Mondial First Ride: Mondial Piega full review and track test

It's hard not to be sceptical about the rebirth of another once great Italian manufacturer but nonetheless, the Mondial Piega sports bike is here

THE Mondial Piega V-twin sportster looked promising when first revealed, but the people behind it hadn't produced a streetbike before. Indeed, they weren't even sure whether the engine would come from Honda or Suzuki, and the bike's spec included a gyroscope system that increased midrange torque when the bike was in a corner. Er, do what?

Plenty of people thought Mondial's ambitious plans would come to nothing, but less than two years later the cynics have been proved wrong. Mondial might not yet have produced the 250 Piegas that company president Roberto Ziletti says will be built this year. But the first four are very much finished: powered by the 999cc eight-valve V-twin engine from Honda's SP-1, held together by a Ducati-style tubular steel frame, and looking very classy indeed in silver-painted carbon-fibre bodywork.

Ziletti and Co have made a few compromises along the way, including ditching the gyroscope system plus plans to produce their own forks and brakes. Instead, those parts have been bought from Paioli and Brembo respectively, while the ever-reliable Öhlins have been called on for the rear shock and steering damper. But against considerable odds the Mondial Piega is ready for action - and for sale to anyone with the required price of €30,000 (roughly £19,500).

The question of which engine the bike would use was resolved when Honda agreed to supply the SP-1 unit. Mighty Honda doesn't usually bother with small-scale deals like this, but the Japanese giant's relationship with Mondial goes back to the 1950s, when Soichiro's boys were being thrashed in 125cc racing by Mondial, which had won the first three world titles in the class. Mondial gave Honda a racebike, which was stripped and used as inspiration. Almost half a century later, the favour is being returned.

Ziletti claims to have gained almost 10bhp with a new airbox, injection system and exhaust, bringing peak output to 140bhp. The Piega is very light for a twin, too, at 179kg dry, and on paper is a match for just about any sports bike you care to name. Sadly my attempts to confirm this were thwarted by rain at the launch near Venice. But those who'd ridden it in sunshine the day before had few complaints, and even on a damp track the Piega's acceleration, smooth throttle response and sharp yet stable handling were very impressive.

Despite the weather, the Piega looked and felt good enough to suggest that Ziletti, who's just 41 and runs a printing machinery firm with a turnover of £200 million, will make a success of Mondial's return. His next target is a naked bike using the same engine and frame. It will be called the Nuda, and will be unveiled at the Bologna Show in November. Next year, he says, he wants Mondial in World Superbikes. Ambitious? Certainly. But after riding the Piega, I wouldn't bet against him.

Mondial Piega review| The Specs

POWER - 140bhp@9800rpm
TORQUE - 78lb.ft@8800rpm   
WEIGHT - 179kg
0-60     - n/a