In March 2003, Honda Cars Philippines (HCPI) took several members of the Philippine motoring press, including yours truly, to Australia to watch the Foster’s Australian Grand Prix Formula One (F1) races at the Albert Park in Melbourne.
As the guests of Honda, we were privileged to go into the paddocks of the BAR-Honda Racing Team after the Friday afternoon practice session. We had a few minutes to interview their drivers (and future World Champions), Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve, who’s the son of Grand Prix legend Giles Villeneuve, and the BAR-Honda team principal, David Richards.
To commemorate the occasion, I got a Minichamps 1:43 scale die-cast model of the BAR-Honda 003 race car of Villeneuve that was produced and detailed by Paul’s Model Art GmbH & Co. of Germany. At first, I mistakenly thought that my model race car was the same as the F1 cars that the team was campaigning that year because of the “003”, which I assumed meant the year, 2003.
I later learned that the BAR-Honda 003 was used by the British American Racing team to compete in the 2001 F1 season. Their drivers then were Villeneuve, who was in his third year with the team, and Olivier Panis, who joined after a year of racing as McLaren’s test driver. After a promising season in 2000, hopes were high for wins in 2001.
The BAR-Honda 003 was designed by Malcolm Oastler with a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and pushrod-activated, inboard-spring independent suspension on all four corners. Power came from a naturally-aspirated Honda RA001E 90° V10 engine and transferred to a longitudinally-mounted Xtrac sequential 6-speed semi-automatic transmission. Eneos fueled the 003 and Bridgestone tires transferred the power to the tarmac.
However, the car suffered from handling problems that was caused by a lack of chassis rigidity. As the 2001 F1 season progressed, the team’s competitiveness slid down further with car’s unreliability issues and the works Honda engines, which were down-on-power compared to the engines of the top teams like Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, and even Jordan, whose race cars used the same engines.
Villeneuve was pushed hard by his team mate throughout the season and he achieved only two podium finishes in 2001 at Catalunya and Hockenheim. The BAR-Honda team finished sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship with 17 points.
Bad luck would follow the team in the 2003 Australian Grand Prix that we were watching live. Villeneuve and Button got conflicting signals during the race and pitted at the same time, much to the surprise of the spectators. You could hear the collective gasps all around the race track at both cars entered pit lane one after the other. It was one of those rare miscues in F1 racing. David Coulthard in the McLaren won the race.
Meeting the drivers and the team principals of the BAR-Honda racing team, seeing World Champions Jackie Stewart and Michael Schumacher in person, and watching the F1 races in Australia was a big treat for me, a Grand Prix/Formula One fan since I was eight years old. This Minichamps 1:43 die-cast model was one of the very first F1 race cars that I ever had, and I’m glad that it has now become a memento of my trip to Australia. It may have been 17 years ago, but I’m still thankful to our friends at HCPI for the wonderful memories in Melbourne!
To see other scale model cars and motorcycles that we have previously posted here in the Power Wheels website, please click “The Rack” button on the header bar near the top right of your screen (if you’re using a PC, laptop or tablet), or type “The Rack” on the Search bar (if you’re using a mobile phone). Because the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was extended until the end of May, we can’t leave home to review actual vehicles, Thus, we’ll stick to reviewing the miniature cars in our collection. We hope you’re enjoying our reviews and are encouraged to stay safe by staying home until the authorities deem it safe to go out. Help flatten the curve of the infection rate by doing your part. Together, we can beat COVID-19!