ENGINES: MUGEN COMPANY LTD.
Name: Mugen Company Ltd.
Officially Mugen and Honda are independent operations and while Honda does not supply any financial support for the Formula 1 engines there is considerable technical assistance. The aim is to stimulate the research and development departments of each company.
Mugen was founded in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda and Masao Kimura (who is now managing director). Its purpose was to design and develop racing engines for sale and to develop engines and parts for Honda road cars.
The company has a strong racing heritage as Hirotoshi Honda began building his own racing car in a workshop at his house, shortly before he graduated from Nihon University in 1965. Kimura is a veteran of more than 50 race victories in Honda sportscars and single-seaters and worked for Honda R&D and then Honda Racing Service before he helped Hirotoshi establish Mugen.
The company specialized in tuning Honda engines, beginning with the 1200cc Honda Civic engine but has since developed and can now design and build both two-stroke and four-stroke engines and manufacture many of the major components.
Working with Honda, Mugen has gradually expanded its sporting involvement to all levels of the sport. In 1986 Formula 3000 was introduced into Japan and Mugen joined forces with Honda to build a Formula 3000 engine. Mugen produced the engines in Japan and John Judd did the same in England.
The following year Mugen built its own F3000 engine which was leased to 14 teams and in 1988 four of the top five drivers in the series were powered by Mugens. In 1989 Mugen entered the European Formula 3000 series with the MF308 engine and won the championship with Jean Alesi, driving an Eddie Jordan-prepared Reynard. The same year the company produced its own 3.5-liter V8 Formula 1 engine, codenames MF350.
In 1991 Mugen prepared Honda V10 engines for Tyrrell but the following year these engines were renamed the Mugen MF351H and were entered for the Footwork F1 team, with drivers Aguri Suzuki and Michele Alboreto.
Mugen ultimately intends to build its own road cars and a step towards this was selling bodykits for the Honda Ballade CRX in 1984. Since then the company has produced a number of body kits for Honda machinery, culminating in 1992 in the Mugen NSX prototype.
At the end of the year, however, Mugen switched to Team Lotus with plans for a new Lotus 109. The team - with drivers Johnny Herbert and Pedro Lamy (later replaced by Alex Zanardi) - was short of money and the Lotus 109 was late arriving. The Mugen Honda engine - codename ZA5C - was not able to show its full potential and, after Lotus closed at the end of the year, Mugen switched its engines to the Ligier team, which was then being run for Flavio Briatore by Tom Walkinshaw for drivers Olivier Panis, Martin Brundle and Aguri Suzuki. The 3-liter engine (the regulations had changed) was codenamed MF 301H.
The team was then taken over by Alain Prost and the newly-named Prost Grand Prix ran MF 301H-B engines in 1997, Jarno Trulli leading the Austrian GP before suffering an engine blow-up. With Prost beginning a new relationship with Peugeot in 1998, Mugen looked for a new partner and reached a two-year agreement with Jordan Grand Prix. Mugen produced the MF 201H-C engine. The 1998 season was not a success until Spa when Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher scored a 1-2 finish for the Jordan Mugen Honda team.
The 1999 season resulted in further success with Heinz-Harald Frentzen winning twice, but then the Honda Motor Company announced that it would be returning with its own engines in 2000 with British American Racing. Mugen pulled out of F1 leaving Honda to supply the engines to Jordan as well.
Based in Asaka City, in the northern suburbs of Tokyo - close to the Honda R&D facility at Wako - Mugen continues to do well in Formula 3.