Niall Mackenzie Column - May 2007

With each new year we're greeted by ever-faster, ever-lighter and ever-cleverer sportsbikes. So what's happened to the lap times, asks a bemused Niall Mackenzie

Posted: 1 May 2007
by niall mackenzie

Niall Mackenzie Column Hard bike meets hard bastard
ON THE RECENT GSX-R1000 launch I began to think about how much sports bikes have improved in the last 15 years. After all, during the evolution of these 1000cc projectiles we've been given multi-adjustable suspension, phenomenal brakes and a massive hike in power. So has this resulted in much higher top speeds and tumbling lap times? I'm not sure it has.

In 1992 a kitted 750cc Honda RC30 weighed 165kg and produced 140bhp. Its top speed was over 170mph and a good rider could lap Donington in the 1m37s area on intermediate Michelins - tyres easily be inferior to the likes of today's standard Bridgestone BT-015s.

Now new 1000cc sports bikes weigh in around 175kg and produce some 165bhp, giving them a poorer power to weight ratio than the old V4 Honda. At Bruntingthorpe the fastest 1000cc tops out at 175mph but will only just dip into the 1m37s at Donington with pocket Leon Haslam on board. Okay, superstock riders lap two seconds quicker but their bikes are lighter, have 15 more bhp and way stickier tyres. I also thought hi-tech electronics and engine management must have long since eclipsed the garden shed two-stroke technology of the V4 500cc GP machines. These bikes hardly changed over 20 years but even half way through their life, in 1992, they were producing 160bhp, weighed exactly 130kg and were capable of over 190mph. A lap of 1m33s would be your time round Donington, if you were lucky enough to make it round without highsiding and, possibly, touching down in another county.

So what's your point Mackenzie, I hear you say? Well there isn't one really, except many of us, myself included, have been under the illusion engine and chassis performance have taken amazing leaps forward over the last 15 years, when you could argue things have actually remained quite static. So who cares? Certainly not me, and I promise in the future I'll stop thinking and just enjoy the next Fan-Dabi-Dozi (sorry, I was a big Krankies fan) brace of big sports bikes to hit our streets and tracks.

Talking of tracks, the best news I've heard this year is, after some lengthy negotiations, Donington Park is finally back in the hands of British owners.

Donington Park Ventures Leisure Ltd, headed by businessman Simon Gillett, is the new company behind ambitious long-term plans to develop Donington into a world-class leisure venue.

Original circuit owner and motor sports fanatic Tom Wheatcroft is also making a welcome return to the fray as president of the new firm, along with his son Kevin.

Like many of the staff there I've always felt the Derbyshire circuit has been very much in limbo since American entertainment promoters Clear Channel (latterly Live Nation), took over the circuit lease back in 2001.

Although MotoGP has always been a fantastic event, the special atmosphere that was around the track when Tom Wheatcroft and Robert Fearnall were in charge seemed to disappear over recent years, as no one seemed sure what the future held. Among the major events planned this year are BSB, World Motocross, WSB, MotoGP and of course the jewel in Donington's annual crown of world-class events, the Day of Champions Niall Mackenzie ride-in on 21 June!

I've had so many happy memories at Donington in the last two decades so, like the dedicated staff, I'm sleeping better at night knowing my favourite English circuit has a positive future ahead.


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