The Honda Formula 4-Stroke powerboat championship

The Honda Formula 4-Stroke powerboat championship

The world’s first 4-stroke marine engine – the GB30 – was developed by Honda in 1964. Over the years, the power output of Honda’s outboards increased until the BF130 was introduced in 1999. Even though 4-stroke engines grew in popularity during this time, the common belief was that a 4-stroke couldn’t match the performance of the more traditional 2-stroke. Honda decided to prove that an engine could be environmentally-friendly and durable without compromising on power and top-end speed.

Considering Honda’s unrivalled racing heritage, it is unsurprising that the company thought the best way to prove the performance of the 4-stroke 130hp engine was to race it. As Soichiro Honda, the founder of the Honda Motor Corporation in 1946, said, “If Honda does not race there is no Honda”.

A considerable amount of time was spent researching powerboating in the UK but there seemed no obvious championship to get involved with. British powerboat racing was in the doldrums at that time, accessible only to dedicated followers and the wealthy. So Honda decided to set up its own championship and Honda Formula 4-Stroke was born.

Honda wanted the series to be affordable to the ordinary boat enthusiast so chose a standard sports boat that could be used by the family on non race weekends. Strict one-design rules were developed to ensure the racing was fiercely competitive and to make technical knowledge non-essential. The production race engines were even given a three-year warranty, a first in the sport of powerboat racing!

May 29 1999 saw five 130hp powerboats battle through the seas of Torquay amidst thunder, lightning, hail and heavy winds in the first ever Honda Formula 4-Stroke race. Seven years and sixty races later, spectators are treated to no less than thirty boats on the water – fifteen 150hp teams (upgraded from 130hp in 2004) and fifteen 225hp racers (introduced in 2002) constituting the largest offshore powerboat championship in the world.

The popularity of the Honda Formula 4-Stroke championship stems from the quality of the Honda outboards. The race series has all the thrills and spills of traditional 2-stroke racing combined with unprecedented engine reliability and the security and peace of mind of an engine warranty. These benefits are not only proven by the number of teams who wish to compete in the championship but also by the media interest that the racing attracts. 2005 is the fifth year that the races will be screened on both Channel 4 and Sky, making Honda Formula 4-Stroke the only powerboat championship to boast terrestrial television coverage in Britain.

“To measure the success of the Honda Formula 4-Stroke championship you have to look beyond our original goals,” explains Martin Sanders, General Manager Power Equipment, Honda (UK). “Back in 1999, the championship was purely a marketing idea. Seven years later, it is the world’s largest offshore powerboat series, with a sister championship in New Zealand and serious interest from other countries. A dedicated club – the Formula 4-Stroke Association – has been set up to organise all aspects of the racing and a third race class, the 450hp Enduro class, will be introduced later this year. Honda Formula 4-Stroke not only proves that 4-stroke engines can race but is also tangible proof that ‘The Power of Dreams’ is not just Honda’s strap-line but a reality.”

For further information visit