On Track Off Road No.184





Will they see Red or Green or be left feeling Blue?

Phillip Island feels more open than ever for the

launch of WorldSBK. Why? Catch Steve

English’s insightful teaser further in the

magazine and start a sweepstake as to who

will rule most of the three races in Australia.

Photo by GeeBee Images




The MXGP standings are refreshingly blank after

being splashed with orange from the first laps of

2018 until the very last. With Argentina and the

’19 opener looming into view who can spring a

surprise in Neuquen? Have a look at our MXGP

‘questions’ and exclusive chat with this Monster

Energy Kawasaki star in this new issue

Photo by Ray Archer





The covers are all off and the

liveries revealed…so 2019

MotoGP can really get down

to business with the Qatar

test at the end of the week.

In our opinion the winners

of the ‘best new clothes’

award comes down to Red

Bull KTM Tech3 or Monster

Energy Yamaha but the

sight we all still want to see

is JL99 circulating in those

iconic Repsol Honda colours.

They might be a bit blurry

trackside though

Photo by Repsol Honda HRC/





Cooper Webb is not only making his mark on the

2019 AMA Supercross season by prevailing at the

sole multi-race winner as the halfway point

approaches but in also creating record-breaking

scenes like the fractions of a second that accompanied

his last corner victory charge in Arlington. The Red Bull

KTM star is part of one of the most open and fascinating

450SX contests seen in years

Photo by James Lissimore






AT&T STADIUM · FEBRUARY 16 · Rnd 17 of 17

450SX winner: Cooper Webb, KTM

250SX winner: Austin Forkner, Kawasaki

Blog by Steve


Matthes, Photos by James Lissimore











Just one week after the fallout regarding the controversy of

lime that was errantly put down on standing water in San

Diego and left riders with burns and some parts on the

bikes being destroyed, Feld Motorsports had another issue

on their hands in Dallas dealing with the incoming sponsorship

of CBD oil companies.

Marijuana guidelines are relaxing

in a lot of states or in some cases

being legalized. CBD oil, which

is a non-intoxicating marijuana

extract that is being credited with

helping treat a host of medical

problems, has even been used

by some riders to cure aches

and pains from the racing. We’re

seeing more companies pop up

selling the oil, some that are associated

with marijuana companies

and some are just selling the

oil. Privateer Dean Wilson found

himself covering the logos earlier

this year when Feld told him

that because of the vagaries of

the laws from state to state, NBC

- the network TV provider - has

standing policy against accepting

advertising from marijuana

or CBD oil companies. This was

a bit of a mini-controversy to

start the series but in one sense,

Wilson got more publicity out of

it when the logos were forced to

be covered up.

Well Chad Reed started this

whole thing back up last week

in Minneapolis when he debuted

a helmet that had CBDMD.com

logo on it. Reed, being the rebel

that he is, didn’t clear it with

anyone beforehand and caused

a bit of a stir before the race. His

stance was that this company,

unlike Wilson’s, just focused on

the oil itself and wasn’t selling

marijuana with another branch of

the company ala Dean.

“I think it has its place. I really

do. For me personally, a hundred

percent the reason why I started

using it is I moved to Charlotte

and couldn’t ride my bicycle because

it was so cold,” Reed told

me. “So I started running again.

I was just like, dude, I can’t run.

My ankle just hurts daily. So I

kind of almost caved into ‘I’ll try

it’. Everybody talks about it. So

I tried it and long story short, I

didn’t even know but ended up

with the one brand I bought was

cbdMD. They’re locally in Charlotte.

It was kind of funny how it

all worked out. But I think shortterm

sucks, but I think that longterm

they’re here to stay.”

So Reed was allowed to race

with it and Feld went back to the

drawing board with its lawyers

and the AMA. We saw a press release

get issued by the AMA late

last week:

• The law regarding CBD products,

including their lawful sale,

possession, advertising, and

sponsorship of them, is unsettled.

By Steve Matthes

Notwithstanding the change in

federal law in December 2018,

there are no federal regulations

in place yet on how these products

can be advertised or promoted.

No CBD and related products

are not completely legal in all

50 states and there are various

restrictions on their sale and


• Signage or promotional displays

for CBD-related products

will not be allowed in the pit


• No rider will be allowed to race

with logos or other promotional

displays on their person, their

uniform, their gear, or on their


So that was it, Feld brought the

lawyers back to meet with the

riders first on Saturday morning

before Dallas and then with the

media after that. Basically it was

explained that yes, the bill that

was signed in congress makes

the path to marijuana, and therefore

CBD oil, being completely

legal on a federal level but it’s

still up the states to decide what

they want to do and that’s a long

way down the road.

So the policy that shaded Wilson

still stands and Reed’s helmet

had to be covered up.

The bill being signed and reported

in the news confused fans

and teams. Not to mention the

sight of some CBD oil companies

being plastered on riders competing

at the recent X-Games

on another network. And I don’t

know if you’ve looked around

the pits these days but the sport

could use a bit more outside

money coming into it.

We’re all pretty sure, and the Feld

rep agreed, that shortly all of

these concerns will be alleviated

and TV networks will accept the

dollars these companies, that are

doing very well, will be throwing

at them. It’s a larger question

that exists outside of our small

sport right now but, like the

energy drinks fifteen years ago,

could really give the sport a bit

of a jolt. The effects of the CBD

oil can be debated over and over,

this isn’t the column for that

but just know that some people,

including Ken Roczen, use it and

are fans of the oil’s therapeutic


It’s also legal to use via the

WADA drug code, which is a

bonus obviously.

“Obviously it’s frustrating. I feel

like they’re reacting a little bit

too quick on it. I think it’s one

of those things where it’s of ‘an

opinion’. I don’t know that there

are a lot of facts,” Reed said

about the decision “I think they

have certain information that

they’re reacting to. When I asked

those same questions to the cbdMD

people, they obviously are

not as concerned. It’s an ongoing

fight for them. So I think shortterm

it sucks but I believe it’s

something that they’re not going

to be able to turn a blind eye to. I

think that daily, hourly from what

I understand…”

As great as the racing has been

on the track, and it truly has, the

off-track issues have been a real

developing issue in 2019. We’ll

see what comes of this in the

coming months but one thing

for sure, between the lime in

San Diego and now this, the fans

have been really treated to some

juicy topics this year. Stay tuned!



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colours for their Syncron men’s line (blue/white

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In addition the Americans have upped their game

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catalogue allows off-road riders to go head-to-toe

in their well thought-out, cool looking and valuefor-money

wares; now it seems the brand have

some serious stock in the important elements that

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By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer


In the first months of 2009 I remember

asking factory Yamaha rider and

reigning MXGP (then ‘MX1’) world

champion David Philippaerts who he

thought would be one of the biggest

threats for the forthcoming season. It

was quite surprising to hear the Italian

utter “Clement Desalle”. The Belgian,

then just nineteen years old, had caught

the eye with some bursts of speed on a

250cc two-stroke in the premier class

and was a feisty prospect that did not

move over or show much respect to the

older and experienced names of the








Desalle had been a promising youth

prospect, known to the establishment

but eschewed the 250s and MX2 to jump

straight in at the deep end. Struggling a

little with his English and already distinctive

for his intensity and aloofness #25

was easy to capture as the pantomime

villain against the flamboyance of Tony

Cairoli, the liveliness of Marc de Reuver,

the steadfastness of Josh Coppins

and the smooth, uncontroversial form of

Steve Ramon.

Although in a privateer LS Honda setup

(his mechanic at the time is now his

Team Manager at Monster Energy Kawasaki

Francois Lemariey) Desalle fulfilled

Phillippaerts tip: he won two Grands Prix

that year, finished third in the championship

and firmly ‘arrived’ at the highest

level. A good example of Clement’s forthright

character, directness and his unwillingess

to always play the PR game came

in the second victory in the season-closing

Brazilian Grand Prix at Canelinha.

When asked if the triumph mattered

more at the heavily Honda-backed event

the Belgian replied “no, because Honda

do not support me much…”

The honesty was weirdly refreshing and a

little shocking in the nicety of MXGP.

In 2019 Desalle starts his twelfth year in

Grand Prix and before the arrival of Jeffrey

Herlings was easily the second best

rider in the division in terms of numbers:

over twenty winner’s trophies and six

times in the top three of the championship


He was consistently Cairoli’s closest

threat; only injuries to his shoulders

made proceedings a little more straightforward

for the Sicilian.

Now almost 30 and father to two-year

old Emma, Clement has been quietly

developing Kawasaki’s new KX450F this

winter in what will be his fourth term in



He is arguably back at the peak of his

game: third in 2018, injury-free, confidence

imbued, the only winner aside from Cairoli

and Herlings. He has transitioned from a

period where a broken arm and damaged

back interrupted his goals with Kawasaki,

and from that aggressive and occasionally

sensational racer to one that is more

measured and appreciative of the true

value of consistency.

Desalle has a strong motocross background

and the role of his family as a

support structure and solace from the

frequent pain and stress of racing is paramount.

He has been well brought up: he’s

respectful and mannered but also assured

enough to skip the bulls**t and follow his

own path and beliefs.








He can sometimes seem spiky, but like all

enigmatic people at the top of their profession

and skill he’s frequently misunderstood.

Take his interview technique: he can

sometimes brush away a topic or answer

in cliché but he thinks about what he says

and how his words are conveyed. Ask a

question and the answer will evolve as his

thoughts churn. Get into a conversation

and it’s engaging, interesting and sometimes


We’re talking on the morning of the KRT

photoshoot that should take place down

the road in the HQ of the WorldSBK crew

and in the shadow of the Circuit de Catalunya

grandstand. ‘Should’ in that Desalle’s

hire car was broken into the previous evening

and his Airoh helmet and other pieces

of kit and personal belongings have gone

missing. Despite the infuriating inconvenience

Clement is still in the mood to


The big news to hit MXGP recently involved

Herlings’ injury. What’s your take

on that? Is it possibly something that was

on the cards considering the speed and

amount he rides…?

It’s so difficult to always be on the limit.

Every week, every training. I hear he was

riding a lot. Everybody has their own style

of training but to keep at the limit all the

time without any injury is very hard to do.

We don’t know how it is for him. He was

very difficult to beat last season and even

with that injury [the broken collarbone in

the summer of ‘18] then he was still strong

afterwards. With this guy you never really

know and we don’t know the whole story.

I’ll just keep focussed on me and we’ll see

when it comes to the gate in Argentina.

2018 was good: the only non-KTM rider to

win, third in the championship and injuryfree…

Yes, back in the top three with two really

strong guys in front: Cairoli, that I have

fought with for many years, and Herlings

who was almost unbeatable last year. So it

was good because I kept consistent. There

were a lot of positives but of course I want

more and we’re working with the team and

the bike for that and have taken onboard

all the feedback from 2018. We’ve been

analysing…but I think, mentally, it was a


Can you give an example of something

you wanted to work on through the winter

with a view to fighting the KTMs?

It is difficult to be precise with something

like this…a few people will say that the

sand races were difficult but in the same

way I want to modify this perception of

me because it is not true. I was second

in Ottobiano and two years ago I won the

GP in Assen. A sand race is just ‘another’

Grand Prix and, as a rider, the same way

to work and feel has to come together. In

Lommel I was a small setting ‘off’ with

the bike and you quickly lose a few positions

because of something like that. But

coming back to the question…we have a

new bike this year and I think it can help

me in a few moments [during a race]. I

think that is already important. From my

side I made some small changes with

physical preparation, some more details

with nutrition and we’ve had some

help to look at things closely. Overall I’m

pleased to see how this might help with

improvement. I already take good care

about my diet but this is going more

‘into’ what I am doing and eating: I think

it can help a little with the feeling on a

bad day. Sometimes you wake up and

you feel that it will be a hard GP and over

the course of twenty races it is important

to try and feel you best when it counts. I

am also trying to sleep a bit better with

some techniques. I’m a really active guy

and sometimes it is difficult to relax.

