The nineties were a wonderful time, well, at the very least they were a time. A time of total excess, loud bikes and even louder liveries. It was also the last real boom for the homologation special. For those who do not know, these bikes are built strictly to meet the homologation rules for World Superbike. To put it simply, to race in a "production bike" class, the manufacture must race a bike that is produced, available to the public, and road legal.
The most famous of these bikes have come from Honda. HRC churned out what is probably the most iconic sportbike in the world in 1987, the VFR750R, better known as the RC30. They then followed it up with the RC45, before moving away from the true limited production specials and producing the famed RC51 (SP1/2). Kawasaki was not going to be left behind by its Japanese rival, they came to the table with the ZXR750RR, the first production bike to feature an aluminium tank, which is still not the norm. Kawi followed up the formidable 750RR with absolutely legendary ZX7RR. Of course Yamaha was not going to be left out, so in 1999 they released their weapon, the R7, at just 500 units, and a price tag of $32,000, it is one of, if not the most exclusive special of them all. Lastly I come to the bike which truly dominated the nineties. The Ducati 916, more specifically the 916 SPS, which actually contained the 996 engine, had an adjustable steering head, and countless other goodies. This was the bike which inspired Honda to build their own v-twin, in order to take advantage of the displacement advantage the two cylinder machines were given.
The next 15 years were rough on the global economy, Japan was hit hardest of all, the days of excess were over and the homologation specials were few and very far between. Ducati produced the Desmosedici, which was a GP bike with headlights, and not meant to homolgate anything, BMW had the HP4, which felt more like a trim level than a true special, and obviously the RC51 carried on until 2005.
But then in 2015 things started to shift, Yamaha announced two variants of its new R1, the R1M being the special. It was the first glimmer of hope, a sign that maybe the era of skinny ties and 10 year old bikes donning "bold new graphics" were nearly behind us.
In late 2015 Dorna threw race fuel directly on to the flames, reducing the homolgation number down to 125 at first inspection and just 250 by year end. The 500 number is still in play, but it does not have to be met until the end of year two. Less than a year on from that announcement the floodgates have opened, everyone seems to be storming in to the party with guns blazing. Here are the specials released so far.
2015 Yamaha R1M
Set apart from its sibling by a set of carbon fibre bodywork, magnesium wheels, Ohlins suspensions, titanium connecting rods, and the already potent electronics package is upgraded with a quickshifter and data-logging capabilities.
2017 Kawasaki ZX10RR
Much like the R1M the first thing you notice are the weight saving measures, most notable are the lack of passenger accommodations and the seven spoke Marchesini mags. The real changes however lie below the subtle, "winter test" plastics. The 1000cc motor gets modified cylinder heads, capable of accepting high lift cams, which are not fitted, but are available through the KRT catalogue. Many of the internals get a very trick, DLC coating, and the crankcases are reinforced. The electronics package is also very stout, highlighted by a bidirectional quickshifter, also known as an autoblipper. The traction control, ABS, wheelie control, engine braking control, and launch control are all cutting edge.
2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP/SP2
For 2017 HRC brings back the familiar SP moniker. The SP's feature a plethora of weight saving measures, magnesium case covers, lighter aluminium wheels, revised engine internals, and a revolutionary titanium fuel tank, a first for a road bike. The bike also steps into the 21st century with a totally up to date electronics package, ride by wire throttle, and electronically controlled Ohlins suspension.
2017 Suzuki GSXR 1000R
The GSXR 1000R comes with a lot more than just another R tacked on the end of the name. The R, as I am going to call it, features the Showa Balance Free suspension package found on the ZX10R, immediately recognisable by its defining remote gas cartridge, located at the bottom of the front fork. The top triple clamp has also been lightened and the brakes are slightly higher spec Brembo monoblocs. The electronics package is also upgraded, once again highlighted by what is fast becoming the new normal, bilateral quickshifter, launch control, and cornering abs, all in addition to the usual electronic aids.
2017 Aprilia RSV4 RF
No manufacture has gone balls deep into the race replicas and specials quite like Aprilia has this year. Wrapping your brain around all the letters and acronyms is a challenge, I just spent the better part of an hour doing so, and I still do not quite have it sorted. So I am going to stick to the basics, in 2017 there are going to be two "street" RSV4 variants, sort of. The base model is the RSV4 RR, the homologation special is the RSV4 RF. Limited to just 500 units, it makes a claimed 201 HP, has a set of forged aluminium wheels, Ohlins suspension, and a commemorative plaque atop the triples, nothing says collectable quite like a fucking plaque.
In addition to the already exclusive RF, Aprilia racing have released five more bikes for public consumption. The coles notes are as follows, two of the machines are FIM Superstock machines with headlights, two are FIM Superbike spec machines that may or may not have headlights, and the fifth bike is basically the 2015 Aprilia MotoGP machine with RSV fairings, which at the very least have headlight stickers slapped on them, potentially even headlights. But no mirrors. Confused yet?
Additional pictures of the RSV4-RF-W Misano Edition below.
2017 Ducati 1299 Superleggera
I do not even know if homologation special is the right classification for these next two bikes. But as they are making only 500 of them, I guess that is the idea.
We will start with the Duc. It may look like a standard Panigale, but it shares pretty well only the name and possibly the headlight. The frame is carbon, the wheels are carbon, the bodywork is carbon, the fucking swingarm is carbon. The bike has Ohlins suspension, and is said to make 215 HP, which frankly, unlike the Aprilia is a believable number, especially when fitted with that gorgeous high mount Akrapovic Ti system, which is the big ticket item in Ducati's "race pack" which also deletes a number of unnecessary road going bits. When you factor in the weight, just 167 KG, the back of the napkin arithmetic says this thing should be a fucking rocket ship. Just don't crash it.
Additional pics below.
2017 BMW HP4 Carbon Race
I saved the best for last. Since it was released in 2015 the second generation of the S1000RR has been the bike to have. As they made an HP4 variant of the first generation, it seemed plausible they would do the same this time around. Well they have brought back the HP4 but this time BMW went from special edition, to a full on wet dream exotic. Details are limited, but from the press photos we can take away a few things. The frame and wheels are both carbon, as is the bodywork, subframe, and pretty well everything else. The forks have a remote gas tube, and the bike is sporting a full Ti Akrapovice exhaust. At first glance the wheels appear to be a carbon variant of the HP forged wheels which are currently optional on the S1000RR, but upon closer inspection they actually have a far more sculpted appearance, these are the nicest wheels I have ever seen. I can't wait to hear more about this machine come spring.
Check out the additional pictures below.