1997 Honda NSR 500-V: POWERED BY RIO
Brazilian motorcycle racer Alexandre Barros has had an extraordinary career, riding for the factory teams of Cagiva, Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha while ending his career on a Ducati. Starting out as the youngest 500 cc rider in history in 1990, Barros took his first win in 1993, but remained winless for the next seven years. His last win came in 2005, twelve years after his first. As the sole Brazilian in the premier class, he enjoyed the support from the city of Rio de Janeiro, which resulted in stylishly designed bikes like this 1997 Honda NSR 500-V sporting the colours of the Brazilian flag.
Honda had debuted the lightweight two-cylinder 500 cc Grand Prix bike in 1996, with Japanese rider Tadayuki Okada achieving constant top 10 results and three podium finishes. Weighing only 103 kilograms and producing 135 horsepower, the cost-effective NSR-V immediately drew the attention of ‘privateer’ racers and teams. Alex Barros and former 125 cc world champion Fausto Gresini decided to form a new team around Honda’s new 500 cc production racer for 1997.
PODIUM AT DONINGTON
Barros had high hopes of at least matching his and Okada’s 1996 podium tally of three, but it was not to be. 1997 would go into history as Honda’s most dominant world championship campaign. Australian Michael Doohan broke the record for victories in a single season with twelve wins, with his teammates taking the remaining three victories, all on V-four Honda’s. And Honda still ran its own factory NSR-V with Japanese rider Takuma Aoki, a bike that reportedly was a bit more powerful than the customer bikes. After finishing close to the top five on four occasions Barros finally succeeded at the British Grand Prix held at Donington Park, taking a sole podium finish of the season in 3rd behind Doohan and Okada.
Barros returned to race an NSR 500 V-four, first for Gresini, then for the Honda Pons Team. His first win on a Honda finally came at the 2000 Dutch TT. At the 2002 Dutch TT, riding the two-stroke NSR 500, he put up a massive fight against championship leader Valentino Rossi on the much faster four-stroke RC211V. His performance resulted in a promotion to the Honda RCV for the Pacific Grand Prix, taking an impressive win, beating Valentino Rossi in his first race with the new bike. He retired as a Ducati MotoGP rider in 2007 with seven wins and thirty-two podiums to his name.
This Honda NSR-V was raced in 1997 by Alex Barros for the Gresini team. In 1998 Dutchman Jurgen van den Goorbergh took over the ex-Gresini NSR-V to become ‘best privateer’, achieving four top 10 results. The machine is currently owned by Dutchman Erik van Loon, a former motorcycle racer and active rally driver. He will ride the bike in its original livery during the TABAC Classic GP Assen in the Motorcycle Grand Prix Legends category.