The gateway to the future
Yamaha demo laps, an engine presentation at Honda: the future of GP1 began at the Catalan GP.
Half an hour before the start of the 125 cc race in Barcelona, at exactly 10:42 am, the garage door to the future of Grand Prix racing was pushed open. A black prototype with only a sparse Yamaha lettering rolled out of the box straight onto the track, where test driver Norihiko Fujiwara completed two fast demonstration laps with lots of wheelies.
Because Yamaha does not want to look into the cards in the four-stroke project for the GP1 World Championship 2002 and also completed two-day test drives in the following week in strict secrecy, the machine called OW-M1 was quickly withdrawn from the waiting photographers in the pit lane. But the fans around the Barcelona circuit also felt as if they had seen a phantom: Instead of roaring like a Formula 1, the over 200 hp GP1 racer only gave a subdued hiss, which was just as good of a production motorcycle on the Autobahn, at best from a superbike, could have come.
With a full 990 cm3 displacement, you don’t need any open pipes to generate the acceleration and top speed values of a two-stroke 500. Yamaha also spared complicated technical experiments: because they wanted to build a faster motorcycle without giving up what had been achieved, the new four-stroke engine was incorporated into the tried and tested chassis of the two-stroke YZR 500. The engine itself is square, practical, and good, a conventional inline four-cylinder with five valves per cylinder. »In terms of the performance concept, the in-line four-cylinder is the easiest exercise. Symmetrical structure, exhaust systems of the same length, enough space for carburetors or injection systems. In comparison, with a V-engine you only have calamities, «says the Austrian designer Harald Bartol.
The real enthusiasm might not arise from the stars who have moved the OW-M1 up to now, however. John Kocinski in Malaysia came close to the times that Carlos Checa had achieved with the YZR 500 a year earlier. Superbike specialist Noriyuki Haga’s mood quickly evaporated during the first test drives. “It’s true, I hate the two-stroke engine and I can’t wait to get back on the gas with a four-stroke engine. But the new motorcycle is certainly not yet a winning machine? it’s clumsy and doesn’t give you a feel for the chassis and tires, ”said the Japanese.
Haga has mastered the art of keeping the engine’s braking torque under control when turning into a bend through artistic use of the throttle. For the two-stroke specialists, however, it is an abomination that a four-stroke does not simply continue to roll when the throttle is closed, but rather decelerates so that there is a risk of falling when reaching the maximum lean angle.
Yamaha is experimenting with more flywheel mass on the crankshaft and with a torque-limiting clutch to reduce this effect. Nevertheless, Max Biaggi also keeps the ball flat when it comes to future prospects. “The two-stroke engines will be ahead in the next year,” suspected the Roman.
Until then, Suzuki also wants to take its time before the factory team’s racing operations are switched from two to four-stroke engines. The mysterious project called XRE0 ?? At Suzuki, XR stands for racing machines, E means evolution and 0 the model number ?? is even more consistent than the Yamaha OW-M1 based on the existing two-stroke 500 series. With the exception of a modified engine suspension, Suzuki is not only taking over the existing chassis, but also the engine configuration with four cylinders in V-shape, which with a displacement of 990 cm3, four valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection with two injection nozzles per cylinder should produce a whopping 210 hp.
While Suzuki’s project is still in its infancy, Honda is almost finished. At a mighty party on Saturday evening in the presence of old stars such as Toni Mang, Freddie Spencer, Luca Cadalora, Mick Doohan, Luigi Taveri and Jim Redman, the historic number of 500 Grand Prix victories was celebrated and an era in the past was bid farewell. At the same time, Honda gave a foretaste of the new GP1 era. First a video of tests in Sugo flickered across the screen, whereupon the V5 Honda not only looked fast, but also made the heart pound with the gritty sound of a real racing four-stroke. Then the real V5 engine was unveiled and Freddie Spencer, pioneer on the legendary V4-NR 500 with oval pistons in the early 1980s, reminisced. »The motorcycle turned an unbelievable 21,500 tours, the usable speed range was only 3000 tours. I won my first race with this machine, a five-lap sprint in Laguna Seca, against Kenny Roberts in 1981, and he was the reigning world champion after all, “says Fast Freddie, who now conducts motorcycle driving courses in Las Vegas with a smile. “But a week later we went to Silverstone, and we looked old against the half-liter two-stroke engines. It wasn’t a lack of performance, but the weight distribution that troubled us. The machine had a stubborn driving behavior. “
But Honda “has carefully evaluated the experience of the NR 500,” said Yasuo Ikenoya, President of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). »When looking for the right concept, we had three development goals: to concentrate the vehicle mass, to create the smallest possible frontal area and to generate as much traction as possible. A V5 seemed like the best way to go. “
A machine with a six-cylinder engine was out of the question because of the high minimum weight of 155 kilograms (see regulations in the box on page 154), a V2 engine based on the model of the Honda Superbike was ruled out because of the required height. The idea of a V4 was discussed more seriously, but ultimately rejected in favor of the V5. In Honda’s GP1 power source with 990 cc displacement, three cylinders point to the front and two to the rear. The cylinders of the four-valve engine, each with two overhead, gear-driven camshafts, are arranged at a 90-degree angle. The horizontally divided engine housing, which is ideal for later large-scale production of the V5, is clearly visible.
With conventional valve control, the usable speed range should reach up to around 15,000 rpm. Thanks to a state-of-the-art injection system, fuel consumption should remain so low that the prescribed 24-liter tank will be sufficient for a race distance. The tank is relocated under the seat to move as much weight as possible into the center of the machine. Mechanical and electronic systems to reduce the engine braking effect are still being experimented with, and the firing order of the five cylinders has not yet been finalized. But remember that the R.There is no doubt that the C 211 V will be competitive until the baptism of fire at the first Grand Prix in 2002 and that Honda wants to win straight away. “Honda doesn’t just build good motorcycles. As the most successful plant with the most money and the biggest sponsors, they can also hire the best pilots. A combination that is hard to beat, ”mused star guest Toni Mang. Freddie Spencer even went a step further. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Honda won the world championship with this machine in 2002!”
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