Honda F-1 RA273 (1967)
It was 24th October, 1965. The weather was fine. In the Rodriguez Circuit on the outskirts of Mexico City, a machine was running at full speed with its snow-white body glittering under the blazing sun of the southern country. The V 12-cylinder engine was giving forth a metallic sound. In this Mexican Grand Prix, the last of the 1.5-litre F-1 races which had been held since 1961, the Honda F-1 driven by Richie Ginther which came to the top on the 1st lap was leading the Brabham of Dan Gurney running second with a margin of more than 300m. On the 56th lap. Ginther set a lap record of 1'56", leaving all the other machines far behind. On the 56th lap, Gurney made a better record of 1'55.48" and reduced the margin little by little. Ginther, however, kept running at a stable pace with composure. Now it was certain that Ginther would win the race unless an unforeseen accident happened. Turning the last corner on the final lap, he finished first with a margin of about 150m over Gurney who held the second place. It was in the German Grand Prix held in the middle of the 1964 season that Honda took part in a F-1 race for the first time as a Japanese manufacturer. The first Honda machine RA271 failed to win a prize at all, but the power generated by its horizontal V 12-cylinder engine was larger than that of any other F-1 machines participated in the Gran Prix. Engaging Ginther as a new driver in addition to Ronnie Bucknum who drove the Honda F-1 in 1964. Honda entered the improved RA272 machine for F-1 races again in 1965. The machine, however, did not obtain satisfactory results except the sixth prize in the Belgian Grand Prix until the Mexican Grand Prix, the very last 1.5-litre F-1 race. The victory in this race would have been worth more than anything else in the world for Honda. This was the Honda's first victory in 11 races which it joined in two years. If 1.5-litre F-1 races had been held also in 1966, there would have been the strongest possibility of Honda winning the championship considering the large power of the 230 HP/12,000 rpm engine and the chassis improved year by year.
The Honda 3-litre F-1 RA273 in 1966
The day of 1.5-litre F-1 was over with the victory of the Honda RA272. Under the new 3-litre F-1 regulations providing that the displacement should be 3,000 cc or less and the weight should be 500 kg or more, new F-1 races were initiated in 1966.
In July 1966, the new Honda 3-litre F-1 RA273 was completed in accordance with the new regulations. The suspension system was of very conventional construction., The front being a combination of upper I-wishbone, lower I-arm, leading arm and coil/damper unit, and the rear being a combination of upper I-arm, lower inverted A arm, upper and lower trailing arms extending from the front and coil/damper unit in addition to torsion bar stabilizer. The body was of light alloy full-monocoque construction. Side sills extended to the rear, between which the 90 degree V 12-cylinder DOHC 2,922 cc engine was mounted. The body weight was reduced by, for instance, using synthetic resin film in the fuel tank but as still more than 700kg, which was far over the regulated minimum weight of 500kg. The engine output was over 400HP/10,500rpm, which was larger than that of any other F-1 machines. The Honda RA273 (this model), which was the heaviest and most powerful of all F-1 machines, made its debut in the Italian Grand Prix on 4th September with Ginther as the driver. The Monza Circuit of Italy, which has few curves and is counted as one of the high-speed circuits of Europe, was advantageous to the powerful Honda. The RA273 driven by Ginther made a good start from the seventh starting position and rose to the second place on the 13th lap. It seemed as if Ginther would seen outstrip the Ferrari of Scarfiotti running at the top. On the 18th lap the Honda ran through the straight at a speed of more than 250 km/h and entered the Curva Grande (large curve), when the tyre of the left rear wheel suddenly began burning. The machine got beyond control and crashed into a tree. Ginther suffered only a broken collarbone and escaped death by a miracle. Although the RA273 lost its first race because of this unforeseen accident, it proved to have high potentiality. Honda, however, fared badly in subsequent races. In place of the No. 1 vehicle of the RA273 which became un-repairable, No. 2 and No. 3 vehicles were immediately constructed. In the U.S. Grand Prix, Ginther and Bucknum drove the vehicles but were both forced to retire. Also in the subsequent Mexican Grand Prix, Honda did not gain satisfactory results, Ginther being in the fourth place and Bucknum in the seventh place.
In 1967, Juhn Strutees became the No. 1 driver of Honda to take the place of Ginther and the Honda machine was much improved. In the South African Gran Prix held on the first day of that year, Surtees, who started a the sixth starting position, finished third despite the bad condition of the gear box. Thus Honda made a good start in the new season. In the subsequent Monaco, Dutch and Belgian Grand Prix, Honda retired because of engine trouble. Honda barely managed to take the sixth place in the British Grand Prix and the fourth place in the German Grand Prix. It is true that the Honda engine was the most powerful of all F-1 machine engines, but the vehicle itself was not lightened enough and weighted more than 650 kg. The appearance of light and powerful machines such as the Lotus and the Ford put Honda in a tough situation. With the cooperation of Lora Plant of Eric Bradley with whom Surtees was on terms of intimacy. Honda set to work with a view to manufacturing a new lighter machine. The engine was basically the same as the previous one but became lighter by about 20kg. The weight of the chassis was also reduced by 80kg. Thus was born the RA300 machine. Completed immediately before the Italian Grand Prix, the RA300 participated in the race without being put to regular tests and achieved a dramatic victory with a margin of only 2m over the second. In 1968, the RA300 developed into the RA301. In the 1968 French Grand Prix, the epoch-making machine RA302 equipped with a natural air-cooled V8 engine made its debut. In this race held in a rain, however, the RA302 ran out of the course and caught fire. Jo Schlesser, driver, was burnt to death. This was a really tragic debut for the RA302.
After entering the RA301 and the RA302 for the races of the 1968 season. Honda withdrew from F-1 races. Participating in F-1 races, which had been the "unknown world" for Honda, over a period of five years, Honda won the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix and the 1967 Italian Grand Prix. These results were never disappointing. Honda, however, attached no great importance to the race results and regarded races as the "running laboratory." By testing new mechanism devised one after another in races, Honda acquired extensive knowledge and experience which, in turn, were applied to production vehicles. It may safely be said that the knowledge and experience were the greatest results that Honda gained in F-1 races and meant the greatest victory for Honda. - This article is printed on the instruction sheets of the model
Essential Specifications of the Honda RA273:
For more information, see The Honda Worldwide Formula 1 site.
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