Saturday, June 23, 2007

Suzuki's MotoGP Bikes: Three decades of evolution

The 1977 Suzuki RG500 XR22. Would John Hopkins want to have a go on this...?

Here at Faster and Faster, whenever we can get our hands on motorcycle GP racing videos from the 1970s and 80s, we sit glued to our TV sets for hours. The racing scene from that era – the wild and wooly bikes, and the men who dared to race those mad machines – absolutely fascinates us. Which is why we thought of quickly comparing a 500cc GP bike from 1977 with a 2007 MotoGP machine. How far have we come in the last thirty years?

That's Graziano Rossi (yeah, Valentino's dad...!), who briefly rode for Suzuki in 1978 in the 500cc class. He later went on to race in the 250cc class, with Morbidelli...

We’ll actually start with the 1974 Suzuki RG500 XR14. Its two-stroke, water-cooled, carbureted 500cc square-four engine made 90 horsepower at 10,500rpm. In 1976 came the Suzuki XR22, on which the legendary Barry Sheene won the first of his two 500cc world championships. By now, the square-four was making 114 horsepower at 11,000rpm and things didn’t change much for 1977, when Sheene went on to win his second world championship aboard the bike.

Marco Lucchinelli, who won the 500cc world championship on his Suzuki in 1981

Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini also won 500cc world championships aboard Suzuki machines in 1981 and 82 respectively. But after that, Yamaha and Honda dominated the 500cc class for a decade. Suzuki only managed to come back on top in 1993, when Kevin Schwantz won the 500cc title. That was followed by a six year dry spell for Suzuki, after which Kenny Roberts Jr won the 500cc crown in the year 2000.

The inimitable Kevin Schwantz, who won the 500cc title for Suzuki in 1993

Coming to Suzuki’s current MotoGP bike, the GSV-R800 XRG0, the bike is powered by a four-stroke, 800cc, water-cooled, fuel-injected V4 that makes more than 220 horsepower at 17,500rpm. The bike uses Bridgestone tyres, Motul lubes, Brembo brakes, Yoshimura exhaust, and Ohlins suspension, weighs about 149 kilos, and can hit a top speed that's in excess of 330km/h!

And finally, John Hopkins on his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R800 XRG0...

But while racing bikes have evolved over the last thirty years, if you want to win races, one thing remains the same. And that, as Barry Sheene used to say, is the will to win…

More racing bikes:
Which is the best among 2007 MotoGP bikes?
The five racing bikes we love!
RD500LC: Yamaha's 500cc 'GP racer' for the common man!
RGV250: Suzuki's GP racer for the street
Team Cristofolini Racing's 350cc, 112bhp scooter!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Troy Corser: ‘I’m really surprised at how much power there is on a standard Yamaha R1…!’

Even if you're used to riding this, a standard Yamaha R1 will surprise you with its performance. Or can it...?

Troy Corser, who made his World Superbikes debut aboard a Yamaha FZR750R back in 1992, and who currently rides for the Yamaha Motor Italia team in WSBK, recently had a chance to ride stock R1 and R6 machines at the Valencia circuit in Spain. And what did he have to say about the bikes? ‘With the R1, I was really surprised how much power there is on the standard bike. There's plenty enough there to get the front wheel up in first, second and third without trying,’ claims Corser. ‘I was surprised by the strength of the engine – it's quite something for a stock road bike,’ he adds.

Overall, it's an impressive little package. That's what Corser says about the Yam R6

So what about the R6 then? Says Corser, ‘The power delivery is softer than on the R1, but it revs really high – much higher than the R1 – which makes for good amounts of fun on the track or the road. To be honest, the chassis on the R6 feels pretty close to the chassis on my racebike and it handles well. Overall it's an impressive little package.’

