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GP Week : Issue 160
20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Kenny Roberts – triple champion, team owner and racing hero – liked to say: “10 cents and the World Championship wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee.” Home-spun truth from a man with three in a row in his pocket. It’s not how he meant it, but it’s true in another sense. Each year Kenny won, 1977 to 1979, he was just one of seven World Champions. He was the most senior of them, maybe, but of officially equal status to champions in 350, 250, 125, 50cc categories, plus a driver and his passenger from sidecars. In some Latin countries the smaller categories were the more important; in the Netherlands (always tending to eccentricity) it was the three-wheelers. This was part of the character of motorcycle GP racing – a broad church. It’s great strength and brotherhood, but also its greatest weakness. No single champion. The years have improved the situation. The sidecars have been hived off. The 350s were the first of the solos to disappear, after 1982, by when they had become little more than bored-out 250 clones. The 80cc tiddlers pursued their piping progress for the last time in 1989. The 250s and 125s are also gone, but were replaced, with Motos 2 and 3. And in the meantime another World Championship has been created, from 1998 – World Superbikes. MotoGP doesn’t need to learn too much from F1, unless it wants to depart even further from its real- world roots and descend still deeper towards mass-market reality-show trivialisation. (Though if somebody could come up with a DRS system that didn’t involve the riders up front being obliged to sit upright, or having to deploy small parachutes, that might be fun.) Changes in the smaller classes, especially in Moto2, suggest that it might be time to follow the cars at least in the respect of having only one World Champion. Moto2 is a brilliant curtain-raiser class, a real crowd-pleaser, and a hard and high-level school for young riders. But a World Championship? Identical engines, supplied by the organisers, reduce it to the level of a chassis championship, for a start. Moto2 has more in common with sponsored one-make national cups than the GP tradition. The same might be said of Moto3, but to a lesser extent. At least there are different makes of engine involved. Though all within tight technical regs that leave little room for innovation and inspiration, since design engineers are blocked at every turn. Both small classes are highly entertaining. They are excellent curtain-raisers to the main event. They provide the knockabout fun that is generally lacking in the more serious main event. At the end of the year, however, there should be only one World Champion. And he’ll still have the same trouble buying a coffee. IMAGE: One World Champion? 12 Ben Spieses! We just loved the pic and needed an excuse to use it ... OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor WHAT PRICE A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP? OPINION