Aprilia RSV4 Factory
Curvone approaches me at more than 125 mph. This V4 Aprilia rocket I’m riding at Misano eats up the straights with hungry appetite. 10,000 rpm and the front lightens and the next 3,000 rpm wipes over the motorcycle’s tachometer faster than Michael Angelo Batio can play notes on his V-twin guitar. The Aprilia’s V4 engine and that adjustable chassis, coupled with the fact that I’d be a proud dead fly stuck to that fairing, allows me to hail the RSV4 Factory.
As the sun shines, it’s enough to have me drooling over my breakfast with the prospect of having a full day in perfect conditions on the most perfect Aprilia ever. At Misano, I take a seat and as I had expected this is hardcore racing. Firing up the Aprilia V4 intimidated some, but I was just smiling. Just by sitting on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory and firing up the engine for the first time, I knew this would be one hell of a day–one to remember as Aprilia continues writing motorcycle history.
On my first few laps, I understood that the Aprilia RSV4 Factory needs to be ridden very fast to get the best out of it. We all started on the mid-level of Aprilia’s new Track – Sport – Road throttle settings. After only a lap, I didn’t much like the Sport mode and quietly changed on the back straight by pushing the starter button and holding it for what seemed forever. I released the button and pushed until Track was on the display. Track equals full power and no restrictions. Sport mode equals a torque limit in the three first gears and Road mode limits power to a mere 140 horsepower in all gears. A dedicated dual processor runs the Marelli 7SM control unit.
After finishing my first two 20 minute sessions on the Aprilia RSVR Factory, I decided to go quite a bit faster on the final session to push the limits a bit. I absolutely love the front end and the feedback whilst braking hard. If I trust the frontend it’s much easier to enter tight corners at ridiculous speed. I loved the braking on the start finish straight and having that neat little rear-end wagging its tail swimmingly behind me. No way would I apply any rear brake to miss that feeling! So as we’re accustomed to on an Aprilia Factory model we’re talking Ohlins and Brembo, but with Aprilia’s own adjustable headstock.
After the start/finish straight, a beautiful right-hander is followed by a tight left hand corner that opens up completely for a full throttle right flick. I had many moments during the day when I thought that I love Misano and how the 2009 Aprilia RSV4 Factory behaves around the circuit. Directional changes are extremely quick, a result of Aprilia’s master chassis craftsmen’s efforts. A chassis that can be adjusted at the headstock, ride height and engine position is pure racing. Suzuki has already complained at World Superbike level that Aprilia is racing a prototype. Aprilia’s response is to produce 1000 units of this "prototype" by June 2009, effectively canceling Suzuki’s claims.
Aprilia explored four different frame options before deciding on this one. One of the four options included exotic materials that rendered the motorcycle too costly, so the final chassis is made of cast and pressed aluminum that’s been welded together. This new chassis is considerably stiffer than the old RSV model, but features the same high shiny finish. Aprilia commented on this, explaining that they have to treat the frames like they were jewels at the Noale factory to avoid any aesthetic problems. The new swingarm weighs 11 ¼ pounds. Another interesting weight issue is that Aprilia once again has been able to reduce unsprung weight by reducing the weight of the wheels by 2 ¼ pounds. Aprilia stated that they are now on the very limit of how light a motorcycle wheel can be before vibrations and stability issues starts rearing their ugly heads.
Add to the wheels the brilliant Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa tires and the RSV4 Factory is extremely sure footed, even when 180 horsepower transmits through the sides of the tires to the tarmac. Tire sizes are a standard 120/70-ZR17 front and a 190/55-ZR17 rear. The rear wheel will also accommodate a lower profiled 190/50-ZR17. You would have thought that a massively powerful motorcycle like the RSV4 Factory would shred tires like cheese, but looking at the Pirellis after each pass, I was impressed at how un-crumbled the edges were.
And what can I say about Öhlins that’s not been said before? Well, the 43mm front fork is stunning in both performance and feel through the Aprilia RSV4′s headstock. I pushed very hard and never ran out of travel at the same time as I always felt I was in supreme command. Same thing with the Brembo Monoblock front setup, which I could modulate with great ease and they never faded. The front setup was absolutely perfect for me and the Aprilia RSV4 remained ready for proper thrashing all day. The RSV4 Factory is such a front-end biased racer, but with perfect balance and centralized mass. On the occasions when the rear wheel started to slide on the corner exits, it was hardly noticeable. The rear Öhlins monoshock and Aprilia’s new swingarm just went on with the job, my right hand held position, and I managed a nice progression on the throttle everywhere.
The new Aprilia 65-degree V4 features the advanced ride by wire system Aprilia started developing on the Cube3 MotoGP bike. The nature of that beast was fairly extreme, as both Jeremy McWilliams and Shakey Byrne can testify to. That is now many years ago, and developments have moved on. What makes the 2009 Aprilia RSV4 Factory into a different kind of beast is due to the power delivery that kicks off with serious intent just when the torque curve maximizes at 10,000 rpm. In first gear, the front always lifts exiting the tight right hand hair bend two corners from the start/finish straight at Misano. It all happens from 9500 rpm until second gear is engaged. The rear tire just grips and shoots the front forward very controllably, even with lean.
The Aprilia 999.6cc V4 engine is just brutally powerful, and the delivery of those 180 horsepower happens at a blisteringly fast pace above 10,000 rpm. At 12,500 rpm the full onslaught is available and the aggressive, but very entertaining to use, rev limiter allows for nice progression between close corners without the need to shift up and lose time. There were places at Misano where I simply didn’t dare use all the power, but in the corners where I felt most comfortable, I was thrilled beyond past experiences and the Aprilia RSV4 made me both feel and look good. RSV4 Factory is a fantastically fast production superbike and it made me faster than I’ve ever been around Misano in the past. The midrange feels like a bit of a pussycat simply because the top end is so powerful, but it’s deceptive as I progressed through many corners very fast using less than 8000 rpm. Due to the great chassis and traction, you can and should use the upper end of the power range most of the time for a fast lap. However, I did a few laps in road mode (not the mapping mode, my brain mode) and the midrange is plenty powerful enough for whatever is needed of overtaking and other road tasks. I can already now guarantee any future owner that riding the RSV4 Factory on the road will be horribly frustrating, in a good way of course.
Claudio Lombardi who is the main architect of the new Aprilia V4 preached his gospel to us at the press conference. Lombardi explained about the polar movements of the Aprilia V4 inertia and a perfect balance even surpassing a 90-degree V configuration by a margin. Aprilia chose the V4 over both the V2 and in-line four concepts simply for the fact they found it was the best for balance and power.
Leo Mercanti once again reminded us that this project has been carried forward by a €25 million Piaggio investment so the choice of a V4 was absolutely to ensure the new RSV4 could have as strong a birth as possible. A 60-degree V4 60 was explored, but Lombardi and his team found that only 65-degrees would ensure the right shape airbox for the power Aprilia were looking for. The 65-degree layout also allows for a larger bore in the future.
To illustrate, Lombardi also explained that the Aprilia 1000cc V4 is of 8.86 inches in width, while an in-line four is 15.74 inches wide. Narrowness ensured on the outside Aprilia also wanted a high compression inside. The 13:1 compression ratio was achieved through usage of something called Squish valves. Lombardi also explained that the Aprilia RSV4 features a very efficient post combustion system. Reed valves installed near the exhaust ducts are the enabling innovation here. Finally, the Aprilia RSV4 uses electronically controlled variable length intake ducts enabling shorter duct at higher revs and longer at lower revs where the final difference is of 1.38 inches.