The much-hyped Moto-GP machine, Honda RC213V-S is finally a reality, but does it live up to your expectations ?
Honda has finally debuted its long-awaited RC213V-S, which it terms an “absolute MotoGP machine for the street”. It has been under development for the past three years as a purported road-legal replica of the reigning MotoGP world champion 90° V4 999cc racebike.
The production-ready customer version was unveiled at a ceremony in the Catalunya GP race paddock outside Barcelona by Repsol Honda team riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, together with HRC race boss Shuhei Nakamoto. Available in either bare unpainted carbon fibre, or Honda’s historic Freddie Spencerera red, white and blue tricolor livery dating from HRC’s 1982 foundation, the bike will enter production in late September this year, with first deliveries in October.
Flagged in advance as a highpriced item, it will be sold – and will meet current homologation requirements for street use – only in Japan, the US, Australia and Europe. There, the price is quoted as €188,000 in Germany, including 19% sales tax, representing a price before tax of €158,000, which will be valid for the rest of the continent.
The tax-free price in the USA of $184,000, is matched by taxinclusive prices of (AU) $244,000 for Australia, and JPN 21,900,000 in Japan. Honda will only start accepting orders for it at the chimes of midnight Central European time on July 13 this year, via a dedicated website http://www.rc213v-s.com with an optional ‘track use only’ Sport Kit available for an additional €12,000 inclusive of tax.
This kit is not, however, available in the US, where the performance of the bike will be steeply restricted compared to the other three regions in which it’s being sold.
Compared with the ‘over 235bhp’ that Honda reveals its Marquez world champion racebike produces, the standard RC213V-S 16-valve V4 motor with gear-driven DOHC is claimed to produce 157bhp at 11,000 RPM in street-legal form, running 13:1 compression and fitted with a Euro 3-compliant catalyst exhaust and full silencing, and a rev ceiling of 12,000 RPM.
But with the Sport Kit fitted, which essentially comprises a 4.8kg lighter titanium race pipe devoid of catalyst, a new front fairing with ramair ducting replacing the LED headlights, and a race electronic package including a higher 14,000rpm limiter, this increases by a massive 35% to 212bhp at 13,000 RPM on a bike weighing 10kg less than its 160kg street-legal counterpart – not so far off the RC213V racer’s quoted ‘over 158kg after racing’ i.e. with oil, water and however much gas they finished a GP race with; usually just fumes.
Torque goes up too, rising from 74.23lb-ft at 10,500 RPM in street guise to 87.03lb-ft at the same revs. But US-delivered bikes will only be available in severely strangulated form, with a 9.400 RPM limiter imposed, which restricts power to 101bhp, and torque to just 66.38lb-ft; both at 8000 revs.
The reason for this is the lack of space on such a densely packaged racer-with-lights to make room for the bulky exhaust silencing needed to meet US noise regulations, so the only solution was to back off the revs. Expect lots of Yank buyers to have their bikes delivered to their grannies in London or Berlin or Sydney – in which case they’ll have to send them back to granny to get them serviced, since Honda will appoint a strictly limited number of dealers – three at present in Europe, for example – with the necessary special tools and electronic diagnostics to work on the bikes.
While each motorcycle will be individually numbered, Honda has not imposed a production ceiling beyond a commitment to terminate manufacture on December 31, 2016. The following year, 2017, sees the introduction in Europe of Euro 4 compliance for all new motorcycles, which the RC213V-S cannot meet.
This means that if Honda’s target of hand-building one bike per day in a dedicated workshop at its Kumamoto factory on the island of Kyushu is achieved, a maximum production volume of around 400 bikes in just over 15 months can be constructed on the basis of the six-day working week commonplace in Japan.
At the Barcelona launch, the chief operating officer of Honda Motor Japan, Tetsuo Suzuki – formerly president of HRC when this project was started late in 2011 – was at pains to stress that the mechanical core of the bike is indeed closely linked to the Marquez two-time world champion racer, with around 80% commonality of components.
The 20% changes include reduced compression, the substitution of valve springs for the Marquez bike’s pneumatic valve operation (as on the shortlived 2014 RCV1000R ‘production’ MotoGP racer, on which the RC213V-S is reportedly closely based), metal Brembo disc brakes rather than carbon, a conventional six-speed gearbox rather than the racer’s seamless shift transmission – albeit with the same assisted dry slipper clutch common to both bikes – and forged three-ring pistons rather than the racer’s two-ring ones.
Honda claims emissions concerns with these that are presumably linked to the risk of blow-by, not that using two-ring pistons seems to bother Ducati on the new Panigale R. Among the minimal street equipment that’s been added are separate 2-1 exhaust systems for each bank of cylinders, each containing its own catalyst and an exhaust valve likely to be installed for the same reason as on the factory Kawasaki ZX-10R Superbike – to assist with engine braking.
But the 80% of commonality is claimed to include the RC213V’s chassis and swingarm – although wheelbase has been stretched 30 mm to 1465 mm on the streetbike – as well as the carbonreinforced plastic bodywork replete with titanium fasteners, Marchesini forged magnesium wheels shod with Bridgestone R10 rubber (so tyres for this racerwith- lights were developed directly out of the Japanese company’s involvement in MotoGP racing as control supplier), Brembo brake calipers, and fully adjustable Öhlins suspension, with a gas-charged TTX25 fork up front and TTX36 rear shock operated by the same Pro-Link linkage as the racer.
Inside the V4 999cc motor, alongside the shared 81 x 48.5mm dimensions and sandcast crankcases are the same titanium valves and con rods, with the same twin injectors – one topspray unit mounted above each throttle body, another at the side above the butterfly – in the quartet of 48 mm PGM-DSFI throttle bodies.
The RC213V-S marks a milestone in Honda’s product development as the first Honda sportbike embracing electronic rider aids; something the company has long resisted introducing on its CBR1000RR Fireblade in-line four.
It’s also the first Honda streetbike fitted with a ride-by-wire digital throttle, and its ECU package includes five distinct riding modes, three-stage ‘power selector’ throttle variability, nine level traction control, and four-stage engine braking control, as well as a quick-shifter – though as yet no auto-blipper, such as Marc and Dani must most surely use in races.
Maybe that’ll be added by the time production begins, to ensure this MotoGP-derived mechanical masterpiece at least offers the same dynamic riding advantages as much less costly street-legal Superbikes like the BMW S1000RR, Yamaha R1 or Ducati 1299 Panigale.
The Honda RC213V-S marks a significant return to the Way It Was for Honda and its engineers, to back in the days when Soichiro Honda-san was still alive, and the company relished every opportunity to demonstrate its technical capability and engineering skill.
This is also the first V4 sportsbike produced by Honda in the past 15 years since the demise of the RC45 – a period in which it has refused to commit its bestselling Fireblade in-line four to the Superbike class’s technological and electronic R&D rat race.
Asked if the introduction of this model represented a return to Honda’s V4 traditions dating back to 1982 that would be replicated on other less expensive models, Mr Suzuki smiled broadly and replied:
“We never forgot the V4 at Honda – and we never will!”