Author: Jon Urry Posted: 26 Jan 2016
25 years of making your neighbours’ ears bleed…not to mention gathering a few world titles along the way. Bike Social celebrates the 25th birthday of exhaust manufacturer Akrapovic by charting its rise to fame.
When it comes to aftermarket accessories, there are only a very few brands that have genuine worldwide appeal, however exhaust manufacturer Akrapovic is certainly one of them. Found on everything from a road bike to Valentino Rossi’s M1, not to mention an ever-increasing number of four wheelers and even F1 cars, Akrapovic is an international success story. Which isn’t bad going for a company that started out in a small workshop in Slovenia just 25 years ago.
Founded by Igor Akrapovic, initially the company wasn’t even called Akrapovic and had no interest in making exhausts – instead Igor just wanted to go fast. Having demonstrated a fairly relaxed attitude to Slovenia’s road laws (at the age of 15 he ‘borrowed’ his brother’s Kawasaki 500 Mach3 while he was away serving with the army, removed the licence plates and tore up his local roads), Igor turned to the racetrack. Slovenia isn’t known for producing a glut of GP world champions, but Igor was certainly a talent and even made a wild card appearance in a 250GP against Randy Mamola and Graziano Rossi at the age of 19 before a lack of funds put pay to his GP dreams. However, unable to get the racing bug out of his system, and not overly keen on making the most of his training as an electrician, Igor spent his evenings tuning race engines to help fund his own track activities. In 1990 this led to him turning his back on his family’s plastic molding business to become a professional engine tuner.
Setting up shop in Ivancna Gorcia in 1991, like so many entrepreneurs it was a frustration at a lack of something key to his business plan that saw Akrapovic branch out into exhausts. That and the fact a friend owned a pipe bending machine…
“At that time there were a few aftermarket exhausts on the market – Yoshimura, Termignoni, Arrow – but they were not as well developed as you would expect and very quickly
we found much better solutions to gaining power
,” remembers Igor. “Then, in 1993, I bought a dyno from America and started to use that to develop the exhausts, which was a major breakthrough, we could now tune both the motor and the exhaust simultaneously.” And what did he call his new line of exhausts? Not Akrapovic as you may expect, the first products to leave Igor’s small factory were actually branded Skorpion. Until he got a call from Ford…
In the 1990s, Ford had a car called a Scorpio, which was sold all across Europe. Some rather enthusiastic lawyers were soon on the phone to Igor and in 1996 he changed his company’s name from Skorpion to Akrapovic, a move that coincided with the firm’s debut on the world scene.
With his tuning business taking off, and riders such as Johann Schmidt on a Kawasaki ZX-7R in the German Pro-Superbike series demonstrating the speed of his engines, Akrapovic was starting to attract the interest of some of the European-based World Superbike teams.
“Harold Eckl approached me in 1996 and asked to test our products, he was so impressed that the team ran an Akrapovic system in 1997 on the factory ZX-7R of Akira Yanagawa and Simon Crafar in World Superbikes,” explains Igor. And it wasn’t long until success followed with Yanagawa giving the company its first victory on the world scene just a few months later, catapulting Akrapovic into the spotlight of not only the rival WSB teams, but also road bike customers.
By 1999, Akrapovic was not only being used by every one of the Japanese manufacturers in WSB, it was also building full aftermarket titanium exhaust systems for Yamaha and Kawasaki road bikes as the worldwide sportsbike market flourished. Akrapovic had arrived and to feed the growing demand for its exhausts, Igor opened a new 3,000 square meter factory in Ivancna Gorcia. As well as producing road bike systems, this was soon to become a hub of cutting edge race development as the new rules of MotoGP played right into Akrapovic’s hands.
After taking the firm’s first world title in 2000 with Colin Edwards on the Honda SP-1 in World Superbikes, by the early 2000s Akrapovic was now the main played in the four-stroke exhaust world thanks to their skills at tuning a engine’s power delivery using a dyno and their own exhaust systems. You may not think that a simple exhaust would make that much difference to an HRC developed WSB engine, but in racing every fraction of a second counts and during 2000 Akrapovic developed and tested a staggering 54 different specifications of exhaust to give Edwards the kind of throttle connection and engine response he needed to beat the competition. With this kind of expertise, and MotoGP moving to four-stroke for the 2002 season, Akrapovic’s workshops were soon reverberating to the sound of factory MotoGP machinery.
While Honda’s dominant RC211V didn’t run an Akrapovic branded exhaust system, the Kawasaki ZX-RR did and in 2011 both the Factory Yamaha YZF-M1 and Suzuki GSV-R had switched to Akrapovic alongside Aprilia with only the Honda not showing any Akrapovic branding. A trend that continues to this day, although that’s not to say Igor hasn’t been involved behind the scenes…
Now, with over 100 world championships in a variety of disciplines in both on and off road won on machines using their exhausts (a milestone reached when Jorge Lorenzo took the 2015 MotoGP title), Akrapovic is about as far removed from that small workshop in Slovenia as you can imagine. In fact, the firm has recently moved to even bigger premises to keep up with its expansion.
As well as partnering up with nearly all the major two-wheeled manufacturers on aftermarket kit and dominating WSB, Moto3, Moto2, MotoGP and WSS, Akrapovic work with Audi, BMW, Aston Martin, Mini, Porsche, Mercedes and just about anyone else you can mention whose business involves engines and going fast. Not bad going for a company founded by someone with a passion for engines and going fast – often without a crash helmet on! Happy birthday Akrapovic.
Do you have an Akrapovic exhaust? or