Powersports / Motorcycles / Sport / RC51
Before being drafted as Honda's first Superbike in 1980, the CB750F broke some new technological ground of its own. Patterned after the Honda RCB endurance racers that won three European endurance crowns, a new twin-cam 16-valve engine made it the strongest 750 money could buy in 1979. Honda's first Superbike was created totally from scratch in American Honda's race shop, as the bike was reinvented from the frame up for track use. Punched out to 1023cc for Superbike duty, the racer doubled the stock bike's power, putting 130 horses in a 425-pound package. Later CB900F-based Superbikes pumped out 145 horsepower. Looking back, Freddie Spencer summarized his experience with the racing Superbike in one word: violent.
1983 VF750F INTERCEPTOR
AMA rules required Superbikes to rise from street-going 750s, so Honda's revolutionary new Interceptor® was born with the heart and bones of a champion. The revolutionary 86-horsepower liquid-cooled 90° V-4, perimeter frame and single-shock aluminum swingarm made it the lightest, most powerful, best handling, narrowest and smoothest 750 on the street. This machine forever altered the way sport bikes would be built, and provided the ultimate building blocks for Honda's next-generation Superbike. Losing 70 pounds and gaining more than 40 horses in race trim, the Interceptor was equally omnipotent on the track.
1986 VFR750F Interceptor
The only way to succeed the original Interceptor was with an equally revolutionary sequel, and the second-generation VFR™750F was nothing less. Its NSR500-inspired twin-spar aluminum frame was the first on a Honda street bike. In street form, the totally revamped liquid-cooled 90° V-4 made 104 horsepower at 10,500 rpm with help from lightened internals and track trickery such as gear-driven cams. Tuned for Superbike racing, horsepower jumped to upward of 140.
Before its American debut in 1990, the RC30™ had already earned two World Superbike titles in Europe under three-time AMA Superbike champ Fred Merkel. Hand-built at the rate of 60 per week and sold in limited quantities to satisfy FIM and AMA Superbike rules, the RC30 was the most exotic Honda street bike yet created. Fuel tank: aluminum. Connecting rods: titanium. Valve covers: magnesium. Bodywork: hand-laid fiber-reinforced plastic. Swingarm: single-side Pro Arm®. The stock bike's third-generation V-4 put out more than 100 horsepower in stock form and nearly 150 on the track.
By 1994, the Superbike class was firmly established as one of the most popular road racing classes in the world. The RC45™ was Honda's primary international championship contender for six seasons, and the final, most sophisticated iteration of the V-4 concept. The purest expression of Honda racing technology ever offered to the public took the RC30's basic design concepts to the next level. The ram-air-equipped, fuel-injected RC45 V-4 used shorter-stroke cylinders with aluminum-composite sleeves that helped make it 8.8 pounds lighter than its predecessor's power plant. Spinning out an astounding 180 horsepower at 15,000 rpm in full Superbike trim, the RC45 jumped from 0-60 mph in less than 2 seconds, and topped 190 mph at the fastest circuits.
An evolutionary beast by nature, the top-level Superbike must continually adapt to take maximum advantage of evolving technologies and racing rules. Exploiting the 90° twin's inherent advantages in aerodynamics and power delivery, Honda engineers created the RC51: their vision of the ultimate Superbike platform. The 999cc DOHC eight-valve twin made 126 horsepower at 9000 rpm in stock form. The RC51 featured high-pressure electronic fuel injection, which is force-fed incoming atmosphere via ingenious ram-air ducting running straight through the steering head. The RC51 utilized its own version of Honda's Pro Frame® concept, using both crankcase- and frame-mounted pivot points. Intended to dominate Superbike grids from Misano to Laguna Seca, the RC51 made the latest in Honda performance technology accessible to racers and sport bike enthusiasts alike.
Two years of racing experience at the highest level yields a bounty of advancements in the track-going RC51, improvements Honda quickly incorporates into the 2002 production RC51. Based on race experience, the fuel injection throttle bodies have increased in size from 54mm to a whopping, 62mm. The latest in fuel injectors boast 12 laser-drilled holes for finer fuel atomization, and new injection and ignition mapping further enhance engine performance. The new chassis is refined to lighten the bike by 11 pounds and improve handling, with a steeper, 23.5° head angle and a longer, HRC-designed press-forged aluminum swingarm adding rigidity along with weight savings. Once again, the best racers in the world developed leading-edge technological improvements that will end up in the hands of those riders fortunate enough to own a 2002 RC51.