Cycle News

Cycle News 2014 Issue 05 February 4th 2014

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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I 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 have already. 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 Ducatis. 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 CN III IN THE PADDOCK "YOU CAN'T KILL ANYBODY" P92

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