Japan's Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito delivers a speech during a press conference in Tokyo on Feb 7 on the company's motorsports strategy and initiatives for 2014. - AFP
TOKYO (AFP): Japanese automaker Honda said Friday it is making "steady progress" toward its return to Formula One racing in 2015.
Honda said last year it would rejoin the European-dominated sport as an engine supplier to British team McLaren in a bid to revive their championship-winning partnership.
"The company is making steady progress in developing the power unit," Honda said in a statement outlining its motorsports strategy for 2014.
The company is establishing its European base for F1 activity in Milton Keynes, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of London, to rebuild and maintain power units developed at Honda's research and development centre in Japan.
The company said it also set up a new centre at home in January for development of F1 and other motorsports.
Honda pulled out of F1 after the 2008 season, ending an involvement that began in the 1960s, to cut costs during the economic downturn that ravaged Japanese exports to the United States and Europe. It sold its team to former principal Ross Brawn the next year.
A recent change in F1 rules, promoting the use of environmentally friendlier turbo engines, made the comeback decision easier because Honda can more readily transfer the technology to its commercial vehicles.
The McLaren-Honda alliance conquered F1 from 1988 to 1991 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at the wheel.
Honda started racing in F1 as a full-fledged team in 1964, and stayed until 1968.
During that time, it won two races. Then, as a supplier of engines to other teams including McLaren, Williams and Lotus, it raced from 1983 to 1992 and won 69 races.
After an eight-year hiatus, Honda returned as an engine provider and then part-owner of the BAR team from 2000 to 2005. In 2006 it took full control and renamed it Honda.