falling asleep, that I can understand. The greatest thing about F1 races is that they're on just after lunch (well, in Europe) and for a long time they were entirely predictable (which is reassuring).

The start was always spectacular, a couple of laps would hold my attention, then the drone would send me into blissful oblivion and I'd wake up to see Michael Schumacher holding the trophy.

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