From MotoAmerica to Aprilia Racers Day
What's better than seeing the pros race at MotoAmerica? How about the opportunity to ride the same track the following day while ripping around on Aprilia's latest RSV4 and Tuono during a VIP experience. There's one word to sum up the weekend: amazing. Here's the low-down on what it was like and why I plan to do it again.
The experience kicked off on Sunday with the MotoAmerica races at Road Atlanta. I would have liked to have been there Saturday too but I had a race of my own to attend--the pit bike races at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. So I left early Sunday morning and arrived at Road Atlanta in time for the first races of the day. My friends and I found a nice viewpoint above turns 10A/10B and we set up our tents with a nicely-stocked cooler and settled in to watch the pros. This was my first MotoAmerica race and I was excited to see professional riders on a track that I've ridden before. It was fun to see the speed these racers were carrying--even the Junior Cup kids were killing it. But it was the speed of the superbikes that was truly impressive. I suddenly realized how slow I am! I really enjoyed seeing and experiencing the race in person as opposed to on TV or on a computer. The live nature of it and seeing it up close and personal and in the moment is profound. Despite putting speed into perspective, it got me pumped for the following day. In less than 24 hours I would be on the same track.
On Monday morning, I arrived back at Road Atlanta for Aprilia Racers Day. Being at a track on a Monday is quite possibly the best Monday you can have. I brought my Yamaha R6 to ride but Aprilia was there with RSV4 and Tuono demo bikes. Each person would have the opportunity to ride one for at least one session. I chose the RSV4 since I haven't ridden one before. It was a memorable experience since I felt like a VIP. Aprilia Racers Day limits the number of riders so it isn't crowded and you have lots of open track. They also provide a catered lunch. I couldn't wait to hit the track, but I also had some work to do. After all, one of the reasons I was at the event in the first place was to cover it for the motorcycle magazine I write for, Blue Ridge Motorcycling. I interviewed Shane Pacillo, the PR and event manager for the event, in addition to Oscar Solis with Pirelli. Shane explained the purpose of the event. He shared that it's difficult to truly test the RSV4 and Tuono in a road demo experience. On the track, you can open up and push these bikes and get a real feel for them. Not only does the track remove some of the intimidation but it provides the opportunity to have coaches out there in addition to having staff and technicians available to assist and create a better brand experience.
And a great experience is exactly what it was. After three sessions riding Road Atlanta on my R6, my turn arrived to try the RSV4 Factory. Shane was great about spending time with me going over the bike's electronics (which are very fancy) and explaining the nuances of the bike. The bike seemed like a futuristic space craft. There is so much that is adjustable to suit your individual needs as a rider like different modes, traction control, engine braking and suspension. You can even control how much it wheelies. These adjustments that can be made in the moment are perfect for riders who plan to ride the RSV4 on both street and track.
As I headed out onto the track, my first impression was the sheer power. It produces 201 horsepower and 85 lb-ft torque yet it weighs in at only 397 lbs. Although it's an 1100cc bike, it felt light and agile in the corners. To be perfectly honest, I struggled with the first few laps. The power was so instant--a much different feeling than my R6--and that made it difficult to be smooth on the throttle. It also accelerated incredibly quickly which I'm also not accustomed too (my R6 has a bit of a lag) so it felt like a rocket. However, the more time I spent on the bike the more I grew more comfortable with the throttle and acceleration. It hit me that on this bike, I could be so much faster due to how instantaneous the power and acceleration are. Out of all the bells and whistles on the bike, the one I had the most fun with was the quick shift and auto blip. When Shane was explaining the bike to me he mentioned this feature, so despite being accustomed to always pulling in the clutch, I had to try it. And was awesome. It was one less thing I had to do on the bike which makes for an easier ride and potentially shaving off fractions of a second each time which add up over the course of a lap.
Overall, I think the Aprilia folks were exactly right. Test riding a sportbike like the RSV4 for Tuono is so much better on track as opposed to a street demo. I don't want to knock street demos--there are times they make sense. But it's difficult to test the limits and performance on the street in a demo situation. My thoughts on the RSV4 is that it's an impressive bike and Aprilia has nailed the performance and technology. Anyone who owns one should count themselves lucky. I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience it. For me personally, the power was a bit much--far more than I could ever fully tap into as a rider. I'm more at home on 600cc sportbikes. But who knows. The more track riding that I do perhaps it's something I may desire in the future.
Riding the RSV4 wasn't the only cool experience. Since the track day followed MotoAmerica, there were some MotoAmerica racers in attendance. Stefano Mesa, who rode in the Stock 1000 and Superbikes on Sunday was there getting practice. Since he's a fellow sponsored OneX rider and I enjoyed watching him in the races, I went over to chat. He was very nice and it was interesting to get his thoughts on the track and racing and he also provided encouragement with my own riding. He has a very bright future in racing ahead and it was great to meet him.
I was glad I was able to test ride the RSV4 earlier in the day since after lunch the sky opened up and it poured rain. A lot of people started packing up, but I had brand new rain tires to test. The Pirelli team helped me changed out my tires and I headed back out on the track. I thought the RSV4 was a fun experience but the rain tires were too. It was freaky to be out there during a storm with water running across the track. But once I saw one of the coaches past me, I followed him and picked up speed. I was surprised how fast I could go and the tires remained solid. I had a blast. I had the track all to myself aside from one coach and the rain kept me nice and cool. If they hadn't red-flagged it for lightening I could have stayed out there all afternoon. I 10/10 recommend rain tires!
All in all I had a great time and definitely plan to do it again. Big thank you to Aprilia, Pirelli, Sportbike Track Time and Road Atlanta for making this happen. I also owe Vaughn Balter and Emily Prince a thank you for their support throughout the weekend. To learn more about Aprilia Racers Day, visit this link: https://www.aprilia.com/us_EN/news/2019/Aprilia-Racers-Days-2020/. And keep an eye out for a more detailed review of the experience in the next issue of Blue Ridge Motorcycling Magazine.