First Ride: Moto Morini Corsaro

Shiver my timbers, it's a new Moto Morini. But will this pirate sail the high seas or walk the plank to Davey Jones' locker?



You've got to be one hell of an optimist to invest a large wedge to set up an Italian bike firm. The list of famous marques that have recently hit financial problems, if not actually gone bust, ranges from Aprilia to MV Agusta, via Benelli, Bimota, Cagiva, Laverda, Mondial and Moto Guzzi. Even Ducati is struggling again. As for Italian bike firms turning a healthy profit? Er... pass.

All of which makes the Berti brothers' attempt to relaunch Moto Morini - just about the only well-known Italian brand not mentioned above - either very brave or slightly crazy. When Gianni, Guido and Luigi Berti sold their family television-making business, rather than opting for a lazy retirement they bought a half-share in the Moto Morini name, and set to work to design and build an all-new superbike.

Just two years later they're ready to roll with the Corsaro, a wickedly styled naked brute powered by an all-new 1187cc V-twin engine that is all Morini's own work. The eight-valve motor has cylinders spaced at 87 degrees, rather than the typical 90, which makes it more compact. It's a short-stroke design with cylinders cast in one piece with the crankcase, and it kicks out a very hefty maximum of 140bhp at 8500rpm - putting it right up with Aprilia's Tuono and well ahead of Ducati's Monster S4R.

Morini is based in Bologna, just as the firm was in the Seventies, when it was best known for the 31/2 Sport, a stylish and ace-handling 350cc V-twin. There's more than a hint of that city's better-known bike firm in the Corsaro's chassis, which is based around a tubular steel ladder frame. Other neat bits include Marzocchi's fully-adjustable, 50mm diameter forks; four-pot Brembo front calipers; a Sachs monoshock; and a chunky black-finished aluminium swing-arm with rising-rate linkage.

The Corsaro - 'pirate' in Italian - feels aggressive from the moment you climb aboard its fairly tall seat and slightly leant-forward riding position. The big V-twin spins up quickly at the touch of the throttle, and rumbles through its pair of big, high-level conical silencers. During the launch on the roads around Bologna there was never any chance of mistaking the Corsaro for a laid-back roadster. This is a mean naked machine that kicks out 90.7lb.ft of torque - well up on rivals such as MV's Brutale 910.

There's smooth low-rev power, heaps of midrange, and a thunderous top-end charge that has you hanging on tight as the bike rips towards the horizon and a top whack approaching 160mph. The solidly-mounted motor is reasonably smooth, too, though there's some tingling through the footrests approaching the 9500rpm redline. The riding position means wind blast becomes a pain at three-figure speeds but at least the screen gives some protection.

Predictably for such a new bike, there were a few glitches. Snatchy low-rev power delivery was one, caused by imprecise mapping of the Marelli based fuel-injection system. Veteran chief engineer Franco Lambertini - who also designed the 31/2 Sport motor - insisted it would be sorted before production begins in a month or so's time. The gearboxes of the two low-mileage Corsaros I rode were slightly notchy and gave trouble finding neutral, although other bikes were fine. Could be that the boxes will loosen up with use.

Handling was as good as you'd expect of a bike that weighs a respectably light 198kg dry. Steering was precise and neutral rather than super-sharp, but those wide bars give enough leverage to get the Pirate-bike tacking rapidly from side to side.

Throwing out the anchor had the desired effect, too. The four-pot Brembo set-up had plenty of power and feel. Suspension at both ends was on the firm side and very well damped, with plenty of scope for tuning.

Most other details were excellent: neat multi-function instrument panel, wide-spaced mirrors, decent switchgear and span-adjustable levers. Paint finish, in either black or red with silver, looks good. Less impressive were the mediocre steering lock, and the high and thinly padded pillion seat. Then again, the Corsaro is a sporty bike that's intended mainly for the rider only. A more comfortably appointed dual-seater will be added as Morini works towards a five-model range in a few years' time.

Impressed by Moto Morini's comeback machine, but expecting a sky-high price tag? Be prepared for a pleasant surprise: the Corsaro is likely to cost under £8500. At that price it will be a serious rival provided Morini sorts out the pre-production glitches.

