Monday, March 12, 2007

The saga of the HRC Honda NSR500

The great American racer, Freddie Spencer, with his Honda NS500
Starting with 1985 and ending with the 2001 season, the Honda NSR500 won no less than ten 500cc motorcycle roadracing world championships. And that’s not counting the 1983 500cc world championship, which Freddie Spencer won on the NSR’s predecessor – the three-cylinder Honda NS500. Spencer later went on to win the 1985 500cc championship on the NSR500, and amazingly, also won the 250cc world championship that year, aboard a Honda NSR250!

Fiesty Australian, Wayne Gardner won the 1987 500c world championship aboard his Rothmans Honda NSR500
Aussie rider Wayne Gardner took the 1987 500cc crown riding his Rothmans Honda NSR500, and then American rider and multi-time world champ, Eddie Lawson won the 1989 500cc championship – again on a Honda NSR500.

American racing legend, Eddie Lawson won 500cc world championships with Yamaha in 1984, 1986 and 1988. He then moved to Honda for 1989 and won his last 500cc title aboard his Honda NSR500
From 1990 to 1992, Rainey picked up three world championships aboard his Yamaha YZR500, and Kevin Schwantz won the 1993 title on his Suzuki RGV500. But from then onwards, the Honda NSR500 ruled the 500cc class for six straight years, with the mighty Mick Doohan winning five world championships from 1994 to 1998, and Spanish rider Alex Criville taking the 1999 500cc title.

There was no beating Mick 'The Dominant' Doohan between 1994 and 1998. Mick's talent combined with NSR500 power meant five successive world championships for the Aussie rider
With the two-stroke era coming to an end, the NSR500 had its last outing in the hands of Valentino Rossi, who won the 2001 500cc championship aboard this bike. Of course, he went on to win another two MotoGP world championships aboard Honda machines – the five-cylinder RC211V – but even he agrees that the two-stroke NSR500 was much more exciting to ride.

Rossi won his first 500cc world title in 2001, aboard this NSR500. From 2002 onwards, it would be the four-stroke Honda RC211V...
Throughout its fifteen-year saga, the two-stroke, V4 Honda NSR500 was the very personification of raw, unbridled power, speed and acceleration. Eddie Lawson’s 1989 machine made 165bhp@12,000rpm and was capable of doing 300km/h. With its chassis struggling to cope with all that power, and with the mighty V4 making mincemeat of the bike’s tyres, the late-1980s NSR was a barely-contained wild animal, and needed the supreme riding talents of a man like Lawson for the bike to be able to win consistently. That, and the genius of HRC’s ace mechanic, the legendary Erv Kanemoto.

With five 500cc world championships won aboard the Honda NSR500, Mick Doohan was by far the most successful HRC rider in the 1990s. And going by this pic, his popularity has not diminished... :-)
By the early-1990s, the NSR500 had evolved into a friendlier machine. With computer-controlled engine management systems replacing carburetors, the NSR’s two-stroke V4 was making its 190-200 horsepower in a more controllable fashion. The ‘big bang’ engine debuted in 1992, where the firing order was such that the NSR’s V4 would behave more on the lines of a big single, rather than a vastly more frenzied four-cylinder unit. This made the bike more controllable and ultimately, reduced the chances of a highside.

Later, in the late-1990s, when other manufacturers also started building ‘big bang’ engines, Doohan actually went back to the earlier type of firing order to again get an edge over other riders! So yes, a large part of the NSR’s success was also due to rider skills and sheer talent, but that takes away nothing from the fact that the Honda 500cc GP bike was the very pinnacle of two-stroke racebike engineering. Pedrosa and the RC212V may be a great combo, but we still miss the sight of Doohan going sideways on his Repsol Honda NSR500…

Awesome video from the 1996 500cc motorcycle GP racing season. Honda NSR500 riders Mick Doohan and Alex Criville go hammer and tongs at each other. Superb!

1 comment:

jun escoses said...

nsr is my dreambike since highschool when i started to like f1 bikes and it beacme my passion a long time a go i started collecting f1 scale model to address my craving with sportsbike,even posters of my most admired rider mr schwants.wayne gardner,mick doohan i've watched their races on cable channel in the 80's & 90' i'm on my late 30's still that bike is a dream but im still hoping for miracles to happen,if in my 40th year in this life and the elusive bike has not materialize then i'll give up that dream and satisfy myself with my collections,coz here in my country even 2nd hand bike is expensive and as of this time following my dream is not in my priority list . . well i hope

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