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Where Will The Honda RC51 (SP-2) Engine Show Up Next?

When Honda introduced the RC51 v-twin superbike in the 2000 model year, it had two goals in mind. First, to provide an affordable, high-spec production sport bike which would serve as a platform for superbike racing. Second, to end its frustration with the v-four 750cc superbike platform and wrest the World superbike crown from Ducati. Honda succeeded on both counts. Not long thereafter, however, Honda saw the writing on the wall . . . superbike racing would become a multi-cylinder (read “four-cylinder”) 1000cc enterprise, and the v-twins would become uncompetitive unless propped up by some rule designed to compensate for their inherent horsepower deficit vis-a-vis the four-cylinder 1000s.

So Honda began developing a four-cylinder 1000cc superbike platform, which you will likely see debuted next year. It also began making new plans for the RC51 powerplant it so carefully, and expensively, developed.

This engine is literally a jewel . . . with gear-driven camshafts, 999cc and over 130 horsepower at the crank in street trim. It is an engine designed to win a World superbike championship. It is also an engine Honda has decided to sell (uncharacteristically) to at least two, tiny motorcycle manufacturers, including Mondial (see our brief photo essay on the Piega) and the resurrected Vincent.

So, where will the Honda RC51 engine show up next? How about in a Honda? Since Honda is clearly trying to recoup a massive R&D investment in the RC51 powerplant by selling it to niche manufacturers, why wouldn’t Honda drop this superb engine into some of its own products? Products with a higher unit volume than the RC51. It makes too much sense.

Plenty of platforms could benefit from this engine. A naked bike, for instance. How about a sport tourer? Or, heaven forbid, a replacement of the current V-4 Interceptor? As we begin to think about new bikes on the horizon (September isn’t that far away, is it?), Honda’s potential uses for this engine are intriguing, to say the least. In fact, why don’t you send us an email and let us know your thoughts on how Honda can keep this championship-winning engine out of retirement.