A Wingless Formula 1 Car Broke the Top-Speed Record at the Bonneville Salt Flats

Everyone knows Formula 1 cars are fast on the track, but what about at other locations? One Formula 1 car even went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to test this theory with a Honda vehicle, and the results were astounding. The Honda RA106 ended up setting the record for the top speed of any Formula 1 car in history. Not bad, Honda.

What is the land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats?

Honda's RA106 Formula 1 car at the Bonneville Salt Flats
Honda’s RA106 Formula 1 car at the Bonneville Salt Flats | Chris McGrath/Getty Images for Honda Motor Co.

There have been a variety of attempts to break records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. According to Autoweek, George Poteet attempted the record at the 72ndannual SCTA Bonneville Speed Week. His vehicle, a blown fuel streamliner (BFS), the Speed Demon, set the new record of 470 mph.

Previously, Danny Thompson had the record from 2018 in his Challenger II vehicle. He broke the record that was set by Poteet previously. Thompson and the Challenger II his 448.75 mph that year. The record from Poteet that Thompson beat was 439 mph.

The Honda RA106 Formula 1 car at the Bonneville Salt Flats

The Honda RA106 at the Bonneville Salt Flats
The Honda RA106 at the Bonneville Salt Flats | Motor Sport Magazine

The 2006 Honda RA106 was driven by Jenson Button on the Honda Formula 1 team. The RA106 didn’t have much luck on the F1 circuit. It did win the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix and made it to the podium three times out of 18 total races. This car was the last Honda-powered vehicle to win a Formula 1 Grand Prize until Max Verstappen won the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix.

According to Motor Sport Magazine, Alan van der Merwe took the Honda car out to the Bonneville Salt Flats back. If you recognize that name, van der Merwe is currently drivers the Formula One Medical Car. So van der Merwe and the Honda RA106 headed out to the Bonneville Salt Flats to try and beat the record.

While the Honda looked fairly identical to the one used on F1 tracks, the team replaced the engine with an unrestricted V10. Additionally, the team replaced the typical rear wing with a stability fin, and van der Merwe added appropriate tires.

The current Formula 1 fastest car record stands at 246.90 mph (397.360 km/h). The goal for this project was 248.54 mph (400 km/h). Van der Merwe managed to go 256.75 mph (413.205 km/h) on one run but couldn’t replicate the speed on the second run. However, he did join the Bonneville 200 MPH Club for the 250 mph fun.

Life after F1 Grand Prix racing

While some Formula 1 cars retire after the official tracks, this one made an impact under different circumstances. The Honda RA106 holds the fastest top speed of any Formula 1 car in history, which is quite an accomplishment. Some other notable high speeds were from 1985 and after.

In 1985, Keke Rosberg went 60.94 mph in the Williams FW10. In 2014, Juan Pablo Montoya beat Rosberg’s record in the BMW FW26 by going 161.45 mph. After that, Kimi Räikkönen went 163.78 mph in the Ferrari SF17H. And finally, Lewis Hamilton holds the current record of 164.26 mph in the Mercedes W11.

So you might not see many Formula 1 cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats anytime soon, it can be done, and it has been done. Don’t underestimate the power of a retired Honda and a passion for going fast!

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