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Suzuka 8 Hour Race Highlights GP Versus WSB Talent

Do you ever look at the results from the Suzuka 8 Hour race and note all of the fast times from two-stroke GP riders? I have for years.

When a rider like Colin Edwards, for instance, teams with Valentino Rossi, you start out by assuming that Colin Edwards will be the faster of the two. Edwards, after all, has mastered the Honda RC51 (known as the VTRSP1 outside the United States), while Rossi spends his entire year practicing on, and racing, a 500cc V-4 two-stroke machine. But Rossi is quicker on the WSB spec machine shared for the Suzuka race (all of the Suzuka 8 Hour bikes are four-strokes).

Rossi is not alone. Several other top GP riders (two-stroke specialists) ride this one four-stroke race each year, and out-perform their WSB teammates (who are four-stroke experts). Why is this? Does this highlight a talent disparity between WSB and GP? That may be part of it, but I think it is a small part of it. I think the GP riders simply have better training.

GP bikes (particularly the 500s) are much more difficult to ride than four-stroke WSB bikes. I don’t have personal experience on this (obviously), but this is a virtually unanimous understanding of the few riders who have raced both GP 500s and WSB four-strokes. The 500 requires incredibly precise throttle control and braking (without the aid of engine braking). Although it may be an exaggeration, riding a GP bike is more like riding a wild stallion, while the WSB machine is a well-trained, docile animal.

So, when we come to the Suzuka 8 Hours, we have riders from GP who have been forced to master a more difficult machine stepping onto the relatively docile four-strokes. They bring the precision they have learned in GP to a machine that is dramatically easier to ride and control at the limit. No wonder they are faster than the WSB riders.

By the way, Honda won the 8 Hour race this year with the team of Rossi and Edwards. Take a look at CycleNews.com for details.