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GP Week : Issue 118
MOTOGP FEATURE >> Krauser after the chassis builder, whose main line of work in racing was in making similar monocoque sidecar chassis. The next year, the same bike was victorious, now named after the maker of its now slightly bigger engine: Zündapp, and the same combination won again in 1985, when it was called Krauser once more. More momentous perhaps, though still hardly causing a ripple except in Spanish quarters, was the termination of the smallest class. The last 80cc race was in 1989, and the last champion was Spaniard Manuel Herreros, riding a blood- red Spanish Derbi. It was the last of the ruby jewels from a factory with a fine racing history; the name races to this day, stickered on to Italian-made Aprilias. It took another 12 years before the next major change, and since then they have come thick and fast, as history has been telescoped by the needs of commerce and TV. The big one came first: the end of the 500cc class. By 2001 the two-stroke V4 generation had grown up to become formidable racing machines. Light, flighty and very accelerative, electronics had started to tame their wayward tendencies, but it still took a real rider to tame a 500. Fittingly, the last in a 53-year history of iconic World Champions was Valentino Rossi (Honda). I t was his first title in the senior class, and he followed it directly with the first on the new 990 four-strokes. His legend has grown ever since. Rule changes now became much more frequent, as new rights-holders Dorna fiddled with their commercial property. The 990s lasted only five years; and the influence of Japanese factories in the wake of the death of Daijiro Kato in 2003 led to an intention of slowing the class down. The 800s replaced them in 2007. And soon went faster. The first of the new-age four-strokes had finished 2006 with an epic season; yielding a popular victory for Nicky Hayden, in a drama played out until the last race. Nicky had been solid, winning twice but regularly scoring well; Rossi had won five races, but suffered breakdowns and tyre failures. Then Hayden’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa notoriously took him out at Estoril, and things seemed to have fallen Rossi’s way. In the final stare -out, though, it was Rossi who blinked: crashing in the early laps and making Hayden the latest in a line of eight American champions. And the last champion on the mighty 990s. The end of the 250 class came next. It was both momentous and poignant, for the last of the breed were truly beautifully balanced racing motorcycles: powerful enough to be very fast indeed, but light enough to be precision instruments. The honour for the final title fell to a Japanese rider: Hiro Aoyama. And to Honda. As the architects of the downfall of 250 racing bikes, this had a rich irony. It doesn’t look as though Rossi will be the last 800cc champion, having won two out the five available titles ... though it does rather look as though it will go to a Honda. Far Left: The old 80cc bike ridden by Manuel Herreros in 1986 around the great Monza Circuit. Left Above: Two-stroke 250cc bikes were superseded by the Four-Stroke Moto 2 bikes Left Below. Above: The last hurrah of the Two-Stroke 125cc class before the Four-Stroke Moto 3 class is implemented for 2012.