Aprilia RSV4 RF
A prilia reckons the 2017 bike is one second a lap faster than the previous model. They’re bang on with that claim. Forget the spec’ sheet and press releases; for me, this is the biggest, most significant model-to-model improvement since the original APRC was released, with subtle but devastatingly effective revisions. It also helped that we were riding a bike that wasn’t formerly maltreated by another publication, and the RSV4 RF was utterly sublime at Portimao. This should be the blueprint for all track-based bikes.
Once again, it set the fastest lap time and absolutely spanked the rest of the field on Bridgestone R10s – nearly half-a-second faster than the Suzuki and at least a second quicker than anything else, a time that came fluently in the heat of the Algarve. Speed dispersed into a metronomic flow. The whole track slowed down, became wider and I soon figured out how to ride Portimao while nursing a chubby. I can’t even conjure up any meaningful negatives although, once again, ground clearance was the issue when it came to slick-shod hot laps, as the exhaust kissed the Tarmac on right-handers. That ain’t fun at 120mph!
While the Gixer was being pampered in the search for a better set-up, the RSV4 RF didn’t need touching. It annihilates everything from braking to apex. Portimao’s downhill entry into turn one can often feel rushed and downright scary on occasion, braking from 170mph, scrubbing 100mph and losing three gears, but the Aprilia was the most stable and defined by the proverbial. The Brembo M50 Monoblocs, for us, are the best brakes on test, unruffled by ABS intrusion and supplying the perfect blend of power and feel.
And then there’s the engine braking, which is perfectly matched to blipper outputs and always puts the pilot in perfect control of corner entry. Close your eyes, and you’re already an Aprilia factory racer. Its ability to run stupefying corner speed is unrivalled, as is its extrasensory penchant for sniffing out apexes. It’s almost as if Aprilia had uploaded a GPS-guided map of Portimao into the RF’s ECU. If it wasn’t for insurance, fear of death and general preservation, I would have continued to push lap after lap, just as the RF encourages you to do.
Mid-corner, there isn’t a better, more composed bike. The front-end feel brings endless confidence to push, trail brake and take off-the-throttle liberties like no other. The RF makes the rest of the SBOTY competitors feel like mass-produced monkeys to its prototype racer, and its racy, stiff chassis exudes pure WorldSBK feedback. There isn’t the razor sharp change of direction of the Suzuki but the RF is hardly sluggish and combines precision with unwavering stability.
Corner exit is its only weakness and gets mullered by the R1M, partly through mechanical grip, partially down to electronics. For faster pilots, the traction control and antiwheelie will become a hindrance (especially over the first waterfall), yet we still endured a few hairy slides when grip levels diminished. I’m not a massive fan of the throttle and its sometimes arcade tendencies – a far cry from the delicious action of a few years ago. There’s less of a connection, but ride-by-wire is indispensable these days and the system doesn’t slow you down, not one bit.
Neither does that V4 powerplant, which is now the most powerful Euro 4 motor for
2017 despite the willy-waving claims from manufacturers. The RSV4 – in previous years – has felt marginally slower than the Beemer et al, but that’s all changed this season. The sound, the thrust, the sheer pace in which it sucks, squeezes, bangs and blows: it’s an engine that just keeps on giving. Whereas some others suffer with long gearing, the Aprilia uses it to its advantage with a delicious spread of power and the seamless gearbox was a pleasure to manipulate. That said, the V4 makes most sense during the upper echelons of revs and loves to be hovered around the redline. Winner!
It feels SO bloody good!
Best dash on test!
Every exit is an excuse to hear that sublime motor firing you out...