On Track Off Road No.183





Two in the last two for Cooper Webb who has opened

a few eyes with a startling opening to his Red Bull

KTM career. Miles still to go in AMA Supercross (and

with reigning champ Jason Anderson already on the

injury list) and the ‘big shots’ still have to show their

hand...but the series has a new challenger already

Photo by KTM/Cudby





Toby Price’s second

Dakar victory came

against the odds and

in defiance of injury

but there was no

surprise whatsoever

that KTM ruled the

toughest race in the

world for the 18th

time in a row and

with their three

factory riders in all

the podium spots

Photo by KTM/Marcin Kin


same speed

different day

Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki. As

WorldSBK finished the last of

the 2019 pre-season tests on

European soil the series still appears

to be in the grip

of the champions, even if Ducati

are working hard and those

Yamahas are getting quick and

quicker. Now to Phillip Island...

Photo by GeeBee Images


Giving them

a break

Jeffrey Herlings’ broken right foot and (so far)

lack of a tentative date of a return has flattened

the blank pages a bit harder for 2019 MXGP. The

Dutchman has given his rivals a headstart and a

reprieve and whatever the outcome of his recovery

the season now has a different narrative

Photo by Ray Archer



oakland-alameda county coliseum · Rnd 4 of 17 · jan

450SX winner: Cooper Webb, KTM

250SX winner: Adam Cianciarulo, Kawasaki

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uary 26




By Steve Matthes. Photos by James Lissimore

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another one cooking for baker

Four rounds down in the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series and

it’s shaping up to be one of the more unpredictable seasons in recent


We have our first two-time

winner in the 450SX class and

it’s…Cooper Webb?! Yeah, the

Red Bull KTM rider led all the

laps this past weekend in Oakland

on his way to his second

career win in as many weeks.

We had Webb on the most recent

Pulpmx Show and he gave

us some great stuff. How he

had to sort of apologize and explain

himself to the other group

of riders he trains with under

Aldon Baker. Going to Baker’s

program is a pre-requisite for

most of the factory KTM/Husqvarna

riders (if the other riders

also approve) and Webb had

butted heads with some of the

others like Marvin Musquin and

Jason Anderson. So that had to

be interesting for sure.

The other things he said was

he wasn’t in the shape that he

needed to be in when he joined

and also he only practiced at

75% during the week.

Both things needed to be corrected

with Baker early and

Baker admitted to me that

things started off a bit rough

with Webb. But breaking it all

down to the foundation was

what Coop obviously needed to

do and it’s paying off.

And seriously, at this point:

what more proof do we need

that Baker’s program works?

We have a rider that was a

multi-time champion in the

250 class, moved up to the 450

class and although he got some

podiums, there were more ‘off’

nights than ‘on’. He’s got the

ability, we all see his record

but now he goes to a new team

where he’s in a structured program

with some other very fast

riders and he blossoms. I’ve

talked to many athletes that

have gone and worked with

Baker, it’s nothing special as

far as workload or magic rocks,

it’s just very structured, your

blood levels and heart rates

are monitored closely so that

your body tells Baker (and you)

how it feels. Cycling is a huge

part of it both on and off road,

and as Webb explained on the

show, practice sessions are

done at full-speed and simulate

race conditions.

There’s no secret sauce, no

PED’s, nothing except intensity

and a big workload. And some

smart monitoring by Baker to

make everything a challenge

amongst the group. The easiest

day of the program should

be race day is something I’ve

heard Baker preach over and

over. Whatever KTM/Husqvarna

is paying Baker - and I’m sure

it’s a lot - it’s a hell of a deal.

There are other part of the

package for #2.

“You can pinpoint one necessary

thing that changed it

(results), but I definitely think

By Steve Matthes

this bike fits me a lot better. I

can ride it more like my 250,”

Webb told us. “To me, it’s

definitely a lot easier to race,

especially over main events

when they get rough. Like I

said all off-season it’s a lot of

different changes, so it’s hard

to pinpoint the one thing. But

obviously the bike is a huge

benefit for sure.”

Webb is a smaller guy and the

Yamaha 450 (even though the

frame is the same as the 250

machine) does seem to work

for taller/bigger riders. You

watch Webb’s KTM out there

and it does look really tiny.

The crew have lowered the

bike to make it fit Cooper and

he doesn’t look like he’s just

hanging on anymore, it looks

like he can put it anywhere he

needs to right now.

Baker’s critics (and there are

some out there) point to the

work he’s done with riders like

Jake Weimer and Broc Tickle

(before he was suspended for

testing positive for a stimulant)

and their results as saying that

“Baker takes champions and

turns them into champions”

meaning he can’t make a Weimer

or Tickle become a race

winner, and that’s somewhat

true. But in motocross talent

to ride a dirt bike can’t be

replicated or created. You can

either steer a bike fast enough

to win or you can’t. If you can

do it then Baker’s training

program will help you pull it

all together, prioritize what’s

important and what’s not and

help you win a lot of races.

Ryan Dungey was already a

great rider when he joined

Baker and he remarked a few

times how Baker’s program

was actually less than what

he did before and how hiring

Aldon helped him put all the

questions he had about training

to rest: Did I do enough?

Should I do more? What’s the

competition doing? He could

be confident that he was doing

the right things. All I know

is you add the bike and the

training program to an already

talented rider and Baker can

make the difference. We saw it

with Ryan Villopoto and Dungey,

we’re seeing it now.

I don’t know where this Webb

“thing” is going to go. He’s got

two in a row, he’s got the red

plate in what Webb admitted

was a “building year”. Maybe

this is it for him and he just

has a nice year. Or maybe the

kid goes on a run for the ages

like, gasp, a young Jeremy

McGrath in 1993. No matter

what it is, it’s a great story and

the hottest free agent in the

sport when his contract is up

might be Aldon Baker.






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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

sx oakland


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control systems. Its revolutionary flex

locking design allows riders to choose between a stiffer,

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Photo: Cudby


troy lee designs

The start of the AMA Supercross season can also

feel like the opening night of a fashion show. All

the brands take the gaze of the majority of the

bike racing world as an opportune moment to

showcase their new designs, styles and vision for

how dirtbike riding gear and apparel will look over

the coming months. The eagle-eyed will also spot

some fresh ideas and prototypes on the leading


Troy Lee Designs are at the forefront of this movement

and are often one of the prominent players

when it comes to the aesthetics of the garments

that will eventually filter into the dealers and

shops. They do like their Limited Edition collections

and we decided to showcase the SE Pro Mirage

wares on these pages. The SE Pro is the high

level offering: the lightest, most flexible, resistant

and breathable kit available. The pants have a racer

fit chassis, reliable ratchet system buckle and

cowhide leather panels. Thanks to the SE4 helmet

it’s possible to almost go head-to-toe. There is

also a KTM-livered version of the SE Pro Mirage

for a few extra dollars or if you order through the

Troy Lee website then you can customise the jersey

with a name and number. A really cool option.




Words by Andrea Wilson, Photos by James Lissimore/www.yamaha-racing.com




“...it took me a while to

learn the ropes...”


Supercross competition is fierce.

Expectations are high and the road

to get there is fraught. Colt Nichols

knows all about that. The 24-year old

from Oklahoma had to fight his way back

from multiple injuries and found his way

through an alternative route to one of the

sport’s top 250 teams: Star Racing. He

didn’t turn his back on his Supercross

dream and now sits in the points lead

four rounds into the 2019 250SX West

season. Here’s his story.

Nichols really isn’t your modern-day

a-typical moto kid. He wasn’t home

schooled, he wasn’t fast tracked into a

factory ride from the factory-supported

amateur feeder teams in the U.S. He

did however, have a great support group

around him in Oklahoma and an unwavering

faith that he was going to be a

professional Supercross racer.

His dad competed at local level. “I started

messing around when I was three

years old,” he said. “That’s when my dad

got me a bike. It was all through him. He

used to race; I saw him doing it when I

was just a little guy and I thought it was

the coolest thing ever, and I wanted to

be just like my dad. So he got me a bike,

and the rest is history after that.”

Anyone who has paid the slightest attention

to the amateur motocross scene

in the U.S. knows that like a lot of youth

sports, the intensity level of competition

continues to grow.

“If I could say anything to young kids to try to help then

it would probably be about that sacrifice it takes to be

at the top level, and try to show up every single time as

focused as possible to do the job at hand...”

“Ever since I’ve been little this is everything

I ever wanted to do,” he says. “I

was regular kid. I played sports in high

school, like most. I went all the way

through to my senior year, then I did

the online school thing. I loved playing

sports and being involved with school

activities and doing all that stuff, but I

always knew I was meant to race dirt


That love for it started young. Like most

racers, it was a family thing.

“Amateur level is pretty competitive, especially

when you start to get up closer

to big bikes,” Nichols said. “Everybody is

going really fast. All the kids are already

training at that point. I was in the period

where it was starting to become a reality

for kids to get signed at a young age

and to actually start making money. That

was, I think, the initial push for me to try

to get a little better quicker.”

He landed a Team Green ride during his

Mini days and his dad decided to seek

out an expert, fellow Oklahoma racer

– Robbie Reynard. That training was

definitely important during his formative

years but Nichols had some roadblocks

ahead of him. Injuries slowed his forward

progress and leading up to the transition

from amateur to pro is not a good

colt nichols & reaching sx

time to splutter. In spite of those injuries,

Nichols wasn’t about to use that as an

excuse as to why he was left out of a factory

ride as soon as he became of age to

turn Pro.

“I didn’t have an awesome amateur career,

by any means,” he said. “I won quite

a few championships and things like that,

but I was never the guy that was winning

everything. So, it took me a while to get

going and learn the ropes and figure it

out on my own.”

Nichols didn’t have a place in Supercross

as he approached the age and timing to

consider being professional but found a

place to race. He contested the Arenacross

series in 2014 through the Team

Green program and when that season

was done, he spent the summer racing

in the Costa Rican MX1 series. He got his

first Supercross opportunity the following

year, representing a 250 team based

in his home state – Crossland Racing

Honda. He then got a ride with the Cycle

Trader Yamaha team in 2016 and

turned heads. He grabbed his first podium,

made it through the campaign with

a top-five finish in the championship,

which ultimately helped land him a factory

ride and his current Monster Energy

Star Yamaha Racing team.

The top drawer ticket didn’t mean it was

all smooth sailing however. He had another

rough patch – a broken femur in

2017, a broken humorous in 2018, actually,

twice the same year. Nichols kept a

positive mindset.

“That was a tough few years, really,” he

said. “It was my first year being on the

team [Star Racing] and I had an unfortunate

injury, broke my femur before the


colt nichols & reaching sx

West coast series and then got pushed to

East coast and only made three rounds

and ended up getting hurt again. I came

in very underprepared. Almost an identical

story of 2017 to 2018. Same thing - got

hurt in the off-season. Was supposed to

race West. Got pushed to East coast. Only

made three rounds and got hurt again.

It was a tough little period there coming

back from injury and kind of struggling

whenever I felt like I should be obviously

doing a lot better and at least competing.

That was very tough.”

That line between being a hero and hitting

the dirt gets pretty razor thin, especially

at the top level of the sport. It’s not easy

to judge. “Hitting the ground is part of our

sport, and that’s the part that sucks,” he

said. “That’s why I have so much respect

for a guy like Ryan Dungey or Chad Reed,

guys that have been in the sport for a

really long time and seem to always be

healthy and show up every single weekend.”

With experience comes wisdom. And it

seems to have been the extra boost that

Nichols needed. “You just have to be so

focused and sacrifice so much to really do

what you need to do,” he said. “There are

times you want to go out and do this or

that… even just being on your feet walking

around the mall, and you know you’re

going to ride the next day so you’re like,

‘well, it’s probably not a good idea. Maybe

I shouldn’t.’ Kind of save your legs for the

next day. Just some little stuff like that.

You just have to be so focused and understand

that what you want is going to take

all this sacrifice. I think that’s the hardest

part for young kids to realize, and even for

me. I hadn’t figured it out until recently. I

wish I could have figured it out earlier.


If I could say anything to young kids to

try to help then it would probably be

about that sacrifice it takes to be at the

top level, and try to show up every single

time as focused as possible to do the job

at hand. And try to stay healthy!”

Factory rides are few and far between,

and talent is abundant. So abundant that

the competition for the top saddles in the

entry level Supercross 250SX class these

days starts well before budding athletes

turn Pro. The trend that started when

Nichols was younger has now intensified.

“To see how it’s evolved is kind of crazy,”

Nichols opined. “Now there are some

kids that are getting signed to professional

deals, and they’re 14 years old.

They’re still on minibikes. They haven’t

even quite made it to big bikes yet. It’s

rapidly, rapidly changing. Everybody always

wants the ‘next great thing’. That’s

in every sport, not just ours. It’s definitely

changing pretty quick.”

Like I said, if people wouldn’t have

signed me when I was 13, I wouldn’t

have known what to do with it. Even

when I was 16, I didn’t know what to do

with it. So it kind of took me a few years

to find my stride and realize what was

going on. The landscape is tough right

now. But all you can do, if you love dirt

bikes and you really enjoy this stuff, you

go out and you try your hardest, even if

you’re going to school or doing whatever.

I’m a testament to that: you can actually

still go get it done and sign with a

factory team and live out your dream.”

Looking ahead, will there be another

opportunity for ‘another Colt Nichols’?

Nichols definitely hasn’t seen the signs

of a shift on the horizon and is quite

honest about the fact that what worked

for him might not necessarily work for

everyone else.

