On Track Off Road No. 188

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MXGP


AND

THEN

THERE

WERE...

The injury-hit

MXGP series

tackled another

demanding and

difficult circuit at

the Grand Prix of

Germany and it was

Tim Gajser again

who profited from

the spacious gate

to grab his fifth

victory in a row.

This is a shot from

the steep first climb

at Teutschenthal;

where Julien Lieber

would crash and

break his left elbow

Photo by Ray Archer


MotoGP

SEE

GOD

AND...

The face says it all

as Cal Crutchlow

approaches the

beginning of the

braking zone to San

Donato at Mugello

close to 220mph.

MotoGP had two

fast and tricky outings

in Italy and

Catalunya and now

embrace some history

this weekend

with the kinks of

Assen

Photo by CormacGP


AMA MX


OH! FUN

IN THE SAND

Round five of twelve in the

Lucas Oil AMA Pro National

series dropped into WW Ranch in

Florida for the first time and after

a damp MXGP inauguration for

the venue in 2017. Red Bull KTM’s

Marvin Musquin dished up some

cool action on the way to his first

win of the series (the fourth

different moto victor so far).

Photo by KTM/Cudby


N

EPEAT

MXGP


MXGP GERMANY

GRAND PRIX OF GERMANY

TEUTSCHENTHAL · JUNE 22-23 · Rnd 10 of 18

MXGP WINNER: TIM GAJSER, HONDA

MX2 WINNER: JORGE PRADO, KTM

Blogs by Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer


MXGP


MXGP GERMANY


FEATURE MXGP


MXGP GERMANY


FEATURE MXGP


MXGP GERMANY


FEATURE MXGP


MXGP GERMANY


FEATURE MXGP


MXGP GERMANY


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 GERMANY


MXGP

BLOG

COME TOGETHER

‘Safety’. A word that always carries such gravitas in

motorsport, and particularly in motocross at a time when

doctors’ waiting rooms are more crowded than usual.

In Germany last weekend for what

was the first Grand Prix of the

second half of the season and the

sixth round in seven weeks, two

more top ten factory-riding racers

went under the x-ray machine.

There is very little discernible

consistency when it comes to the

different groups in the Grand Prix

paddock – riders, teams, FIM,

promoter, organiser - working and

communicating together. Make

no mistake, there is often due

diligence. This is a world championship

after all. There are FIM

inspections of the track, guidelines

for medical provisions and

resources (although this came

under scrutiny in Russia and

Latvia) and the figure of former

Grand Prix star (Portugal’s most

successful ever racer) Rui Gonçalves

with his acute knowledge

and experience of what a rider

can-and-cannot-do overseeing

track maintenance. There are FIM

jury meetings and logistical pressure

on local and national circuit

organisers by promoters Youthstream

to ensure the best possible

conditions to stage a Grand

Prix worthy of the label.

There are two areas that muddy

the waters. An MXGP track will

change and evolve to such an

extent that it will also provoke a

variety of reactions and opinions

from riders. For some it will be

took fast, too ‘sketchy’, too overwatered.

While for others – typically

those nearer the top of the

final classification come Sunday

– the course is mostly fine.

Compared to a more stable set

of circumstances in a sport like

MotoGP, where you’d imagine it is

easier to find common ground on

any safety concerns about fences,

walls or track layout, MXGP can

be a melting pot of conjecture.

The other facet is the lack of a

‘pooling’ resource for all these

opinions and emotions. A rider

has every right to vent his concerns

about a track or a section

of terrain, after all it is his muscles,

bones, ligaments and blood

on the line. The problem is that

those comments are usually aired

at various members of the powers-that-be:

either to Gonçalves

himself, an FIM official, a member

of Youthstream staff or a local

volunteer who might be having an

ice-cream while watering the soil

in between the motos. It is haphazard

and disjointed.

MXGP is unlikely to have factory

teams from Kawasaki and KTM

for round eleven in Indonesia in

less than two weeks time, unless

some satisfactory form of replacement

rider can be found and Tony

Cairoli’s right shoulder loses pain

and miraculously gains strength.

Along with Suzuki’s continuing

banishment (although rumours

still circulate that the factory will

return to motocross in 2021) it is

a staggering situation, and feels


By Adam Wheeler

all the more harsh after what was

a comparatively tranquil 2018 season

for injury. In the wake of three

costly Grands Prix for the entry list

and the general sense of concern

for the amount of saddles anyway

with at least half a dozen riders

aging out of MX2 for 2020 it’s only

normal that fingers of blame start

to be pointed. Some glare at track

preparation, others at the circuits

themselves (France, Russia and

Germany are three of the more

unforgiving hard-pack courses on

the calendar and have been raced

in the last four fixtures, but have

each undergone measures to slow

or increase the technical level of

the surfaces) while others turn

to look at the motorcycles themselves.

“There are not many injuries in

MX2 compared to MXGP,” said

Max Nagl, who did not even last

one practice session in Germany

after re-injuring his operated knee

damaged in Argentina for the

championship opener. “The tracks

have not changed that much in the

last few years but the bike development

is unbelievable. The 450s

go so fast because the suspension

means you can go right through

the bumps and the acceleration is

massive. There is a limit with the

body. Everybody is trained like an

athlete but there is still a limit…

whereas there doesn’t appear to

be one with the [bike] material.

The manufacturers cannot change

the bikes to make them slower but

in my opinion this is the problem:

the 450s are too fast these days

for the body to handle them on the

rough tracks.”

Rather than blame look for solutions.

Bending manufacturers

away from 450cc engine capacity

is unlikely and KTM at least

tried with their 350 SX-F between

2010 and 2016. More electronics

and therefore standardisation is a

complicated and undesirable path.

So what else? Gonçalves’ almost

thankless task is complicated

by the resources he has to hand

before and during a weekend, the

lack of time and the pockets of

feedback. Nevertheless his efforts

have led to an improvement in the

last eighteen months. Tracks are

usually left rougher and in a condition

with full awareness of what

a Grand Prix rider will have to

face through both motos and with

European support classes also

having an impact.

He should be helped. If teams

and riders could ape MotoGP and

form a Safety Commission that

would either include all riders, one

representative from each brand

or one nominated rep from each

class then opinions could be aired

or collected and fed straight back

to officials from Youthstream, the

FIM and the organiser. It might be

possible for short-term fixes or advice

on a Friday or Saturday night

or long term solutions for the

following year: such as adjusting a

section or removing a split lane.

MXGP often has an easy and

laidback atmosphere around the

paddock and interaction between

the stars but there is not much

cohesiveness when important

issues need to be addressed. It

sounds a bit hokey but in a time

of widespread concern the sport

requires some of the older, more

experienced riders to congeal what

can be quite a wide age group of

peers if there is to be any hope for

change.


PRODUCTS

www.scott-sports.com

scott sports

One of the best motocross goggles on the

market is Scott Sports’ Prospect, and the

company recently unveiled the 2020 line-up

with nine brand new designs and colours that

will compliment some of the limited edition

specials that have surfaced. A fresh innovation

for the latest version is the placement of

No Sweat’ foam. The fabric has a dual density

construction that means a more efficient

system of ‘wicking away’ moisture and containing

it. The usual performance highlights

such as the lens lock components, large field

of vision and a TruView anti-fog lens material

are still very much in place.


