Sometimes you've just got to kick back and let rip. Niall Mackenzie blows away the cobwebs at Oulton Park with a fiery threesome of desirable Italian exotica; Aprilia RSV-R Factory, Ducati 999, MV Agusta F4 1000R
Niall Mackenzie is a legend round these parts. He's a legend because of what he achieved n the 80s and 90s, at home and abroad, in GP and superbike racing. And we like to think he's still got his hand in today, thrashing about testing bikes for us here at Visordown.
But flick back through the last year's worth or so of magazines and you'll find Niall has been starved of track time. The old trout has been off on the odd circuit-based launch, but race track group tests have fallen out of favour of late so Niall's not been put to best use. What's the point of having the likes of him on the payroll if we don't let him do the likes of this every now and then?
So this is Niall doing what he does best: thrashing three of the finest sports motorcycles available around an achingly beautiful race track. Three gorgeous, stylish, delectable Italian thoroughbreds, fresh from the crate and dripping in multi-adjustable appendages. And to make sure he gets the most out of 'em he's even brought along his own pit crew. Over to you, Niall...
Who's this? It's Colin Davies, once Niall's chief technician in the Marlboro Yamaha 500cc GP squad, now fettling forks and shocks across the land under the name of Shockwave Suspension. Colin has also worked with the legendary Kevin Schwantz, plus Nori Haga, John Hopkins and James Whitham. Today he helps out the Vivaldi BSB team. He'll do the same for you if you like, and sort out your bike's suspension just dandy. Call him on 07966 180283.
Aprilia's RSV/RSV-R seems to have been around forever in some guise or other. Next to the relentless Japanese two-year sports bike cycle the RSV-R may appear long in the tooth, but I was impressed when our spanking, sparkling, latest-spec RSV-R Factory received the most compliments and admiring looks in our pit garage. Even snapper Jason reckoned its gold frame and black paint made it the best looker from his trackside standpoint.
It may also be a case of 'why fix it if it ain't broken?' as I found the Aprilia to be by far the best handling bike on out-of-the box settings. I was also pleased to see the RSV was shod with Pirelli Dragon Corsas - not the stickiest track day tyre but always safe and consistent. Where the MV and the Ducati were to have their quirks but work effectively once sorted, the RSV is a bike anyone could ride fast and safely straight away. During my first session I had to push hard before I could find obvious room for improvement whereas, with the other two, a few laps were more than enough to know what I wanted changing.
One thing I would have liked to adjust was the footpeg position. The height was fine but they're simply too far forward for me, and because of their location near the exhausts moving them back would be tricky. For track days and short rides they're okay but all day riding would present problems - as it did on a thrash to the Alps earlier in the year riding the basic RSV-R. That said, of the three bikes here the Factory was physically the easiest to ride.
The 60-degree V-twin motor revs to 11,000rpm, which is 500rpm more than the Ducati. Oddly though it feels less powerful, which in turn probably helped the rear suspension. There wasn't a huge amount of movement from the rear but it squatted on corner exits making the front end light, so Colin, my chief technician for the day, added some preload plus compression and rebound damping to the rear …hlins unit. He also reckoned the standard settings were quite soft, even for a light rider riding on the road.
Another 20-minute blast confirmed just how well balanced this bike is, as I could easily keep it nailed over Clay Hill and while cresting all the humps between Druids and Lodge corner. The only negative effect was the front end became more nervous, but this was quickly cured with three clicks more on the steering damper. As the Aprilia was the only bike with a back torque limiter it also meant I could push a bit harder on the brakes into the slower corners. My final change of the day was therefore additional compression damping on the front to help through the Shell Oils hairpin and the Foulstons Chicane.
I haven't ridden an RSV-R on track for some time, but I was impressed how it's still right there with the opposition.
"Setting up three bikes is time consuming and a job that actually never quite ends. Once you reach a certain level you push to the next. We made big strides from standard settings but the next step would involve a stopwatch and a clear track. On the day I guess I was riding at about 60 per cent. That's fast enough to get the bikes to a certain level and leave myself a safety margin - it was a busy public track day and I didn't want to get tangled up with anyone."
FRONT Sag: 27mm Preload: 8 turns in from fully out Comp: 9 clicks out from full inRebound: 12 clicks out REAR Sag: 10mm Preload: +1mm Comp: 10 clicks out Rebound: 16 clicks out Steering damper: position 7
Colin says: "The Aprilia comes with decent …hlins kit front and rear and responds well to adjustments. It's not racing quality suspension but it's still very good - Ohlins won't send any old kit out to manufacturers to fit to road bikes, it's good stuff."
Click here to read the MV Agusta F4 1000R review
SPECS - APRILIATYPE - SUPERSPORTSPRODUCTION DATE - 2006PRICE NEW - £10,499ENGINE CAPACITY - 997ccPOWER - 122.1bhp@9900rpmTORQUE - 67lb.ft@8300rpm WEIGHT - 215kg (WET)SEAT HEIGHT - 820mm FUEL CAPACITY - 17L TOP SPEED - 164mph 0-60 - n/aTANK RANGE - N/A
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