Classic Motorcycle Mechanics

Honda Britain’s Evolution Fireblade


Honda UK had been winning in the TT Production race since it was reinstated in 1996 and they didn’t want to be beaten by Yamaha’s YZF-R1 in 1999 – especially after Jim Moodie had taken Honda’s 100th TT win in the Production race in 1998. But with a significan­t performanc­e gap between the RR-W/X Blade and the R1, what was needed was – in effect – a very limited-run Blade-based special that would be eligible to race at the TT. That bike was the Honda TT100 Evolution Fireblade. It was an official ‘special’ built at the end of 1998 to celebrate Honda’s 100th victory and it cost between £22,000 and £25,000. The brains behind it were ex-racer Mick Grant and respected tuner Russell Savory. Both had been working together in the RS Performanc­e/sanyo Honda team which was racing on short circuits in the production classes and Supersport 600 series. The EVO Blade still looked very much like a Fireblade, but now had a more purposeful look to it, with its exposed RAM single-sided swingarm and two huge fresh air scoops near the screen. Those two huge ducts above the headlights pushed large amounts of air into the larger air-box and into the 41mm Keihin flat-slides. All the major internals such as pistons, con-rods and crankshaft were balanced. The cylinder head was ported and gas-flowed. RS Performanc­e high-lift cams operated standard valves closed by RS springs. The standard gearbox was junked in favour of a close-ratio one, a new ignition box helped the machine peak at a 12,200rpm rev limit as shown on a flashy LCD Stack dash and the exhaust was a four-into-one titanium model with a Micron carbon oval silencer. RS Performanc­e quoted power as 165bhp at the crank with 150bhp at the rear wheel. That compares to a standard machine on the same dyno pumping out 118bhp… Suspension parts were just as flash. Ohlins 43mm inverted racing forks at the front and an Ohlins unit at the rear working on a single-sided swingarm. Brakes were Brembo’s racing finest (four-calipers and 320mm discs at front). Wheels were lightweigh­t Dymags and tyres (the front was a 17-incher) were Dunlop D207s. The bodywork was sculpted by leading bike designer John Keogh, mimicking the original, but smoothing out the whole shape a little. Owners would get front and rear paddock stands, a riding jacket, a bike cover plus a data sheet including all recommende­d suspension settings for road and track. Alternativ­e parts, such as single and twin seats (touring on this?) and high and low-slung exhaust systems in road or race form completed your return for the £22,325 outlay. And if you wanted to spend more, a £25,000 ‘Stealth’ version came with fuel-injection, carbon-fibre bodywork, magnesium single sided swingarm and carbon Dymag wheels. As a nod to TT racing it also had a 23.5 litre (not 18) fuel tank. Two flying laps of the Isle of Man circuit could easily be achieved… But, for the bike to go TT racing it had to be homologate­d for racing by the UK’S racing chiefs at the Motorcycle Circuit Racing Control Board and here’s where it came unstuck. Yamaha began to complain that this really wasn’t in the spirit of the rules. Eventually the 150 bikes needed to qualify for homologati­on weren’t built and the bike even fell foul of Harley-davidson who claimed that EVO was a trademark for their new engines… Either way, it was a delightful exercise in excess and an amazing bike to ride on the road and the EVO Blade has a unique place in the history of the Honda Fireblade.

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