On Track Off Road No. 187

online.magazines

WorldSBK


SMEARING

THE RED

The remarkable lens skill of Marian Chytka was

apparent at the last round of WorldSBK in Imola

and where the weather allowed some interesting

interpretation of the 2019 cast list.

Jonathan Rea at last managed to splash

through Ducati’s widening ‘red puddle’

Photo by MCH Photo


MX


TIM’S

TURN

From a face full of Mantova sand and a 40 point

deficit in the championship standings, Tim Gajser

reoriented his attack over the course of two

weekends. A brace of MXGP wins sliced the gap to just

10 and the HRC star now has Tony Cairoli squarely in

his goggles

Photo by Ray Archer


MotoGP


IN THE MOOD

FOR MUGELLO

Thick black lines could be the order of

the day from Jack Miller and the rest of

the factory Ducatis this weekend around

the sensational curves of Mugello. If Marc

Marquez conquers again then the rest of

2019 could be in real trouble

Photo by CormacGP


MXGP

WO

IMIN

GRAND PRIX OF FRA

SAINT JEAN D’ANGELY · MAY 25-26 · Rnd 7 of 1

MXGP WINNER: TIM GAJSER, HONDA

MX2 WINNER: JORGE PRADO, KTM

Blogs by Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer


MXGP FRANCE

G

NCE

8


MXGP


MXGP FRANCE


MXGP


WORLDSBK POR

MXGP FRANCE


MXGP


MXGP FRANCE


FEATURE MXGP


MXGP FRANCE


THE ULTIMATE

RACE-WINNING

PACKAGE

KTM

450 SX-F

“Winning is a complex puzzle where every element has

to fit perfectly to get the job done. For me though, there is

one factor that stands above the rest – my KTM 450 SX-F.

The ultimate weapon to take into battle”.

Cooper Webb – 2019 AMA Supercross 450SX Champion

Photo: S. Cudby, KISKA GmbH

www.kiska.com

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.


MXGP

BLOG

MAKING THE 180...

That was some reversal.

It is almost impossible to dislike

Tim Gajser. Off the bike he has

hardly changed from the adolescent,

innocent and giggly person

that rattled MX2 as a teenager. On

the bike he still fits former Team

Manager Giacomo Gariboldi’s description

of being “like a bull”. He

can often be the picture of formidable

pace, power and aggression

on the HRC CRF.

His 2015-2016 MX2 and MXGP

back-to-back title winning campaigns

at the age of 19-20 is still

one of the most impressive dawns

I have seen in nearly two decades

of covering Grands Prix. Since

that time Tim has learned the

‘other side’ of the premier class;

too many crashes, some bad luck

and some hard injuries have interrupted

the better part of the last

two years. Harshly, a portion of

the brilliance has ebbed away.

So far in 2019 Gajser has not

backed-off from that all-out approach.

There have been scary

crashes in Argentina and Great

Britain and moments of

inspiration such as Arco di Trento

and Portugal (where his pursuit

and pressure on Tony Cairoli

revealed shades of a new, more

measured #243). My overriding

sentiment concerning the Honda

man at present is a longing hope

that he doesn’t pick up an injury

as he seems to be the only candle-holder

to Tony Cairoli’s competitiveness.

MXGP has just finished a first

‘three-in-a-row’ and among that

spell of races in Italy, Portugal and

France the two sides of Gajser

were aptly displayed. Significantly

the Slovenian also showed one of

his strongest traits – mental fortitude

– in that small episode.

Firstly there was the disaster in

the Italian sand of Mantova with

multiple mistakes and tip-offs in

each moto leading to sixth overall

and a twenty-four point loss

to Tony Cairoli in the standings.

Remarkably Gajser managed to

deal with a humbling and humiliating

weekend (Mantova itself has

not been kind to the rider after

his crash and broken jaw in the

pre-season of 2018) in a matter

of days and hours with that

resurrection in Portugal. His 1-1 at

Agueda was gained with two ‘assists’

by an unusually error-prone

Cairoli but you could argue that

Tim’s presence and pressure was

a direct cause of the engine stall

and crash by his principal rival.

Suddenly the gift in Italy didn’t

look so dramatic with a six point

retaliation in the sunshine. In

France the ‘swingback’ went even

higher and the gap shrank to ten.

Mantova (where Cairoli went

1-1) would have been depressing

for Gajser and HRC with the full

knowledge that their KTM rival is

an absolute master of the podium

consistency needed to acquire

gold number plates. Gajser might

have the edge or is at least the

equivalent when it comes to raw

speed but has yet to convert a

poor meeting into a respectable

haul of championship points. That

he was able to transform a day

that would have bruised his ego

as much as parts of his body into


By Adam Wheeler

a set of performances that delivered

a second overall GP win of

2019 was emboldening.

“Monday was tough,” Gajser told

Lewis Phillips of MX Vice Podcasting

fame of the immediate

post-Mantova malaise “because

you start to realise what you did

and the stupid mistakes. I was

trying to forget about that as soon

as possible.”

“It is definitely always tough when

you come from a bad weekend

and also the confidence goes a

little bit. You start to question ‘am

I good enough?’ stuff like that. I

am so happy to have an amazing

team behind me and also my girlfriend.

She is always right there,

mentally trying to say everything

so that I feel better.”

Riders frequently make platitudes

(and rightly so) to their teams

for the work and effort made to

give them a platform – technical,

physical, mental and maybe

spiritual – from which to perform.

Gasjer is frank and honest about

how he leans on his support

group after disappointments like

Mantova, but despite all the headhelp

he still has to embark on one

of the hardest and loneliest sporting

pursuits alone. Nobody else

in the world knows what it is like

to push that factory Honda to live

with a nine times world champion

and to push KTM away from the

top of an MXGP podium. Tim may

seem meek, almost vulnerable,

in person but there is no escaping

the depth of the salvage act

he performed from Monday 13th

May to Sunday 19th and again in

France another week later.

The MXGP world championship

has been decided by 51, 50, 84

and 43 points in the last five

years and without going to the

final round on each occasion.

This means the graft and the

foundation building of a title win

has gone-on long before the final

stretches of the calendar comes

into play. Portugal will have been

a relief for the HRC camp. A small

stumble for Cairoli with his sights

set on the record books but a

hearty revival from his closest

pursuer. It showed the kind of

resolve that we as fans rarely get

to see or understand about elite

sportsmen: that process of how

they strive behind the scenes

to drag fortune back into their

arsenal.

Gajser did his job, realised his

potential once more and satisfied

his personal motivation at Agueda

and then revelled in it in France…

but he also unearthed some of

the essence that separates people

like him from people like us.


FEATURES

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Photo: Octopi Media


JASONANDERSON

@ P R O T A P E R

P R O T A P E R . C O M


FEATURE


Poised

to

eat

it

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer

THOMAS KJER OLSEN

IS GETTING HUNGRY

all


FEATURE

There are a lot of people looking

at Thomas Kjer Olsen. We don’t

mean the curious staff of the sushi

restaurant near the racetrack at Mantova

for the Grand Prix of Lombardia where

we are taking photos. We don’t really

mean all those MXGP fans and followers

that recognise the Rockstar Husqvarna

rider is the best hope of taking it to MX2

conqueror Jorge Prado. Instead we were

thinking of the Dane’s prospects. In just

his third Grand Prix season ‘TKO’ has already

held the red plate as series leader,

has claimed another overall win and arguably

stands as one brightest talents in

Grand Prix: certainly one that could and

should blend ideally with a 450 in the

MXGP class considering his height and

strength.

“I ALMOST FORGET SOMETIMES THAT

I’M A PRETTY GOOD MOTOCROSS

RIDER. AFTER THE BRITISH GRAND

PRIX IT SET IN A BIT MORE THAT

I WAS LEADING THE WORLD

CHAMPIONSHIP.”

After establishing himself with aplomb

in 2017 and 2018 there is now a bit more

urgency in the 22 year old’s bow wave.

The last time Thomas featured in OTOR

we were essentially discovering a rising

star. Now Olsen has stepped up to the

mantle of principal Red Bull KTM ‘challenger’,

and is well placed in a young

flock of riders that Husqvarna are currently

cultivating to eventually have an

impact on MXGP and dilute some of

the strong orange shade with a dash

of white. He still has one more year in

the MX2 division before he ages out but

#19’s time is very much now.

If Thomas’ sporting situation has

changed slightly then his character and

quiet demeanour has not. He smiles

easily and exudes calmness. You can

feel he is perhaps a person that doesn’t

get rattled…even when asked to perform

the slightly tricky task of holding two

pieces of sushi above his head. His talent

spreads far obviously.


OK, so you’ve had the red plate. You’ve

obviously dominated the EMX250 series

but this position at the top of the world

championship must have carried some

sort of effect. Many rider publicly claim

that it doesn’t mean much…

You’re right. The first time I had it in

Valkenswaard this year it was really

something different to see your bike with

that plate on. I quickly got used to it, and

even had it on the practice bike sometimes!

To be honest I haven’t thought too

much about it. I’ve been working on my

own racing and riding and trying to be

consistently ‘up there’ because I don’t

think it helps to have that ‘oh, I’m in the

lead I must keep it’ feeling. I’m stoked

about it but it is something that is towards

the back of my mind.

THOMAS KJER OLSEN


FEATURE

It’s a cliché that riders don’t

think about points or standings

or red plates, but some

will never reach that position

in their careers…

That’s right and I did think

about it after the British Grand

Prix but I have always been the

type of guy that when I am on

the bike those sorts of things

don’t come to me too much.

For sure I want to win a world

championship but to lead one

is also a milestone. Even in

Danish motocross nobody has

ever done it. It’s a huge accomplishment.

It’s good to hear you say that

because some riders can really

buckle or struggle with

pressure. On the other hand

you have to be pretty cold or

super-disciplined not to look

around you and recognise

that you are at the top of the

world…

Yeah. I had a good first year

when I came into Grands Prix

and I feel that I have kept being

the same since then: pretty

humble and not really looking

back to see how far I’ve made

it. During the big break we had

in the calendar recently I went

back to Denmark and saw a

round of the national champi-


THOMAS KJER OLSEN

onship. I was standing at the

side and I was thinking ‘wow,

these guys are going so fast…’

I still think the Danish series

“[ON PRADO] IF I HAVE THE

SPEED TO BEAT HIM OR THE

OPPORTUNITY TO ROUGH

HIM UP A BIT THEN I’LL TAKE

IT. I CANNOT BE TOO SWEET

TO THE GUY! HE IS ON A

RAIL.”

is quite good but the GPs is

another level. I almost forget

sometimes that I’m a pretty

good motocross rider.

After the British Grand Prix

it set in a bit more that I was

leading the world championship.

In your first year you impressed

everybody, in your

second year there were a lot

of podiums but also that discovery

of new limits with your

training and possibilities. Do

you feel a bit wiser now and

does that translate into a bit

more speed?

Yeah, exactly. It is a long and

draining season and I’m still

learning about my body. At

one point [last year] I wanted

to keep training during the

season like I was in the offseason

but I just couldn’t do

it. I needed a bit more time

off when we had back-to-back

races instead of practicing my

brains off. I had to recover well

and I learned a lot about myself

and even still this year. I

think I am more open-minded

this year, especially about bike

set-up, compared to previous

seasons.

An example of that?

In the past I’d have my base

setting from the winter and I

didn’t have the confidence to

change it during the season,

for example. As I got better


FEATURE

and better at testing it meant I

could trust myself more and know

when a change will also feel good

in a race situation. I know I was in

the Europeans for some time but

I got thrown into GPs quickly and

proved to be good pretty quickly

and coming into a factory team

there are so many options: I was

not used to testing that much! So

it was difficult but I think everybody

goes through it. There is

still a lot to learn about the bike

and my riding style but I am beginning

to feel more about how it

should be.

When you were at that Danish

race were you a bit of a celebrity?

Haha. It is not bad at all but I

did have a lot of people coming

up to me and they are really

happy to have a Danish guy

fighting for a championship. I

had a lot telling me how they

are watching every Sunday and

even some non-motocross fans,

like my mum and Dad’s friends,

saying how they watch each GP

as well now. It’s kinda cool to

bring even a small bit of attention

to the sport in Denmark.

Are you aware of the influence

you have? Especially

for kids or new fans?

Yes but it is so difficult to get

that into your brain; to think

about how you had idols

when you were a kid and that

you might be the same now

for a kid in Denmark. It is

difficult to imagine. I’m just

me! I still look at some guys.

I mean I still have idols inside

and outside of the sport.


Who was it for you? Where

would you be standing and

waiting in the paddock now as

an eight year old?