FEATURE


ace

to

brace

or

not

NECK PROTECTION:

THE DEBATE

CONTINUES

to

By Adam Wheeler,

Photos by Ray Archer


FEATURE

Ignored? Lost relevance? Or more crucial

than ever with crashes and injuries coming

fast in MXGP? We asked a selection of both

past and current athletes to have used neck

protection to find out why there are not more

braces in the Grand Prix start gate. We also

then quizzed the FIM about the chances of the

hardware joining the homologated list of racing

gear and finally sought the inventor of the

concept, Dr Chris Leatt, for his own views…

BECOMING SCEPTICAL

Ben Watson, Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha,

MX2: Racing motocross you are always thinking

about protection and how to compete in

the fastest and safest way and I’m interested

in new protection or technology to do that…

but nothing has really opened my eyes or

been put in front of me to test or to change

my race gear.


can get and you hear people say that neck

braces are not proven but I feel that I’ve

proven it many times! Just watch some of my

crashes and you’ll believe it. When it comes to

protection I think you should wear as much as

possible. Riders always want to feel like they

are wearing nothing…but also want the protection.

It is a fine line. I’m quite an animated

rider I’d say but I’m still able to move around

in all my stuff.

NECK PROTECTION

Clement Desalle, Monster Energy Kawasaki,

MXGP: I was happy with it and I was feeling

comfortable in the past but when I had my

crash at the end of ’17 that situation changed

for me. I would not rule it out again if I could

find one that fitted me well.

Ben Watson: When the neck brace first came

out and it was a big thing I was using it. Then

after two years I stopped because there was

a rumour that the design I was using could

cause a problem with the spine; the way it was

shaped and sat on your back. So I took it off

and that was that. You don’t see many people

wearing them now and I feel like you don’t really

know if they are proven. Some people feel

a little bit more confident with extra protection

but I don’t believe in the brace enough to have

that sensation.

Tony Cairoli, Red Bull KTM, MXGP: In the

beginning there were some riders using neck

braces and me also but there were a lot of different

opinions about it so we decided to skip

it. It’s been ten years now. I don’t know exactly

what it is the best.

Justin Barcia, Monster Energy Yamaha, AMA

450SX/MX: I started with one pretty much

right away and I have, unfortunately, taken

some really hard hits and that’s never fun. I

believe in having as much protection as you

Rene Hofer, KTM Junior team, EMX250: It

seems like the kids are wearing them on 85s

but when they move to 125s and 250s then

they are leaving them behind. Maybe it is to

do with moving more on the bike but I think

it is mostly about parents pushing for a safe

approach and when the kid gets older he takes

more responsibility for himself.

Jorge Prado, Red Bull KTM, MX2 World

Champion: Right now I don’t want to change

anything – not even the gloves I am using – I

want to stay with the brands I have. I don’t

want any changes in my mind.


FEATURE

Adam Sterry, F&H Kawasaki, MX2: I believe

they are safer. Other people don’t, and that’s

why we don’t see so many any more. Another

factor is the extra price of the brace when

you’ve probably spent thousands on your bike

and kit: you’re hearing a 50-50 argument over

whether it does something or it doesn’t and it

means people end-up opting out of using one.

For me, I’ve worn a Leatt for years and I’ve

never had a problem, never broken a collarbone

and I’ve had some hard crashes on my

head and never had a neck problem or injury.

Ben Watson: I never had any trouble with

them but once I stopped then it was easy to

get out of the habit.

Jeremy Seewer, Monster Energy Yamaha,

MXGP: I have felt it help in a crash. I’ve

crashed on my head and I even destroyed the

brace once but was mostly injury-free. I cannot

say ‘I would have been injured without

it’ because I’m not 100% sure but there was

some evidence there. How many people break

their neck in motocross? It is not something

that really happens a lot…but even just once

is catastrophic.

Jago Geerts, Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha:

I’ve been wearing one since I was on the 65s,

so since I was nine or ten. I think it is really

important to use it to protect your neck and I

wanted all the protection possible. I feel comfortable

riding with it and it’s not a problem.

Tim Gajser, Team HRC, MXGP: I’ve noticed

that some others have stopped and it’s true

that the more protection you have means less

movement and the bikes are getting stronger

and the speeds are getting higher. I feel safer

with full protection: I also wear the full chest

protector.

Tony Cairoli: It was not really easy to ride with

but you got used to it. I had a different rid-

ing style back then. I haven’t thought about it

since but it’s clear that it is a personal preference.

A rider has to see if he can ride and race

with it.

BECOMING ACCUSTOMED

Jeremy Seewer: It is a very personal choice

but I think neck braces benefitted from a big

boom around five years ago and a lot of the

top guys had them. That’s changing. I think

there are only 4-5 guys in MXGP now. Even the

kids, if you see the 125 class then there are

not many around. Are there more injuries or

less with them? Some say yes, some say no

and it is the big opinion. My main comment is

that the neck brace can be distracting if it is

not set-up or fit properly. I have a special way

of fixing it and if it couldn’t be like that then

I’m not sure I could race with it as it would be

touching the back of my helmet all the time.

Jorge Prado: When I started riding I had like

a strip of foam…maybe it was because the

helmet was so heavy! When I went onto the 65

I remember my father bought a neck protector

and I could not ride with it. He told me I had

to try but when I was riding down a hill I could

not even look up properly, I was too small.

I tried again on the 85s and a few different

brands but none of them felt comfortable and

were too heavy.

Rene Hofer: I have never ridden without one.

My family wanted me to be safer as a kid and

now it is such a part of my kit that it would

seem really strange without it. In fact, I tried

riding without it once and it wasn’t comfortable

at all! Obviously that would change. It

doesn’t affect my riding but I don’t know if

it has helped me in a crash. I think you only

have to see replays of crashes and what is

happening with a rider’s head to realise something

like this might help.


Jago Geerts: Some riders think it is uncomfortable

but I got used to it from the

beginning. I can understand if someone

has never worn it and then might find it

restrictive at first.

Shaun Simpson, RFX KTM, MXGP: I don’t

even think about it. The brace folds up

and goes into the kit bag in the same way

that gloves or pants or a helmet does.

The design has really changed over the

last ten years. It’s now so light and far

less bulky. I think the separated back

strut is also an improvement as much for

packaging as for what it does! I know GP

riders, like Evgeny Bobryshev, that tried

one and were convinced right away. It’s a

personal taste but I doubt so many would

be wearing a neck brace if they stopped

you performing.

NECK PROTECTION


FEATURE

Julien Lieber: I prefer to be free. I used one when

I was younger and you don’t have the same mobility.

You see guys having the same accident or

injury with and without the neck brace so it is not

really clear if it helps or not. I have the same attitude

to knee braces. I tried a few different brands

but have still broken my ACL more than once. I

question how much they help, and so now I go for

more mobility.

Adam Sterry: It’s like if you’ve never worn knee

braces before. If you start riding with them then

it will feel horrible. If I didn’t have the neck brace

now I’d feel like a bobble head. It would be uncomfortable.

After a couple of weeks with a brace

it will be normal. People don’t give it enough

time.

