V&M Racing's 179-HP Honda CBR1200XX - Fire Bird!

Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki vie for the honor of producing the world's fastest production motorcycle, and to that list you can add British performance house V&M; Racing. At the behest of Honda Britain, V&M; will begin producing the CBR1200XX Super Blackbird to take on the Kawasaki ZX-12R and the Suzuki Hayabusa.

To create the FireBird, V&M; starts with a stock, first-generation carbureted XX. V&M; says that "not even Honda Britain could get hold of the access codes for the new model's engine-management system...so we concentrated on the original bike, and built our own pressurized airbox." V&M; strips the stock engines and builds them up with Carrillo billet rods mounted on the stock crank, and 2mm-overbore forged pistons, raising displacement to 1198cc and compression ratio to 13:1 (from the stock 11:1.) The cylinder head is comprehensively re-ported and gas-flowed, before fitting V&M; camshafts with 1mm more lift and 20 degrees more duration. Redline increases 500 rpm to 11,750.

According to V&M;, its 1200XX makes 179 rear-wheel hp at 11,500 rpm on the same dyno on which a stock XX made 137 hp at 10,000 rpm. A full Akrapovic 4-into-1 exhaust system with stainless steel header pipes and a single titanium-wrap street-legal silencer replaces the heavy, stock twin-can system. A Penske rear shock is the only nonstandard chassis part.

Twelve top-speed runs all clustered in the 196/197-mph bracket, with two at 198 mph, is a pretty frustrating result when you're aiming for 200, but an impressive improvement on the stock CBR-XX. On the same tall (stock) gearing the V&M; Bird pulled a 10.15-second quarter-mile at 142 mph.

The CBR1200XX is far more tractable and roadworthy than you'd ever suspect from reading its dyno sheet. It's also a pretty certain license-loser in spite of the rock-steady, wide-spread mirrors, if only because the way the V&M; Honda delivers this performance is so deceptive. Part of the reason for this is how fast the bike builds speed, part of the effectiveness of the pointy-nose streamlining, which in the bright red of Honda's 50th birthday paint job doesn't look nearly as bulbous as in the Stealth Bomber livery of the original Blackbird. Honda's honor, thanks to V&M; (fax: 011-44-161-654-0022), is restored. -Alan Cathcart