Cycle News

Cycle News 2013 Issue 39 October 1

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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CN III IN THE PADDOCK P114 BY MICHAEL SCOTT SET THE ENGINEERS FREE W hat's the most important thing in Grand Prix racing? If you are the guys at the top, planning all the strategy and writing all the rules, nothing seems more important than cutting the costs. One rule follows another with this aim in mind. Technically numbers of tires, engines and the quantity of fuel are all severely restricted. CRT bikes with production engines were another symptom of rules tailored to this particular end. Moto2 runs lowgrade one-size-fits-all production Honda CBR600 engines, and manufacturers in Moto3 have to negotiate a thicket of regulations, specifying not only dimensions, materials and design parameters, but also maximum costs. Now see how these regulations can twist around and turn out to do the opposite of what is intended. See the Law of Unintended Consequences in full and glorious action. Around the turn of the century, there was something of a revolution in racing gearbox design. Gearshifts became seamless: no interruption to the flow of power. Actually the dual-clutch system was designed in the 1930s, but only properly developed in modern times, first for racing cars but by 2003 for some production cars. And since then for a handful of "automatic" motorcycles and scooters. The Honda VFR1200F of 2009 offered this option. Sensing a big spend coming up and anxious to nip it in the bud, in 2010 MotoGP outlawed automatic gearboxes in general and the dual-clutch system specifically. Job done, money saved. Let's all go off for a slap-up dinner at the FIM's expense. They forgot one important thing. In racing, regulations are not there to be obeyed. They are there to be circumvented. Nobody knows how much Honda spent developing its seamless-shift gearbox, but it was an awful lot of money - measured in millions. The end result replicated the performance of the dual-clutch system, without using a dual clutch. Instead, intricate and fearfully complex pawl and ratchet combinations do the same thing, within the text of the MotoGP regs, if not the spirit thereof. It proved highly effective, part of the package that made the RC213V such a formidable Mo- toGP bike, especially in the hands of Casey Stoner. Banning the existing seamless-shift technology had done the opposite of cutting costs, but Honda clearly thought the vast expense had been worthwhile. The negative cost cutting was not over, however. Honda having developed such a gearbox, the others obviously had to do the same. Ducati went shopping for an aftermarket unit; Yamaha had to bite the bullet and develop its own. Now the costs were even harder to manage, Not only did Yamaha have to design and develop the system, but it had to be done without infringing any of Honda's new patents. It finally arrived at Misano, where it so perfectly suited the already super-smooth Jorge Lorenzo's style that he won first time out. These gearboxes are a techni-

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