Dr Dave McManus, FIM Medical Commission Director:

The way the riders wear them is an important

consideration in the discussion. At the moment

of impact the device has to make contact

with the riders helmet to transfer energy so if a

rider does not wear it correctly [then it will be in

ineffective]. Martin [FIM doctor Martin Syrucek]

was wandering around a year or two ago with his

camera at the starting gate and we could see that

some riders wear the braces appropriately but

the majority do not, so there would be no benefit

in those case because the energy would have

already been absorbed by the spine.

Tim Gajser: I think it is safer to wear one. I’d say

you have a bit less mobility for moving the head

but since I started in 2010 with the 85 I immediately

felt good with it. Now, if I forget it for some

reason when I’m practicing it is weird to ride

without it.

Adam Sterry: People forget that the design is

stress-related so you can almost snap it in your

hands. When it reaches a certain point then it

breaks. I’ve never had a problem with movement

or weight and never noticed it. I’ll always wear

one.

BECOMING HURT?

Pauls Jonass, Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna:

I stopped using it because I hit my chin

twice and opened it twice in two weeks! I think

when it first showed up it was like a fashion

thing and everyone wanted to try it. I think

that’s the case for many things. I think it might

come back. I know riders who have broken

their collarbone and didn’t want it resting near

the plate.

Jorge Prado: For sure it is something that

helps prevent one type of injury but might also

cause another. It is a risk we take but then

comfort has to come into it. There are positives

and negatives.

Jeremy Seewer: I’ve broken my collarbone

only once! When I was on a 65 and I had a

highside and landed on one of those big hammers

they use to put in fence posts! I’ve never

had any injury around the collarbone because

of the brace but I also put some extra soft protection

on that piece of bone.

Darian Sanayei, Bike It DRT Kawasaki, MX2:

A few times I’ve crashed and really crunched

it. I’ve hit my head and then looked at the

brace and thought ‘I’m glad I had that’. I’ve

never had it put any pressure on my collarbone.

Tim Gajser: I’ve broken vertebrae and a collarbone

but I don’t think this was because of the

brace. I had a massive crash in 2017 at Kegums

when I fell on the waves and I honestly

think it saved me because it was in four pieces

and I went straight into the dirt with my head.

It did its job.

Pauls Jonass: If you do break your collarbone

then maybe it was because it was really saving

your neck. Maybe I will try again but right now

I feel comfortable without it.


Jago Geerts: It might be easier to break your

collarbone than without. I’ve had some big

crashes and I’m sure it has saved me a few

times.

BECOMING OFFICIAL?

Tim Gajser: I cannot see it becoming a rule.

There are only a handful of riders using it now.

Antonio Alia Portela, FIM CMS President: Anything

connected with the safety of the riders

has the full support of the CMS commission.

We are aware that some of the riders are uncomfortable

with some of the items that they

wear but once they get used to it then they

will appreciate the extra safety. I cannot imagine

any rider now saying they would not like a

safer helmet or they would not wear goggles.

It is a mindset change that has to be put into

NECK PROTECTION


FEATURE

place. Research has already been carried out

to allow us to be more certain about the effectiveness

of neck protection. We have to put

it in a balance.

Dr Martin Syrucek, FIM Doctor: We have

been studying these types of protection for

years. We look for new science and approaches

regardless if it is a helmet or other type of

brace but it is not easy to push for homologation.

Dr Dave McManus, Director FIM Medical

Commission: The Medical Commission, and

in keeping with the FIA who have the same

issues with neck protection in Karting, allow

the use of neck braces but we cannot recommend

or mandate their use for a couple of

reasons. The first is that there is not a lot of

scientific evidence about, most is from the

manufacturers of the device and we don’t

have any independent, validated evidence.

There is also some evidence of potential

harm from using them, so we need to bottom

that out. The number of research papers

published have been quite small but they

have come to similar conclusions that there

may be some mild-to-modest protection from

the devices but that they transfer energy and

cause injuries elsewhere. We also need to

bottom that out before we can take a definitive

position.

Another issue is the lack of standardisation

and that’s important for medical teams for

the way they are applied and removed. It’s

another difficulty. There is also no European

standard in the way there is for helmets so it

is difficult to be definitive in their use. There

is no body of significant independent data.

We’ve had presentations from Chris Leatt and

we understand where he is coming from and

the principle of it but we’ve yet to have that

data validated. So our position is pretty neutral.

Darian Sanayei: I think it might be a bit of a

fashion thing but there is also personal preference

and sometimes other factors like gear

sponsors having a say. I like it and I think if

you can do something to have even a tiny bit

more protection for your neck and back then

it’s worth it and pretty important. I guess

it just comes down to comfort and if riders

see other people using them then their mind

becomes a bit more open to it. It’s the same

if riders stop using them…the trend also goes

that way. Homologation is something they can

look at. Back protection is already in the rules.

Dr Dave McManus: We have to leave it to the

rider’s choice as we still have a lot that is

under review or investigation. Even an industry

standard would be helpful. In fact we are

talking with the FIA about commissioning joint

research to see if we can get something clear.

Adam Sterry: I believe it’s better to wear one

that not. I’ve seen Leatt’s research and what

can happen without one and for me that was

good enough. I feel safer with it and even if it

improved my chances by 2-3% - or even less -

then it’s worth it.

Dr Dave McManus: It is a bit like airbags in

Motogp. If anybody comes up with anything

that could be of potential benefit of enhancing

protection and improving safety then it is to

be welcomed. We have to be sure that it does

that and, importantly, there are no unintended

consequences that are harmful, and this applies

to them all. A lot of people come up with

alternative ideas and then unfortunately it

turns out they are not as effective as thought.

We always have to take the right balance and

stance. But, 100%, if we could get further evidence

and validation and there was no harm

elsewhere then we would embrace this.


Dr Martin Syrucek: We made a study six years

ago concerning how many riders were using

neck braces across the classes. It was almost

a ‘fashion’ at the time and it was interesting

to see that the majority of users were in the

Women’s World Championship class. We met

Mr Leatt in the Medical Commission and he

showed us some videos and explained the

opinions on the brace. Until there is no hard

scientific approach that it really helps then

we cannot take further steps. It is not easy

to have evidence of serious crashes. With the

back protector it was much easier and simpler

for justification. Nobody can tell if in the seriousness

of a crash the neck brace was able to

help.

NECK PROTECTION


FEATURE

THE CREATOR

Surgeon Dr Chris Leatt is the

founder of the Leatt company and

famously produced prototypes

of his first brace after the tragic

accident to a friend, Alan Selby,

while road racing in his native

South Africa. The Leatt brace first

became part of the off-road scene

in 2006 and now has seven different

versions of the protection that

has progressed hugely in the last

thirteen years. Leatt’s research and

development from their lab near

Cape Town has led onto a raft of

other safety innovations when it

comes to knee braces, helmets and

body protection. We emailed him

for some comments based on the

collection of comments from riders

in this article…

Is neck protection a victim of the

times? Of being a ‘fad’? Why do

you think it is not being embraced

as much compared to ten years

ago?

I think there are two elements at

play here: one science, the other

psychology. Considering the test

data and significant accident statistics

with & without a neck brace

now available, it is difficult to

argue against using a neck brace.

