On Track Off Road No.182





Before OTOR starts up again for 2019 Supercross

will be full underway as well as the 41st Dakar

where reigning champions Red Bull KTM will be

looking for their 19th consecutive success and the

likes of Monster Energy HRC are hoping to wrestle

the rally crown away. Peru launches the 5000km

race on January 6th

Photo by HRC/MCH Photo




2019 AMA Supercross is just

weeks away and teams will soon

be dipping into a frantic USA-spanning

schedule. Take your pick in

450SX: Tomac? Musquin? Webb?

Osborne? Barcia? Or perhaps

Jason Anderson will be able to

reinforce the start of a new


Photo by Simon Cudby




For a section of the MotoGP paddock December

and January comes as a blessed relief. For others

armed with tools and data it is a frantic and key

phase of getting ready to reset. The two month winter

period features very little in the way of action

but the ‘racing’ never subsides

Photo by CormacGP



of the


best moments & talking

points from 2018 MXGP

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer


passing of the


Argentina, Rnd 1 of 20, March

Argentina, March 2018. A new MXGP

campaign begins in Neuquen for the

fourth visit to Patagonia. Gone are the

lights of Losail, Qatar – for the first occasion

since 2013 - and the sweeping

curves of volcanic earth is the spectacular

setting for the Grand Prix opener.

Neuquen, the facility and the atmosphere

alone would be a memorable stage to get

the season started but fans were treated

to the first instalment of the Cairoli/

Herlings dispute. The reigning champion

claimed the first moto to halt the looming

superior run of form that Herlings

had established towards the end of 2017

but the second moto was pure thriller.

Buoyed by his decreasing deficit to leader

Cairoli, a rampaging Herlings hit every

knuckle of the Argentine terrain to chop

at the massive nine-second cushion.

Cairoli unwillingly assisted with some

uncharacteristic errors and the order

changed in a grandstand last lap finale.

It would be the first of thirteen podiums

(from twenty rounds) with the teammates

on the box together, eleven of those in

a 1-2 ranking. For Herlings it was a major

confidence boost after a shaky and

arm-pump riddled Saturday while Cairoli

had his eyes widened to the depth of the

task facing him in 2018. It was a thumping

and breathtaking first salvo. Typically

the initial (nervy) fixture of any championship

is hardly a barometer for what

will come to pass but Tony and Jeffrey

started slugging as soon as the gates

dropped in South America.

Desalle juices

the orange

russia, Rnd 6 of 20, may

Round six of twenty and MXGP heads

back to the popular (but fast and unforgiving)

Orlyonok facility on the banks of

the Black Sea for the second year in a

row. The riders discovered the real pace

and potential of the track on the May

Day holiday (a Tuesday bizarrely) having

waded their way through torrential rain

and mud the previous summer. Sunshine

beat down on the paddock in Russia and

bounced particularly bright from Monster

Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle

who managed to register two excellent

starts (second both times) to construct

the base of the sole victory in 2018 for a

Japanese manufacturer (and the 21st win

for the Belgian in his career, making him

the third most successful racer in MXGP

this decade).

Desalle’s escape in the first moto and

narrow 1.5 second win over Cairoli was

the first part of his spoils. Cairoli and

Herlings had engaged in their own very

watchable duel for second place and ran

out of time and laps to attack the #25.

With Cairoli in fourth and struggling to

pass Tim Gajser in the second moto,

Desalle cruised behind Herlings to grasp

the overall. Sadly, he wouldn’t be able to

take profit of another similar opportunity

for the rest of the campaign.




Italy, Rnd 11 of 20, June

Early June 2018. MXGP is rocked by

news filtering out of Belgium that series

leader Herlings – vanquisher of the last

four Grands Prix in a row – has snapped

his right collarbone in a training crash.

Red Bull KTM confirm a fourth set of

surgery on the Dutchman’s upper torso

and damage to the plate that had already

been inserted. The rest of the MXGP

pack can smell a break in more ways

than one. Herlings is cursing his luck,

what he would call ‘a bump in the road’

on social media, but Tony Cairoli strides

through the open door back into title

contention at round eleven of twenty with

barely a second glance.

#222 aces both races in front of an eager

home crowd at Ottobiano and Herlings’

hard-earned 60 point gap at the top

of the championship is hacked down

to just 10. At the time it felt like a title

‘reset’ that had neutral fans rubbing their

hands: what could Cairoli do from here?

However less than three weeks after he

tasted a surgeon’s knife, Herlings had

managed to drag the ship back onto

course and the waters became significantly

calmer as he reasserted the same

pre-injury routine.



Italy, Rnd 4 of 20, april

For all the brilliance of

Jorge Prado’s debut

season in 2017 there were

some concerning signs

that the teenager was not

quite ready for MX2 Grand

Prix, and his propensity to

pull out of hot and physically-demanding

race conditions

hinted at a fragility

that might just prevent his

enormous potential from

being reached. Nestling

under Claudio and Davide

De Carli’s wing (as well as

Tony Cairoli’s) in the winter

was a change of tact by

the Prado family as they

partly abandoned their

Belgium-based programme

for the climes of Italy. It

turned out to be a shrewd

piece of manoeuvring by

KTM motorsport honcho

Pit Beirer. Little was known

about Prado’s work in Italy,

only that he’d fractured his

elbow only a few weeks before

the first Grand Prix in

Argentina and it looked as

though the now-seventeen

year old would again flatter

to deceive. In Neuquen a

first moto crash contrasted

with the dominant display

by teammate and world

champion Pauls Jonass

and it looked as though

Jorge might be in for a ‘difficult

second year’.

He quickly changed his

tune as fitness and bike

time increased. He ran

Jonass much closer in a

frozen Valkenswaard, then

suffered slightly under

the weight of home GP

expectation at Redsand.

By round four and the

arrival to Arco di Trento

and Prado was ready to

strike. The compact, stony

and winding Italian course

held good memories. He’d

podiumed for the first

time in EMX250 there in

2016 and mastered MX2

for his maiden GP triumph

in 2017. With Jonass toiling,

Prado used the brutal

effectiveness of his starts

around a course that difficult

for passing to win

the first moto (the first of

the year and of what would

be seventeen in total) and

then chase Thomas Covington

in the second to

secure the overall. Arco

was verification of Prado’s

credentials for the title.

It brought him to within

30 points of Jonass and

a mini gulf that he’d paddle

through gently up until

round thirteen. Italy was

also the first of twelve

Grand Prix wins for Prado

and he’d only miss the podium

twice for the rest of a

ground breaking season.


British base and Turkey pate

Britain & Turkey, Rnd 8 & 18 of 20, june & September

An air of decorum and professionalism existed

within Red Bull KTM for the most part

in 2018. This could be due to effective leadership,

but managing the atmosphere couldn’t

have been easy with four of the five riders in

factory orange trading positions on the track

and swiping points away from the other with

the slightest invitation. There were two notable

flash points. The first came between Herlings

and Cairoli at the British Grand Prix at Matterley

Basin and round nine of twenty. Herlings

led by 28 points and had claimed the last two

events in Latvia and Germany coming to the

UK. Cairoli was circulating quickly at one of his

favourite circuits. Their clash in the first moto

coming into the final two laps was another

jaw-dropper (only minutes beforehand Herlings

had performed one of the best overtaking

moves of the season by sweeping through

outside ruts to gain the lead).

The collision led to a tweaked knee for the

reigning champion and Cairoli could offer

previous little in the way of retaliation when

Herlings was hunting his rear wheel again in

the second moto. The degree of ‘racing incident’

validity is debatable, and the Cairoli

camp were adamant that Herlings’ tactics

were overly aggressive but the Dutchman was

unapologetic and claimed he had no intention

to hit his teammate. It was Herlings 100th GP

podium and not the cleanest won but further

underlined his willingness to usurp the champion

and rattle him at any given opportunity.

Herlings was respectful afterwards while Cairoli

didn’t offer too much in the way of comment.

“He is a nine time world champ for a reason,”

said Herlings. “You can win one title with a bit

of luck but never nine! He is one of the best

riders in the sport. He is still at the top at 32

and I don’t think he has ridden better than he

has now. Luckily I was able to pull it off today.

I didn’t want to ride the whole second moto in

his roost.”

Secondly, in MX2, the tangle between Prado

and Jonass had far more serious ramifications.

Thanks to Prado’s juvenility and Jonass’

happy demeanour the rivals were easily comfortable

in each other’s company…despite the

close to-and-fro of their 2018 battle for the red

plate. Prado’s eagerness and perhaps lack of

experience compared to the Latvian with three

more years of Grand Prix under his belt, was to

blame for their crash while disputing the lead

in Turkey, round eighteen of twenty. It was a

sizeable prang that allowed Thomas Covington

to win on the day and pretty much ended

a strong rally by Jonass to stop Prado’s walk

to the MX2 championship. The MXGP-bound

athlete stretched ligaments in his knee and

although he attempted the Dutch GP at Assen

(in the vain hope that Prado would somehow

falter in the sand and he’d be in with a last

chance at Imola) he allowed his rival to mathematically

confirm ownership of the series prior

to the Italian closer by opting for surgery.


hold on


indonesia, Rnd 12 of 20, july

MX2 graduation involved pleasing progress

for the likes of Kemea Yamaha duo Ben

Watson and Jago Geerts, a second term of

improvement for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s

Thomas Kjer Olsen, a best-ever season

for Thomas Covington (in what was his

last in MX2) and bright signs from athletes

like Henry Jacobi, Jed Beaton and Conrad

Mewse. It was HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen who

gathered plenty of attention in what was a

campaign of declaration; a term where the

South African was one of just three principal

Honda riders in the MX2 pack and bustled

his way towards regular podium contention.

Like Watson and Olsen, Vlaanderen is limited

by his size and weight on the 250, but,

regardless, built effectively to a first glorious

win in Indonesia with consecutive podium

results in Germany and Britain and bookended

the first half of 2018 as the ‘one to watch’

in Grand Prix.

Vlaanderen’s success in Pangkal Pinang was

refreshing because MXGP had been largely

under siege from athletes accustomed to

victory and spoils. To watch #10 drink-in

every second of joy with his maiden accomplishment

was a delightful reminder that not

every motocross athlete’s goal is to string

multiple wins and titles, and the chase to

achieve just one moment of timelessness is

long and bloody hard. The effect of inflated

confidence was clear to see with further

trophies a week later at Semarang and then

in the Czech Republic once back in Europe.

Calvin’s 2018 would tumble to the lowest

point at the Motocross of Nations but he’d

already made his mark as the sole first-time

winner this year. It was also the sole triumph

for Honda in 2018, the first since 2016 in

MX2 and gave the Japanese giants reason

not to treat their CRF250R technology too




keep a watch...

