Sometimes decisions are a long time in the making. Tech3’s decision to leave Yamaha and sign with KTM may have been made in the space of a few months, but the genesis of that choice, the process that made it all possible is ten years in the making.
If MotoGP hadn’t switched from 990cc to 800cc at the start of the 2007 season, if the ban on tobacco sponsorship in sports hadn’t been enforced from 2005, if the financial system hadn’t collapsed under the weight of tranches of “ninja” loans, Tech3 would be a Yamaha satellite team for the foreseeable future. Whether they wanted to be or not.
How did MotoGP get to a place where Tech3 could switch to KTM? To make complete sense of the story, we have to go back to the end of the last century.
Through the last 1990s, the popularity of Grand Prix racing was waning, while the World Superbike series went from strength to strength. The manufacturers were losing interest in the 500cc class, as two strokes were gradually disappearing from the road.
Big-bore four-strokes were the flavor of the month among motorcycle buyers, and the factories were investing less and less in their two-stroke racers.
The manufacturers expressed an interest in racing four-strokes in the premier class, and Dorna sketched out a contract with the MSMA, the organization representing the manufacturers, and MotoGP was born.
From 2002, 990cc four-stroke machines would enter the class, and go up against the 500cc two-strokes. (The 990cc capacity was chosen to avoid any perceived encroachment onto the territory claimed by World Superbikes, then owned by rival promoters the Flammini brothers, which had bikes with a maximum capacity of 1000cc at the time).
From 2003, MotoGP would be completely four-stroke, the two-strokes banished forever. The agreement was made for five years, Dorna promising stability in the technical rules to allow the factories to get a return on their investment.
Randy Mamola will be the newest edition to the list of “MotoGP Legends” – an honor roll that serves as the World Championship Hall of Fame for motorcycle racing.
Racing alongside some of the greatest names in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Mamola is known best as the winningest GP rider never to win a GP championship, with 13 race wins and 57 podiums credited to his name.
Mamola is as famous for his aggressive on-track riding style during the 1970s and 1980s, as he is for his generous contributions to the sport and world at large, which continue to this day as a co-founder to the Riders for Health charity.
A GP staple, you can often find Mamola in the MotoGP paddock, rider-coaching for several racers, interacting with his legion of fans, and occasionally brow-beating unwieldy motorcycle journalists.
It’s with great sadness today that we report the passing of John Surtees, a legend in both two-wheeled and four-wheeled motorsport.
Surtees is best known for winning three 350cc Championship titles (1958, 1959, and 1960), four 500cc Grand Prix Championship titles (1956, 1958, 1959, and 1960), as well as the 1964 Formula One World Championship title.
This makes Surtees the only man to win a World Championship in both two-wheeled and four-wheeled racing categories. He was also the first person to will the Senior TT race at the Isle of Man TT, three times in a row.
The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically.
Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course.
That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).
Suter hopes that interested buyers will field their machine in the GP Bike Legends series, which pits two-stroke era racers back on their smokey machines. We’re not so sure about that, but the Suter MMX 500 is easily the ultimate track day queen.
We may live in a four-stroke era, but the enthusiast-factor for two-strokes is extremely strong. One look at the popularity of our story on the Suter MMX500, a bike that hasn’t even been launched yet (or is that, re-launched?), confirms as much.
Narrow powerbands, high horsepower figures, and featherlight weights are three key ingredients to the strength of two-strokes. Huffing pre-mix helps too.
To help fuel that fire, no pun intended, we bring you this highly suspicious video of the Suter MMX500 “caught” testing. It seems staged, and that’s fine, just show us the damn bike already. Ra-dinnnng-a-ding-ding!
Suter Racing’s 500cc V4 two-stroke track bike project is back, in case you didn’t hear. Now called the Suter MMX 500, the ~200hp / 284 lbs motorcycle is set to debut again, as the Swiss firm gears up for the World GP Bike Legends event.
Presumably, not too much has changed on the GP-inspired machine, though we can expect to see an updated set of bodywork, suspension, and other farkles. At the core will remain that beautiful pre-mix consuming engine, in its V4 configuration.
