News Releases 1998
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CorporateJapanJanuary 20, 1998
Honda 1998 Motorsports Plans for Motorcycles
Honda 1998 Motorcycle Sports Plans

Tokyo, January 20, 1998 --- First of all we at Honda would like to thank everybody for all the wonderful support you gave us during the 1997 season. Thanks to excellent media coverage, which emphasized people's participation and enjoyment of motor sports, many thousands of Honda motorcycling fans turned up at events.

This year, which is Honda's 50th anniversary year, as well as providing you with motorcycles that we trust will make your lifestyle more convenient and enjoyable, we're hoping to bring you an action-packed season full of racing excitement to further contribute to the development of the motor sports culture in society. We want as many people as possible to experience the fun of going to watch and participate in motor sports events first hand. Our marketing slogan, Enjoy it! sums it up.

  • Taking part in the world's most exciting races!

    To live up to the expectations of the many Honda fans, and with the aim of boosting the image and popularity of world-class motor sports, the Honda team is planning to compete in the world's best races, with just one goal - winning. Our development teams have been working hard to make our machines the best they can be. We regard racing as an ideal opportunity for us to develop our cutting-edge technology and foster the skills of our engineers.

  • Developing world-beating machines

    We are focused on developing a world-class range of specialist racing machines. Our efforts involve not just research into better chassis and frames, but also the many hundreds of parts necessary for a modern racing machine. These results are then fed back to our commercial operations to ensure that the excellence of our racing machines is matched by the quality of our road bikes.

    • The NSR500V, which we launched last year, has had more development work done on it and we are entering it in races as a works bike this season in the prestigious 500 cc Grand Prix (GP500) class, so we can perfect its design and engineering.
    • In the GP250 class we have the new NSR250, which has undergone a substantial overhaul. By entering it in works races, we hope to use the experience to improve the commercially available versions.
    • As last year, we will be entering the commercial versions of our new motocross bike, the CR250R, and trial bike, the RTL250R, in works races.
    • This season we have three commercially available bikes designed for beginners to get involved in road- and off-road racing. The NS50R, designed for mini-bike road races, also has a very reasonably priced big brother, the NSR150. For those who want to get into off-road racing there is the XR70R. We aim to be able to offer a full range of high-quality bikes, no matter which category of motor sports you are interested in.

  • Twin Ring Motegi motor sports and recreational facility opens

    In August 1997, we opened a new facility in Tochigi Prefecture (specifically in Motegi-cho, Haga County) designed with a main theme in mind: Harmonious fusion of mankind, nature and vehicles. This facility will not only host motor sports events, but also offer the chance to study safe driving techniques and to enjoy maneuvering vehicles.

    The motorcycle events held at the facility to date include the Honda All-Japan Econopower Fuel Challenge and H-A-R-T in Motegi. Later this year, to enable more people to enjoy motor sports events at the site, we will be opening a hotel and other facilities. This year the five motorcycle events to be held there include the '98 All-Japan Road Race Championship series (Stage 1, April 12) and the '98 Motegi Road Race Championship series (5 races starting on March 1).

  • Offering people the chance to be a part of a motor sports event

    Our aim is to provide as many people as possible - from raw beginners all the way up to seasoned experts - with the venue and opportunity to experience the joy and thrill of motor sports. As well as sponsoring motor sports events, we also organize motorcycle schools and racing get-togethers. Motorcycling schools not only help foster more skillful riding, they also develop motor sports as a whole. Here is an outline of this year's plans:

    • Racing schools for everyone
      These schools focus on those seriously considering entering motor sports events and those who want to hone their riding skills further. Classes range from beginner to expert level.

    • Honda Racing School
      These on-the-bike classes are designed for those wanting to learn the necessary skills to be able to participate in road races.

    • Honda Off-road School
      Offers a wide range of classes covering both motocross and endurance racing, from beginner to professional.

    • Honda Trials School
      A special motorcycling school designed to help riders experience the fun of trials competition and make their basic riding techniques on a par with those required for trials riding. Classes are not limited to trials models, and include training on dual-purpose bikes and mini off-roaders.

    • HRC Trials School and HRC Trials Meets
      These are both organized by Honda Racing Co., Ltd. The HRC Trials School aims to teach riders the skills of trials riding. HRC Trials Meets provide potential entrants with physical training to develop the stamina and endurance needed for competition, while also covering practical riding techniques and teaching riders how to prepare for competition.

  • A wide variety of events and schools

    Motor sports help develop a motorcycle culture. With this goal in mind, we aim to help anybody, even beginners, participate easily in events designed to allow people to get a taste for the true joy of the sport. In line with this thinking, this year we are organizing and sponsoring a number of grass-roots events, including mini-bike races and endurance events.

