Aprilia Blue Marlin

Some exciting designs were unveiled at Bologna this month, most notably the four-stroke grand prix RS3. Kevin Ash reports

12:01AM GMT 20 Dec 2001

No question as to which manufacturer stole the limelight in the motorcycle section of this year’s Bologna Motor Show – Aprilia’s unveiling of its grand prix, four-stroke RS3 alone would have been enough to top the bill. But at a show that is traditionally one of the less important two-wheeler exhibitions, the Noale factory was also displaying one new production bike and one prototype, which is likely to make production.

There are radical changes to the premier motorcycle grand prix class – bafflingly to be called MotoGP – which from next year will allow four-strokes up to 1,000cc to compete alongside the existing 500cc two-strokes, a move designed to restore relevance to production road bikes that has prompted a host of manufacturers to come up with some exciting new designs.

Telegraph Motoring will be covering this in full at a later date, but take the Aprilia RS3 as typical of the diversity already evident – the bike, which weighs in at just 298lb, is powered by a three-cylinder, in-line engine of 990cc capacity producing 200-plus bhp at more than 15,000rpm. How much more Aprilia won’t say, but as the motor uses Formula One racing technology, including pneumatic valve operation and ride-by-wire electronic throttle control, it can probably rev comfortably at least 2,000rpm beyond this to access 10 per cent more horsepower.

The chassis is state-of-the-art, as you’d expect from a company with so much grand prix and superbike experience, featuring an aluminium-alloy, twin-spar frame with aluminium-alloy or carbon-fibre swingarm, magnesium alloy or carbon-fibre wheels and carbon-fibre brake discs.

Back in the real world is the RSV Mille R Tuono, a stripped-down version of the RSV Mille superbike, which will be up against the Ducati Monster S4 in the market place. The matt-black and gold Tuono features much carbon-fibre and Kevlar and all of the frame and swingarm are finished in gold. The RSV-R’s chassis is used, including the gold titanium nitride-coated 43mm Ohlins forks and Ohlins racing rear damper.

The engine is Aprilia’s familiar 60-degree, 998cc, V-twin producing a claimed 128bhp at the crankshaft. The bike is likely to become available late in the spring, probably for about £9,000.

In a similar vein was the ETV1000 Mana, loosely based on the Capo Nord trail bike, but with most of the bodywork removed (no bad thing in many people’s eyes). This, too, seems likely to come up against the Ducati Monster, but the Mana would be considerably cheaper than the Tuono.

At present, it is a prototype only, brought to Bologna to gauge public opinion to see if production can be justified. As with the Capo Nord, the engine is a detuned version of the RSV superbike’s V-twin, with a power output of 98bhp. Much of the chassis comes from the Capo Nord, which will mean the Mana is relatively cheap and easy to produce, improving its chances of going into production.

Aprilia’s boss Ivano Beggio confirmed for the first time that another prototype, the futuristic, cafe-racer Blue Marlin seen earlier in the year, will definitely be going into production but in limited numbers of about 300 machines annually. The bike will be available on the internet only, rather than in Aprilia dealers, and will have a premium price of about £13,000 when production starts next July.

Ducati, meanwhile, chose Bologna to unveil two special versions of its 998 superbike, each in the colours of its two 2001 factory riders. The Troy Bayliss Replica is finished almost identically to the race bike on which the Australian won the 2001 Superbike world championship, and is based on the 134bhp 998S. A maximum of 500 of these bikes will be produced, available only on the internet at a price of £15,000.

Each one will be signed by Bayliss.

Aprilia Blue Marlin

The Bayliss bike’s stablemate is the Ben Bostrom Replica, a flamboyant design based on Bostrom’s race bike, but with various touches designed to appeal primarily to the American market, such as painted flames coming from the lower front of the fairing. America will get 155 (Bostrom’s race number) machines, which, to meet emissions regulations, will be lower-powered than the 155 to be built for the European market and the 155 for the rest of the world. The Bostrom is also essentially a 998S and, again, each machine will be signed by the racer himself.

Yet another Monster made its first public appearance at Bologna as Ducati showed the 620ie Dark, a fuel-injected version of the most basic Monster, with more power and a smoother engine. Like the Monster S4, the chassis is based on that of the ST4 sports tourer, so the handling will also be improved.

Malaguti surprised everyone at the show by unveiling a motorcycle alongside its usual stable of scooters. The Super Climber is a prototype machine only, but if interest is sufficient Malaguti says it will consider putting the machine into production. The bike has American flat track racer-inspired looks, thoroughly modernised to give it a sharp street appearance with clean and tight lines.

The frame uses technology already seen on Benelli’s Tornado – twin steel-frame tubes are glued into aluminium-alloy plates at the back of the unmodified 600cc single-cylinder Yamaha trail bike engine.

Moto Guzzi’s range continues to be gently upgraded, the California Special Sport Aluminium having a host of minor changes as well as the distinctive new colour scheme. The overall quality of finish is still getting better since the takeover by Aprilia last year.

Honda used the Bologna Show to introduce a new scooter. The Dylan moniker won’t help in the UK and it might well be changed, but the styling is sharp and attractive, and as it’s based on the running gear of the excellent @125 it should ride well, too. The Dylan will have a budget price of about £1,500 and will be available in April.

Piaggio, meanwhile, continues to rebuild the Gilera brand, unveiling a 50cc motorcycle styled to look like the Gilera on which Manuel Poggiali won the 2001 125cc world championship. This will complement the 600cc, Suzuki-powered supersports bike shown earlier this year.

Aprilia Blue Marlin
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