The Lineage of Honda’s Grand Prix Motorcycles

11/18/2013 @ 6:37 am, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS


For the past twenty years or so, there is one manufacturer who has been above all others in the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing, and that manufacturer is Honda.

Winning 12 of the last 20 World Championship titles, Honda’s recent domination in 500GP and MotoGP has been a sea change for the series, and the company’s winning total in this modern era of four-stroke and two-stroke machines is double the next nearest OEM, Yamaha (MV Agusta still holds the outright record, with 18 championships from the 1956-1974 period of four-stroke racing).

Part of Honda’s success has been the fact that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has been able to attract some of the best riders ever to come to a Grand Prix race’s starting line, champions like Mick Doohan (1994-1998), Àlex Crivillé (1999), Valentino Rossi (2001-2003), Nicky Hayden (2006), Casey Stoner (2011), and now Marc Marquez (2013).

But also part of the equation has been the superb equipment that HRC, Honda’s racing department, produces for its riders, bike likes the Honda NSR500, RC211v, RC212V, and RC213V, which have widely been regarded as the best machines on the grid in each of their respective eras.

Looking down the pipe, as MotoGP adopts new rules and regulations, the RC213V and RCV1000R appear set to dominate their respective classes as the factory machines will be reduced to 20 liters of fuel for next year, and the open class machines are forced to use both the Dorna-supplied ECU hardware and software.

It would appear that Honda has a firm grasp on the next few years of MotoGP racing, and as a bit of an homage to this company’s fantastic two-wheeled craftsmanship, along with the racers who rode them, we give you wallpaper-sized photos of Honda’s Grand Prix motorcycles, from the 1995 to 2013 seasons.

1995 Honda NSR500 for Mick Doohan (Championship Winner):

1996 Honda NSR500 for Mick Doohan (Championship Winner):

1997 Honda NSR500 for Mick Doohan (Championship Winner):

1998 Honda NSR500 for Mick Doohan (Championship Winner):

1999 Honda NSR500 for Mick Doohan:

2000 Honda NSR500 for Àlex Crivillé:

2001 Honda NSR500 for Àlex Crivillé:

2002 Honda RC211V for Valentino Rossi (Championship Winner):

2003 Honda RC211V for Valentino Rossi (Championship Winner):

2004 Honda RC211V for Alex Barros:

2005 Honda RC211V for Max Biaggi:

2005 Honda RC211V for Nicky Hayden:

2006 Honda RC211V for Dani Pedrosa:

2006 Honda RC211V for Nicky Hayden (Championship Winner):

2007 Honda RC212V for Nicky Hayden:

2008 Honda RC212V for Dani Pedrosa:

2009 Honda RC212V for Dani Pedrosa:

2010 Honda RC212V for Dani Pedrosa:

2011 Honda RC212V for Casey Stoner (Championship Winner):

2012 Honda RC212V for Casey Stoner:

2013 Honda RC213V for Marc Marquez (Championship Winner):

Photos: Honda

  • ross ewich

    neat, but all we’re mostly looking at is fiberglass (carbon fiber) skin. looks like six different bikes, painted 21 different ways.

  • You could suck the fun out of a room filled with playpen balls…

  • Corey S

    I wish I could I could take one of the older bikes for a spin. I love the look of the raw aluminum on the older bikes.

  • sideswipeasaurus

    The differences are more than skin deep. Amazing how little they seem to change from year to year (NSR to RCV excepted) but over time how much they do. HRC has been so synonymous with winning that even getting a little plastic overflow bottle in a baggie marked HRC for my bike feels like something special.

  • Ed Gray

    You are right about Honda appearing to have grip on the for sale GP bike market. It is rather odd that Yamaha has let this happen, they used to be the only thing to own in GP classes. Although Honda certainly took a healthy bite out of them in the 90s with the RS series.

    On a slightly different topic I sure wish Dorna would open up the Moto2 class to other engine suppliers. They would have to follow the exact same pricing, sealing and availability rules as currently. I don’t know, maybe no manufacturers have shown any interest. I sure would like to see Yamaha back in there, and any/many others as well. The Moto3 class seems to show what is possible. I know KTM is subsidizing the price of their best engines, but to me that doesn’t break even the intent of the rules. As far as I am concerned GP racing in it self was never supposed to directly make a profit for the manufacturers. The “slow” bikes they sell to the privateers sure, but I want to see the best they can come up with under the fastest riders. All this cost saving crap drives me crazy. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. We have gone through low mfr interest periods in the past, why do you think MV has so many titles. Here I am spitting into the wind again. Fat chance.