From Nichols’ experience he sees a few

red flags. “In order to compete with

those kids getting opportunities parents

think they have to pull their kid out of

school and homeschool them and travel

the world and go to all these training

facilities. That’s what they want. I just

feel that’s asking for disaster. Then the

parents are relying on the kid and it’s

already giving him so much pressure at a

young age. They’re already looked at like

a make-it-or-break-it. They’re so young.

I just think that’s tough. I think that’s

unfair for the kids.”

“I really wish there was a different way to

go about the amateur racing scene and

get it revised in some way.

colt nichols & reaching sx

“My path is definitely not the one that

is meant for everybody,” he said. “It was

meant for me. I just got really lucky. A lot

of kids wouldn’t have made it this far going

down the path that I had to go.”

picture for me. I did not want to stop. I

felt like I was meant for this and I was

going to do anything I could to achieve


In spite of the direction that sport has

gone in the amateur motocross/supercross

scene (and whether or not there’s

a way to change it, or which path is the

right one to get where you want to be)

there’s still something that young racers

can take away from Nichols’ case. “I

always really believed in my ability and

always believed I could get to the point

I am now, which is being a points leader

and winning races,” he says. “It was never

an issue of belief. It was hard because

you get up, then get knocked back down,

then get up, and get knocked back down.

I just tried to stay as positive as I possibly

could. I knew that there was a bigger




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best (airbooted) foot forward.

So, a re-write of this Blog was needed.

Questions and thoughts about

the potential of Jeffrey Herlings

to get anywhere near his magnificent

2018 campaign have

now been scrubbed. MXGP was,

of course, an open book as the

Italian championship formally

reignited the competitive year

and the first ebbs of bench racing

last weekend, but the World

Champion’s broken foot means

the tale of 2019 is now very

much a blank page.

What does Herlings’ latest ailment

mean? First of all there is

the severity of the injury. The

Dutchman avoided damage

to his ankle when he careered

towards the side bank of mud at

the Albaida circuit in southern

Spain and trapped his right limb

between the bike and terrain in

the crash but it is a complicated

area for fractures. In the case

of MX2 Kemea Yamaha star

Ben Watson the Brit broke the

navicular bone in his left foot in

Argentina for the second round

of 2016 Grand Prix and missed

the rest of the season.

Noises from KTM are not of major

distress, but this is of course

a setback and the full extent of

what Herlings will need to do in

order to be able to walk and then

consider a return to his 450 SX-F

have yet to come to light.

Secondly Herlings has been here

before. A broken right hand two

weeks before his MXGP debut in

2017 (combined with a self-admitted

questionable attitude to

the premier class after another

resolute MX2 title in ’16) meant

the opening rounds of that

championship were some of the

hardest and most unerring of his

career. Jeffrey righted his mind,

kept patient with his hand and

recovered to decimate the end

of the ’17 calendar, and that fed

right into his milestone 2018.

So now it is a waiting game. But

the news is a formal invitation

for his rivals, in particular Tony

Cairoli, to hit the beginning of

2019 with relish and to stockpile

points from the very first gatedrop.

Herlings will return strong and

should eventually reach the

same ’18 pomp but this temporarily

hobbling will have diminished

his unbeatable status. If he

can find fitness and banish the

kind of insecurity that marked

his 2015 MX2 year where a succession

of injuries dented his

prowess and arguably disturbed

his focus then it will be the biggest

fight of his career.

There were times in 2018 where

Herlings only had himself to

beat. The fact that the mistakes

and the crashes did not come

only added to the image of the

perfect season. The circulating

and conquering #84 really was

the sight of an athlete/team/

motorcycle package at the top of

the pile.

Now, for the second time in a

row the 24 year old is negotiating

the pain, worry and anxiety

of injury sustained on the practice

track. Worryingly it means

another term where Herlings is

paying a visit to the hospital.


By Adam Wheeler

Off the top of my head I can list a

dislocated shoulder, four broken

collarbones, a broken femur, dislocated

hip, mangled little finger

and hand and now right foot:

that’s some payment for all those

record-breaking feat and a style

and attacking-approach that leave

many fans speechless. Never let it

be said that Herlings had it easy.

I just hope this latest episode of

having to beat disappointment,

realign goals and dig-out motivation

does not take too much of a

toll. He’s too damn good to fade

into mid-pack obscurity.

If this current period of recovery

and rehab stretches on and the

prospect of missing one Grand

Prix becomes three or his race

speed needs four rounds to return

instead of two, then I believe Herlings

still has targets to shoot for.

The guy know how to construct

a championship but he is also a

competitive animal with a lust for

victory that few else in the MXGP

pack can match. At the very least

2019 should represent the chance

to set-up a potential piece of history

if he can breach the magical

record 101 win total in 2020 (and

possibly beat Tony Cairoli to another


For fans of other riders and the

neutral observers of MXGP Herlings’

misfortune is interesting

news. Another orange rout would

have undoubtedly affected the potential

of the ‘show’ (as is the case

with any dominant athlete) and it

certainly brings other riders – who

had their own struggles during

Herlings’ annus mirabilis – immediately

back into the frame for

short term GP wins and long term

for the state of the standings.


As OTOR gets going again for

another year – our ninth and

second as a ‘monthly’ – there will

be a few changes coming up in

2019. We should have a new ‘look’

by the time of issue two at the

end of February and the website

will again be fully stocked with

Blogs and some articles that you

won’t always find in the magazine

(especially post-races when there

are some serious talking points

debated by our expert contributors).

We’ll be experimenting with Podcasting

again in MXGP to have a

second and hopefully more professional

attempt at the booming

medium that is grabbing more

and more attention. The emphasis

there will be on discussion and

opinion and when we get insiders

onto the show we’ll endeavour to

ask the questions that the fans

might want to hear. It will be another

busy campaign of travelling,

coverage and content right up

until the final Supercross dates of

2019. Whether you’re viewing this

on your work computer, tablet or

mobile phone thanks for dipping

into OTOR again. Keep registered

to get your email update for new

issues and feel free to offer any

feedback at info@ontrackoffroad.








































































































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Words by Adam Wheeler, 2019 Photos by KTM/S. Taglioni



of the


tony cairoli & mxgp 2019

In a recent entry on KTM’s official Blog

page (www.ktm.blog.com) VP of offroad,

Robert Jonas, said “never, ever

underestimate Tony: that’s my opinion”.

KTM know the nine times world champion

sufficiently well by now. 2019 will

represent the tenth season that Tony

Cairoli and KTM have occupied the top

of the premier class standings in Grand

Prix and while names like Dungey, Roczen

and Herlings have caused hearts to

flutter in Mattighofen it is the #222 that

has delivered results, prestige and been

a major part of the company’s lift as the

premium and leading manufacturer of


At Assen for the penultimate round of

2018 and at the triumphant homecoming

coronation for Herlings, Cairoli was

full of plaudits for his younger teammate

and admitted that he lacked the same

speed all the way through the moto

to effectively compete with his rival.

The pair clashed on two occasions but

largely existed in a tolerable and powerful

vacuum of performance, results and

pressure under the KTM awning. Cairoli

routinely made the best starts and was

in race-winning positions a number of

times only to be foiled in the style that

he himself had enacted on peers since

he moved into the premier class in 2009.

“The message is that I don’t start each year going

for second or third place. I go to win, and that is

always my goal. I do what is possible to push my

limits. I always try to ride safe but if I am able to

ride happy and comfortable then for sure the fans

will see a really nice season...”

The Sicilian will turn 34 in September,

less than two weeks after Red Bull KTM

teammate Jeffrey Herlings will toasts his

25th birthday. He still has another two

terms on his factory contract and has

been a protégé, friend and collaborator

with Claudio De Carli since his second

grand prix year in 2004. His duel with

Herlings in 2018 prevented the championship

story from being horribly onesided

even if it was the best (in terms of

riding) and the worst (the first time he

had really faced insurmountable opposition

and dealt with at least two small

niggly injuries) time of his career.

In short 2018 was chastening and educational,

and forced Cairoli to look a bit

longer into the mirror if he wanted to

better his 85 career GP wins (one more

than Herlings) and nine titles.

Last year was very much about the

Cairoli-Herlings axis. Without the other

then the 2018 contest could have been

very bland indeed (for all his dominance

Herlings had to keep plugging away until

round 19 of 20 before he sealed the

deal). It means that one of the biggest

questions about the forthcoming 2019

campaign revolves around TC222.


Even before Herlings’ untimely broken

foot there was debate about how (and if)

Cairoli could raise his game to deal with

his Dutch teammate’s intensity. Herlings

beat him both from the front and coming

through the pack in 2018, and there were

few scenarios in which Cairoli was able

to resist or put up much of a defence and

even fewer once he wrenched his thumb

at round eleven in Indonesia.

MX2 world champion and Cairoli’s training

partner Jorge Prado commented

recently that: “he is getting stronger all

the time in places where he struggled

last year. We train together every day and

we push each other.”

At more or less the same time that Herlings

was being ferried to the airport

with a throbbing foot we had Tony on the

phone from Sardinia. Cairoli has never

been very revelatory about his methodology

and the backbone of his spoils. I

remember his wife, Jill Cox, telling me

once that nobody really sees or understands

how hard he works for his racing.

There was some doubt as to whether

Cairoli was keeping up this rate or was

just getting smarter with age by largely

abandoning his Belgian training regime

in favour of the proximity of his Roman

Malagrotta circuit but the level of his

2018 Grand Prix outing would prove that

he’s still very much at the top of the pile.

That he is not kicking back as the final


years of world championship years loom

into view.

In our chat there were a few hints that

he has looked around him, as well as

internally, for how the Herlings threat

can be nullified. Obviously he was unaware

of the ‘head start’ that Herlings has

provided to the MXGP field but there

were crumbs of what Cairoli has altered

for 2019 and how he is very much up to

the task of pushing again in the face of

adversity and sitting in the unusual situation

of not being a clear-cut favourite.

One improvement was just to feel a little

bit more comfortable with riding and

be able to use the power in a better way

on all parts of the track,” he said of the

analysis of the KTM 450 SX-F racebike.

“We changed some small details of the

character of the bike but nothing really


What about your personal programme?

Was there a need to find an extra gear?

Not too much. We kept the same sort

of thing we did last year because it was

working quite well through the season

and until I got my thumb injury in Indonesia.

I was happy with the programme

so we decided to stick with it…except to

try and be a bit more consistent with the

race results.

You said you needed to be stronger with

your entire race speed. So was this an

area for work?

Yeah, of course. That’s really important

and to have the bike set 100% how I

like it. So we have been working on the

setting and looking at every single thing

with suspension and the handling and it

has come out really well.

So that wasn’t a physical or mental adjustment?

It was just a physical thing and nothing

really mental. I was happy at the

half way point of last season. Only a few

small mistakes cost me points, as well as

training days because of the injury.

tony cairoli & mxgp 2019

Did you think about a new strategy to

handle a strong opponent like Herlings?

Like applying pressure or scrapping ontrack?

No, not really. I will see how the season

starts and how the first few races go and

then it will be the time to think about a

strategy. At the moment I will start to

win and then we will see.

Are you ‘up’ for another title duel and

all it entails? What’s the message for

Tony Cairoli and MXGP fans waiting for

the season to begin?

The message is that I don’t start each

year going for second or third place. I

go to win, and that is always my goal. I

do what is possible to push my limits. I

always try to ride safe but if I am able to

ride happy and comfortable then for sure

the fans will see a really nice season.

Watson working on weaknesses

to make “difficult” next GP step

Kemea Yamaha’s Ben Watson is one of a new

wave of riders hoping for fresh Grand Prix

milestones in 2019. The Brit is Yamaha’s main

representative in MX2 after moving up from

15th to 4th in the 2018 campaign; his first

with the factory YZ250F. Having achieved his

maiden rostrum finish in Russia and been one

of the few athletes on Japanese machinery to

trouble the hoards of KTM and Husqvarnamounted

youngsters, Watson is being eyed for

yet more silverware this year after his breakthrough


Not only does the 21 year old (2019 and 2020

still to go in the MX2 class before he ages-out)

have to bear the expectation that comes with

front-running pace and potential but now has

to work on the task of converting his podium

potential to race-winning pedigree.

“From 2017 to ‘18 I made a really big step and

I think it will be incredibly difficult to make the

same kind of leap again,” he admitted. “So I

haven’t changed too much with my training

programme when it comes to the physical

side and preparation but I have been working

on my weaknesses; things that I saw were

popping up as the races went on and were

stopping me from being more at the front and

being able to fight for something more than

third place.”

Watson is collaborating with renowned trainer

Jacky Vimond for a second season and knows

he needs to address his hesitancy to attack

harder and faster in the opening laps of the

motos. “Absolutely,” he concurred. “This was

one of the main areas. And I have to get myself

to the point where I can go balls-out on a

watered track or a track I haven’t seen or ridden

for a few hours. I don’t know exactly what

was stopping me last year but it is something

I’m working on: that feeling of being able to go

flat-out right away coming more naturally.”

The Englishman may have a sizeable job transitioning

from the status of ‘most improved’

to ‘most capable’ but his early acclimatisation

to the 2019 YZ250F in the final rounds of the

2018 GP year should mean his testing and

technical work is locked-in. “I rode the bike for

the last five-six rounds of the championship

so I got to know it really well already,” he says.

