The Honda SP-1 (RC51) in World Superbikes
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This page offers a timeline of the RC51 superbike's results in World Superbike and endurance racing.
We pick up the thread part way through the 2000 season. Aaron Slight had left the world stage in 1999 with a nasty brain tumour. Some doubted his chances of returning, but June dispelled those doubts. The SP-1 had already been making waves - it won first time out in the endurance class, and was already proving a potent force in the World Superbike class in the hands of Colin Edwards.
Aaron Slight has returned to World Superbike, and is finding the groove with the bike, while Colin Edwards is looking like the man most likely to take the championship. The season opened with a double win for Honda - a feat few bikes can manage in their first season. Edwards' chances of taking the title were vastly improved after Carl Fogarty crashed heavily from his Ducati. It looks like Carl is likely to sit out the rest of the season, and 1999 British Superbike champ Troy Bayliss has been drafted in to ride his bike.
Meanwhile the kitted RC51s, supplied to domestic Superbike teams, were well off the pace, as demonstrated at the British Superbike rounds. At Oulton Park youngster James Toseland gave the Vimto Honda a good outing, coming home in the top six. A couple of weeks later a hybrid bike won the Formula 1 TT. The legendary Joey Dunlop won his 25th TT on Toseland's bike, fitted with Slight's spare World Superbike engine. The race looked to be a close-fought battle with David Jefferies on a Yamaha R1, until the clutch broke on the Yamaha. Both bikes are estimated to be good for 195mph on the island. In the Senior race Jefferies proved his machine was fast, by winning by 30 seconds from teammate Michael Rutter and also recording a 125mph lap. The RC51 also won the Le Mans 24hr race, in the hands of Costes, Charpentier and Gimbert. The victory demonstrates Honda's commitment to competing in and dominating every category of motorcycle racing. While diehard v-four fans still miss the growling RC45, at least the Honda racing heritage is intact.
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 Daijio Katoh. 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 Katoh 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.
WSB - Brands Hatch
Neil beat the regulars to win a WSB race at Donington in May, and repeated the feat at Brands Hatch on August 6th. He has had an up-and-down time in World class racing. After making a good impression on a privateer GP500 bike, he spent two
hard years at Ducati followed by a depressing season with Kawasaki. Recent interviews have shown a wiser, more determined Neil Hodgson keen to prove his detractors wrong. And he certainly has a few - his lack of WSB success had some pundits mark him down as 'too nice' and not up to the job. He's planning to prove them wrong, and take his team INS Ducati to their intended goal of WSB in 2001. There he will have the opportunity to sort out what he calls "some unfinished business in World Superbike". Read more about Neil and the team at the GSE Racing website
Are WSB bikes now as fast as 500GP?
Top speeds at the fast circuits like Hockenheim and Monza have risen over the years, as engineers have extracted more power from the 4-strokes. Now the heavier bikes are challenging the times of the two-strokes at twistier circuits. Colin Edwards got within two thousandths of a second of Tadayuki Okada's outright lap record of 1:32.597, set during Tady's polesetting time at the 1999 British GP. Troy Corser caused consternation a couple of years ago by setting a new lap record at the Leicestershire circuit, though this was subsequently beaten by Mick Doohan at the Grand Prix. Superbikes still weight 162kg, the 500cc 2-strokes only 135kg. Superbike design is also constrained by rules which ensure critical components are the same dimensions as on the road bike sold to the public. However, this hasn't stopped them becoming more exotic and expensive.
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. His success will be tinged with some disappointment, after main rival Carl Fogarty crashed heavily at Phillip Island, Australia, forcing him into retirement. Nori Haga presented himself as a contender, but a positive test for banned a drug after the first round in South Africa hung over the Yamaha team throughout the season. His case wasn't decided until October, when Haga was stripped of his race two win in South Africa but retained the 20 points from race one. However, the court decided he should not contest the final round at Brands Hatch. This handed Edwards the championship, which must have been a disappointing way for the Texan to win a world title.
However, 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, 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. Honda will have to put more effort into supporting the domestic teams next year if it is to enjoy more than works success at World Championship level.
One could speculate on Honda's current R&D 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.
World Superbike - 2001 season
Downcast in Spain
11/03/01: Colin Edwards and Tady Okada got off to a poor start at the first round of the World Superbike championship at Valencia, Spain, on March 11th. Edwards managed 6th and 4th, while Okada failed to finish either race. The defending World Champion admitted that the team struggled with chassis set-up all weekend.