However, as it is not yet part of the

rulebook for compulsory protection

like helmets, boots and back

protectors are, despite the benefit,

riders still have choice. It is human

nature to ignore the potential harm

and rationalise it away. Misunderstanding

the complex biomechanics

at play has led to some very

strong opinions on why we should


not be using neck braces. In my mind,

it is therefore the role of the governing

bodies to understand the science,

ask the difficult questions and then if

appropriate, write them into the rulebooks.

Some professional riders still question

the effectiveness of the brace:

does the message still need to be

hammered home? Does the explanation

on the advantages have to be

stronger than ever? We continue to

market and refine our marketing message.

That being said, we have probably

not done a great job at this until

now but I believe this is changing.

Given that we have close to 800 000

neck braces on the market and with

research concluded to date, I feel it is

now appropriate that authorities fulfil

the role of answering licensed rider’s

questions and nominate a standard

both we as the industry and riders

can adopt as best practice.

Why do professional racers not

know about the performance of neck

protection? I don’t think ploughing

through the voluminous research on

the topic is a rider’s natural behaviour.

They will either inform themselves of

the benefits or follow the rule maker’s

lead. This is evidenced by the fact

that we have for years published very

compelling research and independent

studies on our web site for all to see.

If you visit https://www.leatt.com/

company/leatt-lab/ you will be able

to read about our research, BMWled

testing, independent studies into

the biomechanics of the brace and

the now popularly cited EMS action

sport’s study into the effects of using

a brace on injury prevention in a

large study group during AMA events.

Fortunately this study also dispels

what we at LEATT have known for a

long time: that neck braces do not

injure collarbones. In fact, collarbones

are protected from helmet rim strikes.

Other data suggests that neck braces

reduce head injury likelihood. There is

a lot of great reading here!

In what ways have neck protection

advanced? Some believe it will inhibit

their riding and mobility on the

bike…

Brace shapes have indeed changed in

the last decade, where the balance I

believe has now been struck between

safe protection limits and the professional

rider’s needs. Additionally, integration

with other riding apparel like

chest protectors and body armour is a

lot better. If you look at the top athletes

currently using the brace, I think

it is evident that we have struck the

mobility/usability/protection balance.

Do you think neck protection is sufficiently

established on the racing

scene to be considered as an obligatory

safety measure in MXGP now?

Back protection is part of the rulebook

and airbags in MotoGP… I don’t

believe the clinical and test data can

be ignored for much longer. In many

ways there is now more test data

available for neck protection than

there is for back protectors or boots,

both of which are mandatory.

Is neck protection still a priority for

Leatt after all the diversification of

the product portfolio in the last five

years? Absolutely, it is still our flagship

product and still enjoys research

and constant upgrade efforts.

NECK PROTECTION


MXGP

BLOG

COME TOGETHER [2]

Motocross training tactics in MotoGP?! What’s that all

about then?

It is unusual to find much being

shared in the secretive, selfabsorbed

and almost paranoid

world of MotoGP. Sure there will

be respect, solidarity, gossip and

even friendship but the stakes are

high for contracts and opportunities.

There is also the knowledge

that a steady stream of talent is

waiting to sweep the carpet away

at a moment’s notice. Everything

feels slightly more cutthroat. It’s

not hard to deduce this undercurrent

through the distance between

teams, the talk by managers and

agents and the comments both

on the record and off the record

by the riders themselves.

In MXGP there is a similar (as

you’d expect in any competitive

environment) but softer element

of this wariness. Perhaps it is the

humbler roots of the sports and

comparative lack of riches and

ego (although Red Bull KTM’s

Jeffrey Herlings remains one of

the highest paid athletes on the

roster) or maybe it is a greater

degree of empathy among the

riders: they have mainly grown-up

through the sport together, have

suffered injury demons and then

see each other through numerous

training motos and non-world

championship races. There could

even be a weak parallel drawn to

the F1 drivers of the sixties who

– according to many accounts of

the time – were a tight bunch;

welded by the ever-present and

frequent threat of death and a

busy calendar that saw F1 shared

with F2, Endurance and sports car

racing.

It was interesting to hear former

Grand Prix rider Talon Vohland

talking on Zach Osborne’s Shifting

Gears Podcast a couple of weeks

ago. The American commented

on the camaraderie of the world

championship paddock compared

to U.S. racing where there is more

edginess between the riders. From

my minimal experience working

at select Supercross events in the

last fifteen years it was possible to

detect some of that, but it was an

atmosphere born from the

competitiveness and scenes

around some big names and

personalities like Carmichael,

Stewart, Reed, Villopoto as much

as from the sheer frenzy of the

scheduling that ensured everyone

was always spread out and busy.

So, near the middle of the decade

when famed trainer Aldon Baker

began to draw his clients together

for a regime in one area (Florida)

and eventually one facility it was

seen as an adventurous and potentially

risky ploy. Can you really

throw a bunch of Alpha males into

the same pit? The answer was

emphatic with a slew of titles. The

idea that rivals pacing themselves

through their mid-week work

together which then fed into the

races on Saturdays and Sundays

produced a new level of intensity

and it quickly became a model

adopted by other brands and

teams. The Baker’s Factory has

been the subject of various reports

around the world as people

try to understand and tap into this

notion that competitors can be


By Adam Wheeler

congenial and productive outside

of a racing environment and still

be poised to draw blood once the

gate drops.

Riders training together is nothing

new, particularly teammates,

but the close proximity of ‘genuine

threats’ was uncommon. Musquin,

Dungey, Anderson, Osborne, Tickle

and Webb together seemed like an

unrealistic mix. But it worked.

In MotoGP the idea seems incomprehensible.

Somebody like Cal

Crutchlow will befriend and knockaround

with Jack Miller. Marc

Marquez will spend a lot of time

riding and working with his brother

Alex and there is a small group

in Andorra that regularly cross

paths but there is little collaboration

(when I interviewed Maverick

Viñales in Andorra two years ago

we inadvertently bumped into

Alex Rins and Jorge Lorenzo in the

same little gym).

As keen readers of the last issue

may have seen Mission Winnow

Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso

is an avid motocrosser. He has

an almost obsessive zeal to learn

and know about how the craft and

the preparation. From my experience

talking to riders from both

disciplines over the years it’s clear

that they classify motocross as

more technical, more expressive

and permits more freedom as a

motorcyclist compared to road

racing. So it’s not hard to imagine

why Dovi has a fascination with

MX (indeed a healthy majority of

the MotoGP grid quietly harbour

the same interest) and the lessons

that might be gleaned from pushing

technique, concentration and

machinery to ridiculous lengths.

He will have watched the amazing

influence of the Baker’s Factory

alumni with curiosity.

When Danilo Petrucci, another MX

fan and convert, finally joined the

Ducati team last winter Dovizioso

saw a possibility. He has raced in

red for seven years and arguably

never had a teammate in the same

common space. In 2012 he signed

for Tech3 and forged a bond with

Crutchlow but the chance to cooperate

was minimal. Since then

Nicky Hayden (problems with injury),

Andrea Iannone (personality),

Jorge Lorenzo (another Alpha) did

not present viable prospects. With

the enthusiastic, down to earth

and likeminded Petrucci there was

a chance for Dovizioso to try a

fresh training approach that might

just help him find the extra mileage

to be able to compete with

Marc Marquez; his nemesis for the

last two seasons for the MotoGP

crown. Dovizioso and Petrucci

ride off-road together, analyse and

confide in each other for a complicated

and confidence-testing ‘day

job’ where track time on race machinery

is so little and so precious.

