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GP Week : Issue 126
Danger for breakfast ... GPWEEK OPINION >> effective V3 two-stroke. It compensated for average power with agility and good torque. And defeated King Kenny Roberts’s faster V4 Yamaha. Now Freddie was back with a radical weapon to defend his title. The NSR500 was a V4, and then some – the engineers’ had turned accepted principles upside down, literally. The fuel tank was slung beneath in the belly pan, the cluster of exhaust expansion chambers ran over the top of the engine: covered by bodywork resembling a fuel tank. There were many problems. The wacky weight distribution played the balance foul as the fuel burned off; the rider got scorched; mechanics had serious difficulty accessing the engine for routine jetting or sparking plug changes. Then at its first GP the all-carbon-fibre back wheel broke, injuring Fast Freddie. Honda persisted, Freddie’s chances dwindled. The bike was very, very fast, but difficult and unpleasant to ride. Then towards the end of the year Honda succumbed: bringing the faithful old triple out of mothballs for Freddie to try and catch up. It was too little too late: Yamaha’s Eddie Lawson won the first of four championships. The moral of the story? There are several. Firstly, that going backwards didn’t take them any further forward. Secondly that even the world’s best rider can’t win regularly on a sub-standard bike. And thirdly, don’t be afraid to start again. Honda’s 1985 NSR kept the engine but arranged the hardware conventionally. Spencer won the title and the NSR went on to become the definitive 500cc racer. The last one may be the hardest for Ducati. But if the independent Italian company will listen to the twin voices of history and JB, can we expect them to abandon the heresy of the minimal carbon-fibre chassis and copy their rivals’ full-length aluminium chassis? I hope not. I’d rather see them get this one to work. atmospheric and challenging than the ‘Southern Loop’, which has hosted F1 since 1984 after the Nordschleife was deemed too unsafe, not to mention too long for efficient TV coverage. “It’s much too dangerous to race [an F1 car] there,” confirmed Nick Heidfeld who is the only man to have driven the circuit in a contemporary machine (and who learned to ride a bicycle here as a kid!). Rosberg told me the bumps, which sent Fangio’s car a foot in the air several times each lap, would probably result in a modern F1 car, with all its aerodynamic gismos, “doing a backflip.” Adrian Sutil had an accident on Tuesday, although he was keen to stress it was a lot less dramatic than some had reported. He took to the wheel of a 225mph Gumpert Apollo supercar and only reached the third corner before ... crunch! “Something broke on the rear of the car and I lost control at slow speed, hitting the barrier at only about 10mph so there wasn’t much damage. I just walked back to the pits and got in another car. I laughed when I read the newspapers the next day because they said I lost all my teeth [in the impact]!” Losing one’s brekkie definitely sounds preferable to that. Ducati: backwards, forwards, or just marking time? 23