Damn, motocross: this sport never stops reminding us how brutal it can be.

Last week 2018 Motocross of

Nations hero Glenn Coldenhoff

was ejected off his Standing

Construct KTM and into hospital

with three compressed thoracic

vertebrae and a broken wrist. The

accident, while training at Lommel,

was captured on video and

makes for uncomfortable online

viewing. The 27 year old Dutchman

was not exaggerating when

he described the extent of his

injuries as “very lucky” via an Instagram


Only nine weeks earlier and Coldenhoff

had been flying upwards

in a more figurative way with his

comprehensive success at Red-

Bud. As with new teammate Max

Anstie at Matterley Basin in 2017,

Glenn had forged a magnificent

career highlight in the biggest

window but – as with Anstie in

the early phases of 2018 – has

soon learned again that this punishing

discipline is not slow or

hesitant to change the direction

of the slope.

Also fortunate for the #259 is the

fact that he won’t (allegedly) require

an operation, which should

make his recovery time easy to

chart. You have to feel some sympathy

for the Standing Construct

team however. After the injury

setbacks for Kevin Strijbos and

Valentino Guillod before the 2018

championship even got underway

their latest star, alongside Anstie

and Ivo Monticelli, has now

thrown winter plans into the mire.

Glenn’s accident came some

days after the news emerged

that Stefan Everts – motocross’

record holder for world championships

and Grand Prix wins and

the statistical target for both Red

Bull KTM riders Tony Cairoli and

Jeffrey Herlings – has been in a

serious battle against a Malaria

infection. Stefan’s disappointing

episode with Suzuki undoubtedly

led to a hard time for the Belgian

although he took time away from

the spotlight (which he’d inhabited

practically all of his life, barely

pausing after his retirement in

2006 before he launched into

management) to guide son Liam

and take stock.

Everts lost his spleen in an accident

while racing in the 1990s

and always took care around

Grand Prix tracks in inclement

conditions to avoid possible illness.

The 46 year old is the ultimate

benchmark in international

motocross but was no stranger

to big injury and it is dismaying

to see how the consequences

of racing can still bear such an

influence long after the goggles

have been wrapped around an

empty helmet.

Coldenhoff and Everts were of

course part of Red Bull KTM’s recent

history. Don’t let the impact

of the factory’s mark on the sport

on grand prix and in AMA competition

over the last five years go

be underestimated.

By Adam Wheeler

It seems like the 450 SX-F (or

Husqvarna FC 450) is very much

the motorcycle to have in the

premier classes. 2019 will see

Anstie, Shaun Simpson and Max

Nagl all back in orange. The

works team will look no further

than Cairoli and Herlings (and

why would they?) but there will

be more orange pervading the

top ten of MXGP by the time

Argentina comes around.

On a recent visit to the factory

and in an interview with VP of

Offroad Robert Jonas it was interesting

to listen to the Austrian

warning against possible complacency

in the company. There

is a perception that 2018 and

that sledgehammer of success

came easily for KTM. Of course

very few actually see the work,

decisions and anguish that goes

on behind the scenes and the

amount of miles on the road for

tests and riding before a single

truck appears in a race paddock.

KTM have their work ethic as

well as some truly outstanding

motorcycle racers in order to

maintain their standards and

(perhaps) a similar rate of spoils.

A quick look around the race

HQ in Munderfing (five minutes

away from the main factory

plant) and listening to someone

like MX2 Team Manager Dirk

Gruebel talk of the travel to the

southern corners of Europe in

December and January to try

to mix the magic formula again

only reveals even more how hard

they are pushing.

Red Bull KTM, like Coldenhoff,

Everts and practically anyone

else who has made a conscious

decision to gamble their health,

are starkly away of how motocross

can rise and trash all

that effort and dedication in an

instant. Only three years ago

plans and programmes were

crossed through with a pen after

crashes by winners such as Cairoli

and Herlings (and look how

Tim Gajser’s 2018 was effectively

doomed with one heavy spill

only weeks before the first GP).

Teams, athletes and sponsors

will be entering that tricky void

after Christmas. A time when

riding hours crank-up and everything

gets a bit more serious

and focussed with the journey

to Argentina creeping closer and

closer. It’s also a phase when

even the most experienced of

riders will be wondering about

their race speed and whether

their ratio of work has cut the

mark. How fast do they ride and

take risks out of competition to

ensure they are fully on-point for

when the gate drops?

On another theme, I’d like to

thank each and every person

who took time out to send a

message or note of support over

the last two weeks. It meant a lot

and there have been some lovely

gestures from inside the MXGP

family. Merry Christmas and

best wishes to all.






By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Ray Archer




nos fordi im

hem abefectum

auceremuro nossid

aucibus sedet atua

dit vis prorbi





2018 mxgp top five

jeffrey herlings

Position: 1st

Team: Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

What did he do?

RacerX Rider of the Year (the first time a

grand prix athlete has scooped the accolade)

and Cycle News Rider of the Year as well as

the most successful athlete in any FIM series

in 2018: it’s hard to bestow any more acclaim

on the former #84. Herlings swelled a wave of

statistics that simply brushed his rivals back

onto the shore. A 100% podium record, 17

wins from 19, 19 red plates, 33 moto wins from

38 and he dropped only 17 points from the

maximum possible for the nineteen events he

entered. Astonishing.

What did we like?

The manner of the dominance. Those results

were obtained on Argentine volcanic ash, frozen

Dutch sand, Indonesian and Turkish hardpack

and a range of other terrain, climate and

across other diverse circuits in MXGP. Herlings

was the complete package once he and Red

Bull KTM had refined his starts by round five.

He frequently won motos in the first laps,

powering away or up to the leader and making

short work of any resistance. The then-23 year

old commented – more than once – on the

commitment and sacrifice he had to reach in

order to achieve the fitness and conditioning

to be able to set such intensity. He broke his

peers with flurries of time-attacks. He’d usually

provide a preview of his speed in qualification

and even though Cairoli bettered his rate

of holeshots by some distance Herlings knew

a period of limit-pushing would be enough to

create a winning margin. #84 carried an air of

inevitability into the final quarter of the season.

Herlings could bolt from the stable like no

other but the fact that he could then control

races with a similar proximity of lap-time –

and very few mistakes – meant he enjoyed a

clear advantage in 2018.

Standout moment?

A toss-up between his pursuit and last lap relegation

of Tony Cairoli in Argentina to win the

open round of the championship, and his 1-1

at Assen for his home Grand Prix that prompted

some of the most widespread and joyful

celebrations since David Philippaerts ended a

tense 2008 campaign with title success (the

first Italian MXGP/MX1 World Champion) at

Faenza. Herlings flirted with disaster in his

comeback from collarbone surgery in Indonesia

– Team Manager Dirk Gruebel believes

he took unnecessary risks that day in Pangkal

Pinang – but his gamble to push for victory

was a crushing statement in a phase of the

campaign when Herlings was at his weakest.

More to come?

This is the big question. 2018 was clearly a

major effort for Jeffrey; physically, mentally,

even personally. Gruebel claims that 2019 will

see the same sort of force from #84 purely

because Herlings wants to back-up the display

of excellence, and anything near the same

sort of track record would cement his impact

on the sport. Another important factor is that

win tally. His last win of eight in a row at the

final round in Imola drew him up to 84 career

triumphs (truly further proof that 2018 was

Herlings’ year) and he has that 101 record

set by Stefan Everts in his sights. When the

Belgian (who will hopefully recover from his

Malaria affliction) retired in 2006 his numbers

were thought to be ‘untouchable’. It would be

some stretch for Herlings to equal the total in

2019 – and Cairoli is still ahead in the list with

85 wins – but there is no bigger carrot.



What did he do?

He was the only challenger, the only one to

keep pace. This distinction alone – especially

against a rival almost ten years younger – vindicates

any plaudits in 2018. Jeffrey Herlings

commented in interviews that he felt Tony, at

32, was riding better than ever this year and

while such remarks could have been made to

elevate his own achievements confirmation

was provided by the man himself at Assen. “I

think this is one of my best years… apart from

the last part of the series where I was struggling

with some injuries,” he said. “The speed

was unbelievable for sure. It’s an honour to

finish behind Jeffrey because he is the fastest

rider in the world at the moment and I didn’t

finish second to a slow guy. I know I can still

be competitive and have to work a bit harder

to be strong the whole race.” Nine titles and

eighty-five wins have not dimmed Cairoli’s enthusiasm

and, fortunately for motocross fans,

his thirst to lead and continually better himself

did not fade. 2018 would have been far more

boring without him.

What did we like?

Those starts, and attempts to break Herlings

by upping the ante from the first laps were

a formidable (but eventually unfruitful) tool

for Tony this year. It showed his competitiveness

and potent combination with the KTM

450 SX-F. Cairoli was also a class act. There

were controversial bumps with Herlings –

none more so than their contact at the British

Grand Prix at mid-season that sent the Sicilian

tumbling – but the slightly simmering rivalry

did not veer into drama or conflict behind the

scenes. Respect remained, along with a minor

distance under the awning. 2018 was a culture

shock for Cairoli. He’d never faced such

a virulent and consistent rival over the course

of an entire season, so he needed to work out

a strategy beyond his normal rate of unmatchable

consistency and didn’t quite manage it.

tony cairoli

Position: 2nd

Team: red bull ktm factory racing

Harrying, pressurising and even intimidating

Herlings on the track might not be in his

character but it is a tactic that maybe his

followers and general race fans would have

like to see more. A tweaked knee, yanked

thumb and fractured hand took the edge off

his conditioning at points of the term, even to

the extent where he might have hovered with

the white towel in terms of trying to actually

race Herlings each weekend, but Cairoli kept

on grounding out results and podium finishes

to frustrate Jeffrey and stretch the notion of

‘what if’ down to the last motos of 2018.

Standout moment?

A very fine win in Spain for round three was

the first of the season and a brief moment of

resurgence against Herlings’ growing confidence

but the effect of the victory was wiped

out the following week when his teammate

beat him on native ground at Arco di Trento

where he had prevailed in such spectacular

fashion in 2017. Tony gobbled his chance to

appease the fans at Ottobiano for round eleven

and while Herlings was at home nursing

his recently operated collarbone. #222’s energised

1-1 in the Italian sand drew the ball back

plump into his court and almost ‘reset’ MXGP.

More to come?

At the end of 2017 some were questioning Cairoli’s

motivation more than ever. Injury-hit seasons

in 2015 and 2016 had been successfully

xxxxxxxx: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

2018 mxgp top five


erased by his comeback and ninth crown.