Aprilia-mounted Troy Corser took a double win, confirming that Aprilia
, for long a two-stroke racing company, have definitely arrived in four-stroke racing. It's a young company, but a brand with a distinctive profile, one rooted in racing. If teammate Regis Laconi gets comfortable on his RSV1000 the Honda of Colin Edwards might be struggling to keep up. And a good spread of teams and makes is just what Superbike needs to keep it alive. Corser also has an axe to grind with his old employers, Ducati, who dropped him suddenly at the end of 1999. Beating Ducati at their own game is top priority for Troy, so expect some fabulous racing. However, the Castrol-Honda team have are confident that the 2001 Honda SP-W is even better than the machine that finished last season at the top. If you're in the UK, do yourself a favour and watch the coverage on BBC's Sunday Grandstand. We now have a calendar
of British Superbike, World Superbike and Grand Prix dates.
Colin bounces back at Kyalami
Colin Edwards took a decisive race 1 victory at the second round of the World Superbike championship in South Africa. However, engine problems stopped him while leading on lap 16, preventing him the chance of double victory. Okada suffered a similar fate on lap 8 while in fifth position and closing in on the top 3. Edwards set a new lap record during the first race.
Proddy GSX-R wins Le Mans 24 hours
The amazing ability of the latest batch of these machines is illustrated by a win at the weekend's 24hr race at Le Mans. A virtually standard engine in a WSB-grade chassis beat a works-spec RC51, and another came third. Phase One boss Russell Benny (Endurance racing World Champions) sees production-based machines as the key to a way forward for World Superbike and Endurance racing. This is what I was saying a month or more ago (sorry to brag). There is more about endurance racing on the endurance page
Honda one-two in the wet at Phillip Island
Colin Edwards splashed round in atrocious conditions to win the Australian World Superbike race at Phillip Island on Sunday, while teammate Tady Okada managed to get past Troy Bayliss to take second spot, founr seconds behind Edwards. The race saw many fallers in the pouring rain, and it continued to rain so heavily that Race 2 was cancelled. The organisers were reluctant to do so, but the riders, led by Aprilia rider Troy Corser, were not prepared to ride on the increasingly waterlogged circuit. You can see one of Mark Wernham's shots of Colin Edwards winning
on the www.superbikeplanet.com
Double win for VTR and Tamada
Honda won at the Sugo round of World Superbike for the first time since 1996, but it was not Colin Edwards or Tady Okada on the podium. Both Castrol Honda riders had a dismal time at Sugo. Edwards finished 12th and 13th, a far cry from his domination in the wet at Phillip Island. Okada managed 12th in race two after falling in race 1. Meanwhile the Cabin Hondas of Makoto Tamada and ex-GP star Shinichi Ito ran up front with Kawasaki-mounted Izutsu and Serizawa. Tamada qualified a full second ahead of team-mate Ito and third placed Troy Corser. Corser was the only non-Japanese rider on the podium in race one, while race two it was an entirely local affair. Some suggested the result was partly because Sugo is considered a 'Dunlop track'. All Dunlop runners (including the top wildcard riders plus Corser and GSE Ducati's Hodgson) were supplied with the Japanese rubber, developed over many miles at the track. Michelin-shod teams will wait for European tracks to get back on terms. That will be Monza on May 13th.
Edwards has to settle for second - twice
The Italian World Superbike races at the stunning Monza circuit provided a double win for Ducati rider Troy Bayliss. The only competitor to challenge him was Colin Edwards on the VTR1000 SP2. In both races Edwards appeared to pull away during the early stages, only to be reeled in by a determined Bayliss. The Ducati rider had the red machine tied in knots as he pushed it to the limit. A smoother riding Edwards was fast, but Troy admitted he was determined it was his turn to win. As a result he is top of the championship. He is 29 points ahead of Aprilia's Troy Corser, who didn't figure in either race. Edwards is in third spot, another 2 points back. Tady Okada had a day of mixed fortunes - a hard-earned fourth and fastest lap in race two made up for highsiding out of race 1.
Edwards first and third in Germany
Colin Edwards won the first race at the Lausitzring World Superbike race in Germany. He led from start to finish and was able to control the gap to his main championship rival Troy Bayliss, who finished second. In race two it was a different story. He had a poor start, and had to push hard and finished third. He was disappointed, as a double win was possible. Bayliss took the win, and moves another 4 points ahead of Edwards, who is now second in the championship, 23 points behind the Australian Ducati rider. Tady Okada managed to join Edwards on the podium in race one, but front end grip problems in the wet second race meant he had to settle for a safe 9th at the flag.
