When Eddie Lawson left Yamaha after six years and three 500 GP titles to join the Rothmans Honda team for the 1989 season, many people felt it was a mistake. He exchanged the sweet-handling YZR500 he’d won the 1988 title on for the ferocious NSR500 Wayne Gardner had battled with for so long.
Initially, Lawson tried to get crew chief Erv Kanemoto to change the Honda to suit his riding style, then they changed tack and tried to make the NSR stiffer and more predictable.
The previously smooth-riding Lawson looked more out of shape than ever in his career, but thanks to his incredible talent and one very fast powerplant, he won the title for a second successive year against all the odds.
1989 HONDA NSR500
Liquid-cooled, 499cc two-stroke V4 . Piston reed valve
Primary drive, single plate, dry clutch, six gears, chain-drive
Aluminium twin-spar frame
Showa inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping
Showa rear shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping
Michelin slicks; 180/55 x 17 rear, 120/55 x 17 front
Front: Twin Brembo non-carbon discs with 4-piston calipers.
Rear: 2-piston caliper
22 litres (4.62 gall)