Even the most conservative of Japanese allowed themselves a little smile after the race at Suzuka - and none more so than Honda Racing Corporation President Suguru Kanazawa.

Not only was Kanazawa delighted with the debut of HRC's new baby, the 990cc five-cylinder four-stroke RCV, but Valentino Rossi's win also erased memories of Honda's heavily-funded, well-publicised failure to beat the two-strokes in the late seventies with the revolutionary NR500.

Kanazawa was a member of the team that designed the innovative NR500 engine that featured oval pistons but never matched the two-strokes. The new rules allowing heavier 990cc four-strokes this season have put them on a much more level playing field and so hence the smiles at Suzuka.

''Our goal has always been to win grands prix with four-stroke machinery, so the victory at Suzuka is very meaningful to me and everyone else at Honda,'' explained the president, who was fresh out of university when he embarked on the NR project, ''We are still benefiting from what we learned from the NR500.''

Honda's last four-stroke victory in the old 500cc class came a staggering 35 years previously, when the late Mike Hailwood won the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport.

Kanazawa, who only took over as HRC president at the beginning of this month, also confirmed that the company was hoping to supply RCV machinery to satellite teams such as West Honda Pons next season. That would spell the demise of the NSR two-strokes that have brought Honda so much success over the last decade.

''We are hoping to supply RCV machines to our teams next year, and so we will see what is best next year for the NSR two-strokes,'' Kanazawa revealed, ''There is a cost problem, and also the maintenance of two-strokes and four-strokes are very different. We continued development of the NSR this year because we are always thinking not only that the factory Honda should win, but also that there should be an equal chance to all Honda teams.''

Honda is fully aware of the importance of keeping the RCV engine design as simple and effective as possible in order that all their teams can benefit next year.

''I hear that Aprilia is using pneumatic valves, but we don't use special technology like that because we are intending to supply the RCV machines to satellite teams from next year,'' Kanazawa explained, ''There is nothing so special about the design of the RCV.

''The engine consists of three front cylinders and two rear cylinders, but is different from the five-cylinder engine of Volkswagen, which is one block. We don't use different bore sizes for front and rear cylinders in order to make the capacities of front and rear equal because the balance of the engine would be no good.

''There is nothing in common between our V10 Formula One engine and the RCV V5. It's easy to think it's half of the V10, but it has three front and two rear cylinders while the V10 unit has two five-cylinder blocks. We struggled with engine braking when we developed the NR500, but since then have developed a solution through the RC30 and the RC45. That technology has been passed on to the RCV.''

Honda realise that keeping the cost down is vital for the future of the new MotoGP Championship.

''The initial cost between the NSR and RCV may be different, but we are hoping to keep the maintenance and running cost at an equal level.''

Even the Honda team had problems finding a sponsor for their works team before Repsol came in to support the official HRC team of Rossi and Tohru Ukawa.

''Maybe it's because of the global economic situation,'' Kanazawa reasoned, ''We have to work harder in order to upgrade the status of motorcycle sports, so that we can find sponsors more easily. The relationship between MSMA (the Manufacturers Association), Dorna and the FIM is quite clear concerning the rights and duties, so we are hoping to strengthen this relationship.''

It was the manufacturers that got together to implement the rule changes in order to ensure the future of the MotoGP class.

''There was talk between us that if we were to let only two-stroke machines, there would be no chance of other manufacturers joining the pack,'' Kanazawa said, ''So all the manufacturers, within our organisation the MSMA, agreed on the introduction of four-stroke machines.''

So does the much heralded arrival of the four-strokes in the new MotoGP class herald the demise of the 125 and 250cc classes which only have entries from two-stroke machines? Kanazawa does not think so.

''We are discussing the matter within the MSMA at the moment,'' he revealed, ''But look at the lap times of the Supersport 600, they are slower than that of the 125s. I think that the 250cc class is a good stepping-stone for the riders who wish to move up to the MotoGP class. We could keep them in the future.''

Rossi, without a doubt, is the jewel in the HRC crown, with his victory in the rain at Suzuka a magnificent testament to the riding ability of the 23-year-old Italian. The morning warm-up session for the race was the first time he'd ridden the RCV in the wet but it made little difference to the triple world champion, who was in contractual dispute with Honda up until a month before the start of the season.

''I heard there were many troubles concerning the contract during the winter but, once the contract had been signed, communication between us has became better than before,'' revealed the HRC president, who admits that he has to be careful not to give special preference to Japanese riders such as Daijiro Katoh, although privately he wants them to do well.

''Of course, Honda was founded in Japan but, nowadays, it is a global company. I myself support Japanese riders privately as I support the Japanese team for the soccer World Cup but, as president of HRC, I treat all Honda riders equally.''

You have the feeling there is going to be plenty more polite smiles during this year. Perhaps not at Japan winning the soccer World Cup, but at the success of the RCV Honda in the new era of MotoGP racing.