There are no such doubts for 2019. Cairoli

clearly has his target. The real poser comes

over his energy and ability to reach Herlings’

performance level. Noises from the Red Bull

KTM camp so far this autumn would seem to

indicate that the 33 year old is accepting the

challenge and prepared to find new boundaries.

Even though he has insisted that career

numbers hold no real importance to him, Cairoli

is also close to making history. He too can

reach the magical 101 and a tenth FIM gold

medal would be another admonishment of his

worthy status as the best of all time.




2018 mxgp top five

clement desalle

Position: 3rd

Team: Monster Energy kawasaki

What did he do?

In short, the best of the rest. Clement

broke the orange grip in Russia for round

six thanks to one of those rare days

where he was a handful for any rider in

the world: if only there had been more

Sundays like that. Astonishingly Desalle’s

feat with the Monster Energy Kawasaki

was the sole win by a Japanese manufacturer

in the premier class and he was

one of only three athletes from seven to

make the MXGP podium on a non-Austrian

manufactured motorcycle. Seven

of Clement’s nine rostrum appearances

involved the third step of the box, but the

fact that four of them came in the final

five Grands Prix helped the Belgian to

his sixth career top three championship

finish since 2009.

What did we like?

That silky smooth style has become

more measured and less frenetic in recent

seasons, largely through his work to

increase the competitiveness of Kawasaki’s

new KX450F equipment and through

injury. However Clement could still react

and prod-away at rivals and his form in

2018 was perhaps the most promising

and biting yet in his three year tenure on

the green bike. Races with the likes of

Romain Febvre, Gautier Paulin and Tim

Gajser provided some excellent sideshow

action away from the KTM headliners.

In ’18 Desalle found regularity with results

and presence at the head of the

pack, but the perfectionist knows the key

to improvement involves denting the

big gaps that the KTMs would eek over

the rest of the pack on a weekly basis.

Standout moment?

Russia. It was a glimpse of another

athlete threatening the hegemony and

was still early enough in the season

for Desalle to mount an outside bid for

the championship (he was only 70-odd

points adrift after Orlyonok and both

Cairoli and Herlings would go on to have

their injury wobbles). It was a shame

then that some mistakes and crashes

kept him away from the box for the next

six events. He picked up the pace in the

second half of the campaign and led

the way in Switzerland but rarely looked

as capable as around the fast Russian


More to come?

If 2018 taught Desalle about his limits

with the KX450F then 2019 could see

him exploit his potential a bit more. #25

approached the year with caution after

2016 and 2017 were interrupted by injury

and he knew that making it through

forty motos in seven months was almost

one of his goals for the season. Mission

accomplished, (with some further bumps

on the way and without further physical

setbacks) and entrenched as Kawasaki’s

main MXGP hope for two more years

means Clement still has much to offer

any championship narrative.



jeremy seewer

Position: 8th

Team: wilvo yamaha

What did he do?

Rookie season in MXGP and was cast late

into the well-supported and resourceful

Wilvo Yamaha team after the drawn-out

implosion of Team Suzuki and a contract

that should have seen Jeremy in factory

yellow for 2018. The Swiss had to learn a

new motorcycle after a career with RM-Z

technology, and quickly. Seewer battled

the odds, was modest with his goals after

a 2017 where he made an uphill struggle

to win the MX2 championship and was

very much a protagonist of that class and

shone with top ten capability in MXGP. By

the end of the season he was posting top

five finishes in arguably the most daunting

competition yet in premier class history.

What did we like?

The calm, measured approach but still

with such style and a sense of flamboyance

on the YZ450F. The team and bike

were ‘satellite’ compared to the Monster

Energy Yamahas of Romain Febvre and

Jeremy Van Horebeek but Seewer gave

the impression that the technical difference

was non-existent and segued into the

category with a bustling energy to make a

name for himself. There were crashes, mistakes

and copious learning but there were

also great starts, frequent moments as

the leading Yamaha (so much so that his

transfer to the factory team was confirmed

by mid-season) and relentlessness to

make a nuisance of himself among the ‘big

boys’. The blue #91 was a constant sight.

With teammates Shaun Simpson and

Arnaud Tonus enduring more injury woes

Seewer carried the squad on his relatively

inexperienced shoulders without qualm.

Standout moment?

Great form in the sand; terrain that represented

a former weakness that Seewer has

worked diligently to improve. The sandy

races in 2018 saw some of his best results.

Ottobiano came after a decent showing

in France, and despite some shaky moments

in Asia his 5-6 at Lommel (of all

places) was a season highlight. He found

the top five again in the pressure-cooker of

his home Grand Prix at the next round in


More to come?

Jeremy was tussling with another ‘rookie’

– Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Julien Lieber

– early in 2018 as the MX2 graduates

rattled senior names in the MXGP leading

group. Seeing the #91 and #33 putting

their wheels up against decorated 450 racers

gave great cause for optimism in their

respective potential. Lieber succumbed to

some injury problems while Seewer’s remarkable

tendency to escaped unscathed

from tumbles (and to be effectively frugal

with race mistakes) meant that he surged

ahead. Factory backing means another

change for a rider that thrived in the relative

consistent climes of Suzuki for five

years but the extra support around the

Yamaha set-up and Michele Rinaldi’s

superb record with ‘new’ athletes into the

Italian set-up means ’19 bodes well.

xxxxxxxx: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

2018 mxgp top five





2018 mxgp top five

tim gajser

Position: 4th

Team: team hrc

What did he do?

Gajser took a long time to recover from a

horrific pre-season crash at the Starcross

International at Mantova, the injury repercussions

to his head and jaw affected dayto-day

life long after he’d left the hospital

in Italy. Sporadic podium finishes in the

first half of 2017 became more prevalent

as the weeks wound on. By the end of the

campaign (and perhaps influenced by Tony

Cairoli’s resignation that the title chase was

slipping away) Tim popped up with three

runner-up positions in the last four events.

Overall he was less than twenty points and

one trophy behind Desalle at the end of

the year…and despite missing the opening

Grand Prix in Argentina.

What did we like?

The charging and irrepressible #243 in the

latter phase of the campaign that harked

back to the form and figure of his peerless

2016 winning term. Gajser’s 2018 was almost

the definition of how unexpected injury

can derail plans and a title plight. Tim not

only had to rediscover confidence and his

competitive edge over time but HRC were

also delayed with their ability to test and

react against the mauling KTMs. Once he

‘got going’ then he was arguably the most

realistic troublemaker to the Herlings/Cairoli

axis. There would surely have been more red

mixed with the orange if Gajser had travelled

to Argentina and began the season without

one of the worst setbacks of his young career.

He is still just 22.

Standout moment?

Great front-running pace in Indonesia with

some classic Gajser form on the Semarang

hard-pack for round twelve. That Grand Prix

was the second time he’d interrupted the

KTMs with a runner-up finish. He was more

of a pest in Bulgaria, Turkey and Imola –

again all ‘Gajser-friendly’ layouts and terrain

where he was again on the second step.

More to come?

In 2016 there were whispered opinions that

Tim grasped the MXGP title using almost

all of a cat’s nine lives. It was a disingenuous

picture of how well he was riding that

year but the crashes, injuries and strange

decisions in races during 2017 gave some

sway to the notion he’d ridden a lot of luck

the previous season. Gajser was bitten by

the sport in ’17 and again at Mantova. What

kind of rider we’ll see come Argentina is a

mystery but if it is anything like his pomp of

2016 then the MXGP tussle could welcome

a needed and superb extra player. HRC will

also need to further dial-in the CRF450R to

help the Slovenian in those getaways against

the KTMs; his two holeshots against the 27

of Herlings/Cairoli indicated the potential is




honourable mentions

Glenn Coldenhoff

Glenn’s three years with Red Bull KTM came with

7-10-7 championship finishes and where the likeable

and professional Dutchman played a solid supporting

role to the wins and titles that were floating

around him. In 2018 he was more consistent

with his performances and points and very rarely

dropped out of the top ten. Fourth and fifth on more

occasions that he’d like, Coldenhoff chased an elusive

podium finish that sadly never arrived this year

but then ended his term with the team in the most

emphatic way possible at RedBud.

Julien Lieber

Much in the same vein as Jeremy Seewer, rookie

Julien Lieber caused some ripples in MXGP at the

first attempt and with a factory Monster Energy

Kawasaki that some cynical parts of the Grand Prix

paddock felt the Belgian barely deserved. Lieber

was quick and occasionally a match for teammate

Clement Desalle, all the more surprising considering

he missed most of the winter and pre-season

after knee surgery. A very decent effort.

Gautier Paulin

The whys and wherefores of how the IceOne and

Gautier Paulin combo did not quite kick-on to

greater prizes after a satisfying 2017 are bound to

emerge over time and as the Frenchman returns

to Yamaha and his fourth team in six years in the

premier class. Fifth place in the championship and

four podiums (fifth in the list) meant that 2018 was

far from a disaster but still this exceptional athlete

is capable of delivering a lot more.

2018 mxgp top five


fly racing

Some pieces from Fly Racing’s immense and

attractive catalogue of products if you might

be stuck for a late Christmas gift. The Blitz

jacket (129.95 dollars) has an insulation layer

ideal for spring and autumn temperatures, a

‘media’ pocket, glove integration loops and

will stand-up in moderate rain or snow. It’s

breathable and permeable. We like the Retro

tee (19.95) that also comes in white and

green and is 100% cotton. Another choice

would be the Proper tee (also in dark red

and green) with a contouring fit (24.95); both

are part of more than twenty t-shirt design

choices for men, women and kids.


The No Show sock (7.95) is the first product

on a list of five different ‘models’ that veer

between black, white-and-black with coloured

trim. The No Show has heel and toe

double stitching for extra resistance. Ladies

have plenty of choice with Fly; the Corp tank

top (24.95) is 98% cotton and has four different

colours. Belts, beanies, accessories

and numerous luggage options (including the

union with Ogio for the Urban backpack here

– 99.95) also pad out the website.


Boasting the thickest lens in the industry, a massive field of vision and

SCOTT’s proprietary lens lock system, the Prospect MX goggle delivers on all

fronts. Leave nothing on the table, your time is now. Allow the SCOTT

Prospect to Defend Your Vision during your unwavering pursuit of victory.


© SCOTT SPORTS SA 2018.19 | Photo: Octopi Media




of the


top picks and topics

from 2018 MotoGP

By Neil Morrison, Photos by CormacGP


Photo by Monster Energy/Milagro

Marquez loses his cool

8th April, Termas de Rio Honda

Where to start with this bizarre hour-long spell

when it felt as though the MotoGP grid had

been turned upside down, the FIM stewards

had imbibed two sips too many of the local

Malbec, and Marc Marquez appeared intent on

tearing up his hard-fought reputation, forged

over the past three years, as a more mature,

considered challenger?

