Any motorcycle that wins an AMA Superbike Championship is a remarkable machine. But a Superbike that wins three championships in the hands of two different riders? That’s truly exceptional.
In fact, there may be only one such machine-this one: Bubba Shobert’s factory Honda VFR750.
We’ll call it Shobert’s motorcycle because that’s the way it’s shown here, with the blue-and-yellow No. 1 plate Shobert had on it in 1988, the last year he rode the bike. But in reality, it was handed down to him from a previous Honda star in U.S. Superbike racing, Fred Merkel.
This VFR, the second generation of Honda’s 750cc Superbikes, was introduced in 1986. And that year, Honda factory ace Fred Merkel rode it to the last of his three AMA Superbike titles.
Merkel started the season with a third-place finish at Daytona, then placed no lower than that in each race for the rest of the season. That consistency gave him the championship over teammate Wayne Rainey, who won six of the nine races that year.
The next year, 1987, Merkel was putting together the effort that would eventually win him a pair of World Superbike Championships. And his bike went to Shobert, already a two-time champion in the predominantly dirt-track-oriented AMA Grand National Series.
Shobert finished an impressive third in the Superbike Series that year, behind pavement specialists (and soon-to-be world road-racing champions) Rainey and Kevin Schwantz. But the points Shobert earned from his appearances in the Superbike class helped him notch his third Grand National Championship in ’87.
So for the ’88 season, Shobert’s bike carried the distinctive blue-and-yellow Grand National No. 1 plate seen here. And that year, Shobert truly came of age as a road-racer, winning three of seven races on the schedule to beat another soon-to-be world champion, Doug Polen, for the AMA Superbike title.
Brian O’Shea of Enfield, Connecticut, is now the owner of this historic factory racer.
“It was one of the few bikes that fell out of Honda’s hands,” O’Shea says.