Akrapovic’s 100 World Champions

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TO BE ON TOP

Sound. The airwaves that rumble in your ears and churn in the pit of your stomach, awakening primal emotions. Inspiring. Pleasurable. Exciting. Sound seems to have been placed into the cradle of Igor Akrapovic, who sees its waves as a continuous challenge. The deeply pleasing sound.

The history of the Akrapovic company began when Igor Akrapovic started using his technical genius to create a daring vision of a dominating exhaust system. The perfectionist Igor tested his technological solutions by himself as a rider at numerous motorcycle races, noticing the exhaust system as the weakest link in a race-ready motorbike. He first focused on improving, then upgrading, and finally producing his own technical solutions, which by far exceeded any existing exhausts. He offered superior technical characteristics in combination with quality materials, an enviable level of detail and advanced design for an increasingly demanding market.

THE FIRST MILESTONE AND WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

The first milestone in the company’s racing history occurred in 2000. Colin Edwards (Honda) passed an important and eagerly-awaited landmark in Akrapovic’s history – the American became the Superbike World Champion. The first world championship title for Akrapovic! A confirmation of previous successes and a proof of quality. And that was just the beginning. What followed was a victory at the 8 hours of Suzuka in 2001, grabbed by Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards on their Honda, while Andrew Pitt became the surprise of the season by clinching the Supersport World Championship title on his Kawasaki. This was the second title in a row for Akrapovic in this class, following the 2000 overall win by Jörg Teuchert on Yamaha.

WORLD CHAMPIONS IN OFF-ROADING AS WELL

Akrapovic began collecting successes in other road racing categories, such as the World Endurance Championship. Yamaha’s YART team, which finished second in 2006 and 2008 and third in 2005, 2007 and 2010, was consistently the fastest in the 2009 season with their new Yamaha YZF-R1, equipped with an Akrapovic exhaust system. However, they were not the first – that honour went to Team Suzuki Phase One, which took the endurance crown in 2003, the first title in the class for Akrapovic. 2003 was also the year when the legendary Joel Smets (KTM) became the first off-road world champion with an Akrapovic exhaust in the 650 cc class. This success was followed next year by the overall win in MX2 by Ben Townley (KTM). The off-road crown finally landed in Akrapovic’s hands in 2007, when Steve Ramon finished ahead of the remainder of the MX1 pack on his Suzuki. A year later Chad Reed and his Yamaha won the first Supercross title for the Slovenian company across the pond. Another challenge came in the guise of the most demanding off-road race in the world: the Dakar Rally, the race where rider and machine need to prove their mettle. Akrapovic’s hero was Marc Coma (KTM), who won this gruelling test five times in the last ten years.

THE SUCCESSES KEEP ON COMING

2012 was one of the most successful years for the Ivancna Gorica company in motorbike racing as it saw a total of thirteen world champions riding motorbikes with exhaust systems from the Dolenjska region: nine in off-road and four in road racing. This was also the year of the Akrapovic hat-trick, as Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) took the crown in MotoGP, Marc Marquez (Suter) in Moto2 and Sandro Cortese (KTM) in Moto3, giving the Slovenian company the titles in all three top classes of road motorcycle racing. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) meanwhile provided the cherry on top by coming ahead of the pack in WorldSBK. Akrapovic thus conquered the highest accolade: a world championship title in the premiere road racing class, the MotoGP, and started a new era of cooperation with the Yamaha factory team. The title was a confirmation of successful cooperation going back to the Superbike World Championship and continued by successes in the IDM and BSB categories. 2015 went down in Akrapovic’s history as the year when Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) won the jubilee 100th world championship title for the Slovenian company.

WORLD CHAMPIONS IN CAR RACING

n addition to motorcycle racing, Akrapovic began to notch up victories on four wheels as well, after entering the field in 2008. Fässler, Lotterer and Tréluyer, driving for the Audi Sport Team Joest, became world endurance champions in 2012, giving Akrapovic its first world championship title in car competitions and opening a whole new chapter in the book of world championship titles for the company. It seems as if Igor Akrapovic had succeeded, almost mythically, to carry over part of his passion and add something more to his exhausts, allowing the champions to reach Mt. Olympus, to win races and to grab world championship titles. Only a dedication to work, passion and the continuous search for technological perfection can give birth to heroes. But even that’s not enough if you don’t have the best machines, gear, equipment and the people who make them with passion and whom you can trust unconditionally.

Akrapovic’s 100 world champions and important racing milestones:

Motorcycles racing achievements
Car racing achievements

Interview with Alojz “Slavko” Trstenjak, Head of Racing R&D department at Akrapovic.

