IT’S MY BIKE: GRIFF WOOLLEY
“I bought this two years ago from a collector. He was a Ducati guy with an awesome collection to his name, but this SP was his daily ride, believe it or not. But because his health took a turn for the worse, this bike came on to the market so I bought it. It’s actually my third SP, I love them, and I think they’ve really established themselves on the market as rare, homologation specials. To give some perspective, 10 years ago you could’ve comfortably picked one of these up for £6000, but now you’re talking around £20k. The first one I bought was immaculate, it had 3000 miles on it and was sat in a guy’s conservatory, and I paid £8000 for it. It was mint and I really enjoyed owning that bike. Are they worth money? If you were to ride a standard Mille R back-to-back against one of these, the differences would prove very subtle. The truth is the Mille R is a great bike, but its engine doesn’t feel as exciting or hard driving as the SP’s. That short stroke motor really is quite special, and feels cleaner and more refined. The downside is engine parts are pretty much impossible to get hold of nowadays and these motors were never made to clock big miles. So as a daily ride, don’t do it, but as a collectable piece or a money-making proposition, get stuck in.”
As rare as rocking horse poop, this one: launched in late 1999, only 150 were ever made (40 came to the UK, check the headstock badge to see which one you have) and they cost a cool £20,000 on launch.
Changes over the base model, which cost £9724 back then (the RSV1000R with OZ wheels and budget Ohlins would be released later) were many to help the bike handle better and give more power. The 60-degree motor’s bore and stroke was changed from 97mm x 67.5mm to 100mm x 63.4mm – the super-square dimensions gave the SP more revs to play with. Aprilia and engine designers Rotax visited automotive engineers Cosworth to develop the engine, leading to changes to the pistons, combustion chambers and cylinders – as well as sand-cast crankcases and updated crankshaft bearings. The motor breathes through a tasty two-into-one titanium exhaust which had ‘stacked’ end cans. Nice. Overall the power was up by around 22bhp at the crank to 150 ‘claimed’ bhp.
Those sand-cast crankcases helped with the stiffness of the overall chassis (20% over standard), with the frame also being tweaked and having a fully adjustable head-angle, swingarm pivot point and engine position. High-quality Ohlins suspension sat front and rear… Carbon fairings were painted to look almost standard.
Issues: well, not many were ridden on the road or even raced, so we’d say many are in the hands of collectors. Standard Mille issues include starter solenoid issues, sprag clutches, oil leaks (pressure sensors, often) scuffed frames/swingarms, iffy rear brakes.
The reason behind the 150 bikes was for World Superbike competition. Results took a while coming. Renowned development rider Pete Goddard was sole rider in 1999, finishing 12th overall with a best result of fifth at the Nurburgring. For 2000 big hitter Troy Corser joined Alessandro Antonello in a two-man squad with Corser taking an impressive third overall behind champ Colin Edwards and runner-up Nori Haga, scoring five wins and three thirds on the way. For 2001 Corser would be joined by Regis Laconi in the official squad with Antonello guesting at selected rounds. Corser would take two wins at the opening round with eight other podium finishes on his way to fourth overall that year. The following year saw Noriyuki Haga also take fourth overall, with seven podiums but no wins. It was the last official year of Aprilia factory involvement with the V-twin.
If you want one, they are pricey. A few years back they were still at around £15,000-£20,000 – so well short of an RC30 or OW-01, then we saw one up for sale last year and it was closer to £40,000… the throttle was enough to tell me there was something exotic about the internals in this beast, spinning up far faster than the Rotax option and building my excitement.
The sound from the shotgun silencers hammered home the bike’s appeal, and their soundtrack only got sexier when I finally hit the road and wound open that throttle. I’m a big fan of twins and a lot of that appeal is down to the typical booming exhaust note on offer, but the real hook has to be the torque on tap. My initial concern was the reconfiguring of this motor, with its greater emphasis on top-end poke, might have come at the cost of low-down grunt, but that simply wasn’t the case. The SP felt plentifully potent, with smooth fuelling and a linear power delivery reiterating the brilliance of this first-generation fuel-injected beast. Sure, it got a bit stuttery below 2000rpm at 30mph in third, but with the motor kept on the boil, it was always as keen as I was to get the party going. By today’s standards, the claimed 145bhp the SP offers is somewhat pitiful, but the reality of that figure, used in a road riding context, sure as hell didn’t feel lacking or lethargic. It was all the power I needed, and the slick and predictable gearbox only grew my adoration for the motor. To coin a phrase, I was having a blast, but for more reasons than the motor.
With my fresh rubber scrubbed in, I was able to access the joys of the Aprilia’s