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Honda Racing is the latest F1 team to officially unveil its new grand prix car with which it will be contesting the 2008 Formula One World Championship. While race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been shaking down the new RA108 at official test sessions, Honda left it to its new test driver Alex Wurz to unveil the car in Brackley, UK, at one of the team's three main facilities.
Although like its competitors the Honda RA108 is the culmination of many months of development, it benefits from the vast technical experience of the team's new principal Ross Brawn, former technical director at Ferrari. Brawn points out that the development of the RA108 focused on aerodynamic flexibility that will allow Honda to optimize the car's performance with a constantly-evolving aerodynamic package. In keeping with the FIA's freeze on engine development, the RA808E engine remains largely unchanged, adapting only to the new standardized engine control module while getting a new exhaust system, airbox and transmission.
Not to focus on style over substance, the unveiling also showcased the RA108's new livery, which promotes the renewed "earthdreams" campaign. Evolving from last year's "myearthdream" project, the new campagin has Honda and its sponsors pledging $1.2 million towards environmental awareness. While last year's car was covered entirely with a global motif, this year's livery appears considerably more sporting, with globe-pattern racing stripes and numbers covering the traditional Japanese racing white.
[Source: Honda Racing]
New car, new challenge
The Honda Racing F1 Team unveils the RA108 and a new-look livery.
The official presentation of the Honda Racing F1 Team's 2008 challenger took place today at the team's operational headquarters in Brackley, UK.
The launch followed an initial shakedown period with the all-new RA108 in Valencia last week, in which the team's race driver line-up of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button put evaluation mileage on the car in preparation for the start of its pre-season testing programme later this week. The role of unveiling the RA108 in the team's 2008 livery today was assigned to new Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz. At the wheel of the car for the very first time, Alex drove the RA108 through the pitlane themed auditorium in front of the assembled crowd of 300 international media and guests.
Honda laid out its plans for 2008 and the longer-term, reaffirming its commitment to the sport and underlining the determination of a revitalised team to realise its ambitions. The team's 2008 challenge sees a substantial evolution in three key areas, the most fundamental of which is a directional step change in the car design philosophy. The entire process from concept to launch has been re-evaluated. The new car is a considered response to the challenges of 2007, benefiting from the combined resources of the Honda Racing F1 Team's three bases in Brackley and Bracknell in the UK and the Honda R&D centre at Tochigi in Japan.
The RA108 is also the product of a strengthened engineering team, combining the depth of experience of the existing resource with new and wide-ranging expertise in key areas under the leadership of new Team Principal Ross Brawn. In turn the team will benefit from the continuity provided by the race driver pairing of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello for a third successive season. Combined with the development talents of Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz, Honda will field the most experienced driver line-up on the Formula One grid.
The launch of the RA108 and its livery also saw the introduction of the team's earthdreams programme. earthdreams is the evolution of the award winning myearthdream concept launched in 2007 and represents the next stage of Honda's long term commitment to harnessing the passion of Formula One and its partners to provide support and investment for good causes through a unique cause related marketing initiative.
Moving the focus from raising environmental awareness to action, the Honda Racing F1 Team and its partners have committed $1.2 million, with $700,000 already allocated. The first of the earthdreams supported projects was also announced today. The team paid particular tribute to its partner Seiko (www.seikowatches.com) who have been generous supporters of the earthdreams initiative.
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
"The RA108 car is a wholly different concept to its predecessors, in terms of its aerodynamic layout and mechanical structure. The design philosophy has been developed to allow greater scope for aerodynamic packaging and exploitation, particularly to facilitate the introduction of performance upgrades through the season.
"The focus has been on attaining a high level of aerodynamic efficiency with stability and this is reflected in the way that the chassis has been revised to interact with the different aerodynamic features and the suspension. This approach should allow more potential for further developments to take place, the first of which will be for Melbourne when we will introduce a substantially revised aerodynamic package compared with the car we have launched today.
"The Honda RA808E engine is subject to the FIA engine homologation regulations and therefore the vast majority of engine components remain unchanged. The exhaust geometry and air box have changed to suit the RA108 aerodynamic package. An additional development is the FIA requirement that the fuel mix should now contain 5.75% biofuel - an initiative that Honda fully supports.
"Two of the most significant regulation changes are in the areas of electronics and gearbox. The implementation of an FIA standard electronic control unit and software has meant hard work during the winter tests to integrate the new system with the RA108's engine, gearbox and chassis systems. With traction control and other driver aids removed from the car there will be a greater emphasis on driver skill.
"The RA108 carbon composite gearbox has been designed to meet the new regulations which require each gearbox to complete four Grands Prix. We have conducted extensive running on a test bed to optimise the gearbox design and ensure that we can be confident of meeting the levels of reliability required.
"The design of the RA108 ensures that all key areas comply with the FIA safety regulations and crash test requirements for the impact structures, such as the nose, monocoque and rear impact structure. We have also increased the protection for the driver around the headrest area."
