1987 Honda NSR500
With Phil Aynsley
After abandoning the ambitious NR500 project Honda finally joined the two-stroke brigade in the 500cc World Championship in 1982 with the V-3 NS500. Freddie Spencer finished third in the championship with two victories (behind Suzuki’s Franco Uncini and Yamaha’s Graeme Crosby) and won the title the following year.
For the 1984 season Honda unveiled its first four-cylinder two-stroke, the NSR500. It featured a revolutionary design that emphasised a low centre of gravity by placing the fuel tank under the motor and the four expansion chamber exhausts running over the top.
However despite Spencer winning two races at the beginning of the season he reverted to the NS500 by mid-season, eventually finishing fourth.
The NSR was redesigned for 1985 and with its now conventional layout proceed to be the best bike of its era, scoring ten titles from 1985 to 2001.
The bike seen here is Wayne Gardner’s 1987 championship winning bike (and is owned by him and can be seen on display in the National Motor Racing Museum at Mt Panorama).
By 1987 the focus of the NSR’s evolution was towards better ridability – power, at over 150hp, being deemed adequate. The V-angle was opened from 90 to 112 degrees (allowing the carburettors to be placed between the cylinder banks) and a primary balancer shaft was added to quell vibration.
ATAC exhaust valve actuation was also added. Another major change was that the crankshaft rotation was reversed, spinning essentially backwards in comparison to conventional engine design.
Wayne had seven victories and scored points in every round on his way to the ’87 title.