Development of the Benelli Tornado

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Development of the Benelli Tornado

Development of the Benelli Tornado
matter for the boss

The three-cylinder super sports car from Benelli was designed in ten months and after three years of development in 2001 it should happily mix with it on racetracks and country roads. An intermediate result.

Eva Breutel


During the most recent test of the prototype, the boss personally lent a hand. Benelli boss Andrea Merloni, 32, experienced racing through his own engagements in the Italian Superbike championship in the early 1990s and through his Superbike World Championship team Gattolone, himself circled his three-cylinder eyeball around the Misano circuit in December.
The pictures secretly taken by an Italian MOTORRAD employee are among the first driving photos of the Benelli Tornado at all. Because so far the traditional brand, which was only reappeared four years ago, has developed its water-cooled three-cylinder under strict secrecy ?? unusual in chatty and rumor-loving Italy. In July 1999 Benelli presented a prototype to the public (MOTORRAD 17/1999), but only as a standing model; The press was denied a look into the development department. The fierce discussions about the angular, futuristic look of the super sports car and its slightly exotic technical solutions such as the water cooler under the seat made Benelli even more reserved.
But the Italians have now revealed a corner of the secret. After the test drives, Benelli boss Merloni was “satisfied with the chassis and engine” and provided information about the planned market launch procedure (see interview on page 41); Benelli chief engineer Riccardo Rosa, 42, who also kept a strict eye on the use of his three-cylinder in Misano, agreed to talk to MOTORRAD about the inner life of the engine.
Rosa, formerly in the racing department of Cagiva and later significantly involved in the development of the four-cylinder engine of the MV Agusta, created the Benelli three-cylinder between September 1997 and June 1998 on the computer; At the same time, the then five-person team developed the chassis, also virtually, in its Milan studio. Merloni’s and Rosa’s basic idea was a race-ready, narrow three-cylinder that had to be easy to build in series. The whole project was based on the superbike regulations, which allow a three-cylinder with a displacement of 900 cc. Developer Rosa thinks this combination has a promising future. »The 750 four-cylinder are practically at the limit when it comes to performance. Sure, you could go up to 17000 rpm, but that only works with pneumatic valve control like in Formula 1. ?? In order to meet the Superbike regulations, the manufacturers who are currently competing with four-cylinder engines in the World Cup – Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha – would have to produce a small series of motorcycles with pneumatic valve control. That costs, and therefore, in Rosa’s opinion, the Japanese will forego this technical finesse for a while.
The 1000 twin-cylinder, on the other hand, the engineer continues, could increase the bore to 102 to 103 millimeters (Ducati currently: 98 millimeters), but the inertia forces set tight limits to the speeds. The short-stroke Benelli (bore x stroke: 85.3 x 52.4 millimeters) allows a maximum speed of 14,000 rpm and, according to the ideas of its builder, should catch up with the competition: Rosa wants around 180 hp for the only 360 millimeter narrow engine in the Elicit racing version. It should be 164 now, while the road version will probably have to be content with just under 140 hp.
Even more unusual than choosing the three-cylinder for a super sports car is the firing order, which Rosa calls the Big Bang, based on the rhythm of the 500cc Grand Prix machines. All three cylinders of the Tornado ignite at a distance of 120 degrees within one crankshaft revolution. There is then no work cycle for the next revolution. “This way the rear wheel has enough time to regain grip on the asphalt if it lost traction due to the torque concentration?” Promises Rosa. This firing order is one of his favorite subjects, as is the hotly debated cooler under the seat in the industry. Rosa is convinced that a radiator squeezed between the front wheel and the manifold of the exhaust system is no longer state-of-the-art: “The fork and the front wheel obstruct the air supply, the manifold gets hot, and that cannot be good for a radiator next to it . ?? On the Benelli, air inlets in the cladding guide the fresh air to the cooler under the seat bench, and two fans in the rear draw off the heated air. The system has worked in the previous practical tests; Benelli is currently designing the intake slits and air ducts of the unusual cooling system even thinner because the engine does not get hot.
The unusual positioning of the cooler has at least aerodynamic advantages. The cladding can be made narrower in the front area than with a conventional radiator arrangement. The engine also moves forward; a tried and tested means for good driving stability and low kickback tendency. Without a driver, there is significantly more weight on the Benelli’s front wheel than on the rear wheel.
But there are still problems with the tornado. The balance shaft, which is supposed to keep the vibrations of the three-cylinder in check, needs Rosa’s attention, as do the nozzles that inject the oil under the pistons for cooling: “We haven’t yet decided where exactly they should be. ?? The ambitious Tornado project could have been even more ambitious if it weren’t for the production costs for series production. Rosa envisioned a motor housing on two levels with a space-saving arrangement of the gear shafts. “Then the engine and with it the whole motorcycle would have become even shorter. For cost reasons, he now has to be content with a parting line. But at least the Tornado got a cassette transmission, which makes it easier to adapt the wheelset to the characteristics of the respective race track: »The engine can be dismantled and reassembled in three hours. ??
The Tornado should of course not be the only Benelli bike. Rosa already has plans for a three-cylinder with 1100 cm3 and can also imagine a two-cylinder with 600 or 730 cm3 derived from the tornado, as well as other types of motorcycles than the super sporty tornado. “The development of the first engine on the computer went so quickly that we really aren’t afraid of evolutions.
Big boss Andrea Merloni, who bought the ailing Italian traditional brand Benelli in 1996 and has been producing smart scooters since then, is therefore likely to be able to do many more laps with changing prototypes. Not too risky, though, because chief engineer Rosa jealously watches over his children.

