Exclusive comparison of Rossi-Honda RC 211 V and Barros-Honda NSR 500

Exclusive comparison of Rossi-Honda RC 211 V and Barros-Honda NSR 500

New dimensions

It should have been a two-stroke and four-stroke battle. It was a superior demonstration of the new four-stroke technology. MOTORRAD drove Rossi’s rocket and said goodbye to the glorious two-stroke NSR 500.

Valencia, the day after: the smoke from the last GP weekend has just passed, the last world champion is Arnaud Vincent, Barros defeated Rossi, and now I’m coming. At least that’s what the Honda engineers want, who put the throttle grip on Rossi’s 220 hp rocket in my hand. "No, no," I think, "I’d rather let other people start the tires "and do a few important stretching exercises so that I can give everything on the ultra-fast machine.
The wait was worth it. The device is just great. The hammer. A toy for big children. You just don’t want to get off the track, keep pulling on the gas and let the 220 hp beat the rear tire. This motorcycle constantly suggests to you that even more is possible, that you can wind up even more ?? if it weren’t for the inner voice that tells you: "Don’t do it!"
What Honda has put on the wheels, such a combination of power and controllability, cannot be surpassed. The best i have ever ridden. The power of the V5 cylinder can be perfectly dosed in every situation, as if the pilot did not have the throttle grip, but the throttle valve directly in his hand. The engine sounds provocatively casual and sonorous, suggests a mild performance breeze and yet packs brutal thrust on the chain at 8000 rpm. The power delivery is unmatched linear, and it only depends on the discipline of the driver not to tear the tire prematurely. "Hello Valentino, do you remember Brno?"
The gearbox slips smoothly, despite only two centimeters of shift travel, shifting is easy and jerk-free in every situation. You can change gears even when you are at a full angle without the 220 horses running away.
The handling is also a poem. So far, my racing machines have either been stable on the straights or fast in corners. The Rossi Honda turns as easily as a 600 and is still stable on the straight at almost 300 km / h. It gives you an infinitely secure feeling, lets you explore the limit area without threatening the risk of falling.
The high seat and the low handlebar position are striking. The stubs are mounted deep and angled downwards like a 125, which means that the upper body rests heavily on the handlebars and exerts pressure on the front wheel. Otherwise you would only drive around on the rear wheel when accelerating. At the same time, you lie very relaxed on the tank, even when the hurricane-force wind is raging around the comparatively small panel. The surprising thing is that the whole thing does not have a negative effect when braking. Thanks to the special tank shape, you can hook your thighs and relieve the forearms.
The engine braking effect with which the MotoGP stars have been in my ears all season is not an issue. The slip clutch works so well that the strong braking effect of the five-cylinder has less of an impact than the engine brake of a commercially available Fireblade. I deliberately provoked it, downshifted it without double-declutching and engaged extremely quickly. No stamping, not the slightest slip on the rear wheel, not to mention the rear breaking away. Of course, you shouldn’t forget: Valentino and the like provide even more relief. In these extreme situations, the clutch has to compensate for an enormous amount of engine braking, which in several races led to an overheated clutch.
"Shit!" I think, the Honda employee with the black and white checkered flag is already waving wildly, strangely enough he wants the RC 211 V back, even though I felt so good. That’s how they are, the Japanese, always with the Scedule in mind.
Alex Barros comforts me in the pit lane. "The five-cylinder is much more controllable, the two-stroke, on the other hand, is a poisonous monster." And speaks of an immense adjustment after just a month of four-stroke racing. He now considers the two-stroke engine that he has just tried again to be hardly drivable. The man gives courage. Because now it’s my turn again. The NSR 500 is already waiting, barking angrily from the four small rear silencers.
There was an Italian colleague right in front of me and he instructs the Honda mechanics to readjust the brakes first, because they don’t seem to be working properly. "Sure, carbon brakes, your colleague probably didn’t really warm up," I tell myself and blindly trust Brembo’s finest goods. Like the RC 211 V, radially screwed four-piston fixed callipers delay the discs in the front wheel, which are up to 320 millimeters in size, depending on the race track.
As soon as we rolled out of the pit lane, after we hadn’t even done a seat test, I noticed how differently the NSR 500 integrates the pilot compared to the RC 211 V. The seat and footrest position fold the driver together so that he is really hanging on the handlebars. That’s why I already do a giant wheelie in the middle speed range when exiting the pit lane. Doesn’t seem bad, but wasn’t wanted.
When you accelerate, you can hardly keep up with shifting. The V4 Screamer bites like hell, but its usable power range only begins at 10,000 rpm and only goes up to just under 14,000 rpm. No comparison to the V5 four-stroke, which delivers usable power from 8000 to 14700 turns. Diligent and exact shifting through the gears is immensely important if you want to keep the two-stroke in good spirits. That takes concentration and sometimes obstructs the focus on the essentials. For example, braking at the end of the home straight. When I really grip the carbon brake for the first time, nothing at all happens for the first 20 meters. "Aha, carbon brakes, there was something." It takes more than a lap for the discs and pads to at least get some temperature. Only then is it possible to brake into the corners in a controllable manner, then the stoppers act very progressively and bite vehemently towards the end of the braking phase.
Handling and cornering are impressive. The front tire, in particular, provides enormous feedback. Feels different than the RC 211 V, even though they both use the same tire sizes with 16.50-inch rear wheels. Orientation at the entrance to the bend is difficult because the NSR turns into bends so easily. It is almost enough to look into the curve and the NSR will follow you there.
It’s remarkable how well the automatic gearshift works on the two-stroke Honda. I forgot about it on the first lap and turned the gas down before shifting gears. But then you have to change gears so quickly that you can use the traditional gas to ?? switch ?? Gas doesn’t come back on at all. So just step on it, the automatic system is incredibly convenient. It allows jerk-free shifting, regardless of whether in the partial load range, under full load, at medium or high speeds.
Incidentally, the mechanics confirmed that the motorcycle had exactly the racing set-up that Loris Capirossi used, i.e. no fat, defused journalist carburettor jets. That makes it really fast on the straight. Even if the NSR 500 does not reach the enormous top speed of the V5 due to a lack of top performance, it is still a real sense of achievement when you have given the screamer full throttle for at least a short piece. On the start and finish straight, you need at least fourth gear to be safe that the front wheel stays on the ground. Boy, boy, that’s kind of scary How must the poor two-stroke pilots have felt who tried to set decent times this year against the overpowering four-stroke. Always at the limit? and often above. No, after these driving impressions with the controllable four-stroke machine and the brutally biting two-stroke, you just have to take off your hat to the two-stroke pilots.
After my driving test, Loris Capirossi asks me holes in the stomach. Sure, in contrast to the two-stroke stretching machine, I’ve already ridden the Honda RC 211 V. And he wants to get confirmation from me again that it was really difficult with the NSR. When I say: "Hey, Loris, all due respect for doing so well with this wild machine this season!" He trolls with a big grin.
Given the huge difference, it is all the more astonishing that almost the same lap times were achieved on some tracks with both machines. How did the guys manage to keep up with the four-stroke engine, which is easy to correct even at the apex of the corner? The 500 should have an advantage in fast corners, which of course I couldn’t understand in Valencia. There are no extremely fast corners in Valencia. Which is fine with me. Because I am really glad to have brought this beast and myself back safely.
D.Nevertheless, I am returning the NSR 500 with a crying eye. After all, their era with countless successes and numerous World Cup titles is now over. And with it the era of the large two-stroke engines, which replaced the four-stroke engines from 1975 to 2001. Only the change in the regulations with almost twice the displacement gave the four-stroke engine a chance again. An opportunity that was mercilessly used by the manufacturers, first and foremost Honda. Somehow a shame, because as said Boxer Cup colleague Randy Mamola on his last turn with the NSR 500: "That’s just something for real men!" Men like Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Freddy Spencer, who fought unforgettable duels with the beasts.

