Sunday, March 11, 2012

Akrapovič: 20 years of power and noise

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Igor Akrapovič (above, left), the man who established Akrapovič back in 1990. And (above, right) the Akrapovič R&D team today, outside the company's factory in Slovenia. Below: An exhibition of various racebikes fitted with Akrapovič exhaust systems, at the Technical Museum of Slovenia, in Bistra
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Readers of the German motorcycle magazine, Motorrad, recently voted Akrapovič as ‘best brand’ in the motorcycle exhaust systems category. Akrapovič (pronounced ‘Ack-rap'-o-vich’) was set up in Slovenia in 1990 by Igor Akrapovič, an ex-racer himself and someone who had spent more than a decade racing in motorcycle F1 and World Superbikes series. Igor says that back then, high-quality performance exhaust systems for motorcycles simply weren’t available, which is why he decided to set up a company that would manufacture high-performance exhaust systems for bikes.

Made under the ‘Skorpion’ brand back then, the exhausts established new concepts in construction, tube diameters and materials. Igor used high-quality stainless steel for the exhausts made by his company, and also started using more exotic materials like titanium and carbonfibre. By early- to mid-1990s, manufacturers like Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati and Honda had already started using Skorpion/Akrapovič exhaust systems on their racing bikes in the Pro Superbike Championship series.

In 1997, the company changed the name of its exhaust systems from Skorpion to Akrapovič and after its successes in Pro Superbike, made a move in World Superbikes. They also started working on exhaust systems for off-road bikes, working with manufacturers like KTM and Husqvarna. By 1999, all Japanese teams were using Akrapovič systems on their WSBK machines and by 2002, the company had also moved into the MotoGP class. In 2011, Akrapovič celebrated their 20th Anniversary and sponsored an exhibition featuring some of their key championship winning race bikes at the Technical Museum of Slovenia, in Bistra.

‘Designing an exhaust system is mainly determined by four interlaced and heavily interconnected requirements. The starting point is the available space for creating a racing exhaust system. This is likely the most important piece of data that governs all subsequent developments,’ says Slavko Aljoz Trstenjak, Head of Akrapovič’s Racing Service department. ‘Then there is the loudness level, within which we must create the best exhaust possible. Even the best racers can do nothing, if they cannot transfer power to the tarmac, making linear distribution of power of paramount importance. And, finally, the system must be durable and lightweight, which entails the best possible compromise between total mass, capabilities, materials and design solutions,’ he explains.

‘After the first prototypes are made, test results determine follow-up development. Usually, between 400 and 600 measurements are made on the test desk, utilizing a special chamber for measuring power, torque and loudness, before the prototype is finally okayed and then followed by creating a master sample. Teams also continuously improve their racing bikes, requiring adjustments to exhausts. The interim periods are used for testing new materials and possible alternative future solutions,’ says Slavko.

Today, Akrapovič exhaust systems are some of the finest high-performance systems available in the market and the results they deliver have often been validated in dozens of independent tests carried out by various motorcycle magazines worldwide. ‘I remember I was using Akrapovič exhaust systems in 2001, when I was racing at 8 Hours of Suzuka with Honda. The result was fine – 2nd place. Well, I can’t tell you much from a technical point of view, but my impression is that Akrapovič exhausts contribute to better engine performance and power delivery. The engine runs smooth and provides me a great deal of fun. Their sound is fantastic and they look great,’ says ex-MotoGP racer, Alex Barros. And, indeed, what more can you ask of a motorcycle exhaust system.

Over the last few years, racers like Jorge Lorenzo, Shane Byrne, Max Biaggi, Colin Edwards, Shinya Nakano and Alvaro Bautista have raced bikes fitted with Akrapovič exhaust systems. Off-road riders like Fabrizio Meoni, James Stewart, Antonio Cairoli and Marc Coma have also used Akrapovič systems
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