Master Cross 2003 Class 1: 125-two-stroke-250-four-stroke Class 2: 250-two-stroke-450-four-stroke Class 3: 500-two-stroke-650-four-stroke

Master Cross 2003
Class 1: 125 two-stroke / 250 four-stroke
Class 2: 250 two-stroke / 450 four-stroke
Class 3: 500 two-stroke / 650 four-stroke

Primate research

Wanted: the first, the best, the boss in the ring. Eight test drivers from international magazines on a research trip to find the fastest crosser of 2003 in Igualada, Spain.

Why is man different from monkey? Right, because of evolution. After that, the best keep developing, those who are less well adapted fall by the wayside. For example, this will most likely lead to the fact that the better coordination of movements of the thumb as a result of extensive training of the cell phone generation will be passed on in the future. What does this have to do with cross machines? Quite simply: there is a kind of selection process there too. The tough competition that has been raging for several decades has raised technical development to an extremely high level. The positive effect: really bad material has not existed for a long time. The negative effect: the differences between brands and models are minimal, the technical advancement cannot be easily conveyed to the buyer. Nowadays, the subtleties and subjective preferences are even more important. But since it is very tight in sport, it is precisely these nuances that can decide between victory and defeat.
Some effort is required to filter these out. Certainly not a bad option: gather professional test drivers from many magazines to compare all new models under the most constant conditions possible. This is exactly the idea behind the Master Cross, in which eight magazines from all over the world took part this time. The scene of the crime: The beautiful natural slope in Igualada, Spain (information via near Barcelona, ​​which with its good preparation and infrastructure provides the best conditions for such an event. A rather tough route with many steep climbs and descents, where suspension and handling are at least as important as power and torque.
According to the latest international regulations, the test field is divided into three classes: The traditional entry-level 125 two-stroke class, to which the 250 four-stroke should bring a breath of fresh air. The new premier class, in which 250 two-stroke engines have to defend themselves against 450 four-stroke engines. And finally the large class up to 650 cm3, in which the Europeans are again among themselves after the 450s migrated. All major manufacturers are at the start, usually represented by the Spanish national importers. KTM and Gas Gas even sent delegations straight from the factory. There were rejections from Husqvarna and VOR, who were struggling with economic problems at the time of the test, as well as from TM.
D.That such an event does not replace the comparison test should not go unmentioned. The results are only valid for this route under those conditions. Long test drives are not possible, neither are complex adjustments based on individual preferences. So pure racing, one fast lap counts, excuses are not accepted. Which in turn fits perfectly into the image of Darwinism, because in the end the best always prevail.

Master Cross 2003
Class 1: 125 two-stroke / 250 four-stroke
Class 2: 250 two-stroke / 450 four-stroke
Class 3: 500 two-stroke / 650 four-stroke

Primate research

Class 1: 125 two-stroke / 250 four-stroke

If Mike Tyson were allowed to fight a one-handed Klitschko with both hands, that would be unfair. The four-stroke engines in the smallest class, however, are allowed to do the same, namely simply twice the displacement. The performance curves speak for themselves. Compared to the 125cc, the 250cc Yamaha piles up a massive mountain of power that towers over the jagged silhouettes of the two-stroke curves. In practice, the four-stroke engine keeps the two-stroke engines in check, but they are by no means without a chance. One thing becomes clear in the analysis: fast drivers can obviously better implement the potential of the four-stroke engine, slower drivers are better served by the liveliness and lightness of the two-stroke engine. Five drivers achieve their personal bests with the 250, all of them from the fast troop. Only Richard, the Frenchman who also attacks quite bravely, is a touch faster with the two-stroke Yamaha. The Mexican feels most at home as a pure amateur on the Honda, while the Belgian as a hobby crosser gets along best with the tame gas. MOTORRAD driver Andy Kanstinger can claim six of the seven best times, Mattias Nilsson is only a touch faster with the RM 125.

Class 2: 250 two-stroke / 450 four-stroke

Even experienced professionals are puzzling over what the recipe for success in the fight for the world championship of the middle class will be after the current changes to the regulations. Do the aggressive, lively two-strokes have an advantage, or maybe the more easily controllable, but no less powerful four-strokes? Pit Beirer, Germany’s top crosser in the World Cup, has opted for the two-stroke, but that certainly doesn’t mean the last word we say question. At the Master Cross, the four-stroke engine drivers found it a little easier. Which is not surprising in principle, because the driver does not have to focus on the tamer, good-natured 450s for long. Three drivers, namely Kanstinger, Grillmayer and Sarasyn, achieved their personal best times on the Honda CRF 450 R. One each achieved this with the four-stroke engines from KTM (Nilsson) and Yamaha (Kytonen). Surprisingly, three drivers lapped the circuit the fastest on the 250cc Honda: Angot, Salina, Matarredona. In the final standings, the Honda, which also received excellent points, landed in first place, followed by the four-stroke engines from KTM and Yamaha. Three of the best times listed in the table were achieved by »Flying-Andy«, in addition to the two Honda he came with the – but much slower – 250cc Kawasaki best of all. Mattias Nilsson set five top times, setting the best time in class with the KTM SX 450 and driving the difficult to tame SX 250 around the course in a reasonably acceptable time. Noteworthy, on the other hand, was the good time of Gas Gas, perhaps Mattias was motivated by Spanish national pride. It is hardly surprising that Gabor Grillmayer, a fan of brutal machines, set the fastest time for the Yamaha four-stroke. The fastest lap of the 200cc KTM was driven by Italian warrior Bruno Salina, and Bruno almost even set his personal best in this class with the little KTM. However, since the other drivers had a harder time with the agile, but hopelessly inferior 200 series, it only landed in the ungrateful last place.

