Like the stunning Yamaha YZF-R1M, Ducati’s new Panigale V4 takes its DNA directly from the manufacturer’s MotoGP racer.
These two flagship models are packed with the latest electronics and 200bhp powerplants that echo their racing brethren, but come with lights, numberplate and a full warranty – for less than £20,000.
Of course, the concept of a Grand Prix bike you can ride on the road is not new, so we’ve racked our brains to come up with our five favourite modern classics from over the years, bikes which did not merely pay homage to their race track cousins, but works of art that were the closest thing you could buy to a Grand Prix bike for the street.
Suzuki RG500 Gamma
The early 1980s saw all the main manufacturers release two-stroke sportsbikes that were close replicas of their contemporary 500cc Grand Prix racers.
Unsurprisingly, two-stroke experts Yamaha were the first when, in 1984, they launched the RD500LC (as well as the aluminium framed RZV500R in their home market) and that was followed in 1985 by the Honda NS400 and Suzuki RG500 Gamma.
All three models had a short lifespan of just three years and although all are now hugely collectable, it’s the Suzuki that holds a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts. With a claimed (albeit optimistic) 95bhp and weighing in at just 154kg, the very tuneable RG500 was the pinup bike of its generation.
Part of that appeal was the fact that the RG500’s twin-crank, square four engine was just so closely related to the RGB500 racers that had powered Barry Sheene, Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini to 500cc world titles just a few years earlier.
Just over 9000 RG500s were produced over three years, with a further 6000 Japanese-spec RG400s also built. By 1987, Suzuki had stopped smoking and the equally iconic GSX-R750 would be Suzuki’s flagship, but the legend of the RG remains alive to this very day.
Fast forward a decade to 1994 and 250cc two-strokes were all the rage. Driven by the Japanese market’s demand for cutting edge sports bikes, shrunk down to conform with the country’s tough capacity driven licencing laws, each of the big four manufacturers had a demented two-stroke 250 in their range.
Honda’s NSR250 and Yamaha’s home market TZR250R were some of the trickest bikes you could buy, with many lightly used ones being shipped over by the crate load to the UK as grey imports.
But the one 250cc race rep that could officially be purchased in Blighty was the Aprilia RS250 – and boy what a bike it was. The comparatively tiny Italian factory dominated the 125cc and 250cc Grand Prix classes throughout the 1990s (and beyond) and the RS250 was a celebration of that.
Aprilia originally looked at using the racebike’s Rotax built V-twin but the need for reliability and longevity meant that they opted to buy in Suzuki’s RGV250 unit, which was no real hardship.
The reed valve motor was tuned slightly, the chassis cutting edge and the body beautiful. With emissions regulations making two-strokes all but obsolete, the RS250 was very much the last of its breed when it finally shuffled off this mortal coil in 2008. Like all the other old bikes here, they’re much cherished and highly collectable machines that regularly go up in value.
Ducati Desmosedici RR
Although they are very much known for their V-twins, Ducati certainly have some previous when it comes to V4s.
The Italian brand entered MotoGP in 2003 it did so with the V4 Desmosedici and, the following year, they announced that there would be a limited edition road going version for its best customers. As replicas went, it was way more than a paintjob and sticker kit. The D16 was the closest you could get to a MotoGP bike without the need to have a team of factory engineers at your disposal.
Unveiled in 2006 and going on sale in early 2008, when MotoGP had moved from 990cc to 800cc (making the previously top secret technology obsolete in racing terms) the £42,000 RR was a positive bargain with hindsight. Based on the 2006 race bike, the Ducati was dripping with the best of equipment, from the high end Ohlins suspension, through to the carbon fibre bodywork, Marchesini wheels and sand cast engine components.
In road trim it produced 188bhp but that nudged 200 with the factory race kit fitted and only 1500 were made in total. It remains a very special motorcycle indeed.
Rumours of a fabled ‘V4 Fireblade’ had been circulating for almost a decade when Honda pulled the covers off the RC213V-S in 2015.
But the RC was no Fireblade, rather one of those very special exotica rolled out of the HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) workshops every decade or so.
The name was the biggest giveaway, with RC213V being the designation given to the MotoGP machine ridden by Marc Marquez and Co in the world championships. The S stood for street. The RC213V-S is a MotoGP bike with lights on.
In many ways the project became possible due to the shortlived open class within a class that existed to boost the MotoGP grids in 2014. Machines for that class had to be available to private teams and had cost restrictions, so Honda’s entry – the RCV1000R – lacked a lot of the really secret and expensive stuff that appeared on the factory bikes, such as pneumatic valves and seamless gearboxes. That motor provides the basis of the RC213V-S, which is handbuilt in small numbers and comes with a price tag of £138,000.
In standard road trim, complete with factory warranty, it’s a beautiful handling machine, even if the 159bhp peak power is modest by 1000cc sports bike standards. That said, the optional race kit transforms the RC (invalidating the warranty, by the way) and unleashes 212+ raging horses. Whether it’s the ultimate modern MotoGP replica you can buy is a matter of conjecture, as Aprilia will sell you its 250bhp RSV4FW-GP for around the same money – although as that bike is strictly track only it doesn’t technically make it on our list.
A left field choice perhaps, but the Energica Ego is not a replica of a Grand Prix – it is a Grand Prix bike!
Or, more specifically, the Ego will be a Grand Prix bike, as it is the machine of choice for the new electric class, MotoE, when it starts in 2019. At a hefty 258kg and with a motor that goes about its business in complete silence, the Italian e-bike is the complete antithesis of the other machines on this list. Still, it’ll top 150mph and turn heads wherever it goes. And, at less than £30,000, it’s positively pocket money when compared to an RC213V-S.