Honda poised for BAR buy-out

Honda is planning a takeover of the British American Racing team for a full-scale head-to-head with its Japanese rival Toyota in 2002, according to an exclusive in this week's Autosport magazine

Honda poised for BAR buy-out

Toyota's entry into Formula 1 in 2002 will be a completely in-house effort, and now Honda is looking to increase the exposure it receives from its F1 involvement by switching to a similar broad-based strategy.

According to Japanese sources, Honda has already decided to buy British American Tobacco's stake in BAR at the end of the 2001 season, but will use next year to evaluate the technical and managerial strengths of the Brackley-based squad. Honda is also supplying its V10 engines to Jordan next year, and will use it as a useful comparison.

Takefumi Hosaka, managing director of Honda's R&D facilities, refused to confirm the company's long-term plans, but said: "We have to think about what we need for the next race and for next year, but beyond that we will not think until the end of next season. It depends on the level of our chassis technology.

"Commercially and with marketing, generally you are right [to have a full Honda works team], but technology-wise it depends on whether we can achieve our target or not. If not, then we will have to change the organisation, because step-by-step we are going to achieve our target."

Beyond its role of engine-supplier, Honda already works with BAR on other design aspects in a limited but growing capacity - the so-called Athena project - and is set to significantly increase its involvement next year in readiness for a full-scale effort in 2002.

"This year we mainly introduced aerodynamic technology, but from next year we will extend our technology with chassis geometry and materials," said Hosaka. "If I talk percentages, this year was 20% and next year will be more than double that."

In the event of a buy-out, BAT is expected to stay onboard as a sponsor. With tobacco sponsorship outlawed in F1 from the end of the 2006 season, sources say that an early sale of the team by BAT will 'solve a problem before it becomes a problem'.

READ MORE IN THIS WEEK'S AUTOSPORT MAGAZINE

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