Michael Scott, Column - Jul 08

Mike scott discovers that it isn’t only ‘gorgeous’ george’s ego that is oversized, the lad has balls the size of an abstinent elephant

Posted: 1 July 2008
by Michael Scott

Gorgeous Jorge Lorenzo’s exceptional nature has until now shown only in two aspects: a huge reservoir of riding talent that put him on pole for his first three MotoGP races, and won the third; and an equally generous mountain of ego.

Nobody since Barry Sheene or Max Biaggi has wanted to be a superstar as much as Jorge. On the day he turned 21, Gorgeous added another dimension to what is fast becoming a phenomenon: utter heroism.

Two days before, Lorenzo had the mother of all highsides...a nasty low-speed flick that projected him almost straight up and down again, to land a horrible crunch on his hands and knees. Stretchered off, he had ankle fractures and severe bruising, and didn’t walk again that weekend.

He rode his motorbike, though, qualifying close to the front row and forging through for a fighting fourth that made his erstwhile mid-field rivals look slow and clumsy. Pretty soon, we’ll have to take him as seriously as he takes himself.

Just as well that the Chinese respect old age, looking at the row of delegates at the top table at the launch of the new Maxtra 125 GP bike. Apart from the new Chinese team manager, there was barely a soul under 60.

When the whitest of white-hairs was multiple bike and single car champ John Surtees, you find your own respect growing. At 74, Surtees is still keen and active enough not only to get behind the new GP team, but to want to ride the bike during testing. After all, he can still fit into his old racing leathers …

The little 125 is cute, with an innovative engine designed by two-stroke (mainly Aprilia) legend Jan Witteveen and a chassis by Britain’s own Harris Performance Products. Put together by long-time Suzuki team boss Garry Taylor, hand in hand with Surtees, the result is a state-of-the-art new racer. It could have been built by the same people for anybody.

The point is that it has a Chinese name, and Chinese backing, from a factory making mainly under-licence Suzukis under the brand name Haojue, at the astonishing and still-growing rate of more than 3-million a year! Haojue translates as ‘Brilliant Duke’, but the latter name was taken, and the firm made up Maxtra to spearhead their drive into Europe.

The Chinese company wants eventually to move into the world market, and has chosen the 125 GP class to spearhead the effort. Honda did exactly the same in 1959, and we all know what happened after that.

The Maxtra may be only a 125, and it may have no real technical connection with the massive factory in China. But it is hugely significant, way beyond its size and power. The sleeping giant stirs, and shoves the thin end of the wedge under the tip of the iceberg. Japan Inc will be having more and more sleepless nights over this one.

The Maxtra is interesting in itself. Witteveen has turned convention upside down, mounting the crankshaft at the top, with the cylinder pointing downwards at about 45 degrees. The technically minded will at once grasp the main advantages: a wonderful straight exhaust run, and ample space above for a really advanced design of resonating air-box.

Two-strokes are simple engines, which makes them light and good for motorbikes. But it’s deceptive. The subtleties of gas flow and harnessed resonances are almost endless, and the Maxtra shows a new way of looking at the old problems.

I pity the current generation of road riders, who have never had the chance to experience the snap of a powerful two-stroke coming on throttle. And I sincerely hope that racing innovations like this play a part in what some already see as an overdue revival for the mistakenly neglected two-stroke engine.

One-time 250/350 star Martin Wimmer volunteered for the Mad Professor role in China, where the German has been living for several years. He had on show (on a mountain bike, but the same rules apply) an extraordinary front suspension system, like the BMW tele-lever, but with the forks compressing from both top and bottom ends.

He could hardly do anything but rant crazily, as he attempted to explain the complexities to the ignorant (such as Pit Bull). All the demonstration needed was a bolt of lightning, to activate the works.

Then again, it’s a damn clever idea, that further improves braking power and control, but in this case without also slowing up the steering. Tests in races have already shown braking power that shreds a normal front tyre before the end of the race.

We hope to see more of the Wimmer System.

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