“We have the bike in a good place so the work

has been more about my technique and how

I feel with the Yamaha and how I can best use


The principal obstacle for Watson and peers

like Thomas Kjer Olsen, Calvin Vlaanderen,

Jed Beaton, Darian Sanayei, Henry Jacobi

and teammate Jago Geerts is reigning world

champion Jorge Prado. The Spaniard’s starting

prowess and lightning speed in the formative

stages of races will be tough to match.

Watson knows eighteen year old Prado is the

target but is adopting a more personal approach.

“We haven’t really talked about tactics to beat

just one rider,” he confesses. “At the moment

it is still about what I can do and how I can

give my best. I feel as I improve then this is

something that will come.”

“Prado is strong where I was weak in 2018:

normally in the first few laps he has made the

start and was disappearing away from me,” he

says. “I need to get out of the gate and go with

him and then it becomes about physical fitness

and who is stronger in the mind.”

Watson is in the second and final year of his

Yamaha contract but is already rumoured to

be in the manufacturer’s plans for 2020.

mxgp 2019

Photo by Ray Archer

mxgp 2019

Photos by KTM/S. Taglioni

Prado talks #1, being better in 2019,

the KTM 250 SX-F and turning 18

MX2 World Champion Jorge Prado

reached the ripe age of eighteen two

weeks ago but is already talking like a

seasoned Grand Prix pro as he vies to

become KTM’s third double title winner

since the inception of the MX2 class in

2004. Prado is working under the tutelage

and guidance of Tony Cairoli, Claudio

De Carli and his staff in the Red Bull

KTM team for the second year in a row

and for his third as an official KTM athlete.

Even though his championship campaign

involved impressive consistency

(17 podiums and 12 wins), rapier starts

and uncatchable speed in the opening

laps of motos, Prado insists he is still ‘in


“I’m working hard to improve and make

the right steps. I’m training hard again

and the big difference is this time I don’t

have to handle an injury so I can be better

prepared,” he says in reference to the

elbow fracture that forced a two month

hiatus from the KTM last winter. ‘2018

was tough at the start and hopefully I

can be more careful up until the start of

the world championship.”

“To be better in every way; that’s the

job,” he added. “I can get faster and I

can be stronger, especially physically.

Then it is about working on the small

things. I made mistakes last year…”

Prado has only just become old enough

to vote and hold a driver’s licence (“basically

the day after I had the licence I

started on the road from Rome to Sardinia!”)

but is now charged with leading

KTM’s effort in a category they have

dominated and with the class-leading

250 SX-F technology.

“KTM are always looking for a better

bike,” he commented on the development

programme for 2019 and a task

that Technical Co-Ordinator Dirk Gruebel

admitted would be “difficult to make big

steps”. “Last year it was already on a

high level so to improve is tricky but the

factory and the team are working hard,”

Prado concurred. “I basically used the

same suspension all through last season,

and the power of the bike was good

but there are small details to be able to

improve more.”

Prado lifted his FIM gold medal at the

final round of 2018 in Imola. He admitted

that the week after the Italian race and

around the ’18 Motocross of Nations was

“crazy” but the thoughts of 2019 swiftly

enabled the fuss and distraction of realising

a lifetime dream to subside.

The rider from Galicia will not run

the coveted #1 in 2019. Amazingly he

doesn’t feel worthy of the plate. “I’m going

to stick with the #61 because I think

I don’t quite deserve the #1,” he candidly

admitted. “I think the Big ‘1’ is for the

very best in motocross and that’s not

me; it’s for the guy in the next category,

the highest category. One day when, if, I

can manage it in MXGP then I’ll change!

I don’t have any official merchandise yet

so it is not a big problem for me to have

another number…but even so many people

now know me with the 61.”

Photo by www.yamaha-racing.com

Seewer adjusting to life

as a Yamaha factory rider

Jeremy Seewer was the MXGP Rookie of the

Year in 2018 thanks to an 8th place finish

in his maiden attempt at the premier class,

and the former MX2 world championship

runner-up is now contemplating the hardest

season of his career on the works Monster

Energy Yamaha next to Romain Febvre.

While the 24 year old will be able to shift his

knowledge of the YZ450F across from his

Wilvo Yamaha set-up from 2018, the transfer

to Michele Rinaldi’s factory set-up represents

a third different team in three years

for the Swiss who has previously spent his

youth and entire career in Suzuki yellow.

Seewer takes the saddle of the outgoing

Jeremy Van Horebeek; the Belgian notched

five years with the Italian crew. Van Horebeek

was part of a small and special elite

that achieved remarkable success with the

team at the very first attempt: Josh Coppins,

David Philippaerts, Van Horebeek and

Febvre all finished their initial season as

world champion, runner-up or as a solid title

contender. Seewer will be aware of the trend.

Although remaining part of Yamaha Motor

Europe’s racing structure means relatively

little upheaval (certainly compared to his

protracted departure from the dissolved

Suzuki team at the end of 2017 and the late

confirmation with Wilvo) Seewer was able

to exclusively explain that the change does

require vast readjustment.

mxgp 2019

It began with an official test and trip to Japan

at the tail end of 2018.

“It’s the same…but not the same,” he said.

“What I really noticed coming back to a factory

team is the level of experience. Wilvo

was a great team and I cannot say a bad word

about them but you could feel that it was very

young and just starting. Now I’m back in a

team where the mechanics have 20-30 years

of experience and they know a lot about the

bike as well. They try to help me in any direction

to make it better; it’s like I was used to

with Suzuki and Sylvain Geboers in the past.”

“It is very positive but at the same time it is

another team change so it means another mechanic

and set of people,” he added.

“For example, I have the same suspension but

a different suspension guy so it is a bit like

starting from zero. It will take a bit of time as

usual but I got a really warm welcome, especially

with the testing in Japan last year and

Yamaha are really pushing at the moment.”

Rumours surround the future of Yamaha’s factory

team with Wilvo potentially bringing the

operation closer to Yamaha Motor Europe’s

Dutch base despite the squad boasting only

two years of existence in the MXGP class (but

they delivered Yamaha’s sole GP win since the

second half of 2016 thanks to Shaun Simpson’s

success in Indonesia in 2017). Wilvo will

have the talents of Gautier Paulin and Arnaud

Tonus this season but the direction of Yamaha’s

MXGP effort beyond 2019 is still being

organised around the table.



patience for

MXGP Husky


2017 MX2 World Champion Pauls Jonass

will have to wait in anticipation of his

MXGP debut this year as he negotiates

the rehabilitation process of ACL surgery

to his right knee, performed last


The 22 year old Latvian forms part of an

all-new and young line-up for the factory

Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna team

alongside Arminas Jasikonis but has

only just started to ride his new FC450.

“Things have actually been quite complicated

since the surgery and I didn’t

expect that it would take so long and

would be so difficult…but we are on the

right way and I feel much better,” Jonass

said recently.

“ACL surgery means you need time to

get strength and stability back in the

knee and it’s a hard process,” he added.

“At the last check-up with the doctor and

physio they were really satisfied with

how it’s going. In terms of strength I’m

Photo by Ray Archer

doing well; I just need to work on co-ordination

and stability and a have a little

bit more time for the ligament.”

Jonass is hoping to accelerate his biketime

in February, which leaves little

room for serious preparation ahead of

the opening Grand Prix of nineteen in

2019 at Neuquen in Argentina on March

3rd. It is unknown whether Latvia’s sole

motocross world champion will make

the South American date or might have

to consider round two in Great Britain or

the next event in the Netherlands.

crown ahead of the final date at Imola

last September. “I don’t want to rush it.

Since the start of the year I have been

going flat-out with my physical training.

I can cycle and I have been focussing on

my physical condition. Hopefully I can be

at the races as soon as possible. I don’t

want to have any expectations at the

moment because if it [a slated return]

doesn’t happen for some reason then I’ll

be really disappointed. I’m going weekby-week

and hopefully in a month I’ll be

back on the bike.”

“It was a serious injury so if I start riding

too soon and twist it then I’ll damage it

again,” he explained of the ailment that

caused him to relinquish his MX2

Simpson back at home with KTM and

part of potent orange MXGP hoard

Grand Prix winner Shaun Simpson will

form part of an impressive line-up for

the Austrian manufacturer in 2019 MXGP

with riders like Max Anstie, Glenn Coldenhoff,

Jordi Tixier, Ivo Monticelli and

Max Nagl also running the 450 SX-F in

the premier class. For the Scot (31 in

March and soon to be a father for the

first time) the chance to ride with new

British team RFX KTM means a return to

the machinery and circumstances (British

Championship competition) with

which the Scot claimed two national

titles and two MXGP wins in 2014 and


The veteran is hoping his re-alliance with

KTM and WP Suspension will also help

banish some of the memories of two

injury-hit seasons with Wilvo Yamaha. “I

don’t know what it is with the KTM but it

just seems to fit me, fit my style and the

way I ride,” he said in between testing

and riding sessions at the RedSand circuit

last week. “I don’t know if the steel

frame is a factor but I feel at home. I’ve

been able to skip a few steps with set-up

purely because I knew what I was running

a couple of years ago so we started

there. I know how the bike will react and

it means I can get bike time done without

stressing too much.”

“The KTM hasn’t changed all that much

from when I last rode it,” he adds. “It

looks a bit different, aesthetically, and

the engine has had a lot of work. As a

standard package I would say it is pretty

bloody good.”

Simpson has thrived being back in orange

and although he leads a freshman

Grand Prix effort with RFX

(the team will field two younger riders in

EMX European competition) he is back

in a familiar environment that once allowed

his renowned consistency to draw

the #24 up to fourth place in the world

in 2015. “The team has a lot of ‘moving

parts’. We are bringing funds in from a

lot of different areas and there are a lot

of people to keep happy but I know it’s

all centred around me so it is not a big

stress. I have the parts I want on the bike

and now we just need to find that extra

step with the engine.”

Simpson won the 2015 Grands Prix of

Belgium and Netherlands and the 2017

round in Indonesia. He finished 7th and

4th in MXGP in 2014 and 2015 and is

looking to re-establish his credentials as

a top five rider capable of surprising the

GP elite. Being back on the SX-F is key to

this potential.

“I’m looking to turn a few heads and

come out of the gate solid and strong

but not get too excited,” he assessed.

“I’m definitely in for the long haul this

year and to make the races count. We’re

going for consistency and good strong

rides. In terms of comfort on the bike I

feel that consistency will be my friend

this year. Sometimes on the Yamaha I

was riding a bit ‘on edge’ and it showed

in the injuries I had; I had freak crashes

and it was biting me badly.”

Simpson is one of four British riders in

MXGP for 2019.

Photo by Ray Archer

mxgp 2019


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Words by Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP/Repsol Honda/HRC


There was a hustle and

bustle about the gathering

at the Repsol HQ

‘complex’ located a mere

wheel spark from the train

lines running into Madrid’s

Atocha station last week.

For the first time since 2013

the might of HRC presented

a modified rider line-up to

the largely native and swollen

gaggle of media and guests.

Not only was the sight of MotoGP

World Champion Marc

Marquez and the only rider

aside from Casey Stoner to

win the coveted title this decade,

Jorge Lorenzo, appearing

together for the first time in

HRC colours enough of a draw

but the Spanish petroleum

giant was also celebrating a

quarter of a century with their

logo and distinctive look gracing

the side of Honda’s premium

race motorcycle. Add star

names like Mick Doohan (the

first #1 to be toasted as part

of the HRC/Repsol alliance)

and Alex Crivillé (Spain’s first

premier class champion in

1999) and this was the sizzling

ticket of the MotoGP


Injury and novelty meant

there was slightly more for

media to get their teeth into

aside from the tasty mini

burgers that flew around on

hospitality trays once the

main ceremony (centralised

on a bizarre video in which

Marquez, Lorenzo, Doohan

and Criville were spliced ontrack

together) had finished.

The 2019 RCV colours barely

registered interest compared

to the state of Marquez’s

shoulder, Lorenzo’s surprising

dirt track injury and how

the wrecked duo would tackle

the beginning of an imminent

campaign where Honda would

be precariously positioned

for only two pre-season tests.

Later, MotoGP splashed a

spread of the Repsol Honda

designs from over the years

on their official Instagram account

and it was surprising, if

a little un-revelatory, just how

little the look and style has

varied. The orange, and dark

blue Honda speed graphics

along the seat were firmly in

place. From the bikes’ position

under the lights and on

the stage it was even tough to

tell the ’93’ and ‘99’ numbers


Not quite a new face then…

but certainly welcoming

vIeWS FRoM The ‘19 RePSoL hondA LAunCh

one; Madrid opened a different

chapter for the team thanks to

Lorenzo. Here are three themes

we picked up from a brief visit

to the Spanish capital

1) don’t say ‘dream’

“I don’t like it. We’ll see [if it

is] by the end of the season…”

with that throwaway comment

Marc Marquez dispensed with

the grating ‘dream team’ tag

that had been immediately attached

to the 2019 incarnation

of the squad since Jorge Lorenzo’s

shock announcement at

Mugello last summer.

The truth is that Marquez/

Lorenzo/HRC is quite possibly

the strongest unit assembled

in the modern era of MotoGP;

perhaps only the duo of Eddie

Lawson and Wayne Rainey

come close in the stats and




pedigree stakes. And the bike?

The third HRC rider – LCR

Honda’s Cal Crutchlow – may

routinely describe why the RCV

is so hard to race but there is

little doubt that the motorcycle

improved in 2018 and was not

quite the stubborn front-ended

brute that made Marquez one

of the ‘crashiest’ athletes in the

pack in 2017.

