The total chassis freedom of the Moto2 class promised a field of weird and wacky machines. A look back at the Elf Honda makes us sad no team dared look for a killer advantage outside the conventional.
n the Moto2 class, the chassis must be a prototype, the design and construction of which is free within the constraints of the FIM Grand Prix Technical Regulations.’
The opening paragraph of the ‘Chassis, Design and Construction’ section within the FIM Moto2 technical regulations describes a world championship that has control engines, engine management, fuel, tyres and just the one big area to exploit: the rolling chassis, which must not bear any relation to any productuon machine.
So why haven’t we seen bikes like the hub-centre steered Elf – from the pen of the free-thinking French designer Andre de Cortanze in the ’80s – seen here?
Instead, the majority of Moto2 bikes are utterly conventional. Why? Because it works. Decades of refinement topped off with shortcomings polished out by electronics. Stray from that path and you risk entering a set-up wilderness it could take years to get back from.
The status quo has staying power for other reasons, too.
The major manufacturers prefer to leave quirky experimentation to smaller firms like Bimota and Vyrus as it’s easier to serve a market whose tastes are conservative – that demands the bikes they already make, not the ones that will take big changes in tooling and marketing to sell.
Piaggio UK’s Head of Communications and Marketing, Phil Read, races an Italian-made Vyrus. He says: “People have treated bikes with funny fronts ends with derision for so long. That’s why Yamaha’s GTS [a sports tourer with hub-centre steering] never took off. But with modern technology you can make the front ends smaller, lighter, stronger.
“We race the Vyrus to prove the concept has legs. There’s no dive under braking so the bike is very stable. When you don’t need that massive weight transfer you can turn tighter.
“I heard Vyrus may do a Moto2 chassis and with GP rules opening up to 1000cc production-based engines Vyrus may have scope there as well.”
Innovation you can see. Now there’s a thought. What would you rather see make its debut on the MotoGP grid – an Aprilia RSV4-powered Praying Mantis-like Vyrus or an all-new Magneti Marelli ECU?