After a Decade, a Comeback to the Grand Prix

The NR500 evolved as a machine designed to claim the summit of motorcycle racing. It incorporated numerous original technologies, including the oval piston engine and 'shrimp shell' frame.

<< 1. Speeding Through the 1960s
<< 2. After a Decade, a Comeback to the Grand Prix
<< 3. Organizing the NR Block: Preparing for a Comeback
<< 4. Coming Back with a 4-Stroke Powerplant
<< 5. The Oval Piston: Heart of a New and Different Breed
<< 6. From Fantasy to Reality: Completion of the 0X Engine
<< 7. The Unconventional: Adopting a "Shrimp Shell" Frame
<< 8. The NR500s: A Humiliating Debut
<< 9. Refining the Engine-a Top Priority
<< 10. First Victory: The Suzuka 200-Kilometer Race
<< 11. The NS500, Honda's First 2-Stroke GP Machine
<< 12. Victory Again : After Fifteen Years
<< 13. Using Computer Analysis to Bring Honda Back, Stronger than Ever
<< 14. From the NR to Le Mans and Production Bikes

Following its withdrawal from GP racing in 1967, Honda began to focus its energies on the development of mass-production automobiles. The insatiable appetite for power and speed that Honda had developed through racing gradually changed to a focus on economy and environmental responsibility through the pursuit of technologies that would enhance fuel efficiency and lower pollution. In 1973, Honda introduced the new CVCC-equipped Civic model, becoming the first carmaker to offer a model in full compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act passed by the U.S. Congress.

In the area of development, Honda was attracting the world's attention with a wide range of original technologies. Honda's motorcycles had a different story to tell, however. The number of motorcycle development personnel had been reduced to around one-third the level of the early 1960s, with the remaining two-thirds transferred to the Automobile Division. Yet, despite the dwindling staff, Honda was able to release a series of highly successful models, including the Dream CB750 Four introduced in 1969, and the Benly CB90 and Dream SL250S in 1972. However, even after 1973-the year Honda established the Asaka R&D Center (HGA) as its new key facility for motorcycle development-the company's basic motorcycle technologies remained unchanged from the 1960s. Of course, the reduction in development personnel had played a part in this, but the major reason for such stagnation was Honda's withdrawal from racing. It was a move that had robbed the company of its ability to test new technologies.

A sense of crisis soon loomed over the skies at Honda. If the situation were allowed to continue, the company would be left behind in terms of technology, a field in which it had led the world. To foster young, world-class talents and develop innovative motorcycle technologies, in November 1977 Honda announced that it would return to the Grand Prix. The goal was to enter the World GP in 1979 via the 500-cc class, which was the premier category in the series.
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