Kojima Engineering, Japanese Formula 1 team and constructor, was founded by Matsuhisa Kojima in 1970s. Kojima (born in 1944) has been active in dirt track racing and motocross in the domestic motorcycle scene. In addition to exploring the European Motocross World Championship as Suzuki ‘s work slider, he also trained as a mechanic. After retiring from motorcycle racing in 1968, he established Kojima Engineering in his hometown of Kyoto in 1970 . Initially, Suzuki motorcycles were race-tuned and sold, but soon Kojima switched to the field of four-wheel racing. In 1971, he entered the junior formula FJ360 / FL500 and won it with Yoshimi Katayama. Kojima team progressed to the All Japan FJ1300 Championship in 1973 and to the All Japan F2000 Championship (equivalent to F3 and F2, respectively ) in 1974. Kojima himself gained experience in making formula cars by purchasing overseas machines such as Surteess and March and replacing the suspension with in-house production. Masahiro Hasemi, a junior of Kojima’s motocross era, won All Japan FJ1300 Championship in 1974 and 1975 in a row.
The following year, in 1976, when F1 GP visited Japan for the first time, Kojima decided to challenge the highest peak of open-wheel racing with an original machine. The company constructed the KE007 chassis, designed by Masao Ono, and brought in several staff-members from the Maki team. Kojima KE007 was fitted with a Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine, Hewland FGA400 four-speed gearbox and used Dunlop tyres. The chassis was of an aluminium monocoque design. The KE007 was entered for the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix with Masahiro Hasemi, Kojma factory driver, at the wheel. Hasemi scored a huge stir, posting 4th best time in the first qualifying session. However, he crashed in the second session, and the car had to be rebuilt virtually from scratch. Hasemi started 10th, and ran superbly before tyre trouble led to an eventual 11th place. He was initially credited with fastest lap, but this was a measurement mistake, and, several days later, the circuit issued a press release to correct the fastest lap holder of the race to Jacques Laffite.
For the next season KE007 was rebuilt as Japanese F2 car. It was powered by BMW M12 2000 cc engine and was driven by Masahiro Hasemi, Kunimitsu Takahashi, and Didier Pironi in Japanese All-Japan F2000 events.
Meanwhile Kojima Engineering constructed new car, KE009, for the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix. Designed again by Masao Ono, it was a developed and improved version of KE007 with reduced weight of the monoqocue. The engine / gearbox combination remained the same as in KE007 – Ford Cosworth DFV and Hewland FGA400. The tyres were changed to Bridgestone. Noritake Takahara, two-time Japanese Formula 2000 champion, winning the title in 1974 and 1976, was entered in the factory car. He started only 19th before crashing on first lap avoiding debris. A second KE009 was entered by Heros Racing for the same race, Kazuyoshi Hoshino starting and finishing 11th. Thirty years old Hoshino was Japanese Formula 2 champion of 1975 and 1977 at that time. He continued to race in domestic formulas until 1996 (when he was almost 50) and won Japanese top formula championships 4 more times (F2 in 1978 and F3000 in 1987, 1990 and 1993).
|Kazuyoshi Hoshino||52||Heros Racing Corporation|