There was a time when Malaysia had hopes and dreams of becoming a major player in the automotive world. Big plans were made, partnerships were formed, but, as in all dreams, some saw a measure of success, while other fell by the wayside, with heartbreak and disappointment close behind.

However, sometimes, out of the ashes arises a glimmer of what once was, and might be again. Some paultan.org readers might remember a partnership between an ex-World Superbike champion and a certain Malaysian company to produce a superbike to compete at WSBK level.

Now, you know that we know that you know what we’re talking about here, and unfortunately, we can’t say much more due to current legal entanglements between two specific parties. But, suffice it to say, that specific superbike is now up for sale to the general public, free of encumbrances.

Renamed Momoto, with the motorcycle in question given the moniker MM1, this bike is a homologation special, produced under WSBK rules that require a minimum of 500 copies of the race machine to be offered for sale. In the case of the original iteration of the Momoto MM1, some 130-plus copies were made, and this was a matter of some controversy, back in 2003.

Despite claims of unwarranted special dispensation by the Federation of International Motorcycling (FIM) to allow the race team to circumvent the homologation requirement and thus compete in the WSBK calendar, it all came to naught. The three-cylinder engine, developed for the team by Suter – bespoke engineers for high performance motorsport – was not competitive in its 900 cc form, as the rules were changed to allow for 1,000 cc engine capacity that year.

What this meant was the homologation race bike was dead in the water, power-wise, and the race team folded shortly after, despite two podium finishes. It was at this time, the surplus machines were brought back to Malaysia, and a business interest named Momoto bought the stock, and offered the bikes for sale to the public in 2013.

Which then created another controversy, which we are not allowed to comment upon. However, at the end of 2016, a new management team was brought into Momoto, and this team now has plans ahead for the Momoto name.

Going forward, the re-vamped Momoto has taken custody of the existing MM1 stock, and is now bringing the MM1 to market, at a price of RM85,000. Quantities are, by design, limited, and Momoto asked if we would take one of the bikes out for a run to see what we thought of it.

So, having been approached for a ride impression of the Momoto MM1, what did we think of it? At first look, the thing that struck us was how nineties the bike’s styling is. Knowing that the original namesake of the MM1 was previously a multiple-championship winning Ducati rider, the riding position of the MM1 is almost, to the millimetre, identical to the 916/996-series Ducati.

Looking at the MM1, now dressed in raw carbon-fibre with electric blue paint accents, we could certainly see touches of the 916 DNA here and there, despite the fact this bike had nothing to do with the genius of Massimo Tamburini. The underseat exhaust, with three outlets, is a massive affair, and very distinctive in sound.

Starting up the Momoto revealed a tight bark from the exhaust, and we settled into the cockpit quite easily, with all the controls coming to hand, and bringing back memories of tearing up Batu Tiga and Sepang some fifteen years ago. Shooting off, the click into first on the Suter-designed gearbox was like a knife into butter.

It was easy to feel the precision of the machining in the gearbox and engine, with the pistons willingly revving up to the redline. The fuel-injection though, did show its design age, not quite being as smooth at low throttle openings.

But then, that was not the reason the MM1 was created. It is, first and foremost, a track weapon, and designed to do one thing, and one thing only, go fast around corners and let the rider be in control, on the edge.

Taking the MM1 out on the highway – yes, the Momoto MM1 will be sold in road-legal form and able to be registered – we were, as in the previous paragraph, reminded that this is a race bike. It needs warming up, carefully, for the bike’s systems to function as they should.

It must be noted that the Momoto MM1 we took out was a pre-marketing prototype. Hence, it lacked some of the road-specific items that will be included in the MM1 that will be offered for sale, like turn signals, rear-view mirrors and rear lights.

Cruising down the highway in a racing tuck, the MM1 was not as uncomfortable, ergonomics wise, as we thought it would be. What was noticeable was a slow roast going on under the author’s left butt cheek, courtesy of that humongous exhaust can.

According to Momoto, this is an issue that might be addressed in the final version, possibly with the addition of additional heat shielding. In the meantime, we found a work-around by keeping the speed up above a certain pace – still highway legal – and not letting the wind turbulence blow heat back to the rider.

Falling into the corners around the various highway access points, the MM1 showed its race pedigree, tracking straight and responding to steering inputs with confidence-building feedback. The Ohlins suspension, however, needed adjusting, exhibiting way too much rebound, and making the ride very choppy on the straights.

This is, naturally, the advantage of having fully-adjustable suspension, albeit on built on technology from 15 years ago. Not to detract from the competence of the MM1, of course, but we were very much aware of the fact that while this might have been a good track weapon at the time, today’s sports bikes have taken a quantum leap forward in suspension technology.

The rest of the Momoto MM1 reflects the tech of that era, with no ABS, no traction control, no ride modes. Again, all these things are not necessary for a track machine, and the MM1 does well enough without any mod cons.

Looking inside the cockpit, a single monochrome LCD displays all the necessary information, and this was high-tech – in 2005. Aware that we were riding something that is almost irreplaceable, we declined to find out if the shift light mounted in the centre of the instrument panel worked.

Clad as it is in carbon-fibre, the MM1 is a thing of beauty, with the sleek flowing lines of the fairing and tail unit bringing the bike together as a whole. The twin projector headlights in front – state of the art then – were somewhat lost in the lines of the front fairing.

So, who needs a Momoto MM1? Well, at the current asking price, the customer has a lot of choice. Modern machines are easier to ride, easier to maintain, and provide comparable, if not better performance.

But, why should anyone buy one? Well, for one thing, you can do the canyon run up the mountain and rest assured you won’t see another MM1 on the road or parked outside the Starbucks. Another thing is that the very exclusivity of the MM1 means it might go up in price, as time goes on.

At the end of it, what you get is a piece of racing history, with a Malaysian connection, and a Suter race engine, for a reasonable price. Caveat emptor though, as this is, as it says on the box, a racing motorcycle designed with 15-year old technology, and any buyer should go into the commitment – and we mean that in every way, owning an MM1 will be a commitment – with eyes wide open.