"You ready to take a spin?" asked Robert Pandya, Promotions Manager of Piaggio/Aprilia/Guzzi. I'd had this funny feeling once before�the first time I took a 'spin' on the even rarer '49 Guzzi Dondolino 500cc-single racer back in 2003. Pandya followed with, "It's still brand new� shift at 6000 rpm, and remember you�re on slicks." That last part being most important because it was early a.m., overcast and cool, with the ground still very damp. Of any thing to be known for, crashing this rare ride wasn't the one I wanted. My first introduction was a few cautious laps, shifting when the bike really started building revs, all while on a damp slick track. Can you say fun?
  The stateside MGS-01 "press intro" was hosted at the astounding Barber Motorsports Park facility in Birmingham, AL. The facility is worth every effort to get to and experience in person. The still newly-merged Piaggio/Aprilia/Guzzi staff had a fleet of Aprilia Milles (including the full carbon-fiber bodied Nera) and Tuonos (even a Tuono Racing!)
lined-up and glistening. On the winner's podium, front and center, stood the MGS-01 and an Aprilia 250cc MotoGP racer; spectacular even in the morning dew. This �event� was being held in conjunction with a weekend track day held by SportbikeTrackTime.com run by Monte Lutz and Bonnie Strawser.
  This being my very first time to Barber, we were treated to a slow morning sighting tip-toe session with one of the track day instructors. This was especially helpful to experience the
sculptured artscape and views, but slightly less than beneficial to figure out how the track went at speed. It was appreciated nonetheless. I started off on the Tuono racing, getting me up to speed quickly which was good, since less then one session later, I�d be on the MGS-01.
01 sat on race stands with tire-warmers blazing. For those who haven't seen the 01 in person yet, it is a distinctively purpose-built machine. Every last detail has "hands-on/handmade" functionality, from the integrated CNC-rear transmission cover/swingarm pivot to the billet aluminum gas cap. It is far more captivating in person then in any photograph.
  To light this one off, no key is needed. Click the OEM-style handlebar switch to the 'run' position on the switchgear, and the single large Falcon digital LCD gauge-pod blips to life with runway-like flashing lights, and large "MGS-01" centered in the gauge. I was awaiting "Good morning Todd" to scroll across the screen (it didn�t of course). Pressing the normally placed starter-button, the 01 explodes to life, similar to other 4-valve Guzzi motors. However, the similarities end there... this one has a snarl and quick-rev character unlike any other. The display largely blinks "OIL TEMP" until it is up to operating temperature, though you do get a tach-sweep bar graph across the top, as well as many other engine vitals while warming it up. The 1225cc motor carries 50mm throttle bodies, and lighter flywheel/clutch assemblies than even the current V11 Sports. Valve sizes have been increased from 34mm intake/30mm exhaust (on the old 1000cc 4-valve motor) to 36mm intake/31mm exhaust. Intake is through a 15-liter airbox, and exits under-tail via a two-into-one, Termignoni-tipped race muffler. It is surprisingly quiet for such a stout performer.
  Horsepower claims are in the high 125+ region, and if those are at the flywheel, it feels like an accurate number. Pull off the corners is where most Guzzis shine, this one is class-leading. The 01 pulled hard enough off of slower corners to out-accelerate even liter-class sportbikes. Power delivery is deceptively strong, pulling hard from slightly below 4000 rpm up until the rev-limiter ended the surge at 9200 rpm (indicated shift light glows at 8500 rpm)... think power similar to an earthquake caused Tsunami. This one spins hard and fast. How fast? The radar gun on the short front straight captured the 01 at 122 mph; this was mid-straightaway off of a moderately slow corner. The Yamaha R1 I circled with for a lap or so (then passed!), flashed 125mph at the same location. Yes, the 01's a quick one. Its deep, righteously-unique roar will make everyone stop and look as it passes, as it did all the way around Barber�s 2.2 mile road course.
Track Tested: MGS-01 - Barber MotorSports Park
March 19-20, 2005
Ok, so how's it ride? If you've spent any time circling a race-track, you will feel right at home. It is not a timid/leisurely bike, and is about as far as possible from the mild-mannered V11S-line imaginable. It requires a very deliberate hand to make it work as wanted. Its extremely short wheelbase (for a Guzzi) offers 'don't think too long or it'll go without you' lightning-quick turn-in and transitions, turning very well even when hard on the world-class Brembo radial-mounted brakes. Throttle response, while good, did exhibit a bit of on-off abruptness (easily fixed by an aftermarket F.I. module such as a Power Commander) that made slower corners a bit tough in the beginning. Other testers (most not used to Guzzi I suspect) also kept commenting on strong engine braking. Much like the on-off throttle abruptness, keeping it spun was less taxing. Closed-course being key in this endeavor, as getting the MGS-01 up to speed required consistency to explore. Even on slicks, the 01 takes some getting used to. Weight is one thing the 01 carries extremely well. Pushing it around the pits, or on the bike, you'd never know you're dealing with a 1225cc machine. It is compact-tiny fantastic.
  Suspension is handled by top-shelf �hlins pieces. First thing that came to my attention was how stiff the rear suspension seemed to be. I decided it was best, as always, to ride it as delivered which I did. The super-stiff rear-shock assembly was causing the bike to do things I didn't much care for. So back into the pits I came for some adjustment. Through fortunate good luck and gracious doing, long-time M.G.N.A. Tech guru
Shelby Kennard was on site, as was local Aprilia technician Brad Friedman. After Shelby inspected the linkage for possible binds and gave it the ok, Brad started with white-knuckling 10mm of preload out of the rear shock per my suggestion. The rear shock is ring/lock-ring set-up for preload. Where's that remote preload knob when you need it? Two laps out, then in. Better, but still not ideal. We ended up taking 25mm of preload out before it got to "reasonable" standards for sag and feel when sitting in the pits. Rebound was left as delivered; 30 of 60, and compression setting (as delivered) is set to +36. We ended up with +48 from full soft. The front forks only required one turn of spring pre-load for my 185 lb. weight.
  While these settings were livable, I still found the rear shock to be a bit too stiff. I suspect most folks will require another rear spring if they are all delivered this way. This was the only "issue" with the bike. Once we were close with the suspension, I put my head down to string some laps together and see how it worked. The 01 did everything expected and more. Changing directions mid-corner, on the throttle or on the brakes, was rock-steady. The tremendous sound and surge off the corners will leave any Guzzisti grinning ear-to-ear. Back to back rides against the top-of-the-line Mille Nera and Tuono Racing offered almost identical lap times. I suspect with the suspension dialed, this would be a very tough one to beat around the track.
  For those of you lucky (and patient enough) to have landed one of these, I say leave the slicks on and take it to a local track day to fully enjoy its intended capabilities. SportbikeTrackDays.com is even offering free track days to any new MGS-01 owner. It'll be one of the only places where you can enjoy it, and where "You see officer�" won't be the end of your day.  With a little suspension tweaking, the 01 is simply a tremendous track bike, and one beautiful enough to enjoy in the foyer, or anywhere, as long as it's in view. If you do own one, consider yourself one of the fortunate few. Thanks to all the fine folks at Piaggio/Aprilia/Guzzi for a memorable Guzzi weekend.
-- Todd Eagan.
Getting up to speed on the 01
R1 Hunting.
Lift-off on Sunny Sunday.
Factory racer for the day.
Does the grin show through?
Making room for timed laps.
More Photos HERE.