Hero: Honda RA272
Ancestry of modern performance.
A lot of technological advancements came from motorsport, engineers think of ways to get every little advantage they possibly can on the track which eventually trickle down into mainstream cars that you and I commute in.
There was a time Honda wasn’t known for making cars. They were mainly known as a motorcycle manufacturer and their first production car wouldn’t come around until 1963. To get more into the automobile game, they turned to one of the most high tech motorsport there is: Formula One.
They started to concentrate on what make a good racecar based on knowledge from making motorcycles that are lighter and more agile. They created an impressive 1.5 liter V12 with double overhead camshafts and four-valves per cylinder that can rev up to 11,000 rpm and produced 230hp (which was astonishing at the time) mounted transversely in a tubular steel chassis.
That first car was called the RA271 and was somewhat a failure. The car returned bad results and plagued with mechanical failures. Honda went back to the drawing board by making it 25kg lighter with fiberglass panels and titanium bolts and screws. The engine’s maximum rev was increased to 14,000 rpm and mounted at a slant to improve center of gravity. The new car was dubbed the RA272 shown here.
The RA272 made its debut at 1965 Monaco Grand Prix. The new car still suffered from reliability issues throughout the season but results were majorly improved and enough to earn Honda’s first World Championship points.
The final race for the 1965 season was the Mexican Grand Prix which took place at a higher altitude compare to European Grand Prix, a major challenge for all competitors’ engines to make maximum power except for Honda with their high tech and higher revving engine. The Honda RA272 piloted by Richie Ginther was able to take the lead from 3rd place off the grid and led for the entire 65 lap race. It took the checkered flag and mark the first F1 victory for Honda.
After the 1965 season, regulations changed allowing bigger dimensions for the cars and bigger engines with displacement up to 3.0 litres. The RA272 was retired, but it left one last legacy before it go, something that is still around to this day. The Honda F1 was the first to use the red Honda badge which still represents Honda’s best handling and hottest road-going models to this day. The paint color from the racer soldiers on and rightfully called “Championship White.”