The pre-race press conference for the Italian Grand Prix featured a short yet highly interesting exchange between riders Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi. With Yamaha debuting their version of a "seamless" or semi-automatic gearbox at Misano, a question was asked about how sequential or seamless transmissions will effect MotoGP's future. Someone predicted the future of MotoGP, thanks to seamless transmissions, launch control and complex electronics might one day evolve into something closer to scooter racing, where the rider simply twists the throttle and never stabs a shift lever, never releases a clutch.
Electronic shifting assistance on a Superbike or MotoGP bike has been in existence for more than a decade, but the advantage of the seamless transmission is that there is no momentary chassis instability when the rider bangs gears. It's not just a very fast shift, but a largely "seamless" one as well. Depending on the application, the clutch is needed only on downshifts.
The "scooter doomsday" scenario some predict is probably closer to slot car racing than it is scooter racing. Now more than ever MotoGP is a game of getting a good start, staying on the racing line and avoiding any sort of chassis or power imbalance. It is, to a degree, an exercise in perfection. Wheelies, lurid slides or chassis flex as the rider changes gear are all, to a degree, being erased.
Rookie world champion elect Marquez has never ridden a conventional MotoGP bike where shifting is performed unaided, but even he was ready to say that things had perhaps gone too far. "An automatic gearbox is maybe in the future one day but I think we need to stop a little with the rules," Marquez cautioned.
Reigning world champion Lorenzo, who perhaps would adopt a viewpoint opposite of anything Marquez opined these days, said that he had no problem if MotoGP one day adopted an automatic transmission, had no problem if the sport looked like scooter racing because the evolution of the transmission simply meant a faster lap time.
|Rossi, as we suspected, is a rank sentimentalist.|
Rossi, as we suspected, is a rank sentimentalist. He said he prefers motorcycles that require the rider to shift gears manually, but he welcomed the new transmission from Yamaha as it would make his job an easier one at the end of every race, as he suspected that the tire would not drop off so dramatically.