|"You ready to take a spin?" asked Robert Pandya, Promotions Manager of Piaggio/Aprilia/Guzzi. I'd had this funny feeling once before—the first time I took a 'spin' on the even rarer '49 Guzzi Dondolino 500cc-single racer back in 2003. Pandya followed with, "It's still brand new… shift at 6000 rpm, and remember you’re on slicks." That last part being most important because it was early a.m., overcast and cool, with the ground still very damp. Of any thing to be known for, crashing this rare ride wasn't the one I wanted. My first introduction was a few cautious laps, shifting when the bike really started building revs, all while on a damp slick track. Can you say fun?
The stateside MGS-01 "press intro" was hosted at the astounding Barber Motorsports Park facility in Birmingham, AL. The facility is worth every effort to get to and experience in person. The still newly-merged Piaggio/Aprilia/Guzzi staff had a fleet of Aprilia Milles (including the full carbon-fiber bodied Nera) and Tuonos (even a Tuono Racing!) lined-up and glistening. On the winner's podium, front and center, stood the MGS-01 and an Aprilia 250cc MotoGP racer; spectacular even in the morning dew. This “event” was being held in conjunction with a weekend track day held by SportbikeTrackTime.com run by Monte Lutz and Bonnie Strawser.
This being my very first time to Barber, we were treated to a slow morning sighting tip-toe session with one of the track day instructors. This was especially helpful to experience the sculptured artscape and views, but slightly less than beneficial to figure out how the track went at speed. It was appreciated nonetheless. I started off on the Tuono racing, getting me up to speed quickly which was good, since less then one session later, I’d be on the MGS-01.
The 01 sat on race stands with tire-warmers blazing. For those who haven't seen the 01 in person yet, it is a distinctively purpose-built machine. Every last detail has "hands-on/handmade" functionality, from the integrated CNC-rear transmission cover/swingarm pivot to the billet aluminum gas cap. It is far more captivating in person then in any photograph.
To light this one off, no key is needed. Click the OEM-style handlebar switch to the 'run' position on the switchgear, and the single large Falcon digital LCD gauge-pod blips to life with runway-like flashing lights, and large "MGS-01" centered in the gauge. I was awaiting "Good morning Todd" to scroll across the screen (it didn’t of course). Pressing the normally placed starter-button, the 01 explodes to life, similar to other 4-valve Guzzi motors. However, the similarities end there... this one has a snarl and quick-rev character unlike any other. The display largely blinks "OIL TEMP" until it is up to operating temperature, though you do get a tach-sweep bar graph across the top, as well as many other engine vitals while warming it up. The 1225cc motor carries 50mm throttle bodies, and lighter flywheel/clutch assemblies than even the current V11 Sports. Valve sizes have been increased from 34mm intake/30mm exhaust (on the old 1000cc 4-valve motor) to 36mm intake/31mm exhaust. Intake is through a 15-liter airbox, and exits under-tail via a two-into-one, Termignoni-tipped race muffler. It is surprisingly quiet for such a stout performer.
Horsepower claims are in the high 125+ region, and if those are at the flywheel, it feels like an accurate number. Pull off the corners is where most Guzzis shine, this one is class-leading. The 01 pulled hard enough off of slower corners to out-accelerate even liter-class sportbikes. Power delivery is deceptively strong, pulling hard from slightly below 4000 rpm up until the rev-limiter ended the surge at 9200 rpm (indicated shift light glows at 8500 rpm)... think power similar to an earthquake caused Tsunami. This one spins hard and fast. How fast? The radar gun on the short front straight captured the 01 at 122 mph; this was mid-straightaway off of a moderately slow corner. The Yamaha R1 I circled with for a lap or so (then passed!), flashed 125mph at the same location. Yes, the 01's a quick one. Its deep, righteously-unique roar will make everyone stop and look as it passes, as it did all the way around Barber’s 2.2 mile road course.