European Endurance Racing: The History of Invincible Honda 1976~1979

Honda Endurance Racing and F.C.C. TSR Honda are participating in the 2016/2017 FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) series with Honda CBR1000RR bikes. The series stages a total of 6 races, ending with the Suzuka 8hours FIM EWC. The European Endurance Championship series is the predecessor to the FIM EWC series. In the 1970’s, Honda won both the riders and the constructors titles for four consecutive years. The team was so strong, it was known as “the invincible.”

1979 Golden Age of Large Capacity 4-stroke Racing Arrives with New Era Machines

Jean-Claude Chemarin / RS1000 (1979 Le Mans 1000km)
Jean-Claude Chemarin / RS1000 (1979 Le Mans 1000km)

While the RCB1000s dominated the Endurance races in Europe, there had been a TT-F1 sprint championship held since 1977, with machines with engines based on production models. RSC foresaw the growing demand for large capacity four stroke races and produced kit parts for the CB900/750F for them to become RS1000s (CB900F was the base machine for Europe, and CB750F was for Japan and the U.S.). Because of this approach, more people, compared to the previous year’s RCB1000, could benefit off the Honda Works technology and know-how. To the local affiliates and dealer teams, the complete version RS1000 was sold. There were two types of chassis, the 482 type and another specially built for the RS1000.

On top of this, RSC developed another Endurance model RS1000 (482B) which was a refined version of the 482. This was made to race in open-class races such as the Bol d'or 24 hours not influenced by the TT-F1 regulations. By changing the valve timing and lift, and a change in compression ratio, this model produced 126PS/9500rpm, 3% less than the 482. Depending on races, the 481A and 482 were also still used. The market RS1000 and the Works RS1000 (482B) were like twins but whereas the RS1000 had a bore x stroke of 67.8 x 69mm (996cc) based on the 64.5 x 69mm CB900F, the 482B was 70 x 64.8mm, the same as the RCB1000s. The marks on the frame showed "RS1000E-0101 (and on)" for the marketed model (490), and "482-0001 (and on)" on the Works model, but officially all the machines from this year were called RS1000s. This is because all the machines came under the jurisdiction of RSC.

RS1000 (1981 Suzuka 8 hours winning machine)
RS1000 (1981 Suzuka 8 hours winning machine)

Christian Leon / RS1000 (1979 Le Mans 1000km)
Christian Leon / RS1000 (1979 Le Mans 1000km)

Marc Fontan / Japauto (1979 Le Mans 1000km)
Marc Fontan / Japauto (1979 Le Mans 1000km)

Guy Bertin / Japauto (1979 Le Mans 1000km)
Guy Bertin / Japauto (1979 Le Mans 1000km)

Edmar Ferreira / Formula G (1979 Le Mans 1000km)
Edmar Ferreira / Formula G (1979 Le Mans 1000km)

At the first race of 1979 in Le Mans, Christian Leon/Jaen-Claud Chemarin rode a modified 482 and won the race. Marc Fontan/Guy Bertin of Japorto came in 2nd and a Brazilian team Formula G, Edmar Ferreira/Walter Barchi riding a 492 came in 3rd. This gave the impression that the RCB1000s were going to be strong again this season, but at the next race in Assen the 16 wins in a row throughout four years for Honda came to an end.

Assen 6 hours, the second round in the series, was a wet race and Leon/ Chemarin crashed two times only just grasping onto 7th place, nine laps behind the leader. The unexpected performance from the ace pair might have influenced the other teams, and the result was a surprising 5th-6th-7th place for the Honda teams. Winner of the race was Christian Huguet/Herve Moineau on the France Kawasaki Works Z1000, 2nd place was Victor Palomo/Mario Lega on a Ducati, and in 3rd was William Zoet/Dick Alblas on a Yamaha TZ750. In fourth position there was another Kawasaki, Jean-Bernard Payre/Maurice Maingret. This result was as in 1975, before the RCB1000s arrived. In the following two races, the Nurburgring 8 hours and the Montjuic 24hours, Leon/Chemarin won two in a row and the dealer teams also finished in higher positions.

Christian Leon / RS1000 (1979 Montjuic 24 hours)
Christian Leon / RS1000 (1979 Montjuic 24 hours)

Jean-Claude Chemarin / RS1000 (1979 Montjuic 24 hours)
Jean-Claude Chemarin / RS1000 (1979 Montjuic 24 hours)

The RS1000 showed its ability not just in the European endurance races but on the Isle of Man as well. At the TT-F1 championships held on the Isle of Man that year, Honda Britain' s Alex George took victory on a sprint version RS1000. In second place was Charley Williams with Ron Haslam coming third, Honda Britain dominated the podium at the Isle of Man. George also entered the classic TT which was raced under the regulations of the WGP, held on the Island in previous years. Having battled fiercely with Mike Hailwood on a Suzuki RG500, he managed to come out on top and won this event as well.

1979 Race Results

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