Class 3: 500 cycle / 650 cycle oven

Bigger was better: it used to be a matter of course that the top stars of the scene pushed into tea biggest class, where the works teams were at the start with the best drivers. That is the past, today everything is focused on the middle class. But the displacement giants have certainly retained a special charm. Their sheer force turns the torque monsters into real dragsters, whose control requires a special driving style. The question of who scores the decisive goal in this duel of giants is quickly answered: The battle ends eight to zero, all drivers were faster with the more balanced KTM 525 SX than with the idiosyncratic Husaberg FC 550. If you take the three fastest drivers – Kanstinger, Nilsson, Grillmayer – as a yardstick, almost exactly one second separates the two opponents. With top drivers a relatively clear difference, in view of the time differences of twenty seconds between amateurs and professionals again no drama. In other words: the right driver can also win with a Husaberg. The good lap times – achieved under optimal track conditions – prove the competitiveness of the big machines even on this demanding track.

The rules of the game

For the second time, the Spanish editorial colleagues from Motociclismo organized the Master Cross, where the crossers of the current year meet for a shootout. This year’s event took place in the spacious off-road park in Igualada near Barcelona. Bridgestone tires M 401 / M 402 ensured the same starting conditions on all machines. Mechanics from the manufacturers involved or their delegations prepared the motorcycles for the fast laps. The drivers were only allowed to adjust the handlebars and fittings to their individual needs, the suspension elements had to be left in the basic setting. The competition lasted three days in total. Initially, the displacement classes competed against each other. The machines were swapped between the eight drivers. After a short free practice session in each class, things got down to business: only one introductory lap had to be enough for each driver to get to know each other, followed by two timed laps. The best-in-class machines qualified for the finale, the crowning glory of the Master Cross, in which the five fastest drivers puts each other. The drivers also had to fill out an evaluation sheet for each motorcycle. The following factors were decisive for the placement: The average time of all drivers with the respective model, the best individual time, also the number of drivers who achieved their best time with this machine, and finally the average rating of all drivers.

The driver

The final

Everyone against everyone, across all classes, that doesn’t exist in the World Cup (yet) – but it does in the Master Cross. Behind this is the question of the fastest crosser ever, apart from the usual displacement categories. The answer depends strongly on the characteristics of the route, so the result is not generally valid. With professionals, the differences are minimized by tenths, Andy Kanstinger, for example, manages almost identical times with all three machines, but the CRF is that famous touch faster. Under him, the nimble Yamaha is even faster than the bearded KTM. Gabor Grillmayer, Mattias Nilsson and Bruno Salina also set the best time with the Honda, while Richard Angot only has the big KTM at the top. The clear winner of the Master Cross 2003 is called the Honda CRF 450 R..

Gas Gas MC 125

125 cm3, two-stroke, 34.5 hp *, 99 kg *, 5,990 euros

Easy to control, smooth engine with enduro character, but not particularly powerful over the whole range, stable chassis with good handling and precise steering, suspension designed relatively tight, good seating position

Honda CR 125 R.

125 cm3, two-stroke, 34.8 hp *, 97 kg *, 6,090 euros

Gently gripping engine, good power in the middle range, only moderate top performance, not particularly easy to turn, easy to control, very good ergonomics, excellent suspension front and rear, balanced, easy-to-drive 125cc

Kawasaki KX 125

125 cm3, two-stroke, 34.2 hp *, 97 kg *, 5650 euros

High-revving, powerful engine, but not particularly powerful in the lower and middle tidy, improved seating position, good stability and easy handling, good chassis set-up, precise steering, significant progress compared to the previous model

KTM 125 SX

125 cm3, two-stroke, 33.6 hp *, 98 kg *, 5,790 euros

Very strong, aggressive 125 cc in all areas, easy to turn, successful geometry, excellent handling in tight turns, rarely a bit restless at high speeds, rear suspension not very sensitive, nevertheless good traction, firm seat

Suzuki RM 125

125 cm3, two-stroke, 32.4 hp *, 98 kg *, 5.755 euros

High-torque, not particularly revving engine, top performance average, unusual seating position due to high, soft seat and low handlebars, best handling in its class, front suspension too soft for fast drivers

Yamaha YZ 125

125 cm3, two-stroke, 34.6 hp *, 98 kg *, 5,750 euros

According to KTM, the most powerful engine in all speed ranges, very homogeneous performance characteristics, no other serious weak points either, chassis very balanced with good stability and neutral steering, fork should be a bit harder

Yamaha YZ 250 F.