As a professional athlete it is interesting

for you to see or many find out how others

have done their preparation? There

is the battle on the track, with the bikes

and then with the individual ideas and


Yeah, sure. It’s nice. At the first race you

think ‘where am I?’ in comparison with

the others. In the end, with experience,


you know where you are and every year

brings a bit more knowledge and knowing

what to expect. Last year I had a

slightly different way to work and I could

feel it was better during the season: I

had a good feeling for longer and this

was curious. It’s interesting to see where

everybody is but you can notice in other

sports as well that some guys are always

pushing more and more; like there is no

limit for preparation. Sometimes there

are too many questions about what you

could do. It’s important to know what is

good for you and what works.

So it can be easy to get lost…

Yes…but I don’t have this problem. I was

better last year at not being so anxious

and critical. I was stronger in my head in

a good way.

Maybe when you are young you don’t

have the support or the resources of being

an experienced factory rider but you

have the strength and the ‘abandon’ to

attack a race. As you get older that situation

must turn around…

That’s true but I still feel – not the craziness

– but the aggression, and in a good

way. This is also important because you

cannot afford to back-off or be lazy. It’s

true that it is good to have balance and

this is something that really comes with


Your MotoGP counterpart is probably

Jorge Lorenzo: an athlete with great

technicality that is always striving for

that little bit extra perfection and is

serious and dedicated with how he goes

about it…

That’s good because I’m a fan! I like to

analyse, especially when it comes to

equipment as well. We’ve had a lot of

new stuff recently but I like to evaluate

everything in real detail. I know sometimes

other guys might think ‘he’s crazy…’

to go into the smallest details…

ut for me it is those little things that gives

you a stronger feeling and that makes the

difference. I always want everything to be

perfect but I know you cannot control everything.

I want to maintain the feeling of ‘I

can do it better’. But, like I said to my Dad

sometimes after a race, I know I am doing

what I want with my life and for that I am

lucky, and there are parts of a race that are

very satisfying such as knowing a particular

technique through one section saved me hitting

a bump and won more time. That helps

with my motivation.

But you also seem to be someone who is

quite hard on himself…

Yes, that’s true and that’s my character. I

know I can be quite hard to live with!

I know sometimes it will look like I am

being negative: to always want to be better

means not always being happy! But it

is more about the search for details…and I

know that some of them are not really important

in life generally.

People might think ‘Desalle is negative’ but

it is just a different style to be better and

to analyse how to do that. I’ve changed my

mentality in the last few years to look at the

more positive parts of what I do and having

my daughter Emma has helped with that.

Also helping with leaving some obsessive

thoughts at the door. There are times when

you cannot ‘leave it outside’ though: things

have to be better and a solution must be

found. You cannot swing to the other side

and say ‘everything is OK…’ and then end

up having a problem and losing the moto.

If we do that then we are fighting to be 7th,

8th or 9th. That’s not what we are searching

for. Again it is about finding a good balance.

It’s a complicated sport: the need to find

the area of satisfaction with results, with

speed but also health. It’s a lot to manage…

It’s not easy! And sometimes you have to

think about it. On some tracks I feel like

I see a lot of ‘green lights’ and I can just

go. But that’s not the case on some others

and you have to play around with what you

can and are prepared to do. Last year I was

struggling on some tracks on Saturday and

could turn it around to make the podium on

Sunday. In Turkey for example it was not so

easy because the track was really fast. So

you have to play around with what you know

you have to do on a weekend. You know the

feeling you have on that one day and you

have to do the best you can with it. Sometimes

it can go well and sometimes you can

lose the whole championship because you

didn’t want 9th or 10th place. That’s happened

to me. I’ve seen ‘red lights’ around

the track and have known it’s better to take

what I can rather than throw the championship








































































































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Fly Racing are reinforcing their position in

the helmet game with serious intent. The

‘Formula’ embraces the latest and maximum

safety measures thanks to technology like

Conehead, varying densities of EPS and an

Adaptive Impact System (AIS) that blends

a high-performance ecosystem of structural

design and energy mitigating materials. Each

layer of AIS is made from RHEON enhanced

Energy Cells, so this is complex and effective


Fly have moved way-and-beyond functional

helmets as part of a full riding gear

catalogue: the Formula is virtually a gamechanger.

The company describe some of the

internal mechanics as: ‘the seven strategically-placed

cells in the EPS liner are designed

to feel natural inside the helmet, resulting in

a seamless fit for the rider.

Their unique shape and maze-like structure

allow the Impact Energy Cells to compress

and shear. Each cell can either compress

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rotational impact. This slight movement

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A control release system for the peak and

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the appeal and aspects of the Formula. In

fact Fly claim it ‘outperformed all helmets

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as well as forces created by rotational and

low speed impacts.’ We’ll have more details

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it’s fantastic to see the company making a

massive forward step in terms of innovation

and a better safety offering to the market.



FOR 2019






By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/Yamaha/KTM/Bavo







2018 MXGP was an anomaly.

There were only three winners

in the premier class. Two of

those scooped a total of just

three Grands Prix between

them. One rider owned all the

other seventeen. In 2017 there

were six victors, in 2016 seven.

World Champion Jeffrey

Herlings has already rolled

out the carpet to invite others

to a scene of more parity

in the category thanks to his

broken right foot. Tony Cairoli,

world #2 and one of the three

‘chosen ones’ of 2018, may

have had one of his driest

seasons last year but Herlings

was not exaggerating when he

claims he saw the 222 riding

better than ever at the age of

32. It will be curious to see if

the lack of a Herlings-pacemaker

will see the nine-times

number one push at the same

or higher intensity or taper-off

his race speed to cope with

the threats around him. Cairoli’s

consistency makes him the

next immediate benchmark

for the title assuming that

Herlings will have missed too

many points by the time he is

fit and race-ready.

A KTM will again be the main

target…but expect more

winners in 2019 because

Herlings’ chastening infliction

of result on his peers last

summer has forced brands,

teams, riders and support

structures to heavily evaluate

their ‘packages’ to combat

the dominance.

Where would you put your

money? Three names pop up

instantly. The only Japanesemachine

mounted MXGP winner

in 2018, Monster Energy

Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle

(with a new KX450F to-boot),

Team HRC’s Tim Gajser

(embracing his first healthy

off-season in two years) and

Monster Energy Yamaha’s

Romain Febvre.

Febvre in particular has

made some alterations to his

training output in an effort

to regain some of that fearless

and energetic form that

drove him onwards to a 2015

championship. 2016 was

ruined by a concussion, 2017

was speared due to a misstep

with set-up of the factory

YZ450FM and 2018 was a

lumpy ride of injury set-backs

and the odd bright spot until he

hit his head again and broke a

rib forcing #461 to sit out the

final Grand Prix and the Motocross

of Nations in the USA.

With some uncharacteristic

bravado the 27 year old told

us exclusively that “overall

this is the best winter I’ve had.

I feel I’m in a great position

with a really good shot of going

for the title.” This would

be common pre-season speak

for many riders but Febvre has

made changes by working with

former world champion Jacky

Vimond (and thus training and

riding frequently with brandmate

Ben Watson) and also

morphing his training regime.

“A lot about technique on

the bike, that has been one

of the main points and when

I’ve trained alone in the last

few years this was not really

something I was looking at

too much,” he admits. “Another

thing is my one-lap speed.

I’ve been doing more interval

training to help with that. In

the past I’d do long motos for

fitness and would forget about

putting raw speed first. I’m

still doing those motos but

in a different way and that’s

been the biggest change.”






speed was much better and

just a few mistakes held me

back – which I think is normal

as it’s been five months since

my last raced.”

Febvre, now five years with

Yamaha, is one of the fastest

riders in MXGP but is also

renowned for being something

of a loner and very

self-reliant and independent.

The new bond with Vimond

and collaboration with Watson

(“we’ve been training together

a lot and I think it is something

we’ll continue through

the season as well. It helps

that he’s in a different class;

we still push each other but it

doesn’t get negative or overly

competitive on the track”) are

signs that an elite-level racer

is not prepared to have race

results dictated to him on a

weekly basis.


As with many, Febvre is looking

to fight the KTM menace…

and he’s doing that by not

thinking about them at all.

“I’m focussing a lot more

on myself in 2019 and that’s

been part of the mental side

of the job with Jacky,” he

reveals. “It’s part of racing as

well. Last year I was perhaps

too worried about certain

other riders and now I don’t

really care what they are doing.

It’s a much more different

approach for me, and we

saw in the first few pre-season

events that it’s working: my

Tim Gajser, a debutant MXGP

World Champion like Febvre,

has a similar tale of injury

woe (2017 lost to at least

two separate crashes and

2018 wrecked by the horrific

Mantova jawbone smash in

pre-season). Include Gautier

Paulin’s return to Yamaha (the

bike with which he won on

his MXGP wild-card debut in

2011) and some interesting

combinations with satellite

KTMs (the ‘Max’s’: Anstie and

Nagl) and there should be a

slightly more colourful aspect

to MXGP podiums.




The World Champion should get

a medical update on his broken

right foot around the time of the

first Grand Prix at the beginning

of March. While his rivals are

accustomed to some ‘flexibility’

with the truth when it comes to

how fit Jeffrey actually is (perhaps

a hangover of disbelief

after his return from collarbone

surgery to win in Indonesia last

July) there is little escaping the

complexity of multiple fractures

to the foot, and how the ailment

will have to be carefully

assessed before he can contemplate

the kind of punishment

riding a dirtbike will cause.

There is also the damage to

his conditioning, race pace

and confidence. The 2018 collarbone

break (also a training

accident) was a momentary

bump of turbulence in a fastflight

to his destination. This

latest episode is a case of a ‘severe

delay’. Herlings will return

and he will win and he’ll have

frustration to exorcise but the


question is ‘when?’



No, not that battle. Tony Cairoli

remains the Austrian factory’s

best hope of an eighth premier

class championship since

2010…and he won’t be alone

for 450 SX-F back-up. Former

teammate Glenn Coldenhoff

– the reaper of RedBud – is

back on his Standing Construct

KTM after recovering from neck

injury and has two capable

teammates in the form of Max

Anstie and Ivo Monticelli (surprisingly

rapid at Hawkstone).

Max Nagl has already shown

some speedy potential on his

return to the brand where he

finished as MXGP championship

runner-up (and the reunion

with Sarholz KTM means

re-nesting where his career

started in Grand Prix) and

Britain’s sole winner in MXGP,

Shaun Simpson, is another one

looking for inspiration in the

orange. Simpson won Grands

Prix in 2015 with KTM and as a

privateer and is also competing

on British shores again in

’19. Former British Champion

Graeme Irwin may have been

forced to end his career due to

complications with a scaphoid

problem but the world championship-winning

brand is still

not short on plenty of top ten

MXGP presence.




There is an aura of mystery

at Wilvo Yamaha. One of the

best and most resourceful

satellite teams in the paddock

is primed for a third term in

‘blue’ but while expectations

remain high their possibilities

are unknown. A rider of

Gautier Paulin’s quality and

dedication should lead to

strong results as they chase

their second Grand Prix victory

but an arguably bigger

question mark lies over the

Frenchman’s friend and equally

technical teammate Arnaud

Tonus. The Swiss’ moto success

at his home round (in a

rookie 450 season) in 2017

helped towards another shot

in 2019. Tonus’ fortunes that

weekend of the summer at

Frauenfeld virtually summed

up his career – skill and speed

to win but then an injury in

the second moto knocking all

that momentum away. Arnaud

hasn’t posted Grand Prix

points since the final round of

2017 so Paulin will not have

an unmotivated fellow racer in

the awning.

And what of the Motocross

of Nations talisman himself?