Even in Free Practice the Ducatis

will exit pitlane together and start

working through a set-up process.

It could be argued that Dovizioso

does (or did) not see Petrucci as

a championship contender. So he

could be adopted almost like a

protégé. While Marquez is arguably

riding better than ever in

MotoGP, Petrucci is the one who

has profited most from the set-up:

three podiums in a row and his

first victory at the time of writing

means he is closer than ever

to the top of the standings while

Dovizioso has to recover from the

unlucky and blameless DNF in


MXGP

BLOG

Barcelona. “I think Danilo improved

this season because he

believed more in himself and he

understood his potential; in the

past he didn’t really believe in

that and really didn’t analyze and

realize his good points,” Andrea

said after his training-mate’s fantastic

success at Mugello.

“To train together, yes, it is like Aldon

Baker in a different way,” he

added. “Unfortunately in our sport

we can’t train on the MotoGP

[bike]. We have to find something

different. But every time we’re

going [to do] flat track or motocross

we push each other. This

puts us on the limit. We take the

risk, but it’s a part of our sport. I

think it works because fortunately

both we came from motocross,

so we have this similar base. So

in motocross we are quite fast.

Flat track we are similar. So every

time we try to beat each other

and this is good. Yes, the consequence

is the risk but I think can

help both because he’s really talented.

I think it’s really positive.”

Petrucci might say that he and

Dovizioso are “going for different

things” (and Dovizioso, 33 compared

to Petrucci’s 28, boasts ten

more years of Grand Prix and 87

trophies) but the results would

currently indicate otherwise.

Dovizioso is still asking for more

of the Desmosedici and Ducati

and is facing Marquez at his most

formidable. The Catalan himself

has the benefit of a fast younger

family member who is not on the

same level (Dovizioso resignedly

admits that Petrucci is the quicker

motocross at the moment) but is

still an effective pacer. Marquez

famously has little issue with riding

and even racing motocross

with other people but he keeps a

level of superiority when it comes

to status.

“When you train alone it’s not the

same so if you train with somebody,”

he says. “Also I go training

because it’s my fun time. It’s

not training; it’s my hobby. [It’s]

Not only me and my brother. We

have always three or four friends

around us. One is Jose [Luis Martinez,

former MX Spanish Champion].”

“We always find a very good

level,” he insists. “We ride always

like they did, like Valentino at the

ranch. It’s the way to improve. Of

course [there is the] risk you can

injure [sic] but is the life.”

Valentino Rossi, the biggest dog

of all, is another who has looked

around for ‘the group effect’ and

immersed himself in youthful

energy of the VR46 Academy to

elongate his own passion for racing

and to sharpen his racecraft.

Now that two of his brood are

competing in the MotoGP class

as well, the dynamic of the Academy

could be shifting and Rossi

must be hearing the ticking clock

more than ever as the structure

pushes more towards a Baker’s

Factory equilibrium. Still, that the

Italian is still so fast at 40 is testament

to the power of the pack.


FEATURE


WWOW!

AMA MX FLORIDA

FLORIDA

NATIONAL

WW RANCH

JUNE 22

Rnd 5 of 13

450MX winner:

Marvin Musquin, KTM

250MX winner:

Justin Cooper, Yamaha


FEATURE


AMA MX FLORIDA


Photo: R. Schedl

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AMA

BLOG

SHOULD TEAM USA ENTER THE SAND?

We’re getting near that point where the different countries

have to start thinking about the upcoming Motocross des

Nations, this year held in Holland.

It’s a very prestigious race, fans

all over the world look forward to

it and wrap themselves with their

flag hoping that their countries

three riders can perform the best

and take home the trophy. It’s

the closest thing we have to the

Olympics and having been to the

event twelve years in a row, I can

attest to how cool it is.

However, things need to change

in my opinion for this to be worth

it for Team USA to keep showing

up. Hey man, the race will be fine

with no Team USA, the red, white

and blue didn’t show up in 2004,

they weren’t there in 2001 and

for many years in the 1970’s, they

didn’t field a team. The Motocross

des Nations does not need

the Americans there to be successful.

But it’s not the same race without

them.

The Americans, even with seven

straight years of defeat at this

race, are the main attraction for

the European fans. They don’t

get to see the stars over here at

all while getting to see the MXGP

regulars every year so there’s an

attraction there to the riders they

read and watch over here.

Here’s the thing though, despite

Team USA being the biggest

attraction (or at least co-headliners…you’ll

give me that?), selling

tickets, having the target on

their back this race just doesn’t

work out well for the teams/riders

here. And it’s showing to be

honest, just look at the teams

results over the past few years.

The European riders have risen

to a new level in the last decade

and the days of USA showing up,

mopping up and drinking at the A

Stars hospitality are long gone.

With the NBC TV schedule needing

to be wrapped up before the

Labor Day in September, the USA

MX calendar has been pushed up

to end early and the MXGP series

has added four or five races to

their schedule over the years and

pushed their series deeper into

the year. The two factors add up

to Team USA having to wait five

or six weeks after their season is

over for the race. That’s valuable

rest time, testing time for teams

never mind the Monster Cup

coming up a week or two after

the MXDN.

Team USA has to spend, according

to one VIP I talk to, 50K to

go for shipping two bikes, the

parts and support crew, the riders

have to spend money to fly

their families there and it’s all for

nothing but the honor of representing

your country. I mean,

that’s cool and all but could it

at least not cost so dam much?

Hey AMA, thanks for the paying

for the flight for the rider and the

mechanic but don’t bother, it’s a

drop in the bucket.


By Steve Matthes

Don’t even get me started with

how the USA has to change their

mufflers and fuel to conform to

the MXGP rules. Maybe it’s time

for Team USA to sit this one out?

At least until they can get some

sort of help for the costs (they

sell tickets) or rules or timing?

Oh and hey, before you say

“Whatever Matthes, you’re just

saying this because Team USA

has lost so much” and to that

I would say A- I don’t care how

Team USA does, I’m Canadian

and B- I’ve been saying this for

years, even when Team USA was

winning.

Think I’m crazy? Well we asked

Mitch Payton from Pro Circuit

about this very same stuff “We

have a massive expense to get

over there, and they’ll (MXGP

people) say, “Well, it’s just a

fly-away race like we do in the

GP’s.” Well, we’re not used to

that. It’s not the same fuel rule.

It’s not the same sound rule. It

really is a pain in the butt, but

you want to be patriotic and all

that stuff but now we have so

many races.

The 450 guys are tired by the

end of that. They’re hurt. They

need to get a surgery to fix

something and all that, so we’ve

got to work on the schedule or

do something. If it’s two weeks

before Monster Cup, we have

obligations to go to Monster Cup

because it’s a big race for our

title sponsor, and it’s another

event that we have to go do. So I

would say the same thing.”

