Honda VFR750R RC30
Although Bimota’s YB4IE grabbed the first WSB plaudits, as 1988 unfolded it was very much Honda, with its VFR750R, which became the most celebrated. Today, Honda’s V4 remains the definitive homologation bike of the early WSB era and the most prized of all Japanese ‘exotica’.
The idea was for a V4 production racer to compete in WSB, endurance, the TT and F1 and so promote V4 road machines such as the VFR750F. Accordingly, it was called the VFR750R, although the internal ‘RC30’ designation, applied by HRC, which developed and hand-built the machine, became more familiar.
No expense was spared. Although outwardly similar to Honda’s then-dominant RVF750 racer, the RC30’S 90° V4 was very different: cams were gear-, not chain-driven, its firing order was 360° not 180°, ‘short-skirt’ forged alloy pistons had just two rings, cases were magnesium and it was the first road machine with titanium rods (at eight times the cost of traditional steel versions).
Chassis and peripherals were equally special: its bodywork was hand-laid fibreglass; the swingarm was the Elf-developed single-sider; while the forks, too, were designed for world endurance with quickrelease axle clamps.
The result was a phenomenon – not for outright power (the 112bhp V4 was never about that), but for an incomparably integrated design which became the new benchmark for handling, an amazingly flexible and linear power delivery and, above all, its beautiful clean-sheet design.
Although only 500 were required. Honda’s first run of 1000 sold out instantly upon its 1987 release in Japan, despite its 1,480,000 Yen asking price (about £10K). When it came to the UK in ’88 it cost £8499, nearly twice any ‘normal’ 750. It didn’t matter. The world fell in love with it. A love that continues to this day.
Fred Merkel took two WSB titles on an RC30