SMALL STEPS WILL CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN

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The Akrapovic brand has won its 100th world champion title. A lion’s share of credit goes to Alojz “Slavko” Trstenjak, the head and heart of the company’s Racing R&D department.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT REACHING THIS VENERABLE MILESTONE?

If you have the same attitude to work that we do, you don’t even think about the 100th world championship title. We certainly didn’t. You simply put one foot in front of the other, because if you want to conquer a high mountain, you have to take small steps to reliably make it to the top. You can’t just jump all the way to the top. Looking back now, it took us ten long years before we actually won our first world championship title.

BUT VICTORIES WERE THERE LONG BEFORE THAT. AS WERE MAJOR RESULTS.

Great successes came before, that’s true. We dominated the German Championships back in 1994 or 1995. When the German motorcycle magazine MO tested all the superbikes at the end of that season, they discovered that everybody but Suzuki was using an Akrapovic exhaust system. Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Kawasaki all used our exhausts. So our name quickly spread and by 1999 all the factory teams with the exception of Ducati used our exhaust systems. That means: Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia. But only in 2000 did our labour begin to bear real fruit. Colin Edwards became the Superbike World Champion on a Honda and Jörg Teuchert won the overall title in the Supersport 600 category. Soon after Joel Smets gave us our first Motocross World Championship title and, unless I’m mistaken, in 2001 Fabrizio Meoni was the first motorbike rider with an Akrapovic to win the Paris–Dakar rally. The world championship floodgates had been opened.

IS THE CURRENT PINNACLE OF YOUR RACING ENDEAVOURS YOUR ALMOST COMPLETE DOMINANCE IN MOTOGP?

We are the only exhaust system manufacturer so far to have cooperated with all motorbike manufacturers in MotoGP, the premiere class of motorcycle road racing. Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki, Aprilia and Kawasaki are, or have been, our partners. We have also worked with brands probably less known in comparison to the manufacturers like Kalex, Suter, Mahindra, Ilmor, KR and others. However, not many people know that we manufactured the exhausts for Honda’s racing department when it switched to four-stroke engines in MotoGP. Our partnership package at that time wasn’t correctly set up, leading to teams using our exhausts but with logos from other manufacturers, of course, paid dearly for such advertising.

WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THE FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE, WON BY COLIN EDWARDS IN SUPERBIKE?

The start of our cooperation with Honda was a huge milestone. But it wasn’t our usual deal. Honda already had its own ideas and plans. They sent us design schematics on large canvases, and we had to produce an exhaust based on those. It often happened that we didn’t even have the motorbike in the house. Things were different back then, as was our approach to exhaust manufacturing. Computer CAD models weren’t used in design and manufacturing back then, which required additional work and knowledge on our side. The production of tools took a lot longer as well, because Japan is eight hours ahead of Slovenia and sometimes we had to exchange information three or four times a day. But that’s what made us stronger. Those were the challenges that helped us mature. In those two and a half years we made a total of 44 changes to the exhaust system of the racing Honda SP-2. That championship title was hard won by us as well.

WERE THERE ANY OTHER VICTORIES OR TITLES THAT REQUIRED SUCH HARD WORK?

There were many issues when four-stroke engines were introduced to MotoGP, because the manufacturers themselves lacked the necessary experience. All they wanted back then was an exhaust that could provide as much power as possible. Our demonstrations about linear power delivery and the power available in a useful range were brushed aside as it was believed that these issues could somehow be solved by engine electronics. But this has proven not to be the case, and the untamed, too powerful and too brutal bikes of that time, courtesy of an explosive power delivery, caused numerous falls and injuries to the riders.

HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES 15 YEARS AGO AND HOW DO YOU DO SO TODAY? WAS THE JOY MORE GENUINE AND INTENSE BACK THEN?

Not at all. I would actually say it’s precisely the opposite. I think that we’re even more excited to win a title now than we were in the past. I think that back then we didn’t really grasp the meaning of it. The first title we got actually came as a bit of a surprise. We were excited, sure, but we didn’t really know what it meant. All these years later it has become clear that we are even more dominant in certain classes than we were back then and it seems to me that we can appreciate world championship titles more.

HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO WIN THE TRUST OF BRANDS LIKE HONDA, YAMAHA AND MANY OTHERS? IS IT A VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE TO WORK WITH THE JAPANESE?

A professional attitude towards everyone is what matters the most. You always have to take their opinions and wishes into account, but also put in the maximum effort for every product. You have to be aware that all of them are trying to keep their motorbike and technical details hidden from the competition. We have always aimed to provide the best technical service together with complete discretion. We never talked about the technical characteristics of a motorbike with the competition. If I look at where we stand and take into consideration the approaching entry of KTM into the MotoGP, we now cooperate with five out of six brands: Ducati, Yamaha, Aprilia, Suzuki and KTM. They seem to need and trust us.

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