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GP Week : Issue 147
I was transcribing a taped interview from the Jerez tests when it really came home to me. In the background one, then two, then more of the new 1000cc MotoGP bikes were taking to the track. The noise was fantastic. Almost as good as the first-generation 990s. Of course I’d already been favourably impressed by the gruffer tones of the bigger engines out on the track. But I was watching all sorts of other things as well; noise was only part of it. It needed to be disembodied and thrown into the background before I got the full impression. Significantly, it was because I was hearing them in the same way TV audiences will. The new 1000s will never be as aurally entertaining as the 990s that reigned with splendour from 2002 to 2006 (pictured). The rules say so. Engines must be four- cylinder, 81mm maximum bore size. This considerably limits the spectrum of sound. In the 990 days the haunting scream of the three-cylinder Aprilia, the baritone of Suzuki’s V4 and the howl-growl of Ducati’s L4 compensated for the dull street-bike sound of the first Yamaha M1, with its conventional in-line four. Honda’s V5 was king of the choir, combining bass and treble in a unique five-cylinder howl that could send shivers down your spine. Then Yamaha also got with the music, with a flash of detailed technical analysis that discovered that V4 engines not only sounded better. They also expressed their power in a way that made it more amenable to a motorcycle and its rider. Along came Masao Furusawa’s cross-plane crankshaft – skewing two big-end journals by 90 degrees to turn the M1 motor into a virtual V4, while still retaining its compact in-line layout. They were followed by Kawasaki, and the chorus was complete. Dropping to 800cc spoiled it quite a lot. The return to 1000cc means that bass notes are back. Plenty of attention is paid to noise. The regs define how tests must be conducted in an open area. With the engine at 5,500 rpm, measuring equipment is placed “50 cm from the end of the exhaust pipe and at 45 degree angle to the pipe either to the side or above.” A MotoGP bike is allowed 130 dB/A; Moto2 is confined to 115 dB/A. Not nearly enough attention is paid to sound. It is a huge part of the show, and if Dorna want to build up their showmanship then they should pay serious attention. It is pure serendipity that most of the new MotoGP CRT bikes are V4 Aprilias, which join the factory bikes in sounding like “real motorbikes” (as a casual fan once put it to me). Not so the two Kawasakis or the lone BMW and Honda – though I guess in the end it’s a matter of taste. To me, Moto2 sounds unmitigatedly awful, all the worse because every engine sings from exactly the same hymn sheet. Remember the vuvuzelas of the South African soccer World Cup? Shrill, toneless, tuneless and penetrating. That’s Moto2. Dorna supplies the engines: why not make the control engine a V4, whether real or virtual? Or better still (and a whole lot more likely), why not twin- cylinder 500s with open engine supply, as in Moto3, with cylinder size matching their joint 81mm max – a suggestion from LCR MotoGP team owner Lucio Cecchinello. Moto3 is another problem, described by one rider as “like a lawnmower with a hole in the exhaust when you get some revs on them” . Then again, nobody would argue that the 125 two-strokes they replace sounded very impressive. Fans watch racing. They also listen to it. They will find the back-beat more enjoyable in 2012. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor DISTANT DRUMS – Why noise matters to racing OPINION 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: