Honda VTR1000 / RVT1000 SP-1 and SP-2 (RC51)

29 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Honda VTR1000 / RVT1000 SP-1 and SP-2 (RC51)
Honda VTR 1000 SP-1

Honda VTR1000 SP-1 / SP-2 (RC51)

UK Spec SP-1. Click the photo to see the 2001 RVT1000 USA colourscheme (54kb)

This is Honda’s latest weapon in the World Superbike wars. The RC45. while eventually making it to championship winner in 1997, was still considered inferior to Ducati’s 916. Honda decided to play Ducati at their own game.


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

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 VM 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.

Aug ’00 – Honda announces track-only SP-1

Honda will be selling an RC51 for track use only early next year. Called the Basic Racer, it has been developed by HRC to provide a better starting point for racers. Shown for the first time at last weekend’s Suzuka Eight-Hour race, it has a race-only exhaust system developed jointly by Akrapovic and HRC, a modified air filter system and a simplified wiring harness without plug-ins for road equipment such as lights and indicators.

A Complete Racer will be offered alongside the Basic model. It will have an HRC race kit and, claims Honda, makes 170bhp at 11,000rpm. The compression ratio is a high 12.7:1.

It will weigh just 170kg (374lb) and has a 24-litre (5.28-gallon) tank, compared to the Basic Racer’s standard 18-litre (3.96-gallon) tank. The price of the Complete Racer is unknown – but it’s expected to cost between Ј50,000 and Ј75,000. You can read more about the two models at Motorcycle Online.

All stocks of the Basic Racer have been sold by HRC USA. and they list the Complete Racer at $107,999 (May 2001).

Honda will also offer a range of endurance racing extras which will bolt straight on to the bike. They include a new swingarm, sprockets, rear wheel and footrest mounts, as well as an endurance hub assembly which will allow the chain, sprocket and hub to remain in situ on the swingarm when the rear wheel is removed.

Honda VTR 1000 SP-1

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.

One could speculate on Honda’s current RD directions. There is much discussion about the proposals for entering four-strokes into Grands Prix, which could relegate Superbikes to modified production machines. Seasoned GP watchers fear for the future of the two-strokes, which are still the most difficult machines to master, and considered the pinnacle of motorcycle racing.

Oddly enough, the development of four-stroke engined motorcycles with comparable performance will be a very expensive business, and, like current GP machines, they will not based on production models. That could lead to a shrinking of the grids in GPs as costs rise even further, which is surely a bad thing for motorcycling.

Harris Performance RC51

The name of Harris has long been associated with improvements to the performance and handling of motorcycles. In recent years the Harris brothers have used their expertise in World Championship racing. During the 2000 season they ran the brand new Honda SP-1 in the British Superbike Championship.

The bikes were down on speed compared to the works bikes, but were stock bikes with the race kit. There were no special HRC performance parts and little development work from Japan – the World Superbike team was the focus of Honda’s efforts with its new star. The only time there was any works involvement was for the hybrid SP-1 memorably ridden by Joey Dunlop at his last TT in June.

That particular bike is mentioned elsewhere on this page.

However, there’s no doubt the SP-1 roadbike is up there with the best of them. Uk weekly paper Motorcycle News decided to take a Harris-modified road machine out to play for their 6 September issue. Harris have fitted many performance parts to the machine, which would cost Ј8300 if you or I wanted to buy them. The list goes like this:

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