Arta Nsx Takes A Well-Deserved Victory At Okayama After Last Lap Heartbreak In SuzukaThe Super Autobacs-sponsored ARTA team had everything going for them at the opening round of the Super GT season at Suzuka. Ralph Firman started the race from the pole and ran away from the field, setting the fastest lap in the process. At mid race, Daisuke Ito took the wheel and continued to lead. But with just over one lap to go, the engine shut down approaching the Spoon corner. Ito had to watch eleven go by, leaving the team with a disappointing 12th place finish.
The team again qualified strong for the 2nd round of the series at the Okayama International Circuit. Firman started from the outside of row one next to pole sitter Ryo Michigami in the Takata Dome NSX. The TOM'S SC430 driven by Andre Lotterer shot by Firman on the start but then collided with Michigami in turn one. This sent the Takata NSX off the track and earned the Lexus a drive-through penalty. With a clear track in front of him, Firman once again walked on everyone, clocking the fastest lap of the race by almost a full second.
After pit stops cycled through, Ito was in the lead with Shinya Hosokawa backing him up in the Raybrig NSX. In the closing laps, Hosokawa had to fight off a hard-charging Tsugio Matsuda in the Motul/Autech Z. The Z eventually got by but then went off track while trying to catch the lead NSX. With a healthy lead, Ito ran clean and smooth to bring the ARTA NSX home, even if he had to fight off demons in the final laps.
Ito, "Normally with that big a lead, I would be able to relax and drive according to image. But, with the last race's disaster in mind, I can tell you that my heart was in my throat all the way until I rounded the last turn on the last lap. I have never been that nervous."
Things Are Only Getting WorseHonda Racing's F1 Efforts Continued To Come Up Short In Malaysia And BahrainIt's hard being a Honda Formula 1 fan these days. It's not like rooting for the underdog. This is Honda, the company that has dominated every form of motorsport they've put their fingers in, especially Formula 1. In the late '80s, the car with the "Powered by Honda" logo on the side was the one the best drivers in the world wanted to be in. Ayrton Senna won three championships for the mark, Nigel Mansell another. Even Alain Prost took a Formula 1 championship with a Honda engine.
Welcome to 2007. The factory Honda F1 cars don't even say Honda on them. All the drivers do is complain that the cars are too slow. Instead of hoarding manufacturers championship points, the team has yet to earn one in the opening three rounds of the season.
In Malaysia, the team found a problem with the shift mechanism in Rubens Barrichello's car just minutes before qualifying. The team went scrambling to get him into the test car to record a time. This earned the team the most TV time they were going to get for the weekend. Everyone watched to see if he could get across the line before the checker fell on the first round of qualifying. He made it but opted to start the race from the pits in his original car. Barrichello went on to finish 11th in the race. He's been the highest finishing driver among the factory cars and the Honda-powered Super Aguri cars at each race this year.
Things went even worse a week later in Bahrain. Barrichello finished 13th after Button crashed out and both Super Aguris had engine failures. Up until then, at least the Super Aguri cars were consistently beating the Ferrari and Renault-powered independent teams.
This report is lacking in details because nobody really knows why the Honda team is doing so poorly, not even the team themselves. The drivers complain about a lack of aerodynamic grip. Meanwhile, the engineers in England are currently operating three wind tunnels to tune the chassis' downforce. Rumors from Malaysia were that the team was using tufts on the body to visually check the airflow across the car. This suggests a real lack of trust between the differentdepartments. We can only hope that they get everything straightened out soon.
"All we can do now is put these first races behind us and return to base, where every bit of our focus, resource and effort is being directed towards turning our situation around," Jacky Eeckelaert, Engineering Director, Honda Racing F1 Team.