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Another One Bites The Dust

subaru-wrc-prodriveWell, it’s official Subaru has dropped out of the FIA World Rally Championship. Citing the global meltdown of car sales, Subaru said so long to a motorsport in which they were successful in the past, but not so much in the present, with the late Colin McRae and the late Richard Burns bringing home the championships. This departure, of course, leaves David Richards of ProDrive with little to do, except run the Le Mans GT1 team. Perhaps this will clear some bandwidth for him to return to Formula 1 by buying the very team he used to manage in the old BAR days.

This isn’t all of it, however. Subaru isn’t the only team to leave WRC. Suzuki has left town as well, citing the same economic reasoning. Frankly, Suzuki was a non-factor in WRC so I won’t shed any tears over their departure.

So this leaves Citroen and Ford as the only manufacturer teams to remain in WRC. Mitsubishi left a while ago. Peugeot left a couple of seasons ago. Seat did the same. And now Subaru. I certainly hope all this “departing” will not damage the series so much that it will crash and burn the whole thing.

But wait… THERE’S MORE! Both Audi and Porsche have announced that they are pulling out of the American Le Mans Series. Although both were incredibly successful in their respective classes (LMP1 and LMP2), no reasons were officially cited for the pullout.

I suspect that there will be other manufacturers to follow the long list of these escapees – Honda, Subaru, Suzuki, Porsche, Audi… Expect one of the Detroit 3 to pull out of NASCAR. If you want to trim the budget, racing seems to be the first to go. And with GM, Ford and Chrysler in a ton of trouble, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | ALMS, Features & Opinions, Formula 1, Motorsports, News, WRC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, Honda F1… We Hardly Knew Ya

hondadumbos

Even Dumbo's ears couldn't help Honda F1 fly

Fond memories of childhood will most likely contain snippets of Dumbo. That rather cute and lovable pachyderm that eventually learned to fly and soar to new heights. Perhaps that’s what Honda’s engineers in the much beleaguered Formula 1 team were thinking when they designed that monstrosity that sat on the nose of the 2008 car. Perhaps it would help them soar and keep their jobs. Unfortunately, a Disney film they weren’t.

It all began as a re-entry into the highest form of motorsport as an engine supplier to the BAR (British American Racing) F1 team. Ah, hopes were high then. Daydreams of yesteryears, when Honda supplied world championship winning cars at the hands of Piquet (Lotus), Prost and Senna (McLaren), must have provided much motivation to the engineers, mechanics and drivers. With decent success as an engine supplier, BAR coming in 2nd in the FIA F1 Constructor’s Championships in 2004, Honda decided to buy the whole operation for the 2006 season. Revamped as the Honda Racing F1 squad, hopes were high. But never having been a true constructor, the uphill battle began. Sure, bright people were in place, but with Japanese OE competitor Toyota pumping in a reported $500 million a year on its Formula 1 efforts, it was hard to keep up. Perhaps Honda bit off more than it can chew.

With a dismal 2007 and an even more dismal 2008 season, everyone wondered where this operation was headed. Ferrari F1’s former technical director, Ross Brawn, was brought in to help put things into shape (and surely, the 2009 season probably would have leveled the playing field more for Honda with all those new technical regulations coming into play), the global economic meltdown put the final nail in the coffin for the Honda squad. And I suspect they will never come back after this disasterous effort.

Their #1 driver, Jenson Button, deserved a better car. He’s a very good driver capable of winning races. Although I couldn’t foresee this Brit winning the championship, he surely would have brought home many race trophies with a good car. But a good car Honda couldn’t deliver and it was all for naught.

So long Honda Racing F1. We hardly knew ya because a poorly performing team isn’t on the minds of fans, sponsors and the media. Farewell.

December 7, 2008 Posted by | Features & Opinions, Formula 1, Motorsports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments