For a decade F1 cars had run with 3.0 litre naturally aspirated V10 engines; however, development had led to these engines producing between 980 and 1,000 hp and reaching dangerous top speeds of 370 km/h (230 mph) on the Monza circuit. Teams started using exotic alloys in the late 1990s, leading to the FIA banning the use of exotic materials in engine construction, and only aluminium and iron alloys were allowed for the pistons, cylinders, connecting rods, and crankshafts. The FIA has continually enforced material and design restrictions to limit power, otherwise the 3.0 L V10 engines would easily have exceeded 22,000 rpm and well over 1,000 hp (745 kW). Even with the restrictions the V10s in the 2005 season were reputed to develop 980 hp and 18,000 rpm, which were reaching power levels not seen since the ban on turbo-charged engines in 1989.
Top speeds are in practice limited by the longest straight at the track and by the need to balance the car’s aerodynamic configuration between high straight line speed (low aerodynamic drag) and high cornering speed (high downforce) to achieve the fastest lap time. During the 2006 season, the top speeds of Formula 1 cars were a little over 300 km/h (185 mph) at high-downforce tracks such as Albert Park, Australia and Sepang, Malaysia. These speeds were down by some 10 km/h (6 mph) from the 2005 speeds, and 15 km/h (9 mph) from the 2004 speeds, due to the recent performance restrictions (see below). On low-downforce circuits greater top speeds were registered: at Gilles-Villeneuve (Canada) 325 km/h (203 mph), at Indianapolis (USA) 335 km/h (210 mph), and at Monza (Italy) 360 km/h (225 mph). In the Italian Grand Prix 2004, Antônio Pizzonia of the BMW WilliamsF1 team recorded a top speed of 369.9 km/h (229.8 mph).
Away from the track, the BAR Honda team used a modified BAR 007 car, which they claim complied with FIA Formula One regulations, to set an unofficial speed record of 413 km/h (257 mph) on a one way straight line run on 6 November 2005 during a shakedown ahead of their Bonneville 400 record attempt. The car was optimised for top speed with only enough downforce to prevent it from leaving the ground. The car, badged as a Honda following their takeover of BAR at the end of 2005, set an FIA ratified record of 400 km/h (249 mph) on a one way run on 21 July 2006 at Bonneville Salt Flats. On this occasion the car did not fully meet FIA Formula One regulations, as it used a moveable aerodynamic rudder for stability control, breaching article 3.15 of the 2006 Formula One technical regulations which states that any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance must be rigidly secured.
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