A two-stroke tribute to racing legend Norick Abe…
In his early days in the lightweight classes, a teenage Valentino Rossi gave himself the nickname “Rossifumi” — a tribute to Norifumi “Norick” Abe, whose legendary wild-card ride at the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix, at just 18 years old, shocked the world:
“Emblazoned in those now-legendary gaudy colours of the Mr. Donut Blue Fox Honda squad, Abe contested his first race with the gods as though he had spent a previous life beating them.” —Crash
Riding his NSR500, the long-haired teenager passed none other than Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, and Luca Cadalora to take the lead, going down just three laps from the finish.
“Abe’s performance impressed none other than Kenny Roberts, who offered him two additional wild-card rides that year and a fulltime gig for ’95, kicking off an eight-year run at the highest level of motorcycle racing.” —Motorcyclist
Abe would go on to win three 500cc GPs, including his home race at Suzuka in 2000. Sadly, in 2007, Abe was killed in a traffic accident when a truck made an illegal U-turn in front of his scooter. He was just 32 years old.
Recently, we heard from racer and aerospace propulsion engineer Ron Corey of Bethel, Washington, who has an affinity for two-stroke machines:
“I spend my days doing high tech space stuff, so I like my personal projects to be simple and analog. Two-strokes definitely fit the bill.”
What you see here is Ron newly completed mini-endurance road racer, built to compete in the NorthWest Mini Moto series — each race 6-12 hours in length. The bike is a 2004 Honda RS125 with a CR85 motocrosser engine swapped in, and it’s a tribute to the late Norick Abe:
“I wanted to make a rolling tribute to the greatest 500GP race of all time, the 1994 Japanese GP, the race in which Norick Abe exploded onto the world stage. Since Norick is no longer with us, I took the paint scheme of the original bike and did it in more muted tones, but I kept reference to the originals mint and red scheme with accents.”
Ron saved the engine from a semi-trailer, where it had sat all but exposed to the PNW elements for more than a decade, and spent hundreds of hours sanding and polishing it by hand. The bike is also running some trick Marvic magnesium wheels, Berringer brakes, and custom paint by Brand-X Customs of Everett, WA. Says Ron of the riding experience:
“What’s it like to ride? Extremely painful! I’m old and 6’2’’ so I really have to bend myself into place. However, once I’m going on the track the thing is incredible. It makes everything else I’ve ever rode a wobbly freight train in comparison. I highly recommend it.”
Below, Ron gives us the full story on this two-stroke tribute to a racing legend gone too soon, along with more photos from Dan Lamont of Tatoosh Media.
Honda RS125 / CR85 Racer: In the Builder’s Words…
I’m an aerospace propulsion engineer by trade. I spend my days doing high tech space stuff, so I like my personal projects to be simple and analog. Two-strokes definitely fit the bill. I’ve raced off and on since the 90’s. My most successful run was in the early 2010s where I raced SV650s with the AFM but was never a front runner (hence the three digit number).
I have just completed a two stroke, mini-endurance road racer (races on go-cart tracks with NorthWest Mini Moto, races are 6-12 hours in length), which is based off a 2004 Honda RS125 GP bike. The bike features Berringer brakes and has has the engine swapped to a 2007 Honda CR85.
The most important feature of the bike is that I wanted to make a rolling tribute to the greatest 500GP race of all time, the 1994 Japanese GP, the race in which Norick Abe exploded onto the world stage. Since Norick is no longer with us, I took the paint scheme of the original bike and did it in more muted tones, but I kept reference to the originals mint and red scheme with accents.
As far as build details go, it is just a typical RS125 build. Special parts are the Marvic mag wheels, Berringer brakes. It also had the A-kit radiator but I had to put a stock one on to keep the engine temp high enough to keep it from cold seizing. As everyone knows these things are designed to be taken apart. It was left in a semi-trailer outside in the PNW for 10 years before I purchased it, so there was a lot of corrosion. I spent 100s of hours sanding and polishing everything by hand. Since this was a tribute bike, I thought I would take the extra time and do it without power tools. It was also extremely difficult to not polish it to a mirror finish. I wanted the bike to be muted including the frame, but it took a lot of willpower not to make it mirror finish.
What’s it like to ride? Extremely painful! I’m old and 6’2’’ so I really have to bend myself into place. However, once I’m going on the track the thing is incredible. It makes everything else I’ve ever rode a wobbly freight train in comparison. I highly recommend it.
I’m particularly proud of the paint and bodywork. I’ve only had rattle canned bikes and this was my first time paying for a real block-sanded paint job. I sourced all the vinyl and described what I wanted and it came out exactly how it looked in my head. The paintwork was professionally done by Brand-X Customs in Everett, WA.
I’d like to thank Stewart at RSC Cycles for parts and advice, ebay seller giannis_astroman at Decal Speed Shop for custom one-off decals, local 125 racer Rob Tatom for parts and advise, Dave at NorthWest Mini Moto for providing excellent venues and friendly competition, and finally Brandon at Brand-X Customs in Everett, WA for the custom paint and bodywork.
Photography Credits: Dan Lamont / Tatoosh Media