Given that Yamaha pay his salary, we suppose Mr Corser will say good things about the R1 and R6 bikes. Still, we quite like the R1 ourselves – the red and white paint scheme, in particular, rocks…

Also see:
Hi-res Yamaha R1 and R6 wallpaper
Two-stroke glory: The Suzuki RGV250
Prepare for the mighty KTM RC8
Faster and Faster: The best of 2006
"Want to win? Don't shut the throttle...!"
Alternative front suspension: The bikes that dared...
Shelby's 150 horsepower chopper
"GSX-Rs are for moped riders!"

Olivier Jacque's MotoGP career comes to an end

Olivier Jacque has been replaced by Anthony West, but the Frenchman will continue to be test rider and tech advisor at Kawasaki

Olivier Jacque has bid goodbye to motorcycle racing and will no longer ride in MotoGP. The ex-250cc world champ got a shot at riding the Kawasaki ZX-RR for the 2007 MotoGP season primarily due to Shinya Nakano having left Kawasaki at the end of 2006. But the French rider has had a season littered with crashes and injuries, which has put a dampener on Kawasaki’s MotoGP effort.

Says Jacque, ‘I feel tired and physically diminished. I find it very hard to recover from my injuries and don't feel competitive enough to ride at top level. My body keeps telling me it's maybe time to move on. Kawasaki have been understanding and we have reached agreements for the future which will allow me to stay involved in the racing world, for which I am passionate.’

Jacque will continue with Kawasaki as development rider and technical advisor. In the meanwhile, Kawasaki have hired Australian rider Anthony West to replace Jacque for the remaining 2007 MotoGP season. West had earlier been riding for Yamaha in the 600cc World Supersport class. Says West, ‘To leave Yamaha is sad, but it's such a great chance for me to follow my dream to go to MotoGP.’

Olivier Jacque fans may remember his fantastic second place finish at the rain-soaked 2005 Chinese MotoGP in Shanghai. We think it was Jacque’s finest MotoGP ride ever, and you can right-click and download this 20MB video of that race here.

Also see:
Revised regulations for World Superbikes in 2008
Ducati to merge with Harley-Davidson?!
Pierre Terblanche talks about the Ducati 999
And the world's most beautiful motorcycle is...?
Looking back the bikes of the 1980s
An Alfa Romeo motorcycle!
Air-powered bikes in the near future?

Cycle World: Mick Doohan interview

From 1994 to 1998, there was no beating Mick Doohan in the 500cc class

Remember Mick ‘The Dominant’ Doohan? Of course you do. The fierce, feisty Australian won five consecutive 500cc world championships on his Honda NSR500, from 1994 to 1998. Cycle World magazine spoke to the racing legend recently, and it’s clear that Doohan’s hunger for being the best in whatever he does remains undiminished.

Now that he’s retired from racing, what exactly does Doohan do? He says, ‘I have an aviation company in Australia. We run small aircraft – corporate jets – in Australia and Southeast Asia. If you have an aircraft, we crew, manage and maintain it. I own two of them. We manage 12 aircraft in total. We have the biggest group under one umbrella in the country.’

The Dominant Doohan, they used to call him...

As if that wasn’t enough, he runs other businesses too. ‘My prime business is property. We’ve started some restaurants and bars in Las Vegas with the MGM Mirage group. The first one opens later this year in the Luxor. And we’ve got another one opening next year, as well,’ he says. What about that famous competitive edge of his – does it extend to Doohan’s business activities as well? He says, ‘I suppose it does. I didn’t like losing races, and I don’t like losing money!’

Finally, does he miss his racing days? Says Doohan, ‘I still have a great love for the bikes, for MotoGP and especially Honda!’ Get the full interview at the Cycle World website here.

Other racing legends:
Kevin Schwantz talks to Faster and Faster!
Wayne Gardner talks to Faster and Faster
John Surtees: Winning on two wheels and four
Libero Liberati: 500cc world champ in 1957...
Marco Lucchinelli: 500cc world champ in 1981

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Loris Capirossi tribute: The Malaguti Phantom F12 R Capirex

Okay, so it's only a 50cc scooter, but it has Capirossi's number on it, which makes it icy cool...