If Youthstream would offer the

stars of the event something to

help out? Shipping costs, help

with flights for team (and yes,

Team USA brings too many

people to this race), maybe a

promise that every third MXDN

will be in the USA, adjustment of

their calendar even, something,

anything to help Team USA make

this event a little more convenient

for them might make a difference.

I myself don’t get it, you’d

think you would want to cater a

bit to the ones that make a difference

in the event.

I know Australia and New Zealand

and even my beloved Canada

show up and race this event

with no help and some of the

same issues that USA has but

not all of them…mainly 29 races

all year long. And sorry, you

guys aren’t selling tickets like

Team USA and you don’t get the

flack that Team USA does from

the fans if you don’t win. Simply

put, Team USA is trying to do it

right because they have the most

to lose. Unlike some of the other

countries I listed above. “Maybe

there’s something they can work

out with the promoter to help

fund that so we go, or else let’s

just stay home,” Payton told us.

“Honestly, our guys will get flack

if they don’t do good at Monster

Cup. We got to get focused on

what’s important to us and we’re

supposed to - over here, our biggest

importance of our manufacturer

or our title sponsor wants

us to be good at supercross.”

So if you want think I’m off my

rocker for thinking that Team

USA should bypass this race,

maybe try telling Mitch Payton

that. He’s on the same page as

me for the most part. Team USA

or not, I’ll be there but I’ll also

completely understand if they

didn’t show up. Why bring a knife

to a gun fight?


FEATURE

WHEN BEN ME


A LONDON HOTEL, PHOTOSHOOTS, A CASUAL MEETING, AN MP3 RECORDER

AND A FEW QUESTIONS: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU THROW A MOTOCROSS-

OBSESSED FOUR-TIMES WORLDSBK WORLD CHAMPION TOGETHER WITH

BRITAIN’S YOUNG, IMPRESSIONABLE AND BRIGHTEST MXGP TALENT?

By Adam Wheeler, Portraits & MXGP pics by

Ray Archer, WorldSBK by MCH Photo

T JONATHAN

Whether for their

series, their manufacturer

or their

country, Jonathan Rea and

Ben Watson are elite athletes

in motorsport. On

meeting each other in

the towering confines of

the Shangri La hotel in

London’s Shard building

there was a healthy

degree of mutual curiosity.

Subjects of their

preparation, their bike

set-up, personal fears,

career hopes, admiration

meant the insight

and stories were soon

rolling forth thanks to a

couple of guiding questions

on the way.

Here’s what was said…

Jonathan, you are pretty good

on a motocross bike but how

- and in what ways – do you

think Ben is that much faster

or better?

JR: I think you never stop

learning in motocross because

no track is the same. Even the

same circuit changes day-today.

You learn all the time and

if you don’t ride so much then

that rate of learning become

less and, technically, when

the track changes then guys

like me who haven’t raced

motocross for years and years

lose speed. I have ridden with

very fast motocrossers on a

track that is not that technical

and not been too far away

from them but as soon as

it roughens up and you are

second-guessing whether to

hook-up a gear to go through

a set of really deep ruts then

these guys will have that decision

as second-nature. In road

racing you have an innate ‘a

set of instructions’ but if it

is not second-nature to you

and you don’t have that confidence

then you won’t have the

speed.

BW: So why do you get on

a motocross bike? Is it just

for fun or to genuinely learn

something?

JR: A bit of fun but I find that

it is really good brain-training

for me. You’ll have to make

nanosecond decisions on the

track as your bike is bucking

and weaving left and right.

So it is mental, and about

concentration. It is physical

of course, but road racing is


FEATURE

as physical because of the

G-forces. You cannot train for

Superbike racing because it

is too expensive. It is 15,000

euros just to rent a track for a

day. I bought myself a standard

Superbike but it wasn’t

much use riding that because

it was so different from my

race bike. I did that almost

two years ago and went to

Nurburgring and was 1.5 seconds

slower on a bike from

the shop! My team were not

summer testing so I got paranoid,

bought the bike, put it

in the van and went with two

mechanics to Germany. I was

as fast as the official Hondas

and close to the Pata Yamahas

with a bike I spent 13,000

pounds on. That 1.5 seconds

was still miles though away

so it made no sense…and it

was expensive. So motocross

remains the closest thing. For

you what would you say is the

biggest jump from considering

a career in the sport to

now fighting for Grand Prix

podiums? Is it the bike or the

preparation?

BW: It is not just about me. I

went from being my own mechanic

in the winter - and my

parents taking me to practice

during the week when they

could - to receiving an opportunity

from Yamaha where

everything was there for me.

It was then down to myself

and making sure that the

bike was set-up up right – so

doing a job through testing

– but then just being able to

fully focus on training and

riding. And that was thanks

to the team.


JR: So what is different now

to what you were doing three

years ago?

BW: The biggest thing was to

move to Belgium and live close

to the team and five minutes

from the workshop. I also had

Jacky Vimond [former world

champion] co-ordinating all my

physical training and practicing

on the bike. I had a training

mechanic and a team van so

I could ride and train where I

wanted. Other details like having

a 450cc bike available to

use for one month: everything

I wanted was in place whereas

before I just had to make do

with whatever was there.

Johnny, you have Fabien

Foret as a coach at WorldSBK

events but you don’t really

have any guiding presence

like Ben has with Jacky?

JR: No. We have thirteen race

weekends and then six tests

so if you calculate the days

through the year I actually

spend on the bike then it is

not a lot.

BW: Is it the same for you as

for the MotoGP guys where

there is a testing ban in the

winter?

REA: “YOU HAVE TO TAKING

MAXIMUM RISK ALL THE

TIME AND THAT’S F**KING

SCARY. YOU ARE HOLD-

ING YOUR BREATH A LOT

AND THE G-FORCES UNDER

BRAKING ARE TOUGH...”

JR: Yeah, but in the off-season

you are only allowed to test

for so many days and not outside

of Europe. Then there’s a

ban in December and January.

Honda went testing in Thailand

and it meant they then

have to base everything outside

of Europe. Through the

years they have tried to make

WorldSBK and other road

racing series more budgetfriendly

so smaller teams can

compete.

When it comes to ‘making it’

in motocross firstly you need

a bag-load of talent, determination

and everything that

comes along with a good bike

but it also sounds like you

need an opportunity-

BW: The right package.

JR: And that’s what sets the

top guys apart from the others.

BW: Yep, even now you see

people who perhaps have

more finances than talent and

they are able to go quite far in

the sport-

JR: Because they have the

trainer and the back-up-

BW: They can even pay the

300,000 euros to be on a

factory team. They will never

make it to the very top because

you need to be very

talented and have the right

character for that.

JR: It’s a bit of a shame because

motocross has that

grass roots feel. It has that

fairy-tale element that someone

can buy a bike from a

dealer and the rider will make

the difference but I guess at

world championship level-

BW: You need everything.

JR: It’s the same in World

Superbike. I rode for another

team for seven years and won

fifteen races but the only year

I really competed for a championship

in that time I was

third and eighty points back.

When I moved to Kawasaki

there was a real ‘team’ feeling.

We have doctors and even a

human performance manager

there now who is looking after

everyone’s needs and not just

the riders, a nutritionist also.

