MV Agusta has announced a new 148 kw, 1000cc version of its F4 sports bike aimed at homologating a bike with the potential to push Ducati's 1098S, BMW's S1000RR and Kawasaki's ZX10R off the superstock podium. Equipped with a new 13,700 rpm short stroke engine, the original F4 frame updated to enable steering-head angle adjustment via interchangeable inserts and new and better Öhlins suspension units and lightweight wheels, the new MV Agusta F4 RR is more than double the price of any of its aforementioned competitors, so let's hope we see a few on the racetrack that can validate the EUR22,900 (US$32,500) price tag.
With the move of Ayrton Badovini to superbikes this year, a lot of the shine has gone from BMW's S1000RR race effort. Last year, mainly due to Badovini, the BMW won every race in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, and looked so far in front of the other production machinery that its success would surely continue into 2011.
In 2011, after two rounds of the Superstock series, the points table is being led by a pair of Ducati 1098S machines and Kawasaki's new ZX10R is beginning to find its way to the front too. The high-revving BMW is still the horsepower king, topping the speed trap times at Monza a week ago with a 316 km/h top speed but the competitive advantage of the S1000RR is no longer as distinct as it was.
And the MV Agusta RR looks to be good enough to run with the fastest production machines in superstock racing thanks to its small frontal area and remarkable horsepower output.
It might just be capable of running a genuine 200 mph too based on the logic that MV Agusta's 312 model was verified as being capable of 312 km/h and came standard with 183 PS (134 kW) @12,400. The new RR has 201 PS (148 kW) @13,400 giving it an extra 14 kW with which to reach the 200 mph (321.868 8 km/h) mark.
The 148 kW output of the new engine has been achieved with higher revolutions per minute, producing its maximum power at 13,400 rpm in comparison to the 2010 1000cc engine's 12,900 rpm, and the 312 engine's 12,200 rpm. Instead of the 76.0 x 55.0 mm bore/stroke of the old engine, the new engine is now very oversquare at 79.0 x 50.9 mm, enabling the rev limit to be increased to 13,700 rpm while reducing piston speed from 24.7 meters per second to 22.9 m/s.
The valve gear in the new radial head too has been lightened to enable higher speeds more reliably. The inlet valve has been increased in size from 30mm to 31.8 mm while the exhaust valve has grown from 25mm to 26 mm, but through the use of titanium, the mass of both inlet and exhaust valves has been reduced.
Similarly, the pistons are now forged aerospace RR alloy, the crank has been lightened as much as possible and a new primary drive gear ratio has significantly reduced the speed of both the generator and water pump, reducing the power they consume. Air for the motor is fed through 49 mm throttle bodies with variable length intake tracts.
The engine is ideal for a race bike with a removable cassette gearbox enabling the quick change of ratios and the clutch has a mechanical slipper system to prevent the rear wheel from locking due to engine compression under deep braking.
Like all bikes expecting to run at the front these days, electronic traction control is fitted, and according to MV, has been upgraded and the controls are operable by the rider's left thumb.
The frame is identical in its dimensions to older F4 models, but ingeniously, a great deal more adjustment has been incorporated in this model in much the same way that Aprilia has done with its RSV4 – by calibrated inserts and interchangeable eccentrics. The eccentrics enable the steering head angle to be changed quickly and calibrated inserts now enable the height of the swing arm pivot to be changed.
The new RR also uses an Öhlins Racing TTX 36 rear suspension unit, making it ideal for racing in more ways than one. Apart from the mandatory externally adjustable compression and rebound damping, the TTX 36 unit can be varied in length. Coupled with the ability to move the swinging arm pivot, the RR hence has an almost infinitely adjustable rear end geometry.
The front suspension is also new and highly sophisticated, and comes in the form of a 43 mm Öhlins NIX upside-down front fork. The inner tube of the fork has a Titanium Nitride coating which reduces friction in the movement of the precision forks and hence enables the forks to do a better job at keeping the front tire on the road.
The Ohlins NIX forks also includes an interesting solution to common compression and rebound damping issues by separating the functions entirely – the left fork does the compression damping and the right fork does rebound damping. One of motorcycling's age-old problems is that changes to the rebound often then change compression damping and vice versa – this solution offers more precision control.
Unsprung weight is another enemy of precision handling, so in keeping the weight of the new RR to a minimum, one kilogram has been saved at each wheel by the use of lightweight forged aluminum wheels instead of the standard F4 cast versions.
The F4, the current reference in high performance braking, has only been exceeded by the new F4 RR. The Brembo monobloc callipers are the state of the art high performance brake callipers for motorcycles, and now, paired with Brembo radial master cylinders, the braking performance is on par with that of the top superbikes.
The clutch master cylinder is the mirror image of the radial brake caliper which offers increased feel and modulation. Numerous other exclusive details, such as the levers and handlebars which are dedicated specifically to the MV F4 RR and subject to countless hours of testing and development all lead to the best possible ergonomics available on a production motorcycle.
The old adage of win on Sunday and sell on Monday seems more important than ever right now with the emergence of a world production racing class (Superstock) and Max Biaggi's relatively easy win on the highly-adjustable Aprilia RSV4 in 2010 has ensured that everyone else will follow Aprilia's lead very quickly.
MV Agusta is indeed creating a reputation for building exquisite road bikes, just as history shows, it did with its racing bikes. While the EUR 22,900 (US$32,500) price will get you two of any of its competitors with enough change for half a dozen slicks, there's plenty more ways you can spend money if you feel so desirous.
Quite a few special MV parts are available for the RR in aerospace alloy, titanium and carbon fibre with racing exhausts and special racing ECU's offering even more power. The F4 is a beautiful thing, and can be expected to be a competitive superstock bike. Regardless of its racetrack competitiveness though, it will be one of the finest road bikes ever produced.
It's just a shame it looks so much like all the previous F4s.