2019 sees Gautier poised

under the heaviest guillotine

blade of judgement yet. Factory

support at Kawasaki, Honda

and Husqvarna produced

excellent highlights but also

problems with championshipconsistency.

It feels like Gautier

has been labouring under

the cloud of being one of

the best motocrossers of the

modern era not to win a title

for several years but let’s not

forget his age (29 in March),

experience and the real

chance that his decision to



ace with Wilvo Yamaha could

result in the enclave of support

he has been searching for

since he last departed Yamaha

in 2011. If #21 feels good then

he’s capable of magic and he

is long overdue some regular

scraps with others for the top

platform of the box rather than

just the second and third steps.

Nineteen trophies in the last

four seasons mean he is the

most prolific and ‘probable’

outside of the KTM clutch.



The MXGP ‘rookie’ spotlight

falls on just two MX2 achievers

in 2019: Pauls Jonass and

Vsevolod Brylyakov (the Russian

thankfully having recovered

from the shoulder injury

that pushed his career into the

balance). There are several

more names that carry exciting

potential. In the case of the

Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna

team the realignment

from championship contention

(a position assumed since 2015

and when Max Nagl held the

red plate for Kimi Raikkonen’s

squad) to the propulsion of

‘talent in progress’ comes with

the signing of 2017 MX2 world

champion Jonass (frantically

trying to regain ground for riding

and testing after winter

knee surgery) and the surprise

conscription of Arminas

Jasikonis. The tall Lithuanian is

just 21 years old (a year younger

than Jonass) and shone as

a fill-in with the now defunct

factory Suzuki team in ’17.

Steering a largely stock Honda

in ’18 ‘Jasi’ kept his name in

the MXGP frame but has faced

injury interruption. IceOne represents

a fantastic opportunity

and staff inside the KTM group

and Husqvarna circles are

already tipping #27 as the ‘one

to watch’.

There is genuine excitement

around Monster Energy Yamaha’s

Jeremy Seewer. The Swiss

weathered a late team/brand

switch at the end of ’17 to negotiate

a very satisfactory maiden

MXGP season. So much so that

he was elevated into the works

Yamaha set-up and under the

watch of Mino Raspanti and

Michele Rinaldi. Seewer progressed

every single season to

reach the position of MX2 title

challenger in 2017. He will be a

player in 2019: lay a monetary

note for a first MXGP podium

finish now. With Red Bull KTM

already rocked by Herlings’ setback

the podium could be open

for more infiltration.



Sadly for fans of MX2 and riders

with high goals in 2019

the reigning world champion

looks to already be reaching

‘Herlings-esque’ levels of potential.

While almost meaningless

as a gauge of Grand Prix

speed his total lockout of the

three round Italian Championship

(and three podium finishes

against the 450s) should not

be dismissed lightly. Training

partner and mentor Tony Cairoli

may be biased and paying

a degree of lip service when he

claims the eighteen year old

has improved further in the

winter time but – ominously

– that’s to be expected with

someone of the capacity and

youth of Spain’s first ever #1 in

the principal classes. He won

in 2018 by building a vessel of

momentum and in the wake of

a tough pre-season disturbed

by a broken elbow. Starts, sand,

hard-pack, on-track skirmishes,

first laps speed: it’s hard to

find Prado’s weakness, which

means the teenager’s toughest

opponent could be himself and

the resistance to mistakes that

could cause injury or another




Other teams and brands first

need to equal Prado’s vicious

starting prowess. He was easily

the dominant holeshotter

from all classes in 2018 and

while his build is slight there

are other riders with similar

physique in the division.


means an already mighty antagonist.

As a remedy and answer then

look to the very few that managed

to compete or even beat

#61 last year. The onus falls

to HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen

and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s

Thomas Kjer Olsen. In

the meantime there is a litter

of other riders that could

rattle the boat on a given

weekend, names like Watson,

Geerts, Jacobi, Beaton, Sanayei,

Sterry, Mewse, Pootjes

and even Red Bull KTM rookie

Tom Vialle.





Almost twelve months ago MXGP World Champion Tony

Cairoli was stood on the first podium of the 2018 season,

breathing heavily, slightly bewildered and a little p***ed off.

At the back of the Italian’s mind,

somewhere and somehow, there

was also a flicker of calm. Nine

world championships, eight-three

grand prix wins, fifteen years and

two of the last three spent dealing

with the annoyance of injury all

carried a deep reserve of experience.

The first Grand Prix on a calendar

can mean a hell of a lot. It is

also the initial thrust of many in

the fight. It is fascinating to watch

how professional racers tackle and

then cope with the aftermath of a

championship opener. In Cairoli’s

case the defending No.1 came to

the Neuquen circuit in Argentina

after strong pre-season, another

Italian domestic crown, the incentive

of a tenth world title and the

knowledge that Red Bull KTM

teammate Jeffrey Herlings would

represent his hardest ever challenge.

He earned the first Pole

Position of 2018 and then won the

first moto by a second from the


Cairoli was a lap away from making

it 1-1 before Herlings’ emphatic

assault and victory, thus earning

the overall triumph and putting

Cairoli – who’d erred several occasions

while leading – on the

second step.

It was clear the defeat stung. Some

of Tony’s post-race comments carried

the tone of frustration but he

was also swift to (at least publicly)

default to the position of acknowledging

a strong result to begin the


The nerves and excitement of the

first race (and on a circuit that

almost all the riders like to attack)

means that Grand Prix #1 carries

special significance…but depending

on the classification on Sunday

afternoon a rider may then dismiss

or harness the overall emotion and

feeling from that unique twentyfour

hours. Cairoli was fast, mostly-consistent

and represented the

sole affront to the Herlings threat.

He could have soaked-up a win

that could have been a big statement

against his foe and the rest

of MXGP - and those that were

perhaps questioning his age and

ability to tussle with younger opponents

- instead he was having

to equate the day as 47 points


In a different place emotionally,

try telling Herlings the day at

Neuquen only signified points. For

the Dutchman it was a risky and

thrilling repost to Cairoli’s A-game.

He rallied from the arm-pump that

affected his Saturday Heat race to

pound an exhilarating stamp on

the series. You could argue that

(while there were still hundreds of

miles of racing laps to run) he laid

the first slab of a dominant championship

in that Argentina volcanic

ash. The belief and confidence

flowed from that moment. Herlings

is also wise to the tremendous

highs and lows of this sport so

would not have sailed too far on

that one-day achievement but

By Adam Wheeler

he - and maybe others in MXGP –

knew something that brewing that


It is possible to count the hours

until MXGP 2019 bounces free of

the start devices. Once again Cairoli

is the man of the pre-season

events and he is almost unbeaten

in three rounds and weeks of Italian

competition (teammate Jorge

Prado actually holds that distinction

in MX2 and must be odds-on

to sweep Neuquen). He might

have had to realign his orientation

on Neuquen however. Considering

Herlings’ strength in 2018 an

equal-points finish would represent

a very good day at the races

if the Dutchman was still in commission.

Tony may have said in

these very pages that he is “out to

win” in 2019 but he has all those

FIM medals because he knows the

price of a GP top three and top five

result in the premier class. Now in

Argentina he must be aware that

anything like the performance levels

of 2018 means that extra dose

of elation.

Or does he? Many riders in the

off-season talk of ‘focussing on

themselves, their programmes,

their own potential’. It means when

they all push into the gate for

that very first moto on Sunday in

South America they will be looking

along the line wondering whether

their whole approach and winter

of work has actually hit the mark.

It is hard to imagine they are not

curious about the others. They

will have seen crumbs of speed,

fitness and form in races like the

Italian series and Internationals

at Hawkstone Park and LaCapelle

Marival but that is also a time

when tests are ongoing and experienced

campaigners will not be

rushing to find limits. Riders even

talk about not ‘wanting to peak’ in

the first Grands Prix of a seventh

month trawl across the globe so

that could add extra irrelevance to

Argentina and the results sheets.

A host of different physical and

mental regimes and individual stories

with confidence, set-up, team

chemistry and confidence will be

colliding in the din of revving throttles

behind the gate.

It is revealing to hear Romain

Febvre saying that thoughts of his

rivals in 2018 was actually detrimental.

Surely some appreciation

and analysis of the others is smart

strategy? Perhaps in a sport where

the parameters and boundaries

move week-on-week depending on

track, conditions and fitness then

it’s just too much to digest.

Round one can be a confusing

situ of smoke and mirrors but - as

presumed with Herlings - it can be

a launch pad, and Jeffrey isn’t the

only one. Pauls Jonass was rarely

more comprehensive in 2018 than

at Argentina and cleared-off with

the next two Grands Prix. Back in

2015 Max Nagl won in Qatar and

then Argentina also and led the

championship for the first half of

the season.

However, while interesting and

often surprising the ‘power’ of the

first round is debatable. Cairoli is

actually the strongest example for

this. #222 has won in the premier

class in 2009, ‘10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14

and 2017. Guess how many times

he claimed the opening Grand Prix

in that period?



Just twice: 2012 and 2017. In

2011 he struggled through an

injured knee and was 9th overall

in Bulgaria: the worst ‘opener’

in his career in the MXGP division…but

he still gathered the

bigger prize. And yet…we can

surmise that his vitality in conquering

the last Grand Prix of

Qatar two years ago was also a

‘latch-freeing’ exercise towards

the ninth world championship?

After all it was his first Grand

Prix win without pain or restriction

after 2015 and 2016.

in Grand Prix. Who will make the

two flights and 27 hour trip back

to the UK with some shiny metal

and a (possibly beneficial) glow?

Grand Prix number one: it’s not

easy to deduce it’s importance

but it can be an early and possibly

vital part of a racer’s story

come the wind-down of another


Pre-season activities can also

muddy the water. I’ll still put a

20 euro note on the table that a

rider like Kemea Yamaha’s Ben

Watson (whose 4th position at

Neuquen kickstarted the next

level of his GP career) will be

fighting for the MX2 podium in

Argentina…but the Brit’s 2019

races so far have seen a litany

of issues both bike and rider

related. On the other hand countryman

Adam Sterry made a

fantastic GP debut in Argentina

two years previously and shone

at last weekend’s Hawkstone

Park International but now has

to step-up and prove his chops






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Spring collection time for 100% and the San

Diego firm never fail to hit the mark with

their product style and design. Among the

expanded and revised collections there are

new looks for frames and straps. 100%’s

range is comprehensive (junior, OTG, mud

with the Forecast, road with the Barstow) and

so is the choice when it comes to aesthetics

across their off-road models of Racecraft +,

Racecraft and Accuri (the entry line goggle

still good enough that riders such as Red Bull

KTM’s Marvin Musquin and Cooper Webb

swear by them). Fresh for Spring is the ‘Andre’

and for Accuri the ‘Bali’, ‘Berlin’ and the



Tech specs vary slightly (as you’d expect) but

one of 100%’s strongest features since day

one has been the ability to interchange lenses

with frames across the line, so you can be set

for any kind of riding condition or any particular

look. Have a scan through the full roster by

hitting a link and thanks to strong distribution

it is not hard to source a pair of 100%s. Prices

for the Racecraft hit 65-75 dollars (depending

on the lens) and 45-60 for the Accuri.








By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer

On the last day of the first month of the New Year the

FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship moved into

a new era. There had been whispers for some time that

the series was being packaged and placed in a shop window

but the acquisition of promoters Youthstream by Swiss sports

marketing company Infront was the first serious shift in the

foundations of Grand Prix racing since the current incumbents

purchased the television, marketing and global rights from

Dorna in 2003.

Youthstream, under control of the Luongo family – principally

father and son Giuseppe and David – have a long association

with motocross, stretching back into the 1980s as race and

championship promoters. The firm’s stint at the helm of the

FIM World Championship began in the mid-1990s as Action

Group before the sale to MotoGP rights holders Dorna in 2000.


Reborn as Youthstream in 2002 they

bought back motocross a year later by

observing Dorna’s hesitancy and insecurity

with the profit-making model applied

to the sport.

