Motorcycle: Sports Two Wheels - GP 500S: The Two-Stroke Era
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 17:39:06 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
GP 500S: The Two-Stroke Era
Modern 500cc Grand Prix bikes are the purest, most highly developed motorbikes on the planet. On the straights their 185bhp two-stroke engines produce top speeds of up to 200mph (322kph). In the corners their light weight, ultra-rigid frames, sophisticated suspension and fat slick tyres allow incredible angles of lean. The factory 500s' performance is so violent and demanding that only a select band of talented and highly-paid professionals — men like past champions Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and Michael Doohan — can even come near to mastering them.
The two-stroke revolution began with Yamaha who, in the early 1970s, first built a 500cc four: basically two twins combined, with the cylinders set in line across the frame. With double the number of power strokes for a given engine speed, a two-stroke should always produce more power than an equivalent capacity four-stroke, and Yamaha's format was immediately a major success. Jarno Saarinen won the French Grand Prix on the four's debut in 1973. Although the Finnish star was killed later that year, Yamaha's Giacomo Agostini went on to win the Daytona 200 in 1974 and the 500cc world title the following season.
Suzuki's more compact square-four RG500 took Barry Sheene to the championship in 1976 and 1977. Kenny Roberts then arrived on the scene to win three consecutive titles on his straight-four YZR Yamaha, redefining the art of riding a 500cc Grand Prix bike with a power-sliding style developed from American dirt-track racing. Suzuki and the RG hit back, with championships for Italians Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini, before Freddie Spencer finally won Honda's first 500cc title in 1983 on the NS500 two-stroke triple.
Since then, the dominant 500cc engine layout has been the V-four, with Honda's NSR, Yamaha's YZR and Suzuki's RGV each taking championships in recent years, and Cagiva's V-four becoming competitive before the Italian firm's withdrawal from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1994.
The future of Grand Prix racing was then unclear, although in many ways the 500cc class had never been healthier. Teams had become increasingly professional, worldwide television coverage had brought the sport to millions, grids were full and tracks had been made safer than ever before. Serious accidents, like the one that left triple-champion Wayne Rainey paralysed in 1993, are a sad and inevitable fact of motorcycle racing. But it was not such events that threatened the health of Grand Prix racing. The exotic, hugely expensive 500s were under threat from the road-based Superbikes that were regarded by some manufacturers as more relevant to motorcycle sales.
This article comes from Free Vin Check, Get Vehicle History Report, Free Car History, Used Car History, Auto History, Free Vehicle History, VIN Number Check, Car History, Lemon, Check
The URL for this story is: