Little R.I.Ppers | 8 Sportsbikes we loved, lost but still lust for

The Triumph Daytona, Honda CBR600RR, KTM RC8... sportsbikes we have loved and lost over the years. But could we be about to see a revival of the formula?

Yamaha YZF-R6 RACE

It won't be news to anyone that the sportsbike market has somewhat dwindled over the years as rising costs and shrinking emissions targets begin to out-weigh erstwhile business cases that maintain that winning on Sundays still shifts motorcycles on a Monday (or any other day of the week for that matter).

Happily, the Sportsbike and Supersport segments are showing signs of recovery, with models as the lauded Aprilia RS 660 - now a best-seller on the European mainland - and the much anticipated forthcoming Kawasaki ZX-4R indicating manufacturers still have faith in the class.

In the meantime, we'll settle for quality over quantity but that doesn't stop us getting all misty-eyed for the many fully-faired classics that have been discontinued over the years. However, if the sportsbike is on the fast track to popularity again, we reckon it is time to start petitioning for a return of these loved, lost and lusted for favourites once more?

Yamaha R6

The Yamaha R6 is still fairly warm in the proverbial motorcycle grave but we are sad for its passing for a number of reasons. Technically speaking, the R6 isn’t ‘dead’ but unless your licence is a racing one and you don’t need one for the road, the R6 only lives on as a track day tool.

Which is a shame because with its sharp looks, confidence-inducing chassis and eager engine it’s a weapon both on road and on track. But the limitations of the 600cc bracket - and price tag that errs too close to a Yamaha R1 - was becoming clear and its exit is probably the penultimate nail in the coffin for the sector as it is. 

Will the Yamaha R6 return? The lukewarm Yamaha R7 doesn't exactly deliver thrills aplenty, so we have a sneaking suspicion a new R6 will return sooner or later... at least once it stops dominating on track, whenever that may be...


There is certainly no denying KTM’s ambitions when it comes to succeeding on track as shown by its wealth of grand prix titles in the feeder classes and its breakthrough victories in MotoGP last year. However, it is the only MotoGP team without a big sportsbike in its range, the Austrian firm preferring to push the KTM 1290 Super Duke R rather than slap a fairing on it, at least until the new KTM RC 890/990 hits the road.

Which is a shame because it has done the legwork previously with the KTM RC8 when its motorsport ambitions were trained on the WorldSBK class. That of course never happened and the RC8 became something of a mythical beast that showed great promise for a first effort with its angular styling and involving dynamics, while it came with lashings of typical hard-edged KTM hooliganism. It wasn’t easy to ride, but easy to love for those that wanted to stand out.

Will the KTM RC8 return? It has... well, sort of... as the track-only KTM RC 8C, based on the firm's retired Moto2 prototype machine. But unless you're fastest finger first on the 'order now' button before they sell out rapidly, a road going sportsbike - the RC 990  - is in development. But really, we're thinking/dreaming/urging to get a KTM RC 1290 one day.

Cagiva Mito 

We were tempted to limit this article to 600cc up but we just couldn’t ignore the Cagiva Mito, which remains fondly remembered for its somewhat unashamed attempt to shrink the Ducati 916 into nifty urban runaround. 

As far as photocopies go, the Mito is a very faithful reimagining of arguably history’s most iconic sportsbike, right down to the GP-spec handling and zippy pace that made you feel like you were riding a Ducati in the urban jungle. 

Incidentally, Cagiva lives on under the stewardship of MV Agusta and is on the cusp of being relaunched... is the Mito set for a welcome revival?

Will the Cagiva Mito return? For the Mito to return, first Cagiva needs to return... it has been rumoured and if it does, a 21st century Mito is a logical pitch. Just don't expect it to be a snapping, crackling, popping two-stroke pocket rocket like before.

Benelli Tornado Tre

The Benelli Tornado Tre isn’t a model that is so much missed for its abilities but as an exotic oddity for those that wanted an Italian sportsbike but didn’t want to be boxed in by Ducati and Aprilia options. 

Bizarrely, it managed to skirt WorldSBK homologation regulations by hitting the track before it went on sale (as a way of speeding up development) but it wasn’t successful and ended up going on sale after its racing commitments were wound up.

