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GP Week : 06-May-2008
n John Hopkins became the youngest centenarian in motorcycle GP racing, racking up his 100th start at Shanghai. Turning 25 later this month, Hopkins’ first GP was in Japan in 2002; he has claimed one pole position, two fastest laps, and a best of second. n A more successful centenary came for Jorge Lorenzo, who became the 100th premier class winner at Portugal three weeks ago. n Former 250/350-class GP winner Martin Wimmer introduced a novel new front suspension system at Shanghai. Now living in China, the German has devised a variation on the BMW road-bike front forks, which combine telescopics with a wishbone system. His patented system was shown on a mountain bike, with forks compressing from both top and bottom, but an earlier version had raced successfully – until the extra braking power available destroyed the front tyre, he said. n Colin Edwards’s pole position at Shanghai was the third in his career, and the fourth in a row for Yamaha. It is the first time since 2002 that the marque has achieved this. n Ducati still rules on top speeds, at the track with the longest straight of the year, at more than one kilometre. Figures from qualifying practice showed the Italian bikes had set the four fastest speeds, from 327.6 km/h to 321.9. n Pirelli and Dunlop are likely to get into a bidding contest to be tyre supplier to the World Superbike Championship, when the current Pirelli contract expires. HIGH SIDES Surtees back in business CHINA’S first all-new (125cc) Grand Prix motorcycle was unveiled during last week’s Shanghai round of the MotoGP. Maxtra is a new brand name launched by one of China’s largest motorcycle manufacturers, the Grand River Group (GRG), which makes mainly Suzuki road bikes under the brand name Haojue, in staggeringly large quantities – more than three million this year. The project was initiated from England, by former bike and car world champion John Surtees and former long-time Suzuki team manager Garry Taylor. The engine is the work of famous Dutch two-stroke engineer Jan Witteveen, winner of 40 world titles in GP and off- road, mainly with Aprilia. Surtees left bike racing for cars after winning seven 500 and 350 championships between 1956 and 1960 – only because his contract with MV Agusta was too restrictive: he wasn’t allowed to race his own Nortons in non-championship events. The 74-year-old, making a return to motorcycle racing as founder and patron of the Maxtra 125 project launched at Shanghai, was much in demand in his first paddock visit for decades. And clearly has his finger on the pulse. Asked about the rise of electronics, Surtees said: “This is a very dangerous period for motorcycle racing.” One of the things that had drawn him to the 125cc project was the lack of sophistication of the class and the purity of the racing, with minimal electronic and technical intervention. “On one hand, you’ve got the manufacturers who are all intent on carrying out research and development, which is what top grade motorsport should be for. They can pass the development on to their customers, to make their machines safer, etc. “But on the other, we do have an entertainment and we do have a requirement to show that wonderful relationship which can exist between man and machine. There’s something very 14