Takuma Sato, Max Verstappen, Honda RA272, 2019

“I didn’t fit in very well” – Verstappen drives Honda’s first race-winning F1 car

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen drove a special piece of Honda’s Formula 1 heritage ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

He visited Honda’s Tochigi Proving Ground to try the Honda RA272, powered by a 1.5-litre V12 engine, which scored the manufacturer’s first F1 victory. Richie Ginther drove the car to victory in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix.

While Honda-powered cars have gone on to win a total of 74 F1 races, including Verstappen’s pair of wins for Red Bull this year, this is one of only three Honda works cars which have taken grand prix victories.

“I didn’t fit in very well,” Verstappen admitted afterwards. “I was a bit stuck.”

Verstappen shared driving duties with long-time Honda driver and former F1 racer Takuma Sato.

“It was a great experience to drive,” said Verstappen. “Of course you’re not driving it flat-out but it was a really cool experience.”

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Max Verstappen drives a Honda RA272

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on ““I didn’t fit in very well” – Verstappen drives Honda’s first race-winning F1 car”

  1. 1.5L V12? That must’ve run some extremely high rpms. Did they have hydraulic or pneumatic valvetrains back in ’65, or was it mechanical?

    1. Yup, could run at over 13,000RPMs. It was the most poweful engine on the grid. I highly doubt the valvetrain was pneumatic, in F1 it appeared exactly 20 years later, brought by Renault.

    2. @phylyp, on paper, the Honda engine was ostensibly the most powerful engine on the grid in 1965 with a peak power output of 230bhp in 1965 at 11,000rpm (possibly even as much as 240bhp at 13,000rpm according to some). The normal operating limit rev limit was 12,000-13,000rpm, although the valve architecture meant it was capable of withstanding being briefly revved to 14,000rpm – and, since you ask, I believe that it was a regular mechanical system with helical springs controlling the valves.

      However, that power did come with a number of downsides in practise that meant it wasn’t quite as competitive as it might appear. Whilst the engine was more powerful than its rivals from Ferrari, Coventry Climax or BRM – about 5-15bhp more powerful – it was also a lot heavier, with some putting it as much as 20% heavier than its rivals.

      You’ll also note that caveat of saying it was the most powerful “on paper” because, unlike most of their rivals, Honda preferred to use air-cooled engines instead of water cooled engines. It is known the RA272E engine had cooling problems that resulted in a gradual build up of heat over time, at least over the first half of the 1965 season – so, whilst it might start out producing 230bhp when the engine was relatively cool, such as over a single qualifying lap or the start of a race, the engine did have a tendency to start losing power after a number of laps as the heat build up reduced its efficiency.

      In practise, therefore, the heat build up effect means that the BRM P56 – which produced 225bhp at 11,750rpm – was probably the most powerful engine on the grid in 1965 in race trim, given Honda found it difficult to sustain that peak power output over a race distance.

    3. The BRM Type 15 with supercharged V16 1.5 from 1952 (550bhp – 12000rpm) and,
      BRM P83 with H16 from 1966 are amazing too, although both had
      only a few races due to reliability problems, and much more at the H16.

  2. Very high revs for its’day and all mechanical internals.
    Probably a roller bearing crank as well.
    For a “Real” piece of mechanical porn, look up 250 cc six cylinder GP Race Bike.
    Hailwood held the outright lap record at Mosport for about 12 years. Finally broken by 750 Yamaha.

    1. OW 31 Yamaha; Steve Baker or Kenny?
      Fond memories of Laguna Seca, what a beast.

      That 250 is a stunning piece of watchmaking, music to the ears!

      @ Some real great info on this thread, thanks all!

  3. I bet it felt really slow, slower than a modern f3 car and with terrible dynamics by todays standards, so no wonder not much positive comments from max. I wonder if he liked the engagement be sound.

    1. Not terrible aerodynamics but actual aerodynamic lift instead of downforce. But I’m sure it was a fun car to drive. If they let him rev it up. At lower rpms it must have been really weak and underwhelming.

  4. Such a lovely simple look to the car. Sounds just sublime too!

    Didnt realise it has such a small displacement considering it’s a v12

  5. I’d be interested to hear what Takuma had to say.
    @Thanks for the excellent pics Keith.

  6. Bring back the V12s?

  7. I’m going to have a moan about my biggest peeve with our beloved RaceFans site. Where are the left and right arrows to move easily between photos? This bugs the &*%@ out of me! Surely, it must be one of the most basic functionalities in modern web design which can be used straight out of the box? Pleeease make it happen, @keithcollantine!

  8. Wonderful pictures! Sad for the cloudy sky.

  9. And the best aero package to avoid tubulent air generation :D
    It’s lovely, at first i thought from an angle that it has a small rear wing, but those are the exhaust pipes. So long, probably not the best for safety.
    Also i like Sato, that grin, he still has the animal inside, and i’m happy that it looks like he survived he’s carreer, and eventually improved and enjoyed some success.
    I have a memory of him from F1, i cant’t prove it with a video, cuz its quite blurred, but at some qualy, where anyone else did a specific corner at 5th gear + floored or 6th gear + less throttle, went for a 7th + floor + do or die :) And ofc he ended up with a quite severe off track incursion.
    Further GL + HF Mr Sato!

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