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MotoGP technology under close scrutiny in Portugal

MotoGP technology under close scrutiny in Portugal

MotoGP technology under close scrutiny in Portugal

With the introduction of the new 4-stroke bikes the MotoGP World Championship was bound to catch the attention of many motorsport gurus. Last weekend in Portugal one of the most respected and prolific F1 designers, John Barnard, had a close look at the latest innovations introduced to motorcycle racing. The 56-year-old British designer has worked with the most successful F1 teams since the 80´s and masterminded two majors innovations - the carbon fiber monocoque in the early 80´s for McLaren and, a few years later, the semi-automatic gearbox for Ferrari, both well established and widely spread technologies in current motorsport.

Barnard doesn´t have many opportunities to attend MotoGP races, but he has known former World Champion and team owner Kenny Roberts for a long time. `I haven´t been to a MotoGP race since 1988 at Donington with Kenny,´ he explains. `At that time I was with Ferrari the first time around and Kenny had been down to see me and basically said `Can you build me a carbon frame?´. I said `Sure we can but we haven´t got the time to do it right now,´ so he invited me along to have a look´.

Looking at the new state-of-art motorcyles, Barnard admitted to having a peek at the RC211V Honda, which has won 10 out of 11 races so far this year. `I had a good stare at the Honda on Friday night and a lot of people have asked me what I think. I think it´s obviously a good job – it´s quick and it´s obviously a well sorted job. In terms of anything else I don´t see any big fundamental steps. It´s a new engine, it´s a V5... but they´ve just done a very good, solid, sound job on it and got all the things that the rider wants right. Formula 1 is still very much about power, at the end of the day. You have to have driveability but you almost can´t sacrifice top power to get it whereas in bikes you can. There are all those aspects of the engine which are probably equally as important as top end power´.

With the 990cc 4-stroke set as a new standard, a transfer of Formula 1 technology to MotoGP could be utilised. However, Barnard stresses that the needs of the two sports remain very specific. `I´m sure it could be in terms of combustion and so on but I think the difference is that you´ve got a situation where, from what I understand, Honda makes more power than you can use. I mean, okay, maybe you can always use it on top speed but I think it´s real effect is that it´s so driveable and delivers power so well throughout the range. When you look at it, it's a wet sump engine and Formula 1 is strictly dry sump. It´s all about getting your weight as low as you can and so on but that doesn´t apply to the bikes. I think when it moves on we´ll be able to look at the heads and things like that and start to use Formula 1 technology. The revs will start rising and that may, for example, bring in pneumatic valves... I don´t know, but I imagine that is somewhere down the road´.

Now running his own design office, B3 Technologies, getting involved in MotoGP with Kenny Roberts could be an interesting option for Barnard. `I really don´t know yet – I´m just sort of browsing the situation at the moment. He loves talking technical stuff anyway and that´s what I´m all about so we just sit and chat like that for hours. I think he´s looking a lot better for next year but whether I can do anything with him or not I really don´t know. It would be technically interesting to me to do something but it comes down to money at the end of the day and if he has the budget to do stuff then I would be interested to do it. Kenny is trying to take the next step. He´s trying to move it up a whole rung and he´s bringing Formula 1 people in, I think, because that is the kind of set-up he wants to introduce – less of the individual and more of the organised group. Obviously a lot of the guys he´s now got working for him are well used to working that way´.

MotoGP, 2002, Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal

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