Honda shows off Dakar bike heritage

By Marc Potter
marcpotter Tested every new bike since 1994, loves anything on two wheels, Bike Social boss, Potski to his mates. Recently discovered elbow-down riding - likely to end in tears.

One of Honda's mint, original Africa Twins on display at the Collection Hall in Japan
Honda is celebrating its long –awaited factory return to the 2013 Dakar Rally with an exhibition of race and road bikes either used at or inspired by the Dakar. And if like me you get every so excited about Africa Twins, then wait until you see the bikes they've got at the exhibition.

It is 24 years since Honda entered the Rally officially as HRC (Honda Racing Corporation), even though they had huge success between 1981 and 1989 with five Dakar victories when it was the Paris-Dakar.

The exhibition features everything from the new CRF450 Rally currently competing in the Dakar Rally in South America, and which Honda is calling its ‘War Machine’ internally, to early Africa Twins and Honda XR500Rs and the prototype EXP-2 from 1995.

There’s no mention of it in the Japanese that we managed to sift our way through, but it wouldn’t take a genius to work out that a ‘Dakar edition’ Crosstourer or similar could be on the cards if Honda’s Rally bike performs as well as they hope this year.
On the left is Japanese sand, on the right is Sahara sand. Seriously!
The exhibition even shows how dedicated Honda is to the cause of making a successful return to Dakar by illustrating a pot of Sahara sand from when the race was run in Europe and Africa. The display compares a pot of Sahara sand to Japanese sand, to show what problems the engineers had to face in their thinking!

It also shows how the rules of Dakar have changed allowing the manufacturers to use big lumbering 750cc V-twins in the eighties to the lightweight 450 singles that are raced now.

Honda’s Collection Hall is one of the world’s finest museums for petrol heads. It features five floors of everything Honda is proud of from road and race bikes to generators, Formula One cars of the past and present, road cars and race cars.

Incredibly, every vehicle in the Honda Collection Hall is in full working condition, including all the factory 500cc Grand Prix bikes which I’ve been lucky enough to ride on more than one occasion both in Japan and in the UK at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The museum features its own workshop with dedicated engineers and its own private test track separate to the main Twin Ring Motegi GP track where the museum is based. If you ever get the chance, make sure you go, it will stay with you forever.


HONDA’S DAKAR HISTORY ON DISPLAY AT MOTEGI:

1982 Honda XR500R Dakar bike as raced by Cyril Noveau
1982 Honda XR500R racer
1983 Honda XR500R road bike
1983 Honda XR500R road bike
1983 XLV750R road bike is incredibly rare now
1983 Honda XLV750R road bike
It may be a tiddler bu the 1983 Honda XL125R Paris-Dakar replica sure looked cool
1983 Honda XL125R Paris Dakar edition
1987 Honda XLV600 Transalp may not have quite the Dakar style required but it's still a good bike
1987 Honda XL600V Transalp road bike
1988 Africa Twin brought real Dakar style to the masses
1988 Honda Africa Twin road bike
Splash graphics are very 1993, but there's no mistaking the style of the Africa Twin. Still a great bike now.
1993 Honda Africa Twin road bike
1995 Honda EXP-2 is perhaps the coolest of them all
1995 Honda EXP-2
2013 Honda CRF450 Rally is based on a CRF450X, loosely. This is proper hand-built HRC-spec, make no mistake
2013 Honda CRF450 Rally ‘War Machine’

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