|This article may require copy-editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone or spelling. You can assist by editing it now. A how-to guide is available. (June 2008)|
|Production||2000 - 2006|
|Engine||999 cm3 liquid-cooled 90° V-twin|
|Seat height||32.5 inches|
|Fuel capacity||4.8 gallons, including 1.2 gallon reserve|
|Related||VTR1000F "Super Hawk"|
The RC51 was described as "packed with race-age technology" by one motorcycling journalist. The engine is a 999cc dual overhead cam V-twin unit with two fuel injectors and four valves per cylinder. Power is delivered to the rear wheel by a close-ratio, six-speed transmission. The chassis is constructed from aluminum alloy, being a twin-spar design. 
The RC51 was designed as the motorcycle to be used by Honda's racing teams in the Superbike World Championship. The 2000-2001 models are designated SP1 while the 2002-2006 models are designated SP2 (the latter having updated fuel injection and suspension).
In 1988, new rules in superbike racing allowed V-twin engines up to 999 cc to compete. Prior to the rules change, 750 cc four cylinder motorcycles were the dominant force in production based racing. During the first two years of the World Superbike championship, Honda won the series with their RC30, powered by a 750 cm3 V-4. In 1990, however, Raymond Roche secured Ducati's first world title aboard the Ducati 851. Throughout the next 11 years, Ducati would go on to win 8 World Superbike Championships with their V-twins (Honda won two and Kawasaki just one).
Despite having an excellent engineering team and a significant amount of funding, Honda was unable to win consistently, particularly because of rival V-twins' displacement advantage over Honda's V-4. In 2000 Honda released the RC51, powered by a 998 cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine. That year, it won the World Superbike Championship with Colin Edwards riding for the Castrol team. In 2001, Ducati regained the title but the RC51 was still a contender boasting superior reliability with comparable speed and power. The RC51 won again in its final year of factory-supported racing in World Superbike in 2002 and that same year also captured the AMA superbike title with Nicky Hayden. Honda had taken the lessons learned in the SP-1's first season, producing the SP-2 for 2002. A stronger, more rigid frame and swingarm are identical to the WSB race bike parts and a host of engine modifications boosted peak power by 3kW (4bhp) and cut weight by 5kg (11lb). Factory specifications for road going SP2s (sourced from Honda) were 133bhp with a top speed of 170mph. The factory racing edition RC51 was said to put out 185bhp.
Honda stopped official support for Superbike racing in 2003 (though various teams have had some factory support) and as Superbike rules changed to allow 1000 cc 4 cylinder bikes the RC51 was replaced by the CBR1000RR Fireblade as the Honda superbike racer. In 2003, HRC released 6 limited edition RC's that sported chrome & yellow Enkei wheels as opposed to the standard black items. The 6 limited edition '03 runs were a commemorative to the end of factory support and to celebrate the '02 AMA championship. The 6 limited RC's were such a hit that Honda released the Nicky Haden special edition in 2004, again a huge hit with customers. The 2004 special edition RC51's were not a limited edition run, as apposed to the six '03 RC. The 2003 special editions vary in cosmetic appearance from the 2004's with standard chrome on yellow wheels being the most observable characteristic of the '03's. Where-as on the 2004 model, Honda opted for a decal package with standard black rims and white on red/black trim. 2003 was the first year that Honda again made further improvements with the SP-2, bringing in a stouter and much lighter swing arm.
The RC51 was a true racing superbike which benefitted from gearbox sprocket changes for street use (factory RC51's were highly geared for top speed performance). It is expected examples of this model will gain value in years to come given the relatively short time in production and its ever increasing scarcity.
- Mitchel 1985: 204
- Brian Korfhage (2004-07-14). "Rise and Fall of Twins". Motorcycle USA. http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/Article_Page.aspx?ArticleID=1128&Page=1. Retrieved on 2007-08-27.
Mitchel, Doug; Earnest, Brian (2005). Honda motorcycles: techs & specs. Iola, WI: KP Books, A Division of F+W Publications. ISBN 0873499662.
Honda motorcycle timeline, 1990s–present
|CBR1000F||CBR1100XX (North American sales ended 2003)|