How Honda’s V four powered NSR500 rewrote the GP bike blueprint…
1983 saw the Honda triple benefitting from both a new, all-alloy, chassis and the introduction of reed valves – the latter update allowing smoother fuel/airflow with no opportunity of the engine to blow the vital mixture back through the carburettors. This pair of revisions enhanced what was already a very good machine, but the retention of works rider Freddie Spencer had delivered the key ingredient to Honda’s return to GP racing.
The 1983 season would prove to be very much a two-horse race with Yamaha’s Kenny Roberts consistently sharing podiums with Honda’s Freddie Spencer. This pair were so close in levels of skill, ability and machine reliability that between them they’d amass 286 points by the end of the season. Spencer would win over Roberts by 144 to 142, with third place man Randy Mamola only scoring 89 points aboard his Suzuki RG500 with Robert’s team mate, Eddie Lawson, grabbing 78 points to come fourth.
Both teams had played to their respective strengths with Yamaha tending to dominate at the tracks that rewarded outright power and Honda tending to shine on the tighter, more technical, circuits. Honda had finally once again won the prestigious 500 title but it had taken an embarrassing fall via the oval-pistoned NR and a potentially humiliating climb down using the much-vilified two-stroke to do it. That said, The Honda Motor Corporation was back and was not about to hand back the winner’s laurels easily.
The move to two-strokes had cost Honda dear both financially and emotionally but, if the company was to continue winning, it had to move on from the NS500 triple. The bike had served the company well but its advantages over the bigger, heavier, faster fours was marginal and only really came into play at twistier, pedantic, tracks. There were profound issues in getting more power from the motor and any extra horses liberated came at the expense of a dramatic increase in vibration. That said, HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) would still go on making the triple for chosen, second tier, riders and also offer privateers a slightly less potent version known as the RS500, which would go on to power Frenchman Raymond Roche to third place in the world rankings in 1984.