What If MV Agusta Had Not Misplaced Its Management in 1971?

Kevin Cameron has been writing about motorcycles for nearly 50 years, first for <em>Cycle magazine</em> and, since 1992, for <em>Cycle World</em>.

Kevin Cameron has been writing about bikes for almost 50 years, first for <em>Cycle journal</em> and, since 1992, for <em>Cycle World</em>. (Robert Martin/)

What would have occurred if Rely Domenico Agusta hadn’t died in 1971, however had carried on vigorously directing MV’s racing? What decisions have been open to MV—the final important and energetic four-stroke pressure in FIM racing—as two-strokes ready to finish MV’s lengthy dominance of the 350 and 500 lessons?

Honda addressed this identical query with its 1977 announcement that it could return to 500cc GP racing—with a V-4 oval-piston four-stroke engine, its NR500 challenge.

What would have happened with MV Agusta if Count Domenico Agusta had not died in 1971?

What would have occurred with MV Agusta if Rely Domenico Agusta had not died in 1971? (MV Agusta/)

MV Agusta had gained 31 world championships by the top of 1970—six in 125, 4 in 250, seven in 350, and 14 in 500. MV’s racing could initially have been pushed by a necessity to advertise product, however the true driving pressure behind MV racing was Rely Domenico Agusta himself. He was the driving pressure. His racing continued for years after the corporate’s earnings shifted in 1952 from (largely) mild single-cylinder motorbikes to helicopter manufacturing.

The MV Agusta model of at present is a brand new 1997 enterprise, sharing solely a reputation with the unique firm.

The Rely’s function in design was like that of Louis Coatalen at Sunbeam within the Twenties: He wasn’t an engineer however knew which manner the wind was blowing. MV raced two-strokes till 1950, when the Rely employed Ing. Piero Remor, the person who had beforehand designed Gilera’s postwar four-cylinder racers. His process was to create a 125 single and 500 4 to win races for MV.

Though the 1961 arrival of Honda and different Japanese producers within the smaller lessons pushed MV out of these outcomes, the Italian maker dominated the five hundred class. Honda grew to become involved when in 1965 a superb younger rider, Giacomo Agostini, on a brand new MV 350 Triple took a win in opposition to Honda’s dominant 350 4. In the past’s bike had been created on the Rely’s insistence, primarily a 250 twin with a cylinder added.

Within the 500cc battles that ensued in 1966 and ‘67 between Agostini and Honda’s Mike Hailwood, MV and In the past prevailed general, profitable the rider’s championship in each years. Honda withdrew on the finish of 1967 leaving Agostini to dominate 350 and 500 on MV Triples.

Two-Strokes Had been Coming

In 1970, New Zealand privateer Ginger Molloy got here second within the 500 championship—beating a area largely made up of British four-stroke singles not manufactured since 1962. Molloy earned all his factors within the sequence on two-strokes: a Bultaco single and an over-the-counter Kawasaki H1-R triple.

If one rider, doing all his personal upkeep, may rise so excessive within the 500 class, what would occur when the Japanese producers determined to compete in earnest?

MV Agusta’s Chief Dies

Rely Agusta died of a coronary heart assault early in 1971. Who would now direct MV’s racing? How would it not deal with the two-strokes? In 1971 and ‘72 Agostini retained his 350 and 500 world titles as normal, however quick new two-strokes have been shut behind. In the past’s beloved Triples as mid-Nineteen Sixties designs, have been on the finish of their growth. One thing new was required.

As Honda did within the Nineteen Sixties, MV now employed extra and smaller cylinders as a method of working at larger rpm. Below new FIM guidelines efficient from 1968, 350 and 500 have been restricted to a most of 4 cylinders. The five hundred triple’s bore/stroke ratio remained old-timey at 1.06. A brand new 500 4 was designed by MV personnel—Mario Rossi and draftsman Enrico Sironi—with newer concepts later imported by an engineer with auto racing expertise—Giuseppe Bocchi. Bore and stroke of the brand new 500 4 was set at 58 x 47mm for a bore/stroke ratio of 1.23.

This engine started life with a still-conservative valve-included angle of 45 levels, however Bocchi modernized it in two steps: 42 after which 35 levels. The narrower the angle, the flatter and extra open the combustion chamber and, normally, the better its potential for quick, environment friendly combustion with minimal warmth loss.

Relying upon whose model you settle for, this air/oil-cooled engine, receiving intensive growth, reached 92–93 hp at 14,000 rpm, and was utilized by 1973 rent Phil Learn to win the five hundred championships of 1973 and ‘74. Others have claimed that energy rose as excessive as 98 hp.

For 1975, Agostini went to Yamaha and took the five hundred title from MV on a reed-valve two-stroke 4. The MV retained a high pace benefit however the Yamaha had an edge in each acceleration and braking stability. The MV’s appreciable engine-braking triggered rear wheel dragging and hopping. Later, when Honda’s NR500 had these issues, they developed a slipper clutch whose grip softened when the rear wheel drove the engine throughout braking.