Ducati rule at Misano
Works Ducati riders Ben Bostrom and Troy Bayliss took a win apiece at the World Superbike races at Misano at the weekend. Rear traction prevented Edwards and Okada managing better than fourth and ninth places in race one. For race two Okada's mechanics had made some changes, and he managed 5th place. Edwards crashed but remounted to finish in 11th place. Bayliss is now 47 points clear of Colin, with Corser, who finished 7th and 9th, a further 24 points back.
Bostrom whitewash at Laguna Seca
Ben Bostrom won both races convincingly on his Ducati at the California circuit which the local rider calls home. Only Troy Corser (Aprilia) and Neil Hodgson (Ducati) looked like they might challenge him, but Bostrom was able to hold them at a distance. Meanwhile the Castrol Honda riders were struggling - Edwards struggled to sixth in both races, while Okada managed 8th and eleventh. Rear grip was a problem for both riders, compounded by a lack of confidence in the front. Edwards had looked like challenging for a podium position before an off-track excursion at the infamous Corkscrew, the result of vibration when braking which continued through the rest of the race. But a whitewash? Ben's brother Eric won the Superbike Planet and 600cc Supersport races too.
Championship leader Troy Bayliss finished behind Corser but ahead of Edwards each time. As a result, Corser has closed on Edwards, but Bayliss now has a 53 point advantage over the Castrol Honda rider with Corser only 8 points behind:
Ducati rule at Brands Hatch
Colin Edwards had to watch his title hopes fade at the sun-drenched Kent circuit on Sunday. Third and fifth places mean he is still 53 points behind Troy Bayliss. The Australian scored the same points as his chief rival, coming home fifth and third. Man of the moment is Ben Bostrom, who scored a double win. He is the only rider to win five consecutive races since Carl Fogarty in 1995. He was chased hard by a determined Neil Hodgson, who didn't have quite enough steam to push past the Californian works Ducati rider. Bostrom is now only 3 points behind Edwards in the title chase, with only three round left.
Honda one-two at Suzuka
Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi delivered the goods for the Cabin Honda team, winning the 2001 Suzuka 8-hour race on the works RC51. Their completion of 217 laps was a new record. They were challenged only by the fellow Honda team of Tadayuki Okada and Alex Barros. Akira Ryo and Atushi Watanabe brought the Suzuki GSX-R home in third place. See the results at Cyclenews.com
, and extensive coverage is available from endurance racing site Race24.com
. www.superbikeplanet.com reports that Alex Barros claims the result was 'fixed' by Honda so that the popular duo won - read it here
Edwards back on form
Colin Edwards took a win and a second at the tight and twisty Oschersleben circuit in Germany on Sunday. He led from start to finish in race one, while his main title rival Troy Bayliss retired with clutch problems. He got off to a similarly blistering start in race two, leading by nearly two seconds at the end of the first lap. However, Ducati rider Ruben Xaus had other ideas. The Spaniard was the only man to match Edwards' times in race 1, and finished second, eleven seconds ahead of third placed Bostrom. He went one better in race 2. He caught and passed the quick-starting Texan and finished with a ten-second margin to win his first ever World Superbike race.
Edwards was happy with two podiums in one weekend, and has clawed back some of the points gap to Bayliss, who rode hard to finish third in race two. During qualifying he had problems with front end chatter when braking, something that has haunted the Honda during both racing seasons, so was suprised to finish so well.
There are only two rounds remaining, with Bayliss leading by 24 points. Okada managed fifth and eigth, and has made progress with the Honda during the Summer break. However, his performances still don't show the potential seen in his Grand Prix forays and the Suzuka 8-hour.
The VTR1000 had obviously been changed - there is now a single high-level exhaust pipe on the left-hand side instead of the twin units previously used.
Bayliss takes title while Edwards goes backwards
Colin Edwards saw the 2001 World Superbike title and his No.1 plate slip from his grasp at Assen on Sunday. A strong third in race one, behind the Ducati duo of Troy Bayliss and Ruben Xaus, meant he was still in with a chance of the title. However, a disastrous tyre choice for race two scuppered any hopes of a good finish, and he came home tenth. He needed a ninth place to remain in contention. Bayliss took the championship with one round remaining.
