Mike Scott Column - Feb 2007

Time for the safer 800s

Posted: 1 February 2007
by Mike Scott

Mike Scott MotoGP
Jezza, on the 'safer' 800

The 800s have been galloping around at Valencia, Sepang and Jerez - and taking everyone by surprise. Down on top speed and acceleration, their lap times are as good as the 990s', and sometimes better.Nobody expected this - not until the end of next year. By then they'll be a lot faster still.

Luckily for everybody, higher averages will come much more safely than on the 990s - safety being the original reason for the switch.Ilmor's X3 was the first of the new 'Safety Bikes' to race. Then Jeremy McWilliams crashed it testing at Jerez, suffering (among other things) a snapped thigh-bone and a badly mashed finger. One can only imagine how much worse poor Jezza's would have been, had he been riding a full 990. All nonsense, of course.

The 800s gain their lap times by running faster corner speeds. I may not know much about racing, but I seem to recall that most people fall off going round corners rather than in a straight line. So if you fall off an 800, you will actually be going faster than on a 990.Never mind. The manufacturers drafted the new rule, and they obviously know what they are doing.

Let's look at another question. Since the new 800s are on substantially the same tyres, and often exactly the same chassis, and have the same minimum weight - how exactly can the same riders now achieve a greater mid-corner speed? Why did they not ride that fast before?

The answer is full of complexities to do with placement of mass and the rotational inertia of a smaller-capacity engine. And it's just another unexpected conundrum, in the same box as the Big Bang concept. Being unexpected is exactly why motorcycles are so interesting.

So farewell then, Sete Gibernau. The rider with the variable hairstyle retired at a tearful ceremony in Spain, after failing to secure anything better than second-string rides for 2007.Unfortunately Sete had become rather a figure of fun in racing, the hair being a contributory factor. Also that he kept getting beaten by Rossi. This is surely not such a sin. All the other riders were as well, and usually still are. Sete was more noticeable, because Sete was the one challenging him most often, twice title runner up.Sete got some lucky breaks, twice taking over factory Honda rides from injured riders. But he also worked hard and took it very seriously. What undid him even more than Rossi was extraordinary bad luck. If something could go wrong, it would happen to Sete. There are countless examples. His Honda ran out of gas once, his Suzuki tossed him out of a massive lead in the wet at Estoril when a new slipper clutch malfunctioned. And so on and on...

This year alone, after one almost unheard-of Ducati engine failure, and losing a toe-slider in the heat of a battle, both times near the front, he triggered the multiple pile-up at Catalunya. Then his ambulance crashed, on the way to hospital. His broken collarbone wouldn't heal, and his year was ruined. Then he was brought down by Stoner at Estoril, hurting it again. Perhaps in retirement, Sete will get the respect he deserves. He had to go without for much of a distinguished racing career.

With the winter testing ban sending all participants home over Christmas and the new year, where they will doubtless spend their time in quiet meditation and spiritual renewal in preparation for 2007's title campaign, we kindly offer some help with their new year resolutions:

Nicky Hayden: Get anger management training... he's not angry enough.

Dani Pedrosa: Learn to control his emotions. He actually smiled after winning his first MotoGP in China, and that will never do.

Loris Capirossi: Stop looking so happy when beaten by Rossi - as in Malaysia.

Kenny Roberts Jr: Must practice counting backwards. Might have won at Estoril, if he'd realised there was one more lap to go.

Colin Edwards: Find new source of inspiration. Professed resentment of this reporter's adverse comments is not working well enough.

Casey Stoner: Must stop being so nice to everybody. (Or is that "start being nice"?)

John Hopkins: Get reinforced toe-sliders - for the next time he feels like kicking the sh*t out of his Suzuki.

Valentino Rossi: Just keep doing it the same. But don't ever get flustered again, like in Valencia.

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