The proposed Honda F1 outfit took the first steps towards the fulfilment of its dreams last week, running a prototype chassis in a secret test in Italy.

Former Stewart driver Jos Verstappen ran the car's first laps at the Varano test facility near Milan. The outing apparently took place before the Japanese company formally confirmed its intention to enter F1 in 2000, and was staged away from the eyes of the media. Poor conditions, including dense fog, did not prevent Verstappen from turning in a number of laps in a Dallara-built chassis powered by the same Mugen engine used by Jordan towards the end of the 1998 season.

The test was merely a precursor to a thorough programme designed to prepare the team for its race entry in 2000, and Verstappen is expected to continue his role, especially as previous favourite Tora Takagi is thought to have signed for Arrows. Whether the team will be able to continue testing in private remains to be seen, however, as Bridgestone's tyre restrictions may force Honda to join the other F1 teams at official tests in future.

Honda has said that it aims to race in the same colours as it featured during the 1967 season, despite the modern challenge it now faces. (Our decision to participate in Formula One is based on facing new challenges,) said company president Hiroyuki Yoshino, (We are expecting severe competition because we will be treading new territory with a chassis and engine this time. It is difficult to predict when we expect to win as it depends on many factors. Our initial goal is to achieve significant results.)



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