New Honda Fireblade revealed

Published: 20 September 2016

 

Honda’s secret new CBR1000RR scooped on track in Croatia ahead of October unveil

Honda will release a new CBR1000RR Fireblade for 2017, and these spy shots of a production-ready bike being ridden on track in Croatia last week finally reveal more about how the CBR will look, and the mechanical changes that will underpin its assault on the superbike crown.

The 2016 version of the Fireblade dynasty couldn’t continue into 2017 as the model is not Euro4 compliant, and as one of the very last bastions of relatively technology-free superbikes, the Blade also now looks decidedly out of date against its peers.

Three new Blades

TOP STORIES

Currently available in standard and a higher spec SP form, the 2017 line-up will also boast a customer race-spec version, taking the Fireblade family to three models. It’s unclear how these models will be named beyond CBR1000RR Fireblade, but various leaked documents and insider comments have referred to them as SP-1 and SP-2 for the road models – which might simply be internal codes for the models, but may also make it on to the fairings as a nod to the previous HRC-developed V-twin superbikes from the Noughties.

Electronics revolution

MCN’s research all points to a family of new Fireblades that break with the firm’s historical reluctance to festoon their flagship superbike with electronics. All the evidence points to an extensive electronics package, while the firm also look set to ditch some of their own tech in favour of third-party solutions. Lead amongst the casualties appears to be the C-ABS system, which – while effective – is very heavy, and a step or three behind the systems available from German braking system giants Bosch. So it’s little surprise that our sources suggest the 2017 Fireblade will use the Bosch 9ME Plus system, which delivers combined anti-lock braking with traction control, anti-wheelie, and Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC), all governed by the six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) already being used by the Fireblade’s rivals. It’s also understood some of the electronic controls from the road-legal MotoGP rep RC213V-S will be put in place on the Fireblade. This will include selectable torque control, engine braking control and power modes.

Mass reduction

The retirement of Honda’s C-ABS will contribute to a significant reduction in weight, suggested to be as much as 10kg, making the 2017 model around 5% lighter than the 2016 version – reducing kerb mass to around 200kg.

The bike seen on track in Croatia appears to be the base model – as it boasts none of the high-spec parts that sources suggest will be present on the flagship road version. The biggest visual clue to the spec is the more basic suspension. The top-spec version is expected to boast semi-active Öhlins suspension, while this bike is clearly running a Showa Big Piston Fork, as fitted to the current model. Interestingly, considering the spec of its competitors, Honda
appear not to have opted for the Balance Free Fork fitted to Kawasaki’s ZX-10R – and expected to appear on other 2017 superbikes – which could point to how keenly the base model Fireblade will be priced.

Although many elements of the new bike are instantly recognisable – such as the frame and the identical looking swingarm and wheels, there are many mechanical changes. These include a huge new ram-air system utilising a new headstock intake, a new airbox, a revised fuel injection system and a lot of work undertaken on the engine to reduce internal friction. 

Road and race

The airbox modifications are important to the increased performance, which is partly needed to offset the increased tightening of emissions regulations – which are also responsible for the enlarged, reshaped, and repositioned exhaust. It will also benefit from ride-by-wire throttle control, which is a first for Honda on the Fireblade.

These changes have been done with both road and track performance improvements in mind. While the Blade has always been pitched as a road-orientated machine, racing is of crucial importance to the firm.

Aesthetically, the biggest immediate giveaway that this is the new model is the redesigned face of the Blade. Sharper and more focused than the outgoing model, it boasts a clear family resemblance to the CBR250RR Honda unveiled last month. The headlamps comprise a completely new quad-LED lighting system, which appeared to be being used by Honda’s endurance racing teams at Suzuka last month. The bike spied on track has the same headlamp profile, although the headlamp has been carefully taped over, making it impossible to see any detail.

Evolution game

The frame looks far more substantial, but this is in part due to redesigned fairings which expose more of the frame. However, we do expect the frame to be lighter and stronger than the outgoing model’s. Race teams have asked Honda for greater chassis control, and with so much of the bike’s development aimed at race success, it’s unlikely that Honda have failed to deliver on this. The rest of the fairing design appears to follow the outgoing model closely, while sharpening and reducing the bodywork in every area to deliver a more angular, and
European looking stance.

This may be an evolution rather than a revolution, but the ingredients are there for the result to be far greater than the sum of its changes – and the top-spec SP is certain to move the dial far more effectively than the slightly apologetic outgoing model could ever have hoped to.

Both road versions are expected to be officially revealed at this year’s Intermot show in Cologne, Germany – while the customer spec track version will arrive shortly after. We’ll bring you the whole story in the October 5 edition of MCN.

Shock tactics

This appears to be the lower spec base model, with Showa’s Big Piston Fork, and matching shock. Both will be fully adjustable, while the top spec model is expected to gain Öhlins semi-active suspension.

Race ready

While the main frame looks near-identical, we expect it will offer more rigidity, giving race teams more control at the cutting edge of superbike racing.

Sound system

The much-enlarged system allows for a larger catalytic converter, and sound control. It’s very similar in size to the new item featured on Suzuki’s GSX-R1000.

Euro flavor

Sharper, and more minimalist, the fairings feature large cutaways on each flank, exposing much more of the main frame. The fairings and tail unit all appear far more European in taste, which is hardly a shock considering the shift in buyers’ tastes towards European bikes. 

Heart of the matter

Not an all-new unit, but the existing motor has been given a thorough overhaul to bring it into line with Euro4 requirements. It will be cleaner, more efficient, and more powerful, while we don’t expect it to match the current class leader’s 200bhp output.

 

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