Earth Day: Bringing the Honda RA107 Earth Dreams F1 Car Back to Life
Retired Formula 1 cars are often relegated to a sedentary life as displays in museums or as pieces on a collectors wall. But one couple decided to change the fate of a Honda Earth Dreams Formula 1 car and turn it into their track day and hill climb vehicle.
Bjorn Arnils and Nadine Geary purchased the retired Earth Dreams RA107 Formula 1 car at Bonhams auction in 2010 for £37,000 ($53,110 USD at today’s exchange rates) and set off on a quest to turn it back into a running race car.
The project started off with huge challenges. The engine was removed before sale and the steering system was replaced with racing simulator hardware. The couple dove in, started buying up spare parts as they popped up and made plans for a new engine and custom steering system. However, like most projects, the costs added up, and the car still hasn’t raced a circuit since its days in Formula 1.
The RA107-05 car competed in the 2007 Formula 1 season with Rubens Barrichello at the wheel. Instead of an array of sponsor decals, the RA107 carried a distinct Earth-themed livery, along with Honda and Bridgestone logos up front. The livery was part of a campaign by Honda to promote its environmental ethos and collaborate with environmental charities to raise awareness for sustainable technologies.
@rubarrichello @JensonButton @HondaRacingF1 RA107 in the windtunnel. See the vid here: https://t.co/6KWpkQhr2e pic.twitter.com/ZfDokVaMvT
— Fan6s (@HondaRA107) January 7, 2016
The car was not successful in its 2007 campaign, and Barrichello was unable to pick up a single point in the RA107. The chassis was eventually succeeded by the RA108 car, which was just as bad on track. Honda send the RA107-05 to Super Aguri at the end of the 2007 season, where it became Anthony Davidson’s race chassis in 2008. Super Aguri returned the car to Honda at the end of 2008, where it was then covered with a new version of the Earth Dreams livery that matched the RA108 car.
Honda sold its F1 team to Ross Brawn in 2009. The newly formed Brawn team decommissioned the RA107-05 car and sold to one of the team’s employees. The engine was removed at that time and a simulator was installed so it could be taken to car shows. The decommissioned car never made its rounds to those shows and ended up at Bonhams auction, where the current owners purchased it.
The initial focus of the project was finding a proper engine to replace the missing F1 unit. Suggestions flew in on the F1Technical forum and one of the posters even suggested embracing the Earth Dreams idea and turning it into an electric car.
The owners ultimately decided on an H1V8 engine from Hartley. The H1V8 is about as close as you can get to a cost-effective Formula engine in the aftermarket, the product of mating two Hayabusa motorcycle engines to create a 2.8-liter V8 good for 400 horsepower at 10,000 rpm. The engine tips the scales at a svelte 200 pounds.
The owners were able to order an engine before Hartley discontinued its H1V8 program. Hartley has assembled the engine and it’s currently awaiting a dyno test. The original engine used in the RA107 was a stressed member of the chassis, a part of the structure. The Hartley engine cannot be mounted in the same stressed fashion, so the owners are having a custom subframe fabricated for the car.
@HondaRacingF1 RA107 Carbon/Titanium Gearbox. A work of art. Apparantly they cost Honda £105k for the casing alone! pic.twitter.com/z6V0BuvHo7 — Fan6s (@HondaRA107) January 25, 2016
The owners were lucky enough to get the beautiful carbon-fiber/titanium gearbox with the car, and the original plan was to try to use it with the new engine. However, they recently decided to go another route and use a Hewland LFSA semi-automatic unit from a Champ car.
The original gearbox was not able to mount up directly to the Hartley engine. They toyed with the idea of putting new internals into the carbon casing, but there was no guarantee that the casing would hold up for even a single run. The Hewland LFSA is a beefy pneumatic shift unit that can take lots of torque and should do well behind the Hartley engine. The owners say they are planning to keep the gearbox since it was part of the original car, even though they are not planning to use it in the car itself.
The car came equipped with BBS wheels wrapped in specialized Bridgestone Potenza tires, and the owners are planning to continue using the original wheels as tires in the correct size are available from Avon. The brake system on the car consists of AP Racing calipers and carbon discs, and the owners will continue to use the same setup since they can readily find replacement parts.
Bjorn and Nadine will replace the simulator steering system with a custom electric assist unit to make it simpler and cheaper. They originally planned to use GP2 steering hardware since it could be interfaced with their ECM, but plans recently changed as they were able to acquire one of the original RA107 steering wheels and plan to use a Motec interface to make the functions work with their ECM.
The owner purchased a lot of RA108 parts a while back in the hopes that they might be able to use them in their build, but they later found out that they were not compatible. Some of the parts, like this front wing, are now being auctioned off to fund the project. They are big on racing and their garage tells the tale since it also houses a few more race cars including a Dodge Viper that also doubles as the tow rig for the RA107.
Most car projects end up costing a lot more than originally planned and this one is no different. The owners note that the slow pace of the project is mostly related to the high cost involved. I am hopeful that the project will continue and look forward to seeing videos of the running car.
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Every year I celebrate Earth Day by burning a tractor-trailer tire. Feels good giving Mother Earth her carbon back.