This year’s running of the Argentine Grand

Prix had it all: drama; skill; confusion; and, of

course, controversy. The race provided some

of the year’s iconic images, with Jack Miller

and Alex Rins joining Cal Crutchlow and Johann

Zarco for a memorable podium fight that

pointed to a new generation of challengers

waiting in the wings. There was the rare sight

of Miller sat alone on the front row after the

grid was re-jigged to reflect his foresight in

choosing slick tyres – a decision all other 23

riders would abandon the grid to replicate.

His opportunistic move on Valentino Rossi at

turn 13 was careless at best and entirely warranted

a penalty that excluded him from the

points. Then there was the vitriolic reaction

that followed. Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis deemed him

to have “a total lack of respect.” Rossi opined

he “was ruining our sport.” And the gradual

thawing of tensions in the paddock was reversed.

Still, it all made a bloody enthralling

watch for those keen on scandal.

Oh, and Crutchlow’s brilliant, measured win

took him to the championship summit, the first

time for a British rider in the premier class

since 1979 – another reason this wayward afternoon

will live long in the memory.

And then, of course, there was the loss of

Marquez’s cool. From incurring a ride-through

penalty for bump-starting his bike after stalling

on the grid, his subsequent ride through

the pack was as awe-inspiring as it was careless.

There is so much to admire in Marquez’s

daredevil escapades. But this showing had too

much testosterone, too much swagger. On this

occasion pride appeared to overrun the part of

Marquez’s brain that has so effectively weighed

up risk in recent years.

Lorenzo’s Return

3rd June, Autodromo del Mugello

Like Jorge Lorenzo or not, there can be

no doubting the Majorcan’s honesty. It’s

rare to hear of elite racers, requiring a

steadfast self-belief and overwhelming

confidence, to talk of depression. But the

31-year old’s outlook wasn’t a positive

one after a lackluster start to the season,

which got a whole lot worse in France.

“It was [a crazy time]. I was almost in

a little depression,” Lorenzo said in a

recent interview with BT Sport. He was

referencing his prospects for securing a

competitive seat for 2019. With Ducati’s

belief in his talents ebbing away, the possibilities

of a switch to Suzuki dispersed.

There remained a far-off chance in a

newly created satellite team. But a man

of his standing surely deserved a factory

working around his requests. “When I

was seeing the possibility to retire, in my

head I was getting depressed,” he said.

Not that you’d have known it from watching

him at Mugello. From the very start

of the weekend, there was the rebuttal of

Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali’s disappointment,

expressed at this “great rider’s”

predicament (“I’m not just a great

rider, but a champion,” he said).

There was then an insistence retirement

was not an option. “I’ll continue for the

next two years … and with a good bike”

(little did we know which good bike).

And that was even before we got to Sunday;

a day which confirmed his genius

on a bike, and underlined the competitive

courage that has been a hallmark

throughout his glittering 16-year stint in

grand prix.

In terms of fighting for the lead, this

wasn’t a thriller. But here was a performance

of the highest level. A change in

how Lorenzo approached each of Mugello’s

15 high-speed, rolling bends was

worked on overnight, and put into practice

in warm-up. Minimising the effects of

front tyre graining effectively staved off

Andrea Dovizioso’s challenge after breaking

clear mid-race. Even his teammate,

only too happy to fire barbs toward the

garage’s opposing side, commended the

approach. “Both tyres he used were really

soft,” opined the Italian. “So to keep that

pace until the end was really difficult.”

You can’t keep a good man down.


Another battle

for the ages

1st July, TT Circuit Assen

Quality up front. A depth in talent. Memorable headto-heads

- all factors that contribute to the greatness

of any given era. But those multi-rider contests

tend to produce memories that stay longest. The

‘Golden Age’ of the late eighties/early nineties, for

example, knew how to put on a show. All-time classics

at Paul Ricard in ’88, Phillip Island in ’89 and

’90, and Suzuka in ’91 and ’93 are (rightly) conjured

up when arguing the case for that generation being

grand prix racing’s most fondly remembered era.

At this rate though, the current crop can’t be far

behind. Multi-rider scraps over the past 20 months

have become a common occurrence. Even by modern

day standards (yes, Michelin’s control tyres and

spec electronics have played their part), this year’s

Dutch TT was something special. Being the closest

top 15 finish of all time was just the start of it. This

was an eight-rider brawl that included six different

leaders and, by one estimation, 99 overtakes. Who

could argue with Marquez when he described it as a

“group of wolves, fighting against everybody”?

Lorenzo, a tenth-place qualifier, insisted on setting

the tone from the very beginning, taking nine (nine!)

riders with an audacious around-the-outside dive

at the first turn to assume an early control. From

there, the moves came as thick, fast and heavy as a

Heavyweight title bout: Lorenzo’s losing of the front

at Meeuwenmeer, causing Rossi to tag his rear; Alex

Rins’ barge at Struben that left Marquez hanging of

the side of the bike; Marquez’s late-braking attempt

on Maverick Viñales at turn nine which had both offtrack.

And still Marquez managed to rise above it all,

easing clear of the pack with three laps to spare to

record yet another decisive triumph. No one in the

current era can handle the rough-and-tumble with

such aplomb. This was further evidence of his mastery

over the current crop.

Dovizioso’s Defiance

5th August, Automotodrom Brno

The resumption of the series after

a miserly two-week break wasn’t

entirely welcomed. But a three-way

thriller in the weekend’s main race

(which saw the closest premier

class top ten finish of all time) had

the adrenaline pumping, and heralded

a pattern we saw more-of as

the year edged toward its close: the

dominance of a rejuvenated Ducati

pairing only challenged by the everpresent


Dovizioso’s late-career renaissance

has been extraordinary. Through

2017 his shrewdness and consistency

led to each of his six wins. But

in these cases he was rarely setting

the pace, attacking from the front,

and completely at ease with having

a target on his back.

Brno represented a sea change.

Rossi may have interrupted it for

three laps , but Dovizioso always

appeared in control, leading from

laps 11 to 21.

Marquez and Lorenzo, benefiting

from a patient approach to conserve

his rear tyre, kept him honest,

though, with the Majorcan lighting

up this outing with outrageous braking

moves on both men at turns 13

and 14, before blunting Marquez’s

last lap charge with an authoritative

lunge at turn five.

By then, his team-mate had established

enough of a gap to come

home ahead - but only just. 0.3s

covered the podium. After chastening

mistakes at Le Mans and Montmeló,

Dovizioso re-found his cool in

those critical high-pressure situations.

And his comments the following

day confirmed he rated this among

his very best victories: “I really love

the race for many reasons, from the

start to the end,” he said. “I was

fighting with three riders and at the

end we won – and we speak about

Valentino, Marc and Jorge. This is

something, when I think about that

… it’s something very important for


Marquez’s Revenge

7th October, Chang International Circuit

“Perfection doesn’t exist,” according

to Alberto Puig, team boss for

Repsol Honda, in a recent interview

with Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

“But [Marquez] is quite close.”

If amassing six world titles by the

age of 24, isn’t perfection, then I for

one, don’t know what is. But he has

a point: if his rider could look back

upon 2017, those head-to-head losses

against Andrea Dovizioso were a

blemish on an otherwise exceptional


The inaugural Thai Grand Prix –

voted the best all-round event of the

year – was the perfect chance to put

this right. Just as Ducati was reaching

peak strength, Marquez sought

out its challenge and went about

nullifying it. This was another multirider

scrap, eventually whittled down

to a four-man sort-out with Movistar

Yamaha’s Viñales and Rossi joining

in the fun.

The final three laps were vintage.

Twice Marquez attempted a move in

the simple, featureless track’s third

sectors. And twice Dovizioso rapidly

responded. Thus Marquez changed

tack on the last lap, catching his rival

off guard with a smart move at turn

five. But it wasn’t done. Far from it, in

fact. The horribly tight final turn was

always going to witness high drama,

and here was an end of race to give

Schwantz and Rainey’s Hockenheim

ding-dong in 1991 a run for its money.

Unlike the Red Bull Ring and Motegi

last season, or Qatar this year, it

was Dovizioso’s turn to attack rather

than defend. But he soon knew his

chances were doomed. “As soon as

I touched the brake I knew I had lost

the race,” he mused. Drifting wide,

Marquez pounced. All the while

Viñales hovered just behind, narrowly

avoiding an all-or-nothing dive from

his team-mate. 0.270s covered the

top three, the fifth closest premier

class podium of all time.

So much for this being a boring



Rossi Rekindles Magic

4th November, Sepang International Circuit

So much of this day had rightly centred

on the promising state of Italian

racing. Marco Bezzecchi’s attempts to

wrestle an unexpected Moto3 triumph

failed but won admirers with his postrace

outpouring of emotion. In Moto2

Luca Marini confirmed his status as a

coming force in grand prix by claiming

an assured debut GP win. Meanwhile

teammate Francesco Bagnaia

wrapped up a deserved world title in

that same race, the first championship

success for Sky Racing VR46.

But still the figure to whom they all

aspire would have the final say. Well,

almost. For 16 laps of this engrossing

contest, Valentino Rossi produced one

of those performances that had all

103,984 in attendance shaking their

heads in disbelief. There was a variation

of just 0.2s in his times from laps

2 to 15. That this was achieved while

39 years old, in 34 degrees of heat,

and a stifling humidity of 55% almost

defies logic.

There would be no fairytale ending,

however. A certain rider whose machine

bears the numbers 9 and 3 was

intent on reeling his great rival in.

For 30 minutes the pair engaged in a

thrilling cat-and-mouse chase that required

both men to summon up some

of their very best feats. Go back and

watch Marquez’s antics for the three

laps before Rossi’s fall: an example of

controlled, on-the-edge riding as his

front tyre skipped and twitched that

complimented the Italian’s skills (it’s

rare we see Marquez having to work

that hard) as much as they did the


Rossi’s crash on lap 17 of 20 deprived

us of the glorious climax we were

all awaiting. And it would have been

some show, too. “I would’ve ridden

to the death,” he joked in Italian later

that afternoon. Still, this was confirmation

the nine-time champion can

perform at the very highest level.

Don’t bet against it occurring more

often in 2019.




Arai have released their new 2019 paintjobs

for some of their leading helmet models as

well as few other novelties for the refreshed

catalogue with products expecting to hit

dealerships in the spring. The very capable

MX-V off-road lid gets a cool reworking (the

Barcia-11 rep is special) and the RX-7V has

also been touched up in white, matt and yellow

schemes. Take some time to look at the

Arai website which gives great insight into

the work and construction of the helmet.