They have been overseeing Grand Prix

(through the four-stroke MX1/MX2 formula

and up to the present MXGP/MX2

definition today with heavy influence over

the EMX European Championships as

well as other disciplines like the FIM Junior

World Championship, Veterans and

FIM Snowcross) ever since.

Former professional footballer David

Luongo has been steering the work and

direction of the company at ground level

for the last five years and has seen excellent

headway in the presentational aspect

of MXGP, a larger global footprint, a

surging social media audience and reach,

renewal of the Monster Energy title sponsorship

deal and improved dialogue with

the motorcycle industry and co-promoters

such as AMA Pro National runners

MX Sports. There have been bumps in

the road: the SMX ‘Supermotocross’ Cup

venture in 2016 was an attempt at European

motocross in a Supercross setting

and with AMA-level ambitions but was a

victim of an already overcrowded international

dirtbike calendar.

Infront are no strangers to FIM racing.

They supervised the WorldSBK championship

for six years between 2007-2012

before continuing their part in the merrygo-round

hand-off of power by allowing

Dorna to assume rights over both MotoGP

and Superbike.

The Infront-Youthstream alliance means

a fresh front on the organisation and

promotional face of MXGP for another

seventeen years. It comes at a time when

the FIM have a new president (Jorge

Viegas) for the first time since 2006 and

with staunch MXGP supporter Dr Wolfgang

Srb unexpectedly dipping out of

the election process for the position and

seemingly from the FIM political picture.

The announcement on January 31st naturally

provoked a raft of questions: How

will MXGP change? What will Infront do

with the championship? How much influence

will Youthstream retain?

Asking key figures such as David Luongo

and Julien Ternisien, Infront Vice President

Summer Sports, for their initial

strategies for Grand Prix was the next

point of call and both willingly (if, understandably,

a little guardedly) gave their

opinions on several enquires.

Their accessibility is to be applauded but

there is little doubt that all cards (if any)

will be laid on the table at this stage.

MXGP, as an elite representation of the

sport, is very far from being a broken

series and the last thing Infront will want

is to destabilise the remodelled ship as it

veers out from port.

There is an element of unpredictability

to the partnership though, and the extent

of Infront’s activity and engagement in

MXGP and Youthstream’s working practices

(and whether they can both sail

along) is water yet to be charted. Back

in 2001 Dorna employed virtually a full

roster of Action Group management to

assist in the transition of what an unstable

and politically ‘hot’ period for the

sport. Why? Grand Prix was run as a full

125, 250 and 500cc calendar for the first

time but with the unpopular one-moto

format. Before the mid-point of the 2001

season Dorna cleared out Action Group staff

from their organisation. They had introduced

a new level of TV production and maintained

prize money but the calendar shrank to

twelve fixtures, investment already halted in

2002 (and was cut for 2003) and the Motocross

Des Nations that same year tumbled

to the nadir of cancellation and last minute

revival as a boycotted ‘B-list’ event in Spain.



The joint Youthstream-Infront press

release claims that a firmer hand will

remain on the tiller this time and it will

be a familiar one. ‘The management

of the Monaco-based company will

remain unchanged under the direction

of President Giuseppe Luongo together

with David Luongo as CEO and Daniele

Rizzi as COO,’ the document states.

“From the very beginning of our discussion

it was clear from both parties

that the management, the people and

the philosophy of Youthstream should

not change,” offers David Luongo exclusively.

“Thanks to our work, choices

and strategy during the last decade

we brought MXGP to an amazing level,

and in that respect Infront will help us

to reach the next steps of our developments.”

“Infront aims to develop a new motorsports

and extreme sports platform,

and thank to the knowledge and the

expertise of Youthstream we are be the

best partners to work on that.”

“No changes are planned,” he reiterates

“as the structure and the format

of our different championships are

working very well but the expertise and

relations of Infront in the TV rights,

Marketing world wide and the window

on Asia will for sure bring the MXGP

to the next steps in term of popularity

and awareness.”

The role of Infront as a passive Big

Brother and facilitator of MXGP to

wider circles is the strongest party line

coming out of the deal. Judging by

their efforts and stance in WorldSBK

this is their MO. “When Infront stepped

into WorldSBK it was hardly noticeable

from the management and

sport point of view, they just

left the championship management

as it was and they looked

after the Media and production

side; I guess this is what is

going to happen also with MX,”

Biel Roda, Marketing & PR

boss of WorldSBK Champions

Kawasaki Racing Team told

us. “They will let management

keep working as they’ve done

in the past and be a partner in

the Media/TV production side.

It will be a mix of experience of

the existing management plus

the strength of a big multinational


Youthstream’s objective to take

Grand Prix ‘more global’ has

sparked debate among teams

and fans and is based around

the concerning expense of

racing in the 21st century as

well as some of the suitability

of far-flung circuits where

facilities and knowledge of the

sport might not be as elevated

as in the European heartland

of motocross. The Grand Prix

of Qatar from 2013-2017 was a

well-supported (and well-liked)

cash-driven floodlit spectacle

with initial good intentions to

expand the sport in the Middle

East and connection point

from west to east, but it was

far removed from the earthy

roots of motocross as a decent

circuit experience for fans.

Then for every slick, atmospheric

and popular Grand Prix

in Brazil – for example - there

were also others that didn’t

quite hit the same heights for

organisation or facilities.

Regardless of the rate of efficacy,

expansion has been

a success in terms of giving

new (or starved) audiences a

flavour of MXGP and deepening

the richness and diversity

of the series. As an FIM World

Championship MXGP (as long

as it is reasonably sustainable

for teams and those who

make up the show) has a duty

to explore other territories,

markets and cultures, to find

new fans and re-inspire the old

or distant ones. From a sporting

point of view the fact that

riders have to tackle sapping

Dutch or Belgian sand one

week, marbley Czech soil the

next and then the heat and

humidity of Asian hard-pack a

few days later only hikes the

demands and challenge of the

championship further.

In 2019 MXGP will visit China

and Hong Kong for the very

first time. The calendar also involves

two rounds in Indonesia

for the second year in a row,

a journey to a popular stop in

Russia and the championship

opener in Argentina in two

weeks time. The zeal to keep

stretching Grand Prix is unlikely

to shrink…and it seems

with Infront there is even more

‘back-up’ to make that happen.

David Luongo says the bond

between the companies is not

a snapshot decision.

“We have relationship and

communications with Infront

and its top management for

years thanks to the great

respect both companies and

people have to each other,” he

states. “It has been a several

months of discussion to cover

all the aspects of such acquisition,

and we would like to

thank Infront for their great interest

in MXGP and our work

in general.”

“The most important point

for us was for Infront to feel

comfortable with the special

family spirit of the motocross

and its DNA,” he adds. “We

met people [there] that are really

passionate about motorsport

and it is very promising.

The deal cannot be compared

with the Action Group/Dorna

agreement because the MXGP

FIM World championship is

definitely in another dimension

today in term of popularity.”

“We have been monitoring

Youthstream for a couple of

years as we were looking for

new properties in motorsports

and as we always thought it

was a fantastic product,” says

Infront’s Julien Ternisien. “Infront

will take an active role

at Youthstream board level,

thus also being involved in

key strategic decisions for the

company. We will also take

an active role in all aspects

of commercialising the media

and marketing rights to the



series represented by Youthstream as well as

in supporting YS to accelerate the international

development of MXGP.”

When prompted to identify the strengths of

MXGP, Ternisien’s reply backs-up Luongo assertion

that Infront have looked carefully into

the potential of the sport. “[It] is one of motorsport’s

fastest growing and most promising

properties,” he says, “one of few sports where

the results are completely unpredictable and

[is] great for fans. The growth the sport has

recently shown is part of a long-term strategy

with a focus on supporting and developing

young riders from the very beginning.

Commercially, we see potential for further

optimisation in sponsorship, media sales and

digital marketing activities.”

“We will collaborate very closely to further

improve fan experience, content offering and

ultimately grow the global community in motocross,”

he offers on Infront’s expected influence.

“We aim at taking the sport to the next level of

commercial success by activating our extensive

media and sponsorship network as well as our

full suite of innovative sports solutions. This

goes hand-in-hand with improving media sales

and accelerating digital marketing activities,

including further improving the MXGP-TV OTT

platform for fans all over the world.”

“Just to provide a benchmark: In the five

years Infront was a partner to WorldSBK it

contributed significantly to the successful

international development of the series and

proved its capabilities in adding value. Key

achievements included: Streamlined positioning

of the series including implementation of

major re-branding project, significant increase

of broadcast coverage (+80% cumulative live

/ re-live audience; +58% live coverage; +40%

number of broadcast partners), improvements

of media production, e.g. implementation

of HDTV standard, on-board cameras and

new onscreen graphics, implementation of a

online and social media strategy, increased

geographical spread and international appeal

(new races in Russia, India, Indonesia; return

to Laguna Seca and Jerez de la Frontera)

and added major international brands to the

sponsorship rooster, including Eni as new title

sponsor and Tissot as timing sponsor.”

“Those examples are just of illustrative nature

and of course this doesn’t mean we will be

able replicate all achievements for MXGP,” he


David Luongo: “I am sure this collaboration

will bring new ideas but for the moment the

line is the continuity of our work and to finetune

the championships. It is a ‘new gate’ that

opens for our sport and we are super, superexcited

and happy about this new challenge.

For sure it is not the end of my family in our

favourite sport but it is the opening of a new


With Monster Energy again the dominant

brand in MXGP and now Infront an active

partner the championship has enjoyed a flurry

of positive business activity, and it will be interesting

to see how any immediate and midterms

results of these negotiations will flow

down into the state and infrastructure of the

paddock and spectacle.

In a difficult decade for the motorcycle industry

an accepted wisdom has been ‘the more

dynamic and reactionary and speculative the

brand, the more maximisation of their potential

and capability to hit the waves’. During

that time MXGP has been chiselled here-andthere

and the open surge into social media

distribution has produced impressive gains

but it is time to try ‘twisting’ instead of ‘sticking’

and it seems there is now the means to

do that.





TV – Live television production

is one of the biggest

budget swallowers for Youthstream

and might be one area

that Infront could introduce

measures and/or improvements.

From full coverage of

the four motos for MXGP and

MX2, to broadcast of just the

second motos and then provision

of a magazine ‘highlights’

show MXGP is adaptive with

its TV package. But don’t

expect too much deviation,

especially on the live outlay

(that would involve tinkering

with the root of the sport

itself). “For the time being

we have no immediate plans

to change the format of live

coverage,” says Ternisien. “It

is well established and known

to the fans. Having said this,

we will of course have discussions

with all parties involved

throughout the season and

see if there is need and/

or potential for future optimisations.”

It is the biggest

commercial asset for the

championship however and

undoubtedly the first area of


MXGP is chugging away on

the channels that count. A

measurement of Infront’s

expertise could see the rate of

content or numbers involved

surge further in 2019 and


Distribution – Where, when

and how MXGP can be found

and enjoyed is another focus

point. Bountiful presence on

Youtube and social media is

a bonus as is the (excellent

value for money) MXGP-TV

streaming pass but mainstream

TV exposure is an area

of the business constantly in

flux and the addition of the

series to the Eurosport catalogue

was a very bright move

in recent years. For fans in

the UK, especially, the sight

of Grand Prix motocross on

principal sport or TV channels

has been in short supply. “We

will collaborate to improve

our TV coverage thanks to

the power of sale of such a

group,” Luongo says. “Infront

has offices of representation

all around the world which

will give a big boost to find

new markets.”

Social Media – Even more

spread? 715,000 followers

on Instagram, 2.6 million on

Facebook, 64,000 on Twitter,

155,000 on YouTube (with millions

of video views) means



Format – Two motos per class

is a time-honoured format and

was only ditched (to much

derision) from 2001-2003 in

an effort to streamline the

sport to increase the chances

of mass appeal through television.

