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Japan’s automakers returning to major racing events

JIJI

Honda Motor Co. and other Japanese automakers are returning to major international racing events as their earnings, dented by the fallout of the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, are back into overdrive thanks to the yen’s fall and cost reductions.

This year, Honda will once again take part in the Formula One World Championship, which starts in mid-March with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Since it joined F1 for the first time in 1964, Honda has repeatedly participated in and exited the racing sweepstakes.

The last time it quit F1 was in 2008. Recalling the pullout, Honda President Takanobu Ito said last week that it was a “tough decision,” made at a time when the automaker was struggling amid the Lehman shock.

Honda is again teaming up with McLaren. The cars to be used by the new McLaren-Honda team will have a 1,600-cubic-centimer compact turbo engine and the latest hybrid system that collects waste heat from the engine.

Ito stressed that he hopes to “generate innovation by using technologies and human resources developed in the extreme world of F1 racing.”

In the 1988 season, McLaren-Honda machines driven by legends Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won a stunning 15 of 16 races.

Nissan Motor Co., which is returning to the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race this year, is also aiming to upgrade its hybrid system.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to make its comeback to the World Rally Championship in 2017.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda says the WRC is the best place to test both people and cars. In this brand of racing, cars for racing are developed from mass-produced cars and run on public roads.

Suzuki Motor Corp. will return to the MotoGP World Championship, a motorcycle event, this year. Suzuki hopes to boost its brand by joining MotoGP, which is very popular in emerging Asian economies where demand for large motorbikes is expected to increase.