I didn’t really go to the GPs

much when I was younger but

I would always be watching

Stefan Everts and my grandparents

made me tapes of him

riding. So I was watching a lot

of videos. A bit later it was also

James [Stewart], [Ryan] Villopoto

and Ryan [Dungey] and

those guys. Outside of motocross

I was watching basketball

and it was cool to see their

personalities and their work

methods because, although it

is a completely different thing,

our mindsets and stuff are

still so much alike. When your

hobby becomes your profession

it can become quite

different and I think there is

a lot to be learned from other

sports. I like watching [sports]

documentaries. I can see so

many similarities to what I am

doing…even basic training.

You sometimes forget that you

don’t always have to suffer.

When I look at a guy like Tony

[Cairoli] it really looks like he

is enjoying riding motocross. I

don’t know him personally but

from the outside it seems that

he has a really good balance

of liking his racing but also

working really hard. It one

thing I look up to a lot.

“I DON’T THINK YOU NEED

TO BE AN ASSHOLE TO WIN

THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.

I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE

WHO I AM.”

You’re in your third year. Can

you imagine doing fifteen like

him? And still be winning!

Ha! He’s still winning but

it takes a lot of sacrifice. It

would be really tough but if

you could find a way to make

it fun then time would move

faster.

Do you ever think that people

are seeing your results and

wondering what a good 450

rider you could be? Are you

aware that you’ll be sought

after by most brands and

teams for the next step?

Er, yeah. I mean, I’ll still be in

the MX2 next year – that’s a

90-10 certainty because I feel

that I should get all the years

that I can from the 250. It is

a bike I really enjoy riding. I

know I am a heavy guy but

there are still a lot of things

I want to find out about, and

people I want to work with before

I go into that MXGP class.

I think it is important to get

all the experience that I can

before I move up. But, yeah,

it has been a bit in the back

of my mind that in the next

couple of years the change

will have to happen.

Is it also nice that people will

be chasing you? For a section

of the gate – former world

champions and GP winner

even – it is the other way

around. It must be good for

the confidence…

Yeah, I know people are looking

at me for the 450. I feel

it will suit me well and I am

looking forward to moving up

and having that power. But it

feels far in the future. I hope

I can continue getting better

and hopefully those offers will

come. I haven’t been talking

to anybody! It feels like it is

too far away. I’m at a great

place right now. I feel like it

THOMAS KJER OLSEN


FEATURE

is my family and I’m at home.

On my off-days I’ll still go to

the workshop to chat to the

guys. We are working together

but they are also like my

friends.

People have seen the news

that the team will change for

2020 and the stewardship of

the team will change. What’s

your opinion on that and will

it alter much for you?

I don’t have any worries about

it. I know we have some great

people behind the new structure,

with a lot of the same

guys involved, and Nestaan

[lead sponsor] is moving over

also. I know they will take

good care of it. I’m not doubting

anything that is going on.

How do you go about beating

a rival like Prado? He takes

holeshots at will, weighs little,

has great technique and

has a burst of intensity in

the first laps like no other.

How do you find those weaknesses?

[Smiles] It’s difficult.


THOMAS KJER OLSEN

It is also still early in the season,

so it is not like I have a

game plan where I will go out

and do this-this-and-this to

beat him. If I have the speed

to beat him or the opportunity

to rough him up a bit

then I’ll take it. I cannot be

too sweet to the guy! He is on

a rail. He is so good at those

starts and when he gets them

then he just pushes forwards.

So if I can try to get in there

and mess with his flow a little

bit then this would be the

best move.

Is it possible to make a strategy?

Even each weekend?

No…and I don’t know if you

guys looking-in think I should

do that but [in] this sport it is

so difficult to plan-out a race

because so many different

things can happen. I’m focussing

on my own speed and if I

have it then we’ll have a race.

Lastly, are you too much of a

nice guy to win this thing?

Haha, I don’t know, I’ve never

really thought about it. When

you say that I think of Aaron

Plessinger. A lot of people

were saying the same about

him. I don’t think you need

to be an asshole to win the

world championship. I don’t

want to change who I am. For

sure I can get rougher on the

track if I wanted to but when

it’s not necessary…


FACE FOAM


MXGP

BLOG

THE NEW GAME FOR ICEONE...

I’m glad there are three spots on an MXGP podium.

For what feels like an age – and

quite amazingly so considering

the longevity and all the different

tracks and conditions – there

have been two-three athletes

monopolising the premier class

of the FIM World Championship.

Cairoli, Herlings, Gajser. Only

Clement Desalle has broken that

little triumvirate and you have to

go back to April 2017 when another

rider – Gautier Paulin – last

joined the party.

In the last few years being able to

reach the hallowed ground of the

top three has become more and

more of a precious result (and at

a time when Grand Prix saddles

are diminishing) so it is encouraging

that the fight for a trophy, any

trophy, still delivers some of the

best stories in the championship.

Yes, Tony Cairoli’s return to brilliance

in 2017 was inspiring, his

battle against Herlings in 2018

was gripping and in 2019 he

seems set for the record books.

And then Herlings delivered the

most comprehensive

championship win of the modern

era. And Gajser exists in a window

of speed/performance/peril

that makes you want to watch

through your fingers. But it is

also achievements like Paulin’s

rostrum finishes this term with

a fourth different motorcycle in

MXGP (his wildcard victory in

2011 with Yamaha was notched

in the old MX1 class, so we’ll use

that technicality), Arnaud Tonus’

resurrection from the kind of injury

problems that have effectively

ended other careers and Pauls

Jonass’ maiden MXGP silverware

that also help enrich what Grand

Prix has to offer.

The case of Jonass has wider context.

The 2017 MX2 world champion

had had enough of the 250 by

the start of 2018 but how do you

fit in a KTM structure that already

boasts Cairoli and Herlings? The

latter was only 23 at the time so

hedging Pauls for the future was

also slightly unjustifiable for the

factory. The decision to slide the

Latvian across to the Rockstar

Energy IceOne Husqvarna team

(all part of the KTM Group of

course) seemed like a sensible

move although it was confusing

to deduce how Kimi Raikkonen’s

outfit were morphing from a crew

that housed the proven talents

of Max Nagl, Tyla Rattray, Paulin

and Max Anstie since 2015 into a

more speculative effort.

Team Manager Antti Pyrhonen’s

immaculately presented squad is

almost the definition of ‘factory’

in MXGP: fantastic resources,

an F1-spec workshop, and an

enviable two-truck set-up that is

spotless and ordered and exudes

the air of exclusivity. By resources

I mean the provision for a training

and riding programme that

a great many riders would snapup

in an instant. The framework

served admirably for Nagl in that

’15 season where the team and

Husqvarna led the premier class

standings until the German’s

fateful and unfortunate broken leg

while contesting the Qualification

Heat for his home round.


By Adam Wheeler

Signing Paulin from HRC was a

statement in itself and the IceOne

environment served Max Anstie so

well in 2017 that the then-rookie

would decimate the Motocross of

Nations in the UK with one of the

standout results in the 70+ years

of the competition.

2018 was an odd season of missteps

that served to give IceOne,

Pyrhonen and the KTM Group

some beneficial perspective for

2019. Jonass was a rookie late to

the game after knee surgery while

Arminas Jasikonis represented another

optimistic punt. The 21 year

old Lithuanian has youth, strength

and willingness on his side and is

perhaps one of the clearest examples

of a ‘rough diamond’ in the

MXGP pack. In fact, from all the

factory riders across the manufacturers

(and with the exception of

Brian Bogers) he is the only racer

not to have won a Grand Prix. The

potential is there and his lofty

position in the MXGP championship

standings is testament to how

Jasikonis has matured and curbed

some of his wilder decision-making.

It must have required some soulsearching

for IceOne to put aside

fierce ambition and designs on

Grand Prix wins and the championship

to replace podiums for progress.

But, as Pyrhonen admitted

to me at Mantova, something like a

fourth position overall for the likes

of ‘Jasi’ or Pauls represents a barometer

of gain (or even success),

while the same classification with

an athlete of Paulin’s ilk can be

construed as ‘what’s the problem?’

Antti was unafraid to talk about the

difficulty of matching the standout

elite of Cairoli-Herlings-Gajser, and

the kind of inevitability that team

managers used to whisper about

when Cairoli was in the midst of

his five-title run at the beginning

of the decade. It is very, very tough

for any team or rider to supersede

the kind of formidability that has

been seen in the last three seasons

of MXGP.

Thus a podium appearance is not

to be sniffed-at in 2019 and the

fact that Jonass packaged two

starts and his sand acumen at

Mantova to finish runner-up means

the achievement must rank as one

of the best in the team’s history.

Jonass is already the most successful

motocrosser from his

country in the history of the sport.

A world champion, a European

champion and a Grand Prix winner.

He undoubtedly has the

capacity and the resolve to deliver

the goods (and follows the bizarre

trend of rookies excelling in their

maiden MXGP seasons as seen by

the likes of Romain Febvre, Gasjer,

Herlings, Tonus,) but credit has to

go to IceOne for a degree of reinvention.

Their system of work and

ethos would seem to be unaltered

but the realignment of how they

want to make a mark in MXGP in

the coming months (maybe the

next two years) is ultimately leading

to a more promising scenario.

Their allure is increasing again.

They are drifting from a team that

invited questions to one that is

delivering answers.

Dislodging Cairoli, Gajser, Herlings

with any hint of regularity is now

a means for anybody to define

championship contention and

credentials. But there are other

spaces for prizes, and the kinds of

narratives that also transmit some

of the magic of racing.


PRODUCTS


www.actiphwater.com

actiph

There is a cool story about the UK’s first

alkaline, ionised water drink (widely available

in supermarkets like Morrisons and

newsagents WH Smiths) created by Jamie

Douglas-Hamilton. The Scotsman was part

of a crew of six that rowed 5000 miles

across the Indian Ocean from Australia to

India burning up to 10,000 calories a day.

In that time they started to mix fresh water

with a little salt water to replace key minerals.

The experience prompted Douglas-

Hamilton to investigate hydration further

and after research in Japan with ionised

water he founded his own brand.

Actiph is bottled from a spring water source

in Shropshire. They add their unique formula

of electrolytes and minerals and the

ionisation is done by ‘electrically charging

the water using platinum and titanium

plates, we can strip out the sour tasting

acidic ions’.

The result is a strangely smooth taste and,

odd as it sounds, water that’s very easy

to drink – and we know, having consumed

several bottles at the British MXGP at Matterley

Basin this year where the Actiph

team had plenty of samples. Thanks to the

likes of British Championship leader Shaun

Simpson and the Bike it Dixon Racing Team

Actiph is making inroads into MXGP. We can

also vouch for the bottle itself with a quality

plastic locking cap meaning it’s an ideal

choice for taking to the gym or a sports

field.

For more information click on any link.


FEATURE

A

SPECIAL

RELATIONSHIP

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by TLD

ADIDAS & TROY LEE

DESIGNS IN MOTOCROSS


FEATURE

The Adidas logo has been

a noticeable part of

Troy Lee Designs racewear

for a number of years in

acknowledgement of an amiable

friendship between the

revered helmet designer and a

segment of the sportswear giant.

In the second part of our

talk with Director of Merchandising

Jeff David, the American

explains how the bond

with Adidas grew significantly

into some very special limited

edition riding gear.

There were the Nike motocross

boots worn by James

Stewart and Ryan Dungey

towards the end of the decade

(apparently the cost/profit

margin of manufacture for

such a niche market meant

that the project and development

was short-lived) but no

other memorable forays by

sports giants into the sport.

Adidas however have had a

small link with Troy Lee Designs

easily spotted through

their retro three-stripe logo on

the TLD KTM race gear.

The combination of the brands

has moved from mutual respect

and fleeting to something

far more impressive so

we fired six questions at Jeff

David in our recent visit to

the facility in Irvine to find out

more and why the increased

speculation by Adidas could

be meaningful for motocross…

The collaboration seems to

have grown as evidenced by

the release of the ‘Ultra’ kit

and things like the Cole Seely

show. So what is the current

position?

It has been several years now

since Troy first partnered with

Adidas and from the get-go it

has been very exciting. They

have been offering ideas for

new materials, and for the

collaboration on the pant and

jersey we went to their HQ in

Oregon and they did a lot of

work on the specific fabrics to

use as well as the ergonomic

factors. They have a large lab

up there where they can hook

sensors to a rider’s body and

get a full reading of the articulation

of the pant and jersey.

Which they in turn evolve

into different pattern designs,

so they really helped in that

aspect and gave us some

guidance. It was unique from

anything we’d done in the past

and they have more new ideas

going forward that we are

currently working on; mainly

to do with materials again

and outfitting the rider/racer

in ways that they do in other

sports and how that is trickling

down into the moto and

mountain bike side. Moto has

been pretty traditional with

materials in the last twenty

years but now we’ve seen that

change with more stretch fabrics

and tighter fitting, more

performance-driven. What we

are trying to do is have our

racers layer-up from insideout.

They might have a compression

type form of protection

with padding but then the

jersey on top will be part of

that performance package and

the more with the pants.

The work in Oregon: was that

a result of talks, meetings and

ideas over a period time?

