An exclusive interview with Triumph's Chief Product Officer Steve Sargent (to Herv? Poncharal's left in the above photo).

Triumph will replace Honda as the exclusive engine supplier for the Moto2 World Championship from 2019, using a race-tuned version of the 765cc three-cylinder engine used for the new Street Triple. Crash.net caught up with Steve at Mugello after the press conference which announced the British brand's entry into the intermediate category.

Crash.net:
How did this all come together?

Steve Sargent:
Well, it was about twelve months ago. We have a mutual contact, a guy who used to work for Triumph. He knows people in the race paddock. This guy phoned me up and said, 'Do you realise the Moto2 engine contract is coming up for review? Do you know that Dorna is considering who is going to be in for it?' We said we weren't that aware. He said, 'Are you interested and would you like me to introduce you to the guys at Dorna?' And that's really how it kicked off.

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Crash.net:
Can you tell us a little about the upcoming testing programme that will occur before the 2019 season?

Steve Sargent:
We'll do a lot of that test work on the test rigs at Triumph because you can really put an engine through its paces on an engine test rig. I mean, you can keep it at very, very high revs constantly for hours and hours. You need to do the track testing as well. The track testing will be in there, but the durability work will be done on an engine test rig.

Crash.net:
What characteristics will the three-cylinder engine have compared to the more conventional four-cylinder design?

Steve Sargent:
Well, the thing with a lot of four cylinders is they make their power quite high up in the rev range. You've really got to rev them hard to get the best out of them. With the triple you've got a much broader spread of torque and power throughout the rev range. All that feels like coming out of the corner is - for want of a better phrase - you get a kick up the arse. When you open the throttle coming out of the corner it really launches you down the straight. It's going to be a very different challenge for the teams because they're going to have to cope with how that engine produces its power. In terms of their chassis development, there might be a bit of learning to go on there.

Crash.net:
Are you expecting chassis designs radically different to what Kalex, Suter, KTM and Tech 3 are using now?

Steve Sargent:
Well they won't be able to use the chassis they've got now because the engine mount points are very different, between the two engines [the Honda and Triumph]. They'll get the information. I'm sure there were guys in here today that will go out today, get a tape measure, and start measuring. They'll get the details and then they'll start working on the chassis from there.

Crash.net:
Do you expect the top speed of the triple engine to be much different to what the Honda CBR600 engine has now?

Steve Sargent:
The top speed... We know what the Supersport bike can get up to. Recently Martin Jessop at the North West 200 was doing over 170mph. Now, that's on a stock bike, which will be much heavier than a Moto2 bike. The aerodynamics on a Moto2 bike will be much better. So, I'd expect to see in excess of that quite easily.

Crash.net:
How much lighter do you expect it to be?

Steve Sargent:
I mean, these guys don't release figures about what their bikes weigh so I'd be guessing. But I would imagine that compared to our Supersport bike they are probably ten kilos lighter.

Crash.net:
It seems there is an idea to increase the level of electronics with the Moto2 machines. How will you approach this?

Steve Sargent:
So, this is something that Dorna have been very concerned about. This is why they've introduced us to Magneti Marelli as the ECU partner. The intent of that relationship is that Magneti Marelli will develop the ECU that gives the teams a bit more to play around with fundamentally than what they have today. It's not a stock ECU, it's one that Magneti Marelli are developing specifically for this engine.

Crash.net:
What were the times like with this test bike and Julian Simon?

Steve Sargent:
We're very happy with them. Obviously, we're not going to release any lap times or anything. In the ball park we were very happy with them.

Crash.net:
Beyond the Moto2 world championship, do you hope to see this engine used in other series, or national championships?

Steve Sargent:
I think there has already been some interest in some of the domestic series. If it's going to be going into Moto2, can they develop a parallel series in the UK, Germany or France, or wherever. It's not something that we've finalised yet. It's something that we're still considering.

Crash.net:
You spoke earlier of how you became acquainted with people in Dorna, which eventually led to this deal. Did it take a lot of convincing at boardroom level for all of Triumph to get behind this?

Steve Sargent:
Not really. You know, we had to understand the opportunity and we had to understand the cost from our side. Then, once we got that balance we right, we were happy to take it to the board and say, 'We think this is an opportunity.' It suits where we want to go. It brings us to the attention of a big audience. And a lot of people that follow MotoGP might not be aware of Triumph at this time. So putting the Triumph brand in front of young fans, people who might not have otherwise been attracted to the brand, you know it's fantastic.

Crash.net:
With Danny Kent winning a first British GP title for 37 years in 2015 and Cal Crutchlow ending the British MotoGP victory drought last year, it seems to be a bit of a golden period. Do you feel Triumph's return ties into that?

Steve Sargent:
Yeah, it's brilliant, isn't it? It's great to see British talent at any level. Obviously we're a global brand so we've got representation all over the world. MotoGP goes to all of the countries where we've got dealerships and where we sell bikes. It's a good fit.

Crash.net:
Can you tell us a little about where the engine will be made?

Steve Sargent:
What we do is we supply the engine with kitted parts to Extern Pro, and they assemble the engine in their facility in Spain. The kitted parts, some of those parts come from Thailand and some of those parts come from the UK. You get the crankshaft, which comes from the UK. You've got the cam shafts that come from the UK. Con rods will come from the UK too.

By Peter McLaren and Neil Morrison

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This is definitely going to help expose the Triumph brand to new audiences. Its a great move.
Personally I can't wait to see the 765 triples in GP race mode. Gonna be a treat!

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I can see these new Moto2 bikes being nearly as fast as the Moto GP bikes

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