Motorcycle: Sports Two Wheels - The Smaller GP Classes
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 17:40:29 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
The Smaller GP Classes
The smaller Grand Prix categories can't match the straight-line speed or the sheer glamour of the 500s-but they often more than make up for that with closer racing, more technical variety and a wider number of potential winners. The thrilling sight of six or more tiny 125s and riders slipstreaming each other down the straights and clashing fairings through bends for lap after lap has long been commonplace. In countries such as Spain, riders of the tiddlers, diminutive giants such as Angel Nieto and Jorge "Aspar" Martinez have traditionally been regarded as highly as big-bike champions.
In recent seasons, racing's rules have limited Grand Prix 125s to a single cylinder and 250s to two, with six gears apiece. But rules were less restrictive in the past, which inspired some remarkable bikes. The Suzuki RK66 on which Hans-Georg Anscheidt won the 50cc world title in 1966, for example, had two cylinders, 14 gears and made 17.5bhp at 17,300rpm. Honda and MV Agusta built many multi-cylinder 250s and 350s in the 1960s. In 1964 the Japanese factory unveiled the legendary 250cc, six-cylinder RC166, which reached 150mph (241kph). The next season Honda's Luigi Taveri won the 125cc title on an exotic five-cylinder machine.
In recent years the Grand Prix solo classes have comprised just 500s, 250s and 125s, but in the past there have also been races for 350 and 50 or 80cc bikes. Riders commonly used to contest more than one class. In 1967 Mike Hailwood rode works Hondas in the 250, 350 and 500cc classes. At Assen, after winning his third Dutch TT of the day, Hailwood almost fell off his motorcycle through sheer exhaustion. Riders often contested both 250 and 350cc championships until the larger class was dropped in 1983, and both Kork Ballington and Anton Mang scored double championship wins aboard Kawasaki's tandem twins.
One of racing's most spectacular achievements was Freddie Spencer's 250 and 500cc championship double for Honda in 1985. Since then the increasingly competitive nature of Grand Prix racing, together with the contrasting technique required to get the best from the 250cc twins and the almost doubly powerful 500cc V-fours, has kept riders to one class. High cornering speed has always been crucial on 125s and 250s, while the ultra-powerful 500s demanded the "slow in, fast out" style refined by Kenny Roberts. Even 250cc champions such as Christian Sarron and Sito Pons struggled to repeat their success after moving up to 500s, although evolving engine and tyre technology have made the transition slightly smoother in recent seasons.
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