With a 900 (later 1130) triple-cylinder engine, the Benelli Tornado was striking to look at, potent to ride and had some quirky features (such as the under seat venting) but early models were hamstrung by poor reliability and fuel injection.

Fast forward to 2021 though and the Tornado name lives on in Asia on a new 300cc variant. Borrowing a few styling cues, the fact the Tre turns up in promotional shots leads us to think a spiritual successor could well be on the way for the now Chinese-owned company.

Will the Benelli Tornado return? It already has... albeit via a hot wash that's shrunk it to around mid-capacity size. The 'XL' version, however, could soon return as owners QJ Motor continue ramping up its model programme, with a tell-tale jade-coloured MV Agusta Brutale-engined 1000cc model recently spied...

Norton RCW

The year is 1991 and the rotary engine is taking motorsport by storm. The Wankel-engined Mazda 787B has just won the Le Mans 24 Hours and Norton RCW clinched the British Superbike Championship a year earlier.

And yet, soon afterwards the Norton RCW slipped off price lists and the rotary engine became largely consigned to history. Of course, the Norton sportsbike lives on today as the SS but we have included the shortlived F1 here for its pioneering take on the class at a time when Japanese and Italian manufacturers were engaged in a bitter battle of one upmanship in the big bike staks.

Fast forward 30 years and it seems no manufacturer wants to revisit the rotary formula despite the fact huge advances in technology make us wonder whether the former disadvantages - lubrication, unreliability and high emissions - can now be stamped out, leaving the benefits of more power and torque from a smaller engine to stand out. 

Will the Norton RCW return? Norton is all about the retro vintage classics... and the company might just be mad enough to attempt a modern rendition of that rotary engine. Maybe...

Suzuki GSX-R600

Suzuki may not be abandoning its sportsbike heritage with the launch of the new Hayabusa, which comes hot on the heels of its 2020 MotoGP World Championship title win but many purists are waiting for a new GSX-R1000 since it’s unlikely we will ever see another GSX-R600 rolling on our roads. That is unless you live Stateside, in which case you can fill your garage with them.

Which is a shame because the middleweight Suzuki was a hoot to ride, with a punchy engine and more inoffensive looks than the comparatively quirky 1000. Also, no other manufacturer could make white wheel trims look so fashionable...

Will the Suzuki GSX-R600 return? While the Gixxer 600 lives on over in the United States (lucky buggers!), unless Suzuki goes left field with an electric-powered 'GSX-EVR', we are fairly sure we've seen the last of the white-rimmed supersport

Triumph Daytona

The Triumph Daytona is dead. Long live the Triumph Daytona…?

Triumph’s venerable sportsbike hasn’t been on sale for a couple of years now, but interest in the iconic model line was demonstrated by its brief resurrection with the Moto2-tuned 765cc limited edition of 2020 that sold out in days.

While we have come to terms with the fact the Daytona won’t necessarily return in its current form, Triumph’s coyness when it comes to talking about future plans and the fact a hybrid production-prototype model that combines the Daytona body with the running gear of a Street Triple 765 RS is now competing in the WorldSSP Championship makes us think this isn’t the end of the road... The waiting is always the hardest part.

Will the Triumph Daytona return? If you don't mind the absence of a fairing, then it one remains in the Triumph range with name 'Street Triple'... we are still holding out hope though, especially after the firm's TE-1 electric prototype bore striking similarities to the classic Daytona silhouette. 

Honda CBR600RR

In racing terms no other sportsbike comes close to the dominance shown by the Honda CBR600RR in the WorldSSP class during the 2000s.

However, a dwindling audience base coupled with costly emissions tweaks means the most potent Honda middleweight Honda sportsbike on sale here is pinned to just a single twin-cylinder CBR650R.

The CBR600RR continues to live on in Japan and the United States, with the most recent update offering no hope of it being imported once more. Despite this, however, at least CBR600RRs are on European soil following a return of the marque to the WorldSSP Championship under the MIE Racing banner.

Raising speculation that this is just a prelude to a proper HRC-endorsed comeback, while we're thinking CBR750RR twin, secretly we're pining for another shot of four-pot punch from the Fireblade's sizzling sibling. 

Will the Honda CBR600RR return? No... but yes. Well, the RR will return on a middleweight sportsbike we reckon, but as for what engine it will be packing, we'll have to wait and see.