After making its historic debut in Formula 1 in 1964, Honda developed the RA272 for the 1965 season, reflecting feedback from the first season with the RA271. Weight was reduced by more than 5-percent, while the ease of maintenance and setting change were improved, which is a major factor for the F1 circus that goes around the world from circuit to circuit. The body design was also refined to improve engine cooling efficiency.
Further, from the Italian Grand Prix in the middle of the season, a major update was made by lowering the 1.5-liter liquid-cooled 4-st. 60-degree V-12 DOHC 4-valve gear-train engine by 10 cm (3.9 inch) which resulted in a significant improvement in the cornering ability of the machine. At the last race of the 1965 season held in Mexico, the Honda team thoroughly tuned the high-revving V12 engine to comply with the thinner atmosphere at high altitude. On October 24, 1965, American driver Richie Ginther overtook the 2 cars in front during the 1st lap and led the race to the finish to earn the first F1 victory for both Honda and Ginther.
In the 1960s, Honda made the bold decision to enter the highly competitive world of Formula 1. Their timing proved to be perfect, as new racing regulations were announced which limited displacement size to just 1,500cc. Honda, whose background were in the manufacturing of motorcycles, could apply their knowledge and expertise from their motorcycle engines.
The Honda engineers built a V12 engine that featured double overhead camshafts and four-valves per cylinder. After experimenting with Keihin carburetors, Honda settled on their own fuel injection system. The sophisticated engine was mounted transversely in the chassis and the gearbox was constructed in-unit with the engine. The engine developed 230 horsepower at 11,000 RPM and the transmission had six forward gears.
The first Formula 1 car was known as the RA271. It has a steel tubular space frame chassis, multi-link rear suspension with the front featuring lower wishbones and top rockers.
During the summer of 1964, the RA271 was brought to Europe where it underwent testing at Zandvoort. Its competition debut was at the 1964 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Driving the RA271 was American Ronnie Bucknum who qualified the car in 22nd position. During the race, it retired early due to an accident.
The car returned to racing action at the Italian and American Grand Prix. Bucknum qualified the car in tenth position at Italy but would retire early due to mechanical failures. It had an early retirement at the American GP as well.
During the winter, the RA271 was modified and refined. The result of their work was the RA272. Using lightweight materials such as titanium and fiberglass, along with minor re-designs, engineers were able to reduce the car's weight by about 55 pounds. One of the space saving features was fiberglass inplace of the heavier duraluminum.
The RA272 was given Halibrand wheels and Goodyear tires. The engine now lay lower in the car and was moved slightly forward, helping to improve the vehicle's center of gravity.
When Honda debuted the RA272 at the Monaco Grand Prix, two examples had been completed. One was driven by Bucknum and the other by Richie Ginther. Both drivers qualified near the back of the pack, however for the next race - at Spa-Francorchamps - Ginther qualified in fourth place. Ginther finished in sixth place and earned Honda their very first World Championship point in F1 competition.
The RA272 was showing potential, however it continued to be plagued by reliability. Ginther would manage to finish in the points just once more before the season came to a close.
For 1966, rules changes now allowed an increased displacement size of 3,000cc. At the Mexican Grand Prix, the RA272 proved it could handle the high altitude, as Ginther qualified third on the grid. Bucnum qualified in 10th placed and would finished the race in an impressive fifth position. Ginther, however, finished in first place, earning Honda their first Formula 1 victory.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2017
The RA272 was retired from racing after the Mexican Grand Prix due to the 3-liter rule changes. They were replaced by an all-new machine.