Marquez admitted that he’d

endured one of the “most

boring winters of my life”

with 24-7 physio after his left

shoulder operation. The Catalan

had less to comment on

2019 bike set-up with Lorenzo’s

adjustment to his third

crew and technology in three

years a slightly hotter topic.

“It’s still soon,” JL moderated.

“At Jerez [the second

and last winter test of 2018] it

was 80% and I could go fast.

I liked the bike from the first

day; an agile bike that enters

the turn well.” The 31 year old

was quick to credit the environment

he’d found also, “and

I love the team because they

have welcomed me with a lot

of affection.”

There are ultimately several

reasons (and it might be a

moot point) but ‘JL’ is no

longer a Ducati rider due to a

lack of belief from the Italian

management in his capacity

to deliver results. Lorenzo

seemed to hint that the ‘love’

was already in place with


He was also aware of the opportunity

he has been presented.

The move to Ducati

delivered a new challenge and

a fat contract.

Now he has another challenge

and arguably one where the

spotlight is a touch brighter.

“Here is…‘another level’,” he

remarked. “I’ve been in other

teams with a lot of wins but

this carries more expectation.

On a technical level in

Valencia there were a lot of

people in the box, talking

about the parts on the bike.

All that experience will allow

me to extract the potential of

the bike. There is pressure but

it is not the same as coming

into GP and needing results

as a 15-16 year old otherwise

you go home. I just want to

pay back the confidence they

have shown me.”

For once Marc Marquez had

to - figuratively - stand a little

off stage-centre. Tetsuhiro Kuwata,

HRC’s General Manager

of Race Operations, underlined

that the factory team “is

always looking for excellence”

and credited Lorenzo’s choice

and arrival. “The fact that

he accepted this challenge

proves he is a champion with

high hopes.”

#93 was wearing his race

leathers for just the second

time (the previous day he’d

done the official HRC photos

in the same city) and seemed

to favour his shoulder now

and again during the forty

minute affair. Marquez may

be six-year veteran of the

Repsol Honda formalities but

this was the first time he was


effectively sharing top billing

since 2013. As ever, he knew

the right words and genuinely

seemed to appreciate his role

in the 25 year story of the two

powerhouse companies surrounding


“It’s a privilege to be part of

this family; to have seen those

colours as a kid from the sofa.

25 years go I was a baby and

only just born!” he said. “I’m

proud to be part of this story

and next to these champions

and add a few titles.”

“I had an offer to be in MotoGP

for 2012 but wanted

to wait for Repsol Honda,”

he then revealed of his 2013

move and the start of an

almost unbeatable union.

“People ask me if I’ll leave and

I say ‘why? I’m with the best


Doohan claimed one of the

key ingredients in HRC’s prowess

was the synergy between

the chess-piece movers. “The

partnership between the two

[Repsol & Honda] has been

better than anyone else and

that’s because they let everyone

get on with what they

need to do,” he explained.

“They let the riders be the riders.

I think the momentum is


It was exciting to see Lorenzo

perched in his Honda Alpinestars


There is something more edgy

and potent about his inclusion

in the team compared to

the endless presence of Dani

Pedrosa since 2006. Speaking

briefly of his compatriot,

Lorenzo said it felt “strange”

to be taking Pedrosa’s place

but “I think we understand his

situation after years of sacrifice”.

The Honda-Lorenzo

combination could meander

into the underwhelming stint

that the rider’s hero – Max

Biaggi – weathered for a single

year in 2005...but it really

doesn’t feel like that will happen.

#99 could really give the

squad and the championship

a hard and fantastically unpredictable


2) (not) Just a

flesh wound

Lorenzo sported a sizeable

cast less than twenty-four

hours after scaphoid surgery,

Marquez looked fit but stiff

and even Doohan joked that

he was struggling to breathe

in his old race suit. “It’s not

the best situation,” Team Manager

Alberto Puig reflected on

the general lack of bike fitness

of his riders “but it’s much

better if it happens now than

in the middle of the season.

We will take it as it is, and

our priority is that the riders

are fit on March 10 when the

championship begins.”

Puig confirmed that German

Stefan Bradl will take on HRC

testing orders (and no doubt

waiting around for the Sepang

showers to clear) in Lorenzo’s

absence for the outing in

Malaysia next week. “We will

follow the body and the riders’

condition,” Puig said. “[For]

the bike, of course we have

a process and it’s being developed.

We will keep trying

and Honda will keep doing the

things they know they have to


Lorenzo talked of making

the second test in Losail and

being “90-95% at the Qatar

race”. He also commented

that the dirt track spill (“a very

stupid crash”) was also partly

caused by his weakened left

wrist as a consequence of the

injury from the massive ‘off’

in Thailand last October. “You

find situations that you cannot

change,” he lamented of the

damage to the scaphoid. “It’s

a complicated bone and one

of the worst you can break.

Luckily in 2019 there are advanced

procedures.” Exactly

how much strength and feeling

the Majorcan will recover

will only be known once he’s

back on the RCV. Doohan was

keeping optimistic: “depending

on how his wrist heals I

imagine he should be challenging

pretty much straight

away for a podium, I should


views from the ‘19 repsol honda launch

Fitness and treatment were

clearly themes buzzing around

the riders’ heads. Marquez cited

his goal for the season was “to

avoid injury”; the comment

providing some small insight as

to the interruptive and serious

nature of his shoulder problem.

Short term he was in the same

boat at Lorenzo. “My target is

try to be 100% or as close as

possible in Qatar GP,” he said.

“The surgery has been more

aggressive and more difficult

than we expected. It was for

four hours because it was more

complicated than even the doctors

expected. They said a minimum

will be 3-4 months, but

I’m working quite hard. We are

already one month and a half

[along] and the shoulder is going

in a good way so this is the

most important. How it will be

in Sepang I don’t know. Every

day I feel some improvement.”

Underneath the optimistic

comments there appeared to

be concern (or maybe careful

estimation) that Marc will have

to feel his way into 2019. His

typical approach of using Friday

and Saturdays at Grand Prix to

explore limits with the Michelins

may have to be tempered so as

to not risk wrenching the shoulder

even more. A radical suggestion

might be that Marquez

has to alter his philosophy to

MotoGP racing, and this will really

shift the tiller.

3) Setting the


Perhaps more than any other

team, Repsol Honda will have

the fans watching the body

language and gestures in the pit

box. It’s a consequence of two

highly successful, demanding

and elite athletes existing and

striving in a small space and

how the air will mix and occasionally

bump off into thunderous

storms in a teacup. Lorenzo

has previous experience of

the scenario having taken the

plunge to enter Valentino Rossi’s

Yamaha set-up in 2008 and

fared very well.


“This situation is quite similar to the

one when I started in MotoGP in 2008

because at that time Valentino was in

the peak of his career,” he explained.

“He didn’t win in 2006 and 2007 but

he was fighting for the world title and

he knew the bike a lot so it is more

or less the same situation that I have


Marquez was always very complimentary

about Dani Pedrosa but there

was the feeling that he was aware his

dynamism, youth and abundant and

consistent speed gave him the advantage

over #26. Lorenzo is a new

kind of threat, one that is very close

to home. “When Dani was in the box it

was a completely different riding style

and Honda had enough potential to

have two different ways to improve the

bike,” he reasoned on the subject of

how Lorenzo’s renowned corner speed

could change the equilibrium of the

technical work. “But in the end when

you are riding fast all riders are asking

[for] the same and the most important

thing is that me, Jorge, Cal, we have

more-or-less the same problems on

the same areas. So this is the way to

work with all the team and try to improve

for 2019.”

Lorenzo has been critical of Marquez’s

aggression (most pointedly at Aragon

last summer) but he knows what he’s

up against. “I’d say he is phenomenal,

and I have a lot of things to learn from

him. So I come into the team with a lot

of happiness and proudness [sic] but

also a lot of humility to little-by-little

try and understand everything and try

to get results. Let’s see how it goes.”

views from the ‘19 repsol honda launch

There is a clear parallel to MXGP

and the placement of Tony Cairoli

and Jeffrey Herlings in Red

Bull KTM. Although there is more

of an age gap the Austrians and

management still had to handle

the two biggest champions

in the sport. How the chemistry

could work between Marquez and

Lorenzo was a subject directed

at Tetsuhiro Kuwata. “I have no

doubt that we can manage both

riders and the team,” the Japanese

assured with a poker face.

“Both riders are very professional

riders and they know the expectations.

We will try to improve the

machine, the team, everything.

This is a challenge and Honda

likes a challenge so it is maybe

tough but this makes us stronger

than in the past.”

Mick Doohan rarely faced an

‘equal’ once his Honda carried

Repsol branding but Crivillé was

arguably his trickiest opponent.

“I think it is healthy to have a

strong teammate,” he opined.

“Somebody of the calibre of Marc

Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo are

not really too worried about their

teammate. Sure, they want to be

in front but they have to beat everybody.

I think if you start focussing

on any competitor then you

lose what the objective is, and

that’s to win… You need to work

on yourself [and] your team to get

a step ahead of competition.”

sure you stay on the front foot,”

he added. “It will be interesting.”

Marquez’s attempts to heal some

of the rift with Valentino Rossi

could indicate that he is a individual

that does not like confrontation

or ill-feeling. His long-established

tight posse inside Repsol

Honda has a ‘bigger brother’

vibe and it would be hard work

for Puig and HRC to have to deal

with the kind of atmosphere that

once saw Yamaha having to erect

a wall between Rossi and Lorenzo

(initially for tyre differences but

the divide then remained). Lorenzo

is famed for his perfectionism

and preference for a small inner

circle but is also no aggressor. He

is more distant than antagonistic.

This might just work. Unless

those Repsol fairings start to bear

a few scrapes. “[Marc’s] had five

world titles in six seasons so he’s

an amazing rider and I feel for

his competitors,” teases Doohan.

“Who is going to stop him? Lorenzo

is of the calibre to do that but

until we see them side-by-side –

and that’s one of the great things

about this year’s team – then

there will be no more excuses.”

Side-by-side indeed. The next

nineteen rounds in nine months

will divulge more.

“When the guy beside you has

access to the same machine and

equipment it means you have to

work a little bit harder to make



Five head-to-heads to keep an eye

The end of January, a new season looms large on the horizon - and with it,

a variety of possible sub-plots that have already been in the making this

winter. We cast an eye over potential battles and rivalries that promise to

light up the 19-round calendar that lies ahead.

A Marquez-Dovizioso repeat

Noted, the vast majority of team

presentations are littered with

optimism. But Ducati’s opulent

‘do’ at Philip Morris International

HQ in Switzerland wasn’t

just an opportunity to witness

the tobacco giant’s bewildering

new approach to marketing.

There was a chance to listen in

on Andrea Dovizioso’s thoughts

on the year ahead. “I feel better

than last year,” said the 32-year

old. “[With] More confidence.”

Looking ahead, it’s hard to

disagree. In the season’s second

half, he outscored a rampant

Marc Marquez by 157 points to

156. The Desmosedici’s base

now works well everywhere. Gigi

Dall’Igna’s unique innovations

were in evidence at Jerez, with

altered seat units and radical

linkage system. New team-mate

Danilo Petrucci is prepared to

work according to the needs of

Ducati’s lead rider.

And for the first time since

2014, Marquez enters the season

facing physical uncertainty.

A healing left shoulder could

yet disrupt an approach so

dependent on total aggression.

Dovizioso has enjoyed two years

challenging. Now 2019 offers

a best chance at claiming the

overall crown.

Battle for superiority in HRC’s

‘Dream Team’

A ‘dream team’ operating within

Repsol colours is no new thing.

Marquez has labelled his own

band of dedicated disciples just

that as he powered a way to five

of the past six championships.

But Jorge Lorenzo’s arrival has

strengthened the belief that

internal friction could complicate

the reigning champion’s

approach. Beyond the fact that

the grid’s two most talented riders,

with a combined 138 race

wins and 267 podiums between

them, operate from the same

garage, there comes a matter of

personality. Marquez and Lorenzo

have had their moments

in the past. Two of Lorenzo’s

most recent public outbursts

came after innocuous incidents

(Misano, 2016 and Aragon ’17).

And the Majorcan’s demanding

presence can rub some up the

wrong way. When did we last

see the considered figure of

Dovizioso throwing the pettiest

of barbs across the garage,

for example? This hasn’t been

billed as a potential Senna-

Prost rivalry without reason.

Yamaha to get it right?

History has a habit of repeating

itself. To which anyone overseeing

Yamaha’s recent fortunes

could attest. There was a whiff

of déjà vu last November. At a

post-season outing at Jerez the

tune called by factory runners

Maverick Viñales and Valentino


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Neil Morrison

Rossi wasn’t entirely harmonious.

On Yamaha’s updated

engine, aimed at ironing out the

failures of its predecessor, the

Catalan delivered a resounding

verdict: “this bike can win the

title.” Rossi, on the other hand,

aired caution. “At the moment

it’s a fourth place bike … if

someone ahead retires!” Fundamentally,

they are in agreement

as to where is most in need of

improvement. Both, for example,

agreed on the engine direction

needed for next year. Yet it’s

whether Viñales can maintain

this recent momentum, making

his voice heard over his more

experienced companion, and ignore

Rossi’s attempts at disrupting

his flow that represents the

biggest challenge of his career

to date. If Yamaha finally gets it

right, sparks will fly.

