Published on September 15th, 2007 | by Al
HRC: THE FIRST 25 YEARS
A Brief History of the Honda Racing Corporation
Racing has always been at the heart of Honda.
From the very beginning company founder Soichiro Honda insisted that his engineers prove the company’s engineering capabilities and accelerate development by testing their creations in the crucible of competition. It has always been thus, from Honda’s very first Model A to the current RC212V MotoGP weapon. As current HRC president Masumi Hamane says: “A racing motorcycle is a rolling laboratory that provides us with live information and the racetrack is the stage where our dreams come true.”
Initially, Honda’s racing efforts were run from within the Honda Motor Company, but in the early 1970s RSC (Racing Service Center) was established as a separate company to look after the company’s racing programme. On September 1 1982 the Honda Racing Corporation was founded, its mission the development, manufacture and sales of motorcycles and parts for racing.
On 1 September 2007, Honda Racing Corporation celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary.
HRC: YEAR BY YEAR
Honda Racing Corporation founded on September 1, replacing RSC (which was established as a separate entity from Honda Motor Co. Ltd in 1973) and the NR technology group. Legendary engineer Shoichiro Irimajiri is first HRC president. NS500 triple unleashed. Freddie Spencer wins Honda’s first two-stroke Grand Prix victory aboard the NS at July’s Belgium GP. Cyril Nevue wins Honda’s first Paris-Dakar victory. Eddy Lejeune wins first World Trials Championship with Honda RTL360. Shigeo Ijima, Shinji Hagiwara and CB900F win Suzuka Eight Hours (shortened to six hour due to typhoon) Pro-link rear suspension and cartridge fork developed in motocross.
The wondrously talented Freddie Spencer wins Honda’s first 500 World Championship with the NS500, a beautifully balanced motorcycle that encapsulates HRC’s philosophy of creating machines that deliver all-round performance. ATAC exhaust system developed on NS500. King of the Roads Joey Dunlop wins Honda’s fourth title in the road-based TTF1 World Championship with the RS850R V4 four-stroke. Honda begins sales of RS500 GP production racer, based on NS500. Hiroyuki Yoshino replaces Irimajiri as HRC president.
Honda debuts the awesomely fast single-crank V4 NSR500, with experimental underslung fuel tank, which an injury-hit Freddie Spencer takes to fourth place in the 500 World Championship. RS750R rams home Honda’s four-stroke genius with Gerard Coudray and Patrick Igoa winning World Endurance crown, Mike Baldwin and Fred Merkel taking Suzuka Eight Hours victory and Joey Dunlop the TTF1 crown. Andre Malherbe wins second 500 Motocross World Championship. Eddy Lejeune completes hat-trick of World Trials Championships. Ricky Graham wins Honda’s first US Grand National dirt track title.
Freddie Spencer and Honda enjoy their greatest year together, taking a unique 250/500 World Championship double with the NSR500 and the new NSR250 V-twin. For good measure, Spencer wins Daytona 200 aboard a VF750F superbike. Stunning new RVF750 wins endurance crown with Gerard Coudray and Patrick Igoa, TTF1 title with Joey Dunlop and Suzuka Eight Hours with Wayne Gardner and Masaki Tokuno. Mike Baldwin and Honda win fourth US F1 title in a row. Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana inspect HRC race bikes during official visit to newly built Honda Motor HQ in Aoyama, Tokyo. Isamu Goto appointed HRC president.
The RVF750, now with single-sided swingarm, wins endurance world title with Patrick Igoa and Suzuka Eight Hours with Gardner and Dominique Sarron. VFR750 rider Fred Merkel completes hat-trick of US Superbike crowns. Briton David Thorpe wins his second consecutive 500 MX title, Honda monopolise championship top three. Tough Aussie Wayne Gardner takes the baton from injured Freddie Spencer and takes second place in the 500 World Championship with the NSR500.
Honda two-stroke technology dominates GP racing, Wayne Gardner winning seven 500 GPs to take 500 title, German veteran Toni Mang winning the 250 crown with his NSR250. Computer-controlled variable exhaust valve developed. Hi-tech NR750 racer with oval pistons contests Le Mans 24 hours, scoring pole position. Up-and-coming Californian talent Wayne Rainey wins US Superbike crown and Daytona 200 with VFR750. Eric Geboers scores Honda’s first 250 MX world success. Dirt track legend Bubba Shobert completes hat-trick of US Grand National dirt track crowns, riding an RS750D. Takeo Fukui is new president of HRC.
Honda returns to 125 GP racing with RS125, a low-cost two-stroke. Ezio Gianola wins two GPs on the RS and finishes second in 125 World Championship. Spanish hero Sito Pons wins the first of two successive 250 world titles with NSR250. HRC begins development of electronically controlled two-stroke fuel injection system. Big-talking American Fred Merkel takes inaugural World Superbike title aboard RC30, Honda’s hugely acclaimed V4 superbike. British privateer Carl Fogarty wins TTF1 crown on RC30. Wayne Gardner finishes a close runner-up in 500 GPs. Eric Geboers and Jean-Michel Bayle win MX title double with 500 and 125 successes. Katsumi Ichida appointed president.
