Honda VTR 1000 RC51 and outstanding racers
The RC51 VTR SP2 was a bit of a special bike for Honda, one that came out of the need to create a competitive entry in the Superbike World Championship. When V-twin engines with a capacity up to 999cc were allowed in 1988, it didn’t take Ducati long to take away championships from Honda who had success with its RC30 750cc V4. In the following 11 years Ducati took out eight WSBK championships, but then Honda decided to fight back.
The RC45, while eventually making it to championship winner in 1997, was still considered inferior to Ducati's 916. The original VTR1000 was developed purely as a road bike, and has been thought of by many as a "VFR with only two cylinders". So Honda produced a v-twin update of the RC45. It is a 90-degree 9-valve v-twin, and has fuel injection. Honda claimed to have borrowed the NSR500's frame during testing. It won the World Superbike championship in its first year with Colin Edwards on board.
July '00 - Suzuka 8-hour and VR46
A factory RC51 won the most prestigious race of the year in the hands of 250cc GP rivals Tohru Ukawa and Daijiro Kato. Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi went out on lap 125 when Edwards crashed. The two stars had looked like the fastest pairing on the circuit, but Ukawa and Kato saved the day for Honda. Honda v-fours were consistent winners in endurance racing, so Honda will have been pleased that the new v-twin picked up where the previous bikes left off.
Joey's TT-winning RC51
This hybrid bike was featured prominently in MotorCycleNews' TT coverage. A basic description would be that the bike comprised the frame of James Toseland's British Superbike machine with a full WSB-spec engine shipped from Japan. Joey had complained after the VTR was blown away by the V&M Yamaha R1s at the North West 200, and Honda responded with some appropriate upgrades, including Aaron Slight's spare engine. This is significantly more powerful than the kit bikes. Photos of the bike showed it in two colourschemes - the blue 'Vimto' colours of Paul Bird's racing team, and the Honda UK red & black. The Vimto bodywork was used during practice week, and replaced by Honda livery for the races.
Edwards and the RC51 win World Superbike Championship
Colin Edwards took the WSB title on the Honda VTR SP-1 (RC51) in its first year of competition. Despite the loss of his main rival Carl Fogarty through injury, and the controversy over Nori Haga's drug case, Honda are likely to be pleased with the RC51's success in its first year. As well as taking the WSB title, it won the Formula 1 TT in the hands of Joey Dunlop. The TT machine is discussed elsewhere on this page, and was featured in weekly newspaper MCN. It was a hybrid kit bike with a factory engine and some one-off parts. The kit bikes supplied to domestic superbike teams were far less impressive. Despite the best efforts of Shane Byrne, Sean Emmett and James Toseland, they failed to crack the top 6 in the hotly contested British Superbike series.
Nicky Hayden replica RC51
In 2004, Honda released the Nicky Hayden special edition, which differed from previous models in that it had a brushed aluminum frame and swing arm. This edition of RC51s wore the Hayden red white and silver livery, as well as faux number plates and the Kentucky Kid’s signature Woody Woodpecker decals.