Racing is a timeless sport and has existed for as long as anyone can remember, many have emerged champions, more have emerged loosers, but the sport still garners a massive following of racers and fans alike. Over the years, racing has transformed from a white knuckle suicidal sport for everybody who could afford a car to a world class billion dollar industry open for only those who can afford it, or are well connected with potential sponsors. It is true, racing is a very expensive hobby, so much so that only manufacturers are able to afford the exorbitant prices involved with research and development, specialized equipment, team expenses and of course, drivers.
Private teams financed by billionaires with too much free time in their hands sometimes find their way to the top few, but more often than not, lack the capacity to maintain their position.
Now you know what it takes to be a winning team, let me tell you a different side of the story, a part that does not involve you having to fork out your arm, your leg and some, just to fund the team. Instead, the expenses are borne by your employer, if you happen to work for Honda Malaysia anyway. See, what Honda has done is they have picked out the very best from their Malacca manufacturing plant and their Sales and Marketing office in Petaling Jaya and have given them the opportunity to be a part of the race team, a practise that has seen five members retained from last year’s team and a further 29 new members recruited.
The program is part of Honda’s move towards empowering their employees with improved skills and knowledge that will ultimately translate into the improvement of the quality of their cars; an ingenious and fun way to get people to get up and get to work on time everyday.
That’s not the only difference this year, five time MME Class “A” winners, Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT) is also cutting down on assistance from their Japanese counterparts, namely EKS and Mugen. This year also sees HMRT targeting to go fully “Malaysian” with the input and guidance from the five seniors retained from last year’s team.
Nevertheless, the team still enjoys the full support of Honda Malaysia, Team Principal Mr. Atsushi Fujimoto who is also Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Honda Malaysia commented, “ We are excited to support the HMRT in their race in MME for the sixth year as racing is in Honda’s DNA and it is our reason to exist. Even here in Malaysia, we encourage our associates to compete at the highest level of local endurance races as the challenge will enable them to improve on their skills, This will then be translated into the improvement of the quality of our products as these HMRT members apply their learnings and skills into their daily work at the plant.”
With the facts out of the way, the entire experience of being there is beyond any press release and thanks to Honda Malaysia who invited us to watch the HMRT undergo their first shakedown, it was amazing watching everyday technicians and sales people getting down with what some people train for their entire lives. I’m not saying they’re as good at it as Formula 1 teams but they definitely knew what they’re supposed to do and how to do it well. The understanding and choreography within the team is truly remarkable especially for a team consisting almost entirely of new, inexperienced faces.
The cars expectedly look good, in case you’re wondering, HMRT will be racing two FD2R Civic Type R’s just as they did last year but last year’s runner up Type R was locally built at Honda’s Melaka plant by HMRT members. This year, both racers are ‘Made in Japan ‘Type R’s making a sixth consecutive win all the more likely.
During the shakedown, the drivers were still deciding on whether to run on Yokohama slicks or Michelins, but small chat with the drivers revealed that it didn’t really matter that much, the car was still fast, the trick is to shave off an extra millisecond or find that extra inch of grip, with a team like Honda, I’m pretty sure they’ve already found that extra inch of grip or extra millisecond of speed and are working on getting it even faster and I’m also sure of one other thing, it’ll suck to be driving for a rival team when HMRT is your competitor. We will be following their progress closely, watch this space.
Special thanks to Honda Malaysia and their PR team for making this possible.