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2 days ago
By Nick Harris

Home sweet home

It's match point to Marquez in Motegi so Nick Harris takes a trip down memory lane to describe how it all started for Honda

He may say Barcelona, but the race is too early in the season and so there can be no better place for Marc Marquez to clinch his seventh World title on Sunday than at the home of Honda, the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan.

Motegi is an amazing place. A sprawling complex high in the wooded hills and virtually in the middle of nowhere some 100kms north east of Tokyo. A racing circuit surrounded by an Indy Style oval with a massive towering grandstand overlooking the proceedings from both. Two tunnels to let the road circuit wind beneath the oval are a unique feature but there is so much more to celebrate the success of Honda in all forms of world motorsport. A small speedway track, a trials course that has staged World Championship rounds and of course the Honda Hall of fame.

It was in 1954 a certain Soichiro Honda arrived at the TT races in the Isle of Man without so much as a sideways glance from anybody in the paddock. He announced that Honda would one day return because his dream was to take on and beat the finest motorcycles on the most famous venue in the world. Few took much notice at the time, but he returned five years later with the birth of that dream. Mr Honda was shocked at the speed and engineering prowess of the manufactures and especially the German NSU 125 and 250 cc superbly built bikes that were dominating the World Championships that year. He flew home knowing he had a mountain to climb and with a suitcase full of chains, carburettors and tyres.

A year later Honda started competing at the Mount Asama Volcano race located in a village at the foot of an active volcano. Like the TT riders started in pairs to race round the 19 km circuit track on a surface of compressed volcanic ash. Their main challenge, especially in the smaller classes, came from Yamaha and Suzuki. Nothing changed a decade later with the only difference it was now for a World title. In 1959 Honda returned to the TT but this time to compete in the 125 cc race. They went home to Japan with the Manufacturers trophy – the rest is history.

Over 750 Grands Prix wins in all five classes since their arrival in the 1959 125 cc World Championship says it all. Marquez has won five of his world titles on Honda powered machinery and with four rounds of the Championship remaining, he is 77 points in front of Andrea Dovizioso after that superb last couple of laps in Thailand. There is nothing more Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki like more than beating Honda on their home ground. Last year Dovi brought Ducati success, Lorenzo and Rossi have won for Yamaha.

Who knows on Sunday and it’s that level of competition that inspired Soichiro Honda to embark on his dream nearly six decades ago. You can feel his very presence among those wooded hillsides every time you go to Motegi.

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