The visitors of the “Donington Historic Festival” had to defy bad weather, but got to see a real rarity: A 2006 Honda RA106, painted like a Mercedes silver arrow.
Rain and wind can’t stop a real British motorsport fan from indulging in his passion. And those who defied the bad weather in Donington Park at the beginning of May were served a real treat – an obvious silver arrow from Mercedes, which left even connoisseurs among the visitors a little perplexed. Because the car not only looked like a 2006 Honda RA106 disguised as a silver arrow, but with a Japanese Honda RA106E V8 naturally aspirated engine.
Incoming F1 demo photos from @JakobEbrey!
— Donington Park (@DoningtonParkUK) May 3, 2019
Mercedes did not return to Formula 1 until the 2010 season, when the German car manufacturer bought the BrawnGP racing team from Ross Brawn. And BrawnGP was born at the end of 2008, when Honda ran from Formula 1.
Apparently, neither Mercedes or Honda know anything about the car so it’s not thought to be a show car sometimes used by teams when they dress up an earlier model but are painted and exhibited in the colours of the current season. Such cars are rarely capable of moving under their own steam, however, so this isn’t a case of cobbling together spares for promotion purposes.
On the Donington Historic website, the following is written about the car: “This rare Honda was a test vehicle for testing the kinetic energy recovery, which was developed for 2009”. Only: Honda did not compete at all in 2009.
The history of the car is interesting, however. The Japanese technicians knew that they couldn’t fit a hybrid system into a 2008 Honda racer. So Honda’s R&D department grabbed a RA106 chassis and modified the area by the tank to make room for the battery, and the electric generator was housed in the gearbox.
This special model was given the name RA1082. The RA1082 was completed in April 2008 and tested by Austrian Alexander Wurz on the Santa Pod dragster track. A second test took place with James Rossiter in Silverstone, a third with Mike Conway, finally Wurz and Conway tested in Jerez.
Honda did, in fact, make a 2009 car called the RA109, and it was developed by Honda even after the team pulled out and Brawn continued on with his BGP001 design. Head over to Racecar Engineering magazine to read more on that fascinating story.
The organizers in Donington claim that the car was owned by Mercedes from Honda via BrawnGP but Mercedes say they know nothing about it. In truth, the car is privately owned by Kevin Mason, it’s unclear who painted it in the colours it currently uses but it’s likely to be this individual.
With engines that alone cost more than most supercars, retired modern F1 cars are exclusively the toys of the über-wealthy, and it seems that one such millionaire owns a Honda, but wants a Mercedes. It’s unclear if he dislikes Hamilton or not as he’s omitted his name, keeping Rosbergs.