A proposal from the office of Martin Bangemann, European Industry Commissioner, to ban all motorbikes of more than 100 horsepower on road safety grounds would damage the newly resurgent British firm of Triumph, which now sells nearly 10,000 machines a year.
The company, the oldest motorcycling marque in the world, now based at Hinckley, Leicestershire, would find its three top-of-the-range models affected: the pounds 8,899 Daytona 1,200cc, the most powerful, with 147 horsepower; the new Super 3, costing pounds 9,699, with 116hp; and the pounds 8,229 Trophy 1200 at 108hp.
'There is no documentary evidence linking horsepower to accident rates,' said Michael Lock, international marketing manager for Triumph. 'To base something on gut feeling is a dangerous basis for legislation across Europe.'
People who bought powerful bikes were similar to buyers of expensive, powerful cars, he said, while those who had accidents tended to be younger, riding small, older, machines.
Though Britain opposes the proposal, it is thought that a majority of countries in the EU support it, led by France and Germany which already have bans of their own. Although Italy, too, supports it, the Italian makers Ducati would be hit badly by the loss of the most powerful bikes - as would the Japanese Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki.
The superbikes issue has taken on wider significance within the EU, however, as it has become a trial of strength between the elected European Parliament - given a greater say over legislation by the Maastricht Treaty - and the European Commission, the powerful Brussels civil service. In February, MEPs threw out the proposal by 300 votes to 24.
The next stage of the battle is another vote in Parliament on 20 April. If the Commission will not withdraw, and if the MEPs throw it out again, it can only become law with the unanimous consent of member states.
For once in its troubled relationship with the community, Britain seems likely to win.
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