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Old December 6th, 2022, 12:55 PM   #1
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[] - KTM RC 990 Prototype

KTM continues to test its next sport-oriented streetbike. With the RC8 trackbike selling out in minutes, there is obviously interest in a road-going KTM sportbike.

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KTMís latest sportbike, which we think will be called RC 990 has been spotted testing, with passenger accommodations being finalized here. (S. Baldauf/SB-Medien/)Ever since the demise of the KTM RC8 V-twin in 2015, the Austrian brand has been without a full-faired sportbike to capitalize on its ever-growing MotoGP successóbut thatís set to change as the highly anticipated RC 990 parallel-twin project is moving quickly toward production.

If KTM had any doubt as to the level of interest in a faired sportbike, the incredible response to the track-only RC 8C will have dispelled it. The first limited-edition run of 100 examples sold out in four and a half minutes in 2021, and the 2023-spec model smashed that record. Even with double the production run of the original version, all 200 2023 RC 8Cs were spoken for in little over two and a half minutes when the order books opened last month.

Despite being one of the few companies to have claimed race wins in Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP, and to be currently active in all three championship tiers, the firm has been circumspect about offering customer sportbikes. The firmís boss, Stefan Pierer, has previously been clear about his belief that the latest generation of 200-plus-hp superbikes are too much motorcycle for the average rider to use on the street, and even much-publicized plans to offer an exclusive, track-only, customer version of the RC16 MotoGP bike appear to have dropped from the firmís radar in recent years. Instead, the companyís sportbike range is made up of the single-cylinder RC 125 and RC 390 models, along with the now-sold-out RC 8C track machine. And since the single-cylinder, roadgoing RC models arenít available in the US, thereís no way for fans of KTMís circuit racing activities to buy a slice of the action on this side of the Atlantic.

Enter the planned RC 990. The name is speculative and mirrors widespread rumors that KTM is planning to give the LC8c parallel-twin engine, currently offered in 799cc (ď790?) and 889cc (Ē890?) forms, another capacity hike in the near future. But the bike itself is very much real, as can be seen in these pictures.

This view shows the revised air intakes and headlight that differ from other KTM models like the RC 8C. (S. Baldauf/SB-Medien/)Although the RC 990 has been spied before, the latest shots show that the project has developed considerably since our last glimpse. Originally, the prototypes used MotoGP-style bodywork borrowed directly from the RC 8C trackbike, with a headlight shoehorned into the nose air intake. The latest prototype still has a single, projector-style headlight, but it now sits more happily in a horizontally split nose fairing, flanked by air intakes that appear to feed the airbox via a duct running between the fork legs and through the headstock area. Lower down, the side fairings are reworked, with tall, single air outlets instead of two. Those ducts release heat from a tall, slim radiator, which is a notable departure from spied prototypes of the next-generation 990 Duke, which shares many of its parts with the RC 990 but features a wider, shorter radiator.

The bikeís frame is new and appears similar to the design spotted on prototype 990 Dukes, with a pair of chunky main tubes running up over the engine toward a trellis-style front section, braced with pressed-steel sections. KTM is sticking to its tried-and-tested steel-tube chassis, with no indication that it will follow the herd with a shift to aluminum. The swingarm on earlier RC 990 prototypes was externally braced, like most of KTMís current models, but the latest version has a neater looking design, made from aluminum castings, that again mirror the design seen on 990 Duke prototypes. As on earlier RC 990 prototypes, and the next-gen Dukes being tested alongside them, the suspension is WP Apex kit at both ends, while Brembo supplies the radial-mount brakes.

The notable shift toward production from the latest prototype is illustrated by the nature of the test itís undergoing. Ridden two-up, the bike is being used to try out different ergonomic solutions for the rider and passenger, as witnessed by the oversized footpeg brackets, each perforated with dozens of holes to allow the pegs to be quickly unbolted and moved to a new location. Once an ideal setup is found, the dimensions will be used to design the final footpeg hangers. Another element that has yet to be finalized is the rear bodywork, missing on this prototype. That means itís easy to tweak the height and angle of the rider and passenger seats by adjusting or swapping their brackets for different ones. Again, once the best solution is found, the bodywork and final seat supports can be developed to suit.

The latest prototype appears to have production-spec engine covers. On earlier prototypes, the clutch and transmission covers were billet-alloy pieces, CNC-machined to suit, but these have been replaced with more final-looking black-finished items. While the engine itself is hidden by bodywork, itís known to be a development of the compact LC8c parallel twin. On 990 Duke prototypesówhere itís more clearly visibleóitís been possible to see that the cases themselves have been sand-cast prototype parts, appearing to have a taller cylinder deck and additional strengthening braces, hinting at a longer stroke to achieve more capacity and torque.

The exhaust system, with its catalytic converter slung under the engine alongside the oil pan, and a rectangular-section muffler on the right-hand side, is identical to the design seen on prototype 990 Dukes, but on these new RC 990 prototype images, it looks more complete, gaining production-style pressed alloy heat shields for the catalytic converter and the muffler. It all indicates a bike thatís not too far from being showroom ready. Having said that, KTM is under no pressure to introduce the RC 990. Itís not replacing an existing model and thereís no production deadline being enforced by external factors like emissions law changes. Weíve previously seen KTM take years to test new machinesóeven when they appear visually finishedóbefore they reach dealers. KTMís enthusiasm for the RC 990 is, however, sure to be buoyed by the success of the RC 8C and should the companyís MotoGP project continue on its upward trajectory during 2023, the demand for a full-faired streetbike can only grow.
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