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Race Machinery


1980           Honda CB900FZ

Chisman's ex-road bike. Fairly standard apart from tyres (Dunlop KR124s), Tomaselli adjustable clip-ons, steering damper, modified footpeg location, fork preload with heavier fork oil, S&W rear suspension, Martek coils, NGK V-range plugs, K&N air filter and EBC pads, plus lockwired sump plug, removal of centre stand etc. – according to Bemsee Production class regs.


902cc, in-line air-cooled 4cyl, dohc 16v, 95bhp, 135mph, 250kg (550lb) in stock trim (Honda figs), although this would have been a little lighter and faster than that.


1981         Honda CB900FZ

As '80 initially, but through the season progressed from proddy to F1 spec and so acquired a 987cc Moriwaki kit, RSC rods, Dixon Racing cams, 10.8:1 compression, Lucas ignition, Yoshimura 4 into 1, Serck oil cooler and an all-black engine paint job. 102bhp@9000rpm (@ rear wheel).


Dymag wheels, Brembo Goldline front brakes (280mm discs), forks from a Laverda triple, Marzocchi rear suspension and a stepped, blue leather dual seat.


Seen below at West Raynham.



1982         Honda CB900FZ

Seen here at Le Mans, 1982.



As '81 but further modified with 996cc RSC liners with Omega pistons, raised compression (initially 11:1 and almost impossible to start), S&W valve springs, 33mm Mikuni smoothbores, no airbox, Lucas CDI ignition, one-off Motad exhaust. 103bhp@9,000rpm with "very wide powerband".


38mm Marzocchi forks (with rotating sliders), S&W Pro Stroker dual-spring rear suspension, Brembo Goldline rear brake, modified 24-litre steel fuel tank, Honda RS250 'bars, Cibié 100w headlamp. A Crossbow twin headlamp half fairing was fitted for the Bol d'Or at Circuit Paul Ricard, (but this was subsequently trashed at the final Donington 1,000km round).


1983          Honda ‘CB1000R’

As '82 but with 980cc RSC kit, cam chain, tensioners and other small but vital parts from CB1100R, gas-flowed head, modified cam timing, Lucas Rita ignition.


CB1100R frame with new 38mm Marzocchi forks, Metmachex braced alloy swing arm and S&W rear units. Pattern CB1100R bodywork (with twin 130mm Cibiés) and alloy tank with 3-inch Shaw filler by Newton Equipment.


(During free practice at Le Mans, Howard fitted the front forks with a mechanical anti-dive system as part of his engineering degree course. Though it reportedly worked well, it was removed for qualifying and the race.)

The CB1000R posed for Bike Magazine.



1984         Honda VF750F

Change of bike prompted by new 750cc limit. Ex Honda GB demo machine with ex-HRC V4, '83-spec, water-cooled RS850R (859cc) engine fitted for the non-championship Le Mans 24hr. Whether it made "over 133bhp@11,500rpm" (factory fig.) we don't know, but it was definitely fast.


An HRC-kitted V4 750 motor was supplanted for all remaining races, with the 860's gear driven cams grafted into 750 (by Brian Capper). HRC kit rad, cooler, exhausts, ignition. Approx 100bhp @ rear wheel. 210kg wet.



1985         Honda VF750/850F, 'RS750', CBX750, RS750R

Two machines were entered at Le Mans 24hr endurance season opener.


No. 1 bike was an 'RS750' built from an ex Honda Britain (Marshall/Gardner), '83 HRC RS850 with early '83 season steel-tube chassis (inc. RS alloy swing arm, Showa suspension, alloy tank and bodywork) with HRC-kitted 750 V4, AP Racing 4-piston front calipers and discs, Brembo rear brake, Dymag wheels, Dunlop tyres, and Premier 'dry-break' fuel tank valves. Home-made LED rear lights (by D. Wrycraft) made their first HLR appearance. (Pictured below).




No. 2 bike at '85 Le Mans was the '84 VF750F with 859cc engine, entered either in the up-to-1300cc production class or up-to-1000cc TT1 class, or possibly a Prototype or Superbike class (we can't remember).


The VF750 was also raced by Kultalahti at the '85 Daytona 200, and with the 859 motor at the end-of-season Macau GP.


The ‘RS750’ did all other rounds in '85, inc. Assen TT F1 (Kultalahti), except Suzuka 8hr and Bol d'Or.


For the Suzuka 8hr an HRC spec CBX750RK motor in a carbon-fibre, semi-monocoque chassis built by Dome was made available for Oxley/Kultalahti (shown below). It was called the Dome DCF1 Black Buffalo, it was sponsored by Wacoal ladies underwear (you couldn't make it up) and it reputedly made 112.5bhp @ 11,500rpm, weighed 149kg dry and could hit 167mph. Crewed by Lees and Ainslie, Oxley crashed at the Spoon Curve on oil in practice, broke an ankle and so was replaced by local HRC jockey Takemura.



