Honda RVF750  RC45

John Kocinski's 1997 WSB winning machine


The homologation RVF750, not to be confused with Honda's mid-eighties endurance racer of the same name, was introduced in 1994, when it was clear that the RC30 was no longer competitive. Yamaha's YZF750 had proved to be fast, and Ducati were taking WSB competition very seriously. Honda threw all its know-how into the new bike, and it is safe to say that this machine is less than impressive in road guise. It is capable of a ludicrous 90mph in 1st gear, and takes the concept of race-ready road bike a step further than the RC30.

Its retail price of 17,780 meant that it was beyond most people's means, and considerably more than Ducati's 916 (11,800). Its specification (including PGM-FI fuel injection) put fear into the hearts of competing race team managers. This was unfounded, as the RC45, while certainly the most powerful WSB machine, has been dogged by handling problems through most of its racing career. The Castrol Honda squad had to wait until Hockenheim in 1996 for Aaron Slight to give the team a win in WSB racing. Domestic teams often complained that there was little support to address the front-end problems they were experiencing, though despite this it dominated AMA superbike championship and won the Japanese World Superbike round at Sugo.

Honda continued working on this flawed design, and were rewarded with the WSB title the following year, 1997. Having '99 RC45 photo by Koichi Ohtaniridden to third spot on a Ducati the previous year, John Kocinski took the RC by the scruff of the neck and showed Aaron Slight (and the rest of the four-stroke racing world) how to win races, and the WSB championship, on the RC45. He was blessed with a number of wet races, where he shone, but there is no doubt that the bike won because he was on board. In that year Fogarty struggled after a year away from Ducati, finding that they had altered the power delivery to the detriment of its ability to drive out of corners.

The 1999 RC45 (pictured right) is probably the most refined WSB bike ever made, and Honda had finally come up with some answers to the front end problems which have plagued the bike through its race career. The conventional dual-sided swingarm, introduced in 1998, and revised suspension made this the best-handling RC45 ever. For 1999 the brakes and suspension had also come under scrutiny, and the improvements were palpable. We have been granted permission to quote some of the in-depth review of Colin Edwards' 1999 RC45, written by Alan Cathcart, in the April 2000 issue of Motorcycle Racer magazine. It was the last test of this machine before it was retired to make way for the RC51 1000cc V-twin. Motorcycle Racer is the only magazine to cover racing in depth. It has changed hands a couple of times, but is still way ahead of any other motorcycle magazine in its racing coverage.

As well as showing the way in endurance racing, the RC45 has been dominant at the Isle of Man TT.   The v-four's power and tractability, coupled with their legendary reliability and full factory support, have meant that Honda has an enviable, nay unchallenged record at the TT. In 1994 Hislop led home fellow RC45 riders Philip McCallen and Joey Dunlop, and McCallen won the F1 and Senior races in 1995, 1996 and 1997 (barring the 1995 senior, claimed by Dunlop).

Some RC45s in action
Rutter on  the 1998 RC45

'Rainmeister' Mike Rutter leading by a country mile in the wet at Oulton Park, July 1998
Photo © Simon J Evans

Eric Bostrom, RC45 © Ross Weitzner

Eric Bostrom, AMA superbike RC45   Photo by Ross Weitzner

The V&M Honda RC45 (picture below) was used by Superbike magazine to compare the UK Superbike race machine against a Renault Touring Car. The test was conducted in rather damp conditions, which always seems to be the case (the same happened when BBC TV programme Top Gear tested the Suzuki GSX-R against another tin box). I suspect it is to 'level the playing field' and make it difficult for the rider to use the power and handling to its best. But then again, I'm biased.

Mike Rutter on the V&M RC45, Superbike magazine

More action photos of Castrol Honda RC45s on this page.

Superbike computer game While the RC45 is no longer seen in top level competition, you can recreate it with the Castrol Honda Superbike 2000 simulation game for Playstation or Windows95/98 on the PC. Download a demo of the PC version (10Mb) from top download site Tucows or read a review at ZDNet.

Relevant links
Book review - Honda's V-force by Julian Ryder (local link)