Victory Again : After Fifteen Years

<< 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
 


Oguma, upon his appointment as team manager, promptly conducted a complete review of the team's organization. He was well aware that the successful management of his team, which included riders from overseas, mechanics and Honda staff from four or five different countries, would play a part in the results achieved on the circuit.

Oguma himself supervised the overall settings of machines. It was a process in which he had the support of Kiyoshi Abe, then chief research engineer at HGA's NR Block, who was a veteran of Honda's journey with the NR500s. Abe took charge of the carburetor settings, which in any racing machine required the greatest care. To better manage the team, the two promoted a sense of unity by communicating the originality of Honda's approach to all the staff members.

Knowing that the machine was not all that racing was about, Oguma encouraged his staff to see the races more often. So that they could thoroughly observe these events, he made sure the staff brought with them what he called the "Three Sacred Treasures" of racing: a camera, stopwatch and binoculars.

These things allowed them to measure not just the lap time but the running time at specific intervals, a practice that helped convey the relative characteristics of competing bikes. They even studied the compositions of rival teams and the roles of their members, along with how the other teams controlled their parts. They examined their rivals in many other respects, including how they set up their machines within a limited time so that the bikes would be in top condition when lined up on their starting grid. Oguma believed that in order for his staff to understand what Honda needed they would have to develop a critical perspective from which to analyze the actual race. In this way, Oguma aimed to create the strongest possible racing team.

When the 1982 season began, the fans found a completely different kind of team wearing the Honda emblem. In fact, the team scored a podium finish in the very first Grand Prix in Argentina, with Spencer getting third place. It was the first time since Honda's GP comeback in 1979 that a team rider had stood on the podium. In the seventh Grand Prix of Belgium held in July, Spencer again led the race, going into the final lap with a four-second lead over his nearest competitor. The staff watched nervously as his tricolor NS500 came out of the last corner. In answer to their hopes, Spencer rode to victory. He had given Honda its first win in the four years since its comeback.

It was also Honda's first GP victory in the 15 years since its retirement from the World GP. Then, in the tenth race held in Sweden that August, Katayama got the checkered flag. A critical factor in the rider's impressive performance was the collaborative effort of all staff members and support from Yoshio Haga, then chief research engineer in the Testing Block at Honda Carburetor Research Center. A specialist in carburetor operation who had tuned Honda's previous GP racing machines, Haga served as the team's advisor at the urging of Miyakoshi. Following the Grand Prix of Argentina, Haga became a real point man for the team. Along with Abe, he became the engine for the ideal team management that Oguma had so eagerly promoted.

The 1982 season ended with Spencer and Katayama finishing third and seventh overall, respectively. The NS500s won two races, and Honda finished third in its race for the manufacturer's title. Finally, it was a possibility that the NS500 could go all the way to the championship. Therefore, amid all the attention received by Honda's new 2-stroke bikes were getting, the NR500 retired from the World GP circuit. It was the end of the 1982 season, a year in which it had competed in two races.

Honda put major organizational changes into effect in September of that year. It integrated RSC(Honda Racing Service Center), which had been established in 1965 within Honda's Corporate Service Division in order to provide service for Honda owners participating in racing. Moreover, it had become independent in 1973, taking with in the NR Block and several functions of Motor Recreation Promotional Headquarters. The newly founded HRC(Honda Racing Co., Ltd.), which had a total of 203 employees and headquarters in the city of Niiza, Saitama Prefecture, thus became the world's first motorcycle racing company.

Honda's former European base of operations in the English town of Slough was relocated to Aalst, Belgium. The new office reflected the company's plan to facilitate team management by way of a European base for World GP activities. Hence, all preparations were in place, and Honda could fight for the championship title in the coming 1983 season.
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