Michael Scott Column - Aug 2008

Mike Scott spectates on Honda’s ever-growing despair as its former World Champion nearly gets overtaken by a 42-year-old veteran

Posted: 12 August 2008
by Michael Scott

Honda’s whirligig into despair continues apace. The world’s greatest engine company is having trouble making a competitive 800cc MotoGP engine.The shame.

Well, sort of. Dani Pedrosa is going pretty well on the old engine with steel valve springs, he even won at Catalunya by a country mile, although the satellite team riders with an older version are suffering. Pedrosa would rather stick with it than try anything new. But factory team-mate Nicky Hayden is really hurting for horsepower. He wants pneumatics, pronto. But Honda can’t make the engine work right.

Just to play out the agony in public, HRC surprisingly entered grizzled veteran Tady Okada (41) for the Italian race, on the all-new pneumatic motor. Blow me down if he didn’t almost beat Hayden. Oh dear.
It was, let it be observed, for 13th. Tady wasn’t really up to speed, while Nice Nicky had a duff tyre and went backwards from fourth all race long.

Still didn’t look good on paper for a man who is desperate for results to save his career as a factory Honda rider.

Should there be stricter medical checks on injured riders? This was the call echoing round the paddock as Gorgeous Jorge Lorenzo continued his progress with one broken ankle and ligament damage to the other. He had the temerity to finish fourth in China and an amazing second at Le Mans, all while rolling to and fro by wheelchair, grimacing bravely. Eventually concussion after another huge crash at Catalunya ruled him out of that race, some injuries can’t be rode through.
None of the riders want these checks. They set the chance of being knocked off by an injured rider against the chance they might want to ride injured themselves. Riding injured wins ever time.

Others who care more about safety think MotoGP should follow Formula One. Ten clap press-ups for wrist or arm injuries; jump off a table five times onto the injured limb for legs. A great deal of control is applied by weighting the footrests.
Here’s another idea. How about rider on rider  kickboxing?

Casey Stoner, for instance, was far from convinced that Lorenzo was quite as hurt as he made out.
Stoner in one corner, then, and Lorenzo in the other… and start kicking. We’ll soon see whose ankles are strong enough to go racing.

In an act of madness, Dorna is killing off 250 two-strokes. They are waiting for the co-operation of the manufacturers’ association MSMA, but it will go ahead and kill them anyway, with or without the manufacturers.
The reasoning defies logic. Dorna say they want to create a competitive lower-cost class, though everybody knows that four-strokes send costs soaring. Maybe ten-fold, according to some MotoGP participants.

And competitive? Well, the two-stroke class isn’t too bad in that regard at present, though a bit short of numbers up front.
The real reason is much more petty: Dorna wants to punish Aprilia for having complete control of the class. It seems the Spaniards don’t mind making money out of grand prix racing themselves, but they don’t want anybody else to.
Dorna points at lease costs for a top Aprilia not far short of a satellite MotoGP Honda. The comparison sucks – with the Aprilia you also get free tyres and a more extensive service package. And the chance to win the championship. With the Honda, the bike’s just the start.

In any case, the Aprilia domination has solved itself, with the increasing competitiveness of the KTM alternative. Dorna’s objections are out  of date.
The difficulty of finding a replacement is huge. Flammini’s Superbike group own 600 Supersports, hence Dorna’s suggestion of wacky “625cc to 650cc” motors. Honda’s response was a frosty: “It would be better if the regulations were for motorcycles we were able to supply.”
But Honda is hardly a shining knight in armour. It is the company’s hatred of two-strokes that started the whole ball rolling.

It seems there is no way back for the elegant, interesting and enjoyable 250 two-strokes. A classic type of racing bike will be murdered. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta will have blood on his hands … and a very uncertain future for the second class of his precious grand prix series.
Meanwhile, both KTM and Aprilia are preparing to enter World Superbikes instead. Hmmmm …

Favouritism doesn’t count. Not for Alvaro Bautista, the favourite for said 250 class. The Spaniard with the infectious grin is impossible to dislike, so it was disappointing when he became Bouncing Bautista once again at Mugello, while miles in the lead. Another no score, and his championship chances dented still further.
Better switch support to ice-man Mika Kallio, the KTM-mounted Finn with the immaculate tactics, or the lion-maned Italian Marco Simoncelli – the only guy whose head actually gets bigger when he takes his helmet off.

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