Years in the making. At first

we just made some gear with

their logos on it and it evolved

from there with ideas going

back and forth between Troy

and our design team with their

teams over there. The department

we are working with really

want to push the envelope

and give some unique ideas

that we can bring into our

industry: things that

people have not

seen before.

It’s what entices

them

and we’re

really excited to

do the same thing. Working

with a brand like Adidas

we can learn so much

from them; they have so

many resources and

knowledge of materials,

patterns and

fits that might

be new to our

industry.


How long did you need for

the Ultra gear to come to

fruition?

About two years to make.

A lot of testing. We’d get

prototypes and test them

with our riders and work

out what worked and what

didn’t, tweak it, use different

materials all the way

up until the point where we

came up with Ultra.

TLD & ADIDAS

“WORKING WITH A BRAND LIKE ADIDAS WE

CAN LEARN SO MUCH FROM THEM; THEY HAVE

SO MANY RESOURCES AND KNOWLEDGE OF

MATERIALS, PATTERNS AND FITS THAT MIGHT BE

NEW TO OUR INDUSTRY.”


FEATURE

Adidas is obviously a huge

global brand spending million

and millions on other sports

and athletes. How did you

find the attitude to motocross

and a niche scene compared

to something like football or

athletics?

I think they wanted to look at

something that was a little bit

different, an opportunity. A

couple of guys on their team

over there are huge moto fans

and ride. They started working

with Troy and really liked what

we were doing and the fact

that our brand is pretty unique

with the art and the design.

They thought they could help

us evolve the gear, and that

gear for us is limited edition

and sells out very quickly. The

global response is amazing,

especially in Europe with all

the interest and traction. It

has been really good marketing

for us as well as our partners.

The formation of the Adidas

and TLD names is quite a

big thing for the industry so

it must be tempting to want

to go much bigger, especially

with the resources they

have…

For sure…but we really wanted

to keep it limited. We feel

that it makes it special-

It’s an interesting philosophy

though because it’s like holding

the key to a big door and

only slightly opening it…

Yeah, besides the gear we just

came out with some shoes

so there are little things that

we’ll keep doing but overall

we wanted to keep it special:

that’s the goal.

Just generally, how is TLD

pushing towards the end of

the decade and into the next?

We are really putting an emphasis

on our art, which has

been one of our key trademarks

for the decades that

Troy has been in business. It

is about combining the technology

and work with safety

of the products with the art

and style in bike, moto and

sportswear. We are really

focussing on that. We have a

wide demographic; from kids

that are 5-6 to 60-70 year old

guys that still ride. Our motto

has always been ‘Mild and

Wild’: we we’ll always have


that gear that is a little more

tuned down but then we also

want the wild stuff. If you look

at Mountain bike or Supercross

Troy always wants what

he calls the ‘TV package’ the

gear that will standout and

you think ‘wow’. Whether they

buy it or not, it gets their attention.

That’s what TLD has

been known for. We’ll always

try to push the envelope.

Another priority is the youth

side and we are always trying

to capture some of that youth

market and that means always

looking at new and young

blood on the artistic side with

that fresh vibe to it. We’re

evolving in one aspect and

bringing in some new tastes in

others. We won’t rest on our

laurels and we will look for the

young graphics and colours

that will capture attention;

once we have that part of the

market and have them liking

and ‘into’ our gear then it is

easier to create some brand

loyalty as the rider and customer

gets older.

TLD & ADIDAS

XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX


AMA

BLOG

TWO DOWN...

Round two of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships

just wrapped up at the Pala Raceway in Southern California

and we didn’t get a lot of questions answered in the wake of

round one. Some great rides however, and it’s funny though

because only four motos in and there are some riders and

teams that definitely need to be looking for the panic button.

Let’s dive into it yeah?

-One rider that seems to be immune

from issues so far is Monster

Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac.

The defending champion rode

amazingly to win both motos and

has three out of four to start the

year. At Pala he rode steady for

the first half of the first moto in

fifth, then fourth and then third

place. From there he hit the

afterburners and zipped around

Honda’s Ken Roczen (the early

leader) and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin

Musquin. It was quite a performance

and some big names

that he zapped along the way.

Second moto he stalked Musquin

for a while before deciding that

was it, he wanted another chequered

flag. Tomac looked to be

on his game all day long and if he

keeps that up, it’s going to be a

long summer for everyone else.

-Adam Cianciarulo claimed his

third career 250MX national and

coming off his win last week, he

has proven that he’s figured this

outdoor game. Always a better indoor

rider than out, Adam’s circulated

with the poise of a veteran

out there and his fitness seems

to be on point as well. We believe

that AC will be on a 450 at the

Kawasaki truck next year so what

if he goes out of 250’s with the

title that no one thought he could

get? What a story that would be?

Long way to go but Cianciarulo,

like Osborne in his title year,

seems to have the maturity and

fitness to salvage any bad situation

that happens to him.

-Justin Cooper of the Star Yamaha

squad was fast all day at Pala

in both practices and he streaked

off with the first moto win. Second

moto wasn’t as good, he

scored a fourth but it was a

second overall on the day for the

kid. Incredibly, Cooper has yet

to win a 250SX or MX race but

has a ton of podiums. The win is

coming, no doubt about it but for

now, the kid has to wait.

-We wondered about Ken Roczen

and this virus he’s dealing with in

terms of the nationals. If you’re

not physically on your game

outdoors, well it could be a long

summer. Well, he won last week

and looked great. He told us that

he’s figured out the issues which

he thinks came from taking antibiotics

after the burns from the

lime back in San Diego. And it

looked like he was right.


By Steve Matthes

This weekend he was checked

out in moto one before being

caught by Tomac and Musquin

and in the second moto he

finished third. Third overall for

Roczen is good on paper but had

he been 100% physically, there’s

no way he gets caught like that

in moto one. So we’ll wait and

see how #94 rebounds from this

in Colorado this weekend.

-Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson,

teammates on the Rockstar

Husqvarna team, have battled

hard in three out of the four

motos this season. Osborne says

that they both joke about it and

there are no hard feelings. Which

is great because it’s been intense

for both of them. Osborne’s close

to winning a moto, or at least

getting second behind Tomac

if he can start out front while

Anderson has been impressive

with limited time to get ready

for mx after injuring himself in

supercross.

-The relationship between MX

Sports and Glen Helen (the

track) in Southern California can

best be described as complicated.

For years Glen Helen was

the track in Southern California

for the national but issues arose

between the promoter MX Sports

and Glen Helen and they split

for a few years. The subsequent

venues that MX Sports went to

weren’t great (Lake Elsinore) or

had issues (Pala and the traffic

flow) while the USGP’s that

Glen Helen hosted were a friends

and family only deal. Both sides

realized they needed each other

and an agreement was reached

for the past few years to have the

national there.

Well, more tensions between

the sides caused another split

and we were back at Pala (but

with improved traffic flow). Glen

Helen people know they have the

heritage and the hills so they’re

not easy to deal with according

to many people that have. Pala

is less of a track but having said

that, it’s still got some elevation

and I enjoyed the departure from

the usual track prep. The surface

was left harder and more towards

it’s natural state. Crowd looked

good also. Will this be the permanent

home of the series in So-

Cal? I’m not sure but I wouldn’t

be surprised if both Glen Helen

and MX Sports finally divorce

each other, it just doesn’t seem

like either side wants much to do

with the other.


PRODUCTS

www.ktm.com

ktm

It’s been two years since KTM launched a new Enduro

range with fanfare and highlighted their new two-stroke

fuel-injected technology. The Austrians have not sat back

on their previous efforts and are striding ahead, as much

with their dirt bike R&D as they are on the Street and

road racing side. The 2020 Enduro line-up has ample

two-stroke choice with the new 150 TPI to go with the

250 and the 300 (all meeting important Euro4 emission

regulations).

The four-strokes span 250 EXC-F, 350, 450 and 500

and there is the premium Six Days model (littered with

Powerparts upgrades) and the limited edition 300 TPI

Ezrbergrodeo (just 500 units). The new generation is

fairly comprehensive with re-designed chassis’, new and

more efficient engines with reworked cooling and exhaust

systems, airboxes, handlebars, Brembo brakes and much

more.


FEATURE

THE TRUE


By Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP/Alpinestars

CALLING


FEATURE

“[MAVERICK] VIÑALES

IS REALLY FAST, SO

IS [JACK] MILLER. I

HAVE NOT SEEN MARC

[MARQUEZ] RIDING

IN PERSON BUT CAN

TELL HE IS FAST.

QUARTATARO ALSO...”


There is a wide and shiny

view from the top of the

Mission Winnow Ducati

hospitality in the heart of

the Jerez paddock. We have

scaled the structure and traversed

a narrow walkway to

reach a terrace area complete

with sofas and tables. The sun

is shining brightly and reflections

bounce off the sumptuous

collection of brightly

coloured units that have been

assembled together for the

first time this year in MotoGP.

Andrea Dovizioso, 33 years

young in March and now

seven years on the fierce Desmosedici,

is once again Marc

Marquez’ principal threat in

Grand Prix. ‘Dovi’ has to cope

with one of the most talented

motorcyclists to have graced

the FIM world championship

grid and the Italian – as the

second oldest racer in the

class – is vastly decorated

himself with 22 wins (and

almost 100 podiums) in all

categories.

Andrea smiles when we explain

our interview slot is

about motocross. We’ve

spoken before about current

themes in MXGP and Supercross

usually before or after

the daily media debriefs that

routinely take place in the

room below us. This is the

first time we’d like to learn

more about #4’s story and

why he’s become almost obsessive

about dirt bike racing

again among a pool of peers

in MotoGP that cannot get

enough of the mud.

His face darkens a little when

he explains that he can only

ride “twice a month” but I

still recall the relaxed expression

of wonderment when I

bumped into him in the Nashville

Supercross paddock in

April just before the Grand

Prix of the Americas at Austin.

Rather than discussing Ducati’s

potential or forward-thinking

approach to aerodynamics

or how Marquez can possible

be beaten…the chance to talk

MX doesn’t seem like such a

bugbear for a part of the job

that riders traditionally find to

be a chore.

What are your earliest memories

of motocross?

I remember very, very well

because that was my first time

on the bike. I was ‘born’ on a

track because my father raced,

so from the first months, as a

family, we were around race

tracks. I was playing with the

bicycle as a kid at home and

it was some of the best moments

because the family’s

job was in the same place as

the house so we had a small

garden and I could ride this

bicycle easily and my father

could prepare a really small

track. I was still four years old

and had learner wheels! Of

course I saw my Dad with a

motorbike and I wanted one

as well, so I pushed for it. I

was told if I could ride the

bicycle without the learner

wheels then I could have one.

It happened immediately and I

remember this well because –

I don’t recall many days afterwards

it was – but he gave

me a bike as a surprise. He

called me to come out of the

house and it was dark, already

the evening, and I opened the

door and the bike was there! It

was a Malaguti: red and blue.

I can remember that emotion:

it must be like scoring a goal

in a cup final it was so strong

and so nice. I started to ride

that small track in the garden

and at tracks where my father

was racing. Fortunately I

still have the bike at home! I

have a friend who is a couple

of years older who still races

motocross at a low level and

he also started with the same,

used bike so he helped me

and now I have one again.

Was there a time when you

lost some of the love of it?

Maybe a scary crash or an

injury?

Never, never.

How did you get better? Did

you have someone showing

you or a friend you rode with?

I raced motocross but we were

also riding the pocketbikes

a lot. I finished second in a

regional MX championship

and I did some Italian Championship

races but I never

made a full season. I was

DOVI ON MOTOCROSS


FEATURE

good but nothing special. Not

like [Tony] Cairoli…who was

also racing at that time. My

speed was good but not great

and I stopped for some years

because of MotoGP. I started

again in 2005 and after that

my passion grew again yearby-year

but in the last fourfive

years it increased a lot.

I follow everything with a lot

of detail, all the races and

the practices. I bought the TV

package to see all the Supercross

and I can also see the

Free and Qualifying Practices.

I watch all the races – sometimes

a day later – just to

understand the riders; not

only to see the result. I really

enjoy that. I love seeing and

working out how the riders

approach every situation. The

same for motocross [MXGP]

I’m really involved. I think this

has improved my speed in

the last four years and I try

to ride as much as I can now.

Recently I have found a really

fast rider – Danilo [Petrucci,

teammate] – and most of the

time he is faster than me! We

are training together now…so

I am really complaining about

that! But that’s the reason

why I wanted to work with him

because he is really good and

motivated. [Maverick] Viñales

is really fast also, so is [Jack]

Miller. I have not seen Marc

[Marquez] riding in person but

can tell he is also fast.


Bradley Smith?

Four-five years ago I know

Bradley was fast [then]. [Fabio]

Quartataro also. There are

quite a few and in the end I

think these guys really wanted

to race [motocross].