In the meantime, Ing. Bocchi designed MV’s subsequent 500—a liquid-cooled flat-four that started life with the bore and stroke and fundamental combustion chamber of the 58 x 47.2mm inline-four. It had provision for both carburetors or mechanical gas injection. In it, slim valve angle was absolutely accepted by giving it one-piece single cam covers. Though I may discover no documentation of its testing, claims have been made as excessive as 105–106 hp. Though a chassis exists, it seems by no means to have been track-tested.

Ing. Giuseppe Bocchi designed flat-four for MV Agusta with a claimed 106 hp.

Ing. Giuseppe Bocchi designed flat-four for MV Agusta with a claimed 106 hp. (Douglas MacRae/)

Why a flat-four, whose 22.25-inch (571mm) size imposes an extended, slow-steering wheelbase? Skilled workers at MV knew higher, however flat engines had come into vogue in F1 with claims of lowered heart of gravity, decrease mechanical friction, and diminished vibration.

MV gained its final race in 1976, then introduced its withdrawal from GP racing.

Extra RPMs Wanted to Compete With Two-Strokes

Suzuki’s two-stroke XR14 (aka “RG500″) entered competitors in 1974 at 95 hp at 11,200 rpm, rising to 100 hp a 12 months later, then to 114 hp in 1976.

4-stroke engines have the inherent benefit of clean energy supply from zero throttle. However a two-stroke could not even fireplace in any respect till a sure throttle angle, when the engine begins to fireplace irregularly (for this reason folks name them “ring-dings”). Irregular firing upsets traction, so two-stroke riders postponed throttle-up till the bike was upright sufficient that the tire may deal with the hit—even then typically as a sequence of slip-and-grip near-highsides.

Clean early energy supply helped Mike Hailwood on Honda’s 60–65 hp four-stroke RC166 of 1966–67 win two 250 titles from Phil Learn on Yamaha’s 78 hp, two-stroke RD05 250 square-four. As long-serving GP crew chief Jeremy Burgess put it, “Which might you somewhat have? Earlier acceleration off every of twelve corners? Or a high pace benefit on the far finish of 1 straightaway?”

Two-stroke cylinder-filling continued to enhance through the Eighties and ‘90s, till on the finish of the two-stroke period, stroke-averaged internet combustion strain rose to a worth equal to or better than that of well-developed racing four-strokes. The which means was clear; to attain equal energy, a four-stroke now needed to flip twice the rpm of the two-stroke.

Honda’s aggressive expertise with its NR500 four-stroke, throughout its 1979–81, profession was that regardless of probably smoother energy supply, it by no means gained a single Grand Prix level. Its complexity was heavy and, as described by Freddie Spencer, “The engine by no means ‘hit’—it simply revved.” On the finish it was supposedly making 136 hp at 19,000. In that very same 12 months Suzuki’s 130 hp, 297-pound XR35 gained the championship. What this exhibits is that there’s a lot extra to profitable GP races than horsepower.

What of the Flat-4?

Now return to MV and its 1976 state of affairs. I believe that had Bocchi’s prototype flat-four been observe examined, it could have been discovered uncompetitive by purpose of its lengthy wheelbase and low engine place. When the wheelbase is simply too lengthy and/or the engine is simply too low, weight switch to the rear wheel throughout acceleration is diminished, so the tire spins somewhat than grips. Persuading all events to strive a “Components One model” of the present inline-four, in its race-proven chassis would have taken time, permitting two-stroke energy to rise even additional. Such a motorbike might need continued for a time to complete nicely in opposition to the brand new two-strokes, supplied {that a} rider of the best expertise may very well be discovered to trip it.

A top-down view of Bocchi’s flat-four.

A top-down view of Bocchi’s flat-four. (Douglas MacRae/)

Honda had aimed its NR500 at 23,000 rpm, double what the two-stroke 500s have been turning on the time. Persistent piston fatigue cracking slashed that to about 19,000.

As we all know, two-stroke energy continued its rise, reaching 190 in 1997, or 40 % greater than Honda obtained from the NR500. This implies MV administration made the best determination: to retire in dignity with 38 world championships.

We will tantalize ourselves with 4 a.m. thought experiments. What concerning the super-strength dispersed-phase-strengthened piston materials banned in F1 within the new century? Ceramic valves? Carbon fiber connecting rods? Cease. Superior applied sciences that may have helped MV or Honda four-strokes may have helped two-stroke efficiency simply as a lot. When everybody switches to titanium fasteners, any benefit disappears.

Would this have been a winning chassis paired with Bocchi’s flat-four. Unlikely, but “what if…”

Would this have been a profitable chassis paired with Bocchi’s flat-four. Unlikely, however “what if…” (Douglas MacRae/)

And there’s this: Extra energy may very well be discovered extra shortly and cheaply in easy low-revving two-strokes than in advanced four-strokes making an attempt for double the revs.

Honda’s 1982 response was pragmatic: It wished to win however the pricey NR program hadn’t delivered. It switched to a lightweight two-stroke triple that was mainly three motocross engines on a standard crankshaft. The ensuing NS500 gained two GPs in 1982 and made Freddie Spencer 500 world champion in 1983.

In the end the difficulty was determined administratively somewhat than on racetracks. Solely four-strokes are eligible for at present’s premier roadracing sequence: MotoGP.