HONDA’S 500 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WINS WITH CASTROL
When Kenan Sofuoglu flashed across the finish line at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo Circuit to win the fourth round of the 2007 World Supersport Championship he made history in more ways than one.
In addition to this being the young Turkish rider’s first World Supersport win at the Valencia Circuit it was the 500th World Championship win for a Honda motorcycle racing with Castrol. This outstanding success has been achieved during six decades of Honda and Castrol competing together in motorcycle world championship events. The statistics of Honda and Castrol’s achievements together in motorcycle competition up to Sofuoglu’s 500th win are:
Grand Prix / MotoGP race wins and world championships
World Superbike race wins and world championships
World Supersport race wins and world championships
World Trials event wins and world championships
World Motocross event wins and world championships
1959 - 1967
The story began in 1959 when Honda first raced at the Isle of Man TT. Needing a reliable partner to provide lubricants for its precision engineered race bikes Castrol was the number one choice. So it was no surprise when Castrol received a letter from Honda asking for help with lubricants for its race team. The rest as they say is history.
Two years later on the 23rd April 1961 at the Montjuich Park circuit in North Eastern Spain, Tom Phillis on his Castrol R30-lubricated Honda 125 took the first of the 500 wins. Little did he know that 500 world championship wins later in 2007 Honda motorcycles - lubricated by Castrol’s latest engine oil, Castrol Power RS, would be continuing to win races and leading the World Superbike and World Supersport Championsips. Phillis won three other races in 1961 giving him the overall 125 championship for that season.
The following year was a bumper season for race wins and championships; with the Castrol-lubricated Hondas taking world championship victories in the 125s with Luigi Taveri and the 250s and 350s with Jim Redman. With 25 race wins in total, 1962 still remains as one of the most successful road racing seasons ever for Honda and Castrol.
1963 saw two more world championship titles for Redman in the 250s and 350s, whilst Taveri picked up scraps in the 50s and 125s, scraps that in 1964 he would convert into a 125cc world championship win. Redman again dominated the 350 Championship in 1964 and 65, giving him 4 consecutive world championships in the same formula - a feat as yet only recently bettered by Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi.
After such a convincing run Redman decided that 1966 would be his last season and he would concentrate on the 500cc championship. Where Redman left off, Mike Hailwood took over, with back to back Championship wins in 66 and 67 on both his Honda 250 and Honda 350. Castrol was of course continuing to support the Honda works team with Castrol ‘R’ and it was with this oil that Luigi Taveri took yet another 125cc World Championship in ’66. 1967 saw Honda withdraw from Motorcycle Racing; with 131 race wins and 15 championships in the first 10 years of their racing partnership with Castrol, both companies having proved they were an impressive force to be reckoned with.
1982 - 1988
When Honda returned to motorcycle competition in 1982 the racing partnership with Castrol was renewed and struck with immediate impact… Competing now in the new 500GP series as well as the increasingly popular off road championships, Honda and Castrol once again became World Champions with Eddy Lejeune winning the World Trials Championship. Lejeune had eight wins in 1982 and another eight in 1983 providing him with back-to-back World titles. Lejeune’s Honda, with specially developed Castrol ‘TTS’ synthetic oil in the engine, proved to be the force to beat and with his hat-trick of world championships coming in 1984. And whilst Lejeune ruled on the World Trials stage; Andre Malherbe and Dave Thorpe were enjoying superstar status in World Moto Cross, both winning a World Championship each; in 1984 and 1985 respectively. Back in road racing there was another individual creating his own legend, a legend who’s name became synonymous with Honda and Castrol themselves…Fast Freddie Spencer… Not since Jim Redman had one rider competed so successfully in two World Championships in one year as Spencer did in 1985. Having won the 500 championship already in 1983 with six individual race wins, he took on the 250 and 500 championships in 1985 and wiped the floor with the opposition. Only team mate Toni Mang came close to him in the 250 championship, whilst Spencer, with Castrol ‘A747’ in his Honda machine, was unstoppable in the 500cc world championship. If it hadn’t been for Spencer of course, Toni Mang may well have been the darling of the 80’s. He won the 250 championship in 1987 having dominated the entire season. Spencer was the last of Honda’s Grand Prix world champions who raced with Castrol as the Honda Castrol partnership began focussing it’s attentions on other international road racing competitions.
1988 - 2007
The World Superbike and World Supersport championships were too big an attraction to ignore - race bikes that weren’t two million dollars away from the equivalent road bike and an oil which you could buy off the shelf (albeit a couple of years later!) Honda and Castrol were quick to exploit this new channel to market opportunity and once again very quickly became winners… 1988 and 1989 saw Fred Merkel on his Honda RC30 take back to back World Superbike Championships. It was the beginning of a trend that would see the partnership take five outright World Championships over the next 14 years. Merkel who competed successfully for three years, was the beginning of the next stage in Honda’s relationship with Castrol.
The Castrol Honda World Superbike team, under the expert guidance of Neil Tuxworth, was an outstanding period in the racing history of the two companies. Competing first with the awesome V4 Honda RC45, and then with the V-twin SP1 and SP2 machines with ever higher engine power, challenged Castrol to develop new friction reducing synthetic lubricant technology. Later to become Castrol ‘R4’ it was this engine oil that helped Colin Edwards to his second World Superbike Championship in 2002 and produced one of the most memorable motorcycle racing laps ever at the final round of the championship at the Imola circuit. In the 250 class of Grand Prix racing Honda and Castrol continued to win races during the 1990s with first Luca Cadalora and then Max Biaggi. Cadalora won two world championships on the invincible Honda NSR250 in 1991 and 1992. Max Biaggi followed this with his 250 title win in 1997. With the arrival of the new millennium Honda had returned to the World Trials Championships with Dougie Lampkin. Lampkin, another great name in the Honda Castrol hall of fame, completely dominated trials competition in 2000 and 2001 with a clean sweep of World and Indoor trial championships, and a third World Trials title in 2002. Honda and Castrol’s most recent success story comes from Holland and the HANNSpree Ten Kate Honda team. Ten Kate has contributed six consecutive World Supersport Championships and over 40 Supersport race wins with the likes of Fabien Foret, Chris Vermeulen, Karl Muggeridge and Sebastian Charpentier (twice) and now with Kenan Sofuoglu in 2007. And Kenan is the man, records will show, took the 500th win with his victory in Valencia. So that is the story of Honda’s 500 Motorcycle World Championship Wins with Castrol. A story that spans six decades and includes many of the legendary riders from a wide variety of different aspects of motorcycle sport. This landmark achievement was borne out of expertise, dedication and above all, determination - determination on the part of Honda and Castrol to be the best, both as individual companies and within a racing partnership. Think motorcycles - think Honda, think motorcycle oil - think Castrol.