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GP Week : Issue 191
24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: When I was but a lad, the economy Run was a big thing in south Africa. Run for production cars annually, on a timed route spanning four or five days, the manufacturers made much of success. In those innocent times sharp practices were confined to leaning the mixture, over-inflating the tyres and putting a squash ball under the accelerator pedal. They stopped years ago. Don’t do them any longer. Well, not that kind of economy run. But the practice has had a second coming, disguised as MotoGP racing. And next year it will get even more so ... but only for some of the competitors, the factory guys, their allocation down from 21 litres to 20. The B-grade teams, with 24, will be able to splash it on all over. Since those on the new-generation factory production racers from Honda and Yamaha will have at least nominally very similar engines, it adds another layer of absurdity to the original economy strictures, and another imbalance threatening to over-complicate the premier class. Economy-run GPs began in 2004, third year of MotoGP four-strokes, when a maximum tank capacity of 26 litres was introduced. It’s been shrinking ever since. Efficiency is of course a worthwhile engineering goal, but the latest manipulation looks like a step too far. Or at least for the wrong reasons. The factory engineers at the cutting edge are now getting punished still further, while the lower ranks are rewarded. A kick in the teeth for the people of importance, a bunch of roses for the also-rans. The target is no longer efficiency, but another continuation of Dorna’s dumbing-down process. Even with the current 21 litres, the need for economy impinges on the racing. It’s hitting the larger Yamaha riders. Rossi and Crutchlow have both failed to complete the slow- down lap at least once this season, and the Englishman commented: “If we had 20 litres this year, I wouldn’t have finished at least two races.” Rossi sees a different side of the same coin. His greater weight and taller profile imposes higher consumption, therefore he (or his fuel control program) have to cut back on horsepower in order to finish the race, with the inevitable cost to his speed. Rossi’s crew chief Jerry Burgess has a notion: that MotoGP should follow the example already set in the smaller classes. Instead of just a minimum weight for the motorcycle, it should be set for motorcycle and rider. In other words, the little guys would have to carry ballast. There’s an interesting side issue here, dredged from the memory: Dunlop carried out experiments many years ago analysing motorcycle steering instability, in particular the tankslapper. After messing with tyre pressure and steering angles, they found (rather hilariously) that these were best tamed quite simply, with the test rider wearing a heavily weighted diver ’s belt round his midriff. If the little riders elected to carry the ballast on themselves rather than as usual on the bike, this could give them a major stability advantage. Or at least put them equal with the big fellers. More seriously, or perhaps not, maybe it is a logical step. Or at least until it gets twisted up by MotoGP logic, whereby non-factory bikes would be given a different, more generous, limit. Just to make sure it all stays over- complex and unequal. ECONOMY RUN OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor