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GP Week : Issue 15
Racing improves the breed. That’s the way it ought to be. That’s the reason to race, for many people. Especially the engineers. They learn stuff by going racing: in the same way that war accelerates technological development, so too does a motorcycle race … with less mess! It’s always been a personal belief: this worthy saying is the only thing that changes bike racing from dangerous boyish hedonism into something with a reason. When you’ve been going to motorcycle races almost every weekend for as long as I have, you need to find some justification! Dorna’s current drive to replace the 250 two-strokes with so-called ‘prototypes’ powered by a production four- stroke 600 engine has turned this philosophy upside down. Now it seems the purpose of racing is to be improved by the breed. It seems a sorry state of affairs. No – it is a sorry state of affairs. The light and slender 250 twins will be replaced by an engine based on the one bolted into the overstyled and superfast little 600 Supersports (above) you can pop round the corner and buy on extended credit. They are brilliant engines, with giddy rev limits that approach if not rival the MotoGP prototypes; they behave well enough to be taken shopping, but at the twist of your wrist and a lick of tape over the lights you’ll be hard to beat at your local track day. But they are big old motors, by comparison with a racing engine: burdened by several needs that have nothing to do with racing. Self-starters, for one. High-capacity electrical systems; user-friendly long- life clutches. And robust engineering meant to clock up many tens of thousands of miles without flagging. MotoGP engines, proper racing engines that are pushing the limits, run 1,000 km between total rebuilds. And sometimes less, if you remember some spectacular Honda blow-ups for Nicky Hayden and others last year. The burden is literal. They’re heavier. And, being four-in-line, also relatively wide. Bolt one of those into even the most sophisticated prototype chassis and it remains just the same way: heavy and wide. It changes the whole nature and balance of the bike. The replacement class will be less greyhound racer, and more portly roadster. The handling becomes lazier, and less precise. The skill factor is cut back. There is something to be said for this last point. Less skill almost always leads to closer and less predictable racing. Cutting back on the skill ask makes for more potential winners. Dorna’s aim of making an exciting class might easily come true. But it won’t be doing the riders any favours. They will learn less, and it will make the step up to MotoGP all the harder. Never mind the ebb and flow of talent and education. There are some riders in the top class – specially the last survivors of the old 500 two-strokes, Rossi, Capirossi and Nakano, who learned the hard way – who think it’s wrong that an ex-250 rider can move up and be competitive straight away. What gets to me is the dumbing down. The way the whole principle has been overturned. When KTM’s Harald Bartol, famed two-stroke guru of many years standing describes the new bikes as “donkeys”, you know exactly what he means. As long as racing looks to the showroom for technical inspiration, rather than the other way round, it’s lost something. Breeding improves the race? Whatever next … air-con and power steering? GPWEEK OPINION >> Michael Scott MotoGP editor o p in io n Will dumbing down the breed improve the racing? 21