Youthstream experimented

with a ‘Superfinal’

in the 2013 overseas Grands

Prix that mixed the top riders

of MXGP and MX2 for the

second race but what should

have been a simplification of

motocross actually created

confusion and posed questions

over the safety of 450cc

and 250cc motorcycles tackling

the same obstacles at

the same time. Expect four

motos to remain in place even

if it remains cumbersome for

live television coverage and

the packages that broadcast

networks will be prepared to


Rules – There will be questions

over the innovation

aspect of MXGP (especially

with other series like MotoGP

making a big push behind

electric bike racing in 2019)

but the FIM and Youthstream

have always been resolute

that the motorcycle should

not take priority over the capabilities

of the rider. Expect a

dim view of more electronics

and other aspects that could

inflate the costs of racing even

further, but perhaps the Infront/Youthstream

axis could

start to develop ideas like live

telemetry for the benefit of

TV/entertainment purposes,

much in the same way AMA

Supercross has started to do.


Calendar – A pan-global

twenty-round series is unlikely

to be reduced. Even more

exploration of non-European

markets could be on the cards

and the continuing search to

re-introduce MXGP to Japan,

South America, the Middle

East and the biggest nut to

crack: north America.



Elegant, practical and functional, with a

touch of style: pretty much what you’d expect

from Husqvarna with their first Vitpilen &

Svartpilen collection. The brand themselves

describe the range as: ‘revamped premium

garments and lifestyle accessories that allows

Husqvarna Motorcycles enthusiasts to

confirm their style with clothing and accessories

designed to meet the dynamics of a

modern life.’ We’re talking two different jackets,

three variations of casual/riding pants,

three different glove offerings and two crash

helmet variations.


One of which, the Pilen (made by French firm

SHARK) perfectly captures the Street character

of the eye-catching white bikes. The

Eliminator – shown here – is equally distinctive.

Hit any of the links to go direct to the

page for a browse or curious look. There is

also a pair of high-top riding ‘trainers’ made

for the firm by REV’IT. Highlighted here is the

Pilen jacket (again by REV’IT) which contains

CE approved protection in the shoulders and

elbows, a back protector slot and includes a

removable thermal layer and hood. A bikerfit

‘Progress’ jacket made of cowhide means

there is another choice.




More than Europe’s

largest MC store

I’m H.A.P.P.Y. I know I am, I’m sure I am…

I am writing this sitting in my office

when I should be sitting on a plane

at 39,000ft travelling to Australia.

Despite making the application

three weeks ago, my Visa still

hasn’t come through and I have

been unable to leave.

It has only been in the last five

years that we have had to apply

for this temporary, short stay work

Visa and at the cost of $290AUD

the efficiency doesn’t seen to have

matched the $200 increase in that

time. Up until now it has taken no

more than 7 days to process but for

some reason this year it has disappeared

into a black hole. Added

to that the customer services help

desk is of the chocolate teapot variety,

I am going nowhere fast.

This, added to another couple of

headaches that are persisting at

the moment, places me slap bang

on the centre of the F**ked Off

Zone…….and a race wheel hasn’t

even turned in anger!

That was yesterday and with the

help of a few emails from a person

I know who knows some people,

my visa arrived, a day late, and I

rebooked the flights for this evening

(Friday). With my bags already

packed and good to go it has afforded

me a little free time and I

have taken the chance to get out

and pedal my bike on what is an

unseasonably bright and sunny day

in Glasgow. Some welcomed fresh

air and exercise before I sit in a big

tin can for the best part of a full


With the stress of getting the travel

organized it was nice to finally

arrive in Melbourne on a sunny

Sunday morning. I even scored a

cheeky little upgrade from Emirates

on the way to Dubai so I took

advantage and had a proper sleep

on the first leg of the journey.

It was straight to the track from the

airport and into a full day of photoshoots,

mainly team shots and set

up pictures for press kits but it is

time consuming for the amount of

content generated and takes a lot of

post production editing. I pushed

through the jet lag to get it all

finished so I could concentrate fully

on the track action today.

Like every season before, this is

when the talking stops and we see

who are the real contenders for the


There are many potential challengers

to Jonathan Rea’s crown but I

have this nagging feeling that we

are waking up on Groundhog Day.

Kawasaki introduced their rider

line-up, who we all knew anyway,

and their 2019 livery at a launch

event, in San Remo, just off the

Island, on Saturday evening. Yours

truly should have been there but

thanks to my Visa fiasco I had to

get Vaclav Duska Jnr to stand in for

me and I must say a big thank you

for doing a sterling job. I had shot

the bike and riders in Seville at the

end of February and apart form an

additional bit of branding here and

there, the bike looks exactly the

same. Kawasaki has made all their

changes to engine internals that

you can’t see.

By Graeme Brown

With an increase in horsepower on

the production version of the Ninja

ZX-10RR, the race machine will now

have parity with the other manufactures

when it comes to the top end

of their rev limit. The engine characteristics

have changed to make

it more responsive. One complaint

JR had last year was that losing

top end revs meant that in some

corners he struggled to find the

right gear to get sufficient drive. I

remember he told me how tough

Misano was last year for that reason.

It was tough, but he claimed

a double win. That therefore can

only lead me to think that with an

improved bike the 2019 championship

is his to lose rather than go

out and win it.

For me the obvious challengers are

the same ones as before – both

Ducati and Yamaha riders, Tom

Sykes, now on the new BMW, and

his team-mate, Leon Haslam. Who

will it be and will they have enough

to claim the title themselves?

Standing trackside shooting on

Monday morning one thing struck

immediately, Alvaro Bautista looked

lightning fast, way quicker than

anyone else.

Experience has told me that that

never translates to the timesheets.

However, today I would be put back

in in my bock. Bautista topped the

timesheets all day, but only by a

few tenths from Alex Lowes on the

Yamaha. Rea finished third fastest

of the combined sessions, but in

the afternoon he fell behind team

mate Haslam, albeit the wind had

got up, and the morning times

remained the fastest over the whole


Sykes and Davies were further

down in the final scores. The Yorkshireman

still learning and adapting

to his new steed whilst I fear Davies

may still be suffering from the back

injury that sidelined him in Jerez

and Portimao.

The other quick fella today, and

looking the part, was Alex Lowes

on the Yamaha. Alex is a rider

with a style that always ‘looks’ fast

and today it was great to see him

knocking on the door. Pre-event he

was quoted that he feels he can be

an ever present on the podium this


It’s a bold statement but on today’s

showing at least, why not?

However, one swallow doesn’t make

a summer and we have another

full day of testing tomorrow. By the

time you read this you will know if

what I have written is irrelevant –

well more so than normal - and in

any event Saturday’s podium places

will be decided on Saturday after

22 laps of one the best motorcycle

racing circuits on the planet, not

from a day of testing.

I have slowly moved out of the FO

Zone and back into my normal

slightly grumpy, mildly miserable,

West of Scotland self. That’s just

me but I am in the Happy Zone.

At 9:15am I was standing on the

outside of Siberia corner, camera

in hand, blue skies above and

the southern ocean off to my left

watching a string of motorbikes

creep out of pit lane, down to turn

one and make there way round the

Southern Loop towards me. I can’t

think of many better places to be

on a Monday morning.










Words & Photos by Steve English and GeeBee Images





Don’t count on it but whether

2019 is the year that Jonathan

Rea finally trips-up is a

legitimate talking point in the

WorldSBK paddock. The four

times champion has dominated

WorldSBK in recent years

but for the first time since

joining Kawasaki, he might be

forced to look over his shoulder

at a bag full of rivals.

The foundation of Rea’s success

has been built on dominance

over his teammate.

With Tom Sykes put in his

place, Rea felt the confidence

that comes from being able

to focus on a single title

rival. Typically this has been

Chaz Davies, but for 2019 the

Yamaha has looked strong

in testing and the blue machine

has four capable riders.

Ducati has an all-new bike

and with WorldSBK regulars

Davies and Eugene Laverty

joined by MotoGP refugee

Alvaro Bautista the Italian

manufacturer has the personnel

capable of getting back to

the front. Add in a motivated

Sykes on a brand new BMW

and you’ve got a mouth-watering


Fighting a title battle is hard

enough but fighting it out

over multiple fronts is even

more difficult. Rea is going to

have to go through a wall of

opposition this season. The

Kawasaki is the most versatile

machine and Rea is the

greatest Superbike rider of all

time but he won’t count out his

rivals in 2019. At races where

Rea isn’t quite able to perform

to the maximum, he might

suddenly find himself behind

a host of bikes and fighting for

fifth rather than the safe podiums

that we’ve seen in recent

years, on his rare off-days.

This could be the year where

the drive for five ends in disappointment

for Rea.





Ducati have put their flag on

the mast. The Panigale V4 R

has to win the title. The Italian

manufacturer has changed

tact, broken from their tradition

of a twin-cylinder machine

and fallen into line.

Ducati has said that: “we

aren’t committed to an engine

format, a trellis frame or

anything other than winning.

We’ve made these changes to

make sure that Ducati can win










No pressure on Davies and

Bautista in that case.

The Spaniard comes with lots

of hype. He is expected to

win and win regularly. Ducati

replaced Marco Melandri because

podiums at every other

race wasn’t enough. They

wanted more. Now arguably

the biggest question entering

the 2019 season is whether

Bautista can get the job done.

He’ll go to Phillip Island having

endured a difficult transition

to WorldSBK. Ducati has

their new bike and are still

learning to understand it. Bautista

is learning how to feel

the Pirelli tyres and a Superbike.

It’s a big shift and one

that many riders have struggled

with in the past. Can the

Spaniard be different and join

Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa

as MotoGP castoffs who won a

title in WorldSBK? It remains

to be seen but Phillip Island is

the best place in the world to

start because with two days of

testing in advance he can get

up to speed, have his bike settings

in the ball park and race

at a track he knows and loves.

‘PI’ is a track tailor made for

almost every rider on the grid.

If there’s a rider who doesn’t

like Phillip Island, I’ve yet to

meet him. Bautista fought for

the MotoGP podium in Australia

last October and now he

starts his SBK career here.




After more than 15 years

Honda Racing Corporation is

back in WorldSBK. The last

time there was a full factory

effort from HRC in WorldSBK,



the landscape was very different.

Castrol Honda and Colin

Edwards won the title at Imola

in one of the most talked about

races in recent history, and if

you’d said then that the big ‘H’

would have only five wins in the

last five years you’d have been

taken for a fool.

Ultimately resources were spent

in MotoGP and other projects

but now, finally, Honda are ready

to once again invest in WorldS-

BK and to try and win big. But it

will take time. The Fireblade has

left much to be desired since the

new model was introduced. However

going forward this could be

the start of something big. Honda

will win again in WorldSBK

but it would be a shock if this

occurs in 2019. This season is

almost certain to be a learning

year for the Moriwaki-run effort,

where Honda evaluate the championship.

As the term progresses

they should make some strong

steps forward.

BMW on the other hand looks

the part, has a brand new bike

that looks to be fast and have

invested heavily. Tom Sykes is

the headline signing but don’t

underestimate their technical investments

with Pete Benson and

Pete Jennings as crew chiefs.

Benson is a multiple Grand Prix

world championship winning

technician, and they don’t come

cheap. The Shaun Muir Racing

partnership is an interesting one

and one that can succeed.

The team has shown that

when it has its ducks in a row

it can be a good team but

now with BMW support - and

their financial clout behind

them this could be the start of

something big.

The bike has been quick in

testing. Whether it’s quick

enough to win races remains

to be seen but don’t rule it

out. Sykes will have Superpole

successes with this bike

and the 2013 world champion

finally has the engine characteristics

he’s been chasing for


He’s motivated and hungry.

