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Zongshen 2004 = Honda 1954?

When our European correspondent Roland Brown e-mailed us and account of the Chinese firm Zongshen's press conference at the annual Internet trade show, we had a profound sense of déjà vu, and it wasn't from reading Patrick Bodden's latest column. The firm seems poised to be this century's Honda. Think we're exaggerating? Read on before drawing your own conclusions.

By the Mid-1950s, Honda was already the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, though it made only small-displacement machines for the Japanese domestic market. This year, Zongshen will produce -- brace yourself -- a million small bikes for sale in China .

Soichiro Honda knew Grand Prix roadracing would serve both to develop his company's products and popularize them in export market. In 1954 he made his dream public, promising his company would build its own Grand Prix winners. He traveled to the Isle of Man , Where he studied state-of-the-art 125 and 250cc NSU racers. Later, when the Italian firm Mondial withdrew from Grand Prix, Honda arranged to acquire its machines.

A few years ago, Zongshen emulated Honda by buying customer GSX-R1000 Susukis and running them in the FIM Endurance World Championship, which it won in 2002. In the process, it inevitably got to know a state-of-the-art machine inside and out. Then last September at Intermot, Zongshen announces plans to build its own MotoGP contender and race it in '07.

The Zongshen Motorcycle Team, founded in 1999

When Honda first attempted to build a competitive Grand Prix racebike, the company failed. Soichiro Honda came to realize that by copying the European machines dominating the sport, he would always be one generation behind the leaders. He realized he would have to create his own research and development division and win “made in Japan ” technology.

Now Zongshen has announced that it will open a new, $100- million R&D center in China . Besides its MotoGP dreams, the company plans to sell sophisticated, Large-displacement bikes all over the world, and soon. Brown expects to see a high-performance middleweight offered at a competitive price at Intermot '06.

Skeptics will say, so far, Zongshen has produced nothing but cheap, smoky copies of outdated foreign machines. Of course, that same criticism was once leveled at the Japanese motorcycle industry…
 

The Zongshen Motorcycle Team, founded in 1999


The Zongshen Motorcycle Team, founded in 1999, is unique because it is the only Chinese motorcycle racing team to participate in the World Motorcycle Championships.

In 2000 and in 2001, the Zongshen motorcycle team have been evaluated for the world motorcycle championship tournament (endurance match) and considered the year's top-notch motor team.

In 2002, at the World Motorcycle Endurance Championships, Zongshen Motorcycle Team was declared champion of the year.

 

The Zongshen Motorcycle Team, founded in 1999

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