The fight for ducati’s second


The only factory rider on the

grid not in possession of a twoyear

deal, Petrucci knows he

must make good on previous

promise if he wishes to maintain

his current status.

Knowing Pramac’s Jack Miller

and Francesco Bagnaia have

eyes on the seat for 2020,

speculation regarding his position

will be rife should he begin

the year quietly. He acknowledged

as much recently: “Jack

and Pecco want my bike, it’s not

a secret!” Miller’s aim will be

much the same: prove himself

a consistent podium contender.

Equipped with Ducati’s GP19,

he’ll likely have the machinery

to do it. “I believe if we can

do a really good job next year

we should be in line for a factory

seat somewhere,” said the

Australian last November. “Here

at Ducati. If not, we’ll see where

the cards fall.” Then add Bagnaia

into the equation, just 0.1s

off Miller’s best time in only his

second MotoGP test. This has

the potential to escalate.

Bagnaia, Mir to lead the battle

of the rookies

Were it not for the wealth, the

fame and the fact their days consist

of riding the world’s fastest

motorcycles, you’d almost feel

sympathy for a rookie entering

the MotoGP fold.

Marquez raised the expectations

bar considerably in 2013 by winning

the title first time out. Four

years on and Johann Zarco went

as far as leading the first lap of

the first race. So to Bagnaia, Mir,

Oliveira and Quartararo: no pressure.

Granted, the premier class

is closer than it’s ever been. But

for Bagnaia to be so competitive

at his two tests to date (0.6s off

Viñales at Valencia, 0.4s back at

Jerez) indicates he will be challenging

for top sixes before too


Yet with contemporaries as

strong as these, winning the

coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title

will be no easy thing. Not least

as Joan Mir has appeared so at

home on Suzuki’s ever-improving

MotoGP machine from the

start (he passed through Jerez’s

fearsome double right T11-12

with elbow down on the first

morning of November’s test).

Team manager Davide Brivio

expects Mir’s progress to be on

a par with Alex Rins’ debut year

in 2017. If, so he’ll be alongside

Bagnaia on the fringes of the top




the year of the rookie...

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

There are always reasons to look forward to a new MotoGP season but

2019 looks like being more interesting than ever.

There is plenty to pique our

interest but the thing that probably

excites me most is seeing

just how good the crop of rookies

coming into the class this

year can be. Recent years have

been pretty remarkable: 2017

had Johann Zarco, Alex Rins,

and Jonas Folger; 2015 had Maverick

Viñales and Jack Miller;

2013 had Marc Márquez, Andrea

Iannone, and Bradley Smith. But

the 2019 rookies promise to be


Between them, Francesco (or

‘Pecco’) Bagnaia, Joan Mir,

Miguel Oliveira, and Fabio Quartararo

have a grand total of 34

Grand Prix victories, 81 podiums,

and two Grand Prix titles.

Of the three, only Quartararo

doesn’t have double-digit wins

in the junior classes, and all

four are extremely highly rated

among team managers and

engineers. So who are they, and

what can we expect of them?

A product of Valentino Rossi’s

VR46 Riders Academy, Pecco

Bagnaia was the most hotly pursued

of the newcomers. There

were MotoGP team managers

trying to sign him in 2017, and

when Jonas Folger withdrew for

the 2018 season, Hervé Poncharal

had brief talks with the

Italian about replacing him. But

it was Ducati who locked Bagnaia

up first, when they signed

him to a MotoGP contract for

2019 just before their 2018


Why the rush? It was clear that

the Italian was special in his

final year in Moto3. Racing a Mahindra,

he won two races and got

four more podiums, vastly outperforming

the bike’s potential.

Though he failed to get a win in

his first year in Moto2, he more

than made up for it by claiming

eight races and the title in 2018.

The 22-year-old adapted quickly

to the Pramac Ducati GP18 at

the Valencia and Jerez tests,

ending a third of a second off

the lead at Jerez, and a tenth off

his teammate Jack Miller on the

GP19. Bagnaia is the favourite

to win Rookie of the Year, and is

already in the frame for the second

factory Ducati ride if Danilo

Petrucci can’t hang on to it.

Joan Mir is Spain’s counterpoint

to Pecco Bagnaia. Mir’s

rise through the ranks has been

even more meteoric than the

Italian, coming within a whisker

of equalling Valentino Rossi’s

record for a single season in the

lowest class on his way to the

2017 Moto3 title. His lone year

in Moto2 netted him four podiums,

though more had been expected.

The disarray in the Marc

VDS team, the aftermath of the

rift between team manager and

team owner, was a constant

distraction. But speak to people

who have worked with him, and

they will remark on his intelligence,

his focus, the speed and

willingness with which he learns.

Both Honda and Suzuki vied

for his signature, but the seat

alongside Alex Rins is probably

the better option for him.

By David Emmett

At 24, Miguel Oliveira is the old

man of the bunch. After being

shuffled from team to team, he

immediately made an impact

once he signed up with Aki Ajo.

He came close to snatching

the 2015 Moto3 title from the

grasp of Danny Kent, and after

he moved up to Moto2, was the

only rider to consistently take

the fight to Bagnaia. The intelligence

he is universally praised

for is exemplified by the fact

that he has managed to study

to be a dentist at the same time

as competing professionally in

Grand Prix. His perseverance

with the KTM Moto2 machine

earned him a seat with the

KTM’s new satellite team partner

Tech3. Unfortunately for

Oliveira, the KTM RC16 MotoGP

bike is still a long way from

being competitive. Luckily for

KTM, Oliveira’s intelligence and

thorough approach is exactly

what is needed to help make

the bike better.

Fabio Quartararo is the youngest

of the bunch, still just 19

years of age. The young Frenchman

– though he might as well

be Spanish, having spent most

of his childhood there – is either

an enigma, or a salutary lesson

in getting too much, too young.

He was so good in the FIM

CEV Moto3 championship that

Dorna made a new rule allowing

the winner of the Junior World

Championship to race in Grand

Prix, even if they are below the

minimum age of 16. But after

a few strong results early on,

injury cut his first season short,

and lingered into his second

campaign in the class with

an ill-fated move to the Leopard

team. A difficult first year

in Moto2 with Pons saw him

switch to Speed Up for 2018, his

second year, and show flashes

of the brilliance that originally

earned early passage into the

GP paddock in 2015.

With careful mentoring and in

the right environment, Quartararo

could be the surprise

package of 2019. In the Sepang

Racing Team, under the tutelage

of Wilco Zeelenberg and rider

coach Torleif Hartelman, he

should find just that.

Valentine Guillod



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There is a tangible sense of excitement and

anticipation building around the resurrection of

this brand and the output coming from the small

British factory floors but Norton’s clothing range is

already established and stores can be found in the

UK, Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, Netherlands

and Belgium.

The garments are appealing, well-designed and

well-made. And there’s loads of choice. We own

a jacket and a couple of t-shirts and can vouch

for the quality. It’s a good time to make the most

of early 2019 sales so have a look at the website

(the stores themselves are usually decked-out with

some tricky motorcycles and cool interiors, well

worth a visit).




that Generational thanG...

More than Euro

largest MC stor

Leading up to the 2019 season a bright light is illuminating the subject of

age in MotoGP following the addition of new faces.

The Moto2 and Moto3 classes

have become a breeding ground

for the future and this year we

are witnessing several rookies

diving into the deep end much

like Marc Marquez, Valentino

Rossi, Maverick Vinales and Casey

Stoner once did. This chapter

has long since marked the

true beginning of a motorcycle

racers career and the pinnacle

of a young man’s dream (I use

‘young man’ as we are yet to

be blessed with a female in the

MotoGP category). Yes, times

a-changing in the premier class

and the force of a fresh generation

is pushing on.

Nurturing budding talent has

become one of the most crucial

elements within motor racing.

Why? Better to build rather

than buy. There is a much better

chance of snaring the next

potential champion at a younger

age and a longer contract (that

will still be cheaper for teams

and brands) and this is the philosophy

in many sports, perhaps

at it’s most cutthroat in football.

The time and investment in talent

has a limit though and can

be precarious. For every current

MotoGP rider there are several

lower class riders who are

preparing themselves for that

very same job and role. Their

duty every time they get on

their motorbike is to find a way

to stand out and be the best. It

is a constant rotation between

being great or someone will

be greater. Unfortunately that

doesn’t end if you finally reach

the next step as there is still that

sizeable pool open for teams to

examine at any time. In the past

we have witnessed fresh boyish

faces standing amongst the

men. Anywhere between five to

ten years older than themselves,

each year having gained experience

and knowledge to add to

their sporting ‘package’. They

have gained a position to play

with the big boys but now they

have to defend it against victors,

champions and overall natural

flair. And again maybe start to

look over their shoulders. Some

rookies strike gold and fit in

naturally like Marc Marquez and

Casey Stoner. Others have a

more challenging journey ahead.

Scott Redding was twenty-one

at the time when he took the

leap and joined forces with GO

& FUN Gresini Racing. A five

year career in MotoGP saw him

jumping between four different

crews but was unable to extend

his stay in Grand Prix at the

end of 2018. The Valencia GP

marked his last hoorah in the

elite category but a new chapter

for Andrea Iannone who would

fill his old boots.

After a positive partnership with

Ducati, Iannone was left to find

his feet in 2017. Team Suzuki

Ecstar would prove to be his

saviour but he only showed his

mettle in 2018. Iannone was

unable to achieve consistent

results despite his immeasurable

talent and was replaced

by a young man eight years

his junior. Joan Mir was picked

to substitute someone with

six years experience in the top

category and prior partnerships



By Sienna Wedes

with top teams. For Redding, lack

of results was his achilles heel and

Iannone, purely age and attitude.

Team Suzuki Ecstar started making

gambles in 2015, joining forces

with twenty year old Maverick

Vinales. This theme persevered

through to 2016 with twenty two

year old Alex Rins and still to this

day with Mir. They have openly

focused not only on their evolution

in the modern era but on utilising

the youthful cohort to gamble on

the next generation. Their positive

energy around younger talent is

proving to be a successful methodology

over time.

Closely following at the ripe age

of twenty, Australian Jack Miller

bravely leapfrogged Moto2 straight

into MotoGP. Three different teams

in three years and race performances

that have not matched his

qualifying results naturally ring

alarm bells. Each little hiccup is

slowly feeding the shark infested

waters and those ready to take

a bite at his saddle. A complex

never-ending cycle in the MotoGP

world. 2019 is a pivotal year in

proving Miller’s worth after inheriting

ex-teammate Danilo Petrucci’s

works Desmosedici.

Nineteen year old Fabio Quartararo

will be partnering twenty four year

old Franco Morbidelli in the new

Petronas Sepang Racing Team.

Although there are other factors

riders like Dani Pedrosa (33 years

old), Alvaro Bautista (34 years

old) and Bradley Smith (28 years

old) did not fit the ‘age’ bill for

the new project. It simply became

one of the priorities for the Malaysians.

As of 2019, four riders aged

twenty-four and under have replaced

four riders aged twenty-six

and above. The new generation is

slowly making its way through the

crowd, similar to that of the 2006

season where various renowned

athletes were moved aside: Max

Biaggi (34 years old), Troy Bayliss

(36 years old), Alex Barros (35

years old) and Franco Battaini (33

years old). Incoming were Pedrosa

(20 years old), Chris Vermeulen

(23 years old), Casey Stoner (20

years old) and Randy de Puniet

(25 years old). Decisions made by

teams can be made abruptly and

without emotion.

Over the years the average age

has decreased. Between 2018 and

2019 the median has dissolved

from twenty eight to twenty six

years of age with the influx of

fresh blood. Valentino Rossi was

only twenty-three when he entered

the MotoGP class as the newbie.

The nine times World Champion

himself has clearly shown faith in

youth by creating the VR46 Academy.

This year’s academy graduate

Francesco Bagnaia (22 years

old) is one of the recent additions

to the top class and follows Morbidelli

as a Moto2 World Champion

to scale the final rung.

The singular most important thing

for the veterans is their experience.

Not a trait to be taken lightly

whether in a race scenario or a

multi-million euro piece of equipment/development


For the fresh faces the pressure is

immense and careers end purely

because that is the way the life

cycle goes. There are so many

eager souls trying to prove themselves

that essentially no one is

really safe but there’s a little bit of

intoxicating madness in knowing

that there is a door that is always




KTM Adventure bike riders might want to

move quickly to confirm one of just 150

places on the 2019 KTM Adventure Rally in

Bosnia this June and the chance to experience

a high-class and unforgettable ‘sortie’.

The trip (for riders of all abilities and with

640, 690, 790, 950, 990, 1050, 1090, 1190 &

1290 Adventures) takes place from June 17-

20 and sets off from the Bosnian ski village

of Bjelasnica. It is the third edition that KTM

are running of this type of event and where

special guests will join the troupe. The excursion

costs 745 euros and the price includes

three days of guided riding, GPS aided, fuel,

a set of off-road tyres, lunch, dinner, evening

entertainment and other goodies like KTM

products and workshops to improve riding.

There will also be technical support and a

media service.


KTM whet the appetite by emphatically

describing the route as: ‘amazing winding

tarmac roads, endless dirt tracks and challenging

trails amidst impressive scenery of

beautiful mountains, deep canyons, high

plains, ice cold mountain lakes and crystalclear


Travel to and from the meeting point for the

Rally is down to the rider but KTM will be

opening an exclusive and closed Facebook

group for riders to share their plans and

routes. It’s a convenient and appealing option

for a gaggle of buddies looking for a simple

but effective adventure rally experience.