Admittedly it is tricky to see what Arai are

doing to combat rotational acceleration and

concussion limits compared to other brands

but it is hard to argue against the other

aspects of their helmet construction. Each

Arai lid comes with the same criteria towards

quality, namely: five control checks, they are

still handmade, built for all-day comfort with

an organic shape, smooth shape, hard shell

and soft inner shell and a five year limited

warranty. There is a good reason why Arai is

used by some of the best motorcycle racers

on the planet



blue still feeling blue...?

2018 was a bad year for Yamaha: 13 podiums from 19 races, including a

single, solitary win, the first in 26 GPs. Third in the manufacturer standings

behind Honda and Ducati, the Movistar Yamaha team third in the

team standings, behind the factory Honda and Ducati teams.

More worryingly, 2018 was not

a one-off, but part of a longer

decline since the high point of

2015, when they won the rider,

manufacturer, and team triple

crown, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino

Rossi taking first and second

in the championship. That

year, Yamaha gained 11 wins and

a total of 30 podiums. In 2016,

that was down to 20 podiums.

In 2017, it was 17 podiums. This

year, just 13 podiums…

Yamaha’s decline coincides with

the change from Bridgestone to

Michelin tyres, and the switch to

the spec Magneti Marelli software.

The different character of

the Michelins did not suit the

high corner speed nature of the

M1, the front end not providing

the confidence needed to fling

the bike in and rail around the


The loss of Yamaha’s proprietary

software was a more sensitive

blow. Their ‘Mu Learning’ software

was so clever that it would

calculate tyre wear from lap to

lap, and adapt itself. The spec

Marelli software has no such sophistication:

the engineers must

optimise the engine mapping for

the entire race, leaving riders to

manage tyre wear by manually

selecting TC and engine braking


As the Hondas got faster and the

Ducati got better at going round

corners, Yamaha found themselves

facing two challenges.

They had to reinvent the chassis

to give more feedback from

the front tyre, while pampering

the rear. But they also needed

to find more power and speed,

while trying to master the electronics.

So they ended up with

an engine that was too aggressive

and chewed through rear

tyres in the first half of the race.

That, in a nutshell, is how Yamaha

finds themselves where they

are. But how do they fix it?

The Japanese engineers brought

two engines for Viñales and

Rossi to test at Valencia and

Jerez, aimed at solving the issues.

Both riders agreed the

engine was an improvement, but

their comments reveal Yamaha’s

deeper problem. At Valencia,

Maverick Viñales praised the

better engine braking, which allowed

him to carry more corner

speed. “I felt much better going

into the corner,” the Spaniard

said. “I stressed the front tyre

much less and I can keep the

corner speed. That is what I

needed through all the year, to

arrive faster to the apex.”

But Valentino Rossi was less

positive. Yes, the improvement

in engine braking was a good

step, he said, but the fundamental

issue remained.

By David Emmett

“It’s a small help because the

bike becomes more easy to ride

and you can be more constant.

And it’s more or less the same

in acceleration. We tried to have

a more soft character to spin

less and it’s already a help. But

it’s not enough. We suffer too

much with the rear tyre degradation,

after some laps we slide

too much.”

Things were not much sunnier

at the Jerez test. “We’re

always struggling with grip in

acceleration with the slide and

spin,” Rossi said. “If you see

the test here, like in Valencia

with the new tire we are fast.

Maverick is very, very fast. Also

Franco [Morbidelli] is fast. But

after some laps all the Ducatis

and also Suzukis have a better


Viñales saw it very differently.

“I think we were very competitive

with used tyres,” he said

at Jerez. “We kept the tyres for

nearly 30 laps, and I can still

keep really good lap times until

the end.” It wasn’t perfect, but it

wasn’t far off.

“We have to find a little bit of

mechanical grip, and then we

have to adjust the electronics.

We are going to make a good

jump if we improve there.”

For the development of a successful

racing motorcycle, you

need uniform feedback from

your riders to be able to set out

a direction. That is Yamaha’s

problem: they have two riders

pulling in different directions.

One says the bike is good

enough to win a championship

on, if they can find some mechanical

grip. The other says

the bike is good enough for

fourth, if they get lucky and

someone crashes out ahead of


Who to believe? The seven-time

MotoGP champion with 19 seasons

of experience in MotoGP,

but who hasn’t won a title since

2009? Or the youngster you

have chosen to be Yamaha’s

future because of his obvious

potential, despite only having

five wins in four seasons in


Is Rossi trying to develop a bike

to win the 2019 championship

or the 2009 championship? If

Viñales hasn’t won a title yet,

does he know how to develop a

championship-winning bike?

If you were at Yamaha, who

would you listen to? And can

you afford to get the answer




a selection of cormacgp’s peerless

work from the 2018 motogp season

Photo: R. Schedl

Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations!

The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.



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the law – but we are saying that the laws of physics are merely

guidelines. The KTM 690 SMC R challenges the status quo by writing

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outlaw and start your own chapter.



2018 gongs...

Rider of the year: Marc Marquez

Yes, you may yawn at the

predictability. But from early

May Marquez’s seventh world

crown was never in doubt. Amid

MotoGP’s most unpredictable

era, he remains the only constant.

The 25-year old continued

to make the impossible appear

ordinary on a regular basis and

his insistence on fronting up to

Ducati’s potent threat from midseason

underlined his continued

competitive courage. His insistence

of innocence in Argentina

aside, this was a near flawless

year. Those wins at Assen, Thailand

and Sepang rate among

the very best in his haul of 70

victories. Oh, and he achieved

his late season success with a

mangled left shoulder, the seriousness

of which only became

clear in December.

Race of the year: Argentinean

Grand Prix, MotoGP

Assen was more combative,

more breathless. But the talking

points from Argentina totted up

so quickly we were still discussing

the implications of the

Marquez-Rossi collision weeks

later. The grid melee, which

led to Jack Miller starting six

rows ahead of everyone, was

one thing, as was the unlikely

four-way fight for the lead that

followed. But Marquez’s onerider

demolition of the field

after incurring a ride-through

penalty was as spectacular as it

was brash. Just once, too much

ego spilled over and his riding

hinted he was more intent on

making this a one-man spectacle

than scoring good points.

His total conviction in his own

methods, and Yamaha’s inflated

reactions simply added to the


Overtake of the year: Jorge

Lorenzo, Lap one, turn one,

Dutch Grand Prix

Winning on Ducati was one

thing; doing so with a revamped

riding style from his

days at Yamaha was another.

But the greatest joy in observing

Jorge Lorenzo in 2018 was

witnessing a combative streak

so pronounced he even caught

Marquez off guard. Dives under

the Repsol rider and Dovizioso

in little over four seconds at

Brno was a moment to savour.

So, too, was a late braking assault

on Marquez in Austria. But

his early exchanges at Assen

topped them all. From the front

of the fourth row, the Majorcan

navigated a path to first by the

outside of turn one via a ridiculously

late-braking move around

the outside. They used to call

him Por Fuera (Round the Outside)

for good reason.

Disappointment of the year:

Maverick Viñales

For a rider set to rule the world

just over a year ago, Viñales

was grand prix racing’s forgotten

man until late October. He

called this “easily my worst

year” for good reason. Those

familiar failings were continually

on show: mainly a tendency to

fluff his starts, and an inability

to run a fast pace in the opening

laps. His demands to remove

crew chief Ramon Forcada

and experienced technician

Javi Ullate sent his side of the

box into a temporary tailspin.

It’s to his credit he never gave

up, and was back on form dur-

By Neil Morrison

ing the flyaways. But 2018 highlighted

the need to work on his

interpersonal skills, as well as

a handful of riding flaws. Bringing

Yamaha back to its previous

level in ’19 represents the biggest

challenge of his career.

Most improved rider: Francesco


This, the final year of Honda’s

CBR600 engine in Moto2, could

have been the best instalment of

the intermediate category since

two-strokes were banished in

2010. But from August Francesco

Bagnaia found another

gear, packing the punches so

thick and so fast rival Miguel

Oliveira was on the ropes by

October. Until then Bagnaia had

eradicated his weaknesses from

’17, namely racing with a full

tank of fuel. By autumn he was

so fast and consistent, his race

runs suggested Ducati may well

have found a ready replacement

for the outgoing Lorenzo. Don’t

be surprised to see him fighting

in a leading group early in 2019.

The Second Coming Award: Can


The Öncü name had long sounded

out and around the grand prix

paddock before the season finale

at Valencia. Can’s record in this

year’s Red Bull Rookies series

–championship victory, five wins

- merited a level of fanfare. But

who could have foreseen a display

of maturity during his debut

that resulted in him, at 15 years

and 115 days, becoming the

youngest ever winner in 70 years

of grand prix racing? The best

part came after - Can couldn’t

comprehend why team boss Aki

Ajo was signalling from pit wall

to remain calm with five laps to

go. “At that point I wasn’t even

pushing,” he shrugged. This kid’s

destined to go far.

Quote of the year: ‘Everyone

knows the value of Jorge Lorenzo,

and what Lorenzo can do

on a bike’ – Jorge Lorenzo

Oh, how we snickered. Said

without a hint of irony, the

five-time champ’s insistence

of speaking in the third person

was the butt of jokes for weeks

to come. It was typical of Jorge

of course: pigheaded in his own

self-belief when it seemed those

around him were losing faith.

This phrase, spoken after a poor

showing at Le Mans, may have

generated eye rolling from those

in attendance. But two weeks

on and it was tough to recall a

more astonishing turnaround.

Winning the Italian Grand Prix,

announcing he’d leave Ducati,

and confirming an astonishing

move to Repsol Honda all in four

days. The value of Jorge Lorenzo

indeed. It equated to him having

the last laugh.

Medal of valour award: Tito


Jorge Martin’s superhuman

return to the podium one week

on from breaking his left wrist

deserves a mention. As does

Cal Crutchlow’s eighth place at

Le Mans less than a day after

thwacking his pelvis so hard he

was sure it was broken. But how

can we look past Tito Rabat?

The initial diagnosis from the

horrendous collision in the

gravel at Silverstone was grave:

a triple leg fracture and the possible

ending of his career.



There were even fears he had

severed an artery such was the

amount of blood at the scene. But

the photos of him on his feet one

day after his smash were nothing

short of extraordinary.

The ‘Must Try Harder’ Award:


Not for the first time we were

left wondering about Aprilia’s

approach. Its full backing for

SMR’s World Superbike operation

waned. And its MotoGP operation

was beset by gremlins that

had plagued previous campaigns.

Still there is the suspicion this

team is entirely centred on its

lead rider. Attempts to mesh factory

personnel with faces from

Fausto Gresini’s team have been

unsuccessful. And it’s constantly

behind, playing catch up in terms

of parts and development. The

signing of Andrea Iannone, ex-F1

team manager Massimo Rivola to

become Aprilia racing CEO, and

Bradley Smith as test rider bodes

well. But to repeatedly fail to

learn from mistakes at this level

is close to unforgiveable. 2019 will

be a critical year for all involved.

