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Honda to set up racing base in Britain

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Three generations of Honda Formula One cars on display in Tokyo on May 16, 2013. The Japanese automaker said it will build a European racing operations base in Britain ahead of its return to the sport in 2015.AFP/File

Japanese automaker Honda said it will build a European racing operations base in Britain ahead of its return to Formula One in 2015.

Honda said in May that it will return to the sport as an engine supplier to British team McLaren in a bid to revive their championship-winning partnership.

On Friday it said it will build a new facility in Milton Keynes, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of London, that "will rebuild and maintain the power units developed at Honda (research and development) centre" in Japan.

"The UK is an ideal location; it is the home of McLaren, many F1 suppliers are UK based and with seven of the 19 races taking place in Europe (in 2013)," Honda said in a statement.

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.