Honda motorcycles are synonymous with performance and reliability, but there was a time when that wasn’t the case. Before the 1960 Honda RC161, the Hondas could last an entire race but were at a serious power disadvantage. When the RC161 arrived, Honda’s fortunes started turning. This 249cc, four-cylinder Grand Prix racer had six transmission ratios and could rev to 14,000 rpm — impressive even by today’s standards.
When 1961 came around and the RC162, based heavily on the RC161, was introduced, Honda won 10 out of 11 races that year and claimed the top five spots in the constructor’s championship also. Soichiro Honda’s dominance in racing can be traced back to this moment, while many of the technologies developed would eventually trickle down into production motorcycles.
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