Italian scooter specialists, Malaguti are doing this very stylish Phantom F12 R Capirex that you see here. Okay, it’s only a small scooter, but it’s Malaguti’s tribute to one of MotoGP’s finest racers ever – Loris Capirossi. The scooter sports Capirossi’s number 65, and the colour scheme and some styling cues, say Malaguti, are from Loris’ Ducati Desmosedici GP7 racebike.

At around US$3,300 the Malaguti Phantom F12 R Capirex is a bit pricey, but if you can’t afford a Desmosedici RR, perhaps it’s the next best thing? More details on the Malaguti website here.

Also see:
Retro SBK's Freddie Spencer tribute
Kawasaki ZRX1200: Eddie Lawson special!
Valentino Rossi talks about Loris Capirossi...
Stephanie McLean talks about Barry Sheene
Honda to build Hornet 1000 in 2008?
Frank Melling: Memories of the Isle of Man TT
The bike which SUV drivers will fear...!

If Malaguti can build a scooter in tribute to Capirossi, why can't Yamaha build one for Rossi? So here it is - the 2007 Yamaha Aerox Valentino Rossi edition!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cruising the Italian way: Moto Guzzi Bellagio

An Italian Harley-Davidson? Moto Guzzi have you covered...

We think Italians do sportsbikes best – cruisers are best left to the Americans. But still, for those who have been holding out for an Italian Harley-Davidson, the new Moto Guzzi Bellagio ‘custom cruiser’ will be in showrooms in Europe by the end of June.

Powered by a 90-degree, 936cc v-twin that makes 75bhp at 7200rpm, the Bellagio is highly unlikely to offer any substantial performance – relaxed cruising is more like it. Likewise, the double-cradle steel tube chassis will not encourage cornering heroics, but at least the single-sided aluminium swingarm (which incorporates the traditional Guzzi shaft drive) looks cool. Kind of.

If you are prepared to spend about US$17,500 on an Italian cruiser, you can get more details on the Bellagio on the Moto Guzzi website here. And read Kevin Ash’s riding impression of the bike on The Telegraph website here.

The Moto Guzzi Norge 1200. Beating BMW at their own game. At least in Spain...

In the meanwhile, the Moto Guzzi Norge sportstourer has won Motociclismo magazine’s 2007 Motorcycle of the Year Award. More than 36,000 readers participated in a survey conducted by this Spanish motorcycle magazine, and the Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 was voted the winner in the ‘Granturismo’ category, followed by the BMW R1200RT in second place. The ‘Cruiser’ category was won by the Harley-Davidson Night Rod, followed by the Moto Guzzi California Vintage and the Bellagio in second and third places.

Some Italian bikes we love...
The very fast, very expensive MV Agusta F4 CC
Naked and gorgeous: The MV Agusta Brutale 910R
The funky new world of Benelli...
The very cool Ducati Hypermotard!
The awesome Cagiva 500 grand prix racer
The US$80,000 NCR Ducati Millona. Superb!
The very beautiful Ducati 1098

Sunday, June 17, 2007

World Superbikes 2008: Regulations for 1200cc twins announced

For now, Ducati have got what they wanted. But is it fair?

Till a few weeks ago, Ducati were threatening to pull out of World Superbikes if the FIM didn’t agree to upping the engine capacity limit for twin-cylinder engines to 1200cc, for 2008. Then, at the end of last month, the FIM did agree and an announcement was made regarding 1200cc twins being permitted for WSBK 2008.

Now, some tech regulations have also been announced. Yes, 1200cc twins will indeed be allowed to race against 1000cc inline-fours, but the twins will have to weigh six more kilos, have 50mm air restrictors and will have to use standard con-rods. The authorities will analyse how 1200cc twins perform against 1000cc fours with these restrictions in place, and if needed, the restrictions may be revised during the 2008 racing season.