In MotoGP you are one of the

best in the world but when

you are on a dirtbike with

people like Cairoli or Alessandro

Lupino or those who are

Pros, where and how do see

they are better than you?

The biggest difference right

from the beginning is the

on the bike and I am angry

about that. I would love to do

more but I cannot because

of the MotoGP and I have to

get everything right for that.

That’s normal. Talking more

about the intensity: you see

how the good guys can play

with the bike, how they land

through the bumps. It is all

so amazing. How they scrub

those jumps…also their line

choice and the way they ride

on a race weekend: we simply

cannot do it. The level is

something else. We never test

or train in those conditions

DOVI ON MOTOCROSS

“YOU SEE HOW THE GOOD GUYS CAN PLAY

WITH THE BIKE, HOW THEY LAND THROUGH

THE BUMPS. IT IS ALL SO AMAZING. HOW

THEY SCRUB THOSE JUMPS…ALSO THEIR

LINE CHOICE: WE SIMPLY CANNOT DO IT.”

intensity. It is the first big

thing. I mean, there is a way

to ride very smooth - and it

is the way everybody tries

to achieve - but they have a

lot of hours on the bike, and

they are used to moving the

bike and the body in that way

and find the intensity quickly

and not drop it – like us – in

five minutes. The more intense

you can be the more

you can improve your riding,

your position and a lot

of things. If you can push for

[only] seven minutes then it is

too short a time to learn and

improve. What I miss is hours

and we’d be twenty seconds

slower. On an easier track –

like the ones we actually use

for riding – then maybe it is

eight seconds.

One of the nice parts of the

Cairoli story is how a skinny

Sicilian kid moved to Belgium

and became one of the best

sand riders in the world because

he immersed himself in

that environment-

Exactly.

Is sand a nightmare for you?

At the moment a little bit!

If you can only ride twice a

month…[then you won’t get


FEATURE

the practice] if you are born in

or around a sandy track then it

is a different story. For me it is

not quite the moment.

When was the last time you

raced?

Every year we create a small

charity race in December; the

first weekend we have free then

we are racing!

How is the dynamic or even the

mentality compared to how you

approach a MotoGP race?

Oh, everything is different! The

mentality, and the way you approach

the training and the race,

the bike. There is not a single

similar thing.

What about the level of fun?

No! For me motocross is

way-more fun.

450 or 250?

250 because I don’t really

have enough power or intensity

for the 450 and the

tracks we use are not right.

The 450 is OK in America

and when I travel there I usually

take the 350. The tracks

and jumps are too small in

Europe. It’s not fun.

I remember you picking up a

Rinaldi-race spec Yamaha in

your Tech3 days. Your name

and position in MotoGP

must have helped towards

some decent dirtbike kit and

opportunities…

For sure! I am lucky. Just recently,

when I went to America,

I received all the best stuff

from Alpinestars to go riding,

a bike and good access to

Supercross to speak with all

the riders. It [MX/SX racing]

is another world compared to

ours and is easy [for access].

I think they also like to see a

MotoGP rider that is passionate

for their sport. It’s easy to


speak with them. Sometimes

the mechanics from the Rinaldi

team text and tell me where

they are going to test or train

and if I have time I will go. It’s

really nice.

Marc has a good story about

going to one of the Grands

Prix at Bellpuig in the early

‘00s and seeing Mickael

Pichon and Stefan Everts

racing. He has those strong

memories as a kid. Were you

also affected by seeing and

watching others?

I followed the races but as a

kid my Dad never really took

me to see many, in motocross

or MotoGP. I think you will

see many of the current guys

here have a photo with Valentino

when they were younger!

Their parents brought them

to the world championship

and those photos of him in

the paddock exist: that never

happened to me because we

were racing pocketbikes and

we never really had the contact

with this world. It seemed

like a place far away from our

world. A different story. When

I see the photos of Quartararo,

Viñales and Marquez with

Rossi is seems very strange

to me. Valentino finished the

pocketbike races when we

started but there was never

really the possibility.

Time’s up. The next set of

journalists have already

scaled the Ducati terrace and

are waiting patiently. Andrea

has already completed an

unusual pre-event media opportunity

at the Fundación

Real Escuela Andaluza del

Arte Ecuestre (an equestrian

school) and the Thursday

schedule of non-racing matters

is in full flow. Dovi is

appreciated among journalists

for the way he can articulate

what MotoGP feels like, and

the almost-scientific approach

riders need to live in the acute

margins of performance necessary

for success. It does

seem as if we just nicked

the surface when it comes

to similar thoughts on motocross,

his impressions of the

technicality behind it and contrasted

to his day job between

Friday-Sunday. Mission Winnow

Ducati might be asked for

a ‘part two’.

DOVI ON MOTOCROSS


PRODUCTS

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scott sports

For those trainers in need of trainers, Scott

have reworked their slim but quality offerings

of runner’s footwear with the new Kinabalu

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shade – but there is also design thinking in

the construction. The sole is engineered with

different ‘cleats’ to maximum traction; Scott

say the ‘outsole is optimised for fast efficient

running on man made trails’. We have a pair

and the shoe is light and flexible and the

Kinetic foam apparently returns 14% more

energy than standard EVA. There is also an

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remain elusive.


Photo: R. Schedl

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M

FEATURE

THE

CHAMPION’S

FIT

HOW ANSWER USE THE UNIQUE SKILLS

OF RYAN VILLOPOTO AND HOW MX2

WORLD CHAMP JORGE PRADO LIKES TO

GET DRESSED FOR WORK

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/Answer


FEATURE

One of the most proactive

and appealing gear

brands to come out of

the United States is Answer

with a forty-two year existence

and some genuinely great

liveries and athletes in that

stable. Today Answer cannot

be ignored in MXGP thanks

to the Red Bull KTM duo of

Tony Cairoli and Jorge Prado

ruling both classes of the current

championship and having

used a spread of Answer kit

for the last two years. In the

United States the firm count

on the JGR Yoshimura team

and have no less than Ryan

Villopoto as one of their figureheads

and developers.

We caught up with Brand

Manager Randy Valade to

talk about Villopoto’s growing

influence and role at the Los

Angeles-based company and

also MX2 World Champion

Jorge Prado about the gear

itself and the using the midlevel

Elite product.

Randy, it’s two years now

with Ryan so have you been

able to fine tune how you use

him and also what he might

want out of the association?

So initially we brought him

on as a brand ambassador.

We all know his background

and that he was one of the

best to have ridden a motorcycle

at that point. He

was looking for a brand he

could do fun stuff for and

that’s how it came about with

Answer. We are using him

for a lot of content creation


and development of the new

products: he is obviously very

knowledgeable about products

from his experience and years

in the sport. We show him new

designs and concepts and he

always has a lot of good feedback.

He’s very upfront and

doesn’t beat around the bush!

If he doesn’t like something

then he tells us, some of our

guys will give some input and

might suggest ways to change

an item whereas he’ll just tell

us it sucks and we have to alter

it.

I guess it is good in some

ways, although it can be harsh

for our designers! At the end

of the day it is fun and since

he has been with Answer

he’s done some races but

also some off-road stuff and

Yamaha have given him a WR.

We did a 2021 photoshoot at

Beaumont with Nick Wey.

Is there a difference between

his role and Nick’s?

Yeah, Nick is more of a tester.

He speaks very well with our

dealers and reps as well so

we use him at some of our

trade shows. It is a little bit

of a different role but we still

use Nick for content creation.

He is our go-to test guy with

anything new that comes in.

He’s also been overseeing the

rig for the Answer Grassroots

tour at events.

“I THINK RYAN WOULD

AGREE THAT IT IS CRAZY TO

SEE THE DEVELOPMENT OF

FABRICS NOW COMPARED

TO EVEN A COUPLE OF

YEARS AGO.

Is it tempting to get Ryan in

at an earlier point and call on

that elite level experience?

Maybe use him at the ideas

stage?

Yeah. He was just here looking

at some helmet designs and

comps for a product that we

are looking to bring out in two

years time. We bring him in

and he checks them out.

He saw a few things on the

helmet today that even we

didn’t notice so it’s good to

have his expertise and he is

still very knowledgeable about

what is going on in the market

with motorcycle products.

A small example?

So for this helmet it was the

angle of the bottom of the

shell and a comment about

the visor that might help with

ventilation.

He initially liked the midrange

Elite riding gear didn’t

he?

Yeah, he tried a bit of everything

but is now stuck with

Trinity: our high-end stuff.

That’s his go-to, but when

he first came on-board he

loved the mid-range. We stuck

some Syncron on him for the

photoshoot – our entry-level

gear – and he liked that too.

That’s our big focus: to make

sure we have a good fit across

the range and that it is very

similar. Obviously there are

different materials and fabrics

involved but we want that uniform

fit across the platform.

Maybe it is more of a question

for Ryan but riding gear

must have evolved since he

last pulled on a pair of race

pants in anger…

Right! Definitely. I think when

he first pulled on the Trinity

pant he wasn’t prepared for

how stretchy and comfortable

it would be. I think he would

ANSWER, RV & JORGE PRADO


FEATURE


PRADO: “LAST YEAR I WOULD USE A PAIR

OF GLOVES ONCE BEFORE I GO RACING:

THEY’D GO INTO THE WASHING MACHINE

AND THEN THEY’D BE READY! I’M NOT

SURE WHY BUT THIS YEAR I LIKE THEM

BRAND NEW AND OUT OF THE PACKET.”

ANSWER, RV & JORGE PRADO


FEATURE

agree that it is crazy to see the development

of fabrics now compared to even a

couple of years ago.

Can the market sustain the range of

options for the customer now? From

cheaper gear to this expensive highperformance

stuff: is there perhaps too

much choice?

I think it is tough because there are a

lot of brands going down the ‘athletic fit’

route and we do with our Trinity stuff. Is

there a huge market for it? I don’t think

so. There are a handful of racers that

prefer that product but let’s be honest

we are selling most of our product to

guys who just want to ride for fun and

who might not be in the shape to really

make the most of the high-end stuff.

Some brands are heading in that direction

and maybe they see the market in

a different way to what I do. We create

these elite products that the athletes

want to wear but we know we’ll sell the

entry level and mid-level stuff and maybe

the customer has seen Trinity on the

track or TV and wants to see more.

That must be hard for development as

well because you want to pour time and

resources into something like Trinity or

prototypes but then most of the business

is coming from other products…

That’s right. It is a bit of a double-edged

sword at the end of the day! We want to

keep moving forward with new technology

and we’re working on something

now for 2021 on the higher-end platform

with one eye on the fact that we won’t

sell a ton of it…but we will sell what we

order. Hopefully someone will see what

we are doing and it will make them want

to check out something from Answer in

the stores


ANSWER, RV & JORGE PRADO


FEATURE

Jorge, this is the second

Grand Prix year with Answer.

Honestly: impressions?

It’s two years now and overall

I’m really happy for a couple

of reasons: it’s really light and

keeps me fresh. This is important,

especially when the

temperatures go up during the

summer. Sometimes you really

feel that you need some fresh

air when you are riding. I also

love the colours. When you are

training and riding every other

day it can be boring to always

have the same stuff. It actually

gives you some motivation

to go onto the track when you

look good and can wear different

colours and combinations.

The designs are cool and in

my case I like to wear different

things. It can be tricky at

KTM to have many alternative

colours but we still have special

liveries coming during the

season.

Are you fussy about what you

ask from Answer?

No real special demands. We

ride with the product that

Answer sell. We check the

sizes, and then it is good to

go riding. In the beginning the


jersey was kinda tight around

my arms and I was worried

about arm-pump but it’s not a

problem and I was even a little

surprised about that. The fit of

the pants is just right – again

we use off-the-hanger stuff –

and even with the full knee

brace it fits good.

Do you get through a lot of

product? How many sets in a

Grand Prix weekend for example?

I’m lucky that we get enough

material! For sure we try to

use it until they almost break

but we have enough and we

use good material all the time

in training and a fresh set at

the GPs. The quality is good

because the material is strong

and I have never broken any

pants or a shirt.

point between loose/easy and

the new generation of tighter

fitting. It’s really comfortable.

Is the distance from Answer

in the USA ever a factor?

The link with the U.S. is good

and that was a surprise for

me; they like to involve the

riders in their projects and

their new product. We test

it all as well as some prototypes

and can advise on fit

and dimensions. It’s the first

brand where I’ve been able to

do that kind of testing. I also

use the chest protector and

Answer socks.

Is there anything you are especially

picky about?

I’m very particular with the

gloves. I like them really tight.

When the 15 second board

as the colours for next year.

It’s another thing we can test.

Last year I would use a pair of

gloves once before I go racing:

they’d go into the washing

machine and then they’d be

ready! I’m not sure why but

this year I like them brand

new and out of the packet.

Completely fresh!

ANSWER, RV & JORGE PRADO

Are you a fan or are you indifferent

to the tighter athletic

fit of race gear these days?

