By Dan Moakes
March 14 2007
Honda is the most successful marque in Grand Prix racing, with their riders having secured a total of 49 World Championship titles in six classes, and a staggering 619 individual race wins, at the time of writing. On eleven occasions a Honda-mounted rider has been 500cc World Champion, including seven times in the last eight seasons of the two-stroke era. Five of these went to the legendary Mick Doohan, who won an impressive 54 GPs for Honda.
Multiple champion Valentino Rossi followed victory in the final 500cc-only season by taking the first MotoGP title in 2002, which he retained the following year before switching sides. Nicky Hayden brought the title back to Honda in 2006. Dani Pedrosa has tasted success for the Japanese manufacturer three times in the smaller capacity series, with Andrea Dovizioso and Thomas Lüthi each taking a 125 title in the same period.
In addition to these feats, Honda pilots have also won the World Superbike Championship five times, with Colin Edwards the latest to do so, in the years 2000 and 2002. There have been 90 wins in SBK for Honda riders, which is second to Ducati, but well ahead of all the rest. And in British Superbike there have been 34 victories in the last three years, more than anyone else and culminating in an overdue title win, for Ryuichi Kiyonari in 2006.
In 2007, Honda is again represented in the MotoGP class by the works Repsol-backed squad, which hopes to have the standard-setting four-stroke as the 800cc RC212V V4 takes over from the 990cc RC211V V5 bike. World Champion Nicky Hayden is again joined by Dani Pedrosa, and other RCV machines are being fielded by the Fortuna Gresini, JiR and LCR teams, with top riders such as Marco Melandri and Shin’ya Nakano. For a second year, Team Roberts runs the Honda engine in their own chassis.
The 250 and 125 GP series both include a number of Honda riders, with the most prominent at present being in 250s - Andrea Dovizioso, Yuki Takahashi, Julián Simón, Shuhei Aoyama. Likely contenders in 2007 125 GPs for Honda should include Bradley Smith, Esteve Rabat, Stefan Bradl and former winner Mike di Meglio.
In World Superbikes, the VTR1000 SP-2 V-twin was always somewhat out-numbered by hordes of Ducatis, and in 2003 was raced only by a couple of privateers - but with the previous year’s title winning Castrol Honda machine involved in the British series, with Steve Plater taking two wins. From 2004, the Superbike series have seen a number of four-cylinder CBR1000RR FireBlades in action, the HRC-backed 1000cc machine setting the pace in Britain, with the afore-mentioned Kiyonari, and James Toseland a WSBK contender for Ten Kate.
Honda’s success tally