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Review of the Year 2001

Published: 30 December 2001

Join us for a look back at the motorcycling news of the year.

If you think we missed anything important, let us know by posting on the news board in Talk Bikes.

April 23: Foot and Mouth hits the TT: Cattle weren’t the only victims of this year’s foot and mouth outbreak – the Isle of Man TT also succumbed. After months of speculation and denial, the Island’s chief minister Donald Gelling finally announced the races were off. He said: " By allowing the TT to go ahead, we would be condemning the Island to an outbreak. " But, bizarrely to many, the festival itself still went ahead – only without the racing. Unsurprisingly, you stayed away in droves. The number of bikes on the Island on Mad Sunday shrunk from the usual 11,000 to a less than imposing 2500, leaving Douglas Prom looking like any other seaside town in May. Now all restrictions have been lifted and it looks set to be business as usual next year.

April 8: Honda secures 500th GP win: The greatest achievements of manufacturers with the most distinguished racing histories now pale into insignificance next to the success of this Japanese giant on the race track. The firm celebrated its 500th GP win in April when Valentino Rossi won the opening round at Suzuka in Japan. Rossi notched up the victory convincingly on his NSR500, despite being chased by no less than four Yamaha YZR500 racers – Garry McCoy, Max Biaggi, Norick Abe and Shinya Nakano – in second to fifth place.

April : Chinese Sports Bikes appear: China already produces more bikes than any other country, but most are budget two-stroke commuters which are only sold at home. But now they have worldwide markets in their sights and their plan of attack is to build

high-performance superbikes as good as Japanese rivals, but at ridiculous prices. In Spring, Zongshen unveiled a 90bhp, 150mph 750 V-twin which it reckons will cost less than £3000. All it needs is an importer. Japanese firms say they’re not worried. Motor industry experts say the Chinese have the potential to kick their butts. Either way, we win.

April 4: Triumph Celebrates 10th Birthday: Ten years ago, there were high hopes for the newly-revived British marque as the first Trophy 1200s rolled off the production line. Today, it has an annual turnover of more than £100 million and a range of bikes which has helped it conquer international markets including America with the Bonneville. And to mark its 10th birthday in style, this year it unveiled the latest version of its range-topping 147bhp Daytona.

June 17: Rossi and Biaggi have a fight: When Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi crossed paths after the Catalunya 500 GP in Spain, it wasn’t so much a case of dummies being spat as being fired into orbit. The long-running feud finally boiled over with Biaggi getting punched in the face as the pair ascended a cramped staircase to record TV soundbites moments after the race. Rossi said economically: " There was a small discussion, but it was nothing serious. " Biaggi wouldn’t be drawn on what happened, but the atmosphere said it all.

June 30: Jeremy McWilliams is the first British GP winner for 15 years: In May 2000, Jeremy McWilliams ended a seven-year drought when he became the first British rider since 1993 to stand on a 500 GP podium, after claiming third place in the Italian GP at Mugello. And this year he did even better, becoming the first British rider in 15 years to claim a GP win, in the 250 race at Assen in June. McWilliams was just as overjoyed as the hundreds of fans who cheered themselves hoarse as he doused everyone in sight with champagne from the top of the podium. He said: " It’s a fantastic feeling when you can wake up next morning and say: ‘I was the fastest 250 rider in the world yesterday. "

July 22: Chris Walker Sacked From GPs: Every race fan in the country shared Chris Walker’s enthusiasm when he secured a two-year deal with the Shell Advance 500 GP squad. And every race fan felt his disappointment when he was sacked eight races into it. Numerous crashes, some of which he was lucky to survive, earned him more sympathy, and many of us still believe that if he’d had more time and support from his team, his results would have improved. In the same month, Walker and the brilliant battle between Rossi and Biaggi drew the biggest crowd for half a decade to the British GP at Donington.

July 18: Fabio Taglioni dies: Without this man, Ducati’s 996 would never have existed. Fabio Taglioni created the first engine to use the unique Desmo valve system in 1957, paving the way for countless new models using a similar design, including many GP championship winners. In the early 1970s, he also created a 90° V-twin engine – the same configuration in all Ducatis today. His contribution to motorcycling has been immeasurable – and no-one is more grateful than Ducati itself. Boss Carlo di Biaggio said: " Without his ingenuity and invaluable contribution to Ducati, it would be a very different company today. " Taglioni died at home in Bologna, aged 80.

july 29: Hodgson turns Brands Hatch orange: By 9am, the queue of bikes was already stretching a mile down the road. Over the next three hours, a record 122,000 of you streamed into Brands Hatch for the biggest event of the year. And by the time the first WSB race got under way at midday, the symphony of honking airhorns, screaming superbikes and bellowing larynxes could be heard as far as Dover. In case anyone was in doubt who we had come to see, the ocean of orange put them straight. And Hodgson rewarded us royally by taking a brilliant second in the July sunshine. He said afterwards: " Nothing can prepare you for how fantastic this event is. I just wish I could have won. " There’s always next year, Neil – and we’ll be there again.

July-September: New 2002 Yamaha R1 and Honda Fireblade: Such is the power of the GSX-R that both Yamaha and Honda seemed to have decided not to tackle it head-on when we got the first glimpse of their 2002 bikes. Instead, they aimed to improve rideability by giving them even better handling and more torque. Will it be enough? We’ll find out whether the R1 has managed it in February, but we already know what the FireBlade can do, as we tested it earlier this month. And though it’s impossible to give a definitive answer until the two bikes have been tested back-to-back, it looks like the GSX-R will be looking over its shoulder.

