Britain has always loved World Superbikes: not just the racing, but the limited edition models that manufacturers produced to let them to compete.
To celebrate 25 years of WSB, we’ve got the top five of these homologation specials back together at Donington Park, where the first WSB race was contested.
For many the Kawasaki ZXR750RR had the bad boy image. It was big, wide, meaty, aggressive and didn’t have the sexy lines of the Ducati 916. But it felt more realistic than Ducati as the standard ZXR750 was fairly common on UK roads, with those big hoover pipes and twin headlights giving it instant recognition.
Though priced reasonably back in 1991 at £7699 only around a 1000 were ever produced worldwide.
Our Ducati 916 is even more special; a limited edition 916 SPS (Number 247) and would have set you back a shocking £19,400 back in 1997, around the same price as small house in Doncaster. But for many they weren’t just buying a bike but a work of art, a piece of racing history, the road version of Foggy’s bike.
The RC45 was designed as a race bike from the scratch, which is why so many ended up on track. They were raced competitively with big bore 810 kits on the roads up against much quicker, lighter 1000cc four cylinder machines six years after its launch. An RC45 won the Ulster in 2001 in the hands of Milky Quayle.
The R7 was simply a ready-to-race WSB bike with some road body work thrown on. Yamaha wanted WSB success and they wanted it bad. Prices were a breath-taking, £21,499 back in 2000 – more than twice the price of a Honda SP1 and nearly £4000 more than Ducati’s 996 SPS.
Though not as trick as some of the other bikes here because Honda wanted the SP-1 to work as an everyday bike, it still cost around £2500 more than a standard GSX-R750. There were no titanium cranks and at £9999, it was much cheaper than the exotica from Aprilia and Ducati.
Kawasaki ZXR750RR - why it's special
- The four cylinder 750cc motor was fuelled by four flat side carbs that you can actually hear opening.
- Up front were fully adjustable 41mm upside down forks.
- The limited R version came with a close ratio gearbox, which had a long first gear for racing.
- Rear pegs were removed to save weight and the single seat as standard made it stand out an R model.
- For further weight savings the fuel tank was aluminium – revolutionary at the time.
Ducati 916 SPS - why it's special
- Even though it was called a 916 it ran the all-new 996 engine, pushing power to a claimed 116bhp.
- Ohlins shock is fully adjustable, as are the Showa forks.
- Termignoni carbon cans added to the sound and feel of the legendary 916.
- The single sided swing-arm and under-seat exhausts were all revolutionary back in the early 90s.
- On later Ducati SPS machines weight was cut, Ohlins forks added and the steering head angle was adjustable.
Honda RC45 - why it's special
- The V4 750 was a hand crafted and one of the finest motorcycle engines ever produced.
- Single sided swing-arm was carried on from the RC30 – itself the first bike with a single arm.
- Upside down front forks are fully adjustable 41mm items, and the rear shock is fully adjustable too.
- High level of finish. It felt like it was hand built... because it was.
- Like the Yamaha, Honda's WSB was ridiculously expensive when new.
Yamaha R7 - why it's special
- Titanium crank as standard.
- A reported only 500 were produced, 40 sold in the uk.
- GP inspired chassis.
- Engine tuning kits were available from Yamaha adding either 25 or 55bhp.
- Full factory Ohlins suspension front and back.
Honda SP-1 - why it's special
- Honda’s first four stroke V-Twin to beat Ducati at their own game.
- Side mounted radiators to keep the bike narrow and help with cooling.
- Digital speedo and rev counter was seen as futuristic at the time.
- Stunning Moto GP inspired frame and swing-arm.
- Fully adjustable suspension front and back, and all for less than £10,000.
To read the full test and more stories celebrating 25 years of World Superbikes, pick up a copy of the current issue of MCN, out now.