GoogleCustom Search

Honda RS1000 Endurance

Honda RS1000

Motorcycling equivalent of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, the Bol d'Or, was, up until the early seventies the preserve of the European manufactures. Laverda established their large capacity sporting credentials there with their 750cc twins, and BMW regularly competed, whilst British manufacturers such as Triumph and BSA recognised the benefits that success offered and consequently supported the event. However, the introduction of the across the frame fours from Honda and later Kawasaki offered European specialist preparers exciting and potentially competitive machinery with which to work.

Foremost among these were the French Japauto concern who prepared a Dresda framed CB750 based machine for the 1972 event which it won. The completed motorcycle displaced 950cc thanks to the use of a big bore engine supplied by the Honda Racing Service Corporation. The team returned for the 1973 event with an increased displacement of 969cc and once again took the victors laurels.

Kawasaki recognised the benefits of being seen to compete in the event. The introduction of the twin cam Z900 provided them with an ideal basis with which to work, and as one of the few events that required the use of a production based machine and favoured the four stroke, the Bol d'Or offered an exceptional marketing platform for their new model.

The 1974 field included two official and one semi official entry from Kawasaki, with victory going to the Godier - Genoud team. The team repeated their success in the 1975 event and in so doing prompted a response from Honda.

By 1975 Honda were finding their position as the worlds foremost manufacture of four stroke motorcycles under threat, the Italian manufacturers were all producing machines that performed well in endurance events and Kawasaki were upstaging them with the twin cam Z. With their desire to promote, and be identified with, four strokes effectively excluding them from the two stroke dominated Grand Prix series the Coupe d'Endurance and other long distance events offered attractive alternatives. Consequently development commenced on a machine that would become the dominant force in endurance and Formula racing for the rest of the decade.

First seen in 1976 displacing 941cc, the new twin cam, four valves per head, across the frame four utilised gear driven cams, enabling the easy incorporation of an alternator when needed. The works machines, coded RCB quickly rose in capacity with 997 and subsequently 998cc displacements being introduced and dominated endurance racing for the rest of the decade and the early part of the eighties.
This machine was prepared for the 1979 Suzuka 8 Hour race, arguably the single most important event for the Japanese manufacturers, for Australian riders Tony Hatton and Michael Cole.

The RSC Honda factory engine displaces 1062cc resulting from a bore and stroke of 79mm x 69mm coupled to a six speed gearbox. The original RS1000 crankcases and cylinder are fitted with a "works kit" cylinder head and the machine is adorned with numerous RCB (pure factory) parts including a dry clutch and special ignition system. The RS frame benefits from uprated RCB shock absorbers, a special factory swinging arm, and RCB front forks and front brakes of exactly the same type employed at the Bold'Or by the Fontan/Luc and Leon/Chemaria machines. The seat and tank unit fitted are unique to the machine, being of a different design to those employed by the other RCB's fielded that year.

At the end of the event this machine topped a Honda 1,2,3 with its sister machines ridden by Ron Haslam Alex George coming home in second place and the Honda of Shinji Sumitani and Toshio Asami finishing in third place.

It was then entered by Honda Australia in the 1979 Bol d'Or , again with Tony Hatton in the saddle, but now partnered by Kenny Blake. During practise it set the quickest time and was leading the race by a mile shortly before the end of the event when it stopped, the cushion that it had over its pursuers being sufficient for it to be classified as finishing in eighth place.