Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsports. To be in it, one needs wealth or amazing driving skills, preferably both. You may have found yourself dreaming of driving a car that accelerates to 200-mph in ten seconds, pulls more g’s than a fighter jet, and brakes that tear your eyes from their sockets. One man decided to stop dreaming: he purchased Rubens Barrichello’s 2007 Honda F1 RA107 chassis and rebuilt it. This is his story
Following the project’s progress on F1technical.net, it seems fairly easy at first, but as they say, the devil is in the details. F1Snake, as he is known on the forum, chronicles his purchase, delivery, and subsequent re-commissioning of a retired Formula 1 car. From the day he wrote the check, he was already asking questions, and dreaming big dreams.
Honda began racing in Formula 1 in 1964, and won a grand prix with Richie Ginther driving in the 1965 Mexico race. The team would withdraw after the end of the 1968 season, prompted mainly by driver Jo Schlesser’s untimely death at the wheel of a Honda Grand Prix car. The Honda marque would return to the pinnacle of motorsport in 1983 by supplying engines to existing teams, eventually winning 6 constructors championships and five driver championships before bowing out again in 1992.
A third foray into Formula 1 began in 2000 with British American Racing (BAR F1), and would prove slightly less successful than the previous two ventures. Over the course of eight seasons, the BAR which became Honda Racing F1 Team, only managed one win when a dominant Fernando Alonso suffered a wheel nut failure, and Michael Schumacher soon followed with suspension damage taking them both out of the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
After BAR left F1, Honda bought out their 55% stake, and continued on racing alone. The team floundered, and through the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the team had poor luck mixed with a terribly performing car. Half way through the 2008 season Honda had decided to focus on the 2009 season, However, before the start of the 2009 season it was announced that the team would be sold, and Honda would resign from Formula One competition. In 2009, the former Honda team was purchased (for what some say was a very low price) by team principal Ross Brawn and was rebranded as Brawn GP. The team, with Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button in the drivers’ seats, went on to win both the driver and constructor championships.
The 2007 Honda formula 1 car, known as the RA107 was a thoroughly miserable car by Formula 1 standards, failing to score a single point in the season for either driver, managing a season high of 9th position. RA107-05 was driven by Rubens over the course of 12 weekends in 2007, failing to finish two of them. This is the chassis that now resides in the garage of one F1snake. Though it was unsuccessful as a formula 1 car, it is infinitely quicker around a track than any road-going car, and should provide enough adrenaline to jumpstart a thousand hearts.
Purchased at a Bonhams auction in December of 2010, F1snake took ownership of the Honda chassis for the paltry sum of 37,000 British Pounds. An absolute steal when you consider that Honda was rumored to have spent upwards of a half-billion dollars during the 2007 season on their F1 program. For that price, of course, there are a few caveats. First of all, the car is not complete as it was turned into an oversized simulator chassis, which means the engine and steering rack have been removed. F1snake plans to return the car to the track as an insanely fast plaything.
Due to the current state of legality and how it relates to retired Formula 1 cars, Honda removed the engines and steering rack before selling the car, thus absolving the company of any liability. The car was no longer a racecar, rather a castrated show piece. As Honda will not sell used Formula 1 engines, the car will never again be powered by a 2.4 liter 18,000rpm V8. The first portion of the engineering exercise was to find an engine that would be powerful enough to be fast, yet user friendly enough to be operated by newbies not wanting to injure the car, or themselves.
To provide power for the car, F1snake eventually decided on a Hartley Enterprises built H1 V8. The H1 V8 is essentially two Suzuki Hayabusa engines mated at the crank to turn the two inline fours into a V8. The miniscule 2.8 liter V8 should produce around 500 horsepower in a relatively inexpensive package that is nearly the same dimensions as the outgoing F1 engine.
The second issue needing to be tackled before getting the car in running order, is the transaxle. The car was sold with its transmission still intact, though as it was optimized to be mounted low in the chassis, the crankshaft centerline of the H1 V8 does not line up with the gearshaft center of the transaxle. To tackle this issue, the transmission was removed from the chassis and shipped off to Hewland Engineering Ltd., the famous gear and transmission specialists, to be disassembled and reworked to accommodate the higher crankshaft of the H1 V8.
Once the car is returned to running condition, the owner plans to bring the car out to a number of trackdays, classic Formula 1 events, and a new series at England’s historic Castle Combe circuit called Formula Monolibre. The car may not be driven quite as hard as it was in 2007, but F1snake certainly wants to develop his driving skills while bringing the car up to speed. Planning to be ready to go for the 2012 season, F1snake has a lot of detail work remaining, but the project is coming along nicely. Learning along the way seems to be the name of the game in retired Formula 1 ownership, but there is no better way to learn than to jump in with both feet. Going to show that you never really grow up, you simply acquire faster toys.
|Original RA107 Technical Specification|