Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2004 08 11

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 96 of 97

By MICHAEL IN THE PADDOCK SCOTT Coming Up Sixes n the 1970s , Lave rda built an ill judge d and ill -favored V-s ix endurance road racer. It had shaft drive, and the crank ran lengthw ays - t ho ugh neve r fo r very lo ng, as I recall. especially w hen the target was 24 hours . It inspired no imitators, and as far as I know, remains the only V-six racer ever built. So far. That' s about to change. Ne xt year, the Blata V-six w ill challenge the MotoGP class. The what? Well, "challenge" may be a very big word , but Blata is rather sm aller. T hey make pocket bikes, but t hey have ambitions to make real bikes over the next five years. In terms of racing, however, this brave newcomer from the Czech Republic will have at least as hard a time challenging the might of the big factories as the Proton is having right now. The driving force behind the new V-six is t he independent WCM team, whose battle for survival has taken an abrupt turn into a road of high adventure . Int o the same territory occupied now by Proton . This puts WCM in a rather po ignant po sition . At the moment, their hot-rod Yamaha RI -based four-stroke is providing the main compe tit ion to Pro to n's big-budget clever -clogs V-five. Both teams are on Du nlop ti res; the two demonstrate two di ffe rent ends of the nonfactory spectrum. at the back of the MotoGP field. At midseason, thanks to some good rid ing by Italian teenage find Mic hele Fabrizio, t he nuts-and- bolts WCM holds the championship advantage over the carv edfrom -solid Proton. Proto n, given its budget and numero us high- profile engi neers, really should be doing better, but it appears to have been ambushed by ambition. Thei r mo torcycle is a thing of great beauty - every angle and every component a visual treat. T he RC21 IV w ou ldn't look out of place in a show room, amo ng pr o duction Ho ndas; the KR V-five would be mo r e co mfort able in a museum of modern art . I Sadly, perfo rmance and results do not match investment or engineering effort, nor th ose of hapless ri ders Kurtis Robe rts and N o buatsu Ao ki. The problem is power, com pr o mised (it seems) to achieve t he strikingly compact size. To fit within the carved-from -solid chassis spars, the cylinde r head had to be made smaller. Th e result: less power than last year's ou tgunned engine and an increasingly desperate search to find the missing horses. It 's t he expe nsive way. WCM's is the opposite. Hanging on to life afte r losing t heir sponsors Red Bull , facto ry Yamahas and riders Garry McCoy and j ohn H opkins in o ne go, t hey had litt le choice but to go low-rent. H ar ris Performance knocked up a competent chassis, and a spot of count ry hot-rod t uning was applied to t he Yamaha R I. O nce over serial disqualificat ion last year, fo r running " industrial pr oduction" crankcases and other parts, it was clear ly an achievement just to qualify. Racingw ise, the two differ ent approa ches have ended up in mo re or less the same place - which is not lacking in a natura l poetry, or at least wry doggerel verse . For next year, however, W CM is goi ng the Proton ro ute - massive tec hnical ambitio n and t otal originality. Unl ike Pro ton , w hich draw s inspiratio n and techn ology from big spenders such as N A SA and Fl . WCM's big tec hnical adve nture w ill be made at th e Blata factory in the Czech Republic - a nati on whose engineering has a tradition of ingenuity as well as creative economy. (Their cutt ingedge two-strokes of the 1960s included the j aw a V-four 350cc GP bike, and who else but jawa-CZ would combine the functions of the kick-start and t he shift lever on bikes sti ll made into the 'BOs?) W ill WCM find the same pit falls as Pro ton and end up in t he same place as they are r ight now? If they 're lucky eno ugh to make it re liable. In fact, as team manager Pet er Cli fford exp lains, their objective is different. It 's . pointless mounting an independent challenge to Honda and the rest. The only hope any independe nt team has of getting results at the sharp end of the top l Ois if they lease Hondas themselves . If t hey can even get them as the RCV is rather a popu lar cho ice, and in strictly limited supply. It was dislike of t his "sticker- bike " system that drove Kenny Roberts to mo unt his attack on the facto ri es, starting with the two-stroke Modenas of 1997. W CM's reasons, and those of would- be big-t im e bike makers Blata, are quite different . WCM is building a V-six in spite of new fuel regu lations next year simply because nobody has done it before. Blata wants to be noti ced, and that's not going to happen unless they make a littl e noise about themselves. An d noth ing w ill make a noise quite like six splayed cylinders . What does WCM want? Someth ing quite different, it seems. Commercial con siderations apart, it rathe r loo ks like t hey just wa nt to go racing to have fun. A refreshing attitude that w ould be comp letely out of place over in t he facto ry squads - and a welcomed br eak for the beleaguer ed Proton troops . eN C YC LE N EWS - A UGUST 11,2004 9 S

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