Technical data: Honda RC 211 V

Water-cooled five-cylinder four-stroke 75.5 degree V engine, two overhead camshafts driven by gear wheels, approx. 220 hp at 13,000 / min, displacement 990 cm3, electronic intake manifold injection, six-speed gearbox in cassette design, wet sump lubrication. Aluminum frame bridge frame, Showa upside-down fork, two-sided swing arm, Showa central spring strut with progressive lever deflection at the rear, 17.00-inch tires at the front, 16.50-inch tires at the rear. Dimensions and weightLength 2050 mm, width 600 mm, height 1130 mm, Wheelbase 1440 mm, weight over 145 kg, tank capacity 24 liters.

Technical data: Honda NSR 500

Water-cooled two-stroke V4 engine with 112 degree cylinder angle, diaphragm control with direct inlet into the crankcase, 195 hp at 12,600 rpm, displacement 499 cm3, six-speed gearbox, chassis, aluminum bridge frame, Showa upside-down fork, two-arm swing arm, Showa central spring strut with progressive Lever redirection at the rear, 17.00-inch tires at the front, 16.50 or 17.00-inch tires at the rear.Dimensions and weightLength 2010 mm, width 600 mm, height 1080 mm, wheelbase 1400 mm, weight over 131 kg, tank capacity 32 liters.

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