The confidence being expressed by the Castrol Honda World Superbike team in the new Honda
V-Twin is phenomenal, as reflected in the following January 5, 2000 press release:
HONDA’s World Superbike championship bid moves up a gear this year with the introduction of the VTR1000 SP-1 and its factory stars Colin Edwards and Aaron Slight are gearing up for an exciting season.
The talented pairing have tested the machine at Sugo and Suzuka in Japan and at Phillip Island in Australia in recent months and are confident they have a machine worthy of taking the title in its first year.
Last year’s championship runner-up Edwards believes the switch from V-four 750cc power to the more tractable twin-cylinder 1000cc format is just the tonic.
The 25-year-old Texan reckons:
“After six years with the RC45 this is a new era for Honda and it’s an exciting time for Aaron and myself.
“The tests have gone really well and although the SP-1 is still being developed we both know we have a solid package to start the 2000 championship.”
“We’ve taken the SP-1 straight out of the crate and at least matched the performance of the RC45 on all of the tracks we’ve tested at so we know we’ve got a sound base to work from.”
While the Honda Racing Corporation in Japan concentrates its effort on improving the engine performance of the new machine both riders are confident that the strength of the SP-1 lies in the chassis.
“The feel of the machine from the first time I sat on it was superb. You can do so much with the machine, it goes wherever you throw it.
“During the Phillip Island tests at the end of ’99 we improved the handling a lot and I’m sure we can do a lot more during 2000 to make it even better and a stronger all round package.”
” It’s so easy to change direction on the SP-1, the machine is much more flickable than anything I’ve ridden. The way in which the machine steers is one area I want to improve but that will all come with time. We’ve got more tests before the season gets under way so I know we’ll go to the first race in Spain fully prepared and confident.”
Edwards, Slight and Honda’s Japanese test riders have all logged impressive lap times during the winter tests but Slight and Edwards know the key to the race set-up of the SP-1 is not just in the one-off hot lap.
“The way the SP-1 puts the power to the ground is very important,”
“There’s a lot less wheelspin which means that we are not going to be as hard on the tyres as we were with the RC45 and during a 40-minute race that will give us a much stronger chance of winning.”
Getting used to the SP-1 after the screaming 180bhp offered from the RC45 has been the most difficult mental hurdle for the riders to overcome.
“There isn’t any of that raw grunt which the RC45 had,”
“With the SP-1 the power delivery is smooth, the engine feels strong right through the rev range and although I feel like I’m going slow the lap times prove that’s not the case.”
“Once I got my mind dialled into the SP-1 I was happy with the performance but the engine is completely different to anything I’ve used before. It feels a little flat, like there’s no power but it’s torquey all the way from the bottom end power, it’s easy to ride yet feels slow but then you get a look at the lap times and it’s incredible. It’s so hard to believe that you’re lapping that quickly without feeling fast.”
The year 2000 Castrol Honda pairing are ideally placed to challenge for the title, Slight enters his seventh year with the team while Edwards will begin his third campaign as a Castrol Honda rider, after finishing runner-up in 1999.
Both men have points to prove and are confident the new SP-1 will give them the edge they need to take their first world title.
New Zealander Slight, 33, says:
“I know I’m in with a better chance than I’ve ever had, purely because of the SP-1. We’ll see what the competition’s been up to in the winter when we meet up for pre-season testing but I know we’re in good shape. Since we last rode the SP-1 Honda has been testing in Japan and from what they’ve reported back the machine has improved again.”
Having seen the progress of the SP-1 during the last 12 months Edwards is in no doubt about his year 2000 hopes:
“The bike doesn’t do anything wrong, it steers well, brakes well, is easy on tyres – all together a total package.
“We’ll be there right off the start and I’ll win the first two races in Spain.”