KOMATSU IN MOTORSPORT
A TRADITION OF BREAKING NEW GROUND
The same traits that lie at the core of Komatsu's DNA leading technology, quality and reliability are also fundamental to success in the world of motorsport.
So it makes perfect sense that Komatsu maintains a strong link with the advanced world of motor racing as a supporter of teams, individuals and major events.
However, its involvement over the past two decades has gone well beyond simply putting its name on the sides of racing vehicles and on the lapels of driving suits.
Komatsu was heavily involved in the technical aspects of Formula One racing in the 1990s by providing expertise and technology to the world's foremost teams.
It formed multi-year partnerships with Team Lotus and Williams Grand Prix Engineering.
Patrick Head, co-founder of the Williams team, fondly recalls Komatsu's contribution during the 1980s and 1990s.
"When Lotus pulled out of F1 (in 1994) Peter Wright, who had been working with Lotus, gave me a call and said that he had been talking to the people at Komatsu," Head says.
"They wanted to stay in F1 despite the demise of the Lotus team. So he put me in touch with Mr Noriaki Abe, who represented them. He wasn't a full-time (Komatsu) employee. I had a couple of meetings with them in Japan.
"It was mainly to supply hardware (for gearboxes). They made an extremely good quality spiral bevel gear primary drive for us, which we ran in 1986-7 on the FW11 Honda turbo car. They also made a straight cut final drive (gear) which we ran in 1988-9."
Head said Komatsu's engineers always responded professionally to the team's briefs when supplying gear profiles for the team's transverse gearboxes fitted to the world championship-winning Williams Renault cars of 1996 and 1997.
"They were responsible for gear profiles once we'd given them all the installation detail; how wide the gear was, what the reduction ratio was, the difference between shafts, the bearing mountings, all that sort of thing.
"It was very good quality; they were a very professional company to work with. When they named the delivery date, they either hit the date or they contacted us in advance and told us they had problems and when the delivery would be.
"It was a very good relationship for Williams."
Komatsu also supplied sensors for these gearboxes while engaging in vigorous research and development to support its Formula One efforts; an indication of its standing as a technologically progressive organisation.
In Australia, Komatsu formed strong ties with teams and drivers in the Australian Touring Car Championship and later the V8 Supercar Championship.
During the mid-1990s it was involved with Kevin Waldock, a successful car owner/driver who also had ties with Komatsu via his mining interests.
Waldock drove his bright yellow, Komatsu-emblazoned Ford Falcon to excellent results in 1995, including ninth at the Sandown 500 and eighth at the Bathurst 1000.
Komatsu was also a prominent fixture in the touring car hospitality areas.
Waldock's Komatsu-branded hospitality transporter was one of the first of its type in the race paddock and provided track-day accommodation that was the envy of rival teams and sponsors.
Guests also experienced the thrill of top level touring car racing from the passenger seat as they were taken for hot laps in Waldock's Komatsu Falcon.
In 1997 Komatsu sponsored 1980 Formula One world champion Alan Jones and his team in the inaugural season of the V8 Supercar Championship.
Jones recorded promising results at the wheel of the Komatsu EL Falcon, including victory in a heat at the final round of the season at Oran Park.
By 2008 Komatsu had become a premier partner of the ultra-successful Triple Eight Engineering V8 Supercar team.
Komatsu has enjoyed prominent exposure since that time at the front of the grid thanks to Triple Eight's dominance of the sport, with four drivers' championships.
The winning partnership has also drawn attention to Komatsu's range of industry-leading earthmoving equipment, with champion driver Jamie Whincup's well publicised test drive of the 960E dump truck in Texas and Craig Lowndes' use of Komatsu equipment on his farm.
This year Whincup became Komatsu's official apprentice mentor, taking 200 apprentices under his wing and providing valuable guidance to help kick-start their careers.
Komatsu also supports the successful racing efforts of customer Sherrin Rentals, which runs an FG Falcon in the Dunlop Series (a V8 Supercar feeder category) and a BMW 135i in the Australian Manufacturer's Championship.
Komatsu is active in other forms of motorsport and even extreme sports.
In 2011 it supported freestyle motocross star Jackson Strong in his preparations for the X-Games by supplying him with a CK25 skid-steer to shape the test track on his property in Lockhart, NSW.
Last year it also become a sponsor of Australian Motocross champion Jay Marmont and celebrated the new partnership by providing a 40-tonne, 239(FH)kW D155A dozer to help build one of Australia's best supercross/motocross training tracks in Picton, NSW.
This year Komatsu has got behind former Drift Australia champion Beau Yates, who is in the process of building a Toyota 86-based drift car to re-enter the sport.
In North America Komatsu has backed events in major racing series, with naming rights sponsorships of the Komatsu 300 NASCAR race in Nova Scotia, Canada, and the Linder-Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami Grand-Am race.
It also provided title backing of two-time NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car world champion Tony Pedregon's fire-breathing Chevrolet Funny Car in 2010.
Komatsu intends to continue supporting motorsport teams and individuals as they bid for victory in their chosen disciplines.
It will also provide ongoing support to a number of Komatsu customers and staff members who share the company's passion by competing in different series around Australia.
This includes two apprentices plying their trade, one in go karts and another in junior dragsters, and Garry Povah, who competes in the Off Road Australia Championship in his spare time while being senior manager of the ground-breaking Autonomous Haulage System project (Driverless Mining Dump Trucks).