TRIUMPH MOTO2 PROTOTYPE
Triumph at about to unleash chaos in Moto2. Bike ride the reason why.
INTIMIDATION. THAT’S THE word. Triumph’s moody and monochrome Moto2 prototype is giving me the jitters days before I go to Silverstone to ride it. Will it eject out of my hand like a million Youtube wheelie fails? Will I remember it’s one-up, five down? Could its weight and brakes be complicit in firing me into the gravel? And what would Triumph, Simon Crafar, Charley Boorman and Damon Hill, all in attendance, say if I do? Leathers on, head in hat, heart in mouth. Here goes…
What’s it like to ride?
You may know Simon Crafar’s honeyed Kiwi tones from his pit-lane punditry for Motogp (and if you don’t then think of Neil from the Young Ones). But now, here at Silverstone one dry day after the washed-out British non-grand Prix, he is falling out of his tree over Triumph’s demonic-sounding triple tester that he’s just sprinted around the Stowe circuit. The winner of the 1998 British Grand Prix is declaiming into his helmet as Triumph’s team gather around him. ‘It’s the torque… it just pulls you off the turn...it’s so forgiving. It’s magic, just brilliant,’ he gushes, hunting for breath. Bike’s turn comes soon after and the first giveaway that this is no mere Street Triple with stiff suspension is the shout from a Triumph technician behind me in the pitlane: ‘Put it in first and I’ll give you a push.’ Blip the throttle to avoid a pit-lane stall and the newly-cut tall first and second gears in this third and final generation motor are cleared, accompanied by a Spartan battle cry howl. Today, the biggest problem isn’t the bike but the tiddly Stowe circuit, barely more than a moped track (see p58). Housed in a Daytona chassis – Triumph tested their own beam frame but it offered few advantages, despite the sports bike having been discontinued in 2016 – the 765 is kicking out a claimed 135bhp-plus, at least 12% more than the Street Triple RS. That ‘plus’ is a Triumph secret – we’ll assume it’s closer to 140bhp – and it’s factor #1 in how this control engine in Moto2 could transform the class. And at upwards of 15% more power than the rumoured 120bhp of the current Moto2 Honda engine, it narrows the gap with the premier class. Factor #2 is that easy-to-access torque, courtesy of new gas-flowed cylinder heads, with help from lighter valves, a higher 14:1 compression ratio, lighter race alternator and more. Crafar’s right. The bike flies off corners and is, unexpectedly, sooo easy to ride that you fret about braking too early, your position on track, corner speed and...well, everything but that hornet of a bike beneath you. It’s gas-and-go and it sweeps away musty riding habits and re-engages a tardy brain. The power of three – light weight from its carbon fibre bodywork, Oz Racing wheels and more, plus that fathomless pool of torque and powerful yet manageable sub-litre motor – signpost the way riders could bang in fast lap times next season. It’ll be less about high corner speeds and more of a riot of ballsout early gassing to pocket those few extra tenths.
How does it compare with the road bike?
Bluntly, the only thing the Moto2 bike and the Street Triple have in common is three cylinders. Triumph have thoughtfully brought a road bike to Silverstone for comparison. On track, the
plainer Jane Street Triple R is a giggle, bouncing its way around Stowe in Tiggerish enthusiasm and with footpegs dragging. Its mild 116bhp and traction control demand you whup the throttle wide without a jot of fear. Good fun. Throw a leg a little higher and land on the Moto2 development bike’s seat and – nothing gives. The K-tech suspension hardly you and there’s a no-frills compactness to the bike (the engine covers are narrower for a start). Stir in the low-key grey paint job and crackling Arrow pipes at idle and, before you even get to that push from behind, it’s clear. This. Is. The. Daddy.
So, will Tr iumph make one for the road?
