Honda RS1000 Endurance
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
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
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
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.