The ‘Did he really just say that?’

Award: Stuart Pringle, Silverstone


The Silverstone CEO really didn’t

cover himself in glory following

justified concerns regarding the

resurfaced track’s inability to

drain water. According to Pringle,

the huge puddles on the Hangar

Straight that caused five riders

to run off track on Saturday

afternoon, were due to a “Biblical

downpour,” rather than drainage

issues. “It was an exceptional

cloud burst,” he told befuddled reporters

that evening. “The drainage

on the circuit is very good.”

Sorry. Say that again? Words that

sounded ridiculous on Saturday.

By race day they were nothing

short of embarrassing, much like

the situation that caused the first

total cancellation of a GP since


The ‘Pinch yourself, is this really

happening?’ award: Yamaha’s

public apology, Austrian Grand


That was a manic, chastening

two-month period for the factory

Yamaha team, from August to

September, when it appeared everything

was slowly falling apart. A

desperate qualifying performance

from both riders at Austria – Rossi

was a despondent 14th while

Viñales was reduced to a seething

monosyllabic mass – was surely

a nadir. A barely believable pubic

apology from project leader Kouji

Tsuya followed, conveying a team

(and factory) in freefall.



ProTaper’s website is the one-stop shop for a

myriad of parts from drive train components, bars,

grips, brake pads, footpegs and other useful items

like tie-downs. They also have a few casual choices

for people that admire the modern and ProTaper

branding. Three t-shirt design options come in

black or grey and at 24.99 dollars while there is

also a Hoodie (59.99) and a windbreaker jacket

(79.99). Four cap designs come in at the same

price as the t-shirt. All can be found on ProTaper’s

clear and elegant website.




the wild west...

All good things must come to and end. Was 2018 a good thing? I guess

every year that I get to photograph one of the coolest sports on the planet

is a good thing. However, in the best Christmas movie tradition there

is always The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

In terms of WorldSBK it was definitely

good if you wore green and

your name was Jonathan Rea.

With 17 race wins and a fourth

consecutive championship in the

bag, not to mention a few other

records, there are not many superlatives

that we can add when

writing about the Ulsterman. For

many, however, the domination of

Kawasaki for another season is a

bad thing.

It must be especially galling for

those that rewrote the technical

regulations that Kawasaki and

Jonathan dominated so much.

The rules had been designed to

specifically rein him in and try

and give the other manufacturers

a chance to take the title but in

the end it had the opposite effect.

The Kawasaki engineers went

away, did a little bit of work, and

came back with a solution to the

problem that ended up with the

most successful winning streak in

WorldSBK history.

It wasn’t all bad however. One of

the best things for me this year

was to see Michael VD Mark and

Alex Lowes take their maiden

wins in the Superbike category on

the Yamaha. Van Der Mark’s double

at Donington was particularly

impressive. He went toe-to-toe

with the Kawasaki’s of Rea and

Sykes and came out on top. Brno

was the same for Lowes.

Yamaha have been working really

hard since they came back

into WorldSBK and it is starting

to pay off. They are still a little

step behind in the overall championship

fight but you come into

every race weekend now with

the feeling that they are genuine

contenders. My worry for 2019,

however, is that Kawasaki have

brought a revised ZX-10RR to the

market, specifically designed to

meet the development needs of

the race machine, and Ducati

have introduced the stunning new

Panigale V4 R.

I am not aware of anything

ground breaking being introduced

at Yamaha and I really hope they

don’t get left behind.

There were other small ‘good’

things that happened in 2018. Toprak

Razgatlioglu’s potential began

to bear fruit with a podium at

Donington and a series of strong

performances in the second half

of the season. Xavi Fores was a

surprise performer for many on

the privateer Barni Ducati, outperforming

the factory riders on

a number of occasions. I was also

pleased to see Eugene Laverty

on the podium in the second half

of the season as well. Especially

since his 2018 campaign got off

to such a bad start. The Irishman

spent a few weeks in a Thai hospital

recovering from surgery on

a broken pelvis following a crash

at Buriram. He returned to action

at Imola three races later and by

Laguna Seca in June was on the


By Graeme Brown

The bad thing for WorldSBK is

that we won’t see Fores in 2019.

Ducati, in their wisdom, have

chosen to favour their young

pretender Michael Ruben Rinaldi.

He had ridden some of the

European rounds last year on a

factory supported Ducati but is

being moved into the Barni squad

for the coming season. I see the

value of promoting and nurturing

young riders in the championship

but if Ducati are serious

about taking the manufacturers

title from Kawasaki, to have a

proven podium finisher in your

ranks would surely be seen as an

advantage. WorldSBK’s loss will

the British championship’s gain

as Fores moves to the factory

Honda team in BSB. Ducati will,

however, retain another podium

finisher in their ranks as Eugene

Laverty put together an 11th hour

deal to ride a Panigale V4 R with

the Go Eleven squad.

There were a few bad things to

come out of 2018. The most notable

for me is the end of the Ten

Kate Honda squad. It was such

a shock when the news broke

at the EICMA show that they

were being completely cut out

of Honda’s plans. I felt this one a

little personally as I have worked

with Ten Kate in some form since

I began my own full time journey

in WorldSBK 18 years ago. It is

still difficult to imagine that they

won’t be around in 2019. I hope

what Ronald Ten Kate said is true,

that he is already working on a

plan for 2020 and that next year

is only a brief hiatus in their racing


The EICMA show also brought a

number of good and bad stories

for 2019. It’s great to see BMW

push their effort in the series with

their new bike, a new team and

two top quality riders. As I write

this Tom Sykes and Markus Reiterberger

will be preparing to take

to the track for the first time at

Almeria in Spain. This is just being

used as a shakedown for the

team and the riders. Shaun Muir

Racing has taken over the running

of the BMW effort and the

plan for the two-day test in Spain

is for everyone in the team to get

familiar with the working of the

race machines and the structure

of the set-up. The real testing will

begin in January at Jerez.

It is also good to see HRC return

to the WorldSBK championship

in the form of the Moriwaki and

Althea alliance. However, things

are moving slowly in getting

everything up and running. It appears

that the announcement at

EICMA was fairly rushed. Honda

had taken the decision to end

their association with Ten Kate

so felt they had to make an announcement

as soon as possible

about the future plans. At that

stage there was nothing really in

place and over the last few weeks

there has been a lot of activity

behind the scenes to get testing

in Jerez and Portimao in January.

What about the ugly? If you have

been reading my ramblings over

the last few months I think you

will be able to guess my feelings.

The way the season ended was

pretty ugly. Qatar is not my

favourite venue on the calendar

but the weather that rolled in on

Saturday, which could not have

been predicted, added to my

bitter taste of the event. I always

remember a former colleague

having a laugh about some

weather drama in the UK where



roads were closed and trains

cancelled. He felt it was good to

be reminded that Mother Nature

was still in charge.

It only leaves me to wish everyone

a very Merry Christmas and

healthy and prosperous 2019.

It was the second time in the

year that extreme weather had

disrupted an event for me. At the

Suzuka 8Hr we had the typhoon

on Saturday night that meant

much of the events surrounding

the race were cancelled. We were

instructed to leave the track by

7pm and go straight to our hotels.

The aftermath of the storm disrupted

the race with long safety

car periods but at least the crowd

turned up and the WEC championship

celebrations went off in

impressive fashion. The scene

on Saturday night at Losail was

pretty depressing as a handful of

team mechanics were the only

people on hand as the championship

trophies were handed out.

With ‘18 now behind us it is time

to focus, if you pardon the pun,

on 2019. With that in mind I had

to make a last minute change to

my Santa list. I have added a new

abacus to the list to help me work

out the points system and grid

positions for the races in 2019.






The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R meets the demands of the toughest adventurers.

Packed with Dakar-winning DNA, it has all you need to push the boundaries

of exploration to new extremes. When you’re in constant pursuit of the most

intense escapes, this offroad-annihilating machine is ready to adventure harder.

Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations!

The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost. Photo: F. Lackner


troy lee designs

Skipping through Troy Lee Designs catalogue is

an exercise in temptation for a motocross fan.

Alliances with several brands and companies like

KTM, Yamaha and Honda and the special look and

design of the products gives TLD an extra classy

edge. We like the official KTM backpack (79.00

dollars) that features two main compartments, a

padded back section, a microfiber sunglass pocket,

two lateral compartments, drink bottle mesh

and sternum fastener. The Yamaha RS1 men’s

tee (28.00 dollars) has a cool retro feel and also

comes in blue and black while the cotton Corsa

sock (14.00) is made in five different colours.




rolling tides...

Just 18 days until the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series kicks off

in Anaheim, California and we’re in for another exciting 29 races covering

both the supercross and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series’.

The usual bench racing has

been going on, the favorites

once again are Tomac, Anderson,

Musquin and Roczen - the

usual riders - and we’re looking

for someone to take ‘the leap’

into the main group of potential

winners. And there are three

rookies that are all interesting

in their own ways. In short,

it’s another year that might be

tough to call.

So, how we doing?

Well, to the consternation of

many the sport of supercross

and motocross aren’t blowing

up into something where we’re

seeing the results and highlights

along with the big four

sports and soccer in America.

Heck, we’re not even getting

close to the coverage that the

number one motorsport in the

USA, NASCAR, gets. I know this

might make some fans of the

sport unhappy but we’re niche

and most likely will always be


There are storm clouds gathering

in the pro pits though. The

last few years there have been

more riders than rides and

we haven’t really had any new

teams pop up. At least not, A-

level or even B-level really. And

that’s an issue to me. We need

private ownership to step up

and want to run a team in our

sport and we’re not really getting

it right now. Hence riders

like Dean Wilson, Josh Grant,

Justin Bogle (all past 250 winners)

have plans to be fill-in

riders. Yes, they are banking on

injuries (that always happen) to

get a ride. All three of these are

potential top ten 450SX guys

and yet, here they are on the


Outside of Motoconcepts

Honda, Rocky Mountain KTM

and JGR, there aren’t any top

level A teams that are privately

funded. The OEM’s are still the

ones shelling out millions to go


At some point, someone has to

realize that pulling back might

be the smart move right? We

need to make this business

model of owning a team more

profitable or at least maybe a

break-even type of deal?

When JGR, who own a multimillion

NASCAR team and presumably

can schedule a meeting

with just about any fortune

500 company out there, cannot

get a title sponsor then I think

we’ve got to look in the mirror

as a sport. That’s right, if the

word on the street is correct

JGR won’t have a title sponsor

in the 2019 SX/MX championships.

