The homologated changes to the 2002 Honda RC51, including, primarily, the less-stiff chassis, look to be a big boost to Honda’s superbike efforts, both in the United States and at the WSB level.
The rider with the most time on the 2002 model is Colin Edwards, who won the World championship for Honda in 2000, but lost it this year to Ducati’s Troy Bayliss. Edwards is very enthused about the feel and handling of the new chassis — already breaking the lap record at Sugo, and going one second faster than he ever has for a lap at Suzuka.
Only Nicky Hayden has tried the 2002 model here in the United States (at Dunlop’s tire testing in Daytona this week), but Nicky is also enthusiastic about the new bike.
The former chassis had difficulty “hooking up” exiting corners, and some difficulty with turns, in general. The chassis changes homologated by Honda with the 2002 model (known as the SP-2 in Europe) are meant to address these problems and, if early testing proves indicative, it has worked.
If Nicky Hayden is on a significantly improved superbike next season, look out.