Put a reminder in your calendar/agenda for

the end of February when the online registration

period opens. Click on any of the images

to see and then bookmark the website.


Words by Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer

The Draw

Talking with Ryan Quickfall

about creativity, bikes,

inspiration and surviving

as an artist in 2019


Fans of flat track or cool biker

brands or publications like Sideburn

will instantly recognise the

distinctive art and illustrations of Ryan

Quickfall AKA ‘Ryan Roadkill’. The 35

year old from Newcastle upon Tyne in

the UK has carved a niche for appealing

and quirky Pop Art that has attracted

growing interest inside the motorcycle

industry. His work can be found on the

side of flat track fuel tanks, wall prints,

event posters, helmets, garments for

people like Roland Sands and Deus Ex

Machina and even brick walls in London’s

trendy Shoreditch district.

Operating out of his studio in England’s

northeast Quickfall services clients and

interest on a worldwide scale. His website

www.ryanroadkill.com contains a

decent spread of his output (as well as

What’s a typical day’s workload? And is

it always about bikes?

It’s split between commercial and personal

artwork. With the commercial side

the client will come to me with the project

and their wishes drive the look and

aesthetic of the piece. The personal side

is still driven by motorcycles, the culture

and everything built around that but I’m

much freer with what I do. For example

it might be less about the motorcycle

and more about the characters. I think

I will continue to work with brands on a

commercial level but then also split it

down the middle with my artwork. They

both inform each other. But you can get

bogged down with client work every day

so it’s good to have a bit of freedom because

it can inspire and motivate you for

the other stuff.

“You need to be a businessman and also be businessminded

as well as be creative, and normally I don’t think

those two necessarily go hand-in-hand. You also have to

find time to have new ideas, keep moving forward...”

almost 17k followers on Instagram) and

how and why he has become so popular:

the art veers between gothicky cartoon

extreme to desirable race-based sketches

and illustrations.

Wanting to know more about how bikes

steer and energise his work and mind,

we decided to deprive Ryan of his pencils

and tablet for a good thirty minutes…

Why a motorcycle?

I don’t necessarily know how I landed in

the motorcycle scene but motorcycles

have been part of my life since I was a

kid. I got my bike licence as soon as I

could and I’ve been riding a long time

now. I think anyone who is a motorcyclist

will understand that it tends to inform

so much else of what you do and your

life around you. For me it informed my

creativity. I think my first ‘in’ to the scene

was working with Gary Inman from Sideburn

magazine. He reached out to me

around six years ago when he was asked

to put together a book about artists in

yan roadkill & bike art

the motorcycle industry. He asked me

to send some work over for that and it

snowballed from there I guess.

As the workload increased did you find

it conversely ate into the riding time?

I love to ride but, you’re right, work commitments

and deadlines eat into that. I

like riding flat track, as well as the community

and the whole scene in the UK

that has built up around it. There is a really

strong scene here but I don’t get on

track as often as I’d like. There is also the

risk of injury…it’s a double-edged sword

I guess. With bikes you are conscious of

drawing similar things every day but, like

I said, the personal illustration work can

mean a bit of an escape and it doesn’t

have to depict a motorcycle.

How would you characterise your style?

When I look back at old portfolios from

when I was at college then I guess the

roots and the base of where I am now

started back then. The work is so random,

but you start out trying new things

and by looking at other people’s work.

The best way to develop your own style

is to look at other people’s work and

through the process of replicating pieces

then you discover parts that you like

and you’d change. If you do that for long

enough then you build up your own style.

That strong black line work I have now is

very heavily influenced from things like

Pop Art and from reading comics when

I was a kid. I mean, the easiest way to

make a mark on paper is to get a black

pen or pen and ink! And then be bold. I

think it subconsciously makes me put a

frame on my work…but consciously I try

to build it into everything. After a while

your style becomes recognisable.


It is essential you have your

own ‘mark’? The way to do


The content can change but

the way you progress…I think

it is better to have a solid

and recognisable style. Always

have that stamp that

you want to put on your work.

You want people to know

that a piece comes from you,

even if it is something completely

random. I get a lot of

emails people from people

and young illustrators asking

me ‘what should I do?’ and

‘how did you start?’ and the

answer is that you have to

produce the work. You have

to keep at it and keep working.

Before you know it then

you’ll have your own style.

You might not consciously

pick up something but if you

constantly plug away then it

will come.

Where does the creativity

come from? What makes you

pick up that pencil?

Just being involved with

motorcycles generally helps

and having friends with

bikes. I share a studio with

a lad called Tom who is in

the same industry and we

talk about bikes, races we

might be going to or friends

who are building bikes. Being

around the right people,

creative people like fabricators

and photographers, is

a big help. Of course I read

magazines and I just think

yan roadkill & bike art

motorcycle culture is widespread

and it’s contagious. Once you are

hooked then it informs everything

around you. Being around bikes is

enough for me, I find.

Is it sometimes tricky to depict

bike racing on paper? It always

has to be moving and be dynamic…

Yeah, if I have a race event poster

to do then I know I’ll have to portray

a sense of excitement through

the illustration. I have to show

speed and bar-to-bar. If you look

at old comics then similar scenes

have these drawings that are really

over-emphasised and you have

to show that bike dropping into a

corner or sideways if it is for something

like flat track. A lot of the

time it has to look over-exaggerated

and chaotic.

Are Briefs from clients usually very

tight or do you get a free rein?

It is probably 50-50. People do

come with specific Briefs but it

does depend. If you are doing a

broad spread of designs for an

apparel range for a company then

they might come with a very loose

mood-or-idea board and will say

what they like while asking me to

put my twist on it. The other end

of the spectrum are clients that

are very particular about what they

want and those generally are a lot

harder to work on because the client

has an idea in their head and

it’s your job to flesh that idea out

and visualise what they want to express.

You have to try your best to

pull that idea out. The jobs where

the client says ‘just do your thing’

become more frequent the more

well known you and your work

become. They know what you are

going to produce. It’s ideal.


“My painting and personal work

tend not to have much in the way of

deadlines, so that’s all by-hand and

I’ll sketch an idea, apply it to a canvas

and then paint it. Timescales and tools

determine how you’ll do a job...”

What about the assistance of

the digital age and has something

like Instagram been

invaluable for ‘spreading the


It feels like you never really

know what will happen…but

I feel like I have been able

to make a career from Instagram,

and I don’t know where

I would be if I didn’t have that!

It was a huge launchpad for

me and as frustrating as it

is these days - and as much

as I’d like to give it up - I

don’t think you can. It’s different

now than what it was

five years ago. How? It’s more

saturated and you have to try

harder to standout. I have to

give Instagram its credit because

for artists it is an amazing

platform. It has probably

never been easier for an artist

to sell his or her work because

it is in front of people

straightaway. If you can build

up a good following then you

can sell product. Having said

that you shouldn’t rely solely

on Instagram because there

are other ways of promoting

yourself. As part of a bigger

spectrum of promotion it’s a

great tool.

Is there one job or artwork

that sticks out in your mind?

A big challenge that turned

out to be immensely rewarding

was a piece of wall art I

did outside of a shop in London,

Shoreditch, called Rebels

Alliance. They basically gave

me the whole wall space to

work on in an area that is popular

for street art. I was a little

bit apprehensive but I knew

this kind of opportunity would

not come along every day. It

coincided with a show of my

work inside the shop. The wall

was massive. We projected

the image on and stopped

cars parking in the way and

I knocked the line-work in

quickly one night and then

the next morning I started on

it. It was in quite a prominent

place and I was spraying and

concentrating on the wall

but I’d turn around and see

a hundred people behind me

all with their phones out! That

was a real career highlight.

It was there for a year and a

half and I know the guys in the

shop down there were touching

up the painting if someone

had tagged on it. It was up for

a good while and I’m planning

on doing another one soon

actually, which is quite cool. It

was a project that was completely

different for me at the


A milestone moment…?

I never, ever think ‘I’ve made

it…’ if you do then I believe

you’ll fail quite quickly. I know

I cannot sit still and I want

to move my career in different

directions. I know I can

always do better and push the

illustration harder. I’m always

critical of my work and think I

could have done better. I think

that’s common for most creative

people. I was impressed

when Roland Sands first got

in touch and wanted me to put

ten designs together for their

clothing range. I can’t remember

the year…but I do remember

‘that’s pretty cool’.

yan roadkill & bike art

What’s your production process?

Is it ink and paper or

tablet based?

I definitely use computers

and a Wacom tablet to speed

up the process. Magazine

work can have a very short

turnaround time. It’s not my

preferred method but if I need

to get something done in a

couple of days then I’ll whack

out a design on the tablet and

digitally produce it from start

to finish. The way I do like to

work - and I do this 70% of

the time - is to pencil-out a

sketch for a client, get the goahead,

refine the sketch and

tweak some bits. I’ll then take

it to a Light Box and brush the

blackwork in ink. I’ll ink it by

hand and then scan it. I’ll then

digitally colour it from that

point on. Digital comes into

the process all the time purely

because a lot of the stuff I do

gets screen printed, so to set

the layers up is much easier.

If the opportunity arose where

I can do an illustration by


hand from start to finish then

that’s my preferred course. My

painting and personal work

tend not to have much in the

way of deadlines, so that’s

all by-hand and I’ll sketch an

idea, apply it to a canvas and

then paint it. Timescales and

tools for the jobs determine

how you’ll do a job.

What’s the best canvas…?

Bikes themselves? Helmets?

With bikes there are obviously

more shades and contours

to think about and I have

two-three bikes to paint this

year so we’ll see how it goes.

They are flat trackers so it

essentially means the tank

and a section of the seat unit

whereas a road bike or something

with a fairing is a much

bigger canvas to work with.

Each job has it’s own bonuses

and sticking points. I’d love to

paint a road bike actually because

a flat track bike means

you have to think carefully

about what will be displayed

and how people and cameras

will see it when its going into

a corner. Riders will cover a

lot of the tank anyway. The

process of painting them is

not radically different for me.

I’ve done helmets in the past

and there’s quite a lot of surface

area. If you took a shell

and spread it on the table

then it would be pretty big.

Again, only so much of it gets

seen from different angles.

Another thing I’ve started to

do is buy big oil cans, squash

them flat and then paint

them. Again it’s still the same

process as painting a bike

and I’d use the same enamel

and spray paint.

How is life as an artist and

one predominantly based in

the motorcycle industry in


You cannot be just an artist:

unless you have a really good

agent that takes care of the

whole commercial side. You

need to be a businessman

and also be business-minded

as well as be creative, and

normally I don’t think those

two necessarily go hand-inhand.

You have to try and

market yourself, handle sales,

email requests and clients.

And also find time to have

new ideas that keep you

moving forward. There is

always someone else biting

at your heels. I’m sure that is

the same for many different

career paths. I’m really lucky

that I have an agent in London

– for just over a year now

- that brings commercial illustration

jobs. They help pull in

work that is not just motorcycle

related and it is nice to

have it as a top-up.

It’s nice to know someone is

out there finding commissions

and believing in you.

It is also very satisfying to

put your work out there and

have people contacting you

directly to buy it: you’ve created

it, produced it, marketed

it, packed it and sold it. That

hands-on process from start

to finish is really rewarding.


rYan roaDkill

at a sketCh

What bikes in the garage?

At the moment I have a

Survivor Customs Rotax

flat track Thunderbike.

Which I race in the DTRA

championship; I say ‘race’

but it’s more pottering


A couple of your favourite

racers and why…

I used to really like Loris

Capirossi. He was great to

watch and a bit of a character.

For me most riders

who are competitive on

track are absolutely worthy

of support. To stand out

and get behind them they

don’t have to be winning

championships, but to

be characters on and off

track. To name a few more

I would say Mick Doohan,

Colin Edwards, obviously

Valentino Rossi and Kenny

Roberts. Also a real good

guy from here and now

racing in the USA is Oliver


A Bucket List racing event?

Peoria TT or any of the big

fast AFT Mile tracks.




Leatt do not know how to slow down with

their ideas and evolution for motorcycle

safety products and the addition of the ‘Z

Frame Knee Brace’ to their line of protection

for the notoriously tricky and vulnerable

joint raises an eyebrow or two. The Z-Frame

emphasises a closer feel to the bike and has

hyper-extension limitations of 5, 10, 15 and

20 degree help to limit ACL damage. There

is a slim rugged gear hinge (and the whole

composite chassis is CE certified so will

cope with the knocks and abuse a track will

throw at it) and a specific aim to blend function

and performance.

The Z Frame sits confidently next to the ‘X’

and ‘C’ models in the brace range as Leatt

stretch their minds and R&D data when it

comes to the best structures to assist knee

injury and suit the needs of the rider, whether

budding Pro motocrosser or occasional

Enduro dabbler. The choice of model will

really come down to fit and design preference.

With their pedigree in life-saving neck

protection then it is a brand you can trust.

Expect to pay 300 euros or 270 pounds for

the Z Frame pair.


when it comes to the crunch...

“What’s the difference between short circuit racers and road racers?”

It’s a question I’ve often been

asked and long wondered myself.

A couple of weekends ago

I got a rare opportunity to make

a direct comparison, albeit on

artificial turf, rather than asphalt,

in a charity soccer match between

the two sets of riders at

the Crusaders’ football ground

in Belfast. Football skills aside, if

the difference between the two

sets of riders was purely mental,

maybe this alternative sporting

challenge would provide a good


The traditional ‘Road Racers’

versus ‘Circuit Racers’ match

is played annually in aid of the

Children’s Cancer Unit at the

Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast,

but this year it held extra significance

following the death of one

of the fixture’s regular players

William Dunlop, whose family

would share the proceeds.

