Two-stroke engines are gone from MotoGP and mostly faded from motocross competition, but enduro riders are keeping the ring-ding-ding alive—and now, we hear that after years of hoping, waiting and wishing, we may finally see a modern Japanese two-stroke 300.
Except, it’s not exactly Japanese, and we’re not sure it’s ever going into a Japanese bike.
The engine in question is being developed by Motori Minarelli. You don’t hear that name very often in Canada; the Italian manufacturer builds engines and other components for Fantic (also based in Italy). Both Fantic and Motori Minnarelli have strong ties to Yamaha Motor Europe … which explains how and why they’ve got their hands on a YZ250 two-stroke engine and have built it into a fuel-injected 300 single and electric start replacing the kicker. This project was on display at EICMA in 2021, and again this past month. It’s confirmed for production in coming months.
Motori Minnarelli will build this engine and Fantic plans to use it in the new XE300 2T enduro. That machine is supposed to arrive in showrooms in July of 2023. At least, it will arrive in Euro showrooms then; Fantic does import motorcycles to Canada, but there’s no guarantee this new two-smoker will arrive here at the same time as Europe.
The new engine is Euro5-legal, though, so it should have no problem meeting Canadian emissions requirements.
Skunk works project?
Taking a step back, we must ask: Is Fantic now turning into Yamaha’s skunk works division? Just as Honda has Mugen to test future technology, is Fantic going to develop off-road motorcycles for Yamaha, exploring ideas without the stink of failure sticking to the Japanese brand? Is the new Fantic 300 a predecessor to a Yamaha 300 that can finally challenge the Euro enduro machines?
Or, is Fantic just a company full of enthusiasts who are willing to develop Yamaha’s designs past the Japanese company’s self-imposed limits, sort of like Kawasaki’s arrangement with Bimota?
It’s not like Yamaha is going to confirm anything like this, but it’s also worth noting that even as Yamaha pulled its factory team out of the Dakar Rally last year, tiny Fantic has re-upped its own factory team for 2023 and even added a second rider. Hmmmmm. You’re telling us that Yamaha Motor Europe couldn’t afford to keep a factory racing program going, but tiny Fantic can, and is growing it? Either something fishy is going on here, or Fantic is much more enthusiastic about performance (or less concerned with the budget?) than its counterparts at Yamaha.