He’s a former world champion

and he’s spent four years

being punched in the face by

Rea. Sykes is backed into a

corner but he’ll be looking to

come out swinging. If he’s fast

in Phillip Island, a traditional

bogey track, he can be fast





Michael van der Mark, Marco

Melandri, Alex Lowes and

Sandro Cortese. Between

them they have a 250ccGP

championship, two World Supersport

titles, a Moto3 crown

and a youngest ever British

Superbike champion. It’s not

a bad line-up by any stretch

of the imagination. Is it good

enough to get Yamaha back to

winning titles?

The problem for Yamaha

might well be that there’s

actually too much competition.

If you’re looking for a

first crown since Ben Spies












in 2009, you need an alpha.

You need a leader. It’s up to

the Yamaha riders to find that

pecking order as quickly as

possible. Making that even

more complicated is that

Crescent Racing are the established

Yamaha squad and

the designated reference

team, and they have to contend

with GRT Racing. GRT

are making the step up from

the Supersport class and are

keen to show their potential.

They will want to be the top

Yamaha squad just as much

as their riders want to assert


With the teams able to share

data it will be interesting to

see how that pooling process

operates. Will Alberto Columbo,

Chaz Davies’ old crew

chief, be able to filter the info

and improve the package? It

certainly looked that way during


The R1 was fast and consistent.

Lowes was the standout

but van der Mark has never

been a rider that has been

known for his testing performances.

He’s a racer and

when the Superpole session

begins in Australia he’ll be

right there. Lowes on the

other hand has been spending

the winter changing his riding

style and no athlete was busier

at the January tests than

the Englishman. It was a close

run fight between Rea and

Lowes to be the most impres-

sive rider during those tests.

Can the 2013 BSB champion

make the step up in 2019 that

many have been waiting for?

He’s now a race winner and

has the belief that he can win


Van der Mark knows that he

can beat Rea in a straight up

fight. The Dutchman fractured

his scaphoid - the same injury

that ruled Jorge Lorenzo out

of MotoGP testing - in Qatar

last year but Van der Mark is

now almost back to full fitness.

It’s just in time for the

start of the campaign and he’s

going to be a contender once


Melandri and Cortese are

the wildcards. The Italian is

always a potential race winner

and if he readapts to the

Yamaha he’ll be a force to

be reckoned with. He did the

double ‘down under’ last year

and he’ll be out to start his

season with podiums again.

Melandri thought his career

was coming to an end in 2018

so he’ll race with nothing to

lose this year. Cortese has

been making steps all winter.

He’s a former Moto3 and

Supersport champion; and

while it will take time for him

to learn a Superbike he could

have some good results.



In a word...yes! The new format

will see extra track action

each weekend. We’ll have the

normal Saturday and Sunday

races along with the Superpole

session. That session

will change this year to being

a free-for-all, with the entire

grid on track together. Winner

takes all and the fastest will

be on pole for Race 1. It will

also set the grid for the allnew

Superpole Race. This is

the biggest change, but having

extra action on the Sunday is

a real positive for the crowds.

The extra affair will be a ten

lap race. Meaning we will have

short sprints at Laguna Seca

but at a longer circuit like Portimao,

it will be much more

tactical and should encourage

a balls to the wall, winnertakes-all


We go to racetracks to watch

the big classes. Supersport

300 and the Supersport categories

offer great action but

just like Moto2 and Moto3,

it’s the top dogs that get the

attention. The fans pay to see

Rea and Davies, Van der Mark

and Sykes. They’ll get an extra

chance this year and that can

only be a good thing.



Despite the evidence of increased

parity it’s still tough

to bet against Rea. He’s the

man to beat until someone

takes the title from him. That

being said, Rea isn’t invincible

and there’s now a pack of riders

that will be thirsty for that

chance. The biggest question

going into the season is going

to be if they can do it consistently





More than Europe’s

largest MC store

Having recently celebrated my 40th birthday (I know,

thanks), there is an important life question that I have found

myself mulling over quite a lot: at what age is it still acceptable

for a man to wear a tracksuit?

You see, I am a big fan of the

tracksuit: sporty, comfortable, and

the closest you can come to looking

like an athlete without having

to bare your arms. There comes a

stage in every man’s life, however,

when you put on a tracksuit and

look less like Usain Bolt and more

like Elton John. The moment that

happens, you need a good friend

around to let you know.

So, what about the 40-year-old who

still goes to work in a trackie top,

cargo shorts, Monster Energy cap

and Nike Air high-tops? As a new

MotoGP season dawns, just weeks

after celebrating his own landmark

birthday, I fear Valentino Rossi

might well be facing the biggest crisis

of his professional career. And,

sadly, I don’t think Uccio is going to

be the guy to help him out on this


Thankfully, Valentino has plenty

of other friends around the world,

as the occasion of his big FOUR-O

reminded us. Did you even see the

roll call on the video posted by motogp.com?

Global sports stars from

Diego Maradona to Roger Federer,

Marc Webber to Mick Doohan, and

a bunch of Italian pop stars and

actors who wouldn’t dream of an

Adidas two-piece, all chipped in

with their best wishes to make up a

star-studded birthday showreel.

And they’re just the ones who made

the cut!

Those who didn’t were forced to

post their own videos and photos,

on the auspices of wishing Valentino

a happy birthday although

in reality what they were actually

doing was trying to convince their

followers that they are good friends

with the man they fawningly call

the #GOAT by reposting a fan selfie

they took when they were supposed

to be working in what amounts to

nothing more than a self-serving,

social-media-age, heavyweight

name drop.

Ah yes, that’s the other thing about

turning 40: you become a cynical

old bastard. But having mastered

every other trick in the book, I’m

pretty sure VR nailed that one years

ago too.

I’m guessing Tom Cruise wasn’t

available to send a video, which is

a shame because if anybody knows

anything about growing old in style

it’s 56-year-old, self-confessed MotoGP

fanatic Tom.

In the most recent Mission Impossible

film the guy was wearing a

leather jacket with jeans and shoes,

and yet he still managed to not look

like your mum’s new boyfriend.

But, then, he did also commandeer

a helicopter in mid-flight, making

it hard to say which was the more

impressive stunt in the movie.

By Matthew Roberts

Cruise made his own personal

idolatry of the number 46 public at

Laguna Seca in 2008, when he was

so desperate to spend more time

with Valentino after meeting him on

the Sunday morning that the rider

actually had to tell his PR manager

to make up an excuse so that the

actor wouldn’t try and visit him

again in his motorhome before the


After the famous battle that ensued

that afternoon between Rossi and

Casey Stoner, I was waiting – as I

always did during that period – to

conduct the post-race interviews in

the television reporters’ pen at parc

fermé. It was an exclusive area, with

just the BBC and Italian TV represented

at the flyaway races outside

Europe at the time, and it always

felt like a massive privilege to be

the one of the guys getting the first

word with the protagonists so soon

after such a momentous race.

As I waited for an elated Rossi and

seething Stoner to return from their

cool-down lap and planned my first

question to both, a figure appeared

alongside me between the steel

barriers that I sensed was not the

familiar, rotund, profusely sweating,

effervescent, bearded mass of Sky

Sport Italia’s Paolo Beltramo.

In fact, right there next to me was

one of the biggest stars in Hollywood,

hijacking my primo real

estate so that he could congratulate

the race winner in person.

Within seconds, in my earpiece, I

was given the instruction from my

producer back in London to grab his

thoughts about the race.

“Tom… a quick word for the BBC?”

I offered, politely.

Taking my hand gently in his soft,

moisturised palms, Cruise smiled

kindly back and nodded his head,

saying, “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t do

that.” Anybody watching our exchange

via the live television cameras

that surrounded us would have

thought he was being friendly and

accommodating. But that famous

Top Gun smile held about as much

sentiment as a happy birthday video

message from Kimi Raikkonen.

The truth is, not everything is as

it seems, and as long as Valentino

Rossi continues to defy the laws of

ageing on track, who could dare to

tell him what is appropriate for his

image off it?

Whether he starts to look like Elton

John one day or not, when that guy

decides to stop having fun, it will be

a sad, sad situation for all of us.



Some jacket highlights from Alpinestars’ Spring

collection (that also features many variations

of footwear and boots). The Atem V3 garment

(700 dollars) is based on the successful leather

suit and comes in four different colour combinations.

The race profiling is clear from the

construction of the 1.3mm leather ‘chassis’ to

the aero back hump and the focus on cooling

with taslon fibre and nylon closures. This is not

just for sport though. Handy additions like a

waterproof inner pocket and Alpinestars’ Hyper-

Res Stretch Fibre mean it’s a comfy fit.

The Caliber jacket (549.95 dollars) has chest

and back pad compartments and a removable

thermal lining and is a step more toward street

‘fashion’ rather than the track orientation of the

Atem. Moving further along the spectrum is the

Crazy Eight (399.95) in grey or beige and this

leather piece could be easily worn without a

motorcycle in sight. On the whole Alpinestars’

portfolio of jackets and the myriad of materials

and needs is tremendously vast. Peruse

the website for the right model and purpose

(as well as full specs) and then get along to a

dealer to try.





More than Europe’s

largest MC store

It would be easy to assume that Honda are in a spot of

bother after the first test of 2019 at Sepang.

Of the four riders they have in

MotoGP, three are injured, Jorge

Lorenzo badly enough to be

forced to skip the test in Malaysia.

Of the other two, Marc Márquez

is still a long way off full fitness,

recovering from deeply invasive

shoulder surgery, and Cal Crutchlow

was riding around with a kilo

of metal in the foot he nearly

destroyed at Phillip Island. Only

Takaaki Nakagami was fully fit,

but he is not part of HRC’s development


The standings at the end of the

three-day test might even reinforce

that impression. LCR

Honda’s Crutchlow was the first

of the RC213V riders, in a reasonably

respectable sixth place.

Nakagami was the next Honda

rider, in ninth, nine tenths slower

than Danilo Petrucci’s quickest

lap. Marc Márquez got no further

than eleventh, a few hundredths

behind the Japanese LCR Honda

man. It was hardly the domination

we have seen in earlier years.

Is Honda really in as much trouble

as the Sepang test appears

to show? I rather suspect that

precisely the opposite is true.

Given just how close the field was

– twelve riders within a second

by the end of three days – the

relative rankings should be taken

with a pinch of salt. It is always

tempting to read too much into

the fastest lap times, and the

injuries of the Honda riders make

those times even more deceptive.

Injuries make riders less willing

to push right to the very limit at a

test, but that doesn’t mean they

aren’t providing useful feedback.

The trick is to focus on what you

are in a position to test, leaving

the rest for later.

In Marc Márquez’ case, that

meant not worrying about the

tendency of the front end to fold

under extreme pressure, and

concentrate on improving rear

grip and acceleration. “This test I

wasn’t concentrating on the front,

as I wasn’t pushing like always,”

he said at Sepang. “I’m not riding

with my normal riding style on

corner entry. We tried the engine,

then we tried a completely different

character of the bike. We

are not going into the details at

the moment, we are just going for

very big things, if it’s working or

not working, and get some information.

The most important thing

is to work on the engine, because

from Qatar until the end of the

season, we cannot touch it.”

It was top speed Honda are

chasing, the one area where they

really came up short against

the Ducati. This is a question of

honour: they are not called Honda

MOTOR Company for nothing.

But the trick is to balance top end

speed with manageable acceleration,

the quicker and more easily

you can get out of the corner, the

faster you go at the end of the

straight. At Sepang, the Hondas

were consistently within a couple

of km/h of the Ducati, their work

over the winter having paid off.

By David Emmett

The 2019 bike features a different

air intake, which flows directly

through the headstock, instead

of being routed round the frame.

That allows for a bigger airbox,

which in turn means more power.

New exhausts also appeared on

the bike, to help manage the extra

horses on tap.