The official line is a well-worn ‘we’re listening.’ It takes around three years to bring a new bike to market and it’s hard to believe that Triumph haven’t got plans for a fresh Daytona. But there are reasons why a new, Moto2 inspired Daytona may not appear… In the ten years since Moto2 replaced the 250 two-stroke class with Honda Cbr600-powered bikes, sportsbike sales in the UK have halved and declined elsewhere too. The mid-class has born the brunt of that collapse. Sure, Yamaha’s salty and niche R6 is out there and, yes, there’s talk of a Kawasaki returning to the class in 2019 too. But Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki all killed off their once-pivotal 600-plus sportsbikes. Emission rules and the shrinking market meant ten years of Triumph’s wonderful 675 Daytona ended in 2016 too. The flinty eye of Triumph owner John Bloor won’t look kindly on entering a market on its arthritic knees. At least not unless he thinks Triumph can re-light it and own a sizable chunk. Counterintuitively, a new Daytona may be the least important aspect of this Moto2 deal. Witness: KTM. The Austrian’s are present in all three Grand Prix classes but they don’t have a flagship sports bike in their range and there are no signs of one coming. Meanwhile, they continue their expansion of twincylinder-led performance nakeds and adventure bikes. ‘We’re not as well known around the world as we’d like,’ says Triumph’s Head of Brand, Miles Perkins. ‘The relationship with (Motogp rights holder) Dorna is... an opportunity to be introduced to a whole new audience of very passionate motorcycle fans,’ who can be wooed with the Street Triple family. ‘It’s about exposure and engineering credibility,’ adds the company’s Chief Product Officer Steve Sargent, as certain as he
‘It’s the torque… it just pulls you off the turn... it’s so forgiving’
can be that grids won’t be littered with exploding motors and red-hot valves in the goolies. Critically, the enormous growth in the world’s middle classes in countries such as Brazil, India, China and elsewhere is where the action is for Triumph, already riding record sales these past two years. Buyers in these countries are into adventure bikes, modern classic and cruisers, not high-performance sports bikes. These markets are Triumph’s priority. A Daytona 765 with Moto2 credentials can help. But it isn’t a must-have.
What can we expect from Triumph in Moto2?
Triumph are to supply enough motors and parts for up to 34 bikes in the 2019 season and one goal for Dorna is to ease the transition of Moto2’s most successful riders into Motogp. That means narrowing the gap with Motogp on electronics, power and delivery to make Moto2 a better training ground for riders. The promise of increased power and torque is part of that, but of equal importance is the new Magneti Marelli engine management system, which we couldn’t test on the prototype Triumph. The Magneti Marelli ECU ‘gives the teams a lot of choice to make changes with ignition, fuelling, engine braking, electronic throttle maps, quickshifter adjustments and pit lane speed limiters,’ confirms Steve Sargent. ECU aside, Simon Crafar falls hook, line and sinker for the Triumph which he thinks will be transformative for the class. ‘I’ve never liked 600s. Those Hondas... the riders have to dance on the gear lever, scream the heads off (the motors), use loads of corner speed into turns. That’s boring. We’ve got Moto3 for that.’
How will Triumph change Moto2?
Dismissed by some for having neither the man-wrestles-bear element of Motogp nor the all-or-nothing loopiness of Moto3, Moto2 needs a shake up. And for Bike’s race paddock insider Julian Ryder that’s a key point. ‘We’ve had basically the same rules in Moto2 since 2010 so the equation that needs solving to be competitive, the chassis supplier and rider skills, has been answered. It’s what happens in tightly controlled series. Switching engine supplier, power characteristics and the electronics package will introduce some chaos. After eight years the class needs fresh variables’. We won’t really know whether the extra power, torque and electronics will make the racing closer until the chequered flag drops after the first GP in Qatar next March, but it should make graduates from Moto2 better equipped to deal with the challenge of Motogp. ‘As well as being more powerful it’s going to be a more complicated motorcycle,’ observes Julian. ‘So as with a Motogp bike, there will be more variables in the equation.’ Roll on 2019.
‘Bluntly, the only thing the Moto2 bike and the road bike have in common is three cylinders’
FRONT CALIPERS Nissin four-piston radial front calipers FRONT FORK CARTRIDGES K Tech DDS front fork cartridges BRAKE HOSES British-made HEL brake hoses STEERING DAMPER Us-made GPR steering damping nd RADIATOR Daytona 675 race radiator QUICKSHIFTER Triumph Intellishift quickshifter REAR SUSPENSION British-made K Tech DDS Pro rear suspension REARSETS British-made Promach rearsets
Bike’s Smallman (surely the most inappropriate surname ever borne) and astonishing Triumph Moto2 prototype on the snug Stowe circuit, Silverstone SILENCERS Italian-made Arrow Pro-race silencers TYRES Dunlop Moto2 slicks WHEELS Italian-made Oz Racing six-spoke forged magnesium Cattiva wheels
The start of a new era for Moto2, and from rst impressions at the Silverstone test it’s looking good Not a lot remains of the road bike Smallman and Crafar: quite impressed with Triumph Arrow pipes crackle at idle