MUGEN Motorsport is about as closely related to Honda as you can get without actually being part of the same company.
Founded by Soichiro Honda's son, Hirotoshi, the firm isn't actually owned by Honda, but it's long been the operation of choice when it comes to running works or semi-works race efforts. And now it's announced it's entering this year's TT-Zero.
Since virtually every other vehicle the firm has made in its 40-year history has been Honda based in one way or another, there's fair scope to speculate that while the official Mugen electric bike entry isn't officially a Honda, it could well encapsulate some of the Japanese giant's technology. And funnily enough, the announcement comes just months after Honda showed it's own race-inspired RC-E electric bike...
Will the RC-E form the basis for Mugen's effort? Under the skin there's a definite possibility that some of the technology will be shared, although we're guessing the real racer will be less retro-styled – after all, it's not intended to be a Honda, and it's real purpose is to try and be a race winner rather than an object of desire.
Presumably we won't have too long to wait before seeing the actual Mugen bike. The firm says it will announce its rider soon and plans a programme of tests in both Japan and the UK as it prepares for this summer's race on the Isle of Man.
If – and this is still a big 'if' – the bike does turn out to be a Honda-in-disguise, running it under the Mugen banner would distance it from the factory enough to cut down the pressure to win at the first attempt. Were any of the big existing bike firms to enter the TT-Zero, it would be an embarrassment to be beaten by the small upstarts that currently fill the field – even the well-funded and highly-developed Motoczysz outfit that's won the last two races is a minnow in comparison to any works-operated team that a 'real' motorcycle manufacturer would be able to field.
Electric bikes still have a lot to prove, but we're really hoping that Mugen's involvement in the TT-Zero is the first hint that Honda wants to get involved. If in any way it helps the RC-E come closer to being a production reality, it's got to be a good thing.