"Our target for 2008 is to get back to the position occupied during the second half of the 2006 season when Honda fought for points at every race. Only then will we have a stable base from which to target more ambitious results.
"Since joining Honda my focus has been on evaluating the resources and practices of the operation and understanding how we can progress. I commend the entire team on the effort and commitment they have shown after a disappointing 2007. We will have to wait and see how much of a performance step has been achieved with this car, but in terms of people and resources, all the right ingredients are in place with which to move the Honda Racing F1 Team forward in pursuit of its racing ambitions."
Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer
"Following a year where we failed to live up to our own expectations, the team has made a number of key appointments in the second half of 2007 to strengthen our existing resource as well as bringing on board new knowledge and different experience. In particular, the arrival of Ross in the position of Team Principal has brought new impetus and confidence to the whole organisation. This time last year saw the beginning of a downward curve for us and there is a determined sense that this year we are back on track. We have done everything possible to honestly address the issues, which we have to view as valuable experiences which have helped to put us in better shape for this year and for the years ahead. Every area, from technical and aerodynamics to marketing, has been strengthened with world class resource. The disappointments of 2007 power our desire to do well in 2008.
"I am very pleased for our whole team that their hard work has resulted in the RA108 meeting all its design targets on paper. We now need to work hard between now and Melbourne to make sure that those translate into good track performance and to discover whether these targets are sufficiently high compared with the achievements of our competitors.
"Today also sees the introduction of earthdreams, a global cause related marketing programme inspired by the Honda Racing F1 Team and evolved from the 2007 "myearthdream" initiative. earthdreams' mission is to harness the power of dreams by supporting, investing in and empowering inspirational projects that have a positive impact on the world around them which will be supported by Honda and its partners. We have already informed projects that have been supported by earthdreams so far and we look forward to working with existing and new partners to contribute to those good causes. In particular I would like to thank Seiko on behalf of the recipients for their generous contributions and support."
Hiroshi Oshima, Operating Officer, Honda Motor Co., Ltd (Corporate Communications, Motor Sports)
"It gives me great pleasure to see the launch of the Honda RA108 car. We have put a difficult 2007 firmly behind us and, in the spirit of Honda, we are firmly focused on the challenge of 2008 and working hard towards our longer-term championship ambitions. Over the past few months I have been very pleased to see the steps which have been taken to strengthen the engineering side of our operation and gain maximum benefit from our Honda R&D facility to the benefit of the F1 team. The new earthdreams livery represents the fusion of the many years of motor sports heritage that is part of Honda's DNA and the marketing programme we announced last year. Our objective is to reward the great many Honda fans all over the world with an improved performance this season and continue the pursuit of our racing dream."
Jenson Button, Race Driver, Car No 16
"My motivation is to be with a team that is setting its sights on performing at the highest level and in a car that is competitive and I have faith in Honda for the period that lies ahead. I want to win races and I want to be in contention to be world champion. The past five years have been challenging and last year was disappointing, but the team has recognised this and set about tackling the areas that have prevented us from achieving best performance. Everyone at the Honda Racing F1 Team has worked incredibly hard over the winter to develop the RA108 ready for the launch today. The changes that we have made to the team over the last six months of 2007 were exactly what the team needed to take us forward this year and I am confident that we have the right people, along with great support and resources from Honda, to achieve our targets."
Rubens Barrichello, Race Driver, Car No 17
"I had the opportunity to drive the RA108 for the first time in Valencia last week and although I ran for just a few laps in the new car, we were able to complete the planned activity. It is too soon to reach any conclusions about the car's handling and performance, but I am looking forward to the Barcelona test this coming weekend and really getting to grips with the development of the RA108. This year will be my 16th season in Formula One and my third season with the Honda Racing F1 Team, but my love of the sport and my enthusiasm is undiminished. In fact, this year I will become the most experienced Grand Prix racer of all time, which is something that I am very proud of. We have a very strong development base this year with Alex Wurz joining the team and I am really pleased that he will be able to input his experience and knowledge into the RA108."
Alex Wurz, Test & Reserve Driver
"I have enjoyed getting to know the Honda Racing F1 Team over the past few weeks and took part in my first test with the team at Valencia last week with an acclimatisation programme in the RA107. So far I have only driven the RA108 for a few short metres at the launch event today so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to try out the new car later this week in Barcelona, when I will really be able to start contributing to the development programme. All three of my previous teams have been world championship winners and I am very proud that I have the opportunity to play a role in the pursuit of Honda's ambitions."
The Honda Racing F1 Team Announces the first beneficiaries of the Myearthdream Trust
The Honda Racing F1 team today announces the charities and organisations that will benefit from funds raised by 2007's myearthdream initiative.
Donations from the public at the myearthdream.com website totalled over £98,000. The beneficiaries were chosen by an independent Advisory Board of environmental experts who split the money equally between two international causes:
- Marine Stewardship Council [www.msc.org]
The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent non-profit organisation that promotes responsible fishing practices around the world.
