Some may follow in the footsteps of others, but if Honda builds a machine, it has to be special. During the early nineties, when in-line Fours were considered de rigeur, Honda returned to GP racing and at the same time began development of a sports bike powered by a new kind of engine. It was completely different from anything offered by other manufacturers — an engine delivering unheard of levels of performance. The roots of this incredible engine can be traced back to the V4 NR500. As one of the engineers said, "Before releasing the bike on the market we wanted to show the world the amazing performance of the V4 engine. So we wanted to win the most prestigious race in America, the Daytona 200." This machine, the RS1000RW was powered by a racing prototype version of the production engine. Although it used round pistons, the 90° V4 engine was loaded with NR500 technology. Even during testing it pumped more than 150PS. During the race, however, the engine's ferocious power and blinding speed proved too much for the tires and it finished in 2nd place. But the potential of Honda's V4 engine was obvious. When the V750 Sabre and Magna debuted they were powered by the world's first* liquid-cooled 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, 90° V4 engines.
* Honda research
In 1982, the VF750 Sabre was followed by the VF750F. While its engine had the same output figures as the Sabre and Magna, heavy engine braking caused rear wheel hop, requiring fitment of the slipper clutch designed for the NR500. The VF750F was also the first production bike to feature a double-cradle frame made from box-section tubing. The incredible potential of this machine was proven when racing versions won the Daytona 200 and many other races around the world. The VF750F was followed by a whole line-up of V-Series machines developed in quick succession, including the impressive VF1000R. In 1982, HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) was established and went on to develop many racing machines based on the VF750F. In 1983 they developed the incredible RS850R. This was followed in 1984 by the RS750R, which won the 24-Hour Le Mans endurance race and many other big races. In addition to its impressive power output, the 90° V4 engine layout eliminated primary vibration, was as narrow as a twin-cylinder engine and had its cylinders cast into the upper engine case. The design of this remarkable power unit was both revolutionary and, in retrospect, very rational. It would form the basis for many successful Honda V4 engines to come.