Since its first World GP victory in 1961, Honda went on to dominate the 50, 125, 250 and 350cc classes, building its reputation in the world of racing, but had not yet entered the premier class of grand prix racing, the 500cc class. In 1965, Honda decided to compete in the 500cc class. The RC181, debuted in 1966, became the vanguard of Honda’s new challenge, powered by an air-cooled 4-stroke inline 4-cylinder DOHC 4-valve engine. The engine was simply structured, compared to other Honda engines at the time, but boasted the highest output of 85PS. The 1966 500cc class season opened in Hockenheim, West Germany. Although the RC181 had some steering issues it was well matched to the high-speed circuit, and won the West Germany Grand Prix by a convincing 26 seconds, and was welcomed into the 500cc class with awe. Round 2 also resulted in victory, but in Round 3 (Belgium Grand Prix), rider Jim Redman fell, preventing him from riding in subsequent races. Mike Hailwood, standing in for Redman, went on to win 3 grands prix, giving Honda a total of 5 wins and the constructors' title in their first year of competing in the premier class. 1966 ended with handling concerns unsolved, but because of this was also the first step in Honda’s relentless challenge in the premier class for years to come.
|Engine||Air-Cooled 4-st. Inline-4 DOHC 4-Valve Gear Train|
|Maximum Output||over 85PS / 12,000 rpm|
|Maximum Speed||over 260km/h|
|Weight||151 kg (Dry Weight)|