Team HRC is the factory Honda outfit in the FIM Motocross World Championship, known as MXGP. After more than 20 years away from the sport, the HRC name reappeared alongside the Martin Honda squad in 2014 with an ambitious plan – to win the MXGP World Championship in three years.
They didn’t do it. Rather, they didn’t just do it. It took just two years to win the MX2 World Championship with Tim Gajser in 2015, and the young Slovenian stepped immediately into the MXGP class in 2016 and enjoyed the most dominant performance of his career to take back-to-back world titles with HRC. Mission completed.
Three years later, Gajser would put in an even more impressive season as he wrapped up his second MXGP world championship three rounds early in emotional scenes at the Imola race track. During the season he won a record-breaking seven rounds in a row and ended up with a 202-point gap over second place. If he wasn’t already, Gajser was writing himself into Honda’s history books. He went even further in 2020, moving to the top of the pile of Honda legends by winning his 29th overall on the way to his fourth world title with the manufacturer.
That number increased to 33 GP victories after the 2021 campaign, as the #243 was involved in one of the tightest championship battles ever, and while he ended up finishing in third place, he still displayed the speed and commitment that his fans around the world have come to expect.
And after that disappointment, the Slovenian bounced back with authority in 2022 to take his fifth world title with 10 more GP victories, 14 race wins, 13 overall podiums and a multitude of other accolades in a dominating season for Gajser. He is now joined in 2023 by Spanish rider Ruben Fernandez who will be looking to add to his two 2023 MXGP podiums, as the pair gear up for their assault on this year’s world championship.
The Martin Honda team was the precursor to Team HRC, and was originally formed in the 1980’s by Paolo Martin and his brother. In 2011 the squad was renamed the Honda World Motocross team, a reflection of the Japanese marque’s increasing presence in the sport, with their focus on the 450cc larger-capacity class, but always retaining a role developing the 250cc machines.
The Gariboldi Racing team joined the Honda stable in 2014 with a young hopeful (with many European titles already to his name) called Tim Gajser. After a learning year in 2014, Gajser’s first full season in MX2, 2015 was a breakthrough season for both Tim and the team with their first MX2 World Championship title, and the first for Honda since 2000. The Slovenian’s rise was then meteoric as he lined-up behind the gate on the CRF450R for the 2016 season and had a blistering run to become the first back-to-back World Champion of the MXGP and MX2 era.
These titles evoke memories of HRC’s golden era, when Honda sealed a raft of 125, 250 and 500 MX world titles in a period of domination that started with Graham Noyce’s 500cc title in 1979 and was continued into the 1980s with the likes of Andre Malherbe, Dave Thorpe, Eric Geboers, Georges Jobe and Jean-Michel Bayle to name a few.
Indeed, 12 500cc World Titles were delivered on Honda machinery between 1979 and 1992, including nine in a row from 1984 and podium clean-sweeps in 1985, 1986 and 1989, and a further five titles in the 250cc and 125cc classes in the same period.
Towards the end of the 2016 season, Evgeny Bobryshev and then also Tim Gajser became the first to campaign the all-new 2017 CRF450R, totally redesigned by Honda based upon the very dominance in MXGP that marked the CRF as the weapon of choice when the going gets rough. In 2018, Calvin Vlaanderen will become the first rider to campaign the all-new works CRF250RW in the highly-competitive MX2 category.
In the 2018 season, the Honda Gariboldi Racing squad, with whom Honda won both the 2015 MX2 and 2016 MXGP World Championship titles, ran both the CRF450R and CRF250RW entries for Team HRC with Tim Gajser and Brian Bogers running in the MXGP class while Calvin Vlaanderen joined the team to race in the 250cc MX2 class. After injuries meant that Todd Waters replaced Brian Bogers for a large portion of the season, the original 2018 trio returns again in 2019 to challenge for both world championship titles.
A year later and HRC would return to the winners’ circle, with Gajser wrapping up his third world championship title in dominant fashion as he took the championship three and half rounds early. The Slovenian rider would win seven rounds in a row in the middle stages of the season and moved up to 24 GP overalls, joint-second in the Honda wins list with legend Stefan Everts. He would also win the ‘hardest race in the world’ at the treacherous Lommel facility, further showing just how much he had improved his riding and also how well he had gelled with the Honda CRF450R. It was a record-breaking season and one that took him into 2020 full of confidence.
In what was a season heavily disrupted by the global pandemic, Mitch Evans had joined the team for his rookie 450 campaign and looked promising early-on, winning a preseason race in Italy and finishing third in his first moto at the MXGP of Great Britain. Unfortunately, injuries would curtail his efforts in 2020 and eventually force him to sit out 2021 as well after complications kept him on the sidelines. For Gajser though, after moto wins in Great Britain and Valkenswaard, a five-month break delayed the season but upon the restart the CRF450R rider eventually got into his rhythm, winning five overalls on his way to his fourth world title and his third in the MXGP class.
With the late finish to the season, the 2021 campaign was delayed as well, but that didn’t stop Gajser coming out swinging at round one in Russia on June 13th. He went one-one in convincing fashion and that set him on his way to keeping the red-plate for the majority of the season. In the end he came up just 21 points short, finishing in third place in one of the closest title battles ever.
With the disappointment of the 2021 season behind him, Gajser returned with a bang in 2022, winning six of the first seven rounds and never letting slip his grasp of the championship-leading red-plate. He continued his dominance by taking his fifth title (fourth in MXGP) two rounds early, with a whole host of statistics backing up his claim as the most successful rider in recent times.