Honda Malaysia Racing Team (HMRT) is back to its racing ways. The last time we saw the team gunning for top honours was way back at the 2010 Malaysian Merdeka Endurance Race when they were racing the Honda Civic Type-R. The team won the Touring Production Class and was placed eighth overall.

After a hiatus of more than a year, the team will be participating in the 2012 Sepang 1000km Endurance Race that will take place from December 6 to 8. Unlike the previous years where the team raced with the Type-R, HMRT will be fielding two Honda Jazz cars instead.

Mr. Kumar Thayalakumaran, Team Manager of HMRT, explained that currently Honda Malaysia does not have a high performance car in the stable ever since the Civic Type-R was discontinued. The current Civic does not have a performance variant and its chassis is not suitable for endurance races. As for the CR-Z, the hybrid is still under development.

Of course, both the Jazz are not ordinary, especially when it has been stripped out and fitted with safety equipment to comply with the regulations. Tuning takes place in the L15A-based engine. The displacement on the 1.5 litre lump has been increased to about 1,600 cc and its internals are also strengthened for endurance racing. Yes, the engine is kept naturally aspirated. And the standard ECU has been swapped out and remapped to squeeze more power from the relatively small engine.

What else? The ratios in the gearbox are now brought closer to suit the characteristics of the Sepang Circuit. Special attention is also given to the suspension and handling, where the springs and dampers are uprated accordingly. Kumar believes that, in an endurance race, it is better to have a good-handling car than one with raw power.

Behind the wheel of one of the Jazz will be Honda Malaysia’s Tengku Ezan Ley, Mohd. Henzee Hamzah and Farriz Fauzy – all with considerable racing experience under their belts. In fact, the car is developed solely by Honda Malaysia by drawing on the company’s internal expertise and talents. Kumar stresses that HMRT did not have any outside help, even from Japan. The only external bits are the parts (mostly Mugen) found in the racecars.

How does it perform? Well, according to race driver Tengku Ezan Ley, the car is nimble and easy around corners. It is also comfortable and the heat is not a major issue as the car is well ventilated; it will get a better window tint, too. More importantly, in spite of the car being new, the racing Jazz feels confident throughout the circuit.

The objective here is not to win races but to get the back on the race saddle and reclaim Honda’s ‘challenging spirit’ once again. Going forward, the team will evaluate its performance this year before committing to next year’s race. Ultimately, the company aims to hold its own one-make racing series, featuring the Honda Jazz, within the next five years.