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GP Week : Issue 207
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The weekend before, the German GP. new serial winner Marquez was merely the latest to refer the dinky little sachsenring as more suitable for go-karts. Then the summer holiday. so I went to across the other side of Germany. To the Nürburgring. Nobody who knows anything about racing needs me to extol the majesty of the Nordschleife; nor the adrenalin-soaking of the experience of lapping the 20.8 km open to the public: happily in my case in a pretty competent and pretty powerful car (SLK 320, if you care). I envied the bikers of course ... but with that triple-layer Armco lining some very, very fast corners, not that much. You really need to know your way round, if you want to feel even half safe. Driving it puts you on the edge of your seat; passengering, son at the wheel, makes any funfair terror ride feel like a walk in the park. But how about racing on it? What on earth would Rossi, Marquez, Lorenzo et al make of it? We’ll never know, though in a way they have all raced around it, on the PlayStation, with Lorenzo rubbing Rossi’s nose in it via Twitter after setting a faster time. But the video screen is no substitute. The real thing is really daunting. It’s clearly unthinkable to run MotoGP there. But it wasn’t always so, and well within living memory. The last GP on the Nordschleife as opposed to the adjacent and sterile modern GP track was as recently as 1980. It was won by 1981 champion Marco Lucchinelli’s Suzuki (right) with a best lap of 8’22.23 (163.7 km/h). The race sealed a third successive title for Kenny Roberts, who finished fourth at the ‘Ring, and very disgruntled. This was at the height of the new movement towards safety that resulted in the abortive breakaway World Series, and Roberts was a leading light. He found it frankly unbelievable that a World Championship race could take place at such a circuit, let alone a title decider. Everybody thinks the same now. And modern MotoGP closely resembles the safer, financially more rewarding, TV-friendly model put for ward by Kenny’s World Series cronies all those years ago. There’s another famous old track considered unsafe for MotoGP, although still used by F1, and last weekend it saw the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race. Still very much Japan’s race of the year for manufacturers, riders and fans alike, the 8 Hours used to be a regular summer diversion for top GP riders. World champions featured regularly in the winner’s circle, including Wayne Gardner (three times), Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi, and Colin Edwards (also three times). They were there by contract, because the factories insisted. That all came to an end more than 10 years ago. This year’s 71-team entry list included only two grand prix regulars – Moto2 rider Dominique Aegerter and MotoGP novice Broc Parkes. MotoGP stars are nowadays wrapped in cotton wool. This is partly because they are so valuable; partly because they have enough negotiating clout to refuse to attend what is an exhaustingly hot, humid and gruelling interruption to the season. A few laps of the Nordschleife would soon sort them out ... cOTTON-WOOL RAcERS OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT