The Thread Spread

- 500 cc GP-

Road Racers Relieved
It was a matter of time - we all knew this. We watched the 750 cc class go bye-bye and the 350 cc class go too. How long could this 500 cc absolute-extreme-sport exist with the little support it gets. There is so little trickle down technology from it that it is not even expected. The machines are so specific-purpose and built to perform their given task that there is almost no reason to have them except to prove to others doing the same thing that "mine is faster than yours." Then again, racing has always been a contest of that sort anyway - those with the need to prove themselves to those they feel still care. It's a competitive corporate pie eating contest of the very rich and well endowed that's only played by those with the most incredible insight toward the ultimate goal. To survive long enough to capture the crown. The showroom for the latest, fastest, flashy and most trendy wares the manufacturers ego can collectively offer happens to travel at 180 miles per hour. There should be a place for this trophy to hang beside the wall inside the corporate dining room. It should have more value than its weight in metal. Somewhere, somehow, the specialness of this victory went away. It was turned into a run of the mill tournament that any manufacturer could capture if the additional effort was put forth. If a manufacturer decides they want the championship they simply rekindle their effort and "buy it."
It goes without saying that the factories can beat the privateers - if they couldn't, the privateer would soon be working for the factory. That is how it is done. Money, the biggest factor in motor sport events is always the reason the talented rider gives in and goes big time. Money is what it takes to make these 500 cc machines what they are. Who has the money to develop them? The factories. They stand at the front and the back of the pack holding all the cards. No amount of sponsorship money can overcome this deficit.
What's funny is that support for racing has always been in the area of "race it on Sunday - drive it on Monday, or sell it on Monday." Somer of the fans that follow Nascar see the cars on the track and believe that the car in their own driveway that they take to the office is the same car that is winning the race on TV. Because it looks like it. Even though the cars are completely fabricated from the ground up. It doesn't matter. As "Joe Nascar fan" is standing around the coffee maker on Monday, he can tell his buddy that a car like his won the big race last Sunday. What a fool. That's where the support is! That's where the mentality is!
The motorcycle race enthusiast has always been more informed than that. Sadly though the manufacturers see the opportunity to sell
street bikes in the same manner as the Nascar and other automobile race series do - race it to sell it. Joe "wanna-be-a racer" will drop his $10,000 on a show room copy (4 strokes are what is available) of a bike that wins on the race track. Even if there is not a single shared part between the one he bought and the real race version. Just because it looks right, and more importantly makes Joe feel good. Unfortunately that's all that matters. The factories can't sell multi million dollar five hundred cc two strokes to the masses - especially these days when bike sales are as low as they are. The costs are just too high. They can't even make a street going version that's even in the same ballpark as the machinery that's out there. At least they haven't tried for quite some time in the two stroke arena. otherwise we'd all have one hundred and eighty horsepower two strokes in our garages and give them hell every morning on the way to work.
There is no topic more important in recent years than providing enough machinery to enough teams for competitive classes to exist.
Since there seems to be a major problem making this happen - the shoot thyself in the foot syndrome has happened. Honda needs not beat Honda. If that's the only company left on the grid. There's no reason to show up. The same would be true of any manufacturer. If the big boys can't decide on a displacement class to race in then they will not be racing. They can not exist to simply beat themselves. It seems we have entered a time where if they build it no one will come. The real king, KR senior talked about moving to four strokes because he likes the way the series is promoted. That spells death, if it didn't spell death enough when he made the move from Yamaha. Some things are the sign of other things and this, as time may prove, may have been it. As much as we all hate to listen to KR Sr. complaining and moaning about every little thing the fact remains that he is probably the reason the 500's are still here right now, and perhaps the actual corner stone we all hate to admit exists. Who else stands for more - Doohan? With his multiple championships proving nothing. What a waste of talent. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it is in the best interest of the sport or the best interest of the greatest number of people. What a yawn. What was needed was the encouragement of other manufactures. One way to do this is to forget your own personal pile of accomplishments and lend your talent to a company who needs riders to over come the short comings of new experimental machinery.
These days with the 250's being as fast as they are and the fact that their speeds qualify them for the front row of the grid at almost
every 500 cc GP makes one wonder what the purpose of the 500's is if not to simply display that it can be done in a 500 cc version.
Those back straight speeds are impressive aboard the 500's but the 250's have come much further than the 500's in recent years. Tire technology often being the separating factor between podium standings. Five hundred cc technology has come full circle with more power despite lower power fuels, and power bands as wild as they were before the engines were "big bang-ed." Yet still this is boring to the sponsors. One reason this is true is because it has been done before. No one wants to see things revert to the way they once were only to be again where they were at that time - long ago. This is called negative gain. The people remember - I know I do.
Things may have started to slip a bit when the push start was abolished - to favor the Yamaha which wouldn't start. Though they called it a safely issue (perhaps it was - all those Yamaha's were going to be run into if they didn't move out of the way)! Rules change in the face of the people who put up the money. It's always easier and cheaper to change the rules than it is to develop or redesign characteristics which are undesirable. Once again the rules will be changed to favor what is popular - and in this case it seems what is popular is what is, to so many of us - boring. Then I can think of a dozen or so instances similar to this in the history of GP racing, so that's nothing new to many. Racing will continue to exist. Racers are those who have it in their blood - and it's a good thing too because without that kind of enthusiasm no one would be able to enjoy the fast art of motorcycle racing - at any level. It is not the racers who are lacking talent, it is the factories who are lacking interest in providing technology to the riders. And perhaps the factories are also lacking interest in creating new systems to make the big bikes better. After all why improve a machine that already dominates the field if given enough attention to.
I'd rather see a Mamola hold on to a nasty Cagiva by his thumbnail while its trying to throw him high side, or a Schwantz drift wide onto the dirt and flat track his multimillion dollar GP ride than let it go or bail in order to save corporate (and his own) face. I'd even rather see Fast Freddie center punch The King to prevent him from another championship - because the championship seemed to matter more back then. It wasn't so clean, it was racing at its best. That was then and this is now - and now things are much more sterile and antiseptic. When the cream rises to the top and stays there too long - it gets moldy and starts to smell foul. We then call it cheese. Welcome to cheese racing Y2K.

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