Strange how some days just don’t turn out as expected. There I was cutting the lawn when I received a phone call recruiting yours truly to test the Ghezzi and Brian Folgore that same day. The venue was to be one of my local tracks, the Cadwell Park full circuit so I duly “volunteered” for the task. Later that morning there I was at Cadwell Park when Graham Barker of the UK importer Motori Di Marino rolled into the paddock, behind his car was a trailer containing not one but two of these superb looking machines, oh deep joy. Graham had seen fit to bring standard Supertwin resplendent in electric blue and the all signing all dancing Folgore in its unassuming, all-black adornment.
The photographer was keen to get a few static shots out of the way while the light was good and this became an ideal opportunity to have a good look around these sleek and quite unique looking machines. Little details stand out like the bright red finish of the frame and the lovingly crafted gear and rear brake levers. Confidence inspiring touches like the excellent Paioli upside down forks and lightweight OZ wheels (fitted to the Folgore only) got the juices flowing. All this fancy kit added to the expectation of one very special machine especially when the 1100cc engine was started, bringing to the fore a pair of extremely well voiced Italian tenors through the Tubi made, high level exhaust system. I did not know which bike I would be riding so I had not yet dressed but eventually the decision was made to ride the Folgore so off I went to kit up accordingly.
Sitting in the warm up area and gently blipping the throttle causes the whole bike to jerk disconcertingly to the right, this is caused by the torque reaction of the transverse engine but feels like some joker has just walked past and pushed the bike away from you, such is the moving mass of the reciprocal components. This took a little getting used to and would be a niggling problem at traffic lights should you sit there with just the left leg holding it all up. Of course, there is absolutely no need to sit and blip the throttle it is just a thing us nervous racer types do when we want people to think we know what we are doing.
The cylinders jutting out from each side make the G&B feel cumbersome and bulky with the dead weight of the bike also appearing to be quite high, how could this be labelled as a sports machine I wondered. I was not too sure about those 420mm perimeter brakes either, my take on it was that they would greatly increase the gyroscopic effect and reduce turn in rate, not helped by those dirty great calipers hanging off the back of the fork bottoms on stalk like brackets. Throwing this baby around the undulations and tight turns that lay ahead was not an experience I was particularly looking forward to. This first encounter was made a thousand times worse as the whole of the paddock had turned out, at the top of the notorious “Mountain”, to watch the “Fast group” do their stuff.
One encouraging point though, before we actually started, was the riding position, the bars and indeed all of the controls fell neatly to hand (and feet) giving me the impression that this was a tailor made machine prepared especially for me, although it certainly was not.
The paddock gate opens and it is time for the G&B and I to get properly acquainted, steady at first through the tricky woodlands section and out onto the bottom straight via the off camber Barn corner, up through the box and it quickly becomes apparent that the clutch is required for all changes not just down. The five-speed gearbox is very stiff and coupled to the lazy revving nature of the engine means you have to get it spot on or risk missing a gear. This is at its very worst when shifting down into a corner and should you miss a selection then it is far easier to either go back up the box or simply coast around the corner rather than risk letting the clutch out into unknown territory. That very same mass that makes the bike jump with every blip also has the ability to completely lock the rear wheel should the engine revs not match the road speed exactly. Apparently, it can take upwards of 15,000 miles to run in the gearbox so do not expect to get it right on the first few dates with this baby.
Once on the move the pre conceptions formed in the paddock and warm up area disappeared completely, the G&B is agile and light to the touch. The 90-degree inclination of the two cylinders was not in any way prohibitive and to be fair I never noticed them once out on the track, I was having far too much fun. From the outset, I was able to lap the twisty and demanding Cadwell full circuit very fast indeed with the bike exuding confidence in my racetrack antics. The brakes are superb and perform the job of hauling up the Big V twin without fuss or an increase in heart rate.
At first there was a strange feeling which turned out to be the pulse of the engine, which is strong enough on the over run to be transmitted back through the discs making it appear that a disc is warped or some other similar fault. Great blame for this is placed upon the engine being used as a stressed member for the single beam, steel frame. This design is worth the slight negative effect however, without a frame to worry about the engine can be placed exactly where it needs to be. Once this unusual sensation was adjusted to the whole stopping experience was very much like any other top of the range Superbike. There was some noticeable brake fade as the session wore on and this is probably due to the lack of heat dispersion from the disc to the wheel outer. On conventional braking set ups the disc is normally bolted to a big aluminium spider which can then dissipate the energy into both the surrounding air and the metal of the wheel hub. No doubt having a play around with different pad types will soon help if not totally cure this.
