There is ‘motorcycle’ and then there is ‘motorcycle racing’. Each of them has a different meaning for every manufacturer. And being associated with the latter is a form of prestige to them. The term ‘motorcycle racing’ was coined the day the second motorcycle was ever made and since then, the world of racing has seen a great deal of competition and rivalry amongst manufacturers and builders, all vying for the glory of unadulterated use of power and the pride of being at the top of their game.
The FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is the premier class of motorcycle road racing held since 1949. The Grand Prix is categorised into three formats - MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. All manufacturers put all their resources into running the best of their machines on the world stage and claim for the ultimate crown.
In 2010, for the first time in the 60-year history of World Grand Prix racing, a one-make engine rule was adopted. The 250 cc class was replaced by the new Moto2 600 cc four stroke power mills supplied exclusively by Honda, which was capable of producing close to 125 bhp to 140 bhp of gut-wrenching power and 16000 revolutions at the max.
The Honda CBR600RR engine took the company’s fortunes to unimaginable heights, like it won some kind of a lottery. It was tuned by Spanish firm ExternPro and a brand new engine was handed over to each team after every three races of the Moto2. Each engine has a total of 3 rebuilds, after which a new one is brought into rotation. ExternPro’s current contract with World Championship runs until the end of 2018.
This means the championship needed a new player. A player who could fill Honda’s shoes and more. After a small hiatus, the largest British Motorcycle manufacturer, Triumph, has recently signed a deal with MotoGP rights holders Dorna to build the control engine for the Moto2 championship from 2018.
The Hinckley firm was amidst news since last year’s championship for being the replacement engine provider but now, it has confirmed the same. All of this comes in a time where no new developments from Honda were made in keeping the 600cc engine to date as it even saw a freefall in its sales on Honda road bikes. And because of the Euro4 norms, it was not even able to sell anymore in Europe.
Apart from Yamaha’s R6, no other Japanese manufacturer has released a mid-weight superbike with the Euro4 compliant engines. On the other side of the world, Triumph had mastered the art of engine building and developed its high performer Daytona 675 super sports bike. And now, they are prepping at entering the GP world with supplying engines to run the Moto2 machines.
Triumph had recently moved the focus onto making retro-classic motorcycles and gave us wallpaper material motorcycles with their Bonneville range. I, for one, was taken for a surprise when Triumph confirmed the deal and was in an abyss to shift my thoughts of the brand as the modern-retro silhouette to someone making a 160bhp screamer of an engine ready to set ablaze racetracks around the world.
The Daytona 675 runs on a 675 cc, in-line triple that puts out a whopping 128 horsepower. The bike has been used in the British Supersport Championship since 2006. For the Moto2, however, Triumph will be making use of this engine’s design and create an all new 750cc triple engine that will be seen on the soon to be released Street Triple 765 naked road bike.
Before this could take shape, talks were also on with the Italian MV Agusta. But that went south because of the erratic financial situations it is trying to cope with.
This is likely to be announced officially at the opening round of the 2017 season on the March 26 weekend in Qatar. Although, it will now take close to 1.5 to 2 years to develop a new engine and test it, perfect for the start at the 2019 GP. The engines have to be rock-solid and of the highest cadre in terms of precision and performance, good enough to match the Honda’s bulletproof engine which has had only five failures in a million kilometres. They will have to make close to 200 engines and put dedicated support required to replenish them every three races.
Based on this, the chassis manufacturers such as Kalex, Speed-up, Suter, Tech3 and KTM will also be informed in time to get started with designing. Extern Pro will remain in business and help build the Moto2 engines for Triumph and tune them to race specs.
As far as Triumph is concerned, they are financially stable ever since British real estate billionaire John Bloor took over the company and laid out a sensible strategy in developing two and three cylinders. With this deal, the company will look at churning fortunes and make a mark in the motorsports arena.