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Hesketh Sonnet in the driving report

In the footsteps of James Hunt

The short but eventful story of Hesketh is getting its next chapter. After the English entrepreneur Paul Sleeman revived the brand last year with the limited “24”, the modern second work follows with the Hesketh Sonnet.

Hesketh – after Norton, Metisse, Brough Superior and Ariel, another British name that has recently made a name for itself again. Hesketh – in the 1970s a Formula 1 team, then briefly and unsuccessfully as a motorcycle manufacturer, then disappeared from the scene for a quarter of a century. Finally, in 2014, the return under the leadership of the English entrepreneur Paul Sleeman with the "24", a V-twin street fighter that recalls the origins of the brand in Formula 1 in the days of James Hunt. All 24 copies of the limited series have found a buyer for around 40,000 euros. With the Hesketh Sonnet, which costs almost 30,000 euros, Sleeman is now presenting the somewhat less exclusive Cafe Racer successor model.

Hesketh Sonnet in the driving report

In the footsteps of James Hunt

Two gears of the new Rivera transmission are superfluous

The basic Hesketh recipe of Anglo-American cooperation has remained: US muscle in the form of a giant S.&S-V-Twins, combined with British handling, i.e. sporty chassis geometry and fine attachments. The frame and geometry are identical to that of the 24. In order to achieve the lower price, Sleeman and his team reached a little further down, but still high up on the shelf. Instead of Beringer pliers, radially attached Brembo M50 monoblocks decelerate, instead of Ohlins components, suspension forks and shock absorbers from the British chassis specialist K-Tech are used in the Hesketh Sonnet. There is a second look at the engine. The not exactly weak-chested 117 cui twin of the 24 becomes a 124 cubic inch monster thanks to more bore (111 mm instead of 104) with the same stroke (111 mm). In bare performance data that means: 143 HP instead of 124 and a hefty 210 Nm maximum torque instead of 196. This also means that at least two gears of the new Rivera transmission are completely superfluous.

Stretched, sporty, rather uncomfortable sitting position

The Hesketh Sonnet’s motor has pressure at really any speed, although the final transmission of the new toothed belt drive (instead of a chain) is a few teeth too long. Along with the stylistic change from street fighter to cafe racer comes a new ergonomics. Low for – well – older people (who should make up the majority of the target group), the handlebars are very low behind the long, hand-ironed aluminum tank, which not only houses 13 liters of fuel but also the oil reservoir for the dry sump lubrication. Together with the footrests that are far back and the wide tank-seat combination, this results in a stretched, sporty, rather uncomfortable sitting position. But forget everything when the "X-Wedge" baptized Bollermann can run free. Although the S&S-men consciously forego a balance shaft in their first self-constructed engine with three camshafts below, it runs quite cultivated for an air-cooled American Big Twin. And thanks to its enormous torque, it cracks the magic tone (100 miles) in no time at all without having to leave the lower half of the speed, around 3,000 tours.

Hesketh Sonnet is not just a dragster

But the Hesketh Sonnet is not a pure dragster, it also looks very neat in winding curves. The fully adjustable KTR-2 fork on the front is particularly sensitive, generating a lot of feedback and trust in an inclined position. It is no wonder that the products from the supplier K-Tech, which is the first to serve a manufacturer directly with the Hesketh, dominate the British Superbike Championship. At the rear, however, one wishes that the non-adjustable gas pressure shock absorbers could increase the preload in order to prevent the noticeable buckling of the dry 235 kilo machine under load. But not a big drama, because thanks to the long wheelbase and not too high center of gravity, the Sonnet runs nice and quiet. Your geometry feels really good. It’s also good that Sleeman didn’t skimp on the wonderful, feather-light BST carbon wheels. They not only look expensive, but also have a very positive effect on the handling of the machine thanks to their lower gyroscopic forces and less unsprung mass. The bottom line is that Sleeman and his Hesketh-R&D-Team has created a uniquely rough, invigorating combination of American muscle bike performance and British handling and flair with the Sonnet. Nobody else is currently offering this in this form. 100 pieces are to be built.

Technical data Hesketh Sonnet

Hesketh Sonnet


Air / oil-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 56.25 degree V engine, three camshafts below, two valves per cylinder, bumpers, rocker arms, dry sump lubrication, injection, 1 x 52.4 mm, hydraulically operated multi-disc oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain.

Boron x stroke 111.76 x 111.76 mm
Displacement 2.163 cc
Compression ratio 9.75: 1
rated capacity 106.6 kW (143 hp) at 6,000 rpm
Max. Torque 210 Nm at 3,000 rpm

landing gear

Double loop frame made of steel, upside-down fork, Ø 50 mm, adjustable spring base, rebound and compression damping, two-arm swing arm made of steel, two spring struts, directly articulated, no adjustment option, double disc brake at the front, Ø 320 mm, four-piston fixed calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 250 mm, four-piston fixed caliper.

Carbon rims 3.50 x 17; 6.00 x 17
tires 120/70 ZR 17; 190/55 ZR 17

Dimensions + weight

Wheelbase 1550 mm, steering head angle 65 degrees, caster 96 mm, suspension travel front / rear n / a, seat height 760 mm, dry weight 235 kg, tank capacity 13 liters.


£ 25,000 (around 29,000 euros)

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