For the '85 Bol d'Or the steel-framed 'RS750' became the T-bike (with 750 engine from VF). The race bike was an alloy-framed, '84-spec RS750R – ex HRC/Honda France but temporarily loaned to the German Eckert team for the previous week's Nürburgring 8hr, where they'd crashed it, heavily.


This hastily rebuilt (entirely in Circuit Paul Ricard's paddock) RS750R accommodated the HRC-kitted motor from the 'RS750'. 1985 was the first year of the all-conquering factory RVFs (as raced by Honda France and Honda Britain at the Bol), so the Team's newly-acquired, one-race-only RS750R was christened 'OurVF'.  It retained the RS750R's tank, bodywork, cooling and exhaust systems, Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, but ran on Dymag wheels with Dunlop tyres. ‘OurVF’ is shown below at the Bol.



Factory spec of '83 HRC RS850R:

858.8cc V4 dohc 16v, gear-driven cams

Over 133bhp @ 11,500rpm

The factory racers' early '83 steel-tube frame was upgraded to an aluminium box-tube frame for June's IoM TT and subsequent events, eg. Suzuka 8hr and Bol d'Or.

Capacity was upped to 920cc for the end-of-season Bol.

165kg dry (seems optimistic, even with later alloy chassis)


Factory spec of '84 HRC RS750R:

748cc V4 dohc 16v, gear-driven cams

118bhp @ 12,500rpm

53.5lb/ft @ 10,500rpm

Aluminium box-tube frame

175kg dry


Factory spec of '85 HRC RVF750:

748cc V4 dohc 16v, gear-driven cams

Over 128bhp @ 12,000rpm

Aluminium beam frame, initially with double-sided swing arm. Single-sided swing arm introduced for '85 Suzuka 8hr.

160kg dry



1986           Harris Yamaha FZ750 (x2)


With a kitted motor, Michelin slicks, Dymag wheels, Ohlins rear suspension and AP brakes, an otherwise standard, steel-framed FZ750 was raced at the '86 Daytona 200 by Vesa Kultalhati.


For endurance, Yamaha FZ750 motors (749cc, in-line 4cyl, dohc, 20v, 104bhp) with Yamaha race kit pistons, cams and carbs were employed with Harris-supplied 4 into 1 exhaust. Carillo rods were fitted during season. 


Alloy Harris chassis, White Power upside-down forks, Ohlins rear suspension, Harris bodywork and alloy tank with Premier quick-fill valves, Dymag wheels, Michelin tyres, AP Racing brakes (front), Brembo (rear). 185kg wet, 165mph+.


1987         Yamaha FZ750, FZR750 & Harris FZR750

The steel-framed '86 FZ 'superbike' was rolled out again for Daytona, this time ridden by Geoff Fowler.


For endurance, engines were much as '86 but initially housed in a Yamaha Deltabox alloy chassis (FZR750, aka 'Swampy') with AP brakes (front), Dymags, quickfillers and Ohlins rear suspension. The chassis was replaced on the no.1 race-bike during season by the second-generation and much improved Harris (aka 'Harribox') alloy chassis, also with much improved fairing and bodywork. The Deltabox-framed FZR became the T-bike. Swampy still exists, and is documented here, in the Garage area.


Above, the Deltabox-framed Swampy and ‘Harribox’ bikes side by side at the season’s end.



1988           Harris Yamaha FZR750 (x2)

Much as '87 'Harribox', but further fettled. Motors now producing c. 106 bhp.


1989 Harris Yamaha FZR750 (for Le Mans only) & Honda VFR750R RC30 (x2)



Standard chassis, with lightly modified forks. Brian Capper prepared, HRC-kitted engines. Pete Gibson

exhaust system, Dymag wheels, AP Racing front brakes,  Ohlins rear suspension, Premier quick-fillers

and pattern RC30 mudguard, seat and fairing (with small diameter HRC-supplied headlamps). Michelin tyres.


1990          Honda VFR750R RC30 (x2)

As above, but on a tighter budget.


1991         Honda VFR750R RC30 (x2)

As above but with Devil silencer, Metzeler slicks and an even tighter budget.


Factory spec of a ’91 HRC RVF750:

748cc V4 dohc 16v gear driven cams

Over 138bhp @ 13,500rpm

Weight under 140kg dry





Piloted by nine different riders, HLR RC30s finished every one of the ten consecutive endurance races entered. (The previous best run of consecutive finishes was four – '85 ‘RS750’ and '87 FZR750/Harris FZR).  This equates to 190 hours of racing (almost eight entire days), excluding practice and qualifying. What a bike.


PS. Since the above was written HLR RC30s have been raced by five more riders and notched up one 2hr plus two 4hr victories, so make that 200 hours of racing with 15 consecutive endurance race finishes. (This discounts the team’s forced withdrawal due to daft tyre regs while leading the second 2hr leg of the 2013 Bol Classic.)

Howard Lees Racing  

10  years going for it