Grand Prix racing has changed much in 66 years, but there has been one constant. Factory bikes run by factory teams do the winning. The rest make up the numbers, in a battle to prove themselves good enough for a factory ride so that they too can get their chance.
It’s a meritocracy, reinforced by money. And it’s worked well. A bit like the music business: not every good musician makes it to the top, but by and large the cream rises. Big rewards for the few, a struggle for the rest.
One might even call it the spirit of racing. That’s more or less what HRC’s vice-president Shuhei Nakamoto did, when he railed against Ducati for switching to the “Open” category, and Yamaha for supplying its customer team with a factory bike, both of which handsomely outclassed Honda’s RCV1000R customer bike.
Having bent over backwards to comply with Dorna’s wishes, and suffering a financial loss on each of the hand-built bikes sold, these actions were (said Nakamoto) “against the spirit of the rules.”
Given the rate at which rules have been changing, that was ages ago. But HRC were going to have to submit to another kicking, and yet more loss of face, as Dorna went into paroxysms of increasingly convoluted rule changes to accommodate the changed circumstances, concluded barely in time for the Qatar season-opener.
Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta had originally proposed a sliding scale of loss of technical privileges (20 percent more fuel, seven more engines, softer tires and free testing) for any Open teams that got too uppity, by finishing on the podium. What emerged from the next couple of weeks of wrangling suited his purposes even better.
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