The Answer gear has a good

thing going because it looks

tight but at the same time

it isn’t. They found a decent

goes up I’m making sure they

are as tight as they can be on

my hands. I really want a good

feeling on the gas, clutch and

brake. Answer has many different

models and they have

changed the design as well


PRODUCTS

www.ride100percent.com

100%

Any visitors to the OTOR website would have

seen our recent small article on 100%’s Armega.

To summarise, the American firm have

created and launched a new flagship goggle

that they claim is ‘unparalleled performance

for the modern racer’ and ‘the most sophisticated

moto goggle ever made’. That sophistication

comes through the resistant UltraHD

lens clarity – the clearest view yet in a range

of light and conditions – six moulded lenslocking

tabs that are integrated in a very slim

but strong frame that boasts a climate control

system through the vents.

It will be 100%’s priciest moto goggle yet but

the Armega goes directly into competition

for performance and recognition with Scott’s

Prospect and Oakley’s Airbrake. The website

explains more and outlines all the specs and

advantages and looks the business. Have a

click.

Elements such as fetching design, removable

noseguards, 3D foam and a wide field of vision

are a given.


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FEATURE

GOING PLACES

IN A HURRY

BRANDS, COMPANIES AND PRODUCTS MOVING AT PACE

IS SOMEHOW THE ESSENCE OF MOTOGP AND WITH A

MUCH LARGER AND RENEWED PRESENCE REV’IT HAVE

STEPPED UP TO JOIN THE PARTY IN 2019.

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP


FEATURE

The Dutch company formed in 1995 and

have ten years in Grand Prix thanks to

their leathers and protection and are

now pushing strong. “This Racing Technology

Centre represents us stepping up our

game,” says MD and Founder Ivan Vos from

inside the confines of the dark, plush and

brand new double-tiered facility in the Jerez

paddock for what is the unveiling of REV’IT’s

emblematic statement. “We want to lead and

not follow.”

“We will do that by being authentic and innovative

and we are investing in MotoGP not only for

marketing but for development.”

Vos created REV’IT after succeeding with an importation

company in Holland and identified that

the choice for motorcycling gear was either pretty

poor or very expensive. “We try to capture the

excitement of riding motorcycles but also bring

an eye for detail to our products at an affordable

price point,” he states.


REV’IT grew. They established an in-house

lab to rattle through a portfolio of products,

distribution in seventy countries, an office

in New York and a staff roster of more than

a hundred people. Over time they sought

deals with companies and manufacturers

like Gore-Tex, Tryonic, Ducati, Yamaha and

Husqvarna and won prizes on the way for

their design. REV’IT soon became an accessible

firm and one renowned for quality and

diligence.

An example of how REV’IT accelerated

quickly can be see by the structure of their

5000m2 facility in Oss where they have

amassed a modern storage and shipping

facility, office space, R&D basins and then

amenities like a gym, diner and studio where

employees can take a 21st century approach

to vocation and play. “We have created our

own world for work and relaxation,” Vos

says.

REV’IT & MotoGP


FEATURE

The R&D dept – formulated in 2016 - boast

machines (the Darmstadt) and means to

carry out simulation tests on products and

materials for abrasion and other demands

that motorcyclists might have. Alpinestars

have famously opened up their lab for media

eyes and where a full range of trials on

things like steps, resistance, decolourisation,

temperature, buckle closing and impact

testing (to pass CE rules), and REV’IT have

realised that the same spec and technology

frame of reference is essential for top-drawer

product evolution that have to tick boxes of

safety, protection, style and value for money.

For REV’IT this also includes 3D printing.

The company expanded in line with their

catalogue and road racing was a part of that

projection. Their first official rider deal was

with Randy De Puniet in 2008; “this first

year was really good because I crashed a

lot!” the Frenchman joked. Kenan Sofuoglu

gave them world championship credence

and they now have six prominent racers


most notably Danilo Petrucci and Alvaro

Bautista. “We select riders based on their

profile and whether they will fit into our family,

it sounds cheesy but we want people to

be a part of our vision and process,” says

Global Marketing Director Egbert Egbers.

REV’IT & MotoGP

“It’s been six years together now and it

was around the time when riders were really

starting to scrape the elbow for the first

time,” says Petrucci. “It’s really nice to be

part of the development because they are a

brand that follow the riders closely and put

them in the best conditions.”

“We have confidence, and we know that we

are regarded as a world leader for Adventure

riders but in the eyes of people for sport we

know this might be Alpinestars or Dainese,”

says Egbers. “So we want to change the

mindset of the consumer by doing something

different.”

“We are like three or four brands in one,” he

continues. “We want to appeal to the commuter,

the sports guy, the enthusiast and the

Adventurer. There is no platform in the world

better for reach to the sports market than

MotoGP.”

REV’IT use words like innovation and ambition

but seem to be backing them up with

a flurry of action and intent. The spotless

black RTC unit in the paddock is just one

facet how they view MotoGP as a passport

to more prominence.


MOTOGP

BLOG

THE NEXT STEP FOR GREATNESS?

Five races in, and Marc Márquez looks well on his way to

the 2019 MotoGP crown.

On a bike which is fast, but

harder to ride – see the results of

Cal Crutchlow for a comparison

– Márquez is finding new ways to

win, new ways to beat his rivals.

He makes winning look easy – he

has led for about 70% of laps

raced – and his margin of victory

is convincing. Even after slowing

down to celebrate, he won by 9.8

seconds in Argentina, 1.6 seconds

in Jerez, and nearly 2 seconds at

Le Mans. He also crashed out of

the lead in Austin, when he was

nearly 4 seconds ahead.

He is tearing up the record books

too. His current tally of premier

class victories stands at 47, level

with Jorge Lorenzo, who is in

his thirteenth season compared

to Márquez’ seventh. He has 73

wins in all Grand Prix classes,

just three behind Mike Hailwood.

In premier class victories, he has

only Giacomo Agostini, Valentino

Rossi, and Mick Doohan ahead of

him. In total GP wins, only Rossi,

Ago, and Angel Nieto have more.

At 26 years of age, it seems like

only a matter of time before he

catches them.

Or will he? Extrapolating future

success from previous seasons

can be a dangerous affair. In the

six seasons between 2000 and

2005, Valentino Rossi racked up

53 wins. But he had grown bored

of doing it so easily, even after

switching from Honda to Yamaha

and winning first time out on the

M1 as well. He toyed with the idea

of a switch to F1, lost sight of development

of the Yamaha M1, and

ending up claiming just 5 races

in 2006, compared to 11 in 2005.

He lost the 2006 title to Nicky

Hayden in an unforgettable season

ending. Rossi was 27 years

old at the time.

Could this happen to Marc

Márquez? So far, there is no sign

of his motivation starting to lag.

He is as dedicated and concentrated

now as he has ever been.

Outside distractions are eschewed,

even romantic ones, despite

reports of various amorous

liaisons. Yes, Márquez has driven

an F1 car, but he has shown no

desire to actually pursue a career

on four wheels. He rides flat

track and MX bikes to train, and

because still loves it. His heart is

clearly still in MotoGP.

Will Márquez ever need to find

extra motivation? At the moment,

winning itself is motivation

enough. He has shown no interest

in statistics or records, just

in winning, and in finding new

strategies, new approaches, new

ways. Outfoxing his rivals is as

rewarding as beating them outright.

“Sometimes you need to

find different strategies for your

opponents,” he said at Le Mans.

“If not, everybody expects you

to do the same. If somebody is

doing something new, in some

races pushing from the beginning,

in another race saving the tire,

you don’t know if he’s saving or

pushing.”


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By David Emmett

But once Márquez proves to

himself that he can beat his rivals

in any way he chooses, will he

seek out fresh challenges? He

has reason to stay loyal to Honda.

After the 2015 season, he started

to exert his influence over HRC,

asking for changes to be made to

development and testing programs,

to ways of working, even

to senior personnel. HRC obliged;

they know that right now, they

need Márquez to win titles, and

do not want to lose him. Márquez

has bent HRC to his will, and that

is a valuable prize.

Perhaps money will tempt

Márquez away. Ducati tried to

poach the Spaniard ahead of the

2019 season, but he opted to

remain with the Repsol Honda

team. KTM can ask Red Bull for

almost any number Márquez

should care to think of, and probably

double it. But Márquez has

never shown a mercenary streak.

He gets paid plenty – since Jorge

Lorenzo left Ducati, he’s probably

the best-paid rider on the grid

– but money can’t buy you race

wins and MotoGP titles, and those

are the only things that count for

Marquez.

Would he switch to Ducati to dismiss

the comparisons with Valentino

Rossi, and criticisms that

he has only won on with Honda?

Maybe if Rossi himself were to

start the goading. Márquez seems

immune to fan criticism, but if

Rossi started playing up the point

that he won on two different bikes,

that might just work. But even

then, Márquez’ priority is simple:

winning more races, winning more

titles.

In that, Márquez is more like Mick

Doohan than Valentino Rossi or

Jorge Lorenzo. More like Belgian

cyclist Eddy Merckx, whose love

of winning was so immense that

they nicknamed him The Cannibal.

His hunger for race wins is

greater than for fresh challenges.

I suspect that the only way we will

see Marc Márquez with a different

manufacturer is if Honda can

no longer satisfy his appetite for

victory.


FEATURE

ature

By Steve English, Photos by GeeBee Images

r

nurt


ure


FEATURE

For four years in WorldS-

BK Jonathan Rea has

been King. That might

not be the case any longer

(despite the recent rally at

Imola). Alvaro Bautista is the

man poised to perform regicide

and ascend to the throne.

The Ducati rider has been

almost unbeatable this year.

In hot or cold conditions, at

‘stop and go’, or even flowing

race tracks he has asserted

his dominance. It has been

as impressive as it has been

unprecedented. You can’t help

but be impressed by Bautista.

If he were a chess piece he’d

be the Queen. He’s the most

valuable piece because he can

move in any direction and put

itself anywhere on the board.

In Assen Race 1 we saw this

illustrated perfectly, as he

ducked and weaved behind

Rea probing for an opening.

He was able to hold tighter

lines or long sweeping lines.

He was able to try and roll

through corners with high corner

speed, or try and out-drag

his rivals. A jack of all trades...

and a master of them too.

Is he that much more talented

than his new rivals? Of

course not, but he has been

developed and nurtured in a

very different environment.

What is it that makes Marc

Marquez special? His otherworldly

ability to save a crash

is amazing, his ability to think

on the fly and adapt to conditions

is hugely impressive

but it’s his commitment that

really impresses. Every corner

of every lap of every session

of every round of every

season, he’s on the absolute

edge. For the seven times

world champion that’s eleven

years of Grand Prix competition,

in addition to his time in

the Spanish CEV championship

where he cut his teeth.

For thirteen years he’s known

nothing other than having his

back to the wall and coming

out swinging. Anything less,

and he’s be nowhere. That’s

what the Spanish championship

and 125cc, Moto2 and

MotoGP has taught him.

“It’s instilled in us,” explained

former peer Bradley Smith.

“Am I surprised that Alvaro is

doing what he’s doing? No I’m

not because he was riding so

well when he left MotoGP. He

was at the height of his career

at that point. I don’t want

to be disrespectful to any

of the Superbike guys, but

their system is different. In

the Grand Prix paddock from

when you’re 15 or 16 years

old you’re wide open from the

first lap you hit the track. You

have to stay at that level and

it gets ingrained in you.”

“Year on year you get better.

Playing with that 98-99%

level because if you don’t

ride at it, you don’t get a job

next year. It’s so finely tuned.


I can’t explain how much of a

difference that is but you’ve

got to believe that if something

has been that way for 15

years, 20 years however long,

it becomes normal. That’s why

we see it in the SBK races.

He can’t ‘not’ do it! He goes

and goes and has to keep riding

like that. He might open

1.5s and you see him eight or

nine laps into the race and he

has a 10-second lead and he

keeps pulling away.”

“He might take it down 5%

but that’s the maximum he’ll

ever do because he needs to

ride at that level. If he’s below

that he’ll make mistakes. He’ll

get the jitters because it’s not

natural. He’d start making

mistakes because he’s not at

his usual intensity. It speaks

for itself and the proof is in

how the race unfolds, how his

lap times are, and how the

gap is to the guys behind.”

Bautista might have taken

longer than a lot of rivals to

reach the Grand Prix paddock

- he was 18 years of age - but

he was forged in the red hot

nature of the Spanish 125GP

championship. At the time,

young riders looking to establish

themselves raced full

seasons in both the world and

national series’. In 2002 he

was runner-up to Hector Barbera

in Spain, while his rival

was finishing the season as

a regular front runner on the

world stage.

The following year Bautista

dominated in Spain by winning

the final five races. He

finished on the podium in every

one and was only beaten by

Jorge Lorenzo and Tom Luthi.

In full terms of both Grand

Prix and the CEV championship,

Bautista had established

himself as one to watch.

