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GP Week : Issue 10
THE first all-new Chinese factory grand prix bike – the Maxtra GP125 – was revealed to Press and paddock at Shanghai, in a packed conference room at the Shanghai circuit. Seven-time bike and once car World Champion John Surtees, a founder member of the project, recalled echoes of the first arrival of the Japanese, when he was racing in 1959. “Some people laughed when the Hondas arrived at the TT – but they weren’t laughing for very long,” he said. 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, and growing fast. The motorcycle, a trim and innovative 125 racer, was designed and built in Europe. This, as Surtees pointed out, is normal practice in modern racing, especially Formula One. “In many spheres of business, firms consult the best available experts. The project is still very much the intellectual property of GRG,” he said. The project was initiated from England, by 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. The chassis and cycle parts come from England’s Harris Performance Products, with a long GP and general racing history. The biggest novelty is in the layout. Anxious to avoid accusations of simply repeating his work at Aprilia, Witteveen has broken new ground in engine architecture. Basically, he has turned convention upside down. The cylinder points downwards at about 45 degrees, with the crankcase above the gearbox. This confers several advantages for gas flow, he explained. The exhaust has a straight run out of the back of the cylinder; while the newly vacated space above gives room for a much larger and more carefully shaped airbox, fed by a ram-air intake in the fairing nose. The first version of the engine is also without a balance shaft, and uses reed- valve rather than disc-valve primary induction. “A reed-valve engine is much less sensitive to pressure and temperature changes, with better bottom end performance. You lose something at the top end, but I think it is still a good solution,” said Witteveen. But this was just The China Syndrome Shanghai saw the unveiling of a new world championship challenge – a Chinese 125cc project. MICHAEL SCOTT was there 40