HONDA PRESIDENT TAKANOBU ITO ON THE HYBRID NSX
Charismatic head honcho waxes lyrical on new NSX, explains how F1 is good for business
This, we think, is reassuring news for anyone who subscribes to the PH way of life. But it would also be something of an indulgence if we weren't actually going somewhere with this.
Did you know, for example, that Ito-san was one of the engineers responsible for the original NSX - an experience he describes as amongst the best in his life? Built during the period when Japanese performance cars were restricted by a gentlemen's agreement to 280hp, he explained that the emphasis for that car was heavily orientated towards dynamics and power-to-weight. Hence the all-aluminium body structure.
that was canned. Intended to make the most of Honda's most recent - and somewhat disappointing - Formula One efforts, this featured four-wheel drive and a V10 with what Ito describes (via a translator) as "an abundance of output". He also says it wasn't very smart.
"The NSX should be smart, clever," he declares, "with a focus on dynamic development." Thus as soon as he was in a position to influence the decision - or at least, that's the way he now tells it - "I had the development plan changed."
Some of you, we're sure, will have a hard time figuring how a battery-laden hybrid with three electric motors could possibly be an improvement on a screaming F1-derived V10. But while Ito-san seems to be genuinely concerned that there "will come a time when fossil fuel depletion will make emissions regulations ever more stringent", making fuel efficiency genuinely significant, he also says we "must never forget" that such cars must be fun.
All of which explains why the damn thing is taking so long. This is "the direction of the car of the future", Ito tells us, but it involves a "complicated menu of things we need to go over - hence it is taking some time."
"Please wait!" he says, with a grin on his face. And you know what? We're beginning to believe it might just be worth it.
He then spoke very frankly about Honda's recent F1 failures and McLaren's current form, hence "the goal is to act as quickly as possible to clinch the championship."
This passion, this ambition, this eagerness for racing success - something that Honda has always strived for and learnt from - will soon be reflected in its road cars, regardless of any assistance from McLaren.
Putting aside the bizarrely-monikered Vezel crossover, Honda's display at Tokyo has an overwhelmingly sporty theme - with the firm's very first F1 car, the 1964 RA271, displayed alongside an S360 replica as well as the S660 and NSX concepts. This sportiness is something Ito is desperately keen to develop and bring forward, even into Honda's mainstream products.
A new range of downsized turbo petrol engines will help achieve this, combined with Honda's fastidious in-house development of its own transmissions. Ito-san is convinced the company can deliver. Goodness, it is grand to hear Honda placing such an emphasis on engineering excellence and performance again.