Yes, it looks amazing, but what’s under the fairing?

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Creating a motorcycle from scratch is no easy feat. Creating one that throws away conventional wisdom and can run in World Superbikes is unbelievable – but that’s exactly what Benelli has done with the Tornado.

Instead of buying in an engine, like many other manufacturers looking to come back from the ashes, Benelli decided it wanted its own distinct identity once more and created the three-cylinder motor you’re looking at now.

It’s essentially a race motor, but it can be easily adapted to suit the road bike. It can also be re-worked for different engine configurations and capacities to reduce development costs – important to a small company like Benelli.

Benelli chose the three-cylinder motor as a compromise between high-revving power and thrust out of corners. A triple is also smaller than a four and less complicated than a V-twin.

The three four-valve cylinders are inclined forward by 15°. The cylinder head cover, sump, clutch clover and gearbox flange are made from lightweight magnesium.

The six-speed close-ratio gearbox can be pulled out to change ratios without having to strip the engine. The dry slipper clutch is smaller and lighter than a conventional one and also has less power-sapping friction than a wet clutch. The fuel injection allows Benelli to easily change the engine mapping and experiment with different settings.

Though the team is happy with its results, according to Benelli boss Andrea Merloni there’s a lot more to come. He said: ” We know we have some work to do with the engine and the only way to find that out is to go racing, though we race because we love it. It is also good for marketing if we keep getting better. If we don’t, it can be dangerous.

” We started the season late and continued to develop the bike, but to get points was good. The weight limit for next year is 162kg (356lb) and at the moment the bike weighs 172kg (378lb) so we have a lot of weight to lose. But we know we can lose 10kg (22lb). Most of the weight saving will come from the engine, where we also intend to get a lot more power and torque.

” Peak horsepower in WSB is not that important. It is more about getting quickly out of the corners and we can make big improvements in this area. We are looking at changing the crankshaft to make it lighter and quicker to rev, as well as the cams, valves, pistons, you name it. We are sure we can run with last year’s factory bikes.

Aside from the engine, perhaps the most radical engineering feature is the rear-mounted radiator. On the road bike a series of fans will pull warm air from the radiator, but this wasn’t deemed necessary on the racer – it’s not likely to get stuck in traffic, after all. In its place are two big, round holes.

A front-mounted radiator not only disrupts aerodynamics, but suffers from something called the Magnus effect, where turbulence from the front wheel reduces the amount of air entering the radiator. Heat from the nearby exhaust manifolds also affects efficiency. The designers therefore decided to place the radiator under the seat and feed it cool air via two carbon-fibre ducts from the front sides of the fairing. The two distinctive nostrils in the nose cone feed the ram-air system.

The absence of a front-mounted radiator means the engine can be moved farther forward to optimise weight distribution and improve stability. The engine is used as a stressed member to boost rigidity.

The Tornado’s frame is distinctive. The steering head and twin tubular steel side spars mount to a massive rear aluminium brace which hangs the swingarm and takes most of the stresses The two parts are bonded by a high-tech glue used in the manufacture of aircraft. The frame cuts weight and is claimed to increase rigidity.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff