Racing heritage

Learning the lines

In 1964 we started racing in Formula One. It was a tough place to start – but we’d done it before, racing motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT. And once again, we proved that learning by doing is the way to win.

Finding the right formula

To produce a competitive car you need a competitive engine.

In 1963 we had the beginnings of one – the V12, R270E. It was originally built for Lotus, but in February 1964, Honda was informed that the British Company could no longer use Honda engines. It was our first setback, but it wasn’t the end. We were only just beginning.

Honda car engine with illustration.

The RA270 is born

We poured all our energy into producing our very own racing car and involved racing legend Jack Brabham in testing the new RA270 at the Suzuka circuit.

After signing Formula One driver Ronnie Bucknum to pilot the new car, it was finally ready to compete in the German Grand Prix in July 1964. At last, Honda had arrived on the world’s premier car racing stage.

RA270 with illustration.

"Success is ninety-nine per cent failure"

The words of Mr Soichiro Honda himself – he couldn’t have put it better.

Formula One in the early 60’s was a hard school and we suffered from accidents, brake failures, overheating and broken gearboxes. We learned from these failures, making improvements, testing and retesting until we were ready to go again. Finally, we launched a new car for 1965 – the RA 272.

Honda team working on engine with illustration.

Our first win

The Mexico Grand Prix 1965

The Honda racing team – with two drivers, Richie Ginther, alongside Ronnie Bucknum – was still pushing boundaries, improving and learning from experience. Then, on 24th August 1965, we lined up on the front row for the Mexican Grand Prix with Richie Ginther behind the wheel of the RA 272. It was the car that would cross the line first that day, giving us our first Formula One victory.

Richie Ginther and RA272 with illustration.

The racing bug

When it bites, it bites hard.

Ayrton Senna in the iconic McClaren Honda.

Ayrton Senna in the iconic McClaren Honda, during the 1989 Monaco Grand Prix.

We continued during the following years and won again in 1967 – then we took a break. When we returned in the 1980s, we won the Constructors Championship Title in 1986, and set a new record of 11 consecutive victories in 1988. Our success continued until we withdrew in 1992.

But because racing is in our blood it’s hard for us to stay away, especially when we learn so much from it. We returned in 2000, this time supplying winning engines and factory support to Formula One teams BAR and Jordan until 2006. Our engineers and technicians had the privilege of working with some of the best racing drivers in the world. Drivers like Surtees, Laffite, Mansell, Prost, Piquet and Senna – priceless.

John Surtees racing a Honda.

The legendary John Surtees in 1967. The only person to win both Motorcycle and Formula One Grand Prix Championships.

Honda illustrations.

The finish line is never the end

Why weren’t we quick enough? What caused the gearbox to break? Why did the ignition fail…?

When we lose, we study why – and we do the same when we win. We use that knowledge to improve the quality of our cars and make them safer for everyday drivers out on the road. That’s our duty. It’s why we entered the Grand Prix series in the first place. It’s why we compete in every class of motor racing today, from Motocross to Moto GP and Dakar to WTCC.
Racing improves the breed and we’ll never be content with victory alone – win or lose, we race to get better.

2x Honda cars.
"If Honda does not race, there is no Honda." Soichiro Honda
Close up of Soichiro Honda.