As in all sports, the prospects become bleaker. The first intention, to try to run all rounds, has now been abandoned, with the late-April announcement of cancellation of the GPs of Germany, Finland and the Dutch TT (the only race on the calendar since the series began).
Racing will return. It must return. But will it come back in the same way, or will this forced hiatus in turn force changes – as some commentators predict it will in every aspect of life?
The motorcycle world championship started in 1949. By then there was already a framework that had evolved ever since the first Isle of Man TT in 1907.
The TT had evolved three capacity classes: 250 “Lightweight”, 350 “Junior” and 500 “Senior”. They were joined in the new FIM world series by 125s. The major change for the post-war resumption was the banning of supercharging. Technical landmarks since that time have been memorable.
Nobody could forget the mechanical extravagances of the 1960s, when the new Japanese industry was flexing its muscles against the European establishment and against one another. Honda espoused the four-stroke cause, with motorcycles of every number of cylinders between one and six, except for three. The six-cylinder 250/350 racers were legendary, but the five-cylinder 125 (using the twin-cylinder 50cc racer’s tiny pistons) made a very special noise.
Yet the greatest technical extravagance had already come from Italy: Moto Guzzi’s utterly spectacular though sadly not especially successful 500cc V8 that ran from 1955 to 1957, With eight tiny carburettors in interlocking ranks of four, it was a work of engineering art.
In both examples, however, complexity got the better of itself. Dismayed by the escalating costs in the face of falling sales, after 1957 the major Italian factories withdrew from GP racing. Only for MV Agusta to break ranks with Moto Guzzi and Gilera, and return for 15 years of unopposed domination.