You may remember back in 2006 when Honda-BAR Formula 1 team went to Bonneville Salt Flats and set a world land speed record for a Formula 1 racing car, doing 397kph. Now that car which is nicknamed Bonneville 400 is up for grabs at at Bonhams Collectors’ Motor Cars sale at Silverstone on 24 July. They reckon the car sells for £10,000 – 20,000.
Using the unique car offered here, Honda set the first ever official land speed record for a Formula 1 car at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA in July 2006. The project had got under way in 2005 when the British American Tobacco-owned team raced under the BAR-Honda banner in the colours of BAT’s ‘Lucky Strike’ cigarette brand. A modified BAR-Honda 007 chassis was used for the 2005 test at Mojave Airport in California, USA, where driver Alan van der Merwe comfortably exceeded the target speed of 400km/h (248.4mph). Unfortunately, water logging of the Salt Flats meant that the actual record attempt had to be postponed.
At the end of the 2005 season, Honda bought the team and continued with the speed record project using the BAR 007 chassis, which was re-designated as a Honda RA106 and fitted with a 2.4-litre V8 engine in line with the Formula 1 regulation changes introduced at the start of the 2006 season (3.0-litre V10s had been used hitherto). The car’s aerodynamic package was optimised for top speed, with only the barest minimum of downforce for stability, and the gearbox fitted with a higher-than-normal top gear.
The record attempt got under way on Monday 17th July 2006 in the best possible manner; Alan van der Merwe achieving an average speed of 220.571mph over two runs through a measured mile on the seven-mile straight to set a new record for a Formula 1 car. By the time a damaged differential (caused by driveshaft failure) brought proceedings to a halt on the Thursday, van der Merwe had broken his own record, leaving the mark for the flying mile at 246.908mph (397.03km/h) and that for the flying kilometre at 246.983mph (397.481km/h). Although the average speeds just missed the 400km/h target, the team at least had the satisfaction of seeing it exceeded on one of the runs.
‘I think in general the feeling is satisfaction with what we achieved,’ said van der Merwe. ‘It would have been nice to have a round number for the record and we are only two-and-a-half Ks off that. In fact, we know we did everything possible to the car; we timed it exactly right today with the weather and we’re pretty sure we couldn’t have got more out of it, possibly another kilometre an hour but we would have needed freakishly good weather to do that.
‘Altogether it’s been great to set the record and very rewarding to reach 400kph. It’s been a great week.’
Since 2006 the Honda record-breaker has not been run and still bears salt stains in places. The transmission remains un-repaired and thus the car is sold as a non-runner. Runner or not, this is a uniquely historic Formula 1 car, worthy of a place in any motor museum or private collection.