Honda NSR500 – 132 wins – 1984 to 2002
Grand Prix racing went faster every season in the 1980s. The NS500 – Honda’s crown jewel at the time – was close to fully developed, reaching the limits of the power it could create. Honda needed a new machine that matched the times. The NSR500 was developed with a V-4 engine, which would provide a maximum output advantage. The 1984 model NSR500 had a unique layout, with the fuel tank under the engine and the exhausts above. Although the layout represented Honda’s will to challenge the technological status quo, performance was unstable, and results were not up to expectations. The engine, however, with its output of close to 150PS, was top-class and displayed the NSR500’s potential. The NSR500’s chassis performance was improved the following year through further development, and from the start of the new season, the NSR500 lived up to its potential: winning 7 out of 12 grands prix to give Honda the riders’ and constructors’ titles at breakneck speed. Since then, the NSR500 was consistently in contention for the championship, winning titles in 1987 and 1989, but Honda was not satisfied, striving for a manageable 150+PS machine which riders could control and fully exploit. This challenge bore fruit in 1994, the year the NSR500 began achieving what had never been done before. Mick Doohan, as Honda’s new ace rider, dominated the season, winning nine grands prix of 14 to clinch the title, and from then, won six straight titles until 2001 – setting a new standard for GP machinery. In 1997, the NSR500 won all 15 grands prix (Doohan: 12 wins, Crivillé: 2 wins, Okada: 1 win). Although the NSR500 had forged a defining era, setting new records, such as Valentino Rossi claiming Honda’s 500th World GP victory in Round 1 (Japanese Grand Prix) of the 2001 season, it raced its last season in 2002, the year that the 500cc class was renamed the MotoGP class. As Grand Prix racing transitioned to 990cc 200PS four-stroke MotoGP machines, the NSR500 underwent numerous improvements, reaching a maximum output of 180PS from only 500cc. The NSR500 battled on, even managing a second-place finish, but gave way as Honda’s ace to the new, next generation four-stroke RC211V which dominated the season. The technology and philosophy behind the NSR500, winner of 10 riders’ titles and nine constructors’ titles despite being largely unmodified over 19 years, undoubtedly influenced development of the RC211V.