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Showtime on two wheels

2013-04-09 06:36


FAST FORWARD: Valentino Rossi seen on his Aprilia at Phakisa in the Free State for the 2002 South African MotoGP. Image: DAVE FALL

If you happened to miss the first race of the 2013 MotoGP season on the Losail track in Doha on Sunday well, shame on you. It was a real humdinger!

I saw this the Qatar season-opener flood-lit night race down at my favourite watering hole in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and it was interesting listening to Jaco the barman – and some of the other punters – who obviously knew very little about the background to MotoGP.

Jaco was sure the Moto3 racers were 125cc machines – that hasn’t been the case since 2011. Today they are all 250cc four-stroke bikes with a maximum weight limit of 65 kg fuelled up (two-stroke machines are not 'green' enough). "Ah, that explains why they seem to circle so blerrry fast," said Jaco, an instant authority on power-to-weight ratios.


While on the subject, Moto2 riders use 600cc machines, each with a Honda in-line four-stroke engine that can rev up to 16 000 but fitted to bikes with familiar (and perhaps unfamiliar) names such as Suter, Speed Up, Motobi, Bimota and MZ. This is the series in which our very own South African rider Stephen Odendaal is competing – not a good weekend’s racing for him, though, as he was punted off the track in a "racing incident" early in the proceedings.

It’s worth remembering that MotoGP machinery is purpose-built and can never be ridden on a road – unlike World Superbikes which purport to be "merely" modified versions of the road-going bikes available from your favourite High Street dealer!

MotoGP, for most the Blue Riband event in which constructors such as Ducati, Honda and Yamaha compete, uses 1000cc bikes ridden by the likes of Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. (I have it on good authority that leasing a top-level motorcycle these days costs close to R30-million a season!)


Interestingly, the commercial rights to the MotoGP series belong these days to Dorna Sports, while the sanctioning body is the Féderation Internationale de Motocyclisme and the manufacturers participating are all subject to regulation by the Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers' Association… little wonder the goalposts change every couple of years and leave spectators and fans mightily confused!

You might be surprised to learn that MotoGP has been around since 1949, even then organised by the FIM. Fast machinery of the day would have come from Italian manufacturers such as Mondial, Gilera and Moto Guzzi - the last of which produced a potentially fast, faired-in V8 which was never tested to the full. The Japanese invasion was still to come with Honda first to lead the pack in 1961 with its successful light motorcycles.

Over the years there have been many, many classes of motorcycle racing - 50cc, 80cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 500cc solo bikes – then there were the sidecar competitors, too. From the mid-1970’s through to 2002 two-strokes had had their moments of glory – and boy, oh boy, were they fast! Barry Sheene’s 1976 Suzuki RG 500 championship-winning bike was a case in point.


Another drinking pal on Sunday was surprised to learn that push -tarts (Le Mans-style) only fell away in 1987 and that the fastest 125cc MotoGP bike reached 249.76km/h, the rider being one Valentino Rossi, the bike an Aprilia.

If you were wondering about the fastest speed yet on a MotoGP bike it was Dani Pedrosa on an 800cc Repsol Honda - 349.288km/h before braking hard at the end of the straight during the 2009 Italian Motorcycle GP free practice.

• The next round of MotoGP racing will be in Austin, the state capital of Texas right there on the Colorado River in the good old US of A, on April 21. Be sure to watch...
Read more on:    dave fall  |  doha  |  motogp  |  qatar

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