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THE LOLA T130
Honda entered Formula One in 1965, the last year of the 1.5-litre engines, taking victory in the final race of the year at Mexico City with the RA272, an unusual transverse-engined monocoque design driven by Richie Ginther. For 1966 and the new 3-litre formula Honda introduced the RA273 at the Italian GP in September, it comprised a conventional monocoque powered by a 90-degree V8 that, unusually, used roller bearings which resulted in the engine weighing an obese 227 kg. The whole chassis ensemble was very bulky and heavy weighing in at 740kg (dry) when the formula minimum weight was 500kg, Honda quoted 400 bhp for the engine but contemporary reports suggested this was over-optimistic and 380 bhp was closer to the mark.
Some efforts were made to slim the car down with elektron castings used to replace aluminium ones and a two-shaft gearbox replacing the three-shaft original, saving about 63 kg in total. There were numerous other problems with the chassis and engine design, poor handling, excessive tyre wear, fuel pressure problems, a very narrow torque band to name but a few.
The RA273 managed a third and a couple of fourths but not even a driver of the calibre of John Surtees could drag the overweight car to a win and he gained approval from Honda to come up with a lighter chassis. With his experience of racing Lolas it was the logical move to work with Eric Broadley and, in view of time pressures with less than six weeks to build a car, they went with a modified version of the Indianapolis T90. Using as much of the existing design as possible the tub of the new car ended behind the driver and a tubular subframe to take the chassis/drivetrain was fitted. The front bulkhead was identical to the T90 as were some pressings and the nosecone, other items like the radiator and pedals were standard Lola parts. Behind the front bulkhead the re-skinned tub had an entirely new suspension designed to Surtees and Honda engineer Sato's requirements as the offset T90 suspension was inappropriate on a F1 car.
Other improvements to the new car, the Honda RA300, included reducing the fuel system from six tanks and six pumps to three tanks and one pump while, back in Japan, the Honda team improved engine reliability, got the power up to almost 400 bhp and a new exhaust design improved the torque range. The new chassis weighed in at 814 kg, a reduction of 104 kg (68 kg in the chassis alone) and the work all proved worthwhile when the car won on its debut at Monza.
The chassis was only raced in four F1 events, also taking a 4th at the 1967 Mexico GP, before the new, lighter RA301 (Lola T180) was introduced.