Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1998 04 08

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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EUROFILE BY ALAN CATHCART Moto Guzzi to build scooters The King has spoken . Speaking in an interview published in February in the leading Italian weekly motorcycle magazine, Motosprint, none other than Kenny Roberts is quoted as registering dissatisfaction with the current state of Grand Prix bike racing. Transla ted from the Italian in which his words were published, Roberts said that his problems in sourcing sufficient backing to continue developing and racing his own KR3 race bike are.yrnptoma tic of the ongoing problems in GP racing. "I still say things aren't right the way they are, and that in fact they're screwing up a sport with huge potential," he is quoted as saying. "Does it seem right that a four-time World Champion like Max Biaggi has to buy his own ride so as to move up to 500cc GP racing? I think that's nuts but nobody gives a shit. The problem .is that the Japanese manufacturers are great at doing business, but they have no soul, none of the passion In a recent interview, Kenny Roberts was you need to go racing with. Now quoted as saying he is rather dissatisfied that Cagiva isn't involved anymore with the current state of GP racing. Would in GPs and Aprilia has pulled out of he really go Superbiking? the SODec class, the situation is even worse: It's a disaster. As far as I'm concerned, superbike is the future. There are guys there investing in the championship, doing good work. Right now, GP racing is on the way down, and World Superbike's on the way up. I'd like to do something in that class of racing." The man who helped Ivano Beggio put Aprilia on the road to commercial success was the company's former managing director, Oscar Cecchinato, to whom company observers accord much of the credit for Aprtlia's recovery from severe cash-flow problems five years ago. The key to this turnaround was Aprilia's decision to concentrate on the booming. Italian scooter market, where in 1997 they succeeded in selling no fewer than 155,627 50cc two-wheelers - second only to market leaders Piaggio, with a 22.7percen t share of the 685,000-unit total market. Now, Cecchinato has set in motion plans to use a similar ploy to turn around the company he has headed up since last April: Moto Guzzi. With a muddled range of bikes - none of which is smaller than 750cc - Guzzi badly needs a volume product to underpin its revi val, arid Cecchina to has moved to provide that, by signing a deal with Piaggio for the supply of the 125cc and 180cc liquid-cooled two-stroke engines fitted to the Gilera Runner and the new Piaggio Hexagon range, which will be used to power a range of Moto. Guzzi sCOQters set for launch later this year. These will bear the name of one of the most famous bikes in Guzzi production history: the Galletto, of which more than 150,000 were produced in 160200cc Single-cylinder four-stroke form between 1950 and 1966. As a reliable everyday workhorse, this had few equals, promoting customer goodwill for the Moto Guzzi marque that lasts even today among older guzzisti. The Galletto's trademark was the spare wheel it carried slung across the front of its distinctive scooter-like apronĀ·- ironically, the Galletto was Moto Guzzi's motorcycle riposte to the then-newly launched Vespa and Lambretta scooters, from which much of its success was derived. But the Galletto's spare wheel was the clue to an avant-garde piece of design that, years later, was to playa key role in settling a dispute between two major rivals for superbike supremacy. A rear-tire puncture cou Id be fixed at the roadside by fitting the Galletto's spare wheel, thanks to a single-sided swingarm which the little Guzzi was the first motorcycle of volume manufacture to carry. Years later, Elf "reinvent.ed" the concept on its avant-garde endurance racers, and succeeded not only in patenting it but actually selling the patent to Honda - hence the socalled ProArrn fitted to a variety of titlewinning Hondas ranging from the RC30/45 superbikes and their street spinoffs to Max Biaggi's NSR250. So how did the Galletto help settle a dispute? Only that, perhaps mindful of the tenuous nature of their patent's legitimacy, Elf was always very keen to send in the lawyers if any company other than Honda tried to fit a single- Aprilia to get four wnh afour? Aprilia may have withdrawn its 480cc V-twin from 500cc GP racing for the coming season, bu t company boss Ivan 0 Beggio says Aprilia will be back soon - with a V-four contender. In announcing a $28 million global race budget for 1998 - part of it covered by outside sponsorship - at the launch of Aprilia's 125cc and 250cc GP team in Alassio, Italy, in February, Beggio confirmed that Aprilia still regards 500cc GP racing as unfinished business, and that race boss Jan Witteveen is presently working on a four-cylinder contender. This is understood to be based on a modified version of the SwissAuto V-four engine that has powered the Elf 500 for the past two seasons before it was transformed with Malaysian money into an MuZ for the 1998 season. Aprilia is known to be talking to currently unemployed Italian star Luca Cadalora to ride the bike - a move that would have obvious promotional advantages for the image-conscious Beggio - and given that the new Aprilia RSV500 is sure to be ready for testing relatively early in the year, it's possible he may even race it in a couple of la te-season GPs as a wild card. . But, at Alassio, Beggio confirmed that in 1999 Aprilia will be the only factory aside from Honda to compete not only in 125cc, 250cc and SOOcc GP racing but also with a works team in World Superbike. "I know it's a huge challenge, but it' one we know we must face calmly," he says. '1 have every confidence in the guys in our race department (80 in all), and we know we can't do it overnight. But here's our goal: Can you imagine how it would be if one company won all four world titles in a single season?" . Well, Honda won three out of four in '97, and only Aprilia stopped them from achieving that selfsame clean sweep. So now the aim of the ambitious Italian company is to turn the tables - and Tetsuya Harada on the Aprilia 250cc GP bike. No stranger to GP success, the Italian bike manufacturer is working on a four-cylinder 500 to replace the 480cc bike it used last year. If all goes to plan, Aprilia will then some. At the same press conference, Beggio revealed the true extent of contest all three GP classes, plus World Superbike in 1999. Aprilia's stratospheric growth as a company, with turnover rocketing tenfold to $560 million between 1989 and 1997. With 1500 full-time employees, rider Alessandro Antonello. I was informed at that time that the bike's rather bulky 4500 part-timers and a factory floor space of 3.8 million square feet (one third of it dimensions were noted by observers. It looks wide and tall, especially in comparison covered), Aprilia seems justified in its claim to be poised to make the jump to becom- to a 916 Ducati, in spite of the compact dimensions of the Rotax-developed 60-degree . ing a fifth force in world motorcycling alongside the four Japanese, even if at present V- twin engine. Since it isn't confirmed that the prototype V-twin ever saw the inside of a wind 62 percent of its total production is concentrated in scooters. However, with annual production breaking the 250,000 barrier and the imminent tunnel before its launch in street guise at the Milan Show last autumn, there are arrival of its range of four-stroke V-twins to complement its range of scooter and unconfirmed reports that the first task of Aprilia's new design guru, ex-Bimota chief small-capacity street bikes, Aprilia is poised to enter the U.s. market as well as sub- engineer Pierluigi Marconi (who joined the company in February), is to supervise a stantially expand its operations in big-bike markets such as Germany, Britain, France retouching of the RSV1000's chassis and bodywork, to make the bike more svelte and and Japan on the back of the V-twin range. Ivano Beggio's carefully laid plans look as aerodynamic. It is important that this be done now since it's not permitted to alter a model's homologated silhouette or frame design for superbike racing. though they are bearing fruit. Inevitably, if tru , this will cause a delay in the arrival of the stock RSV1000 in the However, the e plans may perhaps be delayed by a couple of months, if rumors marketplace by at least a couple of months. With a press launch of the" production coming out of Italy are to be believed. The superbike race version of the RSVI000 was semi-publicly tested for the first time at Mugello early in March by development bike penciled in for the last week of April, it remains to be seen if what is arguably the most important new model that Aprilia has ever launched in fact arrives on time.

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