Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner. Four of the finest riders ever to have straddled a race bike. And they all grappled with the Honda NSR 500, at some point. I say 'grappled with', because the NSR was never the best-handling bike out there. Its one-of-a-kind V4 engine, though, more than made up for any deficiencies through the twisty bits. Numerous race wins - and indeed, world championships - are the strongest testament to that.
So, the NSR's staggering straight-line speed was never in doubt. Shinichi Itoh - aboard an NSR 500 - was the first rider to top 200mph. That was at Hockenheim, in '93. Itoh had a neck-wrenching 185bhp at his disposal that day. The NSR's performance stats were eclipsed only by its success rate. By the time Valentino Rossi signed off the GP 2-stroke era - on an NSR, in 2001 - it had won 10 'blue riband' titles in 18 years. Mick Doohan took five of them - on the spin! Back in '85, 'Fast Freddie' Spencer had won the 500 and 250cc World Championships ... both on Honda NSRs!
Visually, too, the 'Rothmans' Honda impressed. While tobacco sponsorship has fallen from favour, there is no denying it inspired some superb paint-jobs. The NSR's was among the most lustrous. A satisfying blend of hues and graphics, so to speak! A true legend of the race-track, then, the NSR 500 has to be one of the most iconic bikes the 'Honda Racing Corporation' has ever created!