Motor sport legend John Surtees has put his name behind the first Chinese factory to enter Grand Prix motorcycling.Surtees, 74, the only man to win motorcycle and Formula 1 car world titles, is team patron of the Maxtra 125 GP project, backed by the Grand River Group which manufactures three million motorcycles annually and aims eventually to contest motorcycle’s premier class, MotoGP.
The Maxtra 125 two-stroke’s chassis is designed and manufactured by British company Harris Performance, while its engine is the work of Dutch two-stroke engineer Jan Witteveen, one of the main men behind the success of Italian marque Aprilia. The team is managed by Garry Taylor, who ran Suzuki’s premier-class GP team for two decades, winning the 1993 crown with Kevin Schwantz and the 2000 title with Kenny Roberts Jr.
“The people involved in the project have a wealth of experience,” Surtees said. “There is no point in talking about a totally Chinese-built machine at this moment, so we are creating this working co-operation in order to draw the information and technology to be competitive in 2009.”
When the Maxtra makes its debut next year it will be exactly 50 years since Honda became the first Japanese factory to contest motorcycle Grands Prix. Honda’s 1959 arrival triggered many a snigger in the European paddocks. “Many of the European establishment laughed,” added Surtees. “But they didn’t laugh for very long.
China currently produces about 18 million motorcycles per year, slightly more than half the global total. Mat Oxley