Okada fared well in race one, finishing seventh after a good scrap with Corser, Laconi and Yanagawa. However, he ended race two in a disappointing 13th place.
Okada ends season on a high
Tady Okada ended his first season of World Superbike racing with third place in race two at Imola on Sunday. He came from a second row grid position to challenge the leading pairing of Regis Laconi and Ruben Xaus on the last two laps of the 21-lap affair. A better start, he said, may have seem him try for a win. Colin Edwards ended his season with an uncharacteristic visit to the gravel trap.
In race one Edwards had fared much better. After setting the fastest lap of the race on lap three, he finished third behind Ruben Xaus and Troy Corser. It had looked like Okada would be the third man on the podium, before he made a mistake and lost a couple of places. He finished fifth.
As a result Colin secures second place in the Championship with 333 points, to winner Troy Bayliss' 369. An impressive string of results later in the season pushed Ben Bostrom to 312 points and third place, ahead of Troy Corser (284).
Edwards' first tests for 2002
Colin Edwards' verdict on the Castrol-Honda race bike was favourable but not very encouraging. While they have made some ground up on the works Ducati bikes, the Honda is still struggling to get on terms exiting corners, a crucial point on a circuit. Edwards is the sole Castrol Honda rider for 2002.
Colin Edwards interview
Read Edwards' opinion on the form for 2002 and other stuff, at www.superbikeplanet.com
Cathcart's verdict on the 2001 Castrol Honda SP-2
Alan Cathcart was in the fortunate position of having ridden Troy Bayliss's title-winning Ducati 998R only ten days earlier, then Corser's Aprilia RSV1000. There is surely no better basis for comparison than the top works machines of the respective manufacturers at the same time of year.
The 2001 season didn't start out too well for Honda. Okada and Edwards each suffered an engine blow-up, a setback to the latter's title aspirations. These hopes were to lead to him playing catch-up all season, while Ducati riders Troy Bayliss, Ruben Xaus and Ben Bostrom conspired to deprive Colin of the wins (and therefore extra points) he sorely needed.
Ducati's new 998cc 'Testastretta' engine proved to be powerful, with a generous dollop of torque just at the point where you exit corners, handing riders of the red bikes a healthy advantage all the way down each straight (once you've lost the tow, it's much harder to regain it).
But it seems Honda had fallen behind in engine development. The early season engine failures were put down to a faulty batch of engine parts (Honda wouldnt' say which ones). So what about the Honda compared to the competition?
At world level this is now a less convincing all-round package than either the Ducati or Aprilia Mille, both of which made significant steps forward between the 2000 and 2001 seasons, whereas the Honda appears to have marked time.
The main impression is that the Honda is now peakier and harder to ride than either of the Italian V-twins, without such a wide spread of usable power - it's not as muscular and meaty in its power delivery low down, as the Ducati especially is. You have to change gear a lot to keep it in the powerband. There isn't the seamless grunt from low revs of either the Latin V-twins, and no way is this the twist-'n'-go Superscooter that the Ducati especially is - zapping down four gears all at once under braking for the first turn at Jerez was more like riding a peaky two-stroke GP bike than a long-legged, lazy-sounding V-twin.
There's a sense that the engine seems to pick up revs at the top end faster than the Aprilia and especially the Ducati, if not quite so fast lower down. But, this means in turn that you must use the gearbox more often to keep the needle of the analogue tacho locked in the five-figure zome where the most power is. The ratios in the Honda gearbox fitted for Jerez were much more closed-up than on either the Ducati or Aprilian I'd recently been riding. The Japanese bike isn't as potent low down as the Italian V-twins, and Colin Edwards' discovery that the Honda handles best when geared tall means he has to use the gearbox harder, so the choice of internal ratios must be even more critical. As an example, at Valencia Colin uses all six gears, whereas Troy Bayliss gears his Ducati to use only four.
The Honda's seating position is more rational than on the Ducati - you don't feel you're sitting so high up, and this means you feel more a part of the bike as you do on the Aprilia - not perched atop it, which in turn makes it easier to lift up and change direction with it than the desmoquattro. The Honda feels narrower then either of the Italian V-twins, yet is quicker-steering, plus the broader screen gives better wind protection - almost as good as the more enveloping Aprilia streamlining.
