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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

moto renaissance

MV Agusta used to rule racing. Now, 35 years later, they’re officially back in world championship competition...

WORDS: PAUL TAYLOR

PIC: KEL EDGE, MV AGUSTA, PARKINGO

Back in the days before colour telly, one company dominated Grand Prix racing in a way that had never been seen before, or since. MV Agusta destroyed all before them in the 50s and 60s, before it all went horribly wrong. Now, after almost 35 years away, the Italians are back in world racing with a factory supersport team – and a MotoGP masterplan.

Not surprisingly, MV has entrusted its project to an Italian squad. The Milan-based ParkinGO outfit is best known for running Chaz Davies over the past four years, winning the supersport title with Yamaha in 2011 and taking a superbike race win on an Aprilia last season. There’s no lack of pedigree in this project, and no lack of ambition either. It’s game on!

“We’ve got a three-year contract,” says team owner Giuliano Rovelli, an ex-racer and policeman who has made his millions through the chain of airport carparks that lend their name to the race team. “We’re going to be developing the F3 in world supersport but alongside that we will be developing the F4 too. We need to see how the rules turn out, but depending on how it goes we are considering entering superbike or MotoGP, under the CRT rules.”

After a couple of seasons enjoying great success on factory-supplied bikes, the ParkinGO boss is excited to be entrusted with the technical development of the new MV. His team has emerged from humble beginnings to become one of the most professional in the paddock and can draw on plenty of experience in the 600 class. Between 2008 and 2010, the squad ran three-cylinder Triumphs in world supersport, taking the Daytona 675 from an unfancied oddity to the bike that would probably have won the 2011 title had the British company not pulled the plug on its already meagre sponsorship of the team. As it was, they moved to Yamaha and guided Chaz to the title on the ex-Cal Crutchlow factory R6s.

“The Triumph experience will certainly help us with MV Agusta,” continues Rovelli. “The three years with Triumph were very motivating as we developed the bike from street to racing. It has also given us good experience of working with the three-cylinder 675cc engine. With Yamaha and Aprilia it was very different as the bike was already developed, but we won the world championship in supersport and a race in superbike, so this was also a great time for the team.”

While Rovelli appears to have found himself frustrated at Triumph’s lack of racing ambition, and their steadfast refusal to build a superbike class model, it looks like the ParkinGO squad has found a better match with their fellow Italians, who are also keen to see their new F4 compete on the world stage.

“MV is a familiar company to me,” he adds. “We have been in contact for quite a while, talking about possible projects and nothing gives me more pleasure than signing a three year contract to develop one of the most emblematic bikes on the market right now.

“After an excellent year in 2012, our initial goal was to be back into superbike, but that was not possible. We are taking a step back into supersport but have plans to move up again.

“What happens all depends on the rules. We have no limits and if the opportunity presents itself we could even go to MotoGP. It is difficult for everyone, almost impossible right now, because funding can only be found through the organisers of the championship, with TV rights and so on, and Dorna has a big responsibility. They have to try to reduce the costs for the teams and at the same time keep the championship competitive. Now everybody is a little scared but I’m pretty sure it will be an advantage for all of us at the end of the day.”

With the decision to compete in world supersport coming relatively late, the squad goes into the season on the back foot. Development on the bikes only started in December, with just a single shakedown test at Cartagena before shipping the bikes over to Australia for two days of testing prior to the opening round.

It’s not just the riding personnel that are new to the ParkinGO squad for 2013. The technical team is almost completely new with, significantly, the team losing technical director Lucio Nicastro, who will act as Sam Lowes’ crew chief on the Russian backed factory Yamaha squad. Rovelli explains: “We had to let my longest serving mechanics go as we did not know until late what our plans would be, but we have put a very good squad together, bringing in experienced personnel from teams who are not competing this year. I would say that the development is going very well. All the suppliers have delivered everything on time and we are finding them very interested in our project, so altogether we are working quite well. If we can develop the F3 and win the world title it would be a great, but for this year we are aiming to finish in the top five and to get some podium finishes. The first race has shown that we’re already at a high level, higher than expected, and there is no shortage of motivation for the project.”

With one race gone the MV already looks like proving to be a competitive weapon, at the very least on flowing tracks like Phillip Island. With long-time ParkinGO employee Davies moving on to have a crack at the world superbike title on the factory BMW, Rovelli has brought in two new riders to develop the MV. Naturally one seat has gone to an Italian, with former 250cc runner-up and Moto2 race winner (and qualified optician!), Robby Rolfo bringing his vast experience to the squad, with Brit hopeful Christian Iddon riding the other F3.

Rolfo was a revelation in the race, running fourth until his rear Pirelli disintegrated in the closing stages. Iddon was also denied a points scoring finish when his F3 suffered an identical tyre problem, but the 27-year-old supermoto star, who finished fifth overall on a Triumph in British supersport last year, reckons that the new MV project is the highlight of his career so far.

“I am so grateful to Giuliano and MV for their belief in me,” he says. “We did a two-day shakedown in Cartagena and I was immediately really happy with the bike. It was clear that it has so much potential but we are also aware that this is a very new project and there will probably be a number of stages of development. We have a lot of things to work through in the first few races, especially on the electronics, but I have high goals for myself, especially in the latter part of the season. Phillip Island was only the second racetrack the bike had ever been to and the way it performed was just amazing. I was running in the group fighting for fourth and had a good pace when suddenly the rear tyre just fell apart. It was a real shame because a top six was possible and the top ten almost certain.

“Ultimately we hope the project will culminate in the world title and hopefully it will be me sat on top of it when that happens. I know the bike has the potential and the team is capable of unlocking it. Only time will tell, but I am fully aware of what a huge opportunity I have been given and I really hope I can repay everyone’s faith in me,” said Iddon.

MV’s return is sure to add some extra spice to world supersport, which looks like getting its sparkle back after some years in the doldrums. With the ParkinGO squad’s experience, MV Agusta’s backing and a top bike in the F3, we’re betting that it won’t be too long before the most historic name in bike racing is back on top of the rostrum.

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