Interest had rarely been greater in a 500cc world championship than when the 1986 season opened at Jarama in Spain. All eyes were on Freddie Spencer, the Rothmans Honda rider, aiming for his third title. Alongside him was new team mate Wayne Gardner, both men equipped with the fabulous new four-cylinder NSR500 Hondas. Opposition was provided by the Yamaha duo of Eddie Lawson and Rob McElnea, while a host of others enjoyed semi-official works backing including Raymond Roche. In the 250cc class, reigning champion Freddie Spencer's decision to opt out left the prospect of a return to the tightly packed fields fighting it out at the front. Prominent was former double world champion Toni Mang.