Ignore the headline times, and it

shows just how strong the 2019

Honda RC213V is. In terms of race

pace, both Márquez and Crutchlow

were impressive. Márquez did

not do many laps, but he made all

of them count, circulating consistently

in the high 1’59s and low

2’00s. Crutchlow posted plenty

of laps in that range too, a sign

that both men were focusing on

development, rather than engaging

in the manhood-measuring

contest which testing can quickly

descend into. “Marc didn’t push

himself,” Crutchlow noted. “I think

he pushed the bike to a good

limit and he was competitive. He

could’ve gone faster. He’s testing,

as am I.”

But even when trying to be as

prudent as possible and focus on

bike development and avoiding

risks, Márquez couldn’t completely

suppress his competitive instincts.

On the first day of the test,

a quick lap on his final run put

him at the top of the timesheets.

That, too, was a matter of honour,

as well as proving to himself that

he hadn’t lost any speed over the


That fast time is just another

piece of the jigsaw falling into

place. The Honda riders were

happy at the Valencia and Jerez

tests in November, and content

with the progress made at

Sepang. In previous years, Honda

riders left Sepang worried how

far behind schedule they felt they

were. This year, no such concerns

were expressed. Given that Marc

Márquez has won five of the last

six championships that should really

worry his rivals.






By Adam Wheeler, Photos by KTM/Sebas Romero

“To give a rough idea

of what we are

talking about: on

the front-end we have the

riders…but behind we have

180 people. I would say

half of them in the forefront,

half in the background

– engineers

and technicians. Total

budget? We’re talking

about 40 million

euros. It is not an issue

of money finally.

It is [about] the best

people…and that’s

the KTM family.”


Stefan Pierer can

normally be relied on

to throw some candid

and unexpected information

to media and guests.

Projects that might have been

brewing in secret for years in

the vaults, clay model pits and

test benches in Mattighofen

can sometimes be talked

about with lucid enthusiasm

by the Austrian who has reignited

three prominent brands

in the industry and has hiked

up his vision towards the

world’s premier motorcycle

racing series.

Pierer uttered those words

towards the end of the 2019

MotoGP presentation in the

new City Hall in Mattighofen.

A snowball-throw away from

KTM’s almost-finished ‘Motohall’

that was due to host

the event and is apparently

set to open in April [have a

read about the manufacturer’s

new project in this story on

the KTM Blog]. At one point

he was joined not only by

the nine riders in all three

classes (five world championships,

over sixty wins and one

hundred and fifty podiums

between them) but also an

envious collective of experienced

management: Pit Beirer

(responsible for the frantic recruitment

drive that includes

the whole Tech3 MotoGP and

Moto3 structure), Mike Leitner,

Aki Ajo and Herve Poncharal.

That KTM are investing so

heavily and banking so hard

on what Pierer says is a “five

year programme” was clear to

see. 2017 was a debut, 2018

was a tricky injury-hit second

term but also had bright moments

and that landmark podium

in the damp at Valencia.


Watching the array of technology

and talent on display

gave appreciation for some of

that 40 million budget: still a

hefty whack for Europe’s largest

motorcycle manufacturer

now spitting out more than

200,000 two-wheelers a year.

Apart from all the riders and

three different kinds of MotoGP

machine under the lights

(kudos for the Torro Rossostyle

blue/chrome Red Bull

livery and there is, of course,

that potent test team of Mika

Kallio and Dani Pedrosa in

the wings) the Austrian drinks

brand was also omnipresent.

Thanks to their backing KTM’s

acquisition of the Tech3 squad

filled several purposes.

Principally it is to accelerate

their scaling of the MotoGP

standings. “In the premier

class two motorcycles is not

enough to be able to develop

technology up until the highest

level,” said Beirer. “So

having a second team in the

MotoGP gives us an amazing

feeling that our system is in

place. “

It also doubles the amount of

RC16s circulating the nineteen

circuits of the series and

forms part of a ‘progression’

philosophy that Red Bull are

keen to implement. Hafizh

Syahrin (attempting just his

second season in MotoGP

and an important focus point

for the Asian market and ‘hot

spot’ in MotoGP) and Miguel

Oliveira (a rookie for 2019 and

twice a near-title winner for

KTM also their very first rider

to come through the KTM

‘ladder’ of Moto3/Moto2) are

very much ‘work in progress’

talent. Tech3 might have been

used to grand prix podiums

and contention for spoils

thanks to the likes of Andrea

Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow, Pol

Espargaro, Bradley Smith and

Johann Zarco in recent years

but the new line-up definitely

nudges the emphasis of their

roster towards youth and


“We started this slowly,” said

Red Bull Motorsports Manager

Thomas Überall “and grew it

very ‘safely’ over the years

and we are very happy to have

two MotoGP teams in the

end: one that is fighting for

podiums – I can say this now

because we did it last year –

and the second team where we

can bring up the riders from

other classes and they can

have their first steps into MotoGP

with less pressure than

perhaps the factory team. This

is really what we want to do,

and is just great.” The parallel

for Red Bull with their F1 outlay

was immediate (even the link

with the Torro Rossi ‘blue’).

“We proved it already in four

wheels,” Überall underlined.

“We had Red Bull Racing and

just one year later Torro Rosso

which is the junior team in

Formula One and we do something

very similar in MotoGP

now. This will hopefully bring

us some success for the future

and, hopefully, brings us the

first world champion on the

road in the top class of MotoGP

very soon. No pressure to

the riders!”

Tech3 is thus the ‘cradle’ and

the cooking pot for KTM and

their MotoGP tilt but Oliveira

was quick to dismiss the notion

that he and Syahrin are in any

way a form of ‘testing mule’

for the Espargaro/Zarco factory

duo. “I don’t feel that we

are a ‘second’ team,” he stated.

“I think it is just a big group

of guys that want to work and

push KTM to be at the top. We

are working quite close together.

KTM brought many parts [to

the Sepang test] that we suggested

at the end of last year.

So we are going forward. Of

course my goal is to get closer

to them but we must bear in

mind that they are two riders

with a lot of experience and Johann

has showed his potential

on other bikes. I just have to

keep calm and focus on where

I want to go.”

Oliveira was one of the most

erudite speakers at the hourlong

spectacle. The Portuguese

sometimes comes across as

intense and staid but he is

perceptive and shrewd and a

contrast to the bland platitudes

straight out of the racer’s PR

handbook provided by the likes

of Marco Bezzecchi (when will

Pro athletes learn that it is sincere

thoughts and feelings or

good anecdotes or stories that

capture imagination and interest?

It’s a minor but significant

part of the job).

In the same talkative vein,

Herve Poncharal is accustomed

to surprises in his three-decade

stint as leader of one of

the championship’s leading

satellite teams. 2019 might be

a season of transition and education

away from the glare of



podiums and front-rows that

he enjoyed with Zarco for the

last two years but the quotetastic

Frenchman is a Grand

Prix stalwart so his words

carried some impressive

weight when he claimed: “I

have been working with a lot

of different motorcycle manufacturers

but this is clearly the

best, the biggest and the most

advanced racing department

I have ever seen in the motorcycle

industry. When you see

this then you know they are

serious about racing. ‘Ready

to race’: it is not just something

on the t-shirt.”

The initial taste of the orange

for Tech3 last November

looked a little disconcerting

but Oliveira, in particular,

made great strides during five

days of hot and sweaty work

at Sepang for the first of two

MotoGP tests the previous

week. “I can tell you – without

being politically correct and

I always say what I think and

feel - in between what we tested

in November and what we

tested in Sepang the amount

of new parts is impressive

and also the amount that has

been done: the improvement

of the feeling for our riders,”

Poncharal added. “ I would

like to thank all the engineers

for their work during the winter

break, which was short.

There is still some catch-up

to do but we had a great test

in Sepang and we didn’t just

focus on the one lap but we

took every tyre until more than

race distance and we tried to

understand the package and

give the right information to

the engineers.”

“KTM built a very strong support

structure around us, a lot

of new faces, so at the moment

we have a group but we

need to make this group feel

like one, to understand each

other better and this is the

purpose of the winter test but,

honestly, so far we are very

happy and proud,” he said,

revealing that Tech3 might

have switched colours and

technology after an eternity

with Yamaha (it would have

been two decades in an official

capacity this year) but

there is also a human aspect

to the change. “We know this

year is an exciting challenge:

when you have to catch up it

is always exciting.”

Zarco is Poncharal’s old vanguard.

Espargaro is probably

more of the de facto team

leader thanks to his experience

of the RC16 and the setup

however the Frenchman is

not only the most successful

rider of the entire KTM pack

but the one that will face the

most scrutiny. Amazingly his

union with KTM represents

the first time in his career

that he can enjoy the status of

‘factory’. “When I go into the

garage…that feeling is pretty

nice: to have all that support,”

he said to presenter Alex Hofmann.

“Everyone is important.

We need the time to develop

everything and have the bike

that will win races but we are

on the way and that is exciting.”

The sweep around the other

riders (Brad Binder and Jorge

Martin two of the last three

Moto3 world champions,

Bezzecchi and Philipp Öttl

and sensational teenager Can

Öncü) revealed some interesting

titbits. South African

Binder is arguably KTM’s

main hope in a bewildering

first Moto2 term with Triumph

engine power. Facing his third

year in the intermediate class

Binder was given the (by now)

usual question about the

shifting demands of the category.

“[There is] Definitely a

lot more bottom power, a lot

more aggressive than what we

are used to with the old Moto2

bikes,” he offered. “It will be

a year of a lot of development

with everybody having to build

a new chassis. I think we started

off in a good way and we’re

in a good place.”

Moto2 is a step in the dark

for the whole grid but Binder

manages to combine a humble

and friendly demeanour

with one that houses a



fierce desire for excellence.

He doesn’t mince his words

when it comes to competition.

“I have never entered a

race and not tried to win,” he

signed-off. Rookie teammate

Jorge Martin is still recovering

from a broken left arm

and right foot but is on the

KTM fast track having won the

Red Bull Rookies Cup in 2014,

Moto3 and now embarking

on the next rung. He’s chased

by fifteen year old Öncü, who

continues to tackle the attention

and interest in his efforts

with the same kid-like aspect.

The Turk is the third Rookies

champion in the nine-rider

crew (Zarco is the very first,

#1 in 2007) and wasn’t afraid

to talk up his chances. There

as the expected acknowledgement

that 2019 would be ninth

month process of learning but

he also grinned: “if I’m clever

and fast it is also possible to

win the title!”

Ever-present on stage was

Beirer. It was somehow fitting

that a video of his battling,

aggressive and entirely encapsulating

performance to win at

the 1997 Motocross Des Nations

circulated on social media

that morning. The German

does not lack intensity, and

has moulded the vast racing

division into a unit that gathers

trophies on Dakar trails,

motocross tracks, supercross

stadium layouts, beach races

and enduro trails for fun.

The MotoGP affair was reminiscent

of the 2010 pre-season

presentation in MXGP. On that

February day in Italy Beirer

not only introduced Tony

Cairoli and the De Carli setup

in KTM colours for the first

time but also the innovative

350 SX-F: both would change

the face of the premier class

of the FIM Motocross World

Championship. Fittingly athletes

like Marvin Musquin and

Jeffrey Herlings were also

on the platform. “It’s a very

special moment for me and

another milestone seeing this

structure,” he commented.

“We have been building since

2012 and it is all in place


Beirer also paid credit to the

Moto3 foundation of KTM’s

MotoGP presence. “Without a

Moto3 project we would not

have a MotoGP bike today and

you have to work so closely

and carefully to make gains

there,” he said. “It is our base,

and it leads us directly onto

why we are in Moto2 because

it is the next step.”

Before Stefan Pierer’s revealing

final statement the CEO

had time to express his feelings

and goals to the company’s

biggest single venture.

“We see on the TV or the

internet how many tenths of a

second are missing and that

really drives you to do everything

you can to touch the top

of the podium.