When leading British Superbike

rider Glenn Irwin (star man for

the Circuit Racers) sent a tweet

out appealing for extra players,

I thought, “well, I have done a

couple of track days!” and dug

out my football boots. I figured

it would be a nice, friendly

kickabout – a sociable off-season

gathering and a good chance for

a catch-up with some of the riders

I will be working with in the

BSB paddock and Isle of Man TT

in 2019.

What I didn’t expect was a brutal

grudge match, a clash of racing

cultures and an agricultural

approach to the beautiful game

that had me limping all the way

back to George Best City Airport.

I should have known better, of

course. Every motorcycle racer I

have ever met boasts an almost

psychopathic determination to

win at absolutely everything they

do. When they come together,

the big question is: who wants to

win the most?

The warning signs were there

from as early as the pre-match

pleasantries. The two teams

formed a long line to great the

crowd and then crossed in single

file, each player shaking hands

with each one of his opponents.

I smiled and nodded with each

handshake, offering a “How’s it

going?” or a “Good luck” – and

was met unilaterally by the cold

stare of antipathetic abandon

that only a man prepared to

tackle the Tandragee 100 in iffy

conditions on a 250cc two-stroke

could muster.

The other thing that struck me

was the physical stature of the

Road Racers compared to my

teammates: much thicker set

than the Circuit Racers – still

athletic, but heavier, broader.

No need to lose those two extra

kilos of muscle when you need to

hold a Superbike steady for six

laps around the bumpy roads of

Enniskillen. No need for the diet

protein shakes that were present

in the Circuit Racers’ changing

room – worth a good 0.2 seconds

around the Silverstone National

Circuit - nor the moisturisers

or the hair gel (okay, I admit,

the moisturiser was mine) for the

cameras. Road racers aren’t in

the sport to look cool.

By Matthew Roberts

They’re not in it for the fame or

the fortune. They are literally in it

to win it.

As a result, their look is a little

unkempt, a little wild. But that

was nothing compared to their


The first yellow card was flashed

within two minutes of the first

whistle, following a late lunge by

young, up-and-coming Irish roads

man Darryl Anderson on factory

Honda BSB star Andrew Irwin,

brother to Glenn. It is difficult to

get a yellow card so quickly in a

professional football match, let

alone a ‘friendly’, but Andrew

- one of the most notoriously

aggressive riders on the British

Superbike grid – had found

himself on the end of the kind of

move that saw him wipe three

riders out in turn one at Snetterton

last season.

Moments later came my first

touch of the ball, a little loose for

my liking on the hard, unforgiving

artificial surface, and James Kelly

– a former Tandragee lap record

holder and keen Gaelic football

player - was onto me.

Within seconds Paul Robinson – a

gnarly little 125cc legend of the

Ulster Grand Prix and North West

200 - came piling in too. An elbow

in the ribs, a boot around the

top of the shin and the ball was

gone – I still don’t know where, it

didn’t seem to matter. I hunched

over in front of the grandstand to

catch my breath, and could sense

the partisan Road Racer majority

in a crowd of hundreds baying for

the blood of this particular penpushing

imposter of an Englishman.

Moments later Keith Gillespie, the

former Manchester United winger

and Northern Irish national team

legend, appearing as honorary

captain for the Circuit Racers,

was brutally sawed down in full

flight by Dean Campbell, a race

winner at the Cookstown 100 and

- fittingly - a carpenter by trade.

Gillespie was livid. He’d opened

up a deep gash on his knee

sustained the previous weekend

in another ostensibly ‘friendly’

international competition shown

live on Sky Sports (the one that

saw Ireland’s Jason McAteer sent

off for kicking England’s Michael

Owen up the arse).

Campbell doesn’t give a shit

about football, or Keith Gillespie’s

reputation, or indeed Keith

Gillespie’s knee. But he clearly

gives a massive shit about winning.

But thanks to the guile of

Gillespie, combined with the

calculated runs of Chrissy Rouse

- a nimble British Superstock

race winner with a maths degree

- and the dextrous Nikki Coates

up front, the Circuit Racers edged

into a 2-0 lead. Aided by the

willing runs of Glenn Irwin, an

elaborate tactician from the wide

left position, and the technically

adept Superstock rider Jordan

Gilbert in midfield, it seemed the

incisive approach of the Circuit

Racers was going to be too much

for the Road Racers to cope with.

However, as we emerged from the

dressing rooms for the second

half, a stiff westerly wind turned

the rain sideways off the Irish

sea, and into the faces of the Circuit

Racers. The track technicians

seemed to drop a cylinder whilst

the Road Racers found some

extra revs and ripped the throttle

that little bit harder.


With the wind at their backs and

an indomitable spirit within, they

pumped relentless long balls

over the top of a disjointed, dispirited

and defeated Circuit Racers’

defence, gaining endless joy

from the willing forward runs of

Davey Todd, the ‘Star of Tomorrow’

at last year’s TT.

So, is that all that makes them


Probably not. But in the words of

William Dunlop’s brother Michael,

they are certainly prepared

to go “that wee bit extra.”

Barrel-chested BSB stalwart

Shaun Winfield’s industrious attempts

to punt the ball back into

the wind from centre-half grew

more and more futile as the gaps

appeared around him and the

pacey Todd took full advantage,

setting up a flurry of late goals

for Robinson and, ultimately, a

winner from Kelly. The deflated

Circuit Racers, it seemed, simply

didn’t have the body fat percentage

to weather the storm.

With such a narrow winning

margin in a match when footballing

ability had precious little to

do with the outcome, it is fair to

say that the Road Racers had the

mental edge on the day.

Photo by Steve english

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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2019 Worldsbk test



joininG the fast lane...

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

I am writing this from the departures lounge of Seville Airport in the middle

of a whirlwind of work and travel.

After a very relaxed period over

Christmas time, including a

sneaky wee holiday with Clan

GeeBee, 2019 has burst into

life and I am currently bouncing

around southern Europe in

between photoshoots.

It’s pre-season time when everyone

in the WorldSBK paddock

has a mad panic to get the final

winter tests completed, bikes and

engines prepared, fairings painted

in new liveries; riders have

new leathers and helmet designs

to sort, all before the first week

in February when everything gets

put in crates and gets sent, lock

stock and barrel, to Australia for

the first round. We are just less

than a month away from the first

race of the season and no one

seems fully prepared, least of all


I think I have written about this

before but each year it never

changes. I get finished up in

November with the last jobs and

purposefully take time away from

work to recharge the batteries,

mooch about the house and

generally relax with my family.

The new season seems so far

away in the future: it must be like

coming onto that back straight at

Buriram. It stretches so far in the

distance you can’t even imagine

there is a corner at the end of it.

Then, BOOM, a hairpin arrives,

or in this case a bunch of photoshoots

all stacked up on top of

each other.

I started last Monday in Jerez

and have been shooting everyday,

via Seville and onto Portimao.

I am now on my way to

Sardinia for what is a new venture

for me, a three day shoot

with a manufacturer and their

world championship motocross

teams. Whist it’s been mega busy

over the last days it has been

really productive and, along with

Jamie Morris, we have achieved

a hell of a lot.

Back to the WorldSBK tests, it

was pretty much the whole SBK

field on track, with the exception

of the new HRC Honda team.

Unfortunately the team hasn’t

been able to get all the paperwork

in place to register a European

base. WorldSBK rules don’t

allow teams to test out of their

home continent, in this case

Asia, so the Honda squad wasn’t

able to test at Jerez or Portimao.

It was a real shame not to have

them there and I can only feel

they will start the campaign on

the back foot. The first we will

see them will be in a few weeks

at a two outing at Phillip Island,

days before the first race weekend.

It was good to see the new BMW

team on track under the management

of Shaun Muir Racing.

Tom Sykes arrived really relaxed

and looking forward to the test.

I had hoped to catch them at

their first shakedown at Almeria

in December but the team were

trying to stay under the radar as

it was very much that, a shakedown.

Added to that, Mrs Gee-

Bee wanted to keep me ON the

radar at home.

By Graeme Brown

Not everything had been ready

for a full spec race machine in

Almeria so it was a case of setting

up riding positions, mechanics

getting used to spannering the

bikes and so on.

Now with everything prepared

the bike looked pretty trick when

it rolled out of pitlane on Tuesday

morning at Jerez. One thing

I noticed however, was that they

were running Nissin brakes. Nissin

were only present in the paddock

in recent years with the Ten Kate

Hondas. Everyone else ran Brembo.

Sykes apparently was really

reluctant to use the Nissin product

and was insisting on having

Brembos. However, the deal was

done long before Sykes put pen to

paper and Nissin have gone all-in

with BMW and SMR having their

Racing Service on hand at both

the Jerez and Portimao tests.

There were other little noticeable

changes up and down the paddock.

The Barni Racing team,

which is widely seen as an offshoot

of the Ducati factory team

and have taken Michael Ruben

Rinaldi under their wing, are running

Showa suspension. Showa

have been a very big part of the

success at Kawasaki over recent

years and I was really interested to

see their product on the Ducati. I

couldn’t nail anyone down to find

out the exact reason. Could it be

that Ducati want to run it on their

satellite team to get a handle on

the performance of the Kawasaki?

The current rules make it possible

for anyone to buy the same equipment

as the factory teams so it

would make sense to see what the

competition is using.

In personnel terms it was interesting

to spot Phil Marron in the Puccetti

garage working as crew chief

to Toprak Razgatlioglu. Phil has

been a long term crew chief and

friend of Eugene Laverty. I wonder

how the relationship will develop

but the Turk was pretty quick at

both tests.

Jonathan Rea continues to be

top of the pile, setting the fastest

times in both Jerez and Portimao,

and he is resolutely determined

to stay there. I had to visit him at

home in Northern Ireland a couple

of weeks ago.

As I was coming off the ferry from

Scotland he messaged me to say

he was at the gym but to come

up and by the time I get there he

should be finished. When I arrived

he was just starting the final exercise,

pushing a sled with metal

runners, laden with weights, up

and down the car park in 10, 20

and 30 metre shuttles, for the following

20 minutes. By the end he

looked drained. He has been doing

that most days since December in

order to stay fit and strong.

One man who has been hot on his

heels at the tests is Alex Lowes.

Alex and his brother Sam have

pitched up at Valencia circuit and

been training there since the start

of the year. They have their own

pit box and each day have been

doing gym sessions, finished off

by repeated efforts running up

and down the hill along the back

straight. Anyone who has been

there knows how steep that is.

We all follow our heros on social

media and we see pictures of

them riding motocross or supermoto,

trials riding in the mountains

or pedaling a push bike in

some sunny location. What we

don’t see is the hard graft of turning

themselves inside out on a



daily basis to reach peak fitness

and hopefully gain an advantage

over their rivals. We spoke about

it amongst the soft media types

in Portimao and agreed that top

level professional athletes have

something special that the rest

of us don’t have. It’s not just the

given talent they have for their

chosen sport but it’s an ability to

hurt themselves, endure physical

pain, to make themselves stronger

and fitter.

Then there is the downside of

motorcycle racing that we don’t

see. I did a photoshoot with

Supersport rider Jules Cluzel in

Portimao. He is currently walking

with the aid of a crutch after

surgery on his ankle to break it

and reset it. It turns out he broke

it in a crash three years ago and

it never set properly. He has been

in constant pain ever since, all

day, every day, and yet he still

manages to race a motorbike and

win at the highest level. It got too

much for him last year and after

his crash in Qatar he decided

it was time to get it properly

repaired, as much for his long

term quality of life as well as his


Like most I guess, I never knew

any of that and I was stunned.

What a herculean effort to keep

racing at that level and it is just

another example of that little

extra piece of the jigsaw that

these guys have that makes them

amongst the best.

I am not going to complain about

being cold or wet ever again,

doing one of the best jobs in the

world. I even feel a little bit embarrassed

at this point to moan

that I am a bit tired!

2019 Worldsbk test


at Last



He’s experienced and has excelled

at so many levels of racing but this

winter Eugene Laverty was staring at a

career ‘wall’. The popular 32 year old

now dislodged a brick to grasp a plum

opportunity in WorldSBK with a Ducati

V4 R. Can the Irishman finally match the

talent with the results once more?

Words & Photos by Steve English


The butterfly effect is defined by how small

events have widespread implications. It

could be debated that a particular conclusion

will be reached no matter the circumstances,

but in motorcycle racing those small details can

have massive repercussions on a rider’s fortunes.

Eugene Laverty almost found how destructive the

choices, moves and minor issues can actually be.

At the end of the 2018 season the Irishman was

facing the prospect of a year on the sidelines, but

instead one call answered all his prayers, in the

form of a Ducati V4 R.

With the GoEleven squad switching to the

Italian machine, Laverty finds himself in

a seat with race winning potential once


“Riders always know that they can be left

without a ride,” assessed Laverty. “I don’t

have a big enough ego not to feel vulnerable

to that, and I realised pretty quickly

that there was a chance that there

wouldn’t be many seats available. Since

I started winning races in World Supersport

in 2009 I’ve always had options

drinking in the last chance saloon?

any risk of being on the sofa for a year. This

year things were different because options

just kept dwindling. When I got injured in

Thailand it was probably the worst time

that it could have happened. We started the

year really strong and then after the injury

I had to rebuild, but that was when it was

contract time for riders and that hurt my

options. I can’t complain though. I’m back

in WorldSBK for 2019, riding again. We’ve

seen that in the end some riders went to

BSB, and some were left without a seat.”

