|In the 45 years since its first GP success in 1961, Honda has won an average of 13 GP victories each and every season, or 17 wins per season if you discount the factory’s 11-year absence from the World Championships from the late 60s. That is a unique record which highlights the success of Honda’s core belief as an engineering-led brand. And Honda has always believed that if you win on the racetrack, you also win on the road.
Back in April 1961, when Tom Phillis won Honda’s first GP on a 125 twin on Barcelona’s Montjuich Park street circuit, the world of Grand Prix racing was dominated by European factories, while Japan’s nascent bike industry was barely noticed, let alone taken seriously. Soichiro Honda was determined to change all that, but his first fact-finding trip to Europe in the summer of 1954 shocked him. “We had never seen or even dreamed of machines like that,” he said after watching Nortons, MV Agustas and Gileras racing around Britain’s notorious Isle of Man TT circuit.
Back in Japan Honda-san was to prove the power of his dreams through clever engineering and tireless dedication, the twin forces that continue to fuel the company’s successes today. By the end of Honda’s first eight years in GPs the company had won an astonishing 138 GPs and 34 riders’ and constructors’ World Championships, including a full house of 1966 constructors’ world titles, with a range of exotic four-strokes that confirmed its reputation as world leader in thrillingly innovative engineering. That legendary 1966 stable included a five-cylinder 125 and twin-cylinder 50 that revved to 21,500rpm and produced a staggering 280 horsepower per litre, plus the wondrous six-cylinder 250s and 350s, and the fearsome 500 four.
Honda’s next era of Grand Prix glory began in the 1980s with two-stroke machinery: the NSR500, NS500, NSR250, RS250 and RS125. Over the next two decades these bikes proved that Honda could build world-beating two-strokes, scoring more than 400 GP victories and 64 riders’ and constructors’ World Championships.
And when four-strokes returned to GPs in 2002, Honda was once again out front. Over the past three MotoGP seasons the remarkable RC211V V5 has won two riders’ titles and a clean sweep of three manufacturers’ titles, as well as almost 40 individual race wins.