Feedback from the Showa suspension is fantastic - as last year, you can feel the rear Michelin's level of grip almost as well as if you were sitting on the tyre. This is a bike whose chassis talks to you in a way few others do, and once you lay it into a turn it's very confidence inspiring. However, you have to be prepared for the Honda's more abrupt pickup from a closed throttle than either of the Italian bikes. It's not as noticeable as it was a year ago, but it's not ideal and you need to try to preload the throttle a bit to try to compensate for the snatchy response from the large diameter (62mm) dual-injector throttle bodies.
Changing direction on the Honda is its strong suit, doubtless thanks to a combination of its compact build, lower cee of gee, and more centralised mass, and even with Colin Edwards' preference for quite conservative chassis geometry in search of faster turn speeds and extra front wheel grip. Yet, in spite of that, handling is very neutral; the Honda doesn't run wide exiting a turn hard on the gas - there's no understeer and it doesn't push the front wheel even when you crack the throttle hard open leaned right over.
The SP-2 is still a superlative piece of machinery, but it does seem probable that HRC's inevitable concentration - in terms of both budget and manpower - on developing the V5 MotoGP contender has had an inevitable rub off on their VTR1000 SP-2 Superbike project. Ducati and Aprilia have both worked very hard to improve their machinery, HRC will have their work cut out.
Some of the changes were outlined by Colin Edwards' race engineer, Adrian Gorst:
- Reduced chassis stiffness, including a new, weaker swingarm
- New rear linkage with a more progressive ratio
- Modications to the combustion chamber, port design etc produced an 8bhp increase
- A single-pipe exhaust, proven at the Suzuka 8-hours, provides improved power delivery at the expense of maximum output (now 186bhp at the crank @ 12,000rpm!)
The above is an extract from a comprehensive article published in Motorcycle Racer
magazine, March 2002. All quoted material is © Alan Cathcart, reproduced here with permission.
Edwards wins at Sugo
Colin Edwards must have breathed a sigh of relief after winning the first race at Sugo. The previous six races of the season had all been won by Troy Bayliss, and the Honda rider must have wondered what he would have to do to beat the Australian.
Honda pride was restored at Sugo, as Edwards and Japanese Honda rider Tamada, who won both legs last year, took a win apiece. Edwards is now within 31 points of championship leader Bayliss.
Edwards nets 45 points at Silverstone
Colin Edwards went away from the British round of the championship having gained points on Bayliss, and securing a win and a second place. The weather was poor, and in a wet first race Bayliss and Edwards went away from the field. The Australian fell twice, both times carving his way back through the pack to finish an incredible fifth.
However there were no mistakes from the furious Ducati rider in race two, and he won from Edwards on a drying track. Bayliss wasn't the only one of the pair to crash. Edwards managed to slide off his Honda during the warm-up lap for race one trying to catch up with the leaders after having to start the lap from pit lane.
The championship is looking like a two-horse race. The points gap is now, with third place Neil Hodgson
another points behind Edwards.
1000cc fours to join WSB in 2003
News at Silverstone was that the organisers of WSB have brought forward the introduction of the blanket 1000cc limit, allowing bikes based on Yamaha's R1, the Fireblade and Suzuki GSX-R1000 to enter. A minimum weight of 168kg will apply and there will be restrictors on the air intakes. It remains to be seen if Honda produce the rumoured V4 bike in time for the 2003 season.
Bayliss wins both at Lausitzring
Troy Bayliss showed Colin Edwards the way to win at the German circuit, winning both races by 1.6 and 0.6 seconds. Only Bayliss' Ducati teammate Ruben Xaus, so far lacking the flair that he demonstrated during 2001, challenged for a win. He led briefly, but was ordered to cool it after the team feared a crash as the two riders circulated in close proximity.
Troy doubles up at Misano
Once again, the Australian took a double win, with Colin Edwards trying his best but still finishing second, about 3 seconds behind Bayliss, in both races. The Texan will be wondering what he can do to beat the Aussie, Bayliss appears to be in control at every circuit, and has that little extra that allows him to pull away when necessary. There was drama on the line as Bayliss' bike would not start, but the Ducati star remained unruffled and transferred to his spare bike.
These two riders appear to be in a different class to the rest of the field. As in previous rounds, the field was strung out. In race two third-placed Hodgson was 14 seconds adrift, followed by Haga (+19secs) and Bostrom (+33secs!).
