How much of a MotoGP winner does the $184,000 RC213V-S buy?
Honda launched the online pre-ordering platform for the RC213V-S on July 13, and in less than two months the whole production run of 213 bikes has been sold out. With the bike’s full spec sheet in hand we take a closer look at what is on offer from Honda’s road-legal MotoGP replica.
Ever since the official unveiling of the RC213V-S, the Internet is rife with arguments comparing the steep price tag against the down-to-earth performance figures that Honda released. Especially in the US market, where emission and noise norms limit the road-going RC213V-S to just 101 hp (75 kW), analogies with output numbers offered by typical off-the-shelf 600 cc Supersports were inevitable. In Japan, the country where this MotoGP replica was born, only a measly 70 hp (52.2 kW) make it to the rear tire without the Sports Kit.
From Honda’s perspective the RC213V-S is not about dollar-to-power correlations. The world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer decided to offer a unique opportunity to experience first-hand how MotoGP riders race the RC213V to victories. Honda did this with a motorcycle tuned for legal use on public roads and was proven right; its collectible race replica sold out almost one month before the ordering period would officially expire in September 30.
The motorcycle is hand-built at an exclusive workshop set up inside the Kumamoto factory in Japan. The personnel working on the RC213V-S have gone through special training and the manufacturing time required is enormous by modern production standards: one motorcycle per day. This is an inevitable reality when full-time welders have to manually fabricate each frame, swingarm and fuel tank, before every nut and bolt on the motorcycle has to be tightened to the specified torque by hand, without the use of inaccurate power tools.
As a racing machine, the RC213V has been designed with a different philosophy compared to a typical production model. The target is mass concentration as a means of reducing the moment of inertia. Compact and lightweight, the bike has to be as maneuverable as possible while handling 270+ hp (201.4 kW), and this holy purpose pushes engineering far from any standard production logic. Material tolerances are calculated down to the minimum, weight is dictated only by FIM’s rule book, and the only thing that matters is lapping faster than the competition. You won’t even find anti-corrosion treatment on the RCV’s metals; it’s useless in racing, besides who in his right mind would ever expect this bike to be parked outside?
The RC213V-S is not simply "based" on the RC213V; it is essentially the same bike, minus those parts that couldn’t possibly stand in a commercially-available package. The seamless transmission is the most obvious; we’re talking about a game-changing piece of engineering whose inner workings are known to a handful of people with exclusive access to HRC’s top-secret labs. Rumored to cost over US$500,000, it still is a technological advantage for Honda since its introduction in 2011, as its main competitors have just started catching up. During MotoGP race weekends it is tended by special HRC engineers in total secrecy – not even the riders' engineers are allowed to watch. We cannot imagine Honda adding this to a production bike yet – even if we disregard any pricing notions.
The same goes for the pneumatic valves, an expensive and difficult-to-service system that was understandably discarded for a conventional coil spring system, retaining though the cam gear train. Given that the S-version engine is limited to just 12,000 rpm, there is no actual need for a mechanism that is meant to provide accurate valve operation at very high rotation rates.
After removing these two features from the RC213V, we arrive at the spec level of the open category RCV1000R that costs around $1.6 million to the customer teams that use it. This is essentially the motorcycle that Nicky Hayden was racing last year.
Compliance to road-going norms also means removing the carbon disc brakes. Until they reach their operating temperature, they just don’t work. If it rains, you’d be better off with standard steel discs covered in butter. In their place Honda has opted for the very same Brembo steel kit that the factory RCVs run on wet races. The complete braking system, down to the trick brake pads, isn’t cheap either.
The remaining 90-degree 999 cc V4 engine is essentially the same compact unit used on the RC213V. The difference in power output is down to the electronic management, which limits the revs to 12,000 rpm (the US model is further limited to 101 hp by means of an 8,000 rpm cap) and of course the engine’s constricted breathing: exhausts with catalytic converters and a LED lighting structure in place of the ram-air intakes of the racing bike.
