Toward the end of his annual share holders address last September, dealing with business as usual, Honda President/CEO Takanobu Ito snuck in a paragraph that relit the pilot in the hearts of the V-Four faithful everywhere: “Since its market introduction in 1987, the RC30 [VFR750R] supersports bike has been loved by a large number of fans. With a goal to create a new history, passionate Honda engineers have gotten together and have begun development of a new supersports bike to which new technologies from MotoGP machines will be applied.”
RC is not a nomenclature Honda throws around lightly. In the modern era, Honda won the first two Superbike World Championships, 1988 and 1989, with Fred Merkel and the RC30. Later, it spent many millions building a fuel-injected 750cc V-Four, the RC45, and hired John Kocinski to beat Ducati in 1997. When Honda determined to beat the Italians at their own V-Twin game, the RC51 was the bike to do it and Colin Edwards the man (in an epic last-round win over Troy Bayliss in 2000).
Finally, with MotoGP in dire straits and CRT machines making a mockery of motorcycling’s premier class, Honda has decided to build a production racer for sale. And with that decision made, why not an SBK homologation/domesticated street version for sale to the public?
What the new bike will be like is anybody’s guess. Here’s Kevin Cameron’s: “I think Honda has put a lot into cutting weight from the RC211/212/213V engines, and the affordable part of this will be passed along to whatever they produce. Fuel used to be up in a humpy gas tank but is now moved down under the seat for the most part. So much has been learned in the MotoGP years about how to use chassis lateral flexure to make bikes hook up even on rough pavement; some of that will pass along.
“A lot of MotoGP relationship will be look and detail styling—not much more than Bold New Graphics. In line with current MotoGP norms, the fairing will look very abbreviated from the sides. There’s no other way to get all that heat out without having an enclosing fairing channel it onto the rider, making the bike into a convection oven in motion.
“All the details, the swingarm braced on the bottom, the details of how the brake calipers and fork look, will contribute to the effect. I hear it’s to be designated RC213B, but as to product name, surely something stormy and predatory! Vortex! Perfect Storm! Naked Mole Rat? Basically, who knows?”
Contributing Editor Steve Anderson, who traveled to Japan in 1988 to ride the RC30, thinks the bike will be a Honda technology statement just like the RC30 was: “I would expect tiny LED headlights, a lithium-ion battery and full-color TFT LCD dash. Perhaps a race ABS and sophisticated traction control, wheelie control and launch control matching or exceeding those used by BMW. Or maybe just a GP-look fairing on an improved CBR with gear-driven cams?” When Honda racing boss Shuhei Nakamoto was asked about the bike at the final MotoGP race of the season at Valencia, he said, “That is production machine. Not my department.”
The CBR1000RR isn’t getting any younger, but it remains a decent platform for World Superbike competition and for selling to the masses at reasonable cost—meaning the new RC doesn’t have to be anything like practical. In 1990, an $11,000 RC30 wasn’t quite twice the price of a $5998 CBR1000F. In ’94, you could get three CBR900RRs for the price of one $27,000 RC45. But the 2000 RC51 sold for the very same $9999 as the CBR929RR, so there really is no precedent. Whatever the price, expect the new RC to be a highly desirable object of moto-worship.
It’s about time.