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How a Man Bought a Retired Honda F1 Car

Bradley Brownell October 17, 2011 Motorsports 32 Comments

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.

Check out the gallery below for a rare look at how a modern Formula 1 car look under the skin. The original thread is here, in its 19 pages . Full gallery of pictures taken by F1Snake is here.

Original RA107 Technical Specification
Construction Moulded carbon fibre and honeycomb composite structure that surpasses latest FIA impact and strength regulations
Front suspension Wishbone and pushrod-activated torsion springs and rockers, mechanical anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Wishbone and pushrod-activated torsion springs and rockers, mechanical anti-roll bar
Dampers Showa
Wheels BBS forged magnesium

Front: 312mm wide
Rear: 340mm wide
Tyres Bridgestone Potenza
Brakes Alcon

Front: 2 × 6-piston calipers
Rear: 2 × 6-piston calipers
Brake discs/pads Carbon/Carbon
Steering Honda F1 power assisted rack and pinion
Steering wheel Honda F1 carbon fibre construction
Driver’s seat Anatomically formed carbon composite
Seat belts Takata six-point harness
(75mm shoulder straps with HANS system)
Fuel cell ATL kevlar-reinforced rubber bladder
Fuel capacity 150 litre
Battery 3Ah lead acid
Instrumentation Honda F1 steering wheel dash display
Gearbox Carbon composite maincase: 7-speed unit, Honda internals
Gear selection Sequential, semi-automatic, hydraulic activation
Clutch Carbon plate
Overall length 4700mm
Overall height 950mm
Overall width 1800mm

 

  • Good gawd. I'm glad this is happening but for just about anyone else this sounds like a Project Car Hell segment on [Redacted].

  • I've seen retired F1 cars for sale and sometimes thought how incredibly fun it would be to own one. My pockets, however, are not deep enough.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/AXUMA.png"&gt;

    ^ The look on people's faces when I'd bring this out to the local autocrosses.

  • After watching Richard Hammond struggle to drive an F1 car, let's hope Mr. F1Snake has big talent and bigger balls.

  • FЯeeMan

    Our friend Mr. Snake does not seem to be at a loss for automotive toys. I would venture a guess he owns the dealership the car is pictured at.

    • BradleyBrownell

      Nope, he is just a normal car dude. The Mercedes dealership is where the auction was held when he bought said ex-Formula 1 car.

      Of course, he is a "normal car dude" with a retired Formula 1 car, a Superformance Daytona Coupe, and a highly modified Viper in the garage…

      • rovingardener

        I would have a very similar garage to this, with only the exception of the Viper, if finances allowed. The Viper would probably be replaced with a Challenger R/T Classic because I like functional hood scoops.

        • steve

          The Challenger isn't even in the same class of anything to compare it to a Viper.

  • OA5599

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/gallery/honda-f1-car/honda-f1-in-captivity-12.jpg&quot; width=500>

    Q: Why would anybody transport a retired F1 car on an open trailer?
    A: Because they can.

    • A: Because it doesn't yet have an engine, steering, and registration.

      (Hey, it's Great Britain, so you never know what's possible on a V5C.)

    • A: Because this is as the gods of thunder intended.

    • Also, am I the only one whose eyes are immediately drawn to the tin-fendered goodness directly behind the racecar?

      • No, you're not the only one. I'm thinking Bentley Three-Litre, but there's not a lot to go on from this angle. The artillery wheels seem a bit out of place, however.

    • The_Yellow_Box

      A. Because if I bought one of these, I would want everyone to know it. Hell, I might even ride in the cockpit for the entire trip.

  • "The H1 V8 is essentially two Suzuki Hayabusa engines mated at the crank to turn the two inline fours into a V8."

    I was going to say maybe a turbo Hayabusa, or, if you could get it together, this ^. Goddamn, that is pretty awesome.

  • P161911

    I remember seeing complete GTP cars for sale in Autoweek for <$100k in the 1990s, I think those might have been complete cars. I know that there are several guys that run retired Indy/Champ cars modified for small block Chevy's. I hope this guy has fun with the car. I know for a brief while the overall track record for Road Atlanta was held by an ex-Jacques Vilniueve (sp?) Indy Car used in a vintage race. HSR doesn't bother to check for proper pop-off valves.

  • Ha! I'd stick an old VW Beetle engine in it, old-skool kit car style, for maximum rubbishness.

    • Just claim it's the latest thing in Formula Vee.

  • Maxichamp

    So if I took this to the Florida DMV, I can get a license plate easily, right?

    • No! No, no, no. You can't! Don't go around saying that!

      (Yes.)

      • What, it's a 2007 Honda.

        • Van Sarockin

          Nicest Prelude I've ever seen.

        • I've seen an Evo VII here registered as a Mirage, so this would be a… 2007 Accord? Or maybe S2000 since it has no top.

    • sporty88

      With all the wings and things on it, you might get away with it if the DMV clerk is particularly clueless – they might just think it's the latest thing in bodykits. Would certainly be fun to try, just to see what kind of reaction you'd get.

  • The Professor

    It's too bad that Honda couldn't include the original engine and other parts in a separate box and call it a kit car, with a disclaimer "not intended for auto racing". It works for those tool kits that aren't intended to be used on the cars that they're sold with.

  • thats awesome! gotta look into that motor for a future project!

  • Interesting that the same company that made the dampers for this car made the original shocks for my Miata. Neat!

  • Gustavo Segamarchi

    Amazing car!

    I love the Honda F1.