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  Honda RA272
 

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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:1965
Numbers built:three
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:June 06, 2005
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Click here to download printer friendly versionBy the 1960s Honda had established themself as a very successful motorcycle manufacturer and now wanted to try their luck on four wheels. The first car, the S500, was introduced at the 1962 Tokyo Motorshow. It still relied heavenly on motorcycle technology with a 500 cc overhead camshaft engine. The racing motorcycles racked up victory after victory so it was only logical for Honda to enter in motorsport as well. What better platform to showcase their abilities than F1?

Yet the first Formula 1 programme did not go altogether according to plan. In the 1960s designer Tadashi Kume had an engine ready but no car. Colin Chapman talked of designing a Lotus with a Honda engine for Jim Clark to drive, but the plans came to nothing. Honda needed a starting-point from which to set out its own design and since Cooper had just won two world championships, a Formula 1 Cooper-Climax was bought and shipped to Japan.

The Kume designed engine was not suited for the Cooper chassis so Honda decided to built their own chassis. The car Honda built was more radical than the Cooper-Climax it had bought to study. Instead of the bent-tube frame with the 4-cylinder engine in-line at the rear, the little Honda had a 60-degree V12 engine mounted transversely behind the driver.

In 1964, V8s from BRM and Coventry-Climax were seasoned campaigners. The V6s, V8s, and flat-12s from Ferrari, and Porsche with its air-cooled flat-8 were reaching maturity. The Honda was a radical little V12, with needle roller crankshaft bearings, revving to 11,500rpm, in a semi-monocoque chassis with tubular rear sub-frames and inboard springs.

Dubbed RA272, the sophisticated F1 racer made its debut early in 1965. Throughout the season, it got more on the pace with its European rivals. The final race of the season and the final race of the 1.5 litre class was held at the Mexico circuit. The Hondas ran well from the first day of practice. Ginther took the lead from the second row of the grid behind Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax), and Dan Gurney (Brabham-Climax), and by the end of the first lap he was 300 yards ahead. Gurney came no closer than 2.0sec. Ginther never had to rev the RA272 Honda above 11,000rpm, and achieved the first victory by a Japanese car since the dawn of grand prix racing in 1906. The significance of the event was not lost on the world of motor racing. The last race of the last season under the old rules was also the last race under the old regime, in which European supremacy was scarcely challenged.

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