He looked to be the coming

man in 125GP after podiums

in 2004, but he stumbled

thereafter. Entering the 2006

season was make or break. He

needed to win the championship

or else he risked falling

through the cracks. It’s hard

not to see similarities to this

season. Claiming the 125GP

title rejuvenated his career. He

was always a front-runner in

250GP and showed plenty of

flashes in the premier class.

The ‘down’ years taught him

how to dig deeper in every

session, and what needs to

be done if you’re to make it in

the Grand Prix paddock.

“There are so many external

things that affect riders,”

continued Smith. “Just from

talking about myself and how

I’ve approach racing. It’s been

the same since I was 14 or

15 in the Spanish championships.

Now for riders it’s even

earlier! They’ve been racing

in the same way since they

were eight years old. When

they turn up in the juniors,

these kids are flat out from

six, seven or eight years old.

ALVARO BAUTISTA


FEATURE

That’s why the kids are going

to be even better than we are:

I believe that.”

That crucible of development

is different to what the

majority of Superbike riders

have come through. Bautista

- and others that have come

through the Grand Prix paddock

in general - don’t have

more natural talent than their

new rivals but they are conditioned

differently. If Rea or

Michael van der Mark, Tom

Sykes or Alex Lowes traversed

the Grand Prix paddocks

as kids, there’s little doubt

that their talent level would

have been enough to make

an impact. The difference is

that in 125GP, if you weren’t

on that absolute limit you’d

struggle to score points. The

same would not have been the

case in British national championships,

or even the World

Supersport series.

That’s not a ‘knock’ on either

of those championships at all

either. The top talent in any

competition are, and have

always been, world class. The

difference is depth. When you

combine the mentality that

riders develop in Grand Prix

racing and the clear advantages

that the brand new Ducati

V4R has, it’s clear that it creates

a perfect storm for Bautista

to show his ability. He’s

not the best rider to come

across from MotoGP in recent

years, but he is the one that

comes across in the best circumstances.

Would he achieve

what he’s achieved with a

Honda like Nicky Hayden? Of

course he wouldn’t. The same

could be said for every bike

on the grid.

WorldSBK might be looking

to create some parity with

regulations but it is production

based. The Ducati V4R is

the newest bike on the market,

has the most power and

is the most expensive base

bike on the road. It should be

the best bike. And it is. Bautista

is showing himself to be

a rider that is best suited to

getting the most from it too.

His adaptation to the Pirelli

tyres has been incredible but

it’s also been helped by the

development direction of the


product. The larger profile

tyres are much more similar

to what he left behind MotoGP

with Michelin’s tyres, except

the front tyre is actually a lot

stronger. He can ride a Superbike

like a MotoGP bike and

now he’ll be forcing the other

riders, and teams, to develop

their packages towards that

style.

It’s the polar opposite of what

we’ve seen as successful in

recent years. Have a look

at Rea or Chaz Davies: they

brake deep and hard and try

and spend as little time on the

edge of the tyre as possible.

Now look at Bautista’s style.

He’s flat out every corner of

every lap but he’s also looking

after his tyres.

He’s doing that with his style

and his electronics. The Ducati

is great package and he’s

riding it like a 250cc Grand

Prix machine. He left MotoGP

feeling that it was a missed

opportunity. He was riding

better than ever and went to

WorldSBK with a chip on his

shoulder. He wants to prove

the doubters wrong. Bautista’s

issue in MotoGP wasn’t that

he wasn’t talented enough or

fast enough it was that when

the music stopped in last

year’s game of musical chairs

he was left standing.

Hell hath no fury like a

scorned rider. “Bautista is riding

a race like he’s in MotoGP,

wide open from the first lap,

and not looking behind until

you cross the chequered flag,”

Smith observes. “That’s what

he is doing and why we see

such good results. I don’t

think we’ve seen the best from

Rea yet - other than a handful

of races - but that’s because

he’s kind of not sure what to

do moment. Does he just take

loads of second places as

the bike can’t compete with

Bautista at the moment? He

is in a no man’s land and the

mentality is so different as a

result. In the last three laps of

every race we’ve seen the real

Johnny come out, because he

goes into second and pulls the

gap and ends up in second.”

“He’s gone toe to toe with

Bautista a few times for eight

or nine laps. The sprint race

in Australia or race one in

Thailand are the best examples.

We have seen him do it,

but when Bautista is a second

clear at the end of Lap 1 everyone

is in a fight for second

straight away. It changes your

approach to not being about

getting the best out of what’s

underneath you, it’s about getting

those 20 points.”

ALVARO BAUTISTA


SBK

BLOG

CRUCIAL TIMES...

WorldSBK is in the middle of another long gap between

races that makes it a little frustrating when you see all other

motorcycle series in full swing. There is a test this week in

Misano which will offer a couple of pointers as to where we

will see things go in the coming races.

There will be one new arrival at the

test in the shape of the Ten Kate

Yamaha R1 with Frenchman Loris

Baz on board. It will be great to see

the Dutch squad back at the race

track but I can’t honestly see them

making an immediate impact on

the field given that this is the first

time their racing machine will have

run outside the workshop and also

the first time in a fair few months

that Baz will be lapping at racing

speed.

There is always the temptation in

these instances to try and hit the

track running, to be at the same

pace as your peers from the outset.

I hope, however, that Loris and the

team ease into things gently and

‘walk’ for a few laps before trying to

light the afterburners.

The other intriguing thing for this

test is how Kawasaki will approach

it. Jonathan Rea won last time out

at Imola, in both race one and the

Superpole Race, but I reckon he left

Italy smarting a little at the misfortune

of not being able to score

a maximum in race two due to the

weather and missing the opportunity

to claw back more points in the

title race.

I go back to the start of the year

when discussing the impact Bautista

had made and the suggestion offered

by someone close to the team

that he would struggle in Imola.

Ducati had taken the opportunity to

test there in the weeks before the

race but the Spaniard was still off

the pace. Was it down to his riding

style or was Alvaro just taking a

measured approach to his feeling

about the race track? He was vocal

in his views on the Sunday that he

felt the track was unsafe in the dry

and therefore much worse in the

wet.

Despite that win, Rea has spoken

in the press about the need to

improve the set up of the Ninja

ZX-10RR to keep him on par, or

ahead, of the Ducati. Last year, the

early season test took place after

Assen, in Brno, and Rea and the

team found something extra that

raised his level again for the rest of

the season. That set him off on an

incredible winning streak, with only

the Yamaha’s of Van Der Mark and

Lowes occupying the top step mid

season.

At the end of the year Rea’s crew

chief Pere Riba said that in the

Brno test they were able to try

some changes to the bike’s set up

that he had been thinking about

since Buriram, and that was the

first opportunity he had had to

put them to the sword. We are in

a similar situation again. In Motorland

Aragon I spoke to Riba

on Saturday night and he echoed


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Graeme Brown

that view, that there were things

he would like to try but with 100

minutes of track time on a Friday, to

get ready for Superpole and a race,

there is no gap in a race weekend

to test a change in chassis set up or

engine strategy.

This therefore makes the coming

two days in Misano a make or break

outing for the KRT squad. I expect

to see Rea turning a lot of laps,

working on outright speed but also

race pace, making 15-20 lap runs

to see how the chassis behaves on

a worn tyre and lighter fuel load.

If Riba’s little light bulb moments

prove productive I predict a closer

battle from Jerez onwards.

That said Ducati are testing as

well. I am sure there are areas that

Bautista can improve on but I think

the biggest benefit for Ducati will be

a positive test for Chaz Davies. He

seemed to have made friends with

the V4R in Imola and the Misano

test may be the opportunity for him

to cement that relationship and get

back to winning ways.

It had been reported that Honda

would not be present in Misano

because HRC had not allocated a

budget for testing, but the Moriwaki

Althea Honda squad are going all

in with a three rider line up. Leon

Camier is still not fit after his Imola

Superpole accident but they have

drafted in former WorldSBK, and

current BSB runner, Xavi Fores

alongside All Japan JSB1000 series

rider Yuki Takahashi. They will work

alongside Ryiuchi Kiyonari to test

the current Fireblade. It’s an interesting

situation to have three riders

steering a machine that is widely

rumoured to be being replaced at

the end of the year. However, we are

now in the run up to the Suzuka 8Hr

and Honda may see this as a valuable

opportunity to get some extra

track time under their belt for what

is arguably a more important race

for them.

There is still speculation and rumour

about how the manufacturers

will approach the WorldSBK series

in 2020. Will Honda give HRC free

reign to develop a title winning Fireblade?

Will Yamaha have a new R1

based on the M1 MotoGP machine?

And will Kawasaki throw the kitchen

sink at a new homologation special?

Time will tell but other changes may

be afoot in WorldSBK beyond the

bikes themselves.

New FIM President Jorge Viegas

set the cat amongst the pigeons

in an interview with Polish journalist

Grzegorz Jedrzejewski when he

said, in relation to the historic reasons

why Dorna took over the rights

to promote WorldSBK in 2012, that

“this is not the solution……..we in

the FIM, and me in particular, are

working to change that and you will

have news soon……” He went on

to say that ‘WorldSBK cannot be a

second division of MotoGP’. Dorna

supremo, Carmelo Ezpeleta, offered

a very quick, and apparently, angry

rebuttal of those comments saying

that he knows they need to make

WorldSBK more attractive but they

will continue with the series.

It’s an interesting and I think a valid

point. For sure Dorna will be happy

to continue with WorldSBK. As far

as I am aware the series makes

money for them in TV rights and

advertising, despite it appearing

to many on the outside as being

a poor relation to MotoGP. It has

been said in the past that WorldSBK

needs revolution, not evolution. If

radical solutions are needed then

Dorna haven’t so far come up with

the right one in the seven years of

their tenure.


SBK

BLOG

There has been a lot of changes in

the technical regulations and the

race formats over that time but

nothing has raised the championship

to a level that Viegas might

consider it to be in the first division.

I’ve said it before if there is a

new media or promotion strategy

that will change the world, I honestly

can’t see Dorna applying it

to WorldSBK ahead of MotoGP.

Maybe Viegas has a point then. The

big question is: is their anyone out

there willing to take the Superbike

championship on? However, flawed

he and his FIM colleagues feel the

current position is, maybe Dorna

are currently the best people to

keep Superbike racing at a world

championship level alive and kicking.

I will be watching this space

very closely.

One thing that makes any series

successful is close, entertaining racing.

We have had that in WorldSBK

this year, but generally for second

place. Maybe this week will see

those currently vying to be the best

of the rest finally make a step forward

to challenge Ducati.


MCH Photo


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FEATURE


ONE FOR

THE AGES

Words and Photos by Steve English AKA ‘sTTevie’

COULD THIS BE THE BEST ISLE OF MAN TT

EVER? DON’T RULE IT OUT

Last year’s Isle of TT was the fastest in history. Not only did Peter Hickman

smash the lap record and become the first man ever to lap at an

average speed in excess of 135mph around the fabled Mountain Course

we saw lap records in every class. It was a stunning festival of speed. It

was beautiful and frightening. This year should see more of the same.

Can Hickman move the goalposts further? Can Dean Harrison overcome

the disappointment of 12 months ago when he held the lead of

the Senior until the final miles? Is Michael Dunlop still the favourite?

What can John McGuiness do on his comeback? What about Hutchy?

Or Conor Cummins? James Hillier has finally won a Northwest 200,

can he use that momentum at the TT?

So many questions. When you look into the crystal ball you can see so

many different answers.

Over two gruelling weeks those answers reveal themselves. Practice

Week and Race Week. For those two weeks a rock in the middle of the

Irish Sea becomes the centre of the world.

This year promises to be very special.


FEATURE

THE

135MPH

MAN

WHEN PETER HICKMAN

WENT TO THE ISLE OF MAN

TT FOR THE FIRST TIME IT

WAS BECAUSE HE HAD NO

CHOICE. RACE ON THE ROADS

OR STOP RACING. NOW

HE’S THE MAN TO BEAT AS

THE REIGNING SENIOR TT

WINNER AND THE OUTRIGHT

LAP RECORD HOLDER

Last year Peter Hickman completed the

set. He finally added an Isle of Man TT

victory to his Northwest 200, Ulster Grand

Prix and Macau Grand Prix success. The

32 year old is the only rider in history to

have posted a 135mph lap. He is the man

to beat again this year, but how did it all

come about?

Hickman, from Lincolnshire, was an established

British Superbike rider but his

career was reaching a crucial turning

point. At 27 years of age he needed to

make a choice: keep finding money to

go racing or face a different future. The

winter of 2013 was spent ensuring he was

ready for the year that would ultimately

define his career.

“IS IT SCARY? FOR ME NOT REALLY. I PREPARED

AND LEARNED THE TRACK. I WAS CONFIDENT IN

MYSELF TO BE ABLE TO DO IT. SO I JUST KIND OF

GOT ON, REALLY. AFTER MY FIRST NIGHT AT THE

TT IT WAS DIFFICULT TO FIND THE WORDS TO DE-

SCRIBE IT. DOING 190MPH DOWN A PUBLIC ROAD

IS JUST AN UNREAL EXPERIENCE, BUT MOST OF

ALL IT WAS A REALLY ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE.”


