Dani takes a dive
In racing engineering also, the more things develop, the more similar they become. The 500 era showed that, with V4 two-strokes all round. They were the URM - Universal Racing Motorcycle. MotoGP four-strokes arrived with a refreshing mechanical diversity. Aprilia had an inline three, Yamaha and Kawasaki inline fours, Suzuki 60-degree and Ducati 90-degree V4s, and Honda a 72-degree V5.
In five years of 990s there has already been a trend towards similarity. Aprilia's triple was too much racing car, then the company all but collapsed. Suzuki widened their V angle from 60 to 65 degrees. And Yamaha then Kawasaki both eventually used clever off-beat cranks and firing intervals to turn their inline fours into virtual-V4s. Call them Virtuals.
Next year's 800s are now being revealed. And guess what? No more wacky experiments. Ducati and Suzuki stick with V4s, Yamaha and Kawasaki with their Virtuals. It was down to Honda to rock the boat, and everyone was hoping they might come out with a V3, to add some off-beat action. Sadly, no. Their new 800 is also a V4. So, back towards the URM.
And how much longer must we wait for the street versions of the 990s? Where is Honda's showroom V5? Where are the Virtuals from Yamaha and Kawasaki? Suzuki's V4? Only Ducati have managed this rather obvious feat.
New flag-to-flag rules came last year. If the weather changed mid-race, instead of red-flagging for a restart riders would pit to change bikes. The race would go on. Ever since, everyone has been awaiting the first trial and Australia this year was it. And it was fantastic. If you like racing mayhem. There were numerous near-collisions in the narrow pit lane - both bike-on-bike and bike-on-bloke. And several wildly unfair lucky or unlucky breaks - Hayden and Vermeulen both gained, Pedrosa lost. All in all, it was brilliantly exciting, and one would hope for more such. Hayden was delighted: the pit-lane madness reminded him of Daytona. So everyone had a good laugh.b Especially when they realised how lucky everyone had been to get away with it. The ghost of Wakai, killed in a pit-lane crash with a pedestrian at Jerez in the early 1990s, was a powerful presence at Phillip Island.
Did Dani Boy take a dive in Malaysia? The little feller crashed heavily on the first day of practice, gashing one knee, bashing the other, as well as one foot. For the rest of the weekend, he was in a wheelchair, used a big box to climb onto the bike, and went very slowly. Until the race, when he finished third. Had he been bluffing?This is what Rossi seemed to suggest when he brought a chair to the rostrum ceremony. And second-placed Capirossi almost said as much when he alluded to riders (one being himself) who have raced with broken bones, compared with the relatively minor injury of a stitched cut on the knee.
Dani returned to his wheelchair and remained impassive. The Spanish press took up cudgels on his behalf, berating Rossi for the insult.Rossi was quick to deny any such implication. The chair had been a joke because he was hot and tired, he said. He would never make fun of an injured rider. With his frank and open gaze, this was fully plausible.
Well, almost. Except when you remember that in Germany a victorious Rossi put on a Materazzi shirt, a week after the (dive-prone) Italian footballer insulted Zidane, took a head-butt in the chest, and precipitated a World Cup scandal.
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