Both riders were asked about their favorite race bikes.
Back in the late ‘80s and...
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Suzuka 8-Hour was the most important race of the year to the Japanese factories, and the premier TT F1 class basically just had a displacement limit of 750cc. With little rules to hinder development, huge sums of money spent by Honda resulted in the RVF750, a V-4 bristling with titanium, magnesium and carbon fiber that put out 160 horsepower and weighed only 300 pounds fully fueled. Spencer lists this bike as one of his all-time favorites.
FS: I actually have two. My (Honda NSR) 250 and 500 I won the championships on (in 1985). I liked the 250. The 500 in the beginning was not very good. But it got better as it went on. The other bike I really liked—and this was before your time—was the RVF(750). The RC45 was good. There was the RC30 and then the RVF was the 300-pound F1 bike. That was about the best motorcycle I’d ever ridden. It was like 300, 310 pounds and they were, I think 750 V-4. That was a great, great motorcycle. And I set a lap record on the thing at Suzuka.
Edwards on his way to his...
Edwards on his way to his second World Superbike championship aboard the Castrol Honda VTR1000R SP-2. “We never changed fork springs, we never had to do any of that. I never had a year before and I never had a year since that I could do that. That bike was just magic,” recalls Edwards.
The (Honda VTR1000R or RC51) SP-2, 2002. The 2000 bike, I mean, I won the championship, but it chattered its brains off. 2001, we got a bigger rear tire, front tire stayed the same, chattered even more. Every track we went to it chattered. And I’m sitting there looking at (Troy) Bayliss in front of me. Come out of the corner, I’d see that thing flex and just walk away from me. And I’d come in and I said, ‘Man, mine’s just going sideways. It’s like ice.’ And I said, ‘When I look at his bike I can see it. I mean I can see the bike flex. Mine’s not doing that.’ And about midway through 2001 they were already in the development stage. I went to the last race Sugo, I said, ‘Let’s test the ’02 model.’ And I got on that bike and it would do whatever you wanted to. You could just throw it in and grab a handful and everything worked and no chatter. Rear shock that worked good and we never changed. And all we did that whole year was click, click. We never changed fork springs, we never had to do any of that. I never had a year before and I never had a year since that I could do that. That bike was just magic.
Not surprisingly, Spencer’s favorite track is Spa-Francorchamps, a former street circuit in southeast Belgium where he became the youngest ever 500cc GP winner on July 4, 1982.
FS: For me, Spa-Francorchamps. Now that is a Grand Prix circuit. Spa-Francorchamps…you go down the main straight, and then at the end the gate opens up, and that’s La Source, the hairpin, that leads probably to me, one of the most famous…it goes downhill and it goes up, Eau Rouge, it’s the left and the right. On a 500 it’s third gear and as you run down into the bottom and you literally just climb up this one in fourth gear, flat up and over to the left. It’s a great track. A lot of elevation changes and it has a couple of my favorite corners. In the middle part of what is now the permanent road course, because at one time it was the fastest track in the world. Barry Sheene held the lap record or the highest average speed ever recorded (135.067 mph in 1977.) And this is through towns.
My favorite of all time is Phillip Island. For me, you know, it has first gear corners, it has fifth gear corners. Cambers, off-corners, elevation, all within 12 corners. I think it just happens to be one of the fastest tracks; I think it is now the fastest track after they slowed Assen down. Mugello might be a little faster. It’s one of the fastest. Track facilities not especially great. People are nice. Food’s great. Scenery is unbelievable. Weather is s**t when we go there; when I went there in Superbike it was great. Beginning of the year it’s usually awesome. It’s always been my favorite track.
The 1980 Honda NR500 was Honda’s...
The 1980 Honda NR500 was Honda’s attempt to take on the dominant two-strokes with an equal-displacement four-stroke using rpm (it revved to an astounding 22,000 rpm, and remember this was back in 1980), oval pistons, eight valves per cylinder, and a monocoque aluminum frame as its weaponry. Unfortunately, its lack of flywheel and reliability doomed it to an early demise after two years.
Spencer was one of the few riders to race the radical oval-piston Honda NR500. The bike won one race of note, when Spencer beat then world champion Kenny Roberts in a five-lap heat race on the old, shorter track at Laguna Seca in 1981. Takeo Fukui, an early president of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) who would become the sixth CEO of Honda Motor Company, said that race was his favorite of all time.
FS: When I first signed with Honda, they had this bike called the NR500. It was an oval-pistoned bike that Mr. (Soichiro) Honda himself, when he was still involved with the company, he wanted to come back in Grand Prix racing, because they had dropped out in the late ‘60s. Well, 13 years later they got back into Grand Prix racing with the NR500. Mr. Honda, the one thing he wanted to do was win the championship, and the two-strokes, the Yamaha and Suzuki, they were winning, but he wanted to come back and win with a four-stroke. The rules at the time was maximum four cylinders, so they came up with an oval piston design that basically was like a V-8. And I raced that thing. It only won two races in its entire life. It won a race in the wet at Suzuka and I won a heat, I beat Kenny (Roberts) in a five-lap heat race at Laguna while he was world champion. Because at Laguna, the old Laguna, I could gear it low enough where the powerband was supposedly 13,500 to 20 and a half; we didn’t have rev limiters. So I geared it to rev from 17,500 to about 21,000. They asked me, ‘How high you going?’ I go, ‘Like 20 and a half, 21.’ Well, the thing is I geared it and then just shifted all the time. We had live starts and I didn’t have to bump start it. I got in front of him and then held him behind me for five laps. They were so excited because I actually won a race. SR