The following season he would

tackle the international road

races for the first time. Making

his debut at the Northwest

200 would give him an idea

of what to expect, but the TT

would be the centre point of

his season. It would also prove

to be the turning point of his

career.

Hickman had run out of options

in BSB, and with only

three top five finishes in over

150 BSB starts, the phone

wasn’t ringing off the hook

with offers. Within a year he

had turned being the fastest

ever newcomer at the TT into

rides that allowed him to become

a BSB race winner.

“At the time the goal was to

find a way to stay in the British

Championship. Unfortunately

I couldn’t do it without a big

chequebook. I’d never had one,

so I had to find another way to

keep racing bikes. One of the

ways I could do that, and the

cheapest way, was to try some

road racing. I didn’t fancy

doing all the kind of national

Irish stuff, but I fancied the

Northwest, the TT, the Ulster

and Macau. That was why I decided

to have a go at it. Then

it turned out that I’m alright at

it!”

“Is it scary? For me not really.

A lot of riders say they’re nervous

and not sure about things.

My first ever road race was the

Northwest 200 in 2014, and

on the run down to University

I was absolutely flat out and

doing nearly 200 mph on first

lap through the speed trap! I’d

never been there before, but

I prepared and learned the

track. I knew where I was going

and I knew it was a straight

line. It didn’t scare me. I was

confident in myself to be able

to do it. So I just kind of got

on, really.”

“After my first night at the

TT it was difficult to find the

words to describe it. Doing

190mph down a public road is

just an unreal experience, but

most of all it was a really enjoyable

experience. I felt really

comfortable out there straight

away, didn’t push hard and

just concentrated on learning

as much as possible. It was

a different experience on the

closed roads compared to the

laps I did on open roads to

prepare for the TT. Obviously

you can use both sides of the

road, and there’s nothing coming

the other way! There were

bumps in places I never realised

there’d be bumps.”

“I was the fastest ever newcomer

and I ended up getting

a good BSB ride off the back

of it - I’ve never looked back

since. With a decent BSB ride

I actually won a race. People

started to think ‘Oh, he can

actually win races in BSB.’ I

never looked back from that

point.”

Indeed he hasn’t. Hickman

is now a regular contender

in BSB. He’s been into the

showdown, the championship

decider for the top six riders,

for the last two years. Hickman

is now a bonafide star of the

British championship. He’s a

man in demand. It’s all so very

different compared to when

he was forced to race on the

roads initially.

Making that switch at 27 also

offers Hickman some perspective.

Would he have raced on

the roads at five or six years

earlier? Probably not. Having

the benefit of that added

experience and extra maturity

to understand his own limits

allowed him to jump into the

road racing crucible as a contender.

“I go to the TT because I enjoy

it. I go because I want to be

there. I’m not going for a big

cheque. I go there because I

want to. Initially I went to the

TT because I wanted to keep

riding. At the time I was thinking,

‘what am I going to do?’

Road racing was an option. I

was mature enough. I was 27

and I’d been riding big bikes

for ten years. I had experience

in the Superstock and Superbike

classes and I felt that I

had enough experience. I felt

that I was mature enough in

myself to not ride like a dickhead

and keep myself alive.”

2019 TT: PETER HICKMAN


FEATURE

w“I don’t know what I would

have been like if I went racing

at the TT when I was 21 or 22

years old. I don’t think that I

would have gone at that point

and, to be honest, I’m not sure

whether people should race

over there that early. I had

learned all my craft on short

circuits.”

“Obviously the worst can still

happen at a short circuit, but

in general it is pretty safe. So

all my mistakes I made, all

the crashes I had and all that,

99% of the time I was absolutely

fine. The young lads that

come here do the Irish road

racing and TT and all that

when they’re young, they’re

making mistakes on roads with

massive consequences. That’s

tough. Then they don’t have

the‘safety barrier’, if you like,

to be able to push beyond the

limit, get it wrong and understand

why and how and learn

from it because the consequences

are so high.”

Those consequences are all

too easy to remember at the

TT. Every stretch of road has a

story. Those stories are typically

not easy reading. Riding on

the roads takes a commitment

that few can fathom. Do racers

ride with those thoughts on

their mind? Do they go easier

through the races? Are they

riding within themselves?

“The way you ride on the

roads is different but you’re


still pushing at 100%. I think

that it’s a mistake to think that

a short circuit rider is going

at 95% when they race on the

roads. You still push as hard as

you can the roads, but it is different.

It’s hard to explain. You

don’t ride in the same way. You

don’t push the front anywhere

near what you do at BSB. You

don’t ride the front into the

corners really hard. You don’t

lean over as much, because

there’s not as much grip. So

it’s not because you don’t want

to or you aren’t able to do

what short circuit riders can

do. The reason it’s different is

because there isn’t as much

grip on the track. Without the

grip you can’t ride the same.”

“You find the limit in a different

way. A lot of the corners

at the TT lead onto really long

straights. Any kind of corner

that leads onto a long straight

- and you might have a two

mile straight - you need to lose

a little bit going into the corner

so that you can gain lots coming

out. If you do that in BSB

you’d get hammered because

the straights aren’t that long.

Because you’re making sure to

setup the exit you’re braking

earlier. For me I’m way more

relaxed on the roads because

I’m braking way earlier than

where I know I could. A lot

of my success on the roads

comes from racing in the British

championship.”

“It’s interesting for Dean Harrison

and more and more of the

roads riders that are doing the

full BSB season now. They get

the benefit of racing but they

also have a problem because

the focus for them is obviously

on the road races but by racing

in BSB the risk of crashing

is higher. You push to the limit

and beyond on short circuits

and it can take time to figure

out where that limit is. If you

crash and end up hurting yourself

then you could miss out

on the road racing season.”

“I’m the opposite; I’m a short

circuit racer that comes road

racing. I don’t have to worry

about not hurting myself

because both are just as important

for me. I’ll be doing

BSB and that’s my focus. Once

that’s done and I’m doing

a road race, it becomes my

focus. If there’s another BSB

I’ll do that, and then go back

to a road race. It’s a bit different.

The TT is the big race, for

road racing at least, and it’s

obviously a main focus of mine

but once the TT is done it’ll be

BSB on my mind again.”

Will the pressure of being the

favourite change things for

Hickman? He’s got a target on

his back as a Senior TT winner,

lap record holder and the rider

that came-from-behind on the

last lap 12 months ago to win

the biggest prize. Hickman

does his best to play down

that pressure.

“The TT is such a diverse

place. It’s so unique. It’s so

long and it goes through so

many different types of tarmac

and areas of the island.

It changes all the time. It goes

from narrow and bumpy to

being wide open and smooth.

It’s got uphill and downhill sections

while other bits are quite

flat. Some of it is blind. Some

of it you can see easily. It’s

very, very different.”

“Before I won my first TT, I

always said that the pressure

was on the people that

have already won races. Once

you’ve won a TT you can’t really

go back. You know you can

win and want to do it again.

Now that I’ve won one I’ve kind

of changed my mind! I’m now

saying, ‘I’ve won one, so now

the pressure’s on the people

who haven’t won one!’”

2019 TT: PETER HICKMAN


FEATURE

FINDING

FREEDOM

LEE JOHNSTON HAS

BEEN THE ‘COMING

MAN’ OF ROAD

RACING, ONCE A

FACTORY HONDA

RIDER WITH LOTS OF

EXPECTATION ON HIS

SHOULDERS. NOW

HE’S BACK IN A ROLE

THAT’S MUCH MORE

SUITABLE FOR A ROAD

RACING MAVERICK

Ten years ago Lee Johnston

was the up and coming man of

Road Racing. He was a 20 year

old British national champion

who had started to race on the

roads and was showing a lot

of promise. Fast forward a few

years and he had become a

winner. He was on a path that

would lead straight into a factory

Honda pit box. He was on

a path to everything any rider

would ever want. Any rider that

is, except for Johnston.

He’s always had a maverick

streak. Fermanagh sits close

to the border between Northern

Ireland and the Republic

of Ireland. Johnston was born

into a town that had been hit

by The Troubles; a time of

conflict when life and death

was an every day fact for his

country. Now, 30 years later,

he still has to factor life and

death into his decisions.

“You have to have the right

of frame of mind to go racing,”

reflected Johnston at the

recent Northwest 200. “I did

my first Northwest by accident,

but I absolutely loved it.

I remember going back to the

British Championship after

and after doing about ten laps

I just thought: ‘this is shit.’ I

was going absolutely flat out

but thinking ‘f**k me, I’ve no

interest in this at all.’ Road

Racing was totally different

for me. Over the next four or

five years I absolutely loved it.

There’s no feeling like it. We’re

lucky to be doing it. You can’t

book a track day at the Northwest.

You can’t do a track day

at the TT. There’re not many

people who get to do this. It’s

so special.”

“After starting on the roads

I really wasn’t interested in

racing short circuits again. If

there was no buzz I saw no

point in racing at British national

level again. I had won

the Superstock 600 championship

and been at the front

in Supersport, but I was happy

to just focus on the roads. I

lost all interest in short circuit

racing.”

“I instantly fell in love with

the roads and I instantly fell

out of love with short circuits.

So in 2011 I stopped racing

in the British Championship.

I’m back racing it again this

year and it’s been a lot of fun

again. At the time I was probably

a bit lazier; if I didn’t enjoy

something I’d not do it. Now

though I know that you have

to do it. You can’t compete

against the best guys on the

roads now if you’re not riding

every week. You also can’t just

race at the short circuits with

the goal of getting ready for

the roads. These are some of

the best riders in the world so

if you race you need to give it

everything. I want to be there

and I want to do well racing in

Britain. I’m back doing it and

I’m back enjoying it again.”


2019 TT: LEE JOHNSTON


FEATURE

Johnston is back racing in the British

Supersport class and has started the

season strongly. The Northwest 200

was his first road race of the season,

and the experience of racing short

circuits clearly helped; he claimed

victory in the first Supersport of

the NW200 race week. That was his

fourth victory on the coast road and

has set The General up nicely for the

Isle of Man TT.

“You can’t do well when you’re not

really bothered about being there

in Britain. You need to want it. I’ve

proven myself so far, so it’s been

good. The days of turning up for

three weeks of road racing and not

riding the rest of the year are long

gone. You can’t just turn up and

compete…well you can but the risk

goes up massively. You’re not fully

bike fit for really pushing the limits.

Your body isn’t used to it either. Is

there any other sport in the world

where they don’t compete all year

but expect to contend for a few

events? Road Racing was a bit behind

the times but it’s changed now.”

Being able to race in Britain has

obviously helped Johnston but there

has been another factor which has

impacted him much more: freedom.

Riders spend their careers looking

for factory contracts but sometimes

the dream can become a nightmare.

For Johnston the experience of being

a works Honda rider was obviously

one he had sought. Now though, he’s

glad to have the opportunity to set

his own schedule. Forming his own

team – with the backing of people

like XL Moto - has given him that

freedom.


It’s also changed his outlook

on racing. Gone are the envious

looks towards other riders

and teams. Now he knows

that everyone around him is

committed to his programme

and nothing else. Having been

able to handpick every member

of his race team, buy the

bikes and even book the ferry

tickets, he feels totally different

heading to TT 2019.

from the ground up, picked all

these guys, all the sponsors

and everything. We sorted

all of this, and now I don’t

look into any other tent and

think about what they have.

I’m completely happy. I think

that’s the biggest thing. I’m

not striving to have something

that I can’t have or whatever.

I’m wanting to make what I

have the best possible.

bikes and everything else you

need to go racing. Everything

we have was bought over the

last six months. We’ve got

BMW’s for the Superbike and

Superstock classes. We’ve a

Yamaha for Supersport and

all of our bikes were bought

by us for this season. There’s

nothing on them that says

BMW or Yamaha. They just

say Ashcourt Racing.”

2019 TT: LEE JOHNSTON

“I probably used to look at

the factory bikes and think

that they’ve got ‘this, that and

the other’. Now I don’t envy

anything. I’ve built this team

“In December last year we

sat down and started to get

everything in motion. Between

then and end of February we

had bought the trucks and the

They might say Ashcourt Racing

but they mean a lot more

than that to Johnston. They

mean liberty. The freedom to

choose whom to race with,


FEATURE

where to race and when to do it. The roads are

still the centre of attention but a full-time British

Supersport season means that suddenly

Johnston is busier than ever. Suddenly he’s

feeling ready for a TT more then he can remember

for a long time. Suddenly he’s a real

contender once again.

“I’m not going to lie, it was hard going back

to short circuits for this year. There’s a different

way of riding. You’re on maximum attack

all the time. You ride differently to the roads.