Master of smoothness Eddie Lawson joins Honda and carries off the 500 World Championship with his NSR500. Honda wins tenth 250 Constructors’ World Championship. Merkel, Fogarty and their RC30s repeat their World Superbike and TTF1 titles. Privateer John Ashmead wins Daytona 200 aboard an RC30. Frenchmen Dominique Sarron, Alex Vieira and RVF750 win Suzuka Eight Hours. Gilles Lalay proves Honda power in the most gruelling of conditions by winning Honda’s fourth consecutive Paris-Dakar race aboard his NXR750. Jean-Michel Bayle and David Thorpe win 250 and 500 MX titles. Takeo Fukui begins second term as HRC president.
Seventeen-year-old debutant Loris Capirossi wins Honda’s first two-stroke 125 World Championship on an RS125R, the first of two back-to-back title successes for the little Italian. Alex Vieira, Jean-Michel Mattioli, Stephane Mertens and RVF750 win Honda’s sixth consecutive victory in the hugely popular Bol d’Or 24 hours. Eric Geboers wins his second 500 MX title with Honda. Jeff Stanton and CR250 win the second of their three US Supercross championships. Aussie veteran Malcolm Campbell wins his second consecutive Australian Superbike title aboard RC30.
Luca Cadalora joins Honda and wins 250 world title on NSR250, Honda’s tenth 250 riders’ crown. Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan win Suzuka Eight Hours aboard RVF750. Honda two-stroke technology dominates the world of motocross and Supercross, George Jobe wins the 500 MX world title, American Trampas Parker wins the world 250 crown, Jean-Michel Bayle moves to the US and wins Supercross title with CR250 and US Motocross Championship with CR500. Miguel DuHamel and RC30 win Daytona 200. NR750 streetbike in production.
HRC’s newest star Mick Doohan dominates 500 World Championship with new ‘big bang’ configuration NSR500 but loses title due to injury. Nevertheless Honda wins 500 Constructors’ World Championship. Italian Luca Cadalora wins second consecutive 250 World Championship. Australian GP riders Daryl Beattie, Wayne Gardner and RVF750 win Suzuka Eight Hours. Greg Albertyn takes the laurels in 125 MX with CR125. Takashi Shinozaki becomes president.
Shinichi Itoh and fuel-injected NSR500 break the 200mph barrier at the German GP at Hockenheim. Diminutive German Dirk Raudies takes the 125 World Championship aboard his Honda RS125R. Ricky Graham wins US Grand National crown, 11 years after his first title success. CR250 dominates the motocross word with Greg Albertyn winning the 250 MX title, Doug Henry scoring the first of back-to-back US 250 MX championships and Jeremy McGrath taking out the 250 US Supercross series.
Mick Doohan wins the first of five consecutive 500 World Championship with his NSR500, Honda also wins constructors’ title for seventh time. New Zealander Aaron Slight and American Doug Polen score Honda’s tenth Suzuka Eight Hours success, riding the new RC45 Superbike, the latest product of HRC V4 technology. Honda wins its tenth 125 Constructors’ World Championship. Swede Marcus Hansson wins 500 MX World Championship. Jeremy McGrath continues his domination of 250 US Supercross. Suguru Kanazawa appointed managing director of HRC.
Miguel Duhamel wins Daytona 200 on RC45. NSR500V twin, ridden by Tadayuki Okada, scores pole position on GP debut. Stefan Everts wins the first of two back-to-back 250 MX world prizes aboard CR250. Jeremy McGrath and CR250 win fourth US Supercross title in a row, taking Honda’s unique run of success to nine consecutive crowns.
RC45 four-stroke scores more major international successes with Belgian Stephane Mertens and Frenchman Jean-Michel Mattioli winning the World Endurance Championship, Miguel Duhamel taking the US Superbike title and Aaron Slight and Tadayuki Okada winning the Suzuka Eight Hours race. Haruchika Aoki scores the first of back-to-back 125 World Championships aboard Honda RS125. Alessandro Puzar wins 125 MX crown.
Mick Doohan, Alex Criville, Luca Cadalora, Alex Barros and the NSR500 take the top four places in 500 World Championship, the NSR500 wins 13 of 15 GPs. Haruchika Aoki scores second 125 title.
Mick Doohan wins fourth 500 title riding NSR500 with ‘screamer’ firing order. Honda machines monopolise top five places in series, Doohan, Tadayuki Okada, Nobuatsu Aoki and Alex Criville on NSR500s, Takuma Aoki is fifth on NSR500V twin. The NSR500 wins all 15 GPs, Honda wins tenth premier-class constructors’ World Championship. Max Biaggi joins Honda and wins 250 title on NSR250. Production version of NSR500V goes on sale. RC45 continues to dominate four-stroke racing, John Kocinski wins World Superbike crown, while Japanese stars Shinichi Itoh and Toru Ukawa win Suzuka Eight Hours. Stefan Everts retains 250 MX crown.
