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GP Week : 06-May-2008
GPWEEK OPINION >> DYNASTIES rise, rule, then eventually fall. Few know this better than the Chinese nation, which gave an added flavour to the Shanghai launch of the first serious Chinese motorcycle grand prix team. The Maxtra 125 launch doubtless sent a shudder down the corporate spines of the prevailing Japanese dynasties. The echoes of the Japanese motorcycle takeover, achieved largely through success in GP racing and led by Honda, were impossible to ignore. Honda came to the TT, amid general hilarity, in 1959; joined by Suzuki the next year. As seven-times bike (and once car) champion John Surtees said: “Nobody laughed for very long.” Unlike Maxtra, Honda et al built their own machines – though Honda’s first 125 was a rough copy of an NSU, and Suzuki didn’t achieve success until they acquired two-stroke technology stolen from East German firm MZ. The Maxtra model, however, is not necessarily a weakness. Times have changed, and it is normal in modern racing – especially F1 – for companies to ‘share’ technology with specialist partners. Even the Mercedes Benz engine is built on commission by a specialist, rather than the car giant. Unlike Maxtra, Honda and co were fledgling companies at the time. The Grand River Group, owners of the Haojue and new Maxtra brands, is by contrast one of China’s biggest motorcycle manufacturers. How big is that? Massive … with unit production moving from 2.8- million last year to more than 3-million in 2008. Still a long way short of Honda world- wide, approaching 60 million, but some 50 times bigger than Ducati. And growing fast. The team will start out mainly European – but for a GRG team manager. The plan is to integrate team staff and engineers over the coming years, and it will take even longer before there is a Chinese rider. But it is fully owned by GRG, which insisted that its entry into GP racing must be with a completely original motorcycle. Time will tell how good the bike is, and how deep the commitment runs. But GRG have assembled a top-level group to help it onto the world stage, where it hopes the Maxtra name will become well enough known to help with future world- wide export plans of production bikes. Japan Inc has every reason to be extremely nervous. For more on the Maxtra 125 project, see Be very afraid Michael Scott MotoGP editor o p in io n been lucky to have escaped his accident with his life, let alone the use of his legs. That he is expected to race this weekend in Turkey owes much to Mosley, and his relentless drive towards a safer sport. The sport has never enjoyed a period of such comparative safety. 14 years is by far the longest it has ever gone without a death at a race weekend and Mosley’s role in this cannot and should not be undermined. One prays we never again have to live through a weekend like Imola ’94. But, due to the work of the FIA under the guidance of Max Mosley, such a scenario seems a remote and yet respected possibility, rather than an ever present fear. 21