KTM’s RC8 marks the dawn of a new era for the Austrian firm. Join us as we go behind the scenes
There is an air of excitement combined with nervous tension around KTM’s factory in Mattighofen. Everyone is buzzing, like expectant parents waiting for their firstborn. The secret is out, the world knows what the Austrian firm has in store, but that’s as far as it goes. Beyond this only the boys in orange know the real truth, and they can’t wait for the rest of the world to join them in the experience. It’s exciting times, but there is also a palatable air of anxiety.
It’s hard to underplay just how important and exciting KTM’s RC8 is, to both KTM and the biking community. Not only is this a totally new machine from ground up, it also signifies the Austrian firm’s first huge step into the superbike class. Its styling is revolutionary, engine design unique and built by a company that simply doesn’t accept failure. This bike has the potential to create the same buzz around KTM that the 916 did around Ducati back in 1994. And look where that got them.
But it’s also one hell of a risk. KTM has an enormous amount resting on the RC8. Not only has it invested huge financial sums in the project, failure would bring with it a gigantic loss of face and a tarnished reputation that a company growing as fast as KTM currently is, would struggle to shrug off. But they aren’t afraid to take risks and put their neck on the line. Exciting times indeed, and we’d been granted exclusive access to all the major players in the project. I travelled over to the Austrian factory and spoke to Hubert Trunkenpolz, one of KTM’s directors (and the T in KTM), Wolfgang Felber, the man whose idea the RC8 was and also its builder, Gerald Kiska who has designed the look of every current KTM model and Andreas Bilek, the RC8’s engine designer. After the most in-depth investigation KTM has ever allowed into its new project, we can now bring you the full story behind the bike that could be the catalyst to really catapult KTM to the front of the pack .
Tokyo Motorcycle Show, 2003. If you were an up-and-coming manufacturer, where would you choose to launch a new model that was designed to give the Japanese a bloody nose? Right on their own doorstep. Which is exactly what KTM did with the RC8. It was unveiled as a radical concept at the ‘big four’s’ own show, a show where the Japanese desperately try and upstage one another with ever more radical concept bikes. The RC8 stole all the attention, it was bold, gutsy and had design concepts that had never been seen before. KTM had just announced its intentions to the world, and done it in a very public and high profile way. The bike then spent a year touring European shows while KTM gathered public opinion before their new bike disappeared for nearly four years. Where did it go?
“The project was delayed, cancelled, because we were doing MotoGP racing and we thought about a superbike with a V4 or a V6 cylinder engine. A lot of things were considered,” explains Wolfgang Felber, the RC8’s project manager. “Finally we decided we wanted to make the whole range with a V-twin engine, so we finalised the project. That was in July 2005.”
Continue the behind the scenes look at the KTM RC8
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