t's all zips, hot leathers and el-
bow-scrapers at Sepang in the
coming week. Testing begins,
and dreams start to take shape.
Or unravel. Depends if you're rid-
ing a Honda, Yamaha or a Ducati.
And then again, on what sort of
Honda, Yamaha or Ducati.
The technical spectrum may
have shrunk to just three manu-
facturers, thanks to the added
expense of the cost-cutting
rules. But those same ever-tight-
ening rules have given rise to a
new sub-genre of "Open Class"
private-team machines, giving at
least some of the untermenschen
much-improved top-10 chances.
At least, we'd better hope
so. These middle-class mounts
(which add Aprilia's name to the
factory list) are meant to be the
future, regardless of their per-
formance. But if they are fast out
of the box, it at least means that
the factories won't be obliged to
dumb down even more than they
For my part, 2014 marks the
start of a fourth decade of cover-
ing GP racing. I never thought it
would look like this back in 1984,
with blue-sky development now
devoted to fuel efﬁciency and
electronic trickery, and rules aim
at slowing down the fast guys to
give the poor boys a chance.
The 500cc two-strokes they
rode, still far from the peak of
their development, look like toys
next to a modern MotoGP four-
stroke, especially in terms of top
speeds and lap times, which are
after all what it's all about. Very
dangerous toys - so powerful,
light and wayward that they were
extremely hard to handle. That
year, relentlessly smooth Ed-
die Lawson and his Yamaha tri-
umphed over the faster but more
mercurial Freddie Spencer on
the ﬂawed new V-four Honda.
There are echoes today with Lo-
renzo versus Marquez.
The overall landscape is very
similar to what met me in my
ﬁrst full year. Back then it was
Yamaha against Honda, with
Suzuki half-heartedly involved
and the ﬁeld ﬁlled out with un-
termensch bikes. These were
mainly either over-the-counter
Honda triples, in much the same
mold as this year's new sub-
factory RCV1000R, or ageing
square-four Suzuki RG500s.
Plus a smattering of European-
built chassis like the Chevallier.
The best Honda without any fac-
tory backing, by the way, ﬁnished
15th (Reinhold Roth). This year's
top proddie-Honda rider, veteran
former champ Nicky Hayden
(plus rookie Scott Redding, Hiro-
shi Aoyama and Karel Abraham)
should do rather better. There
are only 11 factory-class bikes on
the grid, and three of them are
Marking time with a stop at
each subsequent decade shows
how different things can be:
In 1994 Mick Doohan started
ﬁve years of dominance; the
Schwantz/Rainey axis had end-
ed the year before. In 2004 it
was the latter part of Valentino
Rossi's ﬁve year's straight domi-
nation, his fourth straight win and
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
III IN THE PADDOCK
"YOU CAN'T KILL ANYBODY"