Some people like soft rock, some country and others rock and roll, but twisting the throttle on the MGS O1 in anger is pure heavy metal.
The aural sensation resonating from inside the minimalist half fairing is a mechanical symphony that will have you twisting the volume control to maximum at every opportunity and screaming inside your helmet to the beat.
I am exiting the tight technical turn five at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, and am hard on the gas as the big Guzzi inhales the short piece of real estate in front of me through the windshield.
I have just stuck the bike up the inside of a Japanese four cylinder and am showing him the single under seat Termignoni race pipe as we head toward the chicane.
Shifting as the digital gauge starts flashing at me, over 120 wild horses escaping through the fat rear slick, a feather-light up shift sees the digital gauge ripping back to the redline.
Filling my helmet with mechanical noise, the roar from the hairy chested, air cooled V-twin is jacking adrenaline through my veins faster than a double espresso at Starbucks.
In a matter of seconds, the fast approaching brake markers indicate it is time to turn the volume control down.
Rolling off and forcing the radial Brembo brake set up to earn its living, I am slammed so hard against the bars it takes some serious arm strength to hold my body in position and keep my arse in the seat. The big Guzzi is deceptively quick, and I am entering the corner a lot faster than on my previous warm up laps.
Letting off the brakes, and tipping the bike on its side, the drama is quickly over, and diving down into the bowl we pick off another bike as he runs wide on his exit. I am able to do it on the tightest line imaginable, and the bike is rock solid as I carve through the turn.
Turning up the volume again, I blast toward the fast left/right flick on the backside of the track and continue my hot lap on the technical Barber racetrack.
I’ve got to admit I have been looking forward to riding the MGS O1 since the original press propaganda came across my desk back in ’03. With its raw minimalist lines, and no nonsense muscular presence, it has to be one of the beautiful motorcycles ever made.
Started as a project in 2002, the talented motorcycle design team of Ghezzi and Brian were hired to create the beauty you see here in the pictures.
Utilizing the existing four-valve Centauro power plant as a base, the team went looking for more horsepower. 100 mm pistons were sourced from Cosworth to increase engine capacity from 992cc to 1225cc. The stock 78mm stroke was retained, but chrome cylinder liners were used to allow the triple ring racing pistons the smoothest ride possible. Further reducing friction, oil is sprayed under the pistons by a special lubrication system. Intake and exhaust valves are also enlarged to 36mm and 31mm respectively.
Marelli digital ignition handles the fire, and a super sexy two-into-one under tail exhaust gets rid of the burned gases. Peak horsepower is quoted as 122 @ 8000 rpm, with torque quoted as 83.2 ft. lbs @ 6400 rpm. This makes it immediately clear the big red Guzzi’s power is going to be made in the upper echelons of the rev range.
Motor in place, the team then went looking for a six speed gearbox and came back with the V11’s tried and trusted unit. To handle the significant amount of extra horsepower now being made, a new sintering double disc hydraulic drive clutch was sourced.
Power is transmitted to the rear wheel in typical Guzzi fashion by shaft drive, and it spins the rear hoop without upsetting the bike. Lightweight five spoke OZ forged wheels wear conventional sportbike sized rubber, and our test unit came wrapped in super, sticky slicks.
As a spotty youth, my first serious sport bike had been a bright red Guzzi Le Mans, and my passion for the big throbbing twins has never gone away. So, when my first chance to swing a leg over the coveted beast coincided with a cold, damp racetrack and a serious bout of the flu, the occasion was somewhat anticlimactic.
Pulling back into the pits after just four laps, feeling enormously thankful not to have crashed the only running example in the US, I was not happy. The bike felt horrible, and had me convinced I was going to tuck the front end every time I leaned into a corner. My weight felt too far forward, the bike seemed to vibrate awkwardly and cresting either of Barber’s two blind rises induced a very unsettling head shake, so I parked it and headed back to my hotel to sleep.
The problems were due to a rear Ohlins shock spring that would have been too stiff for a 400-pound Gorilla. It just had no movement and was pushing the front end so hard it was darn right scary.
Fourteen hours in the sack, half a gallon of Gatorade, some warm sunshine and the promise of a dry track vastly improved my mood. The Guzzi was feeling better too, as the techs had removed about 25mm of pre-load from the shock and eased off the compression, which had apparently greatly improved the handling.
Knowing this, I suited up and took off to warm up with the novice riders. Letting them get a head start I was able to roll around an empty track and get comfortable with the ‘O1.
Three laps into it, I felt like a new man.
The bike was turning, I didn’t feel so slammed over the front end, and without the high levels of paranoia was getting into the healthy vibration caused by the motor. Pitting after a few laps, I quickly rejoined the Intermediate riders in the next session and mentally geared up to see what the big Goose would do.
Back out on the track, I started picking off slower riders with consummate ease, and then as my speed increased the front-end gremlins began to creep back in. Thankfully this time I was able to live with it though, and keeping my weight off the bars allowed the bike to rail through the downhill bends with nary a twitch. The stability comes from the fairly lengthy wheelbase, longer than Aprilia’s Mille, but with a fairly radical 95mm of trail and a sharp 23.5 degrees of rake it is actually very quick steering and capable of holding extremely tight lines in the turns.
In the saddle I was taking it pretty easy, until I spotted a bright yellow Buell a few corners ahead that is. The previous day on a stock Mille, I had eventually run him down and wriggled by. Today within half a lap he was holding me up through the back side of the track, and by the time we were on the front straight I had dived up the inside of him and literally sucked the paint off his fairings as I left him in my exhaust fumes. Taking a peep over my shoulder before hitting the incredible brakes into turn one, he was gone and I slipped down a gear, came off the brakes and dived down into the corner just loving every minute of it.
Going head to head with some litre bikes later in the session the Guzzi just didn’t have the outright minerals to stay with them, and this got me seriously thinking about the MGS O1 and its intended purpose. This bike is not about going out and winning races, although it should be eligible for some events, it is about indulging in your motorcycle passion on the track the way you want it.
Simply beautiful to look at, totally raw and aggressive in the way the big air cooled motor makes it’s power, the MGS O1 is also graced with a handling and braking package (with the correct spring) that will allow you to ride as hard and fast as you wish for as many years as you want to ride it. And, when you are done, you can clean it up and put it in the living room with the rest of your collectable art works.
Three of the exotic limited run machines came down under as late Christmas presents and went to good homes in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. The machines were all pre-ordered and sold for $48,600 (AUD).