With employment prospects shrinking in

the WorldSBK paddock, the rider market

was flooded. For Laverty it seemed that

staying at Shaun Muir Racing was his primary

route; but with the team switching to

BMW and the German manufacturer bringing

with them a hefty sponsorship budget

having a German on the bike was always

likely. With Markus Reiterberger in place,

Laverty was suddenly in a shootout for

other bike.

on the table. This winter was very different

for me. Looking back to 2013 - when

I was pushed out of Aprilia - there was

some uncertainty about where I’d ride,

but I had options on the table.”

“At that stage of my career I was winning

races and did the double at the final

round of the year in Jerez. I had choices.

Should I go to MotoGP and be a midfield

runner, or should I try and win races

on the Suzuki in WorldSBK? That was

a choice for me and there wasn’t really

Going up against Tom Sykes left him on the

outside looking in. The former WorldSBK

champion may have been outclassed by

Jonathan Rea in their four years as teammates,

but six Superpole’s in 2018 certainly

showed that he still has the speed.

“This year rides were disappearing,” commented

Laverty. “Kawasaki signed Leon

from BSB and Kiyonari came in at Honda,

so that was two seats filled and with Ten

Kate pulling out, suddenly that was another

two rides gone. It was a tough period. At

one time, things were looking good for me

to stay with my current team, SMR.”

“Then when that fell through it was a case

of thinking, ‘what’s going on here?’


Everything was looking on course to stay

with SMR during the summer but once

things start getting delayed it becomes

less secure for you. I still thought everything

looked like it was going to go

ahead but at the last minute things


“That’s why as riders you have to understand;

you’re just a number. You can’t

take any offence from it. I understand

that Tom is a world champion. He’s been

winning races in recent years. So they

chose him. That’s all there was to it. But

I’m thankful I ended up getting something

because the only problem for me

with what happened was how late in the

day it was. That’s all it was, and it left

me in a difficult position.”

Out of that adversity Laverty has been

able to find himself on a bike that should

be a contender. The brand new Ducati V4

R is a MotoGP-derived machine. His experience

of their Grand Prix motorcycle

also gives Laverty plenty of confidence

that the WorldSBK version shares more

than a factory workshop and genesis; it

shares the same gene pool.

it tough for the rest of us to fight with

them. Braking is really strong with this

bike and we know that Chaz was always

able to brake better than the Kawasaki,

so those are the two key areas this bike

could be very strong in.”

Now it will be up to the 13 times WorldS-

BK race winner to prove that he still has

the ability, desire and confidence to fight

at the front. His return to the productionbased

championship has been below

expectations with two podiums as scant

reward. He knows that now is the time to

deliver. With Jonathan Rea having dominated

for four years, Laverty is realistic

about how difficult it will be to beat him.

Confidence is a fickle thing. It takes a

long time to come and only an instant

to drop away. It’s often said that a rider

needs to believe they’re the best to be

the best. For Laverty however, he knows

that to beat the best - and Rea is statistically

the greatest rider in WorldSBK

history - he knows that first Rea has to

realise he’s in for a fight.

“This bike has some major strengths. The two biggest

factors are how linear the engine is. It feels more like

the MotoGP engine I used a few years ago...”

“This bike has some major strengths.

The two biggest factors are how linear

the engine is. It feels more like the MotoGP

engine I used a few years ago, and

that really helps whenever you’re using

fixed gearbox ratios and you’re running

at minimum RPM in a corner. I’ve got

an engine that pulls right through the

reins. I think Kawasaki have had that

over the last few years, and that’s made

“I think that for everyone in this championship

to beat Johnny at the minute,

you’ve got to have a better bike than

he has. He’s had four years with the

same bike and the same team, he’s on

the crest of a wave. He’s not starting a

new season; he’s continuing what he’s

done for four seasons. I think that with

this Ducati we may well have a bike to

do that though. We need to get the bike

drinking in the last chance saloon?

working well and then get on top of the

Kawasaki. If we can do that right from

the start then the championship is wide


“Confidence is a strange thing, and when

I went to MotoGP I lost some of mine. I

listened to too much of the bullshit about

what people around me were telling me. I

almost started believing that maybe there

is something special with those riders.

That was a mistake and I should have

focused on myself because that would get

into my head a little bit, and that’s not

good for anybody.”

“Since coming back to WorldSBK and getting

on a good bike I’ve had my confidence

come back. At my first WorldSBK test I

could compare my data on the Aprilia to

2013, I could see from the first test how

badly I was braking compared to the past.

I needed to get my finger out again and

work at regaining strength in my riding

style. I want to get back to winning races.

I’m a better rider now than I was in 2013

when I was winning. It’s about the bike,

the team and everything around you.

There were some things that I was doing

well but there was nothing I was doing

better than what I do now. I’ve improved

in every area. So it was a matter of getting

the rest of the pieces of the puzzle.

“When I was with Aprilia it was their full

factory team. Everything was in place, and

they gave me a chance to bloom. I need to

get that going again. I know that this could

be the last chance saloon. I’ve signed a

one-year contract here at GoEleven. I think

a lot of riders are in a similar position, so

it’s important for me to hit the ground running,

get those results and put myself in

the shop window to get back to a factory



drinking in the last chance saloon?

Deadlines spur activity in every walk of

life and Laverty is sure to find that in

2019 his deadline will have moved up.

He doesn’t want to be caught on the

backfoot again in the next turn of the

rider swaparound. Going to GoEleven is a

move that certainly has risks attached.

The team - who ran Roman Ramos in

recent years - have to prove themselves

as capable of being front-runners and

Laverty needs to prove to the paddock

that he’s still the rider he was five years

ago. Whilst his data tells him that he’s

moved forward as a rider, it’s possible

that WorldSBK has also moved on since

then. The first race of the 2019 season

will be the fifth anniversary of Laverty’s

last win in the class. A lot has changed

for the Irishman since then but now he

finally has the bike underneath him again

to prove that he’s still contender. It’s put

up or shut up time, and being the sole

focus of his team for this pivotal season

is something that he’s embracing.

the data I want to see. We’re working on

our own thing though, and if I request

their data I can get it.”

“I’ve ridden with so many top riders as

teammates: Melandri, Biaggi, Guintoli, so

I know what to look for in data. There’s

no point in looking at a screen full of colourful

lines and not knowing what you’re

seeing. It can be deceiving because

sometimes you can look at it and see a

rider doing the corner better, but now

with my experience I know to almost tell

the engineers, ‘no, ignore that. He’s doing

that, but he won’t be able to do that

after six laps...’ So now I know what to

look for and that makes a big difference.”

“It’s been good to be a single rider in a

team. I’ve never had that before, but with

a brand new bike it’s good for everyone

in the team to be focusing their attention

in the middle of the garage. Some might

feel more pressure as a single rider but

I don’t because I only focus on myself.

I’ve never really looked outside of that.

It puts all the emphasis on me. Sometimes

- especially in testing - a teammate

can pull a lap out of his ass; the old data

comes out in the overlay and is trying to

tell you to do different things. So I quite

like it that I’m able to do my own thing.”

“The data that I have is from the factory

guys, a MotoGP podium guy like Bautista

and Chaz who’s won a lot of races, that’s



Ducati and Italian watchmakers Locman have

teamed up for a second run of timepieces.

The combination has produced a collection for

2019 that ‘consists of four models, each with

a different mechanism, with prices ranging

from 299 euros to 598: the quartz Solo Tempo

(Time Only), the quartz twin-gauge Chronograph

(with 24-hour time and chrono minutes),

the three-gauge Chronograph (with continuous

watch seconds, chrono hours and chrono

minutes) and the Meccanico Automatico Solo

Tempo (Mechanical Self-Winding Time Only).’

The cases are made of stainless steel with the

distinctive Ducati shield as part of the design.

The look of the face is taken from ‘Ducati instrumentation

and racing’ while the straps vary

from soft silicone or natural padded leather.

Locman might not be a well-known brand outside

of Italy (and thus the units might be tougher

to track down internationally) but the style of

these products is actually pretty good: elegant

and simple without any of the over-the-top and

often gaudy appearances of similar bike related

watches (such as the Tissot MotoGP lines or

even other models in Ducati’s own portfolio).






BMW’s jugular

shot for the



crown: f850gs

Words by Roland Brown, Photos by Mark Manning

It looks as though 2019 will be the year

of the middleweight adventure bike.

KTM’s 790 Adventure and Yamaha’s

equally eagerly awaited Ténéré 700 were

stars of last autumn’s shows. Largecapacity

adventure bikes are great, the

thinking goes, but who needs all that

horsepower, size and expense when a

middleweight can provide exciting performance

and comparable sophistication for

much less money?

Those two newcomers might be highlighting

the trend, but in some ways

they’ll already be playing catch-up.

BMW’s F850GS, very much from the

same market sector, has been in showrooms

for several months already. The

F850GS was launched midway through

last year, comprehensively updating the

F800GS that had been an adventure

class mainstay for over a decade.

At the heart of the update is a new parallel

twin engine, with capacity increased

from 798 to 853cc, increasing maximum

output by ten per cent to 94bhp. The bottom-end

is redesigned with a new firing

order, and there are twin balancer shafts to

kill vibration. (Continuing BMW’s confusing

tradition, there’s also a new F750GS model,

replacing the F700, with identical 853cc

capacity and lower, 76bhp output.)

In styling terms the F850GS has a beaky

look that brings it visually closer to the

R1200GS boxer. Its steel frame and other

chassis parts are new; the fuel tank is

conventionally located rather than at the

rear. The drive chain is now on the left and

the exhaust on the right, partly to facilitate

manoeuvring the bike off-road. (Most riders

push from the left, where the hot exhaust


The extra capacity gives the GS some welcome

extra acceleration, and it’s impressively

flexible as well as quick. It’s strong at

higher revs too, and feels smooth, especially

as the top three gears are slightly taller.

mw f850gs

But inevitably it can’t match the R1200GS

for low-rev grunt, and doesn’t have the big

boxer’s distinctive character either.

It is however impressively economical, averaging

close to 60mpg to give a range of 170-

plus miles from the 15-litre tank. (There’s

also an F850GS ‘Adventure’, with 23-litre

tank plus hand-guards and taller, adjustable

screen.) Whether the fairly thin and not outstandingly

comfortable seat encourages such

mileage without a break is another matter.

Disappointingly, the F850GS doesn’t approach

the Adventure model’s level of wind

protection, largely due to its low, narrow

screen, which does little apart from generating

some noisy turbulence. A taller option

is available, and there are also higher and

lower options for the seat, which also can’t

be adjusted, and at 860mm is typically

adventure-bike tall as standard.

With that standard seat the F850GS is respectably

roomy and it handles well on road,

feeling reasonably light and agile despite

weighing 229kg with fuel, and having a 21-

inch front wheel.

The wide handlebar gives plenty of leverage

to get the bike flicking through bends, steering

is accurate and there’s plenty of stopping

power from the Brembo front brake calipers.

Suspension is well controlled despite giving

very generous travel; there’s also a semiactive

option that links with riding mode.

As standard the modes are simply Road

and softer Rain. Paying extra for the Pro

upgrade adds Dynamic, with sharper throttle

response, plus off-road-friendly Enduro

and Enduro Pro (which disables rear ABS to

allow skids). The options are good to have,

though the engine’s rider-friendly character

means that even the sharper throttle response

is very manageable.

You couldn’t describe the F-bike as compact

or particularly light, but it’s respectably

manoeuvrable, and usefully less heavy and

more agile than the R1200GS.

mw f850gs

“Whether off-road or on, the F850GS is

a sensibly updated parallel twin that is

quick, versatile and capable of tackling

everything that a larger-capacity

adventure bike can do. It also has the

benefit of relatively low price ....”

mw f850gs

That helps make it plenty of fun off-road,

where the fairly high handlebar, slim seat

and serrated footpegs all come in useful

when you’re standing up.

Whether off-road or on, the F850GS is a

sensibly updated parallel twin that is quick,

versatile and capable of tackling everything

that a larger-capacity adventure bike can do.

It also has the benefit of relatively low price

(£9875 in the UK), at least in its basic specification.

Not that most buyers will choose the base

model. Many will pay extra for the F850GS

Sport (£10,755), which includes heated grips,

quick-shifter and cornering ABS. And plenty

of bikes will be kitted out with options including

Dynamic ESA semi-active suspension,

cruise control, keyless ignition and


One reason for the current rise of mid-capacity

adventure bikes is that this latest breed

can incorporate those electronic and other

features, which large-capacity models have

had for years. Perhaps the main drawback,

in the case of the F850GS, is that doing so

brings its price close to the basic cost of

the mighty R1200GS, with its extra dollop of

power and character (and, yes, weight).

Most riders looking for a GS will doubtless

fall for the familiar charm of the huge-selling

boxer, but BMW’s comprehensively uprated

parallel twin is well worthy of consideration.

As one of the advance guard of adventure

super-middleweights, it has set the bar

temptingly high. Those new arrivals from

KTM and Yamaha are going to have to be

mighty good to beat it.

mw f850gs

ack page

Oakland SX

By James Lissimore





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Thanks to www.mototribu.com


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James Lissimore, Mark Manning

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