JANUARY 3, 2006
A big boost for Formula Nippon
GP2 may have made a mark in 2005 but it is worth noting that there are signs that Formula Nippon is reviving over in Japan with rule changes aimed at giving the series the kind of relevance it had back in the 1990s when many aspiring drivers cut their teeth in Japan before moving into F1, notably Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher, Mika Salo, Roland Ratzenberger and Ralph Firman.
Japan Race Promotion, the organization which runs the series, has decided to change the rules and although the cars will still come from Lola there is a new B06/51 chassis which began testing recently in England. The biggest change, however, is that the engine supply has changed. In recent years Mugen has been the sole supplier but in 2006 the rules have changed so that teams can use engines based on the Toyota and Honda units which have been raced in recent years in the Indy Racing League. These will be available to tuning companies to see if they can squeeze out extra horsepower. At the moment the Toyota engines will be run by Impul, Arting, Le Mans Company, Cerumo and Kondo with Nakajima Racing, DoCoMo Dandelion and 5Zigen using Hondas. It is expected that there will be at least three new teams with Honda supplying Aguri Suzuki's ARTA and Toyota getting cars from TOM'S and Inging. It is expected that grids will increase to 22 cars. It is not yet clear who will drive but among those looking is former Formula 3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim.
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