Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2004 09 22

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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By IN rHE PADDOCK MICHAEL SCOTT Close, N ot So C lose ha t ma kes a real c ha mp io ns hip? And a real champ ion ? T her e isn' t o ne answer, and the 2004 seaso n is proving the po int, as it draws to its climax. In British Superb ike racing. all sorts of ups and downs have e nded in a face-off between se ries veterans John Reynolds and Michael Rutt er. Blunders on bot h sides mean Reynold's 33-point advantage with two rou nds left is far from the distance it could have been w ith more consistent finishes . And that in turn opened the door to race wins for the likes of the marvelous Yukio Kagayama and stalwart Scott Smart . at last finding a class wh ere he can hit the front in spite of not having the most obvious machine ry. Whet her Reynolds or Rutter prevail affects the value of the tit le not a jot. Nor do es it affect the quality of the racing. which is still one of the highest-l evel national ser ies in the world. All this in spite of being de nied the chance to prove it, with wild card pie at World Supe rbike ro unds. At World Superb ike, plenty of the ups-anddown s factor has upset all pred ictions. Far fro m W a two-horse look at, and it's a dazzler. It could go to any of the above four. The closing races are going to be crucial - they 'll surely go to the wire. The champio n w ill need to give thanks to his luck as well as his ab ility. because that' s w hat you need when it's this close. How about the bigone the n? Only tw o races ago all th ree se rious MotoGP con te nde rs - Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi - we re predicting it would also go to the last round . The ar ithme tic now suggests otherwise. Afte r his signal w in in Portugal, Rossi needs only to finish seco nd to Gibernau in the remaining six rounds to remain the champion. And the ch ance of Gibernau w inning all the rem aining rounds is as slender as the chance of Rossi sitting back and willingly acce pting second. So there you have another kind of champ ionship. The year started off exciting, but soo n after the halfway po int. it tended off toward auste rity. All the unpredicta bility th at preceded Rossi's debut win on the Yamaha was worn away to a frazzle by his rele ntless racing talent. Does th is devalue the championship? In a stra nge kind of way, a gut feeling is that the answer is yes. It's not supposed to be that way. Nobody should be able to make it look easy. Which is gross ly unfair, of course . Just ask serial winner- by-miles Mick Doohan, w hose unfo rgettable response wh e n pressed o n this matter was to scowl, saying: "What do you want me to do , slow down ?" I have my own view - British Superbike and World Superbike titles shou ld by all rights be close knockabo ut contests, with more chances for ou tsiders, and if Grand Prix racing ofte n does turn out to be mor e auste re, it goes with the territory. A higher grade of machinery e mphasizes differences in riding talent that doesn 't even show lower down the ladder. Even more. big differenc es between the best possible efforts of the various facto ries te nds to predetermine the race results long before the green light . In this way. factories drive technology forward to the benefit of all. I know lots of people do n't agree . On ly last week I was talking to a former cham pion . still racing, who was proposing some sort of a weight handicapping system, not unlike that used in NASCAR or in British saloon car champ ionships. A kilo he re for too many poles, a kilo for the lap record and two for winning the prev ious race. This way, he said, the racing would be closer, and riders with faster bikes wou ld be punished. It goes without saying also that riders with mo re talent would also be punished - an extraord inary not ion that may be politically correct. but doesn't have much to do with top -level racing. T hen. the cham pion continued (for the sake of his reputation that I will leave him anonymous). they cou ld have control tires . Then there wou ld be close racing guaranteed. But what would the one to prevail in this artificially close cont est have won? Ce rta inly not, in my book, a World cham pionship. Le t's put up with the austerity, because with ou t it, the magnificence is also lost. eN race between James Toseland and his Ducatitea mmate Regis Laconi on the only factory bikes , the pair have had a to rrid time from ot he r quarters. Just how big a part the cont rol Pirelli tires have played in this makes fo r inte resting spec ulation . But the effect has been remarkable . Not only has No riyuki Haga re e me rged as a credible ride r after a year on the Aprilia MotoGP Cube made him look rathe r less than wonderful (a similar thing happened to Laco ni beforehim), but more irportantly, Chris Vermeulen and his Ten Kate Honda have been the discovery of the year in both the key areas : riding talent and machine capab ility. But it's the championship itself I want to ,.HEr CALL " THf fLYAWAY STA6E OF THE MOT06P . ,HAMP'ONSHII? . m CYCLE NEWS . SEPTEMBER 22, 2004 95

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