Bayliss & Edwards share the spoils
After claiming superpole on Saturday with a time of 1:24.888 (0.9s quicker than Ben Bostrom's 2001 superpole time), Edwards could only manage third spot in the first of Sunday's races at Laguna Seca, California after leading for most of the race. However, he cheered the estimated 100,000 crowd by winning the second race ahead of his main rival, Troy Bayliss.
Edwards sported a special 'stars & stripes' paintjob and matching leathers for the occasion. www.superbikeplanet.com have some photos
of Edwards' machine.
The Ducati rider now has a buffer of 58 points over Edwards. The next round is at Brands Hatch on 28th July.
Meanwhile, Nicky Hayden leads the AMA Superbike championship on his RC51 with 381 points. Eric Bostrom, riding the Kawsaki ZX-7R extremely well, at 345 points, is 47 ahead of Hayden's teammate Miguel DuHamel aboard the other RC51.
Edwards takes the double at Brands
30/07/02: An ecstatic Colin Edwards won both races at Brands Hatch on Sunday. His performance showed the factory Honda rider was still able to beat Troy Bayliss, though he gained some advantage through the Ducati rider's injury. Bayliss crashed heavily during qualifying, breaking a rib. Despite the pain, he was helped onto his machine and managed to qualify on the front row. He managed to get on the podium in both races, as did Britain's Neil Hodgson.
While the two Ducati riders slugged it out around the Kent circuit, Edwards pulled away. The Texan has always enjoyed racing at Brands, and he relished the applause of the 130,000 crowd. Anyone who thought that the British interest in World Superbikes was solely about Carl Fogarty would only have to take one look at the vast crowd to realise this was not the case. They had come in their droves to see some great racing, and they were duly rewarded. He has closed the gap to Bayliss, and is now 39 points behind the Australian, with three rounds remaining.
The "silly season" is now well under way. Speculation is rife about Edwards' intentions for 2003, fuelled by the possibility of a 1000cc Honda superbike. However, the machine is likely to debut in 2004, its development having been held back while Honda work on refining the RC211V Grand Prix four-stroke machine.
The following day privateer Honda rider Mark Heckles tried out Edwards' RC51 around the shorter club circuit, and impressed the factory Honda team by lapping within 0.7 seconds of John Reynolds' lap record. Heckles rides a 'kit' Honda in World Superbikes, reckoned to be one of the slowest machines on the grid. It is hoped his good showing might get him some assistance with his underpowered Rumi Honda machine.
RC51 clean sweep at Suzuka 8 hour
Edwards and MotoGP rider Daijiro Kato won the 2002 Suzuka 8 hour race, ahead of two other Honda RC51 v-twins. All three podium places were taken by Honda.
Honda used the next generation SP-2 Honda for the works riders, and Colin Edwards was impressed, even though the engine was detuned for endurance racing. The bike used at the 8-hour is the basis for the 2003 World Superbike machine. However, rumours persist that Honda will scale down its World Superbike operation for 2003.
Nicky Hayden is US Superbike champ
Despite the best efforts of Eric Bostrom, Nicky Hayden has sealed the AMA Superbike championship aboard the RC51 Honda. He became the youngest ever AMA Superbike champion, 11 days after turning 21, and there are already rumours in the press about his plans for 2003. Since the announcement of MAx Biaggi's departure from the Yamaha MotoGP team, Hayden has apparently been considered as a replacement.
Edwards doubles up in Germany
01/09/02: Colin Edwards won both races at Oschersleben today, in convincing style. While new engine parts will have helped, his determination was evident. He was pipped to pole position by Neil Hodgson, but never put a wheel wrong during the two races. He has now closed up on Bayliss's lead, although the Australian still has a 29-point advantage with two rounds remaining.
Edwards - another double win at Assen
Colin Edwards put on a fine display of riding to win both legs of the Assen round of the 2002 World Superbike championship, taking the lead in the championship for the first time this year.
It was bad weekend for rival Troy Bayliss, who had dominated the series until the Summer break, means Edwards is two points ahead with only one round remaining - at Imola on 29th September.
Edwards champion again in 2002
Colin Edwards won both races at Imola to secure the World Superbike title for a second time on the RC51 Honda. He was made to work for both race wins, especially in the second race. Title rivals Bayliss and Edwards were together for the whole race, and swapped places a number of times. However, the Texan rode a determined race and got to the front on the crucial last lap. It was a great advert for top-level drama and close racing.
