So, a mega-money, low-volume track machine is the greatest two-stroke ever? Too right it is. This the best stinkwheel the world has ever seen – and it’s currently in production.
Anyone can rock up to Suter Racing Technology’s Swiss base and buy one – provided you’re willing to cash in the pension and sell the house. With a few exceptions, the development two-stroke machines ended in the early 2000s, when four-strokes took over in MotoGP and Euro2 legislation effectively banned big-capacity road strokers.Yet no-one seems to have told Suter.
The Swiss racing specialists (who have top-secret contracts with most of the MotoGP grid) released the MMX500 as a track-only bike in 2015 and also have an eye on getting it homologated as a road bike too.Imagine a parallel universe, where MotoGP was still two-stroke and race fans still got high on the stench of unburnt fully-synth? This is what the future would look like – a two-stroke bike with modern technology applied. So that’s fuel injection, modern electronics and engine management and a chassis that teeters on the cutting edge.
The figures are astounding. The MMX500 is powered by Suter’s own 576cc twin-crank 80-degree V4. It kicks out 188bhp at the back wheel and weighs 130kg ready to go, yet it is flexible enough to be ridden in the wet, starts easily, idles like a road bike and despite its astounding performance could be ridden by anyone who fancies a trackday. Provided of course, you’ve got the £100,000 you need to buy one. That is still about half the price of a ‘classic’ 500GP bike, though.
We were hugely excited when we heard that Suter were going to van a pair of bikes over from their Alpine lair for us to test. With it they brought their top mechanic, Didier. We were less excited about the weather – an Indian summer had turned, overnight, into a soggy English autumn.
The two-stroke dream is being washed down the Rockingham drain. It looks like the day’s a write-off, but Didier’s got other ideas. “You know we’ve got some wets, don’t you?” He doesn’t know how slippery a wet Rockingham can be. I pretend I haven’t heard him and instead quiz him about the bike.
Nine titanium bolts are all that’s needed to remove the entire fairing and underneath is pure mechanical porn. There’s so much to look at. Like the machines on the GP grid, the frame is machined from billet and is of course multi-adjustable. The swingarm is the same construction as ones they supply to MotoGP and WSB teams. The titanium Akrapovic expansion chambers wrap themselves around the MMX like engorged boa constrictors. We could spend all day looking at the bike but with the weather not looking like clearing, so we’ve got no choice but to go out on wets.
As part of my job I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden race bikes ranging from John McGuinness’s winning TT Blade to Schwantz’s Pepsi RGV500, but I’m not going to pretend I’m not terrified. Didier bump starts the bike, warms it up and then beckons me over. Just climbing on and getting over the high, narrow seat is a job. This is a proper race bike - the bars are low, the seat high, the pegs rear-set.
It’s short too – tuck in and your head can clout the steeply-angled screen. Time to take control. Just blipping the throttle’s an event. The rise and fall as quickly as the display scuds across the carbon-shrouded 2D dash. There’s high frequency vibes that penetrate deep and a bellow from the airbox that harmonizes with the staccato blare of those with those magnificent Akrapovic stingers. It’s malevolent, angry and makes a MotoGP bike seem like a shrinking violet.
Time to man up and select first gear. The gearbox has a short, positive throw and the hydraulic clutch is light and well-modulated. No stalling and the MMX pulls away as easily as any road bike I’ve ever ridden, aided by strong mid-range power. Suter’s engine is actually under-square and together with a clever two-stage power-valve system, gives the bike uncanny midrange. Old 500GP riders talked about a machine being grunty when it had a 1500rpm power-band, but a Suter makes usable power from 6000rpm right to its 12,500rpm redline.
This makes the bike easy to ride, but also means is a staggering amount of performance. Power builds strongly as soon as you touch the throttle, multiplying as revs rise. It’s all you can do to tuck in hold on and feed it ratios. Such is the shunt that it’s impossible to open the throttle hard in first or second without wheelies, wheelspin or a blown mind. Just opening up that throttle is memorable – the MMX500 charges forward, fury barely contained. The sound echoes off the pitwall, bouncing off the empty stands multiplying in its intensity.
We’re also testing Honda’s Fireblade SP2 on the same day and the Suter sucks it in on the straights, even with my cautious throttle head. It feels alien, yet at the same time so familiar. As a race fan this is the soundtrack of hundreds of lost 500GP weekends. The experience so intense – you can even smell and taste it – as the laps pass by a fragrant mist of burnt Panolin two-stroke oil (3% pre-mix) hangs in the air.
The quality of the fuel injection makes it manageable. At Rockingham you need a bike that works at small throttle openings and the fuelling is perfect – easier to manage and modulate than that Fireblade and delivers predictable response. The chassis is stunning too – as you’d expect from a bike that weighs 60kg less than a Panigale. But what is astounding is how well it works on a low-grip day. The steering is light, but the bike doesn’t fall on its side, instead it just gives you any angle you need. The bike is happy at medium lean, generating enough feel and gives just enough feedback as you go faster to make allow you to understand what’s going on. The brakes the same story – huge power of course, but also progression and feel.
I could ride all day, but it’s time to return to the pits, my brain fried by the brilliance, the sophistication and the ability of the machine. Forget just two-strokes, this is one of the best motorcycles of all time. Full stop.
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