Cycle News

Cycle News 2019 Issue 16 April 23

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 107 of 109

VOL. 56 ISSUE 16 APRIL 23, 2019 P107 succor the disadvantaged and to help make things fairer for all. I'm not so sure that an active social conscience is quite so desirable at World Championship level. It's hard for excellence to thrive when it is hobbled at the source. And what is a World Cham- pionship if it is not about excel- lence? In MotoGP, the thrust of dumbed-down regulations includes limited fuel and engine numbers, frozen engine devel- opment and restricted testing, along with control tires, elec- tronic software and hardware and clamped-down aerodynam- ics. All of it has come in the name of cutting costs. But the hidden agenda (not so hidden back in the days of production- based CRT bikes) is to restrain any sporting advantage of the big-spending factories by limit- ing their engineers' access to adventure. This secondary aim has been much more successful than the so-called primary one. Cost- wise, factories still spend just as much as they like (or can afford)—Honda a heck of a lot more than Aprilia, for instance. Or Suzuki, making the recent Texas win all the more sweet, even if it took crashes and a breakdown to the three factory Hondas for it to be achieved. The technical socialism is all more blatant in WorldSBK. Always has been. Fair enough: these are production-based bikes and not a field for proto- type experimentation. There have been decades of attempts not to help the slow guys get quicker, but to slow down the fast guys—the very opposite of the ethos of racing. Remember the intake re- strictors? The different engine capacities allowed for different numbers of cylinders? And how in spite of it all, the same guys kept on winning? It's more sophisticated now, with a complicated and regularly reviewed system of component control via concession parts, and on top of that ,controlled rev limits. These are updated every three races to make sure that nobody gets too big for his boots. In this way, after Bautista and the new V4 Panigale had won every outing at the first three rounds, Ducati's rev limit was cut from a giddy 16,350 rpm to 16,100; Honda's went up from 14,550 to 15,050—a jump of twice the usual 250 rpm to take account of its feeble early show- ing. Did it make much difference at Assen? Nothing you'd notice. Bautista still took Superpole and won both races. The best Honda result for Leon Camier was 10th place. Mediocrity is sought. As if the best outcome of any race is a mass dead heat. In the distant past, at tracks like Brooklands, there was actual handicapping. The slowest guys started first. Which actually does sound like quite fun but turned out to be open to all sorts of corruption. Can mediocrity be found just by regulations? Back in the late 1960s, the FIM banned technical complex- ity (like Honda's five-cylinder 125 and the multi-geared multi- cylinder two-strokes of Suzuki and Yamaha, with hairs-breadth power bands) from bringing the factories under control. More recently there was the talk of how to slow down Valen- tino Rossi. One idea, borrowed from saloon car racing, was that every victory should oblige the rider to carry extra weight, with lead ingots to be cable-tied to the chassis. This was rejected, but when somebody suggested that maybe Rossi's bike should be fitted with a sidecar, he was only half joking. Now it's Marquez who should be obliged to carry a passenger, unless, as he demonstrated at COTA, he can find his own way to avoid winning everything by miles. You know what? Strap on as much ballast as you like. If he doesn't crash, he'll probably still win anyway. CN

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