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Now that twins have practically disappeared from the competition, we should remember to The V2s that were once the queens of racing of the World Superbike Championship.
It was at the dawn of the 21st century when regulations favored two-cylinder engines over four-cylinder engines in the WSBK, so all brands (more or less), launched their bets to win the championship laurels. Aprilia RSV Mille, Ducati 996, Honda VTR1000 SP1 and Suzuki TL-1000R. Four motorcycles, 3,989 cubic centimeters and eight cylinders.
Born in the cradle of Italian royalty, the Ducati 996 was the second generation of a line born in 1994. The first Ducati 916 gestated by Massimo Tamburini appeared with the sole purpose of consolidating his legacy in the Superbike World Championship, and he succeeded. Since the first of the four titles won with Carl Fogarty at his command, the saga 916/996/998 a total of six titles were scored between 1994 and 2001.
With these numbers on the table, the rest of the brands also wanted their share of the cake and ventured to create two-cylinder models, all in vee, fighting Ducati with his own cards. Curiously, the inverse path that Ducati is going to travel now, abandoning the V2s to switch to the V4.
But going back to the quintessential two-cylinder, the Ducati 916 set a precedent that has marked several generations of motorcyclists and motorcycles. Its two-cylinder engine in vee at 90º with desmodromic distribution may not have been the most powerful in the category, as it narrowly missed the 115 horses in its street version, but instead it was a racing motorcycle with a license plate.
There were no compromises in its design. The multitubular steel tube chassis attached to the engine made for a compact and very narrow set, an image enhanced by a minimalist front end and a rear that integrated the exhausts under the tail that further enhanced its aesthetics thanks to the characteristic single-sided swingarm.
The Italian design that came from the hands of the designers Tamburini and Robbiano has transcended for decades and even today it gives us the creeps. But apart from this, its equipment with the best quality materials signed by Showa (Öhlins in some versions), Brembo and Termignoni they formed an exquisite base for Superbike racing with a relatively contained 198kg dry weight.
In return it was about a bike that was not particularly accommodating to its rider on the road having a very high stiffness, an extremely aggressive driving position, a large dose of heat and contained dimensions that did not make it the best companion for day to day.
Aprilia RSV Mille
Born in the shadow of her compatriot from the country of the boot, the Aprilia RSV Mille He arrived in 1998 to face the Ducati with similar but not the same cards. The RSV collected much of the racing experience accumulated by the brand and applied it to liter sports.
The engine had to be a twin cylinder, so the Noale house commissioned the Austrian specialist to develop one. Rotax. The result was a V2 at 60º in longitudinal position of 998 cubic centimeters with electronic injection and 136 horsepower.
In addition to being more powerful, it was lighter (189 kg dry) than the Ducati but at the same time with a longer wheelbase, which accompanied by a double girder aluminum chassis Inspired by the 250 cc Grand Prix, they created a motorcycle that was reminiscent of a racing motorcycle on all four sides.
Associated with its spectacular and extremely brilliant chassis and swingarm, the best quality suspensions signed by Showa and Sachs, with Öhlins for the R version, steering damper, light alloy wheels (Brembo and OZ depending on the version) and Brembo brakes.
At the same time it was somewhat larger in terms of the dimensions of its fairing, so it also became a more livable bike and benevolent to those who decided to get behind the handlebars thanks to better aerodynamics and more room to move or hide from the wind.
Unfortunately for Aprilia the title did not finish to arrive although they did add three podiums and five victories with Troy Corser in 2000 plus eight podiums and two victories in 2001, seven podiums with Noriyuki Haga in 2002 and another one for Regis Laconi.
Honda VTR1000 SP1
Willing to recover his crown achieved with the exotics RC30 and RC45, Honda he pulled out of his sleeve an unprecedented concept at home to date and created a motorcycle from scratch that was capable of beating Borgo Panigale's machines.
Thus appeared in 2000 the Honda VTR1000 SP1, also known as RC51 or RVT1000 SP1. A motorcycle that, of course, also used a twin-cylinder engine, in its case of 999 cubic centimeters with a power of 136 horsepower at the level of the Aprilia, which up to now was the most powerful.
It used, as in Noale's, a frame of aluminum double beam thought to be a cornering machine that was capable of beating the extreme precision of the Ducati, although allowing some more flex so that it was not so critical on a day-to-day basis.
Regarding suspensions Showa That it used, we could find an inverted front fork with 43 mm diameter bars, perhaps not as specialized as in the Italian ones, although its Pro-Link rear shock did offer a fairly well resolved operation.
Weighing 196 kg, it was a motorcycle in the category average with a potential that managed to uncover Colin edwards taking the titles in the year 2000 premiering the SP1 and later that of 2002 with its evolution, the SP2, leaving us his duels against Troy Bayliss along the way.
It's perhaps the least unknown of this quartet of twin-cylinder Superbikes, and it's simply because the Suzuki TL-1000R he never ran at the WSBK. Initially, the Hamamatsu people thought of it as the solution, but they dismissed the project only a year after its premiere in 1998, participating only in a few national championships.
Aesthetically, it used the identifying features of the GSX-R saga but reinterpreted them with much more voluptuous lines whose culmination was a lush polish escorted by a pair of escapes on each side. The front was the sharpest in the category and its aesthetics still fall in love today.
The TL-1000R debuted a completely new engine in the purest Ducati style, with two cylinders in a transverse vee at 90º and 996 cubic centimeters that allowed it to offer a good figure of 135 horses power.
The problem was that Suzuki was left half. They did not want to give up the versatility of a street bike and they were left with a base that was not good for racing. Somewhat clunky compared to the competition, a smoother engine and simpler suspensions.
So much so that despite having been gestated as its battering ram against the Ducati, it never enjoyed the support of the brand itself for end up quickly dismissing support for this model in favor of reinvigorating the development of its four-cylinder racing motorcycles. Something that makes it one of the least known and most suggestive models on the second-hand pages.
Interestingly, and although the TL-1000R became a premature failure, it did leave us with a magnificent base that was used for the somewhat more popular TL-1000S first and then the SV1000. In addition, and although they did not get to run the WSBK, Bimota used the engines of the TL series to equip the Bimota SB8 with which Anthony Gobert achieved victory in the first German race of the 2000 season.