You may not be surprised to find out that the man in charge of the world’s best-selling motocross bikes is named Honda. A former All-Japan National Motocross Championship rider, Taichi Honda has helped develop every Honda ’crosser from the first aluminum-framed CR250 two-stroke right through to the current CRF450. Promoted from a test rider to a development engineer, Taichi Honda is now director of the powerhouse company. Most signifi- cantly, Taichi was the driving force behind Honda’s new breed of fuel-injected CRFs. He also heads up Honda’s global factory racing division, HRC. Just 35 years old and living near Tokyo, Taichi Honda is very young to have such a senior position—a testament to how much faith the company has in him. ARE YOU ANY RELATION TO THE FOUNDER OF HONDA, SOICHIRO HONDA? No, it’s just coincidence. In fact, one of the senior Honda directors is Mr. Suzuki. Suzuki is one of the most popular names in Japan. But when I go to Honda buildings around the world, lots of people think I am related to the founder and I get special treatment! HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB AT HONDA? I was a motocross racer, and I have the broken wrists to prove it. I raced in the Japanese Championship as a privateer, first on a Yamaha and then on Honda (not as an HRC racer, but as a development rider). I had a couple of race wins but never won the champi- onship. My biggest rival was Atsuta, the older brother of Yoshi Atsuta who raced the GPs. I never got to race outside Japan. My best year was 1992, but then by 1995 I had to make a choice of keeping racing seriously or to be a test rider for Honda. I had to make a choice of my work career or racing. I chose to work for Honda and still raced the championship right through to 1997. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB AT HONDA? I was a test rider for Honda’s production bikes and HRC factory bikes. Of course, at first it was the two-strokes. Then my job became not just to test, but to develop future production models and HRC bikes, which obviously included the four-strokes. I have now been working on CRs and CRFs for 15 years. AND YOUR ROLE NOW? My job is to head up Honda’s research and development side for the CRF450 for both production bikes and factory race bikes. And I am project leader for both the 250 and 450 production bikes. I work for both HGA—which is Honda’s R&D department—and HRC, which is just about racing and factory bikes. HOW IS THE WORK DELINEATED BETWEEN R&D AND HRC? R&D makes and creates the production bike; HRC races it and develops it and then gives feedback to HGA for future production bikes. I work with both divisions. There’s also Mugen, which is now called M-Tech. It’s basically a totally separate company. They make some aftermarket parts, but it’s nothing to do with Honda anymore. WHICH BIKE ARE YOU PARTICULARLY PROUD OF? I have worked on many bikes through the years, and I liked the 250 two-strokes. I was part of the development team that went from steel frames to aluminum beam frames, for example. WHAT BIKE DID YOU DEVELOP FROM THE GROUND UP? The first bike I was totally responsible for was the 2009 CRF450. The CRF450 is just amazing for many reasons. I am proud of the very light engine, fuel injection and new chassis with new geometry. And also the bike’s mass centralization and positioning of components as close to the center of gravity as possible. The bike had many, many changes. YOU DO KNOW THAT BIKE WASN’T UNIVERSALLY LIKED, DON’T YOU? That’s true. The 2009 CRF450 was not the most popular bike that Honda has ever made. Some racers didn’t like the handling, and some didn’t like the power. I am fully aware of this. But, some people thought it was very good. We try to build good bikes that are attractive to not only Honda guys, but riders of other brands. I think we are going in the right direction, and my goal is to get people to understand our direction.