- Forest Stewardship Council [www.fsc.org]
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization that brings people together to find solutions which promote responsible stewardship of the world's forests.
Funding was also donated to the myearthdream Trust by Honda and its partners, which brought the total raised so far to over $1.2million including public donations. Beneficiary charities announced so far include:
- Green Light Trust [www.greenlighttrust.org]
An organisation dedicated to forestry protection, working with local communities and using education and learning to grow woodlands.
- Lighthouse Foundation [www.lighthousefoundation.org.au]
The Lighthouse Program is an inspirational project designed to support young people. A strong educational and environmental emphasis, the Foundation is to reduce youth homelessness.
- Wiser Earth [www.wiserearth.org]
An organisation which networks, educates and empowers environmental organisations around the world
- Meninos do Morumbi [www.meninosdomorumbi.org.br]
Creation of an environmental education programme within an inspirational programme working with children in the favelas of Sao Paolo.
- Bioregional Development Group [www.bioregional.com]
An entrepreneurial, independent environmental organisation that develops commercially viable products and services which meet everyday needs from local renewable and waste resources.
- Spirit of Soccer [www.spiritofsoccer.net]
Supporting an inspirational programme dealing with the issue of land-mine clearance in Cambodia using education and sport to tackle one of the most deadly environmental issues.
The Honda Racing F1 Team would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has given so generously to the Trust to make these donations possible.
But this is just the start, Honda also announced today that Myearthdream is evolving to earthdreams. Earthdreams' mission is to harness the power of dreams by supporting and empowering inspirational projects that have a positive impact on the world around them.
It is a long term commitment and further announcements about charitable donations will be made throughout 2008.
Honda announces 2008 Young Driver line-up
At the launch of the Honda Racing F1 Team's 2008 racecar today, the team announced that Mike Conway and Luca Filippi will form its Young Driver line-up for the coming season.
As part of the team's commitment to the development of young motorsport talent, the two GP2 drivers were invited to take part in a Young Driver Programme evaluation in November and December last year. Each driver had the opportunity to drive the 2007 Honda race car as the team took a closer look at their potential to assist with future testing requirements.
Under the new sporting regulations for 2008, the team has a number of Young Driver evaluation days which will be used to allow Luca and Mike to develop their skills in the car and assist the team with its testing requirements, in conjunction with their racing activities in the GP2 series.
Luca Filippi, 22, is currently racing with Meritus in the GP2 Asia series and in 2008 will be competing with ART Grand Prix for his third year in GP2. Luca finished in 4th position in the 2007 GP2 championship with Super Nova International. He began his racing career in his home country of Italy, winning the Italian Formula 3000 championship in 2005 before graduating to GP2.
Mike Conway, 24, was Luca's team-mate at Super Nova International last year, and has been part of the Honda Young Driver Programme since March 2007. After his debut season in GP2 last year, Mike will race for Trident Racing this year. Prior to GP2, Mike won the British Formula 3 championship and the Macau Grand Prix in the 2006 season, in addition to winning the Formula Renault UK title in 2004. Mike was also given the opportunity to be evaluated in the all-new RA108 during its initial shakedown in Valencia last week.
To reflect Honda's increasing involvement in motor sport and its commitment to supporting emerging motorsport talent, the Honda Racing F1 Team also confirmed that it will reward the winner of the 2008 Formula Master series with a drive in its RA108 race car in the future. A junior racing formulae, Formula Master runs alongside the FIA World Touring Car Championship for eight European based rounds.
Ron Meadows, Sporting Director for the Honda Racing F1 Team with responsibility for Honda's Young Driver Programme, commented, "We are very pleased to confirm today that Mike and Luca form our Young Driver line-up in 2008. Both drivers greatly impressed us with their performance and commitment in the tests at the end of last year and, after a thorough evaluation, we have decided to reward them with the opportunity to work closely with the team this season. In addition, we have today announced our new partnership with the Formula Master series and the opportunity for their champion to spend a day with the team. Honda takes its commitment to developing promising young talent in motor sport very seriously and we look forward to working closely with these young drivers and helping them to progress to the very highest levels of our sport."
Mike Conway commented, "I am really pleased to be continuing my association with the Honda Racing F1 Team and very much looking forward to this year. I have already learnt so much from working with the team and it will be very rewarding to be able to contribute to the development of the car this year. I drove the RA108 in Valencia last Friday which was fantastic so I'm looking forward to the next opportunity."
Luca Filippi said, "It is a great opportunity for me to be a part of the Honda Young Driver Programme and I am really looking forward to working with the team this year. I am hoping to learn a great deal from the team's engineers and drivers, which will help not only in driving the F1 car but also for my racing in the GP2 series. I would like to thank the Honda Racing F1 Team for their faith in me and I'm looking forward to my chance to drive the RA108."