From MBA - http://www.mbaction.com/detail.asp?id=971
"HONDA DEBUTS AT BIG BEAR NATIONAL--MAY 26
May 27, 2004
Honda unveiled its novel RN01 gearbox downhill racing machine at noon Saturday, at the Big Bear national event. Team leader and reigning downhill champion Greg Minnaar and his youthful French protégé, Cyrill Kurtz were on hand to sign autographs and make small talk about the workings of the Japanese Giant's monocoque masterpiece. Honda sent a team of engineers to oversee the project, headed by Kenji Morita and Tomiji Niitsu. Standing proudly nearby was Team Honda G-cross manager and Minnaar's rep, Martin Whitely. We interviewed the lot, hoping to discover any technical information about the NR01's gearbox or performance without success.
When not on the course, the Honda bikes were whisked out of sight into the team's tent, where at least one was laid open on the operating table during practice. The no-see, no-talk operation was handled in a polite, but tight-lipped manner--very "works" Honda.
The NR01s made a cool mechanical sound that emanates from the carbon fiber-encased gearbox as they pedaled by in the pits. The latest versions use trigger shifters, which is unusual because the transmission is infinitely variable. This must be a compromise to make the gearbox feel more conventional for the racers. The suspension was made by Showa, and it was as trick as it gets--a shock with a machined magnesium reservoir, an inverted fork with carbon fiber uppers and monocoque crowns. Oh yeah--and a team of Showa suspension techs were on hand to fine-tune the NR01’s. Insiders say the bikes weigh 40 pounds, which is light by pro-downhill standards.
We did find out that the Hondas arrived with bar codes on virtually every part. The team records every run and reports the information to Japan on a daily basis--and that there are at least four complete NR01s in this country, four in Europe, and the team has a couple of spare chassis on hand just in case. The team will concentrate on the US National series, and will appear for at least three World Cups.
Greg Minnaar served notice that the Honda was capable of winning, after qualifying almost two seconds faster than his nearest rival on the Big Bear downhill course. The four-rider Downhill format, however, proved to be Greg's undoing as he was eliminated by a nose at the line and did not factor into the finals. Minnaar was openly encouraged by his Qualifying results and mentioned that his Honda was working well for him.
What's next? There is some information about the inner workings of the Honda gearbox in the current issue of MBA. After his debut at Big Bear, Minnaar's chances of taking Honda to the podium are a matter of "when," not "if." Both Honda and Minnaar are proven winners. The big question, however, is: "What is a motorsports leader like Honda going to get from its involvement in a human-powered niche sport like downhill mountain bike racing?"