249 cm3, four-stroke, 36.3 hp *, 102 kg *, 7090 euros

Extremely powerful, easy-revving four-stroke, very wide usable speed range, therefore less switching work, stable, appealing chassis, only in very tight bends and jumps not quite as lively and light as a 125cc

Gas Gas MC 250

249 cm3, two-stroke, 45.2 hp *, 104 kg *, 5,950 euros

Elastic engine with little bite and power, easy to control, with the four-speed gearbox the large spread of the lower gears bothers, very stable chassis with good handling, fork very softly tuned, plunges deeply when braking and downhill

Honda CR 250 R.

249 cm3, two-stroke, 47.5 hp *, 103 kg *, 6.690 euros

Motor with good performance in the middle range, but very little power below, also not particularly easy to turn, weak clutch, strong vibrations, excellent seating position, balanced balance, front and rear suspension responds well, best brakes

Honda CRF 450 R.

449 cm3, four-stroke, 53.1 hp *, 107 kg *, € 7,940

Softly gripping four-stroke engine with linear characteristics, full performance and excellent traction, wide speed range, vibrations, very responsive suspension, neutral, precise handling, stable straight-line stability even on the brakes

Kawasaki KX 250

249 cm3, two-stroke, 43.2 hp *, 104 kg *, 6100 euros

Powerful motor with moderate peak performance, but efficient due to good traction, easy to control, stable chassis, precise, neutral handling, fork needs harder springs, hits every now and then, seat could be a little higher

KTM 200 SX

193 cm3, two-stroke, 43.3 hp *, 99 kg *, 6,050 euros

Very easy to drive, manoeuvrable motorcycle, only imprecise in long curves, but absolutely no chance against the 250 at the start and on the straights, ideal for hobby riders, similarly agile and lively as a 125, but with significantly more pressure

KTM 250 SX

249 cm3, two-stroke, 47.9 hp *, 101 kg *, 6,620 euros

Extremely biting, brutal engine, explosive power delivery in the middle range, difficult to tame, tightly tuned chassis, especially nervous downhill, supercross character, hard seat, otherwise good ergonomics

KTM 450 SX Racing

449 cm3, oven-stroke, 53.9 hp *, 108 kg *, 7190 euros

A lot of power in all areas, but not brutal, easily implementable performance development, nervous chassis, frequent handlebar flutter, hard rear suspension, restless downhill, progressive fork responds well, in corners a bit more indifferent than CRF

Suzuki RM 250

249 cm3, two-stroke, 46.5 hp *, 104 kg *, 6255 euros

Nice performance range, but without any particular kick, top performance not above average, very easy to drive, soft suspension, especially the fork very soft, but responsive, high seat, low handlebars, great handling

Yamaha YZ 250

249 cm3, two-stroke, 46.0 hp *, 104 kg *, 6490 euros

Widest usable speed range in the 250cc, good pulling power and linear implementation, effective engine, balanced chassis with well-coordinated suspension and neutral handling in curves, stable on straights and when braking, good seating position

Yamaha YZ 450 F.

449 cm3, four-stroke, 51.1 hp *, 107 kg *, 7190 euros

Extremely aggressive drive with two-stroke characteristics, can only be mastered with a lot of power and concentration on this tough track, neutrally balanced in the air, rarely a little restlessness in the handlebars, good handling, little traction at the rear

Husaberg FC 550

555 cm3, four-stroke, 57.6 hp *, 112 kg *, 7450 euros

Extremely powerful, high-torque drive, strong vibrations, hooked gears, suspension hard at the rear, soft at the front, expansive tank, low handlebars, straight-line stability sometimes critical, not very agile, takes a long time to get used to

KTM 525 SX Racing

510 cm3, four-stroke, 56.2 hp, 111 kg, 7250 euros

Extremely powerful, but still manageable power development, depends directly on the gas, easy to turn despite the large displacement, improved chassis, but still less sensitive rear suspension, occasionally a little nervous straight-line stability

1st place: Yamaha YZ 250 F

The small four-stroke makes merciless use of the displacement advantage; in terms of power, even the most powerful 125 two-stroke engines have to surrender. The slightly higher weight and the associated, more sluggish behavior turns the YZ-F into an advantage, no two-stroke engine is so easy and problem-free. The 250 will certainly be a serious opponent in top-class sport, but it is also the ideal fun device for recreational crossers.

1st place: Honda CRF 450 R

This is where the music will play in the future: The middle class is now really going on, two-stroke versus four-stroke. And the king of this category is the undisputed Honda CRF 450 R for the Master. No crosser in this class is as balanced, none as effective as the CRF 450 R. A machine without real weaknesses. The engine is by no means sensational, but it has enormous pressure in all areas and brings it to the ground optimally.

1st place: KTM 525 SX

That the big KTM can prevail in a tougher environment was proven at last year’s Master Cross, where it not only won the class, which was still strong at the time, but even the final. After migrating the 450 to the middle class, the big SX only has to assert itself against the gnarled Husaberg, a one-sided duel with an undisputed winner in lap times and points .

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