That’s a rather depressing

fact for me.

Feld Motorsports TV deal for

SX was up for this year and

they’ve switched from FOX to

NBC and its sports networks.

Word on the street is that it’s

a worse deal financially than

the previous agreement and no

rumors needed for this tidbit:

By Steve Matthes

there are less live races than

the old deal.

For a guy like me, that’s been

in the pits for over twenty

years in a variety of positions,

I’ve excited for the new season

on the track, and the Triple

Crown races and timed main

events are all changes that

are for the positive. I think it’ll

be interesting to see the racers

sort these titles out and I

hope most of them stay injury

free. But off the track, I see

more scary things in terms of

how we’re doing. NASCAR TV

ratings are heading south and

we’re probably going to see

that in our end of things in a

few years as these things tend

to have a ripple effect. The rise

of e-sports is a scary thing,

more and more sponsorship

dollars and media coverage

is being sent over to watching

people play video games. Yes,

I’m serious.

Feld Motorsports taking some

steps to help get kids riding

dirt bikes in the pits is a good

thing but to me, there’s got

to be a massive group-think

on what we’re doing here as

a sport. From rider salaries to

team ownership to promoters

helping out, we need to realize

that what we’ve been doing

for 45 years isn’t working out

anymore. A rising tide lifts all

boats and everyone involved in

this sport needs to start rowing

in the right direction before it’s

too late.

We can put our head in the

sand and ignore all of this but

something needs to be done

to our business model to help

the sport survive in the future.


MXGP Album 2018

For the tenth year this wonderfully designed

and presented hardback MXGP yearbook

is the reference for a chronicle of the racing

season. Each Grand Prix is highlighted

along with Stanley Leroux’s excellent imagery

and feature interviews. There are over

200 pages. Editions from 2010-2016 are

sold out. This is the definition of a well presented

‘coffee table’ record of MXGP, essential

for motocross fans. You can only order

from the official website where you can also

preview some of the pages.

Dream. Believe. Achieve

‘Dream. Believe. Achieve’ tells Jonathan Rea’s

story and has already been longlisted for The

Telegraph autobiography awards. We’ve yet

to get our hands on a copy but Rea has long

been keen to explain his tale of a shy and bullied

school kid that strived at the highest level

to eventually become a record breaker and a

Superbike greatest of all time. Order or pick it

up from any decent bookshop.

Will to Victory

Photographer Roddy MacLeod followed

the 2018 MXGP series armed with a Leica

camera and managed to capture a side of

the championship (even motorcycle racing

in general) rarely seen. He focused on the

atmosphere and the people at Grands Prix

as much as the athletes and track action.

It makes for a fascinating and alternative

perspective. He has also been busy with

the Dictaphone for some feature interviews.

Ignore the slightly hammy title and roll with

the 50 euro price tag because this publication

reaches almost 300 pages in a wide,

hardback format and is something a little


MotoGP Technology

We’ll have a longer review of this engrossing

tome on the website in a couple of weeks

but Neil Spalding’s comprehensive breakdown

of what is being used at the peak of

motorcycle racing is unmissable. The title

and size of the book should not be a deterrent

for technophobes; this is as much

about the story of the brands, their work

and development as it is a revealing insight

into the shape and form of the prototypes.

This third edition is updated and revised for

2018, is clearly designed and laid out and

with some excellent photographs.


Need we say more? The definitive motorcycle

Grand Prix yearbook, and now in its 43rd year

with some past editions changing hands for

large sums of money online. The 2018 annual

covers the full MotoGP term but also focuses

on WorldSBK and includes several essays on

themes, riders or subjects connected with the

racing. Superb writing, an elegant and timeless

layout and sensational photography make

the ritual ordering of Motocourse a no-brainer.

It’s an institution.

MotoGP Review

Revered journalist Mat Oxley now helms

the content work for the official MotoGP

Review; a project now fifteen years in existence

but has been kept firmly in the shadow

of Motocourse due to the uninspiring and

formulaic design. No glimpse yet to see if

the look and feel has altered and moved

away from an ‘official programme’ vibe or

to see whether Oxley’s usually sharp and

observational eye has been narrowed by the

licensed nature of the product…but 2018

could mark a directional shift for this project.

The book costs 28 pounds.




Answer are well known for their eye-catching

and high-performing race gear but they also

have some casualwear items that could

appeal as a swift Christmas gift for fans of

the brand or bikes in general. Try the black

Stamp or Victory Zip-up Hoodies (both at

54.95 dollars). The Team 76 Women’s Tank

top (29.95) or some of the many t-shirts like

the dark blue Daytona (29.95), the burgundy

Linked Tee, the long sleeved Team 76 (for

men and in white also both at 39.95) or the

Official. Key ring, umbrellas, stickers and

even haybale covers can be ordered from the

website as can hydration packs (the 79.95

dollar 3l is shown here) and gear packs (600

denier water-resistant treated construction

with special vents and compartments

at 124.95). Head to answerracing.com for a


















Motoring to Milwaukee for

some motorcycle Americana

3 things we loved about the Harley-Davidson Museum

By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Ray Archer


The 2018 Motocross of

Nations and arrival into

Chicago meant being

able to check out another (very

sizeable) aspect of American

motorcycling fabric. Crossing

the state line from Illinois

to Wisconsin means only a

short trip downtown to the

birthplace of Harley-Davidson

(back in 1903) which is marked

and celebrated by a museum

‘complex’ housing a memorial

display, restaurant, workshop

and facilities for events such as

concerts, meet-and-greets and

other gatherings.

The museum costs 20 dollars

(and according to Wikipedia

attracts over 300,000

visitors) and there is plenty of

(knowledgeable) staff on hand

to guide and offer stories. The

museum houses a comprehensive

and enormous collection

of models but also goes

right to the heart of other

strands of Harley-Davidson’s

story. Here’s what we took

away from a brief trip to Milwaukee.

400 West Canal Street looks

like a downtown area that has

benefitted from a typical frenzy

of regeneration. Old architecture

now cases modern residences

and work places. The

Harley site, immaculate with

its lawn, off-street parking and

faux street layout is welcoming.

As soon as you exit the car

then the American rock music

that blares from the PA system

around the location immediately

reminds you what lies behind

the façade of the tall grey

and industrialised buildings

and how ‘HD’ has filtered into

American society over the last

115 years to become more than

just a motorcycle manufacturer.




Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson

could barely have imagined

what their experimentation with

gas engines around the 1900s

would have spawned over the

course of a century and the

exhibition gives an immediate

flavour of the Harley-Davidson

movement with a brightly lit

case enshrining 315 patches

from 1400 ‘Hog’ owners clubs

around the world.

The initial gallery showcases

the very first Harley-Davidson

models; (including the Model

2 Atmospheric-Valve Single of

1906) a gathering of immaculate

machines of the age when

power over suspension and

comfort seems to have been




very much the priority. The motorcycles

are absolutely pristine

if cumbersome. By 1912 Harley-

Davidson’s catalogue featured

seven models, sales of around

4000 bikes thanks to over 200

dealers in the US and even one

in Japan. 1912 was also significant

as the first year that the

company began to produce

clothing: it now seems incomprehensible

to imagine that

logo solely limited to vehicles.

The range grows and evolves

as the years pass. In WW1 the

US government bought one

third of the firm and the bikes

would enter a phase of remarkable

versatility, being used for

various military roles as well

as for larger transport, even

by the US Postal Services. The

manner of the timeline allows

a generous appreciation for the

march of technology and how

ornate (and bloody heavy) the

Harley-Davidsons were. Greys,

blacks and copper shades

give way to more creative and

decorative tones as the 1930s

approach. The diversity of purpose

for the motorcycle is displayed

in an aside atrium while

the an adjacent room contains

some fantastic articles, photos

and artefacts from the first

years of Harley-Davidson’s racing

history on the boards, hills

and flat tracks around the US.

This is perhaps one of the most

striking zones of the exhibition;

the attire used by the racers

of yore beggar belief in some

cases (woollen garments and

tough leather helmets) while

the speeds in relation to the

handling of the bikes at the

time make the imagination

zing. The FHAC racer had no

transmission or brakes and had

to be pull started!





It doesn’t take long to see how

Harley-Davidson grew, prospered

and then began to alter

their portfolio to spread to a

wider consumer base. By the

1920s they were already appealing

to female riders with

specially engineered sport

models and the 2 Cam Twin in

1928 promised a “new power

sensation” with a mighty (!)

50hp. The eight-valve V-Twin

had already set a mark in 1923

with the racing models topping

100mph. The eight-valve

cost 1,500 dollars at the time;

a quantity that had Harley-

Davidson claiming “superior

engineering came at a price”.

The Flathead engine of 1934

and a new design was good

enough to lead to a spike of

sales and output reached over

11,000 models. In 1936 the V-

Twin was being used to break

land speed records at Daytona

Beach (136.183mph) and the

El Factory Streamliner is one

of the exceptional units with

pride of place. Arrival of WW2

saw Harley-Davidson back in

that distinctive army green

with the WLA Side-Valve Twin

and the BMW-inspired XA;

production climbed to 60,000

(a third of which shipped to

Russia curiously enough).

The military bike on show is

interestingly customised with

blacked-out visors, a gun

scabbard, an ammo box and

a heavier and braced frame to

cope with all the add-ons.

Harley-Davidson produced few

civilian models during WW2

but the ‘baby boom’ years of

the 1950s saw a period of expansion

with some other notable

events taking place, such

as the request by the factory

to levy a higher tax on British

imports (UK brands were

surging in profile and pace at

this time) and HD’s main rival,

Indian, going out of business.

Harley-Davidson maintained a

fruitful place in racing circles

and the 1946 WR was among

the most successful bikes in

dirt track history with 18 of 24

National Championship wins.

Their production of lightweight

and middleweight bikes increased

their reach even further

and became a 1/3 of their

general output to the market.

Walking down the gallery section

reveals experiments like

the 1960 ‘Topper’, Harley-Davidson’s

attempt at a Scooter

to appeal to a younger demographic.

The bike was fashioned

by former aircraft firm

Aeronautica Macchi, had a

floor mounted rope-pull starter

(like an outboard), solid

wheels, a fibreglass body and

a rubber mounted engine.

It is in this section where

off-road, two-strokes and

motocross bikes are housed,

showing just how adventurous

Harley-Davidson could be

before entering into the 1980s

and periods of instability with

buy-outs and eventual shifting

of production to other States.

