Riders in the final round of the NSF100 HRC Trophy mini-bike series were in for a surprise at the Motegi circuit yesterday when they found themselves racing wheel-to-wheel with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto, along with former grand prix riders Tady Okada and Shinichi Ito. Mr Nakamoto was part of an HRC team competing in a special four-hour endurance race at the circuit, which hosts the Japanese round of the MotoGP
World Championship. An amazing 86 teams and 420 riders were taking part in the one-off race, all on Honda mini-bikes.
The HRC team was made up of Mr Nakamoto, HRC Directors Seiki Ishii and Tomoaki Nagayama, HRC test rider Okada - who usually spends his track time testing and developing Honda's RC212V MotoGP challenger - and Honda
racing veteran Ito. While the former Honda Grand Prix riders were inevitably keen to find the limits of the Repsol Honda branded NSF100, the HRC bosses were happy to simply experience the 100cc machine on which many aspiring racers begin their careers. The HRC team completed 105 laps and came home in a steady but respectably 57th place out of 80 finishers.
Apart from the fun of the endurance race, the serious business of the day were the two eight-lap NSF100 sprint races. These were the final rounds of the NSF100 HRC Trophy Championship - a one-make mini-bike series organised by Honda to promote affordable grass-roots competition and give the widest range of young riders the chance to begin racing. In 2009 there were 102 races held across Japan, with each circuit hosting its own championship. The NSF100 Trophy is also held in European countries such as Belgium, Italy, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Indeed, at the race in Motegi today, the top young NSF100 competitors from the European championships were taking part. Thirteen-year-old Andrea Locatelli, winner of the Italian NSF100 Trophy extreme, came home in 17th place, while Bo Bendsneijder (also 13) winner of the Netherlands series was 20th. Jesper Hubner from Sweden and Patrick Pulkkinen from Finland (both 13) placed in 22nd and 25th places.
The NSF100 is HRC's purpose-built production racing model with a 4-stroke, air-cooled single cylinder engine.
Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC Vice President:
"It was really good fun to take part in this race today with my colleagues and with our professional riders. We probably could have gone a little faster, but we were here simply to enjoy the race rather than go for glory! For us today was an important occasion to see how the NSF100 machine is used by the riders across a wide age range, and to see how we can develop these type of race events in future."
Tady Okada, HRC Test Rider:
"I had a good start today and was able to come from behind and battle for second place. Since Yuki (Takahashi) was also participating, we had an exciting race for the last 10 laps.
We do not have so much opportunity to race with other riders like this, so I had a lot of fun today!"
Shinichi Ito, former Grand Prix racer for Honda:
"This was a little different from the racing that I normally do and I really enjoyed it.
Some of the younger riders are very professional on the NSF100, and they also fit the machine's small size very well, so they were fast in the corners and it was difficult to overtake them!"