We say presumably, because Suter is staying tight-lipped on this project, simply teasing the Suter MMX 500 with a dedicated website and with dyno-run soundtrack. So…stay tuned.
In the meantime, we have seriously just copy-and-pasted the same photos and information that was available four years. At least we’re honest.
It’s almost the weekend, which means the end of another grueling work-week for many of our readers. With winter upon us, the release of riding a motorcycle after a long week has been diminished, if not extinguished entirely, which only adds to the no-motorcycle doldrums.
We have a little something for that though: 45 minutes of good ol’fashioned two-stroke awesomeness. The sequel to the much loved The Unrideables documentary, we bring to you The Unrideables Part 2, which picks up from its predecessor and covers the Rainey/Schwantz era of racing. Enjoy!
For the past twenty years or so, there is one manufacturer who has been above all others in the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing, and that manufacturer is Honda.
Winning 12 of the last 20 World Championship titles, Honda’s recent domination in 500GP and MotoGP has been a sea change for the series, and the company’s winning total in this modern era of four-stroke and two-stroke machines is double the next nearest OEM, Yamaha (MV Agusta still holds the outright record, with 18 championships from the 1956-1974 period of four-stroke racing).
Part of Honda’s success has been the fact that the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has been able to attract some of the best riders ever to come to a Grand Prix race’s starting line, champions like Mick Doohan (1994-1998), Àlex Crivillé (1999), Valentino Rossi (2001-2003), Nicky Hayden (2006), Casey Stoner (2011), and now Marc Marquez (2013).
But also part of the equation has been the superb equipment that HRC, Honda’s racing department, produces for its riders, bike likes the Honda NSR500, RC211v, RC212V, and RC213V, which have widely been regarded as the best machines on the grid in each of their respective eras.
Looking down the pipe, as MotoGP adopts new rules and regulations, the RC213V and RCV1000R appear set to dominate their respective classes as the factory machines will be reduced to 20 liters of fuel for next year, and the open class machines are forced to use both the Dorna-supplied ECU hardware and software.
It would appear that Honda has a firm grasp on the next few years of MotoGP racing, and as a bit of an homage to this company’s fantastic two-wheeled craftsmanship, along with the racers who rode them, we give you wallpaper-sized photos of Honda’s Grand Prix motorcycles, from the 1995 to 2013 seasons.
If you missed the glory days of when Americans dominated Grand Prix motorcycle racing, or simply want to relive the moments from yesteryear, then we have the perfect treat for you this Monday afternoon. A television production by Britain’s ITV4, The Unrideables is a 45-minute trip down memory lane with Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Kevin Schwantz, and many others.
Focusing on the racing from the late-1980’s, we get to hear the riders and journalists of the time recount their victories and defeats on the 500cc two-strone monsters of that era. It is a really well done piece by ITV4, and it is really a shame we can’t get similar programming here in the United States. A big thanks to whomever put it up on YouTube, and thanks to all our tipsters who pointed it out to us.
Back in 1993 when grids were full, sponsors were smokey, and Americans dominated the sport, Kevin Schwantz was king. Riding on the Suzuki RGV500, Schwantz had to battle with a slew of 500GP legends in order to win his first World Championship — namely rival Wayne Rainey.
Deliciously 1990’s, the video is a bit hokey at times with its montages and questionable fashion choices, though it speaks to important issues currently being faced in MotoGP — namely the use of electronics.
Go ahead end the work-week an hour early, these four 15 minute segments are well worth watching, and show how far along Grand Prix motorcycle racing has, or hasn’t, come in roughly 20 years.
Back when men were men, and GP racing’s crowning event was contested on two-stroke 500cc machines, Wayne Gardner found himself carrying the factory Honda GP team on his NSR 500. This fantastic 1986 documentary, Lone Racer, follows Gardner one year before he won the 500GP Championship, and became the first Australian to win GP racing’s premiere racing class.
The film includes great behind the scenes footage of the Aussie, his fiancée, and his team. So grab a cold beverage, put your feet up, and get ready to spend the rest of your Saturday afternoon watching the 30 minutes of video in this three part series. Videos after the jump.