At the Honda Collection Hall, Honda’s products and racing machines are not just mockups for show, but are kept in a fully-functional state. As part of this policy, the Honda Collection Hall periodically conducts track tests, in which these machines are actually driven.
The 2015 track test was held on Tuesday, August 25, with Former Honda works rider Hikaru Miyagi testing 9 machines.
Thrust into the competitive 125cc class of the 1966 World Grand Prix, the RC149 recaptured the title that had been snatched away from Honda the previous year by the rise of the 2-stroke racers. Its high-revving 4-stroke inline 5-cylinder engine delivered overwhelming performance, cranking out 34PS at 20,500rpm through an 8-speed gearbox for a top speed of 210km/h.
Rider Luigi Taveri battled on to take 5 wins in 10 races, winning Honda both the 125cc class Riders’ and Manufacturers’ titles. That same year, Honda achieved the feat of total domination over all five World GP classes.*
*50, 125, 250, 350 & 500cc
This NSR500 was entered in the 500cc class of the 1989 All-Japan Road Race Championships with rider Hikaru Miyagi at the controls, taking 4 consecutive podium finishes and ending the year at 4th in the rankings.
As a GP machine, greater emphasis was placed on the NSR’s ease of operation over absolute power, and its development saw the introduction of customized frames tailored to match individual rider preferences and circuit conditions. That year, Eddie Lawson rode the NSR500 to recapture for Honda the World Grand Prix title it had been denied the year before.
After making his mark in the 250cc class of the All-Japan Road Race Championships, rider Tadayuki Okada fulfilled a long-held dream with full participation in the 1993 World Grand Prix. Besides Okada, other NSR250 riders such as Loris Capirossi, Max Biaggi and Nobuatsu Aoki combined to take 7 wins out of 14 races and give Honda its 3rd consecutive Manufacturers’ title.
1993 was also a big year for Japanese GP riders. Tetsuya Harada rode his Yamaha TZ250M to the Riders’ title, which triggered a whirlwind of Japanese riders rising to prominence on the World GP circuit.
At the 1999 Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, riders Tadayuki Okada and Alex Barros piloted the RVF/RC45 to a smashing victory. Intermittent rain made conditions difficult, but the pair fought on with remarkable consistency to bring home Honda’s 3rd consecutive 8 Hours victory.
The RCF/RC45 debuted at the 1994 Suzuka 8 Hours powered by an all-new 750cc V4 engine like that of the VFR750R/RC30 that preceded it, delivering an overwhelming show of performance from its first year to grab victory in 5 of the next 6 Suzuka 8 Hours races. The 1999 version’s bright red Lucky Strike livery marked the last of the Honda Works’ V4 racers, which were replaced the following year by the VTR1000 SPW V-twin.
The VTR1000 SPW debuted at the 2000 Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race as the V-twin successor to the V4-powered RVF/RC45 that had so dominated this race for the past 6 years. Riders Tohru Ukawa and Daijiro Kato battled fiercely to capture Honda’s 4th consecutive 8 Hours victory, the 3rd time for Ukawa, and a long-sought first for Kato.
Based on the European market VTR1000 SP-1, designed to compete in such racing venues as World Superbike, the SPW was further specially tuned to achieve peak performance for the Suzuka 8 Hours. Swiftly grabbing victory in only its first year, the VTR1000 SPW left no doubt as to the full potential of its slim and compact V-twin engine.
In 2002, the first year of the MotoGP series, Honda entered its last 2-stroke GP machine, the NSR500. Over its 18 years at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, the NSR received a vast array of new technologies, and its power output was increased this final year to maximize its competitiveness.
Then reigning GP250 champion Daijiro Kato piloted the NSR500. However, the 4-stroke RC211V had a distinct performance advantage over the 2-strokes with double the engine displacement, and the NSR finished its last season without a win.
Honda’s first win in its Second Phase of Formula One racing came in 1984 with Williams-Honda. This was followed in 1986 by its first Constructors’ title with the Williams-Honda FW11. Rule changes introduced this year to restrain a raging horsepower battle reduced total fuel consumption from 220 liters to 195 liters per race. Honda responded with a new 1,500cc twin-turbocharged engine that not only improved fuel economy, it also surprisingly boosted power output to a maximum of 1,000PS.
Piloted by Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, the FW11 won a total of 9 out of 16 races, 5 for Mansell and 4 for Piquet, and captured Honda’s first long-sought Constructors’ Title.
In 1988, Lotus-Honda introduced the 100T to compete in the final season of turbocharged Formula One racers. The 99T of the previous year had featured an innovative electronically controlled ‘active suspension’ designed to maintain optimal vehicle height. However, as development reached an impasse, a more conventional design was adapted for the 100T.
Although not a contender for the title, at the final round Australian GP, McLaren Honda’s Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna finished 1st and 2nd, while Lotus-Honda’s Nelson Piquet took the final spot on the podium at 3rd, marking the second 1-2-3 finish for Honda engines that season, and providing a glorious ending as the curtain fell on the 1.5-liter turbocharged era.
The McLaren-Honda MP4/6 battled through the 1991 Formula One Grand Prix season powered by a new, higher-powered and higher-revving V12 engine that was fully 5.5kg lighter in weight than the V10 engine it succeeded, delivering a maximum power output of over 700PS.
Driver Ayrton Senna dominated the season opener US Grand Prix from pole to finish, followed by wins at Brazil, San Marino and Monaco, for a 4-race winning streak that set a new record for the time. In the end, this 7-win season earned Senna his 3rd Drivers’ Championship, and brought McLaren-Honda its 4th consecutive Constructors’ Title, crowning an uninterrupted run of 6 titles that extended from the Williams-Honda era.