We end our journey through Aprilia’s racing history, with a focus on off-road vehicles, talking about participation in the Rally and the Dakar after the acquisition by the Piaggio Group. The word to the witnesses (Fourth Part)
May 24, 2022
C.on the passage of Aprilia to the Piaggio Group Much of the spirit that had animated the previous sporting projects with the twin-cylinder RXV is lost, and many changes occur in the general policy of the Company which has to cope with a much more turbulent commercial “weather”. Sorrow and reason alternate and the results are more in that sign that Aprilia retains today in an increasingly difficult world. The era of the great Captains of Industry is also ending, at the Castiglioni And Beggioto be understood.
The pragmatism of the accounts that must stand prevails and the off-road activities are dwindling, diminishing until the curtain closes. Of course it’s the cycles of life… and industry. With hindsight and with the current trend, the Aprilia RXV twin cylinder would be frighteningly topical, especially considering the performances it was capable of and given the tendency to… decrease in displacements. Maybe…
Un moment, it’s not over. It was said about Dakar and we left the Desert adventure for last. Also because it adapts to a timeline that could reach… today. The Aprilia Off Road business closes, via Motocross, via Enduro, via Supermotard, and that Martian engine designed by Macchi seems destined only for commercial “survival”.
This is not the case, with a transversal action with a straight leg comes the adventure of Team Giofil with the support of Aprilia Racing. The 77 ° V-twin is used in a modified Rally RXV version. The bike is developed by the team of Filippo Assirelliand blends the experiences of Supermoto, Enduro and Motocross in what seems to be the logical evolution of the use of that incredible twin cylinder.
Land official units of the Desert Grand Prix, which benefits from the talent of another formidable wizard, the engineer Luigi Dall’Igna, known as “Gigi”, then Technical Director of Aprilia Racing, were built by the Racing Department. The bike comes out in the open in 2008 and cuts its teeth in two Pharaohs, third overall and always before the 450, at the Dubai Rally, Tunisia and Pikes Peak, equal destiny of class.
Even earlier, it was 2006, the Team had started developing the first RXVs for Italian Motorally based on the experience and input of the collaboration with Aprilia Off Road. The first hour is the entry on the scene of the Gabrielli team of Bassano del Grappa, at the hands of the family’s “sick racing man”, Sergio Gabrielliwhich represents the continuity of another entity historically linked to Aprilia and which covers a wide range of experiences.
These range from mono to twin cylinders, from the first victory in the Motorally of Michele Zamattia to the last with Fabio Benetti. It is another leitmotif of history, a constant collaboration, almost familiar, between the central forces of Aprilia and the passionate structures that represent it in the area.
This too is a legacy of other times, when dealers and mechanics arrived on the tracks even before the manufacturer.
2010. The Dakar is changing. The big “Monos” are deemed too fast and will run with a flange which reduces their power. The road marked is to limit the displacement to 450cc. At the moment, as in the history of supermoto, there is no mention of the number of cylinders. So, finally, on January 2, 2010, the Aprilia Giofil Team lined up 4 RXV Rally at the start of the Dakar Argentina Chile, 9,000 kilometers and 15 stages for the conclusion in Buenos Aires on January 16.
The 4 Aprilia are driven by Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez, Alex Zanotti, Paolo Ceci And Gerard Farres. Ceci and Zanotti participated in the development, Lopez is the Chilean top driver, Farres the generous Spanish wingman. Chaleco wins three stages and is classified in 3rd place overall, behind Cyril Despres And Pal Anders Ullevalseter. Ceci will finish 14th and Zanotti 18th. And this is the experience that Gigi dall’Igna had described as “approaching” the Dakar!
The adventure will continue also in 2011, Lopez thrilling 4th with a stage victory and another 6 RXV 450 Tuareg classified, and will set in 2012, Lopez retired but with a stage victory, Alain Duclos 58 °. Then the silence …
M.a, after all, what are we talking about? Of motorcycles and engines, and in particular of a dream twin-cylinder even today, a piece of skill that arouses curiosity and questions perhaps more today than then.
So all that remains is to pass the word to the Composer: Ampelio Macchi. Our little flurry.
What was the inspiration of that engine? Why that 77 degree angle between the cylinders? How much did it weigh and what maximum power did it express? What are its great strengths and, perhaps, its flaws? Why did he “die”? Would it still be current and what would it have become, or could have become, with 15 years of development and new technologies applied today?
TOmpelio Macchi. “When I think about my engine, my bike, or when I talk about it, a little emotion always surfaces. It is one of the projects that gave me the greatest satisfaction. The inspiration had been the desire to make an off-road bike that didn’t exist. A bike that wasn’t just new in the engine. Just look at the layout of the composite frame, aluminum planted in steel, the airbox, the exhaust.
Compared to the traditional bike, our Aprilia was at least “strange”. It is clear that the heart of the bike is the engine, totally different, not a screw in common with the achievements of the competitors of the time. Therefore, we had no reference, no 450 or 500 engine to compare with ours, in Enduro, Motocross, Rally and Supermotard.
The idea was to do something totally different, one that cut with my past at Husqvarna, that couldn’t be said to be a reinterpretation of a previous project. I turned the page and thought about a completely new bike for another brand. Beggio liked the project.
Not immediately, actually. When I presented it to him he was a bit shocked, but after a few months the idea of such an innovative project, and the challenge it represented, convinced him and he embraced my idea. From there it all started.