Through the quick right then left of the “Gooseneck” and the previously formed fears concerning the large discs soon evaporated from my memory, the G&B changes direction very fast indeed, with no lethargy from either the front or the rear end. In fact turning with the brakes on actually made the bike turn even faster still, rather than the usual effect of making the bike sit up and run wide, just trail a little front brake into the turn and down she goes. It feels like the steering suddenly becomes power assisted when the brakes are on. A few laps into the session was all it took to realise that the engine torque can be of assistance when cornering, a quick blip of the throttle, as the turn-in is initiated for a right-hander, gets the G&B falling like a Brazilian striker. Likewise, for left-handers, saving that last release of the clutch until the same point has the same effect. Once actually in a turn, it is a good idea to maintain a smooth, positive throttle setting as that mass can really screw things up should you be too erratic with the volume control.
Another great aid to handling has been the choice a 160 tyre for the rear, the decision was probably dictated by the presence of the shaft drive but it is a good one non the less. There really is no need for anything wider than that for the 90+ horses on tap and as a bonus there is a massive saving in rolling friction. The only disadvantage that might occur is as the motorcycle market moves on, hopefully progressively, the availability of sticky rubber for the smaller sizes may be a problem. Most 600’s these days wear 180/55 section rubber.
The numbers contained within the spec sheet already suggest a sporty stance but you could never guess it could be as “race ready” as it actually is. The wheelbase, at 1405mm, is spot on the required length and the head angle is of MotoGP proportions at 23degrees. This is one sorted and perfectly balanced machine that utilises old-fashioned chassis design allied to up to date peripherals, good engine positioning and geometry to make up for the lack of outright horsepower. The bouncy bits at either end of the B&G are all singing, all dancing jobbies that feature fully adjustable everything, they felt pretty good on the track so much so that throughout the test I felt no desire to fiddle with either end.
The rear brake, with its 240mm wavy disc and a ridiculously over capable four pot caliper, is largely redundant thanks to the copious engine braking on tap although there was one moment when I was glad it was present at roll call. In the first session the pressure of the Dunlop D207’s was left at the correct setting for the road, for the track, it is advisable to let a good 8psi out of each end or else they will never develop the heat required to grip at racetrack sort of speeds. This was completely unbeknown to me and on the second lap of the circuit I entered the super fast “Chris” curve (no relation) and the rear slid out, albeit quite controllably. I continued to do this every lap getting faster and faster until several laps later, the rear stepped out and refused to return. There is, perhaps, a shade too much suspension travel for really hard track use? I know only too well that to shut the throttle would be the premature end of a very nice day so I applied a just a tad of rear brake, the G&B obediently returned to the shape it was designed to be in and away we went.
The track quickly revealed an easily remedied fault in the side stand mount, around left-handers it is sufficiently prominent to completely lift the front wheel off the track!
The bulk of the engine sits quite high in the scheme of things and this results in some pretty excessive angles of lean when compared to other machines for any given corner speed. I did this on several occasions before I thought it wise to find the correct body position ensuring that the knee touches well before the metal of the bracket actually does. Once this approach was applied, it ceased to be a problem, and in reality, it probably would never happen on the road, track day exponents can easily remove the offending appendage and have a paddock stand instead. As an aside, I cannot imagine how one might remove the rear wheel when on a paddock stand, as the bobbins are actually the ends of the spindle!
For the second session I decided to relax and not worry about the gears, I would just go down one gear for a corner and not let the engine rev up. This immediately resulted in quite an increase in pace as the pulsating V-twin has the ability to pull from almost any point in its rev range. This ability is enhanced by the flawless mapping provided by the Weber Marelli digital fuel injection, never did the injection system give up the ghost and leave me in a hole with the need to change down a gear just to get the engine singing its song again. The only gear I made the effort to get correct was second for the “Mountain” climb as this ensured the big wheelies, and hence credibility with the vultures gathered at this most spectacular of viewing points.
The engine is a typical embodiment of the whole Italian ethos in as much as it does exactly what every other bike manages to achieve but without all the fuss and in a much more relaxed manner. There is no power worth having above eight and a half thou, the engine tells you this quite clearly with a light tapping noise from the top end, allowing you to completely neglect the tacho readout and enjoy the ride. The exhaust note whilst on board is superb so it must be simply awesome to any bystanders. Exiting corners and the note slowly, but surely, thumps it way up the limited scale of its most musical voice, it all seems very lethargic and off the pace, only a glance at the speedo will confirm the three figures it achieves in such a short time.
Where the G&B scores most points, apart from the stunning looks, is in the overall balance when on the move, it is a complete and finished package. The “low tech” engine unit carries on throbbing away but without the massive power output that would prevent the superb chassis from getting on with its job of keeping the wheels inline from turn in to apex and then powering out to the exit. The corner speed can be maintained at extremely high levels and the engine left anywhere within the rev range, preferably low down, and the results will always be good. Unlike the typical “plastic rocket” the G&B is not a machine to be bought and then dismissed the following season for the next model, only by building up a rapport will you get the most from it. It would also be a great shame to let some one else get the benefit of that gear box once run in 15K further down the road.