Led once again by the mighty Mick Doohan, NSR500 riders dominate the 500 World Championship, taking the top five places in the points chase. HRC introduces new twin-crank NSR250 which Toru Ukawa rides to fourth place in 250 World Championship. More success for the RC45: Doug Polen and Christian Laveille win the world endurance prize, Shinichi Itoh and Toru Ukawa score second successive Suzuka Eight Hours and Ben Bostrom takes US Superbike crown. Yasuo Ikenoya takes over as new president of HRC.
Quietly spoken Spaniard Alex Criville and his NSR500 wrap up Honda’s tenth riders’ 500 World Championship, following Mick Doohan’s exit from the sport due to injury. Emilio Alzamora and RS125R win 125 World Championship, Honda’s tenth 125 riders’ prize. Tadayuki Okada and Alex Barros win the Suzuka Eight Hours, Miguel Duhamel wins the Daytona on 200, all on the hugely successful RC45.
Honda launches its first big twin supersport bike, the VTR1000, which Colin Edwards takes to a debut victory in the World Superbike Championship. The VTR1000SPW also wins the Suzuka Eight Hours with Toru Ukawa and Daijiro Kato. Premier-class debutant Valentino Rossi joins Honda and finishes second in the 500 World Championship aboard his NSR500. Frederic Bolley wins second consecutive 250 MX world title on CR250R. Dougie Lampkin wins the first of four back-to-back Trials World Championships.
Valentino Rossi closes GP racing’s 500 era by winning the final 500 World Championship aboard his NSR500. The Italian superstar also wins Honda’s 500th GP victory at the Japanese Grand Prix and wins the Suzuka Eight Hours riding a VTR1000SPW with partner Colin Edwards. Major Japanese talent Daijiro Kato wins the 250 World Championship aboard a Honda NSR250. RC211V MotoGP machine seen in public for the first time at Motegi, ridden by Honda legends Mick Doohan and Freddie Spencer.
Valentino Rossi wins inaugural MotoGP title aboard HRC’s acclaimed RC211V. Honda also takes Constructors’ World Championship by a large margin. The V5 — which takes motorcycle racing technology to a whole new level — wins all but two of the 16 GPs. Colin Edwards wins his second World Superbike Championship aboard the VTR1000SPW and backs that up with another Suzuka Eight Hours success, riding a VTR with Daijiro Kato. In the United States up-and-coming talent Nicky Hayden takes the US Superbike crown and Daytona 200 victory on a VTR. Frenchman Fabien Foret scores Honda’s first World Supersport title riding a CBR600R. Suguru Kanazawa appointed HRC president.
The RC211V once again dominates the MotoGP World Championship, winning 15 of 16 races. Valentino Rossi wins the riders’ title ahead of fellow RC211V riders Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi. RC211V equipped with rotary steering damper. Dani Pedrosa wins his first world title in the 125 class, aboard RS125R. The new CBR600RR, packed with HRC-derived MotoGP technology, wins the World Supersport title with Chris Vermeulen. Miguel Duhamel wins Daytona 200. Yukio Nukumi and Manabu Kamada give the VTR1000SPW its fourth consecutive Suzuka Eight Hours victory. Ricky Carmichael wins second consecutive US Supercross crown on CR250.
Honda completes hat-trick of MotoGP Constructors World Championship with the RC211V, now equipped with Intelligent Throttle Control system. Dani Pedrosa wins 250 World Championship at his first attempt, with RS250RW. Italian youngster Andrea Dovizioso takes 125 crown on RS125R. Toru Ukawa/Hitoyasu Izutsu give the inline four CBR1000RR Fireblade its first Suzuka Eight Hours success. Aussie Karl Muggeridge wins Supersport world title on CBR600RR. Takahisa Fujinami wins Trials World Championships. Satoru Horiike appointed managing director of HRC.
Dani Pedrosa wins second consecutive 250 World Championship, which gives Honda its 15th 250 riders’ crown and 19th 250 constructors’ title. Swiss Thomas Luthi takes 125 World Championship aboard RS125R. Toru Ukawa and Ryuichi Kiyonari win Honda’s 20th Suzuka Eight Hours victory on a CBR1000RR. CBR600RR continues to dominate middleweight supersport racing, Sebastien Charpentier taking the Supersport world title and Miguel Duhamel winning Honda’s tenth Daytona 200 success.
Nicky Hayden wins the final 990cc MotoGP title, riding new generation RC211V using lighter, more powerful V5 engine. The Kentucky Kid also wins Honda’s 200th premier-class victory at the Dutch TT. This is Honda’s 14th premier-class riders’ title and 17th constructors’ crown. During MotoGP’s four-year 990cc era the V5 won an astonishing 58 per cent of the races. At the Sachsenring Yukio Takahashi secures double century 250cc class victories. Another great year for the CBR600RR, Sebastien Charpentier takes second successive Supersport world title and Jake Zemke wins Daytona 200. Takeshi Tsujimura and Shinichi Itoh win Honda’s tenth Suzuka Eight Hours win in a row, riding CBR1000RR.
New MotoGP technical rules reduce engine capacity to 800cc. HRC introduce the RC212V 800cc four-stroke V4. Masumi Hamane appointed president of HRC.