Is there such a thing as an Alien? The provenance of the term is uncertain, though most people believe that it was coined by Colin Edwards in 2009, after he kept finishing in fifth place behind Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa.
Whatever he tried, he could not stay with them. “They are riding out of this world,” he said.
The term has stuck. Since then, the term Alien has been applied to the top four riders, the only difference being that Marc Márquez has been swapped for Casey Stoner now that the Australian has retired.
The reality is that since Jorge Lorenzo entered the class until the start of the 2016 season, the five MotoGP Aliens had accounted for all but two of the 143 MotoGP races held.
The two non-Alien wins were by Andrea Dovizioso (Donington 2009) and Ben Spies (Assen 2011). Both of those races came in unusual conditions. The five Aliens dominated the podiums throughout that period as well.
2016 looks like becoming the year the Alien died. Or perhaps more realistically (and less dramatically) the year we had to readjust the concept of a MotoGP Alien. The season was going very much to plan up until Assen, when Jack Miller won an interrupted race in the driving rain.
Then in Austria, Andrea Iannone finally did what everyone has been waiting for, won a race with a Ducati. Cal Crutchlow used a drying surface to his advantage to win at Brno, and then Maverick Viñales won at a dry but cold Silverstone. Questions were asked whether Maverick Viñales was the next Alien.
The current state of the World Superbike Championship rules entirely encourage the adoption once again of “homologation specials” – production bikes whose sole purpose is to be used on the race track.
While none of the manufacturers have adopted a radical approach with their homologation special designs, this year’s INTERMOT show has already seen several such machines introduced, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R, and the Honda CBR1000RR SP2.
For Honda, the differences between the SP and SP2 aren’t terribly radical, but they are more purposeful.
The 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2 does come with several visual cues that are different from the CBR1000RR SP model: carbon insert panels, gold striping on the tri-color paint scheme, and the more obvious Marchesini wheels.
The real differences though are under the hood, and in the two race kits that will be available from Honda.