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GP Week : Issue 15
THE main reason the death throes of the 250 two-strokes are so agonisingly drawn out, according to a design guru of the class, is simply a search for legality. The decision is already made, says Jan Witteveen, whose machines amassed 40 World Championships on and off-road with 125 and 250 Aprilia and Gilera two- strokes. The Dutch-born Italian resident is now designer of the innovative Chinese Maxtra 125. The current to-and-fro is merely “trying to find a democratic way to support a decision that already made,” says Witteveen. Witteveen has suggested alternatives, to Dorna, the manufacturers’ association MSMA, and the factories, in an attempt to keep 250 two- strokes alive. Last year he proposed a mixed formula, current 250s versus half- size 400cc MotoGP four- strokes. This would attract four-stroke manufacturers without alienating the existing two-strokers. His advocacy of the two- stroke is undiminished, but Witteveen accepts that Dorna is in a very difficult situation. The Japanese manufacturers have dropped out of 250s, while KTM field only a few factory machines. Customers have to go to Aprilia (they can have the name Gilera on the side if they like); the factory has a monopoly. “What would happen if Aprilia decided to stop supplying bikes?” asks Witteveen. His personal expectation is that current proposals for production-based 600cc machines in ‘prototype’ chassis will not bring agreement. The interests of the manufactures were too different … even between two-stroke stalwarts Aprilia and KTM. “The MSMA is not functioning any more. There is no clear statement. They have discussed this for 18 months already,” he said. Without agreement, Witteveen surmises that “Dorna might ask Honda to supply a control engine.” He will sadly miss the two- strokes – for their close racing, but even more as a training ground for MotoGP. “Look at Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, Lorenzo … the top 250 riders can compete immediately in the MotoGP class. This is not the case with riders from other classes – not Superbike, or AMA, or anywhere. “Switching to 600cc four- strokes will be no substitute for that education,” he continues. “Because the two-stroke is lighter and engine response is more rapid. That’s why you see more high-side crashes in 250 and 125 now than MotoGP. The bike is nervous and more difficult to correct when it is on the limit. You have to learn how to manage the engine.” Witteveen retains confidence in a two- stroke future, saying that development that is now divided between 125 and 250 classes will be concentrated on the 125s, which have been promised a secure future. In Is it too late for a re-think? While the decision, we believe, has been made, 250cc racing’s constituents make a strong case for a re-think. MICHAEL SCOTT talks to one of them 46