Brian Gillen is the head of Research & Design at Italian bike maker MV Agusta. He talks to us about the work going on behind the scenes to make race and street bikes that are better than ever while preserving the passion and character of the brand.
Brian. Could you talk about some of the changes going on behind the scenes to make the bikes better?
In the last six years MV Agusta has gone through a very strong revolution in R&D. Something interesting that’s going on recently is the industrial revolution 4.0. And it’s really changed how we design and make components.
How has that made the bikes better?
What we can do now with the bikes is design, develop and analyse them in a virtual world. We can develop the first two or three rounds inside the computer before we make the first prototype part. That allows us to try out more possibilities in a much shorter period of time.
In Moto2 the engine, ECU and tyres are standard. How does this affect how you develop the bikes?
We have to maximise the tyres to get the right flex and loading to get their full performance. Aerodynamics is the second step. Since we can’t intervene on engine development to get more power, the only thing we can do is lose less or be more efficient with what we have. So that’s fixing the aerodynamics of the bike and the rider, training them to do very specific things at specific times. Like foot position, knee position, where he’s putting his butt on the seat, developing a specifically designed seat that optimizes the angle of his back, together with the shape of his suit and helmet, and incorporating that into the aerodynamic envelope of the bike. We try to reduce the drag as much as possible while leaving as dirty a wake as possible so the rider behind isn’t getting a free tow.
Are you optimistic for the year ahead?
Winning in the world championship is a very tall order. In Moto2 the top 15 to 18 riders are within one second of a lap on a track like Sepang. There are many factors to consider: the bike as a technical package, the rider and the team structure around the rider. It’s a coordination between these three things.
How does this innovation help the street bikes?
MV Agusta races to bring that technology to the streets. We’re always looking to improve our bikes to make sure that the knowledge we learn on the track we put into our products. It’s not only a race on the track, but a race on design, development and getting those bikes to market faster than our competitors.
There’s a massive difference between building a good race bike and a street machine. Can you explain some of the challenges?
In WSBK each race engine does about 1,300km. Then the engine is destroyed. Our street bikes make over 208bhp and have their first service interval at 1000km. Each bike then has to last between 80,000 and 100,000kms average use without degradation while having to meet ever more stringent noise and exhaust standards.
How important is Motul in this development?
We want to maintain the power that our bikes previously had while noise and exhaust regulations push that down. We’re proud that we’ve been able to maintain the same performance and power while doing that. In a lot of cases that’s by leveraging our partnership with Motul to battle the friction, temperatures and losses to make sure the same power makes it to the rear wheel. The oil and lubrication systems have a massive impact on longevity and reliability. Motul is supporting us to help our products last a long time on the street. We’ve an incredibly good technical working relationship with them and they’ve been a fundamental part of our product development allowing us to push our products even harder.
What does MV Agusta do differently? What gives you the edge?
What’s different about us is very simple, the people! The passion and the desire to remain true to our principles no matter how difficult the odds.