In MotoGP, there’s probably no place left for privateers – not even those who are at least reasonably well-off and well-connected. Ilmor and Team Roberts are just two examples of privateer teams that worked hard to stay on in MotoGP, but were ultimately left with no option but to leave. Not that that stops people from trying – both teams hope to make a comeback in 2009!
One rather memorable privateer MotoGP effort that comes to mind is the Moriwaki Racing Team, which went MotoGP racing back in 2003. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Moriwaki Engineering is a specialist motorcycle tuning company based near the Suzuka racing circuit – a two hour ride from Tokyo, on the Shinkansen Bullet Train.
Set up in 1972 by Mamoru Moriwaki (who once used to race for the Yoshimura team, and is married to one of Mr Yoshimura’s daughters), Moriwaki made its name designing and making camshafts for Kawasaki Z1 racers. Today, the company is known and respected for its expertise with motorcycle chassis, engine tuning, exhaust systems, and various racing-spec components.
But coming back to the Moriwaki Dream Fighter, Mr Moriwaki managed to convince Honda to lease their 2002-spec RC211V 990cc V5 engines to him, so he could go MotoGP racing. The result was the Moriwaki MD211VF project – a MotoGP bike with a Honda engine and a Moriwaki-designed chassis.
Ridden by Tamaki Serizawa, Tohru Ukawa, Andrew Pitt and Olivier Jacque in the 2003 and 2004 MotoGP seasons (not all races – just a few selected rounds), the MD211VF Dream Fighter was fitted with a Moriwaki-designed chrome-molybdenum steel tube chassis, Ohlins suspension, Moriwaki exhaust system, Nissin brakes and Marchesini forged magnesium wheels. The Honda RC211V engine was specially tuned by Moriwaki, and produced in excess of 220bhp. The chief engineer on this project was Koji Takahashi, who’s still the chief mechanic at Moriwaki’s superbike and 8-hour endurance racing teams.
The MD211VF Moriwaki Dream fighter never actually managed to finish in the top 10. The best which the Moriwaki bike could do was an 11th place finish in the 2004 Japanese MotoGP at the Motegi circuit. But speaking to Superbike magazine for one of their recent issues, Mamoru Moriwaki says ‘That class [MotoGP] is the pinnacle of racing. It’s prototype racing, so to score points in that class was very satisfying.’
And after so many years, what is it that still keeps him interested in motorcycle racing? ‘Humans are the only creatures who actually seek out challenges, who test themselves for no real reason – just for the challenge – and racing is a part of that. In fact, bike racing is quite dangerous and hard to do well, which is all part of the attraction for me,’ concludes Moriwaki san.
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