Honda celebrates the “double forty” at Goodwood

… and four

Having already earned itself a reputation as a world-class motorcycle manufacturer by achieving outstanding results in the Isle of Man TT and other races, Honda was keen to develop passenger car technologies through competition and started preparing for the challenges of Formula One in the early 1960s.

The exciting project started to take shape in 1963 and by the end of the year Honda had fitted its experimental 1.5-litre RA270E to a steel-tube space frame chassis of its own design. This chassis had been built purely for testing, as Lotus had secured a deal to run the engine in the following year's championship.

However, in February 1964 the British team dropped out of the project forcing Honda to choose between postponing its entry into F1 or operating its own engine, chassis and race team. Encouraged by its early progress and willing to rise to the titanic challenge, Honda was determined to press ahead.

A new RA271E was prepared for the fast-approaching season together with an all-new state-of-the-art monocoque chassis constructed from aluminium panels. In an early example of technical ingenuity that would become the hallmark of all Honda’s F1 engineering efforts, the load-bearing V12 engine was installed transversely into the chassis.

The first Honda F1 car made its Grand Prix debut on the daunting 22-kilometre Nürburgring circuit in early August with Ronnie Bucknum at the helm. The young American held a top 10 position before being forced to retire with suspension damage. A month later Bucknum underlined the RA271's potency by running as high as fifth on the famously fast Monza circuit before overheating and braking problems interrupted progress up the leader board. Another non-finish was recorded in the American Grand Prix.

Learning the lessons gleaned from its first three Grands Prix in 1964, Honda's engineers laboured hard through the off-season to overcome their lack of four-wheeled racing experience. The team was eager to capitalise on the potential advantages afforded by the advanced RA271 engine which with a maximum horsepower of 230bhp was producing more than 10 per cent greater power than any of its rivals. To boost the team’s chances of success, the experienced Richie Ginther was signed to partner Bucknum in a two car attack. The Californian’s arrival started to produce results – Ginther scored Honda’s first World Championship point at Belgium 's legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in June and led both the British and Dutch Grands Prix.

First F1 win

The final race of the season and of the 1.5-litre regulations was staged in Mexico – it was a landmark event for Honda too. Ginther grabbed the lead at the start and kept the opposition at bay to record Honda’s maiden F1 victory on only its 11th outing. Adding to the celebrations, Bucknum finished a fine fifth.

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