Massive effort pays off for Honda

Honda is pulling out all the stops to win its home race for the first time. Dario Franchitti tested a heavily revised version of the Honda HR-1 engine at Nazareth Speedway on Tuesday, and all nine Honda-powered cars used the new components on Thursday in Japan

Massive effort pays off for Honda

The Ford-Cosworth engine has won the Japanese round of the Champ Car series for the last three years. Adrian Fernandez won in 1998 and '99, while Michael Andretti earned the victory in 2000. Both of those drivers have switched to Honda power for 2001.

"Honda has been working very hard, and for sure it's important for them to win their home race," said Tony Kanaan, who led a Honda 1-2 in Thursday practice at Motegi. "They've done a really good job. I had a good car here last year, so we started with the same basic set-up. The Honda engine just made it a rocket.

"There's a lot of pressure, because every single driver who has a Honda wants to win this race for them," he added. "There are nine drivers with good engines, so we have to keep working hard if we want to stay in front of them."

Toyota introduced its single wastegate system at Motegi in 2000, and Honda quickly followed suit. Cristiano da Matta, who was the leading Toyota runner on Thursday, said a victory at Motegi on Honda's home turf would be a huge coup for Toyota.

"It's Toyota's home race too," da Matta remarked. "They have the same kind of desire to win in Japan that Honda does. They've worked very hard, and it is very important for Toyota to perform well here.

"They came close last year but didn't clinch the deal," he added. "We want to finish the job this year. So there's pressure, but it's good because it makes us work harder as a team."

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