Edwards, who won nine consecutive races this season, was initially linked with Ducati in World Superbike, but has signed for Aprilia to ride their Grand Prix four-stroke. You can follow his progress on the MotoGP
Final standings - World Superbike
1. Edwards 552
2. Bayliss 541
3. Hodgson 326
Honda withdraw from World Superbikes
Financial pressures mean that Honda will not compete in the 2003 World Superbike championship. As efforts are diverted to producing enough four-stroke RC211Vs to fill the Grand Prix grid, Honda has found it cannot (or is not prepared to) support both World series.
One has to wonder if this is related to Colin Edwards' departure, as that means they would not have the No. 1 plate despite winning the title. World Superbikes is looking more like a one-make Ducati series than ever, which is a shame for both the championship and Honda fans everywhere.
Castrol-Honda release celebratory DVD
Quick to capitalise on winning the World Superbike championship, Castrol-Honda have issued a DVD to commemorate the title. It is only available through their official merchandise partner, Dread Ltd
RC51 to race in UK and TT
Honda's championship winning machines may not feature on the World Superbike circuits in 2003, but they will be raced in the British Superbike series and on the Isle of Man. Results and information will be posted here as it becomes available.
The ex-works bikes will give the riders a good chance, unlike the privateer efforts of 2000, when James Toseland, Sean Emmett and Shane Byrne struggled on uncompetitive machinery. That year Joey Dunlop looked to have no prospect of against the powerful Suzuki GSX-R1000 at the Isle of Man until Honda bowed to pressure and provided a works engine. The 2000 Formula 1 race was possibly his most popular win ever. More on Joey here
2003 North West 200
Plater and the Honda teamed up with road race star Ian Lougher in Norther Ireland in May for the NW200. After handling problems through practice, Plater felt reasonably confident on the grid. A poor start meant he had to battle through the pack, but was pleased with third place behind a Michael Rutter (Ducati) and Adrian Archibald (Suzuki 1000). Ian Lougher pulled in after one lap of the race with handling problems severe enough to worry the experienced Welshman.
Lougher had a much better run of form at the Ulster GP in August. He finished third in the first Superbike race aboard the SP-2, and won the second.
Isle of Man TT - June 2003
Adrian Archibald, riding the TAS Suzuki GSX-R1000, won the Formula 1 race, finishing over a minute ahead of Ian Lougher's factory Honda SP2. Archibald also won the Senior, where Lougher's SP2 finished third behind the Ducati of John McGuinness. The team could never get the 1000cc machine to steer as Lougher wished, depriving him of providing a stronger challenge. The bike had been plagued by handling problems at the Northern Ireland North West 200 meeting in May, which were not resolved before the TT. Some images of Ian in action on the SP2 can be seen at his website, www.ianlougher.com
The future of World Superbike
June 2003: Julian Ryder writes a column for www.superbikeplanet.com
on the likely future for WSB. It is well known that both the FIM and manufacturers would like a lowering of the technology get back to the original idea of the class - racing street bikes. this would mean less factory involvement, possibly only providing race kits.
Update: November 2003: Suzuki announced they would not be providing factory support for World Superbikes. The abandonment of World Superbikes by the Japanese factories is almost complete, and a number of talented riders will not get the chance to take the fight to Ducati, who must wonder about the commercial value of competing in a one-make series.
British Superbike 2003 review
Plater's performance on the Honda SP-2 improved through the season and, after reaching the podium a few times, he won at Oulton Park and his local circuit of Cadwell Park. After looking forward to a good run at the final round at Donington Park, Plater was struck by agonising pain as a kidney stone made its presence felt. As a result he was unable to race, which meant that instead of challenging for third place in the championship he ended up sixth, but just 9 points below fourth place. Detailed reports and news can be found at www.steveplater.com
Teammate Mark Heckles struggled after being drafted into the team at the second round, Snetterton. He found setting up the Honda and getting on the pace an uphill struggle. Regular top ten finishes meant he finished 12th in the championship, but he probably never really had a good opportunity to shine aboard the ex-factory Honda.
Expectations were high after the bike's success in the hands of Colin Edwards, but it was never going to be easy bringing the bike to a red-hot domestic championship with a rider who was used to drifting four cylinder bikes. Difficulty in setting the bike up for steve's style and UK circuits was compounded by the change from Michelin to Dunlop tyres. Plater will be riding for the Virgin Yamaha team in 2004.
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