Benelli Tornado 900: Development – Preliminary Specifications

Engine: water-cooled three-cylinder four-stroke engine, a balance shaft, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, inlet 33 mm, outlet 29 mm, wet sump lubrication, intake manifold injection. Bore x stroke 85.3 x 52.4 mm Displacement 898.4 cm3 Compression 11.8: 1 Nominal output 103 kW (140 PS) at 11500 rpm Max. Torque 93 Nm (9.5 kpm) at 8,800 rpm, anticipated top speed of 280 km / h Power transmission: primary drive via gears, multi-disc oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain Chassis: lattice tube frame / cast aluminum construction, engine supporting, upside-down -Fork, guide tube diameter 46 mm, adjustable spring base, rebound and compression damping, adjustable steering head angle, two-arm swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut, adjustable spring base, rebound and compression damping, double disc brake at the front, four-piston calipers, ø320 mm, disc brake at the rear, double-piston caliper, ø180 mm. Cast wheels 3.50 x17; 6.00 x 17 tires 120/70 ZR 17; 190/50 ZR 17 Chassis data: wheelbase 1395 mm, seat height 810 mm, dry weight 185 kg, steering head angle 65.5 – 67.5 °, caster 89-102 mm

Interview with Benelli boss Andrea Merloni, 32 – »We definitely need 180 hp ??

When will the tornado come? In autumn 2000, in three phases: First 150 SP Racing units that we need for the sport homologation. This version is expected to have a dry clutch release and the racing kit will cost around $ 40,000. Then comes the SP Monoposto for around 28,000 marks, then the Biposto for 23,000 to 25,000 marks. At your scooter factory in Pesaro? That has not yet been determined, but probably not. The scooter assembly lines are not suitable for building a motorcycle. How much has the Tornado development cost you so far? Around 30 million marks, 90 percent of which went into the development of the engine. How many people are working on the project? There are now ten in the Milan studio, plus eight from the Gattolone team who will then carry out practical tests from San Marino. The Gattolone team is not competing in the Superbike World Championship this season. Not until next year, but then on our own motorcycle. Do you really think you’ll be ready by autumn? We have to. The homologation for the Superbike World Championship is due in October. And in 2001 on the racetrack we definitely need 180 hp and a couple of good placements.

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