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GP Week : Issue 113
inside. As much as anything it was for an experiment, doing something relatively new. “ We had a tubular arrangement at the front and we could alter the size and thickness of tubes from one model to another to induce a certain degree of flex. We soon found a gauge and a thickness that the riders preferred. Some of the others, like Suter, approached it in a different way, but I am sure that somewhere in his setting-bank his bike will duplicate our bike.” With bodywork largely dictated by regulation, innovation is in the detail ... “more in airflow, dissipating heat, the entry to the airbox, general aerodynamics. And making sure you’ve got a bloody fit rider with a good wrist, which makes up for a lot of stuff.” But why had the overall tone been so conservative ...the biggest heretic was MZ, with an old-style tubular space-frame. Where were the new materials? “ Well, we`re only scratching the surface, and again that’s down to the reluctance of the manufacturers to use expensive materials. But they are doing it now ... Ducati have done it, and Aprilia did it. I’m quite sure that in 20 years time it will be common ... especially as we move towards lighter weight and better fuel consumption. “Like everyone we’ve used aluminium for the past 25 years or more, and there is such a wealth of knowledge. Everyone’s comfortable with it. In composite construction, there’s no safety net. If you get it wrong, you’re wrong. Whereas if you get it wrong with aluminium you can go up a grade and build another one fairly quickly.” Innovation in bike racing, says Harris, is to be found far distant from MotoGP, in the single-cylinder class, which has itself moved towards a Moto3 concept of a 250cc engine: “I know it’s the other end of the scale, but it’s probably one of the most diverse formulas for innovation. You see bikes of every type. It is an engineer’s class. And that is the one bright light, that some of those guys might get an opportunity to do something interesting in Moto3.” But racing regulations will still conspire against real design progress. Given more freedom (and the budgets to back it) Harris envisages a very different type of racing bike. “ With total cooperation from the tyre manufacturers I’m sure race bike design would change dramatically. Race circuits are billiard-table smooth now, as they should be. So suspension travel would be reduced, frontal area would reduce, I think the bikes would get longer. There has been talk of some sort of hydraulic or pneumatic jack that lets the bike down on the straights and lifts it back up as you started to bank into the corner. Which would certainly reduce the frontal area, which is all speed. “Compared to bikes, F1 cars have an open book as far as design goes, and you don’t see F1 cars wheelying down the straight. The engine’s at the back, where you put the power down. I think the suspension system would be quite different, and the engine would be behind you.” Fascinating. But it’s not going to happen any time soon in MotoGP. 33