In 2019 Moto2 will be powered by three-cylinder 765cc Triumph engines. It’s out with Honda's peaky CBR600RR screamers and in with the angry rasp of Britain’s best triple.
It’s the biggest shake up in the Grand Prix intermediate class since Moto2 replaced 250cc two-strokes in 2010. Not only will the new Street Triple RS-based engine be more powerful, it bulges with the kind of mid-range torque the current Honda motor could only dream of. And that’s not all – for the first time the class will run traction control and autoblippers.
It’s not just the riders that’ll have all the fun with their new toys, we race fans will be the biggest winners. With the triple’s smaller engine dimensions, the new generation of Moto2 weapons promise to be sleeker, sexier-looking and with all that extra grunt there’ll be more wheelies and sliding for fans to enjoy. But best of all will be the noise. When the lights go out for Moto2’s new dawn, the sound of over 30 open-piped triples surging into the first turn will be worth the ticket price alone.
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Triumph announced their three-year deal to supply sealed, serviced, engines to Moto2 teams in June, but over the last year they’ve been working hard developing the motor on the test bench and in their innocuous-looking black Daytona 675-based ‘mule’ you see here.
Working machines like these normally live behind closed doors and are tested in secret. Just seeing one from afar, or in a grainy spy picture, is as rare as seeing a Moto2 whippersnapper ride with their wheels in line. But Triumph decided to display their mule at numerous bikes shows over the winter, for the fans to see and even hear. Best of all, in an unprecedented move in the secretive world of Grand Prix racing, they let us ride it, too.
MCN have been granted a dozen laps at the Calafat circuit, south of Barcelona, to ride a bike built purely to let engineers and Moto2 riders, like former 125cc GP champion Julián Simón, evaluate the new powerplant.
This is ‘version one’ and it has already been mothballed, to make way for the next evolution prototype, no doubt to feature the new Magneti Marelli ECU with traction control and an autoblipper. The Moto2 spec engine in this bike sits in a lightly modified 2013 Daytona 675 chassis and has Street Triple RS electronics, dash and quickshifter, but with its ABS and traction control disabled.
Although we’re not here to test the bike, as such, more to sample the new Moto2 race motor in a rolling chassis, it’s hard not to be impressed with the Triumph as a whole. After all, in this kind of trim (slicks excepted) this is a machine that’s won TTs, British Championships and scored multiple World Supersport podiums.
More about that later, because this prototype is all about its engine and the racket it makes at full throttle. It’s not particularly loud when you’re on the bike because all you get is the growl of three cylinders sucking greedily through its standard airbox, but when you’re stood trackside it’s wild...
The Triumph’s barely-silenced Arrow pipe, louder than any supersport machine you’ve heard, spills bass-laden, treble-tortured decibels into your ears, shredding your eardrums. It makes a din even MotoGP superstars will be jealous of. Armageddon won’t have anything on a grid-full of these on full song...
More power, more revs, even more brilliant!
In its 675cc guise, Triumph’s three-cylinder masterpiece was firmly placed as one of biking’s greats, thanks to its midrange, easy-to-manage power and acid-infused, rasping soundtrack. It’s why the Daytona 675 never lost an MCN group test since it was launched in 2005, neither did the 675cc Street Triple, which arrived a year later. Great road and race bikes always have great, interesting motors: V5s, V4s, twins, crossplane crank fours, two-strokes and the raspiest of them all: triples.
For 2017 Triumph bored and stroked their triple, upping capacity to 765cc with new pistons, Nikasil-plated aluminium barrels, crank, gearbox and wedged it in their new Street Triple (but sadly not the Daytona, which they axed). Predictably, the new motor was even more dazzling and led to the Street Triple RS winning MCN’s Overall Machine of the Year.
And now the evolution takes another, even more exciting, step forward in its tuned Moto2 guise. With its extra power, taller gearing and higher rev-limit, this engine housed in a sportsbike chassis with race suspension, wheels and tyres is a match made in heaven. It’s smooth, fast, not too tricky to ride and laced with just the right amount of raw, hard-edged attitude.
Our test of this motor starts from the middle of a corner and ends at the braking zone for the next. Cracking the immaculately controlled throttle, there’s no jerkiness or slop in the ride-by-wire system to send you wide or upset the chassis, just a soft gurgle from the engine letting you know it’s primed and ready to go.
Lift the bike up from full lean and when you’re ready, it’s ready, pinning you back in the seat, revs screaming to the 14,000rpm rev limit in an instant. Acceleration is like a mid-noughties superbike (the Triumph will have a similar power-to-weight ratio), but mixed with the agility of a 250.
Midrange master class
Unlike Honda’s slightly flat and uninspiring 125bhp-ish inline four Moto2 motor, the 131bhp triple has instant, long-revving power and buckets of midrange. Add this to its tall gearing (for a higher top speed) and long first ratio and you can use slightly lazier gear patterns, more like a 1000 than a 600 (or even the standard Street Triple RS) and take advantage of first gear in the slow corners. But when you do need to slice through the quick-shift-assisted gearbox it’s unutterably sweet.
It’s impossible not to be blown away by this engine. It delivers the perfect amount of power for the chassis - not too much and not too little. It’s fast without being unwieldy and will undoubtedly be responsible for slashing Moto2 lap times and getting closer to the MotoGP monsters at tracks like Jerez and Phillip Island.
Of course, when the Triumph Moto2 engine is delivered to teams at the end of the year it will be wrapped in exotic, ultra stiff chassis from the likes of Kalex and KTM, but this Daytona prototype still has a tough Grand Prix feel to it, which is no surprise given the Moto2 riders who’ve been testing it.
The standard 2013 Daytona chassis is more rigid than your run of the mill supersport bike anyway, but with its stiffly sprung K-Tech fork internals, shock and rigid Dunlop slicks the ‘mule’ has a slightly dead feel to it, like a full Moto2 racer, until you start to push it harder. And with clip-ons slid down the fork legs and rearsets on their tallest setting, it’s bloody cramped, too.
Such is the sweetness of the chassis and flexibility from the engine you could ride this prototype all day swiftly and never break a sweat. But you need to corner, brake and accelerate like it’s your last day on earth for it to really start talking to you.
Predictably our 12 laps disappear in a flash, but it’s enough to be bowled over by the engine’s effortless speed and the easy poise of the chassis. Really, it’s the ultimate tease because once testing is complete this bike will cease to exist and for the time being, only the Moto2 class of 2019 will lucky enough to ride a snarling, utterly brilliant Triumph 765 powered sportsbike.