NOBODY outside the factory has ridden the Benelli Tornado yet but it’s already one of the most desirable bikes on the planet – and that is just for starters, according to Benelli president Andrea Merloni.
Benelli is one of Italy’s smallest manufacturers, but despite its size the firm’s design flair and technical innovation means its products – from the smallest scooters to the Tornado – are always worth watching out for.
Merloni believes it’s this alternative approach that gives the firm a great chance of success.
He said: " To be successful, we need to be different and smart. We’re finding alternative technical solutions – like the Tornado’s under-seat radiator – to build bikes that stand out from the rest. "
" We choose to invest in technology rather than styling, and the technology we chose for the Tornado restricted our options for the styling. The under-seat radiator helps the aerodynamics, but it means we needed to fit the fans at the back, which in turn means we didn’t have the option of using under-seat exhausts. "
But the Tornado isn’t the only Benelli to feature unconventional technology – even its scooters, like the convertible-roofed Adiva, break the mould. Merloni said: " We’re a small company and the scooter market is very competitive. We know we can’t compete by cutting our prices or spending a lot on advertising, so instead we need to use ideas and innovative design to attract attention. The Adiva is an example of this approach.
" The scooter market is very tough and in some ways it’s easier to build a superbike – people who are buying an MV Agusta or a Benelli Tornado aren’t going to be influenced by a £200 price difference, where as that will make all the difference to a scooter. "
It’s 18 months since the Tornado was first revealed and no bikes have been sold yet – but Merloni says there is no doubt about the bike’s production.
He said: " We have already built the first 75 bikes to get homologation for WSB racing, and we must have 150 completed by June to complete the homologation. We want to have our first race at Monza in mid-May, although we will not do it if the bike is not ready – there’s no point if we will be at the back of the field.
The firm may be concentrating on getting the Tornado ready, but it is already thinking about future models. Merloni said: " We are looking at a naked bike, a tourer and a sports-tourer – all based on the Tornado’s technology. The naked bike will be first – at the moment we are aiming to show it at the Munich show in September 2002.
Read more of this interview in the March 7 issue of Motorcycle News.