The whole enterprise now has

facilities in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania,

Missouri, Brazil and

India and with almost 6000


The ground floor has a pop

culture section with Elvis’ first

Harley-Davidson bought in

1956 and after the success of

‘Heartbreak Hotel’. ‘The King’

was allegedly a Harley enthusiast

and bought the KH for

903 dollars and on a payment

plan! The portrayal of Harley-

Davidson in the movies and

on TV shows encompasses the

‘bad boy’ rep conveyed by the

likes of Marlon Brando in ‘The

Wild Ones’ and – funnily – the

steps the company took to

try and alleviate the association

of their motorcycles as

the transport of what William

Davidson described as the

“fringe minority” and “a symbol

of delinquency”. Nothing

seemed to work as the iconic

image of biking culture (tats,

black leather, shades, cool,

rebellion) was enforced and

Harley-Davidson was undisputedly

part of the make-up.

Bikes such as Henry Fonda’s

‘Easy Rider’ ‘Captain America’

harley-davidson museum

OHV V-Twin’ have been replicated

in Milwaukee. Various

other movie references and

memorabilia (e.g. Terminator

2) divulge how much the

Harley-Davidson product has

infiltrated the mainstream.

The Captain America 750

Street model used in the

recent Marvel film is perhaps

the newest bike on show.

Looking up and Harley-Davidson

have recreated the famous

Evel Knievel XR-750 1975

Wembley jump motorcycle

(the same painter even replicated

the livery) with the identical

bends and damage as

sustained in the gnarly crash

in London. Apparently Knievel

used to have real dollar bills

engraved into the fuel tank

and the minimal modifications

for making the 120ft 13 bus

jump included lower footpegs

and a drag chute (that was

more effective as a showpiece

rather than actually slowing

the stuntman).

harley-davidson museum




From movies to movers, and

the way Harley-Davidson influenced

motorcycle construction

is explored in a detailed and

engrossing manner. The glass

walls for suspension, engine

development and chassis design

give this sections a sterile

feel, but the way the evolution

is laid out and explained

makes it easy to grasp.

Harley’s hardtails meant that

rear suspension only became

an object of acute attention

from 1958 (!). They had started

the transition from a bicycledesign

by the 1920s and their

Model J frame was responsible

for that squat and more natural

and comfortable sitting position.

In the 1936 the ‘El Frame’

helped towards creation of the

softail. The 1984 FXST is highlighted

as a signature model

with hidden shock absorbers

under the transmission to give

the appearance of a ‘60s hardtail


Running alongside the lower

ground wall are more of the

collection of over-400 bikes

Harley-Davidson have been

accumulating since 1915. From

road race bikes (1960s CRTTs),

Buells, police units, custom

jobs and dirt trackers the lineup

goes on and on.

harley-davidson museum

The depth of information

explained and the gamut

of bikes and parts on show

mean that the museum is not

a rapid runaround. It takes a

good couple of hours to digest

the full scale of the history

and the pockets of American

society that Harley-Davidson

have penetrated. One of the

best parts of the tour experience

comes at the end with

the chance to sit and sample

a spread of bikes, from historical

models to cruisers to

police pursuit specials and

the latest hardware to bear

the famous badge.

There is plenty of choice for

a gift or memento with the

‘Museum’ moniker however.

Sadly a lack of time forbade

sampling the ‘Motor’ restaurant

and the chance to devour

a ‘Fatboy Burger’ but we’d had

our fill of a US institution. It

is impossible to deny Harley-

Davidson’s position as one of

the forebears of motorcycling,

and the Milwaukee museum is

an engaging and almost overwhelming

opportunity to see

just how much it has pervaded

American and international

lives since those heady 1900s.

Outside, the official shop is a

little disappointing; the hundreds

of threads and products

are all museum affiliated

so there is a lack of normal

Harley-Davidson wares.



A few Christmas goodies from Alpinestars. Have

a look at their Tech Watch Race (in Chrono version)

and Tech Watch Satined Steel. The Race has

a 45mm face (Japanese mechanism), three hands

and a leather strap. The Chrono edition of both

models has the three different timers. The price

varies from 190 euros to 250 euros. The Satined

Steel is perhaps more elegant with a cool ‘tyre’

style silicone strap and comes at 130 euros, and

180 for the Chrono. Other items to consider include

the Venture R off-road glove (49.95 euros),

the Iguana hydration pack (79.95), the City Hunter

backpack (89.95) and the Neck Warmer (15.95). All

available from the Alpinestars website.


Valentine Guillod



Introducing the all new 6D ATR-2 with advanced Omni-Directional Suspension. Heavily influenced by 6D’s award winning

work within the NFL’s Head Health Challenge III, the ATR-2 is an engineering masterpiece integrating high-tech materials,

superior design concepts, and next level energy mitigation.

Learn more at 6dhelmets.com.






more mt

Words by Roland Brown

Photos by Alessio Barbanti & Jonathan Godin

yamaha mt-09 sp

Creating a sporty naked model presents

bike manufacturers with plenty of internal

conflict. The design team’s desire for performance

– of chassis as well as engine

– leads them to want high-quality components.

But, the firm’s bean-counters point

out, naked bikes are expected to cost

less than their faired equivalents, making

expensive parts hard to justify.

Yamaha was particularly mindful of the

need to minimise expense when finalising

the original MT-09, the triple that led the

firm’s rebirth as a maker of exciting and

competitively priced bikes in 2013.

Since then that original raw, 847cc naked

model has been given useful chassis upgrades

while retaining its focus on value

as much as performance.

But Yamaha knew there was potential for

an MT-09 variant that kept the standard

model’s essential blend of lean looks,

light weight and three-pot aggression, while

refining its handling ability and ride quality.

Hence the MT-09 SP, whose initials stand

for Sport Production, and whose brief is to

elevate the triple’s chassis to the level of

that stonking engine. This is the MT from the

design team, not the bean-counters.

Predictably, the SP’s most important components

are its upmarket suspension parts. Up

front the standard MT-09’s Kayaba forks are

replaced by more sophisticated units from

the same Japanese firm. They contain dualrate

springs, and are adjustable for both high

and low-speed compression damping as well

as preload and rebound damping.

The rear shock comes from Öhlins, being an

adapted version of the Swedish specialist’s

fully adjustable aftermarket unit, complete

with a remote preload knob below the seat.

Yamaha considered fitting Öhlins at both

ends, but didn’t because that would have

meant adding substantially to the cost.

In fact the desire to maintain a keen price

even with this upgraded model ensured that

other differences are basically cosmetic. The

SP features Yamaha’s “Silver Blu” paintwork,

similar to that of the exotic R1M super-sports

flagship, plus blue wheels and blue seat

stitching. It also has black handlebar and levers;

and its LCD instrument panel’s colours

are inverted to white on black.

There’s no change to the ultra-torquey

12-valve triple engine, super-light aluminium

frame (fully-fuelled weight is just 215kg), or

the upright, roomy riding position dictated

by the wide, slightly raised one-piece bar,

broad seat and reasonably low-set footrests.

The radial, four-piston front brake calipers

and Bridgestone S20 tyres that the MT has

worn all along are also retained.

Despite that, the SP’s advantage is easy

to appreciate. Straight-line performance is

unchanged, as you’d expect – and just as

addictively entertaining as the standard

model’s. The Yamaha revs rapidly through

the box towards its limit of about 11,000rpm,

aided by the reliable quick-shifter which, like

the standard bike’s, works on up-changes


Such is the low-rev punch that you’re rarely

tempted to cane it that hard because the

Yam pulls from 4000rpm with effortless

enthusiasm, hoiking its front wheel up when

requested in the lower gears, even when the

two-way adjustable traction control is on.

The Standard ride mode gives good throttle

control, with the sharper, slightly abrupt

A for straight-line laughs and the softer B a

useful option for slippery conditions.

Which ever the mode or rider’s mood, you

get the benefit of the Öhlins shock’s superior

quality and damping control over the rear

wheel’s 142mm of travel.

yamaha mt-09 sp

yamaha mt-09 sp

“The SP was created to bring the MT-09’s

chassis up to the level of its awesome

engine, and it pretty much succeeds in

doing just that. .”

When accelerating hard out of a turn, the

SP is distinctly more stable, without the

tendency to squat at the rear and twitch its

handlebars, which both the standard MT-09

and its retro-styled relative the XSR900 are

prone to do.

The SP even feels better at a steady pace

when, with shock preload backed off using

the easily accessible remote knob, it delivers

a plush ride that makes the broad, flat seat

seem improbably comfortable. Although the

spring is slightly softer than the standard

MT’s, its stiffer, better regulated compression

damping improves ride quality as well as


With an unchanged 137mm of travel, the

SP’s forks are generously sprung by naked

bike standards, but they work well and are

a notable improvement on the standard

model’s. Feel through the bars is very precise,

especially with some extra rear shock

preload dialled-in to raise the rear end. The

Yamaha can be cranked through smooth

turns at a very healthy pace, making use of

its generous ground clearance and capable,

if unexceptional, Bridgestone tyres.

The SP was created to bring the MT-09’s

chassis up to the level of its awesome engine,

and it pretty much succeeds in doing

just that. Given that it’s priced at about ten

per cent higher than the standard model

(£9199 compared to £8399 in the UK), it

does so without departing from the valuefor-money

ethos that has made the triple so

popular. For anyone contemplating an MT-09

for hard road riding, let alone a racetrack,

the SP premium is well worth paying.

yamaha mt-09 sp

ack page

Red Bull KTM’s new MotoGP

rider: Johann Zarco

Photo by Sebas Romero

Somehow, somewhere I’d just like to

convey thanks to a special person. A Dad

who took his oldest son to Brands Hatch

every other week, who shared his passion

and gave up his money, time and energy

to live his life with his children. In 1983 he

travelled with a seven year old to Spa Francorchamps

and the following year to Assen

when he could easily have gone by himself

or with friends and wouldn’t have had to

worry about a spindly, imaginative,

inquisitive kid that was probably very

anxious about which small toy motorbike

he could buy from the vending stalls with

his pocket money.

I guess many offspring become distanced

from their parents and can easily see their

faults as they grow. I was always content to

be the mirror image of my Dad: a man with

a very practical mind and a vast amount of

common sense as well as joyful wit. He was

a friend and a role model.

He loved racing, he loved bikes (his last, a

Yamaha 350LC, burned the image of howling

two-strokes in my mind forever and I

remember the quiet atmosphere around

the house on the day when he had to sell

it) but he loved his kids most of all.

Thanks for everything. Won’t forget you…






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David Emmett MotoGP Blogger

Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer

Sienna Wedes MotoGP Blogger

Graeme Brown WSB Blogger and Photographer

Roland Brown Tester

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Hosting FireThumb7 - www.firethumb7.co.uk

Thanks to www.mototribu.com


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Monster Energy/Milagro, MCH photo

Cover shot: Marc Marquez by CormacGP

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