  • Jimmy Midnight

    Can we go back to 92′ so we can check out the Rothman’s colors and the Big Bang motors. Now that would be something to go for a spin on!

  • TexusTim

    very nice..thank you !!

  • MIke

    Thanks that is too cool!

  • Gray

    Can someone shed some light on to why Doohan’s ’97 and ’98 do not have rear brake foot levers?

  • Claudia

    He may have been using thumb brakes those years.

  • Clive

    Hey Jensen
    why only go back to ’95 and not to the Spencer, Gardner & Lawson Hondas?

  • Ray

    Looks like Aprilia got the RSV4 tail design from the 2007 Honda. I think the 1998 bike looks the best.

  • L2C

    Hi, my name is L2C, and I approve of this message!

  • B-ry

    Always the best looking bikes too! Love the Repsol colors.

  • The 2-smokes look the best. They have great proportions but obviously function is paramount.

  • Dinesh

    If Wayne Rainey did not have that career ending crash and Kevin Schwantz not retiring the same year Honda/Mick Doohan would have not got the streak of five titles. When Wayne and Kevin parted there is no competition for Doohan and no riders were matching him even when the Yamaha machinery was close to Honda’s.

  • TwoWheelLoo

    The most radical one I would say would be the ’07 RC… my personal favs are the ’98 and the ’11.

  • SuperDuck

    You can tell which ones were design by computer, the older ones look a lot better than the newer ones.

  • Faust

    I notice all these bikes have carbon front discs with the exception of Rossi’s bike from 02. I wonder why.

  • Norm G.

    re: “looks like six different bikes, painted 21 different ways.”

    pfft, laymen.

  • Ed Gray

    @Gray, Mick had a terrible crash that caused significant damage to his right leg. It is nearly a miracle that he still has a right foot at all. Faced with a right foot that was not mobile enough to use the usual rear foot brake, he and his team developed the famed left thumb operated rear brake. This was such an interesting idea that quite a few with completely functional right feet made use of thumb operated rear brake.

    @Faust, all the teams have steel/iron brakes ready for use in wet conditions. These bikes were clearly put together for beauty shots and may not be machines as raced. For some reason when this machine was built (remember these machines are torn down and built back up from scratch on a regular basis, and not necessarily from the same parts) they pulled metallic discs. Maybe the disc manufacturer needed them all back for analysis before the shoot.

  • Edward K

    Why not show Rossi’s wild yellow NSR…?

  • Claudia

    @Gray, I completely agree with the cost saving aspect of it. Isn’t that why we have super stock. I would like to see them put all their change from their pockets on the table and really build something spectacular.

  • Gray

    @Ed Gray, Thanks! I’ve only been following MotoGP for a few years, so my familiarity with past events and tech is somewhat lacking.

    @Claudia, I think you meant to reply to Ed Gray.

  • Mariani

    This gallery makes me lament not watching motorcycle racing back in my teens.
    But then again, I don’t think I even had any form of coverage available in my household.

    Anyway, my pick would be Hayden’s 07 model. The pointy tail and all the exposed aluminium are to die for.

  • BBQdog

    LOL @ Jensen but ross has a point ;-)

  • MikeD

    Thanks for the EYE CANDY !

    Personally i think the 2 smokes look better then the 4 strokers (of wich the 07 i think looks best ).

  • Norm G.

    Q: “Why not show Rossi’s wild yellow NSR…?”

    A: because the takeaway here has nothing to do with Nastro Azzuro and everything to do with REPSOL.

    more specifically, REPSOL being grandprix’s (nay motorcycling’s) one and only “durable” sponsor that Honda has had all to their lonesome, thus reaping the benefits of having a great portion of their racing costs deferred year after year, going on almost 2 decades now (savings that that was most certainly redirected towards R&D). meanwhile, no other team has even come close to enjoying this kind of financial stability.

    re: “Part of Honda’s success has been the fact that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has been able to attract some of the best riders ever to come to a Grand Prix race’s starting line”

    close. see entry for NATCORK.