Coming into the Indianapolis MotoGP round this weekend, Honda was sitting on 698 grand prix wins across all classes. By the end of the weekend, however, Honda had reached the 700 mark, with victories by Livio Loi in Moto3 and, of course, Marc Marquez in MotoGP. Honda’s first Grand Prix win? That came in 1961, when Australian rider Tom Phillis rode his Honda RC143 to victory in the 125cc class of the season-opening Spanish Grand Prix.
(Important note: Honda doesn’t count any Moto2 wins in this tally, since the entire class is powered by Honda engines. Honda also isn’t counting 2012 Moto3 class wins, in compliance with FIM regulations, as the registered constructor was FTR Honda, even though its machines were powered by the NSF250R engine)
Changeable weather conditions meant the field would face confusion when it came to tire choices, and Loi’s gamble of starting the Moto3 race on slicks proved to be the correct one, as all the riders in front of him on wet tires had to pit and change to slick tires. Since Moto3 machines aren’t equipped with quick-change components, all but the top three riders went down one lap at one point during the race. From there Loi had a comfortable lead and made sure to bring it home in one piece.
Marquez, too, had a challenging race, though the decision to start the race on slick tires was the correct one. Instead, he had a race-long battle with Jorge Lorenzo, passing the fellow Spaniard with three laps to go en route to his third win of the season.
Here’s more on Honda’s Grand Prix racing history, direct from the HRC press release:
In 1954, Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda declared entry into the premier motor sports event of the time, the Isle of Man TT, aiming to “realize the dream of becoming the world’s best.” After five years developing a racing machine, Honda became the first Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to enter the Isle of Man TT race. The following year, in 1960, Honda began competing in the 125cc and 250cc classes of the FIM Road Racing World Championship, and in 1961, Tom Phillis won the season-opening Spanish Grand Prix, giving Honda its first step towards its 700 victories.
Honda then forayed into the 350cc and 50cc classes in 1962, and the 500cc class in 1966, and won the championship in all five classes in 1966. At the time, Honda considered its racing activities to be a “laboratory on wheels,” and new technologies developed to win world championship races were applied to its production motorcycles. With dramatically improved quality, the market had expanded its support for Honda’s motorcycles. At the end of the 1967 season, Honda had paused its factory racing activities, which were to be restarted 11 years later, with 138 grand prix wins.
In 1979, Honda returned to FIM Road Racing World Championship racing in the 500cc class. Three years later in 1982, American rider Freddie Spencer won Round 7 in Belgium on his Honda NS500, giving Honda its first victory since returning to world grand prix racing. Honda then went on to win grand prix races in the 125cc and 250cc classes, contributing to its 500th victory in 2001, when Italian rider Valentino Rossi was victorious in the 500cc class at the season-opening Japan Grand Prix. In 2005, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa rode his Honda RS250RW to victory in the 250cc class in Round 15 in Australia, marking Honda’s 600th grand prix win.