The frame, swingarm and suspension of the S-model are almost identical to those of the RC213V. The aluminum twin spar frame with variable thickness carries several adjustability features to the road-legal version, although the ride height adjusting rod for the swingarm is only part of the Sports Kit. The Ohlins suspension, TTX25 forks and TTX36 shock absorber are the same MotoGP-spec parts we'd see on the RC213V. They only differ in the dust seals added to the forks for road use, and a preload adjuster designed exclusively for the RC213V-S rear shock.
The result is a motorcycle with a curb weight of 190 kg (418 lb) with all its required road-going equipment and a full tank of gas. Get rid of the lights, indicators, mirrors, license plate holders and heavy exhausts with huge expansion chambers and catalytic converters to see the total curb weight drop down to 177 kg (390 lb).
The Sports Kit that completes the transformation from a road-legal replica to a full-on track racer includes a host of parts that return the motorcycle closer to its MotoGP roots. The main part of the kit is the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that unleashes 215 hp (160 kW) at 13,000 rpm; that's 2,000 rpm higher than the maximum horsepower mark of the road-legal version. The set of free-breathing exhausts sure helps a lot in this direction. The sportier side of the RC213V-S is complemented by a logger that records data in real time and combines it with GPS input to provide an analytic overview of how the motorcycle was ridden.
Part of the Sports Kit is also a load sensor-type quickshifter in place of the road-going switch type. The racing part is adjustable for shift operating load in five levels and is combined with an inverse shifting drum that comes straight off the RC213V.
Other notable parts of this extra kit include a ram air intake made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic that replaces the lights at the nose of the fairing, a connecting rod for the rear suspension that allows for ride height adjustments, a set with three drive (15,16,17 teeth) and six driven (40 to 45 teeth) final transmission sprockets, a remote control unit for the front brake lever, special Brembo racing brake pads, plus a number of tidbits like plugs and plastic guards.
The sport-kitted RC213V-S is no more street-worthy, but at last it now looks like a proper racer with over 215 hp for 177 kg curb weight. We can only try to imagine these performance figures on a bike that has achieved optimal mass concentration, sporting an inertial mass lower than that of 600 cc production Supersports. Adorned with components that no Superbike has ever dreamt of, we can get a picture of just how unique this MotoGP replica actually is.
Honestly, we can't think of someone forking out all that money for one, only to avoid the extra 6-7 percent for the Sports Kit. The bike’s road legal status sounds more like a complimentary feature, but it is also what chokes its performance. It was unavoidable trying to constrain within stingy emission and sound levels a V4 that had never before found itself in the same sentence with the word "road." Just as we haven’t seen all that many Ducati Desmosedici RRs in the streets during the last decade, we probably won’t see often an RC213V-S commuting in a busy avenue. They’ll all be at home fully kitted, shining and anxiously waiting for the next track day.
It’s not every day that a motorcycle with two recent MotoGP titles under its belt (2013 and 2014 by Marc Marquez) goes on sale to the public. With the high production costs it entails, the tall price tag was more or less expected. There is no contemporary yardstick to measure its value against; it’s one of a kind. If there is one tangible fact about the RC213V-S, it’s that it sold out in 50 days, hinting that Honda could have probably charged more and still people would have bought it.
In MotoGP terms, the RC213V-S is nowhere near the factory RC213V. It is actually similar to the RCV1000R production racer that Nicky Hayden could hardly ride into the top ten; and he’s a former World Champion. Yet for us mortals, this would be the absolutely closest to riding a factory Honda MotoGP racer – most would lust for a ride on it, even in its most restricted form.
Don't miss out on a visit to our gallery section, for a large collection of technical drawings and images of the RC213V-S.
In Honda's latest video, the Project Leaders of the RC213V-S explain its creation process.
Enjoy Casey Stoner as he rides and reviews the motorcycle.