Page 1 of 2 Next >> Ahead of the 1976 World Championship finale, the Japanese Grand Prix, which was held at the Fuji Speedway for the first time, all eyes were on title contenders Niki Lauda and James Hunt, who were separated by just a single point. That changed when Masahiro Hasemi set the fourth fastest time during the opening practice. This was very remarkable as it was not only his first ever Formula 1 outing but also that of the all-new, Japanese-built Kojima KE007 he drove.
The KE007 was fielded by Kojima Engineering, which had gathered considerable experience during the 1970s running March F2 cars in the national championship. Having learned valuable lessons from the disappointing outings of fellow Japanese constructor Maki, chief engineer Masao Ono opted to keep the car as straightforward as possible. Accordingly, the car was a conventional 'Cosworth kit-car' based around the readily available DFV V8 and Hewland gearbox but with a distinct Japanese flair.
As had become the norm since the introduction of the DFV engine during the second half of the 1960s, Kojima's first F1 car featured an sheet-aluminium monocoque chassis, which used the V8 as a fully stressed unit. The Hewland FGA 400 gearbox also served as a structural component. Incorporating lessons learned as a works Suzuki motocross rider, Matsuhisa Kojima fitted the car with a fully floating front suspension. At the rear a conventional multi-link layout was fitted.
One of the Japanese touches was the use of Kayaba-sourced dampers. These featured remote reservoirs and could be adjusted by the driver from the cockpit. The water radiators were mounted laterally in the side-pods, just ahead of the rear wheels, and the separate engine and gearbox oil-coolers were placed under the rear wing. The car was clothed in a carbon-fibre reinforced fibreglass body with an integrated, full-width front wing and tall cockpit surrounds, which also housed the fresh-air intakes for the engine. Page 1 of 2 Next >>