    Alongside this we organize motorcycling schools all around Japan to help people ride more safely and learn the fundamentals of motorcycle riding. These include Honda Sports Riding Schools, some offered through our mobile educational facility, the HSR Plaza (Honda Safety & Riding Plaza), and the Honda Motorcyclist Schools, offered at driving schools. Lastly, also at several sites around the country, we offer special opportunities for parents to enjoy riding bikes together with their children. These events use mini off-road bikes, such as the QR50, Z50R, XR70R and XR100R models.

  • Honda All-Japan Econopower Fuel Challenge: All-Japan and regional competitions

    Now in its 18th year, this nationwide competition challenges entrants to see how far they can go on a bike with only one liter of fuel. This environmental theme race attracts many entrants with highly creative, hand-made machines. Reflecting the keener interest in society on conserving energy, this event has recently attracted many more entrants, particularly student teams, as well as a considerable number of competitors from overseas.

    Honda's wish is to introduce the fun and entertainment of motor sports to as many people as possible, as it pursues production of world-class motorcycles! Our goal, through this wide range of events, is to expand the world of motor sports and in doing so contribute to a healthy motorcycle culture. We hope you will attend one or more of these events and have fun. We know we will.

1997 Season Retrospective

In 1997, thanks to all your support, Honda team riders won no less than six titles, and Honda machines won seven domestic and international championships.

World Championship

Road Race: 3 individual titles; 3 constructors' titles
Motocross: 1 individual title; 1 constructors' title
Supercross: 1 constructors' title

All-Japan Championship
Road Race: 1 individual title

Road Race: 1 individual title; 2 constructors' titles

Road Race World Championship Series

Out of all last season's road races, the Road Race World Championship was the one where Honda enjoyed the greatest success. In the GP500 class, the NSR500 stayed unbeaten throughout the season, and achieved a clean sweep of the podium places no less than seven times, setting several records in the process.

The driving force behind this performance was undoubtedly Mick Doohan, riding an NSR500 for the Repsol Honda team. After winning in the opening round in Malaysia, he went on to dominate the championship with a convincing string of victories. By the 11th race of the season, the British Grand Prix, he had ten wins under his belt. With another blistering ride he secured the World Championship for a fourth year running - with an unprecedented four races still remaining. By the end of the 15-race season he had notched up 12 wins - a record for the 500cc class - and a record 12 pole positions.

Following in Mick Doohan's wake, Japanese rider Tadayuki Okada, riding an NSR500 for the Repsol Honda team, scored his first ever Grand Prix victory with a win in the Indonesian Grand Prix, the 14th race of the season. He took 2nd place in the overall World Championship.

In his first season in GP500, Nobuatsu Aoki, riding a Rheos ELF F.C.C. T.S., clinched a third place in the opening round. After four podium placings, he finished in third place in the championship.

Riding for Repsol Honda, Alex Criville suffered the misfortune of crashing in the Dutch Grand Prix, the seventh race of the season. Resting for five races while the injury to his left hand healed, he nevertheless came back to add a win in the final race of the season to add to his victory on home turf in Spain in the third race of the season. With two wins he finished in fourth place in the championship.

In his first full GP500 season, Takuma Aoki, riding an NSR500V for the Repsol Honda team, clinched second place in the final round. With three podium placings, he finished in fifth place.

Thanks to the great performances by these riders, Honda won the Manufacturers' Championship for the fourth consecutive year - and brought the total number of Honda wins to ten.

In the GP250 class, Max Biaggi, riding the NSR250 for the first time for the Marlboro Kanemoto Honda team, won the opening round. After a sticky patch in which he briefly lost the leadership, he recovered to win the riders' championship for a record-breaking fourth consecutive time. Battling with him right up to the final finish line, Ralf Waldmann, riding for the Marlboro Honda Germany team, won four races and finished in second place.

In third place was Olivier Jacque of the Chesterfield Elf Tec 3 team, and finishing in fifth place was Tohru Ukawa, riding for Benetton Honda. Honda gained its 16th manufacturers' championship.

In the GP125 class, Noboru Ueda, riding an RS125R for Team Pirelli, secured four wins, taking his career total wins to ten and giving him second place in the individual championship. Tomomi Manako on Team UGT 3000, finished behind him in third.

Superbike World Championship series

In this championship, Aaron Slight and John Kocinski, riding RVF/RC45 bikes, were the riders competing on behalf of Castrol Honda. Winning the opening race of the season, in his own inimitable style Kocinski kept on steadily accumulating points until, by the 11th round in Japan, he was already assured of his first championship victory. Slight ended in third place in the overall rankings. Honda took its third constructors' championship since 1989, the first time ever with the RVF/RC45 machines.

