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GP Week : Issue 113
The finalisation of new Moto3 regulations next weekend seals the invention of an all-new grand prix class. Far from revolutionary, it will also enshrine conservatism, in time-honoured bike- racing fashion. In line with new cost-cutting impetus, limited by regulations and in tune with the needs of big-time industry, Moto3 motorbikes will be simple evolutions of what has gone before. A modern iteration of a bicycle with an engine. Rules that block the way, according to one leading chassis designer/builder, to genuine progress. Steve Harris envisages a new generation of long and low motorcycles influenced by F1, with rear engines, new geometric suspension ... and an on-board jacking system that would squat the bike low for straight-line speed, and raise it up for better ground clearance in the corner. Moto3 is the replacement for 125s, bringing to an end a long history for the last surviving classic class. Moto3 bikes will be 250cc, four-stroke singles. It also forcibly kills the last of the racing two-strokes, dominant since 1967. Moto2, the 250 replacement launched last year, had an unprecedented control engine. In Moto3, engines are free, although with strict controls ensuring near equality. As a result, the class has attracted the attention of KTM, Honda, Aprilia and others, ready to provide not only motors but complete production-racing bikes. All have their eye on a potential future market, as the class is adopted in national championships. This makes it more of a minefield for the independent chassis fabricators that broke out for Moto2, and continues to service the 40-strong field. Harris Performance Products was one of these suppliers last year, but not this. “Looking back, we misread the situation. We thought we’d go in with one team, spend a year developing the bike ... well, by then, the grid was full. Hence we are doing a lot of work supporting the Spanish championship,” explained Steve. A Harris chassis won the important CEV Moto2 title last year, with several on this year’s grid. Moto2 remains the major hunting ground for the independents, and the place where you’d hope to see original thinking: “It’s the first time for some time independent chassis constructors have been able to shop-window their stuff. For many years it’s all been factory stuff with the occasional special chassis. And though it seems like yesterday, it’s nearly 20 years ago we were building YZR 500s for GP use, along with Serge Rosset.” (The British firm was one of two selected by Yamaha to provide privateer machines.) This benefitted racing, says Harris: “It’s more open. I think we all agree ... it’s the best class of the day. And it’s all about aerodynamics, cooling, and big balls.” Regulations, fashion and cost combined to keep nearly all the bikes broadly similar: “ They all look different, but you’re nitpicking round the edges. In general dimensions – wheelbase, castor, bearing in mind they all have a high degree of adjustability, I am sure there is a point we can all adjust, and all be exactly the same.” Different construction methods are there: fabricated sheet aluminium being the most common: “ We chose to use closely milled construction, which was a new thing to do and quite difficult. The cross-beams, with the suspension and rocker mounts, and the side spars, with the footrest plates, adjustable swing-arm pivot and engine mounts, were milled out of two massive pieces of aluminium, webbed on the Despite freedoms, Moto2 chassis remain fundamentally conservative (above).Harris chassis(right) won 2010Spanish national CEVChampionship. Potentially restrictive Moto3 regs will mean Moto2 will remain as the best option for 'free-thinking' chassis designers ... 32