Best known for producing millions (and millions) of small-displacement, two-stroke Communist commuters during the '70s and '80s, Zschopau, Germany's Motorrad und Zweiradwerk (MZ) was once a force in roadracing, too. The company ceased operations in 2008, but now, thanks to the efforts of former German Grand Prix stars Ralf Waldmann and Martin Wimmer, MZ has been revived. Not surprisingly, the newly re-launched company made its debut at the racetrack, participating in international Moto2 competition with a machine ridden by Australian Anthony West.
Winning races is clearly a goal, but developing new technology-specifically Wimmer's patented alternative front-suspension system, currently in use on mountain bikes-for future MZ streetbikes is just as important. Though the current MZ racebike uses a conventional Öhlins fork, the company will soon adapt Wimmer's system, which varies rake and trail according to whether the bike is braking, cornering or accelerating. "Moto2 racing is the ideal opportunity for us to push ahead with this development," Wimmer explains. "It's relatively inexpensive and, as a company, it gives us the exposure we need."
The company particularly needs exposure to attract the financial support necessary to re-start production of customer products, including MZ's existing 125cc model range for the European market and a rumored 600cc sportbike to be based on the Moto2 racer. "Right now we're trying to find financing from private investors, to be able to start production by the end of 2010," Wimmer says. For the time being the company is enjoying support from high-profile German industrialist and investment banker Peter Ertel, who has been instrumental in getting the roadrace program off the ground.
"To go racing again," Wimmer continues, "is the best way of showing the world that MZ is back in business." Hopefully others will recognize the potential, and the historic company will be back building streetbikes soon.