JR & BW


FEATURE

I feel the team is top level

and the difference is that they

invest in the rider instead of

spending all the money they

get on the bike and letting the

rider do what he wants.

I have a question: you’ll obviously

do all your testing and

have your settings ready but

what will you change on the

race bike over a weekend?

What are the main go-to

things?

BW: The main thing is the mix

between a hard-pack track

and the sand where you’ll

have to adjust the position of

the fork and having it ‘running

through’ a bit more, sitting a

bit higher for sand and changing

the tyre to a scoop tread

pattern.

JR: Electronics?

BW: Not really. Some people

like a more aggressive power

delivery…

JR: Ride heights? Chassis balance?

Spring rates?

BW: Definitely no spring rates.

It will just be a few clicks here

and there. Once you have your

technical package then you

just make minor changes and

clicks for each track.

JR: You see, in road racing it

is so ‘deep’ now with set-up

and the amount of things you

can change like head pipe

angles, offsets, pivot points on

the swing arm, rear springs,

oil levels, preload compression

and electronics.

BW: We’ll just play around

with engine mappings to have

a softer or more aggressive

option. We’ll have just one

button on the bars to switch

between one or another. Some

people have a light system,

which is an RPM reader, for

the starts. I use it to set the

throttle at a certain point for

the gate. As soon as you go

over a certain RPM it cuts off.

JR: It sounds technical but in

road racing it can be a minefield

and it is so easy to get

lost and then your confidence

can drop. You could be riding

a garden gate but if you have

the most confidence in the

world then it will feel great!

Motocross is ultimately easier

for a rider to make the difference

though. It is not as

restrictive as road racing…

BW: Yes, I mean if you look at

riding position alone then it is

much more consistent.

JR: In the second round of

the series in Thailand the top

six in race one was the top

six in race two and then also

race three and the gaps were

probably the same because

you are riding around and the

lap-time range is not dropping

a lot. I know at the top of

motocross the lap-time range

is not too big but it will still be

bigger compared to road racing

where if you are a couple

of tenths of a second away

then you are not competing.

BW: At Lommel [Belgian

Grand Prix and a deep sand

track] the lap-time of the first

lap until the last one of the

race can vary between ten

seconds! That’s an extreme

example: it is typically five

seconds…but then the track is

getting rougher.

JR: For us doing exactly the

same lap-time over and over

becomes the buzz. In motocross

the buzz always came

from jumping, which is the

closest thing to a human flying.

It’s quite cool because

you are managing that horsepower

through the air and

everything feels nice. In road

racing there isn’t that buzz.

Instead it comes from that

search for perfection and repetition.

In motocross I doubt

many riders in the world will

have a perfect lap and it is

hard to do in road racing even

if the conditions are, comparatively,

controlled…but you

come close to it all the time.

The coolest thing about motocross

is line choice, and that’s

what makes it cool from the

outside.

BW: Yeah, in road racing, you

normally just have one line.

JR: I guess in motocross there

is also just that ‘optimum’

line. It must be frustrating if

you are in ‘traffic’ and having

to use the line that is not

so great. You have to plough

through all thr lines to try and

overtake the guy who is going

a tenth of a second slower.

BW: In motocross you can

have an inside and outside

line but the speed can depend.


The physicality of both sports:

what parts of the body are

being worked most in you

disciplines?

JR: Your neck and the upper

muscles in your legs. As you

can imagine we are sat in a

squat position and then invert

it left and right. Under hard

acceleration you are in that

stance but moving your bum

further back or forward to

get the weight over the front.

So it’s the legs for changing

direction and your chest and

core because you are trying to

be as delicate on the bike as

possible and coach it through

the track. As you are in such a

static position all the time you

are not getting stretched out

and able to open up.

BW: In motocross it can depend

a lot from rider to rider.

You see some riders that

stand up a lot so it will be

legs and lower back. Some sit

down a lot more. For me it is

hard to say if I work one part

of the body compared to all

the others. It can also depend

on the track and in sand you’ll

need way-more strength in

your legs than anything else

because every part of the

track is rough.

What about a condition like

arm-pump?

BW: For me it is not about the

strength in your arms. I think

it comes down to your mind

and your technique. If you are

quite free on the bike then you

know you’ll never get it.

JR: On a road race bike it is

hard to be really ‘free’ when

you are trying to stop 175 kilos

or accelerate hard. You are in

that ‘stuck’ position and trying

to move a big heavy weight. It

is hard to describe. You can go

fast on a road race bike pretty

easy…but to go really fast?

Some say the less you try the

easier it is and that might

JR & BW


FEATURE

WATSON: “IT WAS NOT A

JUMP WHERE YOU COULD

AFFORD TO GET IT WRONG

OR COME SHORT. I HIT THE

TAKE-OFF AND I COULDN’T

EVEN SEE THE LANDING. IT

WAS A STRANGE FEELING.

IT’S A THRILL. WHEN

YOU DO IT THEN YOU

GET GOOSEBUMPS AND

AFTERWARDS YOU FEEL

THAT IT IS SO NICE TO GET

THAT FEAR/THRILL FROM

RIDING.”

work to a certain level but to

be really fast you have to taking

maximum risk all the time

and that’s f**king scary. You

are holding your breath a lot

and the G-forces under braking

are tough.

BW: Sometimes when I watch

road racing I’ll see a rider

come down the straight and

outbrake another really easily

and still make the corner in a

good way. If you can brake that

much later than someone and

then still do the corner why

can’t the other guy do it as

well? Is it just the risk of it?

JR: I don’t know! Sometimes

it is how your bike is set-up.

Bike-to-bike they all have different

attributes.

BW: One might be better for

acceleration…

JR: Exactly and all bikes are

different, even inside our Kawasaki

team. My head pipe

angle is so wide and I have

so much stability but my bike

doesn’t change direction any

better.

I can stop the thing really well

but turning is not the best

whereas my teammate cannot

stop as good so I can pass him

on the brakes. It is a lot about

set-up and that’s why you need

a clever Crew Chief because


I can understand a lot about

what the bike is doing but it

can be hard to understand

what to change to be better.

I can always describe a feeling

to them and then trust

them to work it out. We have

so much data. I don’t know

how many sensors are on our

bike but they are everywhere

and we can overlay about nine

channels of information at one

time and we’ll have all this

data from every year. So if I

know I was good somewhere

the previous season we can

check it. They can tell me ‘you

are braking too late into that

corner, carrying too much

speed and you are losing 1.5

tenths on the next straight:

brake there instead and work

on your exit’.

In motocross a form of ‘data’

is through the team having

‘spotters’ at around the track

right?

BW: Yes, we’ll have people

looking around the track.

Jacky will be out and the team

will all be connected with

headsets. The main thing that

goes on my pitboard will be

the time and information coming

from around the track and

about changing lines.

Where is the fear in both of

your jobs?

JR: I think the fear thing in my

sport (and it is something that

has cropped up a bit more in

recent years) is when we do

a track walk or be on a slow

down lap I’ll be think ‘f**k, we

really go fast here…’ and the

barrier seems close or you

know a crash at a particular

corner will be a disaster. That

has come into my head recently.

