Q and A with Honda racing boss

Honda's Head of Worldwide Automobile Racing and F1 Project Leader, Takeo Kiuchi, talks about his rise to the top of Honda's F1 program, engineering for Prost and Senna, and looks at the 2005 season so far.

You've worked for Honda on various projects for 24 years now, including the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system for production cars and heading up other alternative fuel programs. But in 1989 and 1990 you were a race engineer for Alain Prost and then Ayrton Senna at McLaren-Honda. You must look back on that time with great fondness?

It was a precious experience to work with two drivers whose abilities compare favorably with even the best drivers of today. Most of my memories are about how hard we worked to develop and supply an engine to satisfy two such drivers. Their driving styles and outlook on life were completely different, probably diametrically opposed, but they had the same will to win, and working with them (even though there were times I wanted to escape!) taught me about the harsh reality of not making excuses, just keeping going until the job is done. It had a great influence on how I am today.

What are the other highlights of your career?

Being able to contribute to the string of victories for exciting teams and drivers in Honda’s second generation of F1 activities, and being able to continually develop engines that met with their approval. In the present third generation we have a new Honda group, including chassis staff, working with a young team and drivers, and so far we have not reached our targets. But I believe we can definitely do that in the near future and, when that happens, it will be one of the highlights of my career.

What is your day-to-day role as Honda's F1 Project Leader?

Unlike in the past, modern racing requires development of many different technical elements, and deep research in all areas. Since we have many staff at HRD and BAR Honda in the UK, I see it as my role to accurately understand the situation at the circuits, in the UK and at R&D in Japan, and set up the most appropriate structures and direction. Especially with regard to the circuits and the UK situation, I plan to keep coming to where the activities take place as much as possible, as this allows me to keep a handle on the latest trends in technology. My role is also, together with HRD President Wada, BAR Honda CEO Nick Fry and BAR Honda Technical Director Geoff Willis, to build BAR Honda – the joint venture between BAT and Honda – into a very strong team.

Tell us about the 2005 BAR Honda 007's engine – the RA005E.

The new regulations for 2005 set us an even greater challenge than we faced for 2004, when we produced a top class Formula One engine. This year we made the engine lighter and more compact, and we lowered the centre of gravity to improve the performance of the overall package. We also increased mid- to low-speed torque to improve acceleration at the start and exiting corners. As the season has progressed we have gauged how much we have to spare in terms of durability and, going into the middle part of the season, we have made good steps forward in increasing top end power.

How have you adapted to the new two weekend engine rule?

It was a big challenge for us. We had to make parts of the engine that undergo friction slightly stronger and heavier, but we have adapted to the regulations and even made other parts like the cylinder block and heads lighter. I’m very pleased that the development team has kept its targets high and produced a top quality engine.

In 2004 BAR Honda was able to run a third car during the Friday practice sessions at Grands Prix. Is it fair to say that the team is a victim of its own success in that it cannot do the same this year and to what extent does development suffer?

I think, considering the new tire regulations, with our capable third driver we would have been able to use the Friday running to our considerable advantage, setting up the car for the race, mainly by doing work on the tires. However this rule is a privilege given to the lower-ranked teams to help them close the gap to the top teams, and as a team we should have the strength to produce a good car for qualifying and the race without this advantage.

The main aim for BAR Honda this year was to win a race. Half way through the season, is that still a realistic target?

The reality is that we have not produced the results we wanted, after showing a lack of performance in the early races and then missing three races, but the performance of the car and motivation of the team and the drivers is at a good level, and I think we can reach the objective in the second half of the season. BAR Honda

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