The latest rumors indicate that Honda’s four-stroke motocross machine is a 500cc bike, currently called the XCR500. Although it was expected to debut, in prototype form, at the opening round of the FIM World 500cc Motocross Championship in Australia two weeks ago, that did not occur. There is some indication that the bike might debut, instead, at an AMA Outdoor National race. You may recall that Doug Henry rode Yamaha’s YZ400F in prototype form in the AMA Outdoor 250cc National Championship races a year before it went into production. Honda may follow a similar path with its new four-stroke motocrosser.
If the four-stroke did debut in this year’s AMA Nationals, who would ride it? Honda’s factory 250 motocross riders include Sebastein Tortelli, Kevin Windham and Ezra Lusk. Factory supported satellite team member Mike LaRocco could also be included in this list. All of these men are two-stroke riders, however, and putting them on a new four-stroke might jeopardize their chances at a championship. On the other hand, once a powerful four-stroke is mastered, it can become a huge advantage. A 500cc four-stroke would undoubtedly be more powerful, and accelerate harder than a 250cc two-stroke. This means holeshots.
Honda, understandably, is being quiet about this whole project. In keeping with their pledge of “industry dominance” Honda wants to blow Yamaha’s YZ426 into the weeds with this bike. It is expected to be not only substantially more powerful than the Yamaha, but lighter as well. If Honda gives the bike its trademark, smooth, progressive power delivery, it also should be relatively easy to ride.
Don’t expect Yamaha to sit on its hands, however, as the next-generation YZ four-stroke is undoubtedly being developed.