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GP Week : Issue 179
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: When old-timers talk about the golden age of bike GP racing, they are invariably referring to the period from around 1984 to l992. Of course it was golden because of the bikes – feisty little 500 two-strokes, proper pure-bred dedicated racing bikes, not the pumped-up all-electronic street- bike relatives of today. But more because of the riders. Instead of the more usual two or maybe three super-fast guys, there were five or six. You frequently didn’t know who was going to win the race until he had done so. The way 2013 is shaping up after the final tests at Jerez (they finish today, Monday) there’s a chance we may be getting back to something similar. There’s four guys capable of winning, and maybe even five – although that would spoil the headline (a sixth, however, would allow the title “The Joy of Six” .) There would possibly be more, if there were more good motorbikes, but the Ducati is still lagging and the CRT bikes not to be taken seriously. The fifth man is Cal Crutchlow on the satellite Monster Yamaha. But he has a disadvantage. A satellite bike is not the same as a factory bike, and even if it is only lagging by a little, in this company it’s enough to make all the difference. The same applies to Honda satellite riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista: former champions both, but unlikely to do more than challenge for the occasional top-three finish. The furious foursome, however, have all ended up with the best bike out there. The Hondas slightly but distinctly ahead of the Yamahas, but the talent of the riders high enough to minimise the differences. As Yamaha project leader Kouichi Tsuji said at the launch of the new factory team on the eve of Jerez tests, commenting on their bike’s lack of Honda’s seamless- shift gearbox, “that is worth two or three tenths a lap, but a good rider can be worth a second a lap” . Well, we shall see about that. The level of Yamaha’s pairing of Lorenzo and Rossi is high for sure. But so too that of Honda’s Pedrosa and super-rookie Marquez. There is still room for hope, however: Yamaha is working on a seamless-shift of its own, and it might turn up sooner rather than later. (It’s worth noting that since dual clutches are banned by supposedly “cost-saving” rules, developing this type of gearbox is a hugely expensive but necessary engineering challenge. Of the three factories, only Yamaha is without.) Time will tell, also, if 2013 will offer any golden-age elements. The potential is there, however. So let’s hang on to our hats, and keep hoping. It’s only a couple of weeks before we will know for sure. THE IMPORTANCE OF FOUR-PLAY OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor