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GP Week : Issue 159
18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: One third of the first season of the new 1000cc MotoGP bikes is over, and they’re going strong. In spite of the loss of two factory contenders (Suzuki gone, Ducati present but presently absent), the to-and-fro between Honda and Yamaha has been tense, varied and increasingly compelling. Will Stoner come fighting back; will Lorenzo’s perfect polish develop cracks; will Dani (fighting for his career) find that little bit extra? And so on, through the satellite Yamaha war between Crutchlow and Dovizioso to the continuing struggles of Valentino, finally admitting in Britain that his team-mate Hayden is riding better than he. The bigger bikes are faster and sound better, and more horsepower has definitely meant closer racing. New Bridgestone tyres have made a major contribution: quicker warm-up traded against endurance. Less grip also hands more back to the rider. Again, closer racing as machine differences are blurred, and strategy becomes more complex. In spite of the reduced numbers, MotoGP is going well at the front. It’s a third of the way in also for those other newcomers: CRT bikes. They got off to a shaky start, widely spaced out. But these bikes were at the dawn of development, and in the last couple of races a handful of them have managed a good scrap among themselves. Both ART riders in the highly regarded Aspar team, de Puniet and Espargaro, have impressed, even more so Michele Pirro on the equally professional Gresini team’s FTR Honda – which had barely turned a wheel a couple of weeks before the first race. But CRT remains firmly an underclass, no closer in spite of it all. In fact the smallest gap to the leader was at round one at Qatar (Colin Edwards, 58 seconds). It has never again been less than a minute. They are the Morlocks, playing no part in the important events of the championship. There to make up the numbers. It is the factory prototypes which make grand racing what it is. Clearly MotoGP can’t carry on at split level without further compromising its credibility; nor is it intended that it should carry on. This is transitory. At the end of this week there are important meetings to establish a more equal future. What will it be like? Proponents promise that it will be even better. Even with a rev limit and a control ECU, the factory bikes will still be special, and will still be expected to win. Just not by so much. And perhaps not every time. What fun it will be for everyone! The factories might be less keen. On the other hand, they are factories. They make motorbikes, in order to sell them. Dumbing MotoGP down is ultimately another opportunity to do so: production racers, built to a price, sold for a profit. Suzuki’s carefully leaked prototype pictures showed what may very well be the first of this breed; the same company made good business with production-racing RG500 two-strokes back in the 1970s. In the meantime, we have to enjoy the current 1000s for what they are: the last of their breed. The last real grand prix racers. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor MANUFACTURERES V MORLOCKS – it can't go on OPINION