The Second Era (1982 - 2001)

In 1982, Honda developed a compact, lightweight and high-output 2-stroke engine for the newly introduced machine - the NS500 - which incorporated the experience gained from the NR500. After winning the 7th round in Belgium giving Honda its first victory in 15 years, the NS500 went on to win a total of 3 races for the season. In its second year at the hands of Freddie Spencer, the NS500 was instrumental in winning 6 grands prix, giving Honda the riders' and constructors' titles, and the momentum for more victories ahead.

As World GP racing machines were becoming faster every year, Honda pursued the development of a machine with” devastating performance,” and developed the NSR500 with a V-4 layout which would be more advantageous to generating the tremendous power needed.

Freddie Spencer /NSR500 (1985)
Freddie Spencer / NSR500 (1985)

The early model NSR500 debuted in 1984, with a unique layout - the fuel tank was below the engine and the exhaust pipes were above. Although the NSR500 output a class-topping 150PS, the unique layout was prone to fluctuating handling depending on fuel load, and could produce results as anticipated. The following year, Honda had revamped the NSR500’s chassis, and also released a 250cc V-2 RS250RW, aiming to clinch for the first time in World GP history both 250cc and 500cc titles. These machines performed as anticipated, with the NSR500 winning 8, and the RS250RW winning 9 of the 12 grands prix. Freddie Spencer and Honda ended the successful season with the riders' and constructors' titles in both the 250cc and 500cc classes.

The NSR500 continued to be an extremely fast machine, but Honda’s new goal was to control the massive power delivery to make it faster. Even during this time, the NSR500 won 3 races in 1986, and 7 races in 1987, a consistent performer.

In 1987, Honda had also returned to 125cc class racing after a 21 year absence, with the RS125R, which was a proven performer in the All Japan Road Race Championship. Although the RS125R did not win any races in its first year, it morphed into a world-class machine over the following years. After winning 2 grands prix in 1988, the RS125R won 6 races the following year, giving Honda the constructors' title and more importantly, Honda’s complete domination of all classes, a feat not achieved for 23 years. The RS125R evolved even further, and in 1990 won 11 of the 14 grands prix and dominated the top 5 riders’ rankings, and its reputation was legendary - “only an RS125R could win the 125cc class.”

Honda’s wins in World GP racing increased dramatically by its participation in all World GP classes. In the five years from 1987 to 1991, Honda had won 104 races over the three classes - a golden era indeed, but still, it was only the first step to a more incredible achievement.

Loris Capirossi / RS125R

In 1992, a new engine with better traction performance was introduced to the NSR500, leading Mick Doohan to victory at the season opener in Japan. The high-powered NSR500 had won the race in the rain, despite its poor wet weather track record to date. Doohan and the NSR500 seemed certain to achieve a title victory, but ended the season with 5 wins as Doohan missed numerous races due to injury. Honda’s development of the machine, however, was paying off with its power output increasing to over 170PS.

In 1994, Honda had realized its goal of a manageable high-powered engine, and, with a machine that could handle the power and Doohan back from injury, won 9 out of 14 races to convincingly clinch the riders' and constructors' titles. The NSR500’s achievements continued. After winning 9 races during the 1995 season, the NSR500 was victorious in 13 of the 15 grands prix the following year. In 1997, it won all 15 grands prix, and in 1998 won every race up to the 7th round - giving it a record-breaking 22 consecutive victories. Although in the following year, 1999, Mick Doohan retired from grand prix racing after falling during the practice session in Round 3 (Spain), taking with him an impressive 54 wins, the NSR500 won 9 races by a number of riders including the champion of the year - Alex Crivillé, resulting in Honda taking the riders’ and constructors' titles six years straight.

Mick Doohan / NSR500 (1998)
Mick Doohan / NSR500 (1998)

Honda’s success during this period was not limited to the 500cc class. In the 125cc class, the RS125R won Honda the constructors' title in 1989, and continued to win the title up to 1995. It regained the title from 1997 to 2000, tallying 106 victories over 12 years. In the 250cc class, the NSR250, since it debut in 1985, had won Honda 11 constructors' titles in the 16 years up to 2000, and boasted 119 wins, a result rivaling that of the 500cc class achievements.

Daijiro Kato/NSR250
Daijiro Kato / NSR250

By the season opener in 2001, Honda had won a grand total of 497 grands prix. At this first round, at Suzuka, Honda’s home-ground, after Honda won the 125cc and 250cc classes, the NSR500 was victorious in the 500cc class, giving Honda its 500th World GP victory, an outstanding achievement. This same year, Honda won twelve races in the 500cc class, eleven in the 250cc class, and four in the 125cc class, dominating all World GP classes once again. Honda had finished the very last 500cc class season (due to regulation changes), in the best way possible.

  • 1982 Honda races the NR500(2X) and the 2-stroke 3-cylinder NS500
  • July 1982 Honda wins its first WGP race in 15 years (and its first 2-stroke victory) at the Belgium GP
  • September 1982 Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) established
  • 1983 Honda develops NR500(3X), which was not raced
  • 1983 Honda wins its first riders’and contructors’titles in 16 years in the 500cc class
  • 1984 Honda introduces V-4 powered NSR500
  • 1985 Honda races NSR500 (with a conventional layout), and returns to the 250cc class with the NSR250 (RS250RW)
  • 1985 Honda wins its first riders’and contructors’titles in the 250cc class with a 2-stroke engine
  • 1986 Honda races six NSR250s in the 250cc class
  • 1987 Honda powers the NSR500 with a new 112-degree V bank engine, and returns to the 125cc class with the RS125R
  • 1988 Honda wins the riders’and contructors’titles in the 250cc class
  • 1989 Honda equips NSR500 with curved swing arm
  • 1990 Honda equips NSR500 with engine with pistons in sets of two at 180-degrees
  • February 1990 Honda wins its first riders’and contructors’titles in the 125cc class with a 2-stroke engine
  • 1991 Honda wins its tenth riders’title in the 250cc class
  • 1992 Honda equips NSR500 with 68-degree Big-Bang engine, equips NSR250 with cantilever swing arm
  • 1993 Honda equips NSR500 with experimental electronic fuel injection system
  • 1994 Honda equips NSR500 with in-cylinder water injection system and electronically-controlled variable damping mechanism
  • 1994 Honda wins its tenth 125cc constructors’title
  • 1995 Honda wins the riders’and constructors’titles in the 500cc and 250cc classes
  • 1996 Honda races V-2 powered NSR500V in addition to NSR500
  • September 1996 Honda achieves 500th GP win at the Italian GP
  • September 1996 Honda achieves 100th 500cc class win at the European GP
  • 1997 Honda equips NSR500 with Screamer engine
  • 1997 Honda wins all 15 rounds in the 500cc class
  • 1998 Honda equips NSR250 with twin counter rotating crankshaft engine and pivotless frame
  • June 1998 Honda achieves 22 consecutive 500cc class wins at the Dutch TT
  • 1998 Honda dominates 1st to 5th place rankings in the 500cc class
  • 1999 Honda equips the NSR250 with conventional twin tubes and two-sided swing arm
  • 1999 Honda achieves tenth 500cc constructors’title
  • 1999 Honda achieves tenth 125cc riders’title
  • May 2000 Honda achieves 140th 500cc class win
  • April 2001 Honda achieves 500th WGP win at the Japanese GP
  • July 2001 Honda achieves 150th 500cc class win at the British GP