Photos by Brian Blades
Way back in the day, Roland Sands torpedoed a Yamaha TZ250 out from under me in Turn 5 at Willow Springs International Raceway. I couldn’t find the resources to replace the TZ, but with help from some great sponsors, I was able to come up with enough cash to buy a race-prepped Honda CBR600F2 from G-Force Racing’s Mike Norman. It was competitively fast, and I raced it for years without a mechanical failure.
What does that have to do with the Honda NC30-based machine pictured here? Thirteen years later, I stopped by Kawasaki Motors HQ to drop off some green things, and who should stroll up but Norman himself. Since we first met, he had developed a bad habit for Honda’s RC30 and 45, V-Four beauties that had opened his eyes to the NC30. The not-sold-in-the-U.S. 400cc version of the RC30 featured the same engineering precision, miniaturized.
“G-Force was still a retail performance shop back in 2002,” Norman explained. “A group of us imported the Honda NC30 (VFR400R) and NC35 (RVF400R) into the U.S. to race with the AFM because they were so much fun to ride.”
Norman was already familiar with the little bike’s incredible handling characteristics, but he knew that to be competitive against the fastest Yamaha FZR400s, it would need more than the 58 horsepower Honda gave it at the factory. G-Force started to explore performance possibilities at Sears Point—now Infineon Raceway—with Mike Lohmeyer, a former “fast guy” and project initiator who inspired development of the NC30 into the NC450V pictured here. Lohmeyer won races and set class track records on the G-Force bike right up until the Suzuki SV650 was introduced and became eligible for the Formula IV class.
Not one to give up without a fight, Norman continued development of the mighty Micro GP V-Four. His initial horsepower goal of 77 was achieved by maximizing the stock components—which worked right up to the point of holed pistons, broken rods and, finally, crankshaft snappage.
On the road to rectification, Norman went to Marine Crankshaft with plans for a custom crank to be machined from 4330 billet alloy steel, then to Revco Precision to have it balanced. At Carrillo, custom titanium connecting rods were made. Then it was off to Cosworth for Norman-designed two-ring pistons, which then had their short skirts and rings dipped in tungsten disulfide (WS2), titanium nitride (TiN) and other concoctions by Brycoat to lessen internal friction.
In time, all these beautiful treasures were assembled in V-Four-mation. With the help of Keihin FCR32 flatslides, the NC450V was soon tramping out a ridiculous 93 ponies, even with a stock valvetrain!
Since we first broke tortilla with Norman a year ago after our chance Kawasaki meeting, project-bike owner Mark Elrod has moved Mike back to the San Francisco Bay area and into the position of engineering project manager at Elrod’s software company, Vindicia, which happily happens to be just six miles from Norman’s old G-Force shop, where fresh plans are brewing.
Elrod has pulled the trigger on a fully programmable, Norman-designed EFI system—a speeding bullet of development slowed by difficulty sourcing parts. In the meantime, intake-valve diameter was increased by one millimeter to 23.5; the larger valves were fitted and the ports matched in pursuit of the new goal of 100 horses.
This mechanical treat’s 323-pound weight rests on Michelin Power Race rubber and Dymag wheels, with an Öhlins Road & Track fork and a Penske shock set up by Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning Services. Customized RC211V-replica fiberglass by Tyga Performance wraps it all in a neat little package.
Even though the bike has a street value of $45,000, owner Elrod was kind enough to invite us to ride his prized possession during a track day sometime (he’s an instructor with www.keigwin.com) and might even let us race it at an AFM club weekend, where Norman and Elrod are convinced the NC450V will destroy anything in the 500 Superbike class and, with the right rider, maybe even the fastest SV650s.
Well, WTH? If they assume the risk, we may have the wrist…