Motorcycling: Lawson still cooking up a storm

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The Independent Online
THE grand prix army, by all appearances, rides on its stomach. The teams who make up the grids have an extra crew of mechanics who work hard all day over a hot wok, providing all manner of sumptuous and mostly healthy food for their riders, their fellow team-members and anyone else who might pass by their trailer and marquee in the paddock here.

A tantalising selection of cold meat, imported cheeses, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries and French wine were a la carte chez Banco Yamaha France while a few doors down at the Cagiva team's nerve centre, the pancakes were flying.

Eddie Lawson, the one and only rider for the Italian team, is an American who likes his pasta. Most of the riders live on it and have their own cooks to dish it up. Lawson had just set Friday's fastest time, his bike rejuvenated by Cagiva's latest engine. We would like to know some finer details.

But the man in the tall white hat in 'the Cagiva Room', speaking through a pall of steam, was adamant. 'There is no one here except us. We are cooking.'

Defying all expectations yesterday, Lawson hung on to his No 1 starting position for today's British Grand Prix without having to improve on Friday's time. Fortified by a fine lunch, he watched his leading rivals go quicker, but not by enough to shake Cagiva's second pole of the season and second ever.

John Kocinski and Wayne Rainey, the American Yamaha team-mates, were second and third, followed by the retiring Wayne Gardner, who dropped his Honda at Redgate Corner but did not add to his collection of injuries and will start from the front row.

There were problems, however, for Kevin Schwantz, riding for a fourth successive victory here today. The American was unable to improve his time from the first session and will start from the second row.

Cagiva are the most curious and also one of the most appealing teams on the 500cc circuit and Lawson is still one of the most gifted riders. He has won the world championship four times, all with massively backed factory teams, but at the beginning of last season, he threw in his lot with Giacomo Agostini, possibly the greatest rider of them all.

When Michael Doohan won the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in May, he equalled Agostini's record of four successive victories at the start of a season which the Italian had achieved in 1972. The Australian came second in the following race, leaving the former world champion's mark intact. Agostini is experiencing the action from the other side of the pit wall now, as the Cagiva team manager.

During the Dutch Grand Prix meeting at Assen, Lawson gave the team their first pole position, finally breaking the Japanese domination of the 500cc class. A fortnight later in Hungary, a gamble with slick tyres on a wet track which later dried out gave Cagiva their maiden 500cc grand prix win.

Not so young any more, at 34, but still fast and scientific, Lawson has suggested more than once that this will be his last year. He won the first post-war grand prix here in 1987 and he is setting the pace this weekend, but this may be his last British Grand Prix.

(Photograph omitted)