Bike Icon: Honda VFR750R RC30

Handbuilt in Japan by HRC and available to Fogarty, Hislop and Joe Bloggs, the RC30 was, and is, a little bit special

If Suzuki's GSX-R750 was the first race replica bike available for the road, then Honda's RC30 was the first real race bike to be unleashed on the streets.

Okay, even the mighty Honda couldn't get round the legislation which required its groundbreaking new machine to be fitted with headlights, mirrors and a registration plate but it mattered not - for the first time in history ordinary everyday riders could walk into a dealer and ride out on the same machine that the likes of Carl Fogarty, Joey Dunlop and Steve Hislop raced in anger.

Unveiled in 1987 and released in 1988, the RC30 was hand built in Japan by HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) staff and boy did it show. Stunning looks, aided by a single-sided swinging arm, single seat unit and twin headlamps, were combined with a fantastic build quality and performance which would only be bettered by Honda itself four years later with the launch of the FireBlade. The RC30 (or VFR750R to give it its formal name) was one class act.

At £8499, it may have cost about twice as much as any other mass produced 750 sportsbike, but no-one seemed to care. Houses were re-mortgaged, grannies' savings were raided and family holidays were put on hold as bikers all over the world sold their very souls to own a piece of motorcycling history. I mean, a street bike with quick release forks? Oh, yes please mister.

At the heart of the RC30 was a slim, liquid-cooled, dohc, 90 degree, 748cc V-four engine producing 112bhp. It may not sound much today but the RC30 was never just about power anyway; it was the overall package that worked so well. The 185kg Honda handled exquisitely and stopped wherever and whenever you wanted it to. It was also nimble and forgiving and had the ability to turn ordinary road riders into demi-Gods.

Built as it was to go racing (it was a homologation special for Honda's assault on the F1 and WSB titles), the RC30 naturally proved a major hit on the race tracks of the world. Well, hit is the wrong word - try phenomenon. Hizzy, Joey and Foggy all proved the RC's worth at the TT and Foggy actually won his first world championship on one as he wrestled the 1988 Formula 1 world crown from Dunlop, then retained it in 1989. The first two World Superbike championships were won by RC30s in the hands of flyin' Fred Merkel and when it came to endurance racing there was really no point in turning up on anything else.

The RC was practically unbeatable on normal roads too and, with a tall first gear capable of pulling 80mph, there wasn't a thing on the streets that would beat it away from traffic lights. With a top speed of 155mph, the RC30 was, quite simply, the only bike to have in the late 1980s and early '90s and for many people now that's still the case.

It was discontinued in 1993 to make way for the supposedly-better RC45 but the latter bike never made the same impact as its predecessor and it took four years of trying before it won a World Superbike title. The RC30 won straight out of the crate and that tells you all you need to know.