The “V” of 77 degrees? So, the project was born of 75 degrees, as it should also be according to mathematics. It reached 77 ° because there was a need for the crankcase clearance, dry of course. We then opened the V by 2 degrees to fit the oil and cooling pumps, and reduce the overall height of the engine. 77 °, but it could also have been 78 °, in any case the layout had no dynamic effect on the vibrations, which derive more from the weight of the pistons or the alternating masses.
THEThe engine we had built had come to express, target 2007-2008, over 70 horsepower in the 450 version and 85 horsepower in the 550 version. From the mechanical, tolerance or metallurgical point of view, today we could have improved by, say, a ten for one hundred. The focus is that in twenty years electronics have made great strides.
With today’s electronics, the engine would have changed its face. An example. To manage the first 10-15 degrees of throttle opening we had made some cams on the throttle bodies, today with electronics it is child’s play. Today with the electronics it is possible to manage practically all the use of the engine and a lot of the motorcycle. There, yes, we would have had 300% progress available.
Pros and cons. The main advantages were in the size and weight. We had arrived at 1.2 x compared to the best single-cylinder, the Honda 450 that we had taken as a reference. Then the compactness, our twin was in the size of the mono. The defect? I must say the cost, and some maintenance complexity.
Timeliness of that engine? We must not forget that that engine was born for a Racing activity, for competitions. The twin-cylinder engines that are born today, even with a small cubic volume as happens more and more frequently, are designed to cover 50-100,000 kilometers and are mostly parallel, or less expensive. Our engine after 6 Enduro races had to undergo an overhaul.
It was a very expensive V-twin, with very high performance, a weight that was half that of today, and a completely different and uncompromising target.
S.and had Beggio still been alive I think it wouldn’t have ended there. It ended because in the Piaggio orbit that engine was complicated, expensive, requiring assistance and a Racing sales network that neither Piaggio nor Aprilia had at that time.
Let’s remember, it was 2002 and we are talking about the first injection off-road motorcycle, for which we went from the habit of raising a pin or changing a jet to the need to use a computer, load maps, use information technology.
We had opened a chapter in the history of the off-road vehicle, but it was logical that the surrounding network was not prepared. After twenty years, talking about injection is trivial, it was certainly quite another thing then. Even today, many consider it the most innovative off-road project of the last twenty years. “
P.rhyme. There had been another, only Aprilia participation in the Dakar. It was 1989, the Moto was the Tuareg Wind 600 closely derived from the series, the Pilots Alessandro Zanichelli20 °, e Andrea Balestrieri, withdrawn at the 5th stage of the Paris-Tunis-Dakar. To find an Aprilia in the standings you have to scroll through the annals until 2001, when Victor Rooseson of the legendary Robert, finished in 54th place with a Pegaso 650 prepared by Bruno Birbes and Silvio Fatichi. With the same bike evolved the Dutch did not finish the next edition.
After. Will there still be an Aprilia participation in the Rally-Raid? The easy answer is yes. When? And here it is more difficult to give an answer, however, given how the topic is being addressed, and given the new one Tuareg 660 twin cylinder (albeit with parallel pistons), I would like to think very soon, let’s say Africa Eco Race.
And here we stop. I’d like to write “let’s finish”, but I realize that there are still other topics, other riders and other Aprilia bikes in the folds of my (and your) memory.
Who raced with the official Aprilia Off Roads
- 2004 – Garcia Vico (SP) – Thomas Traversini
- 2005 – Marko Kovalainen (F)
- 2006/2007 – Chicco Chiodi (I) – Cedric Melotte (B)
- Chiodi wins the Italian Championship in Gazzane – 1 victory in the cross
- 2008 – Fabien Isoard (F) – Cedric Melotte (B)
- 2009 – Julien Bill (CH) – Manuel Prime (B) – Loic Leonce (F)
- 2010 – Manuel Prime (B) – Joshua Coppins (NZ)
- 2011 – Alfie Smith (UK)
- Corrado Maddii official team management – Second team JK Riccardo Boschi
- 2006 – Alessandro Botturi – Alex Zanni – Stefano Passeri
- 1 victory in Italian enduro with Botturi in Castiglion Fiorentino.
- 2007 – Stefan Merriman (NZ) – Nicolas Paganon (F) – Luigi Seguy (F)
- Merriman wins the Italian Enduro test in Bussi del Tirino – 1 victory for Merriman
- 2008 – Stefan Merriman – Nicolas Paganon – Antoine Letellier (F)
- 2009 – Antoine Letellier – Giofil Assirelli Team
- 2004 – Jerome Giraudo – Frederic Bolley – Massimo Manzo
- World Championship with Giraudo
- 2005 – Jerome Giraudo – Frederic Bolley – Massimo Manzo – Fabrice Lecoanet
- 2006 – Thierry Van Den Bosch – Jerome Giraudo – Christian Iddon – Frederic Bolley
- World Championship with VDB.
- 2007 – Thierry Van Den Bosch – Jerome Giraudo – Christian Iddon – Jorge Nestor
- 2008 – Thierry Van Den Bosch (F) – Ivan Lazzarini – Massimo Beltrami – Christian Iddon (UK) – Luca Minutilli.
Team Rally Drivers – Managed by Filippo Assirelli
- Victory Rally Faraoni – Rally Tunisia – 3rd and 4th place in the Dakar
- Paolo Ceci – Alex Zanotti – Massimo Chiesa – Chaleco Lopez – Joan Barreda – Gerard Farres – Alain Duclos
Hey, Aprilia is not just asphalt and curbs!
Aprilia, the great beginnings (and victories) in the off-road
Aprilia: the great adventure of the Enduro, Supermotard and Cross twin-cylinder RXVs