How comparable is a £3 million MotoGP weapon to your sportsbike? Since 2002 technology has filtered down from the best teams in the world, more so than you might imagine
When MotoGP arrived in 2002, the official line was that the old two-strokes were dinosaurs: anachronisms in titanium and carbon-fibre with little bearing on what we rode on the street. ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ was a popular marketing slogan of the time, but I wonder if anyone actually went to Honda dealer and tried to buy an NSR500 like Mick Doohan’s? And that was the point. GPs were two-stroke and we were riding four-strokes. The MMSA – the manufacturer’s organisation in MotoGP – realised that they had to change mainly for the environment’s sake, but the kick-back for you and I was that this new era of super four-strokes would be test-beds for new kit for our roadbikes. So six years on, has MotoGP really brought road bikes on in a way that the tyre-shredding 500s never could?
Jeremy McWilliams is one person more experienced than most to say if MotoGP has given us anything. “There’s tons of stuff that’s come from MotoGP, most recently with tyre technology from Bridgestone. I was speaking to Loris Capirossi about the feeling he got from the front-end of a road bike on BT-016s. He said that the carcass felt so similar, and his experience on the Bridgestone GP slicks is immense. And where have slipper clutches come from? We’ve also got radial brakes – which came direct from GPs before MotoGP. And look at traction control starting to come in now. The 1098R, sure it’s an expensive production bike, but it’s still a production bike. More and more road bikes will have traction control as the technology comes further on and that’s thanks to MotoGP.”
So did anything whatsoever come from 500s? Tetsuo Suzuki is Honda’s managing director at R&D for motorsport development and he fights the cause for what they learned from the 500 project: “We did get some tyre improvement from 500GPs, but mainly we saw development of the geometry of the whole bike, chassis rigidity, brake development. All of this has moved onto streetbikes.”
The 1996 Suzuki GSX-R750WT was designed around the geometry of Kevin Schwantz’s title winning RGV500 of 1993 – so that’s something. While the 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1 and the later CBR929RR Fireblade benefited from longer swingarms to aid with traction and cure power wheelies as power levels began to creep upwards. “We switched to four-strokes for the environment, but the technologies gained by contesting four-stroke racing are more or less reflected in street bikes,” continues Suzuki-san. “The know-how we obtain from the RC212V now will certainly be utilized in road bikes of the future.”
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