World Endurance Championship series

The 4-stage series kicked off with the Le Mans 24-hour race. Riding an RVF/RC45 bike, William Costes and Christian Lavielle gained joint fourth place. In the third stage of the series, the Sprite Cool 8-hour Endurance Road Race at Suzuka, Shinichi Itoh and Tohru Ukawa, riding an RVF/RC45 bike for the Horipro Honda with H-A-R-T team, established an early lead and then held on through constant rain to become the first pair of Japanese riders to win the race in 15 years. Riding for Castrol Honda, John Kocinski and Alex Barros took second place. In the race's 20th anniversary year, Honda gained an extremely satisfying 1-2 finish. Castrol Honda pair Tadayuki Okada and Aaron Slight came in sixth, while Daijiro Katoh and Yuichi Takeda, riding for Team Kunimitsu with HSC, finished in 9th place, having started out in pole position.

Motocross World Championship series

In the 250cc class, Team Honda Racing's Stefan Everts, riding a CR250M, began a 7-race winning streak (including three perfect victories) at the fifth race of the season, in France. He clinched his third successive championship on the first heat of the Polish Grand Prix, the 13th race of the season, and finished the season with a 9-6 record. Joakim Karlsson, riding for RWJ Honda, gained 5th place in the championship rankings.

Trials Bikes World Championship series

In the final stage of the series, Takahisa Fujinami (HRC Club Fujinami) gained his much sought-after first World Championship win, finishing in fourth place overall in the championship.

All-Japan Road Race Championship series

In the Superbike class, riding an RVF/RC45 machine for Castrol Honda, Yuichi Takeda secured third place overall in a close battle for the championship, after gaining his second win in the 11th stage (12th race) and six podium places in all.

Returning to the All-Japan Road Race Championship this season, Shinichi Itoh (Castrol Honda) got through to the finals of the Suzuka 8-hour Endurance Road Race, gained his first win at the 7th stage (MINE), and managed to steadily improve his ranking during the second half of the season, finishing in fifth place.

In the GP250 class, Daijiro Katoh, riding an NSR250 for the Castrol Honda team, despite missing the first race of the season, scored four successive wins, starting with the second stage. Finishing every time on the podium from that race, his overwhelming performance gained him his first ever championship by the 11th race, with a total of eight wins to his credit. For the second year running, he recorded the greatest number of wins in a season. For Honda, it was the first manufacturers' championship in three years since last winning in 1994.

In the GP125 class, every single stage became a hard-fought tussle. Riding an RS125R for the Tube R&Ablecom team, Hiroyuki Kikuchi gained his first win at the 7th stage at MINE. In the second half of the championship, several sparkling performances gained him three wins in the final four rounds, and left him in second place overall, just one point short of the championship. For Honda this class illustrated its strength in depth: all the riders from second through to seventh place rode Honda machines.

All-Japan Motocross Championship series

In the 250 cc class, Kazumasa Odagiri, Takamasa Takagi and Yusuke Sasaki were competing in the HRC team. Gaining his first win at the 2nd heat of the 5th stage in Asahikawa, Sasaki steadily accumulated points over the season and finished in fourth. Takagi gained 5 podium places during the heats and finished fifth overall. Odagiri gained 4 podium places and finished in tenth place.

In the 125 cc class, Shinichi Kaga, riding a CR125R for Team Motoroman, gained a perfect win in the second stage of the competition before going on to win three more heats and finish second overall. Akira Hosono (Honda Kanto Gakuen and Team Motoroman) won three heats and gained seven other podium placings to finish third overall.

All-Japan Trials Bike Championship series

Riding an RTL, Takahisa Fujinami (HRC Club Fujinami) competed in five of the seven stages. Gaining a win in the final stage and three other podium placings, he ranked fourth in the final championship standings. Hideaki Mitani (HRC Club Mitani) and Motoharu Honda (HRC Club Wako Y/W) finished fifth and eight, respectively.

AMA Superbike/Supersports

In the Superbike series, Miguel DuHamel and Steve Crevier rode RVF/RC45 bikes, competing for Smokin' Jaws Racing. With four wins over ten stages, DuHamel finished in second place overall, while Crevier gained fourth place.

DuHamel and Crevier also competed for the same team in the Supersports series, this time riding CBR600F3 bikes. DuHamel notched up five wins in 11 races and took the title. Crevier finished in fifth place overall. Their combined efforts were enough to secure Honda the manufacturers' title for both series.

AMA Supercross/National Motocross

In the Supercross 250 cc series, Steve Lamson represented Team Honda as a works rider from American Honda, riding a CR250M. After injuring his right thumb during practice in Stage 9, he was unable to compete in any more races for the season, and finished in 15th place overall.

In the 125 cc EAST competition, Stephane Roncada (Honda of Troy) gained second place. Works rider Scott Sheak of Team Honda, riding a CR125R, gained a third place on the fourth stage race and finished up in sixth place.

In the National Motocross 125 cc competition, both Steve Lamson and Scott Sheak competed on CR125R bikes for Team Honda. With two wins and nine podium placings during the heats, Scott Sheak finished with a third place overall. After aggravating the right thumb injury he had sustained in Supercross during the second stage in Sacramento, defending champion Steve Lamson had to miss four stages and one heat, and finished in ninth place.


* This photo shows an example of coloring



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