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.
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.