10 September 1967 is a special date in the history of Honda in Formula 1, and we’re getting ready to follow in those wheel tracks this weekend.
Our first ever victory in F1 came on a circuit with an extremely long straight in the form of the now-named Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, and in some ways it could have been seen as a sign of things to come.
Because when the second victory for a Honda-powered car in F1 arrived, it was at the Temple of Speed: Monza.
John Surtees had joined us at Honda in 1967, arriving as a world champion to help the team search for that second victory and build on the promising signs from the previous three years. It was a time of change, with a switch to Firestone tyres coming alongside the new driver approach as Surtees was the sole focus, but the biggest evolution came in Italy.
The RA300 was introduced, retaining the 3.0-litre V12 engine from the R273 but with a brand new chassis that got its first outing on an iconic circuit.
The new car had been tested extensively, but it would have been understandable to expect there to be teething problems during its debut race weekend, especially on a track as punishing as Monza. Instead, any issues were handled impressively as Surtees ended up qualifying in ninth place and right in the mix for Sunday’s race.
Despite that very respectable performance, nobody saw how the epic grand prix itself would play out.
Jim Clark had qualified on pole position by 0.3s over Jack Brabham, and over three quarters of a second ahead of the rest of the field. That performance looked to be continuing on Sunday until a puncture sent Clark a lap down and blew the race wide open.
Although Clark was providing plenty of entertainment trying to recover through the field, he wasn’t the only driver making big progress. Surtees was using all of his experience to work his way up the order, roared on by the Tifosi who were thrilled by the gains being made by a former Ferrari world champion.
Now in the mix for a podium, Surtees saw an opportunity as Clark fought through to re-take the lead, using the Honda’s power to jump Brabham for second place.
What was already set to be an incredible result for the RA300 on debut suddenly had the chance of being even better as Clark hit trouble again on the final lap, and Surtees was in the lead. Brabham wasn’t going to give up easily but it was the Briton who would show the greatest composure, with full faith in his machinery.
Leaving the door open for Brabham to dive down the inside at Parabolica - the final corner - Surtees timed the switchback perfectly to get on the throttle earlier and unleash all of the Honda’s V12 power, accelerating past Brabham to take victory by just 0.2s.
It would prove to be the final win for Surtees in his World Championship career and our last victory as a full constructor until 2006, but remains one of the most thrilling in F1 history to this day.