The Honda CBR600 is one of those bikes you’ve probably owned or at least ridden at some point. But occasionally you can still stumble on one that’s a bit special, and this ex-James Toseland Supersport CBR600FX is a great example.
I’ll skip the history lesson on how Honda’s original CBR600FH made Kawasaki’s original 600 sports bike look clumsy and feel old. The original jelly mould CBR’s had a few nip and tucks before the 1991 FM model arrived. For the next 7 years the basic concept of the CBR remained the same as it became one of the biggest selling motorcycles of the decade. When the competition did catch up by using alloy frames, the engineers at Honda has to sharpen their pencils and design a new model.
The CBR600FX arrived with the all important alloy frame and a host of other advances over the outgoing FW model. Whereas the steel-framed CBR was as perfectly suited to commuting to work as it was sitting on the grid as Brands Hatch, the newer model moved more in the race rep direction. It wasn’t until 2003 and the Honda CBR600RR that the split between race and road machines finally removed the need to compromise in either direction.
This particular CBR was the SuperSport machine of future double World Superbike champion James Toseland. The rules for the series back in 1998-1999 meant the bikes had to remain fairly standard and the use of aftermarket brakes, wheels and extensive engine mods weren’t allowed.
Since those days, Mr 52 has gone on to two WSB titles, married popstar Katie Melua, and announced a land speed record attempt for 2014. Like most race bikes, this CBR was abandoned and unloved as Toseland moved back into British Superbikes for a brief time in 2000. But its fate was even worse than most, as it ended up hanging on a wall at a sports cafe, until Honda’s accountants arrived and insisted it was sold off along with several other races and even an NR750 found lurking in the shadows of the Louth race shop.
The new owner set about a full-strip down and rebuild when the CBR arrived. With no expense spared, the attention to detail means this bike is true anorak specification. Original suppliers of parts were traced and one-by-one the worn out parts were replaced or brought back to life. It also sounds as great as it looks in these pictures, taken earlier this year in my brother’s Romford workshop.
So many successful race bikes give rise to a legion of fakes. There are probably more claimed ex-Sheene RGs and ex-Fogarty 916s than standard bikes as this point. The truth is most race bikes get crushed after their day is up, or they are stripped for parts, or see out their years moving down racing divisions until finally bowing out. Very few ever survive intact.
Not only is it great to see that this bike is still a fully functional machine, but it’s also potentially even more special because the CBR was never a rare bike on track or road, and Toseland’s first two seasons in World Supersport didn’t really show his potential for various reasons. Which makes it somehow more special among the legions of championship-winning replicas.
The racing history:
World SuperSport began as a European championship in 1990, becoming a World Series in 1997.
Following early success in the Honda CB500 Cup and British SuperSport, James Toseland was signed by the Castrol Honda World SuperSport team for the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
His best result in 1998 was an 8th place with 18th in the series overall, followed by a best of 6th in 1999 as he ended the championship in 11th place. It was a difficult couple of years, including breaking both ankles at the second round of the 1998 debut season in practice at Monza. The same round saw the death of Toseland’s Castol Honda team-mate at the time, Belgian rider Michael Paquay. At the time, Toseland was just 17-years-old.
The torrid two seasons in World SuperSport were followed by a year back in British Superbikes. 2001 saw Toseland partner Neil Hodgson in the GSE squad, before moving to the factory Ducati team and taking the World Superbike title in 2004. He repeated that success on a Ten Kate Honda in 2007.
The 1998 and 1999 championships were won by Alstare Suzuki riders Fabrizio Pirovano and Stephane Chambon, but Honda’s work paid off with the 2002 title for Fabien Foret on a Ten Kate CBR600F followed by 6 consecutive titles for Ten Kate with Chris Vermeulen, Karl Muggeridge, Sebastien Charpentier, Kenan Sofuoglu and Andrew Pitt winning titles from 2003-2008, Sofuoglu then took a further Ten Kate Honda title in 2010.