TOKYO, May 16, 2013 (AFP) - Japanese automaker Honda said Thursday it will return to Formula One in 2015 as an engine supplier to British team McLaren in a bid to revive their championship-winning partnership.
Honda president Takanobu Ito said "McLaren-Honda" will aim to become "number one" in the elite racing world.
"Honda is a company that has grown by participating in and winning races," he told a Tokyo press conference.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said at the joint press event their "legendary Formula One partnership" would restart.
"McLaren and Honda are about to embark on a new and extremely exciting adventure together," he said.
"On behalf of everyone at McLaren, and also everyone who loves Formula One, I am delighted to welcome Honda back to the sport."
Whitmarsh also refused to be drawn on how much money Honda would be putting into the project, but said it was determined to succeed. "It is wonderful timing that we announced it today. Personally, I'm very happy about it," he said.
He added that Honda's going it alone in an earlier incarnation had not proved easy and a tie-up like this would prove fruitful.
"Whilst both companies are fully aware that we’re embarking on a very demanding journey together, we’re hugely committed to the success of the partnership, and we'll spend the next 18 months working together to ensure that we’re fully established and competitive ahead of our first grand prix together in 2015.
"It is ideal to compete as a McLaren-Honda team. I hope we can continue for a long time," he said.
Honda's President and CEO, Takanobu Ito, joined in the excitement and vows for a bright future in Formula 1.
“Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series.
"The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1." Said Takanobu.
The Japanese automaker 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, has made the comeback decision easier because Honda could 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.
Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone welcomed the Japanese firm back into the fold. "It is a great pleasure to see Honda back in Formula One," he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Honda.
"Their engine technology and passion for motor sports make them a natural Formula One contender."