At the TT we’re giving it everything we have

but you do it in a different way. In short circuit

racing you’re rubbing and bumping but on the

roads you can’t ride like that. I’m enjoying the

short circuit races though because it makes

you sharper and fitter for the roads. I’ve been

able to do a lot of laps at the Northwest 200

and not feel tired. I feel great.”


Around a 37.75 mile lap being strong physically

is important but feeling razor sharp

mentally even more so. For Johnston, a three

time podium finisher at the TT, the benefit of

having had so much time in the saddle this

year will be twofold; he’ll be fitter than ever

but he’ll also be able to deal better with the

mental fatigue of the TT.

“The TT is a tough event. If the weather is

good you can have so many laps in practice

before the racing has even started. Then

you’re hung out mentally and physically.

There’s pressure all the time. You need to go

in there with a good mentality. You have to be

strong and fit.”

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2019 TT: LEE JOHNSTON


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market. The world champion has a line of casual

clothing with personal sponsor high street chain

Pull and Bear but Alpinestars have taken the step

of identifying some of the key items in their street

catalogue of protection and riding garments and

have applied the Marquez logo, number, design

and colours (red, black and white). Some of the

products are more prominent with their branding,

others more subtle but it will suit fans or admirers

of the best Grand Prix racer in the world.


MOTOGP

BLOG

‘A RESULT THAT GIVES US WINGS’

A decent glimpse into the relentless drive within KTM

could be witnessed at Jerez. Results at the start of the season

may not have caught the eye but there were signs of a

breakthrough. Some of the customary success in off-road

disciplines (with Cooper Webb on the cusp of winning the

Supercross crown, the company’s 300th title across all disciplines)

must have been rubbing off.

Yet there were no signs of celebration

in Red Bull’s glitzy hospitality

unit on Saturday evening.

Motorsport Director Pit Beirer

was locked away in a tense board

meeting, where, along with CEO

Stefan Pierer and CSO Hubert

Trunkenpolz, an inquisition was

allegedly underway as to the company’s

grand prix failings.

To borrow new signing Jorge Martin’s

words, KTM’s Moto2 operation

was “hoping for a miracle”

after its chassis design was some

way off its competitors. None of

its MotoGP machines qualified in

the top 15 that day, and marquee

signing Johann Zarco was caught

on camera saying “[either] we are

f***ing s**t in chassis, or we are

f***ing s**t in controlling power”

the morning before.

Understandable, then, that Beirer’s

first words to me were “I’m

under pressure,” ahead of an

interview that had been scheduled

earlier that week. It was a phrase

he repeated twice over the next

ten minutes.

But fast-forward a little over two

weeks later and Pol Espargaro’s

staggering sixth place at Le Mans

was no finer example of how a

fortnight can be an age in motorsport.

Even before that tremendous

showing in France – jumping

to sixth on lap one from a starting

place of twelfth and coming home

just 5.9s back of race winner Marc

Marquez – there were clear indications

that KTM’s project had

made significant steps forward

from a disappointing 2018.

Espargaro’s top tens in Argentina

(tenth) and Austin (eighth) didn’t

really tell the whole story. The

Catalan was 16 seconds quicker

over race distance at Qatar when

compared to the best-placed

RC16 in 2018. At the Circuit of

the Americas he shaved 14 seconds

off last year’s race time. And

while the winter resurfacing of

Jerez played a major part in this

number, Espargaro was a full 30

seconds faster over 27 race laps

than KTM’s best the year before.

If that’s not enough, take into account

how far back he has been

from the class’ leading names,

often Marquez and Honda. Five

races into 2018 and the average

distance to the race winner was

30.3 seconds; this year it’s 18.8.

Now that’s real progress.


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Neil Morrison

Even Espargaro’s championship

position (ninth, a place ahead of

fancied preseason pace setter

Maverick Viñales) indicates as

much.

Le Mans displayed that, even

three years into this project, KTM

is still capable of making enormous

steps forward with upgrades.

An updated engine configuration

and carbon swingarm that

Espargaro used in the race helped

him maintain a strong rhythm until

the chequered flag. “It’s quite

a big part of this result, I think,”

said team boss Mike Leitner. “It

looks like in general we get more

stable lap times, from what we

saw in Jerez.”

All of which is a marked improvement

for the Catalan, who appeared

to be falling out of favour

in 2018, when some careless

crashes led to costly injuries. “I

am really sure he didn’t honestly

tell us how bad his injuries were

last year so I think he was just

not – heath wise – that strong to

do proper training and prepare,”

Beirer told me at Jerez. “On the

other side he still had a difficult

bike to handle; I know that.

But then, of course, sometimes I

was getting a little bit tired of getting

the feeling: ‘we can improve

only if the bike is improving.’”

“Maybe I was asking a little bit

too much from Pol because we

could give him some small improvements,

and he is adding a

lot from himself now if you look at

his data, his riding style and his

performance, we could not ask for

a better rider in the project that

Pol. He never stopped believing in

the project. So he’s a really strong

‘leg’ in the project at this time.”

But what Espargaro is achieving

must be countered by the ongoing

struggles on the other side of

the garage. There appears to be

an unwillingness from Zarco to

adapt his smooth, flowing style

that worked so well with Yamaha’s

M1 to the late-braking RC16 which

Espargaro once nicknamed ‘The

Bull’ for its rough-shod tendencies.

Seven places and 26 seconds

back of his team-mate at his

home race was as bad a result as

Zarco could have envisioned, especially

when Jean-Michel Bayle

was present at Le Mans in his new

role as his countryman’s supervisor.

Should no serious improvements

be evident by the summer

break, serious questions regarding

his future will be raised.

To put it simply, Espargaro is

making him look bad. For KTM to

be finishing within six seconds of

one of the fastest riders there ever

was in its third season when Japanese

rivals Yamaha have been

around for 47 years, and Honda

and Suzuki 42, speaks highly of

the expertise and drive behind

this project. With new test rider

Dani Pedrosa’s on-track input yet

to fully have an effect, one imagines

for KTM the only way is up.

Don’t be surprised to see another

podium by the season’s end.


PRODUCTS

www.foxhead.com

fox

Fox have hacked and tweaked their range

of helmets in recent years and embraced

MIPS technology for their last version of the

premier V3 model. The same helmet – used

by their elite athletes like Tim Gajser and

Ken Roczen – has undergone a radical shift

for the 2020 and was just recently unveiled.

The big moves? The MVRS (magnetic visor

release system) has been praised and criticised

but this latest generation is apparently

the most resistant and effective yet.

Interestingly Fox have embraced their own

ideas and theories to address rotational acceleration

(and we’ll have an interview with

Fox honcho Mark Finley in the next issue on

the subject) with Fluid Inside. It is a system

they describe as: ‘based on extensive scientific

research, Fluid Inside is engineered

to enhance your helmet’s ability to protect

your brain by mimicking Cerebral Spinal

Fluid (CSF) – your body’s natural protection.

The V3 incorporates a matrix of Fluid pods

oriented around the head and attached to

the helmet interior. By precisely decoupling

or “floating” the helmet on the head, each

Fluid pod matrix acts like CSF (Cerebral

Spinal Fluid) to independently and simultaneously

manage the linear and rotational

forces acting on soft brain tissue.’ Sounds

pretty cool, and having seen and handled

the fluid capsules it looks and feels like innovative

stuff. There is also a Varizorb liner

and a Cage structure around the chinbar

and eye area of what is a multi-composition

shell available in four sizes.

Ventilation is another hotspot of the development

to maximise cooling even at low

speed. The company call the new V3 their

most technically advanced lid offering yet,

and based on a mere glance at the tech

specs they are not exaggerating. The choice

for a new off-road helmet just became even

wider.

Click on any link to check out more detailed

explanation of the V3’s attributes.


THE

TEST

OLD

KIND OF

NAKED

Words by Roland Brown

Photos by Jason Critchell


TEST


SUZUKI KATANA

Back in 1981 Suzuki’s original Katana

stunned the superbike world not

just with its unique look but also in

the way that it had been created. Shaped

not by Suzuki but by a German freelance

designer named Hans Muth, the fourcylinder

café racer gave the GSX1100 on

which it was based a new lease of life and

highlighted the potential for collaboration

between Japanese factory and European

styling house.

Fast-forward almost four decades, and

a new Katana is following its famous

forebear in both respects. Angular silver

shapes echo the original model’s appearance

if not its boldness, justifying the

name’s derivation from an ancient ceremonial

sword while giving a naked donor

bike – in this case the GSX-S1000 – a

sharp new set of clothes.

And once again the momentum comes not

from Japan but Europe.

This time it’s from Italian freelance Rodolfo

Frascoli, who created a Katana-themed

concept machine for Milan’s EICMA show

in 2017 and was then commissioned by

Suzuki to help bring it to production, complete

with trademark features including

pointed nose, tinted flyscreen and rectangular

headlight.

There’s no change to the GSX-S’s 999cc,

dohc liquid-cooled engine, which produces

a healthy maximum of 148bhp. A less impressive

figure is the fuel capacity of just

12 litres; the Katana’s sleeker tank cover

necessitated a reduction from the GSX-S’s

17 litres.

In place of the old bike’s steel frame and

twin-shock rear end is a modern combination

of aluminium frame, monoshock

suspension and a number-plate holder

mounted on the swing-arm.


TEST

Suzuki resisted the temptation to replicate

the old Katana’s clip-on handlebars and racy

riding position. Instead the new bike has a

raised, one-piece handlebar giving a roomy,

near-upright position more likely to appeal

to riders old enough to recall the early Eighties.

Former owners of the old model should

appreciate the period-style spiral tachometer

bar, possibly while struggling to read the

busy instrument console around it.

The GSX-S1000’s key components – basically

its punchy, powerful four-pot motor and

sweet-handling chassis – are retained with

very few changes. The GSX-S has never quite

had the pure power or refinement to join the

ranks of genuine super-nakeds, but it is fast

and addictively entertaining, and passes all

its attributes to the Katana.

The 16-valve unit fires up with an appealingly

raspy sound though its airbox and

stubby silencer. There’s plenty of torque from

low revs, the only real drawback a slightly

snatchy throttle for which the GSX-S has

been much criticised. Improved by an updated

twist-grip, it’s still noticeable but I didn’t

find it a problem even on wet roads during a

blast round the Midlands.

Once the engine is into its stride there’s no

time to worry about that, because the big

Kat is leaping forward like a hungry lioness

chasing supper. Provided the Suzuki is kept

spinning with the typically sweet-changing

six-speed gearbox (shame there’s no quickshifter),

it will strain its rider’s neck muscles

all the way to a top speed of about 150mph.

That performance is sufficiently super-naked

for most riders, though the Katana also inherits

the GSX-S’s slightly basic electronics

set-up, which lacks the Inertial Measurement

Unit that allows high-level traction control

and cornering ABS. At least the Suzuki does

the basics well, stopping hard thanks to

powerful Brembo front brake calipers, and

providing generous cornering grip with its

Dunlop Roadsport tyres.


SUZUKI KATANA


TEST

“THIS KATANA WON’T COME CLOSE TO

MATCHING THE IMPACT OF ITS ILLUSTRIOUS

NAMESAKE BUT IT’S A WORTHY RETRO-RIVAL

FOR THE LIKES OF KAWASAKI’S Z900RS,

YAMAHA’S XSR900 AND HONDA’S CB1000R...”


WORLDSBK POR

SUZUKI KATANA


TEST

For a big four-cylinder bike it’s easy to flick

through a series of beds, its wide bars and

sporty geometry allowing quick direction

changes while keeping things stable. Suspension

is well-controlled, if slightly firm at the

rear – which at least earns points for authenticity,

given that the original Katana provided

a rock-hard ride.

This Kat wasn’t built for comfort any more

than the old one was, but by naked-bike

standards it’s respectably practical. Its limited

fuel capacity will frustrate at times but

most riders should manage at least 100 miles

between fill-ups. The seat is slightly higher

than the GSX-S’s, but at 215kg with fuel the

Suzuki is fairly light and still manageable.

That weight figure does however mean the

Katana is 6kg heavier than the GSX-S1000.

Its only real advantage is the subjective issue

of style – for which you pay roughly ten per

cent more (£11,399 to the GSX-S’s £10,399

in the UK). Then again, much the same was

true of the original Katana, and didn’t stop it

becoming a huge hit.

This Katana won’t come close to matching

the impact of its illustrious namesake but it’s

a worthy retro-rival for the likes of Kawasaki’s

Z900RS, Yamaha’s XSR900 and Honda’s

CB1000R. And even if you can live without

the nostalgia, it’s sufficiently fast, sweethandling

and fun to ride to provide plenty of

the old warrior’s raw excitement as well as its

sharp-edged style.


SUZUKI KATANA


BACK PAGE

WorldSBK by MCH Photo


ON

TRACK

OFF

ROAD

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Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer

Sienna Wedes MotoGP Blogger

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