Monday, February 25, 2013

An Evening At Honda

In the autumn of 1994, while staying with my aunt and uncle in North America, I remarked that they had been driving the same car for seven years. It was a second-generation Honda Accord, the best-selling Japanese car in the US from 1982 to 1997 and one of the most reliable vehicles ever sold. When I asked when they planned to get rid of it, they said, ‘When it conks out.’ Well, conk out it did, but only after having done 250,000 km (155,000 miles). They replaced it, not surprisingly, with ... another Honda.

I have driven three of them myself, most recently an eighth-generation Civic, with the same impressive results. So, when I received an invitation to the UK’s Honda HQ for ‘an evening with special guests’, I thought I should make every effort to attend. More decisively, so did one of my sports-mad sons.

The two of us entered its newly-built chrome-and-glass edifice and could not help but notice a bright red Honda NSX  ultra-sleek, 2-door coupé, all-aluminium V6 engine, drivers backside six inches from tarmac  just inside the front doors. When I said good evening to a smart young lady wearing the company logo, she told us that this particular NSX used to belong to Ayrton Senna (1960-94) (Figure 57.1), one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time, tragically killed during the San Marino Grand Prix, indeed the most recent fatality on an F1 track. Without asking, my son opened the drivers door, jumped in and clasped both hands around the wheel. ‘Get this, Dad! So, naturally, I took out the camera and obliged (Figure 57.2).

Figure 57.1: F1 legend Ayrton Senna with his Honda NSX

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Figure 57.2: My son, with that same car, twenty years later

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

F1 is not the only motor sport to feature the Honda name. In the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), it currently holds the drivers’, teams’ and manufacturers’ titles, and has dominated the sport in recent years (Figure 57.3). The car itself is based around the newly-designed European Civic 5-door hatchback, with a 300 BHP 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and revolutionary aerodynamics. We looked across the room and there it was (Figures 57.4 & 57.5).

Figure 57.3: Honda’s two drivers leading the way in 2012

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Figure 57.4: As seen in the BTCC

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

Figure 57.5: If only his feet could reach the pedals

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

The special guests turned out to be very special indeed. They were the current Honda BTCC drivers, and BBC Top Gear regulars, Matt Neal and ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden (Figure 57.6). Matt  like me, 46 years old – was BTCC champion in 2005, 2006 and 2011, and has also won European TCC races. The reigning (2012) champion, however, is his younger teammate, ‘Flash’, 34. Both were approachable and seemed more than happy to spend their spare time with those who enjoy and support their particular sport (Figure 57.7 & 57.8).

Figure 57.6: Messrs Shedden and Neal on the podium, yet again, in 2012

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Figure 57.7: A treasured photograph ...

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

Figure 57.8: ... and autographs from Matt and ‘Flash’

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

This year’s ten BTCC races take place across the country from March to October, beginning and ending at Brands Hatch. Full details of racing schedules are available from The fourth race, incidentally, will be at Cheshire’s Oulton Park on 8th and 9th June. Our tickets are already booked (Figure 57.9).

Figure 57.9: At the end of a memorable evening

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

With immense gratitude, and the best of fortune, to all at Honda UK.

Copyright © 2013 Paul Spradbery

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