That’s our philosophy and

that has driven us to success

over the last thirty years but

in this racing world we are

still beginners: this is our third

year. By the end [of five years]

we want to see the podium

and for the upcoming racing

season I’d like to see single

digit results; that’s realistic

because we are still collecting

data and we miss all the

experience of our competitors.

For 2019 – in gambler’s speak

– it’s ‘all in’.”

In the same exposition Pierer

also reiterated the support

for the “front-end staff” of the

KTM family and the need for

patience but there was a

feeling that the company

is hovering

a left foot near

sixth gear

for their


goals. 2019 really

will be a crucial year for the

grid’s newest but arguably

most fascinating players.
















As someone brought up on a strict diet of two-wheel racing,

I was struck by a video filmed by colleagues last November.

Stood trackside at Jerez’s famous stadium section

to observe MotoE’s first official outing, the footage captures

a gaggle of Italian manufacturer Energica’s hybrid

machines filing past in a flurry. Yes, the Ego Corse - the

MotoE World Cup’s bike of choice – looked like a grand prix

motorcycle. And it was certainly travelling at racing speeds.

But what about the sound, or lack

thereof? Gone were the peaks and

wails of an engine and the clanks,

cuts and spits that accompany

downshifting and electronic aids.

Noises one has become so accustomed

to hearing from racing

machines. Instead there was a

near-silent robotic whirr followed

by a whoosh of displaced

air - an experience straight from a

DVD extra on an upcoming sci-fi

release. Watching them circulate

on track was more Blade Runner

2049 than elite level motorsport.

That first MotoE shakedown

raised several questions that remain


For a sport so visceral, so dependent

on assaulting the senses when

observing nearby, can the lack

of sound (and smell) really be

redressed? Will the racing really

be that competitive? There was

a considerable variation between

the fastest and slowest riders present

last November. And perhaps

the biggest challenge for machine

supplier Energica: can these

machines really travel at racing

speeds for a full race distance?

But fast-forward two and a half

months and the first electric

motorcycle sprint held at world

championship level is edging ever


Make sure to mark May 5th in

your diary, a day in which a small

bit of two-wheel history will be

made. The five-round series, comprising

of six outings (a doubleheader

at the final fixture to ensure

championship tension goes

to the last weekend) starts with a

7 or 8 lap shootout at Jerez. Trips

to Le Mans, the Sachsenring, Austria’s

Red Bull Ring and Misano

will follow.

Whether you view electric bikes

as a threat to the current status

quo, or are just straight up disinterested,

it’s worth paying at

least a passing attention to how

the coming year unfolds; not least

because of electric-powered vehicles’

ever-increasing influence on

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Neil Morrison

our lives in the coming years. It’s

believed as many as 60 million

electric powered cars will occupy

the world’s streets by 2040. Enel

X, the series’ title sponsor, estimates

the majority of vehicles

(55%) sold in that year will be

powered by electric, not gasoline.

Beyond that, the majority of evidence

suggests MotoE won’t be

anything other than a fun spectacle.

Showcased at a recent ‘Summit’

conference in Barcelona, the

grid will comprise of 18 identical

Energica Ego Corse prototypes,

machines capable of reaching

165mph. Only ride height, suspension

settings and final gearing can

be altered. Those working behind

the scenes have placed entertainment

among the top priorities.

Provide close, exciting racing, it is

reasoned, and fans will respond

accordingly. Bradley Smith, one of

the class’ leading entries, agrees:

“The lack of noise doesn’t matter;

it’s about the racing. That’s what

the spectacle is and that’s all a

racer wants.”

The annual TT Zero race has been

the highest-profile electric bike

competition to date. But with just

six finishers in the 2018 event,

and budgets varying from the

might of HRC (Mugen) to the student

run ‘University of Bath Zero’

entry, the race was something of

a non-event in terms of spectacle.

Understandable then the general

response to MotoE’s creation has

been lukewarm at best.

By contrast MotoE promises to

be an eight-lap dash that Dorna

hopes will resemble a Red Bull

Rookie freight train – only this

is at the forefront of a new kind

of a new hybrid technology. The

strength of the field - ten nationalities,

seven different grand prix

winners and five former world

champions – and the teams

present (each MotoGP satellite

squad has a presence on the grid)

- should, on appearance levels at

least, merit a level of professionalism

befitting of a world series.

In an ideal world, this should be

as close to ‘regular’ racing as possible.

That’s partly why Nicolas Goubert,

Executive Director of the

new series, was so insistent on

machines having the capacity to

run at full speed over full race

distance. “Riders will have the

same power from the first to the

last lap,” he told attendees at the

recent ‘Summit’. “We don’t want

strategies. We want races to be

the same as normal, and saving

energy is not normal for bike


No doubt, there’ll be teething issues

to overcome. Energica has

done crash tests. But just how

quickly will action be able to resume

when, inevitably, a bike falls

and becomes gravel-stricken? The

inherent risks of electric shocks

in such situations mean marshals

will be forewarned as to whether

a machine will be retrievable.

Should a light fitted to the bike’s

rear flash green, the machine is

not sufficiently wrecked and can

be collected safely by trackside

personnel. Flash red, however,

and action must stop while a

truck will collect the bike from the




This could well be a time consuming

affair in an already packed


And while the field boasts undoubted

quality, there is a fair

variation in terms of talent and

experience. Just how will Luca

Vitali, a rider with just one year

in the 125cc World Championship

behind him, and most recently

seen in the European Superstock

Championship perform against

the likes of Bradley Smith, a top

ten finisher in MotoGP as recently

as last year? Can a 46-year old

Sete Gibernau, last seen competing

on the world stage in 2009,

really be expected to fight against

riders half his age?

But like it or not, this will be plying

a greater influence on racing

as we know it in the years ahead.

So why not jump aboard and see

where it takes us? I, for one, welcome

our new, soon-to-be electric


Fair questions. But considering

dashes will last less than 15 minutes,

MotoE promises to be short,

sharp entertainment shoehorned

into a proven programme. Dorna

is keen to express this isn’t a

replacement for its current championships,

but rather an alternative

to combustion engine racing.

How that unfolds in the upcoming

seasons remains to be seen.

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.



Some rules are made to be broken. We’re not saying you should break

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

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

its own rule book. Experience this all-new, rule-bending, big-bore

outlaw and start your own chapter.



Arguably one of the most famous and desirable

sport-lifestyle eyewear brands (with a strong and

popular off-road goggle model, the Airbrake) Oakley

have an agreement with MotoGP and several

of their athletes meaning special edition products

around the likes of Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez

and the series itself.

In 2018 Oakley unveiled eight limited edition

models around eight of the rounds and circuits of

the championship: Losail, COTA, Le Mans, Mugello,

Catalunya, Assen, Phillip Island and Valencia

(some of which – now sold out – are shown here)

and it remains to be seen whether the same kind

of initiative will be run this year. Rossi is one of

Oakley’s ambassadors so has a signature edition

based around the Latch design (173 dollars) but

with matte black frame and a #46 bag. Marquez’

– according to the official website – is based on a

more robust Sliver (163 dollars). Maverick Viñales

has a sporty ‘blueish’ Mainlink Sapphire Fade (180









Words by Roland Brown, Photos by Milagro


Ducati’s Hypermotard has been the

archetypal hooligan machine ever

since its launch in 2007. Back

then, the Hyper was an 1100cc aircooled

V-twin; all sharp-nosed supermoto style,

wheelie-happy performance, unapologetically

up-yours attitude and as much practicality

and common sense as a delinquent


Since then Ducati have revised the Hyper

several times, notably when giving it a

new 821cc liquid-cooled engine in 2013,

and enlarging it to create the Hypermotard

939 three years ago. The Italian

firm has managed to make the hardcore

V-twin slightly more versatile, comfortable

and even sensible without detracting

from the urban outlaw image or sense of

crazy fun that have always been key attributes.

This year’s updated models, the Hypermotard

950 and upmarket 950 SP, represent

another step towards sophistication

and sense, again with the aim of ensuring

that this doesn’t spoil the party. In tune

with the 2019 theme of mid-sized bikes

adopting open-class electronics, both Hypers’

key addition is arguably an IMC (Inertial

Measurement Unit) that allows cornering

ABS and high-level traction control.

The 90-degree V-twin engine is tweaked,

though typically the Hypermotard 950

name doesn’t signify a change in capacity,

which remains 937cc. Increased compression

ratio and new camshafts add a few

horsepower to bring the total to 114bhp at

9000rpm. A new high-level exhaust also

helps although its main benefit is a clear

view of the rear wheel on its single-sided


The engine mods save some weight, contributing

to a 4kg saving that drops the

kerb weight to 200kg, or 2kg less for the

SP with its fancy forged Marchesini wheels

and carbon-fibre front mudguard and engine




Mind you, the smaller, 14.5-litre fuel tank

accounts for a kilo of that weight loss. Other

changes are the slightly wider handlebar,

hydraulic clutch activation, and Panigale-like

TFT instrument panel.

A reshaped seat makes getting your feet

down slightly easier, but the standard Hyper

is still a tall bike, albeit a slim and manoeuvrable

one. Its character remains thrillingly

raw and minimalist, as you sit bolt upright,

gripping the wide bars, with nothing to divert

the wind from your chest, and the Ducati’s

deep, distinctive V-twin exhaust note throbbing

from those under-seat silencers.

As before there’s a choice of three riding

modes: full-fat Sport, softer Touring, and

Urban with reduced output. Such is the Hypermotard’s

sweet fuelling and flexible power

delivery that even Sport is very rider-friendly,

albeit with plenty of instant punch from as

low as 3000rpm, at which point the V-twin

is kicking out 80 per cent of its maximum


There’s enough smooth top-end power to get

the Hyper charging to about 130mph, though

its rider’s neck muscles get a severe workout

at much about 80mph. With such useable

delivery, the main benefit of switching modes

(easily done on the move) is that traction

control, ABS setting and anti-wheelie change

automatically to suit. In Ducati tradition

there’s plenty of opportunity for fine-tuning,

so for example you can turn off the antiwheelie

in Sport mode, or allow stoppies by

setting the ABS to its lowest position.

The Hyper is ideally suited to country lanes

but makes a fine bike for A-roads, where it’s

stable through sweeping curves despite its

long-travel suspension and the forces being

transmitted through the bars. The standard

950’s Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock are

adjustable and well damped; the Brembo

Monobloc front calipers give fierce stopping,

and the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres






stick even to damp winter roads. Shame the

gearbox quick-shifter, which works superbly

in both directions and is standard fitment

on the SP, is a near-£200 accessory on the

standard 950.

Drawbacks shared by both models include

the lack of fuel gauge and smaller tank’s

reduced 14.5-litre capacity, though the typical

range of about 120 miles is adequate for

a bike like this. The hand-guards offer at least

some useful wind protection on a cold day.

As a weapon for sunny-day blasting the Hypermotard’s

main drawback is arguably that

even the standard model is more expensive

(at £10,995 in the UK) than enticing alternatives

including KTM’s 790 Duke and Triumph’s

Street Triple RS.

That’s even more true of the Hypermotard

950 SP, which justifies its higher cost

(£14,295 in the UK) with Öhlins suspension

that is firmer and longer, improving ground

clearance and cornering ability in conjunction

with sportier Pirelli Supercorsa rubber.

The SP’s seat is even taller, at a lofty 890mm,

and despite the extra travel its suspension is

so well controlled that the bike feels slightly

firmer and sportier.

For track days the SP is the Hyper to go for,

but for road use most riders would probably

be better off with the standard 950 plus

accessory quick-shifter, for its lower seat as

much as for its lower price. Either way, the

950 is the most sophisticated, safest and

generally best Hypermotard yet. Equally importantly,

it’s still every bit as boisterous and

irresponsible as its predecessors – just as a

supermoto style V-twin should be.



Tony Cairoli. Photo by KTM/Bavo






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