It is a constantly running argument on social media whenever the subject of two stroke vs four stroke Grand Prix racing is concerned that today’s racers would never have been able to handle the vicious characteristics of the 500cc bikes.
These diatribes are usually accompanied by the classic Wayne Gardner photo of the 1987 world champion about to be pitched over the bars on the NSR500 Honda..
In qualifying for the Czech GP in 1990, Wayne went over the bars. While there are dozens of copies of this shot on the net I chose this one for a number of reasons. The main one being that it includes Remy in a very similar pose on board (for the moment) of his Moto2 bike.
Now the argument goes that modern MotoGP riders, cossetted by a myriad of electronic riding aids, just don’t have the skill to handle a bike without them and certainly wouldn’t have been able to tame a 500cc two stroke.
The argument is ridiculous for any number of reasons and I have pointed them out on previous occasions. MotoGP bikes are hugely more powerful than their predecessors were; modern GP bikes can STILL fling you over the bars despite better tyres and all the aids, and experience of modern riders show that the many riders prefer to have less help rather than more. Casey Stoner, for example, often turned off many of the do-dads and still won.
And ever single rider, both modern and past, will tell you that NOBODY “masters” a top level grand prix machine. To think that they might actually be able to is absured.
But, of course, the “modern riders are wimps” brigade will say that we can never tell because no comparisons have been made or can be.
Of course the great riders of the 500cc era were supermen, to say anything else would be plainly stupid. BUT the champion riders of MotoGP are ALSO supermen as anyone who has watched their performances will attest. Despite all the aids, the fact is that the riders are wrestling with bike that are developing close to 250bhp and putting stresses into the chassis and the tyres that a 500cc could never approach.
But, anyway, don’t take my word for it, here is a quote from champion rider, Loris Capirossi who rode in the 500cc era and is still intimately involved with the sport. What does HE think about whether modern riders would have floundered on a 500.
Loris Capirossi: “I am firmly convinced that the great champions of MotoGP would have won anyway, even with the two strokes. It’s a phenomenon with both MotoGP and 500. Maybe he needed a little more time to learn.. if we put Marquez on a 500 he’d need two days to adjust, but he’d still be a winner. It’s definitely true that four-stroke MotoGP is easier, the less talented rider manages to get closer to the stronger. But in the end, it’s always talent that makes the difference. It would be nice to see today’s riders on the motorcycles of those days: in my opinion not everyone could be fast, but there would be a lot of them going fast anyway”.
In fact, as the picture at the head of the article shows, some modern MotoGP rides HAVE ridden a 500, not in a race, obviously, but their feedback indicates that, while the physical demands of a bike with no riding aids would be much greater, the rider input would make the difference. Some WOULD struggle, they admit, but all say that they would love the chance to be able to do so.
My opinion? Champions are champions. The champions of the 500cc era are champions because they worked out how to get the best of their machines and today’s champions are the same. The parameters are different but the demands are the same. Would Marquez, Quatararo, Vinales win on a 500? Of course they would.
Sunday was warm and sunny so I got Rhonnda out and did a little highlands run, it’s always great to be out.