The Polini Grand Prix of Japan was a big occasion for Honda, the company celebrating their 50th anniversary of Grand Prix participation in 2009. MotoGP Legend Freddie Spencer was on track before Sunday’s racing to help mark the event and found time to catch up with motogp.com after a brief demonstration ride on his old NS500.
Spencer was joined by fellow former Honda World Championship riders Naomi Taniguchi (who rode for Honda in 1959) and Kunimitsu Takahashi (the first Japanese Honda GP winner, in 1961 in the 250cc class) on track, showing off their bikes to a delighted Motegi crowd.
Having declared his “Isle of Man TT race challenge” to his employees in 1954, Soichiro Honda saw his dream become a reality as the firm first competed in a GP under the management of Kiyoshi Kawashima at the challenging British race meeting in 1959.
In 1983, Spencer won Honda’s first world 500cc riders’ and constructors’ titles since the company’s return to GP racing after withdrawing briefly in the late 1960s, riding the NS500. The American went on to win the 1985 championship with seven victories from 11 races, again with Honda.
Asked for his thoughts on the 1959-2009 Honda anniversary, Spencer commented, “To be a part of it is incredible and Mr Honda’s dream was to race at the Isle of Man TT and to compete in the World Championship when he started in his garage. To ride out there with Takahashi and Taniguchi and to have won Honda’s first 500cc title is a special and humbling experience, so I feel very fortunate.”
Giving his view on the current factory Honda presence in MotoGP Spencer added, “Dani (Pedrosa) has shown that he can win races but unfortunately he has been injured recently and with the young rider Andrea (Dovizioso) stepping up this year I think he is showing he has the speed. The confidence and the communication of the team, the riders and HRC is getting better and that is how you improve the equipment and improve your performance.”