Storming midrange acceleration and sweet throttle response are traditional Fireblade strengths, and the SP puts a big tick in both boxes. Its fuelling is crisp, and the motor builds power in a strong, consistent surge from 6000rpm to the redline at 13,000rpm, making the Honda easy to ride despite its lack of traction control. The SP is good for over 170mph and gets there with neck-snapping force, yet it’s equally suited to more sensible speeds.
It also brakes hard and handles superbly, the Öhlins front end giving a blend of sharp steering, confidence-inspiring stability and flawless feedback. The rear shock is very well controlled and responsive to set-up changes. The single seat and those initials suggest the SP is intended for the track, but in some ways that’s misleading. It’s arguably at its best as a roadburner with a finish and ride quality that few sports bikes can match.
The Fireblade SP’s appeal runs deeper than bhp figures or lap times. This is a bike for purists who want power with the emphasis on the way it’s delivered, and a chassis whose main aim is to help the rider use brain and right wrist, not software, to go fast. Rival superbikes’ systems (including those of Honda’s own RC213V-S MotoGP replica) undoubtedly work well, but the SP’s controllability and chassis quality mean it’s rapid as well as rewarding to ride.
Honda’s hotshot might be short of electronic gizmos despite its high price, but with Öhlins and Brembo on board as well as its blueprinted engine (and that classy, Honda Racing Corporation inspired paintwork) it has plenty of glitz. There’s also the option of an even more lavishly equipped version, the TT Edition, featuring racing levers and guard, wavy brake discs and an Akrapovic slip-on silencer. That man McGuinness would surely approve.
Price tag of our bike: £14,499 (TT Special Edition £16,999)
Photography by Zep Gori, Francesc Montero & Ula Serra