August: John Deacon dies in accident whilst competing in the Master Rallye: John Deacon, factory BMW rider, 10 times British four-stroke enduro champion, nine times ISDE champion, and the first rider to win a stage of the Paris-Dakar sadly died after an accident whilst in second place on the Master Rallye. BMW motorcycle manager, Dave Taylor summed up some of what motorcycling lost, " He was a remarkable man who craved adventure and loved racing. He exuded talent and charisma and is a true legend of the motorcycle industry. He will always be remembered. "

August: Kawasaki and Suzuki tie-up: Kawasaki and Suzuki are two great names we’re used to seeing in cut-throat competition. So the news that they’re to team up in a deal which will see them sharing both mechanical parts and expertise didn’t seem right. We still don’t know how it will affect us in practice, but the first jointly-developed bike is due to go on sale in 2002. Sports bikes combining the best technology both firms have to offer haven’t been ruled out, which introduces the intriguing prospect of some kind of GSX-R1000 and ZX12-R hybrid.

September 21. Accident ends Foggy’s career. Again: After recovering from the injuries that forced him out of World Superbikes, Foggy was planning a racing comeback on a factory CCM640 Supermoto.

A heavy crash whilst practicing broke his tibia and fibia, and spelt the end for the four times World Superbike champion. " I am going to have to give it up completely now – as hard as that is I have to accept that I don’t bounce as well as I did 20 years ago " admitted Foggy.

September: Ducati Multistrada and Aprilia Blue Marlin divide opinion: Autumn saw the unveiling of two very unusual bikes, both from Italian firms renowned for making gorgeous motorcycles. The question on most people’s minds when they first saw the Ducati was not " do I like it or hate it, " but " what is it? " One visitor to motorcyclenews.com said: " It looks like it was styled by a Japanese toy firm. " The Blue Marlin also resulted in jaws hitting the ground, but this time there was rather more consensus – you voted it best-looking bike at November’s NEC Show. But Aprilia kept it tantalisingly out of reach by refusing to confirm whether it would go into production. Now our prayers have been answered. A production version is due to be unveiled in September next year.

October 14 Rossi takes historic championship: Valentino Rossi creates history by winning the 500cc championship, and becoming the second rider to win the 125cc, 250cc, and 500cc championships, all by the age of 22. He then went on to claim wins in Malaysia and Rio, taking his season total to eleven.

The introduction of four-strokes might change the face of MotoGP, but it would take a brave man to bet against Valentino next season.

October 24: King GSX-R1000 is crowned: Yamaha’s R1 was so far ahead of the competition when it was unveiled that it won MCN’s Machine of the Year Award three years on the trot. And it’s testament to the all-conquering GSX-R1000 that it took the R1’s crown at its first attempt. Riders around the world were already in no doubt which bike was the winner, and MCN’s judges weren’t inclined to disagree. They said: " Every now and then a motorcycle comes along which redefines what is great and which everyone knows is the new benchmark. The GSX-R1000 has done that. "

September 30: Hizzy loses BSB title: It was set to be the climax we’d all been waiting for – superbike " veterans " Steve Hislop and John Reynolds pushing each other to the wire for the British title. But on a grey day in Northants, Hizzy’s dream – and our thrilling climax – ended in a tyre wall. Reynolds missed a gear, Hizzy crashed trying to avoid him and broke his leg. It was all over. He’ll be back next year and, with Reynolds on a GSX-R1000, we should be able to expect a repeat performance. Here’s hoping.

September 9. Bayliss takes World Superbike crown: Having been drafted in for the injured Carl Fogarty the previous year, Aussie Troy Bayliss sealed the championship with a Race Two win at Assen. The likeable Ducati racer seemed more shocked by his championship victory than anyone else, " I knew I was fast and I knew I could win races but if someone had told me I was going to be WSB champion I would never have believed them. "

October: New VFR800 and Pan-European: For years Honda’s VFR800 was the king of sports tourers. Then Aprilia knocked its crown askew with its Futura. But this year the VFR has come back fitter and stronger, with a new frame, engine and suspension. It’s also the first bike in the world to feature Honda’s V-TEC variable valve timing system. The most versatile bike in the world has reclaimed its throne.

November: Foggy Launches a race team: Proving you can’t keep a good man down, Carl Fogarty announced he’s putting his name to a WSB team. And if the news that we haven’t seen the last of him wasn’t good enough, there will also be an all-new road bike based on the racer. The 900cc triple, developed as part of a multi-million-pound deal between Foggy and Malaysian oil giant Petronas, could be in showrooms as early as next year. The race version will make close to 200bhp. We can’t wait.

December: Aprilia GP bike makes it four: For the first time since the 1960s, GP racing regulations have changed so dramatically they’ve opened up whole new worlds of possibilities, promising all manner of new technology and new levels of power and performance, first for the track, but later on the road. We’ll have to wait to see the results, but the changes have led to a flurry of activity from firms like Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki in 2001, culminating this month in the fourth bike to be revealed, Aprilia’s stunning RS3 990. Next year is going to be very interesting…

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