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Honda’s V4 Fireblade: Why it is unlikely…

Honda has a V4 in R&D but lineage means it will probably never be in a Fireblade

Honda’s reputation for building fast and bomb-proof engines in both V4 and inline-four  configurations is unique. No other manufacturer has had so much success in sales charts or on racetracks with both as the CBR and VFR models at various points in time have ruled the roost.

When the Fireblade – a life-altering experience at launch in 1992 – began to fail in Superbike competition, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as to why Honda didn’t make a V4 Fireblade and race it.

There are two specific reasons: 1) cost of homologation within the WorldSBK rules at the time and 2) the Fireblade is a CBR sportsbike and therefore an inline-four. It won’t ever be a V4 because of simple model designation.

All Honda’s V4 models are designated VF/VFR/RVF while the firm’s sports inline fours have been CBR since the introduction of the CBR600F and CBR1000F in 1987 when they took over from the VF500.   Even the supertrick CBR250RR was an inline four. The single-cylinder CBR125 is the exception as even Honda would struggle to make a cost-effective inline-four 125cc engine. And the CBR300 is a commuter.

So, the Fireblade won’t be a V4 as it doesn’t have the correct lineage. That isn’t to say there won’t be a V4 Superbike in the near future. The engine is already in Honda R&D but the Fukushima disaster had such a massive effect on Honda – adding years to the development of new models including the Fireblade – that it will probably be a long time before it can be built at a price anyone can afford.

The firm’s RC213V-S is a wonderful V4 but also costs a mind-bending £140,000. So expensive, in fact, that even Clive Padgett could only afford to buy one.  The price alone takes it outside of current WorldSBK regulations.

Honda could, of course, do what Ducati has done and stick two fingers up at racing by building an 1100cc V4 that can’t be raced – and then produce another, limited edition one with a smaller engine that can. But that would see Soichiro Honda spinning faster in his grave than one of the 250cc six-pot racebikes he designed and built (20,000rpm, if you’re interested).

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