Five Different Champions, Five Different Machines
Over the past few weeks, it seems as if almost the entire world has been wallowing in doom and gloom. The world's financial system is being shaken to its core, jobs are disappearing all around the world, and Conquest, War, Famine and Death stalk the face of the planet.
Even in the cosy corner of the world occupied by reckless young men and improbably fast motorcycles, things have not been well. The motorcycling press, including this website, has been filled with stories of the end of motorcycle racing as we know it. MotoGP has gone to a single tire, the 250 class is set to disappear and World Superbikes is likely to start banning technology already available on the street bikes the class is based on. Even the two-wheeled world seems to have boarded the handbasket and set course for Hades.
So it behoves us to stand still for a moment to mark a significant fact. Of the five global road race championships which are contested at the behest of the FIM, all have been (or will be) won aboard a different brand of motorcycle. Valentino Rossi wrapped up the MotoGP title aboard his Yamaha M1, while Mike di Meglio clinched the 125cc title on a Derbi. In the World Superbike series, Troy Bayliss took his third World Superbike title on his third different Ducati, and in the World Supersport series, Andrew Pitt prolonged Ten Kate's dominance snatching the title on a Honda. The only title still left open, in the 250cc world championship, will go to either Marco Simoncelli on a Gilera, or if Simoncelli makes a serious mistake, Alvaro Bautista on an Aprilia.
Though cynics and pedants might argue that the Derbi, Gilera and Aprilia are all produced in the same workshop at Aprilia's HQ in Noale, Italy, that detracts little from the fact that a different manufacturer has won each title. Indeed, it is a testament to the breadth of engagement in motorcycle racing that so many manufacturers have managed to win titles. For so many different marques to win, even more must take part.
And this is a reflection on the underlying strength of motorcycle racing. With the four major Japanese factories plus Ducati active in MotoGP, Aprilia, Gilera, Derbi and KTM fielding factory bikes in the smaller classes, BMW and Aprilia about to enter World Superbikes alongside the big five, and Triumph taking their first tentative steps - albeit at a remove - in World Supersport, that means that ten motorcycle manufacturers are actively engaged in racing at world championship level.
The world might be crumbling around us, but fortunately for us, the world's motorcycle manufacturers are not prepared to go down without a fight. There's still plenty of racing left to come.