Freddie Spencer: ‘I’d literally bend the handlebars to get the bike to turn’

“The Japanese said, ‘Do you want to ride for a few laps?’ I went out and it was so much fun. By the fifth or sixth turn I was going faster than I had ever been on the 1023cc inline four. It was nimble, stable, the brakes were good and the power delivery reminded me of the FWS I had raced the year before. I said, “Okay, I’ll run it.”

“If the NS500 was 100% and the inline four was 0%, then the first Interceptor was 60%. That’s a huge leap in performance – the biggest leap in development I’ve ever seen, before or since.”

Spencer won a hat-trick of Daytona superbike races on the Interceptor/VF in 1983, 1984 and 1985, when the 200-miler became a superbike-only race, completing the race scene’s conquest of the l USA.

“The Interceptor was technology from the NR500 [Honda’s oval-piston four-stroke GP bike] and also the FWS, so while the racing bikes were getting better, the superbikes were getting closer to the racing bikes. In the next few years, it was refined – coming out of the bank at Daytona the movement would become less and less every year, more like a racing bike.

“The main thing for me was that you are not limited to the Interceptor. What I didn’t like about the inline four was that the bike was the limiting factor and not you. You could only go as far as the bike allows you to go . With the Interceptor you can ride hard.”

In 1986, the second generation Interceptor/VFR750 arrived.

“As bikes become more stable, you can shorten the transition from braking to turning, to the maximum lean angle, to the start of the throttle and acceleration. Any instability in any of these steps will affect the next step. The second Interceptor was not such a big jump, but it allows you to shorten these transitions.

The first four-cylinder Japanese superbikes were closed to unrideable, allowing bikes like Ducati’s 750SS to have their day in the sun. This is cycle magazine duo Cook Nielson (editor-in-chief/rider/tuner) and Phil Schilling (journalist/tuner) with their highly breathed “Californian Hot Rod” at Pocono in 1977. The trio won the Superbike Daytona race of that year.

John Owens

In 1988 Honda launched its RC30, built especially for the inaugural World Superbike season This machine completed the steepest decade-long development curve in modern road and racing history.

“The RC30 was lighter and more stable, and it shortened those transitions again,” continues Spencer, who has ridden the bike to two US superbike wins. “And it looked small. In addition, the power delivery was so smooth that it didn’t really feel accelerated. The noise was also a little flat, which I liked because it was distinctive.

“The main thing was that the RC30 was very rider-friendly. It was maybe 85% towards a GP bike. It absolutely looked like a proper race bike – the first Interceptor that you also knew was a sports bike.”

There is no better record of this wonderful era – in fact this is without a doubt the best motorcycle book published in years – than the Cameron / Owens volume (which, to be specific, covers the years 1976 to 1986).

Available from for $75.

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