Aprilia are also expected to come to WSBK in 2008, but with a 1000cc four-cylinder engine

Ducati, of course, will have a 1200cc version of their 1098 superbike ready by next year, and KTM and BMW may also come to World Superbikes with their own twins. Aprilia are also expected to go racing in WSBK next year, albeit with a 1000cc four-cylinder engine. For all these racing bikes, manufacturers will have to make at least 1,000 units in order to be able to homologate them for racing. And that’s just for 2008 and 2009. For 2010 and beyond, that number will go up to 3,000 bikes!

We appreciate the fact that more manufacturers may be coming to World Superbikes next year. It will mean more intense competition on the track and ultimately, better bikes for enthusiasts. But we really don’t know about this 1200cc engine capacity limit for twins. Manufacturers are free to choose an engine format (twins, fours, triples or anything else…) and develop it the way they want, so why should Ducati first choose the v-twin, then argue that it’s not as efficient as the inline-four, and arm-twist race organizers to make special concessions for their engines?

With 1200cc twins pitted against their smaller fours in WSBK 2008, Japanese manufacturers may have to struggle next year...

We don’t think it’s fair. We’ve seen Ducati’s four-cylinder MotoGP bikes and how they perform. That’s the way to go. If they want to continue with v-twin engines in WSBK, that’s fine, but in our opinion, Ducati should also be restricted to 1000cc like the Japanese manufacturers. Then, if they can still win, they would have proved a point. And they would’ve won the respect of racing enthusiasts worldwide. Let the playing field be level, then let the best bike win…

Also see:
Moto Guzzi Bellagio: Life in the slow lane...
Acabion GTBO 70: Life in the very, very fast lane!
18th July 2007: Ride to work day
The future's bright, the future's Benelli?
Kenny Roberts to build Fireblade-based superbike
The utterly mad, deeply desirable Carver One!

MotoGP: Steve Parrish to test ride the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR

Parrish will soon be getting his hands on that ZX-RR...

Three decades ago, he was teammate to Barry Sheene and used to race 500cc grand prix Suzukis. Then he moved on to truck racing and was very successful at that. These days, he’s a commentator at BBC Television, which he probably doesn’t find as productive of adrenaline as his earlier jobs. So very soon, Steve Parrish will be pulling on his leathers again – Kawasaki are allowing him to test ride their MotoGP machine, the Ninja ZX-RR, around the Donington Park circuit, just ahead of the British MotoGP next week.

Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet recently finished in fifth place at the Spanish MotoGP at Catalunya, and Parrish will be riding de Puniet’s ZX-RR on Thursday, the 21st of this month. The ride will, in fact, be broadcast on the BBC.

Steve Parrish finished fifth in the 1977 500cc world championship

Parrish finished fifth in the 1977 500cc motorcycle GP racing world championship, but was actually more successful as a truck racer, winning no less than five European titles. When he gets on to the Kawasaki ZX-RR this Thursday, he will be only the sixth person ever to ride the MotoGP Kawasaki.

GP Racing bikes have, of course, evolved far beyond how they used to be in the 1970s, so how does Parrish feel about the MotoGP ride? He says, ‘I am very, very excited about riding the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR and particularly at Donington Park, my home Grand Prix, and a circuit where I have ridden many times. It is going to be the second 800cc MotoGP bike that I've tried. As I already have some idea from riding the Suzuki, it will be interesting to see if there are any differences. I feel like one of the luckiest men in the paddock, as I also rode all the 990cc MotoGP bikes last year!’

Kawasaki have struggled in MotoGP so far, but next year, if Hayden, Capirossi or Edwards joins the team, things could improve...

How different are today’s MotoGP machines from the 500cc racers of Parrish’s time? ‘It's difficult to see on screen just how unbelievably fast they are, and how the riders have to be athletes to ride them. I will do only four laps and even this will be pretty exhausting. But this is not to prove myself, but rather to be able to explain better how tough MotoGP racing is,’ he says. Yeah, you lucky bugger…