VERDICT

Morini has done a great job getting a bike into production in two years. With minor faults sorted it should be a promising start

SPECS

TYPE - Naked

PRODUCTION DATE - 2005

PRICE NEW - £8500

ENGINE CAPACITY - 1187cc

POWER - 140bhp@9500rpm

TORQUE - 91lb.ft@6500rpm

WEIGHT - 198kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 830mm

FUEL CAPACITY - 18L

TOP SPEED - 160mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - n/a

You've got to be one hell of an optimist to invest a large wedge to set up an Italian bike firm. The list of famous marques that have recently hit financial problems, if not actually gone bust, ranges from Aprilia to MV Agusta, via Benelli, Bimota, Cagiva, Laverda, Mondial and Moto Guzzi. Even Ducati is struggling again. As for Italian bike firms turning a healthy profit? Er... pass.

All of which makes the Berti brothers' attempt to relaunch Moto Morini - just about the only well-known Italian brand not mentioned above - either very brave or slightly crazy. When Gianni, Guido and Luigi Berti sold their family television-making business, rather than opting for a lazy retirement they bought a half-share in the Moto Morini name, and set to work to design and build an all-new superbike. Just two years later they're ready to roll with the Corsaro, a wickedly styled naked brute powered by an all-new 1187cc V-twin engine that is all Morini's own work. The eight-valve motor has cylinders spaced at 87 degrees, rather than the typical 90, which makes it more compact. It's a short-stroke design with cylinders cast in one piece with the crankcase, and it kicks out a very hefty maximum of 140bhp at 8500rpm - putting it right up with Aprilia's Tuono and well ahead of Ducati's Monster S4R.

Morini is based in Bologna, just as the firm was in the Seventies, when it was best known for the 31/2 Sport, a stylish and ace-handling 350cc V-twin. There's more than a hint of that city's better-known bike firm in the Corsaro's chassis, which is based around a tubular steel ladder frame. Other neat bits include Marzocchi's fully-adjustable, 50mm diameter forks; four-pot Brembo front calipers; a Sachs monoshock; and a chunky black-finished aluminium swing-arm with rising-rate linkage.

The Corsaro - 'pirate' in Italian - feels aggressive from the moment you climb aboard its fairly tall seat and slightly leant-forward riding position. The big V-twin spins up quickly at the touch of the throttle, and rumbles through its pair of big, high-level conical silencers. During the launch on the roads around Bologna there was never any chance of mistaking the Corsaro for a laid-back roadster. This is a mean naked machine that kicks out 90.7lb.ft of torque  - well up on rivals such as MV's Brutale 910.

There's smooth low-rev power, heaps of midrange, and a thunderous top-end charge that has you hanging on tight as the bike rips towards the horizon and a top whack approaching 160mph. The solidly-mounted motor is reasonably smooth, too, though there's some tingling through the footrests approaching the 9500rpm redline. The riding position means wind blast becomes a pain at three-figure speeds but at least the screen gives some protection.

Predictably for such a new bike, there were a few glitches. Snatchy low-rev power delivery was one, caused by imprecise mapping of the Marelli based fuel-injection system. Veteran chief engineer Franco Lambertini - who also designed the 31/2 Sport motor - insisted it would be sorted before production begins in a month or so's time. The gearboxes of the two low-mileage Corsaros I rode were slightly notchy and gave trouble finding neutral, although other bikes were fine. Could be that the boxes will loosen up with use.

Handling was as good as you'd expect of a bike that weighs a respectably light 198kg dry. Steering was precise and neutral rather than super-sharp, but those wide bars give enough leverage to get the Pirate-bike tacking rapidly from side to side.

Throwing out the anchor had the desired effect, too. The four-pot Brembo set-up had plenty of power and feel. Suspension at both ends was on the firm side and very well damped, with plenty of scope for tuning.
Most other details were excellent: neat multi-function instrument panel, wide-spaced mirrors, decent switchgear and span-adjustable levers. Paint finish, in either black or red with silver, looks good. Less impressive were the mediocre steering lock, and the high and thinly padded pillion seat. Then again, the Corsaro is a sporty bike that's intended mainly for the rider only. A more comfortably appointed dual-seater will be added as Morini works towards a five-model range in a few years' time.

Impressed by Moto Morini's comeback machine, but expecting a sky-high price tag? Be prepared for a pleasant surprise: the Corsaro is likely to cost under £8500. At that price it will be a serious rival provided Morini sorts out the pre-production glitches.

VERDICT

Morini has done a great job getting a bike into production in two years. With minor faults sorted it should be a promising start.

Moto Morini Corsaro Specs

TYPE - Naked
PRODUCTION DATE - 2005
PRICE NEW - £8500
ENGINE CAPACITY - 1187cc
POWER -     140bhp@9500rpm
TORQUE - 91lb.ft@6500rpm   
WEIGHT -     198kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 830mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - 18L   
TOP SPEED - 160mph   
0-60 - n/a
TANK RANGE - n/a