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Part 1 - Countdown 10-6: TEN GP BIKES THAT PUSHED THE ENGINEERING BOUNDARIES

Posted on 10 April 2018

The much awaited 2018 MotoGP is here!.

MotoGP and its 500cc GP forebear is the crucible of motorcycle prototype racing, where manufacturers experimented with all sorts of ideas to give them an edge to triumph over the competition, in order to sell more bikes on Monday and beyond.

As such, most of the technologies and lessons learned in GP will trickle down to street motorcycles, or at least advertised as “Technology derived from MotoGP.”

Here are five GP motorcycles that pushed the engineering boundaries - on a countdown from 10 to 6: 

10. Blata V6 (2005)

Four-stroke GP bikes were introduced in 2002 and the regulations were a little more “open” during that time compared to how they are now. For example, MotoGP’s governing body had regulated a formula that the engines have no more than four cylinders, displacing a maximum of 1000cc, and naturally aspirated.

 Courtesy of gpone.com

But back in 2005, Czech mini-moto maker, Blata so nearly debuted a MotoGP bike with a V6 engine. The manufacturer was linked to MotoGP team WCM for the season, but the engine never made it past being half-built, effectively killing the project and forcing WCM to compete on old Yamaha-derived 1000cc inline-Four engines.

2005 was also WCM’s last season in the championship.

 

9. Aprilia RS Cube

Aprilia had been very successful in the 125cc and 250cc two-stroke GPs, and it was a matter of time before the Noale-based manufacturer forayed into the 500cc and eventually MotoGP.

 Courtesy of visordown.com

While Honda went the V-5 route with their RC211V in 2002, Aprilia went in with a 990cc, inline-Triple which was developed by Cosworth, with technologies derived from Formula One. They included the then-new developments for motorcycles such as ride-by-wire throttle, traction control, and pneumatic valves.

The engine was reputed to produce between 225 to 240 bhp. It was hoped that the rider aids would assist the rider in harnessing that power but the chassis was built too stiff and unforgiving.

The project ended in 2004 and Aprilia took a break from the top echelon of GP racing until 2012.

 

8. Aprilia RSW2

When Aprilia first stepped up to the 500cc GP class, they saw that the qualifying times of 250cc bikes were sometimes faster than those of the 500cc bikes. That had Aprilia thinking they could be competitive if they entered with a 410cc V-Twin racer, called the RSW2 in 1994. Being less than 500cc also meant that a minimum weight of 105kg was levied on the RSW2, compared to 130kg for the 500cc bikes.

 Courtesy of speezilla.com

While it seemed like a great idea, the RSW2 riders found themselves outgunned down the straights by the 500s then blocked at corner entries.

Aprilia responded by increasing the capacity to 430cc, then 460cc and finally 498cc but they could never challenge the supremacy of the 500cc bikes.

 

7. Proton KR 5

Kenny Roberts’ team held on to the KR3 two-stroke triple for 2002 and scored some top 10 finishes against the new more powerful four-strokes. But everyone including Roberts saw the dominance of Honda RC211V, which prompted him to develop his own four-stroke V5 engine for his 2003 bikes called the KR5.

 Courtesy of motogp.com

But it turned out to be a steep curve and the KR5 couldn’t even match the KR3’s results. Roberts turned to a KTM V4 engine but to no avail, until they were supplied with real Honda V5 engines that he had hoped to emulate from the start in 2006. The KR5 went on to score two podiums, but that was the last year of the 990cc machines, as MotoGP resorted to the 800cc in 2007.

 

6. Elf-4 (1987)

Fans of GP in the 80’s would surely attest to noticing a black bike with the word “Elf” emblazoned on it, between 1984 to 1988. However, it wasn’t the logo that was most attractive, it was because the bikes had no conventional forks for the front end.

 Courtesy of lastflag.com

Instead, the Elf-Honda had a hub-center steering swingarm at the front. The project was born to explore the technology in place of hydraulic forks. The most notable iteration was the 1987 Elf-4 which Ron Haslam rode to fourth place in the championship.

Stay tuned for the Top 5 countdown...in just a couple of days time.

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