V4 engine set for two-wheeled renaissance
It seems the V4 engine is set to come back into vogue for high-end motorcycles, with the 1000cc RSV4 of Aprilia besting long-established successful marques at the Czech Republic World Superbike Championship round and the imminent launch of Honda's much awaited V4 roadster in its 50th year of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Details of the new 1200cc Honda V4 are starting to emerge and it looks like some fairly significant new technologies will be incorporated into the design, including variable cylinder management, meaning that the rear cylinders will cut out when full power isn't needed. Aprilia meanwhile, is making hay and is already preparing an RSV4 Naked Bike (sans fairing), and a 600cc supersport machine is also likely.
From leaked images of the Honda 1200 which have appeared around the world, it appears the V4 will be a replacement for the Blackbird rather than the Fireblade, and is more a brutally fast sports tourer than a sports bike – and the rumors suggest a 200 bhp top end. The Honda V4 project was unveiled late last year in a bizarre publicity gathering exercise where a concept sculpture of the bike was unveiled. We couldn't quite get our heads around it at the time, but as details are starting to emerge of the real bike, it's now plain that the “concept sculpture” was indeed, Honda is apparently very bullish about just how good the machine will be when it becomes available in Q2, 2010 and is already hinting at a new series of V4 machinery.
Meanwhile, the Italian motorcycle marque of Aprilia finally looks set to make a significant impact at the top end of the motorcycle market following the debut win of its new flagship RSV4 in the first race of the World Superbike Championship round at the Czech Republic last weekend.
The new 1000cc RSV4 is only now finding its way into showrooms around the world, so a win so early in its development against the best that Ducati, Honda, Yamaha et al can produce augers well for the future. Aprilia's success must be becoming an embarrassment for the far larger and better resourced BMW Motorrad which was expected to be a leading contender in the championships this year with its new S1000RR.
Making 193bhp and 83lb/ft of torque, the BMW purposefully created the S1000RR is the most powerful 1000cc production bike on the market and its positioning at the extreme end of the horsepower sportsbike war was no accident. In addition to putting out more ponies than anything else, it weighs in at 183kg dry and just 204kg fully fueled, giving it the best power-to-weight ratio of any standard sports bike.
Though BMW had its best result of the year at Brno when Troy Corser rode into fifth place after leading the opening few laps of race one, Biaggi has twice as many points as both BMW riders put together, and with fifth place in the points standings, has validated the RSV4 as a credible state-of-the-art sports road bike whereas BMW Mootorrad has failed to do likewise.
A long time and highly successful competitor at the highest MotoGP level of motorcycle racing, the “Roman Emperor” Max Biaggi has been running in the Superbike category for the last few seasons. Max won four consecutive world 250 titles and triumphed in his very first MotoGP race, but like so many riders who had championship potential, he was very unfortunate to arrive at the same time as the rider who is now arguably the greatest of all-time – Valentino Rossi. Max regularly won races at the highest level, but eventually lost his works ride and dropped to the superbike category. Sunday's win in the first race was his fourth SBK victory, taking Aprilia back to the top of the podium for the ninth time in the series, a category from it has been absent since 2001 when Regis Laconi won on the then v-twin RSV1000 at Imola.
"It's great!”, said Biaggi. “What can I say! When I crossed the start-finish I was so happy to be winning this race and I had so many flashbacks of Brno, I can feel that it is one of my favorite circuits.”
“Biaggi had been in third place when fellow-Italian Ducati rider Michel Fabrizio crashed, taking American Yamaha rider Ben Spies with him and gifting the lead to the Roman Aprilia rider. “Of course I don't want to take anything away from Spies and Fabrizio”, said Biaggi, adding “they were both very fast, but I remember Barry Sheene used to say 'to finish first, first you have to finish' and this is a part of the deal.”
“I put my head down and did not make any mistake, so a big thanks to all my crew, Aprilia and in particular Gigi Dall'Igna, the 'papa' of our bike!”
In the second race Biaggi again almost took top step of the podium, just failing to catch Spies in the final few laps, but taking the overall win for the round with a first and second place. "It's a great result”, he said, adding “I'm quite pleased, it's not a victory but we proved that we have a lot of muscle and could fight with Fabrizio and Spies all the time. I stopped behind Fabrizio for quite a time, while Spies managed to pull away. In the end I passed him and went to catch Spies. I tried to brake very late, but I didn't want to take him out like it was in the first race. We got a good result and it was a very good weekend here for Aprilia."