BW: I had the fear thing this

week! Living in Belgium a lot

of the tracks are deep sand,

very physical and not many

jumps, very technical and I

had a reminder that you really

need to get out and ride

different places. I was at Max

Anstie’s track in the UK, so

hard-pack with a lot of jumps

and it was very windy. I was

there on my own for a little

bit. There was one massive

jump – a triple – and I was

thinking ‘I haven’t hit something

this big in a long time’

maybe the second Grand Prix

in Indonesia last summer was

the last time I’ve done a lap

and thought ‘OK, this time I’ll

go for it’. You think about the

jump the whole way around

the lap until you come to it. So

I got to this jump in the wind

and I was 50-50. It was not a

jump where you could afford

to get it wrong or come short.

I hit the take-off and I couldn’t

even see the landing. It was

a strange feeling. It’s a thrill.

When you do it then you get

goosebumps and afterwards

you feel that it is so nice to

get that fear/thrill from riding.

And what gives the ultimate

satisfaction? Are things like

photographs or videos confirmation

of what is a cool job?

BW: It is hard to say. You

might see cool photos of

yourself making a great scrub

but during the race it is not

what you are thinking about.

If you see the photos afterwards

then it was just a sign

or confirmation that you were

having fun and feeling free

with your riding. When I look

at a photo I don’t think ‘oh,

that looks cool’ I tend to look

more at the detail about what

I am doing, like where my feet

are on the pegs or the position

of my wrists and my shoulders

JR & BW


FEATURE

and where I am on the bike.

For me the satisfaction just

comes from how much I enjoy

it every day. It is not about the

photos or what other people

think. It’s doing things like

this talk in this hotel and just

being generally happy with

what I do.

JR: I always get a lot of satisfaction

from the Parc Ferme

photos because when you

look back you can really connect

with the emotions you

had then. You’ll be able to

remember conversations you

had with one person there

after an amazing race. The

actual riding part? I love it but

it’s a job and the big benefit is

winning and achieving goals.

There is so much else that

comes along with it that is

super-cool; things like seeing

my country, Northern Ireland,

really step-up and embrace

me as a sporting hero and it

brings communities together

and gives them something to

be proud of. It is always really

special when young kids ask

you for autographs.

BW: You are someone they

look up to.

JR: Yeah and I know I used to

be the same ten year old that

was riding around and putting

Carl Fogarty up there as

some sort of god. You have

these ten years olds now that

are shaving a #65 in their

head! There was a little kid

in Thailand actually that had

my number done like that in

his hair! I always have a lot of


time for kids over the weekend

and if I can give them

knee sliders or team hats then

it’s pretty cool. I used to be

a fan of the sport and now it

is a job I see my old self in

them.

Could you both swap what

you do? Would you be interested?

JR: No!

BW: Haha-

JR: I enjoy motocross a lot because

it is so accessible. I can

put the bike in the van with a

lunchbox and go riding with

my buddies. But I think at the

top level the sacrifice in order

to be successful…[is amazing].

I’m not old for my sport

by any means but I am 32 and

I’m starting to value ‘life’ and

to make it as easy and normal

as I can. This racing life is not

normal: it is really tough when

you talk about the actual

racing, the preparation, the

obligation. We’re not racing

because we’re good guys and

the teams like us. We’re doing

it to sell bikes and sponsors.

Superbike is the nicest niche

for me now and something

I’m good at but motocross is

so tough. If I could swap the

success I’ve had in Superbike

for motocross then I probably

would because it was my

dream as a boy and I’d probably

be more fulfilled. Road

racing was my curveball and

something I was more naturally

good at but I think the life

you have to live to get to that

point is mad. The sacrifice

you have to make to be even

half-decent is mad.

BW: And the sacrifice some

people make can mean nothing

to others that have given

so much more. I’d love to

have a good on a road bike,

whether that’s a Superbike

or something else. But racing

one…?

JR: Don’t say that because I

can sell it to you! I don’t know

why all these federations are

making all these schemes to

find the next young talent.

If I was a Team Manager or

worked for a brand I would

just down to the tracks to

scout best of youth motocross

and encourage these kids on

the cusp of making-it to try

the road. When you are riding

a bike with gears and a clutch

from the age of seven-eight

and then are tempted by road

racing at fifteen-sixteen then

you already have so much

experience. I think the talent

in road racing comes from

motocross.

JR & BW


MOTOGP

BLOG

MORE MIXING AHEAD...

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

Is the championship over already?

Jorge Lorenzo’s overly optimistic

attempt at a pass in Barcelona

– his ambition temporarily

outweighing his talent - took out

Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Márquez’

main challenger for the 2019

crown, and Valentino Rossi and

Maverick Viñales, two riders who

looked fast enough to steal points

from Márquez in the title chase.

The ensuing crash also broke the

field just enough for Márquez to

open up a gap too large for Danilo

Petrucci to bridge, and it was

plain sailing for the Repsol Honda

rider from there. Márquez now

leads by 37 points, and barring a

catastrophe, looks well on his way

to picking up his sixth MotoGP

gold medal.

The result threw a spanner in the

works of Dovizioso’s strategy to

beat the Spaniard. “Very disappointed

because this is what we

don’t need for the championship,”

the Italian said. “The really bad

thing is Marc in this situation is

smart, and normally races the

second rider on the championship.

So he will be not on the

limit like now, and won’t have to

push 100% of the time. That is

bad. Before this race, we were

there to put him on the limit and

everybody can make a mistake.”

Márquez can afford to relax, and

won’t have to panic if he finds the

odd Yamaha, Suzuki, or Ducati

between himself and Andrea

Dovizioso. It will be much harder

for Dovizioso to force Márquez

into a mistake.

With two more races until the

summer break, it is hard to see

Márquez’ lead in the championship

dwindling significantly. Sure,

he is open to attack at Assen,

though he has always been strong

there, but a week later we go to

the Sachsenring, where he has

won for the last nine years in a

row, in 125s, Moto2, and MotoGP.

Beating Márquez in Germany is

not impossible, but only the foolish

would bet against him making

it ten.

And yet there is hope. First of

all, the pack chasing Márquez is

larger and more competitive than

ever.

Dovizioso is there, as he has been

for the past three seasons. The

factory Monster Energy Yamahas

are stronger than they were

last year, and Valentino Rossi

has won a lot at Assen. Fabio

Quartararo has also targeted the

Dutch round, deciding to have

arm pump surgery after Mugello

in order to be 100% ready for Assen,

aiming to go one better than

his second place in Barcelona.

Alex Rins felt he had the pace

to match Márquez in Barcelona,

were it not for a dodgy rear tyre.

And judging from the outside,

there isn’t a bike better suited

to the layout of Assen than the

Suzuki GSX-RR. Rins should be

pacey in Germany as well, the

Sachsenring being all about corner

speed. “It’s a strange championship,”

Dovizioso said. “There

are a lot of fast riders. This can

create a lot of confusion.”

Output from the test on Monday

after Barcelona could add to the

confusion. Normally, mid-season

tests are more about tweaking

and fine-tuning, but the Barcelona

session felt different.


By David Emmett

There was a lot of work going on

in all of the factory garages and

major components being tested.

There were frames, swingarms,

new aero packages, exhausts. And

that was just the stuff we could

see. Three things caught my attention,

all of them with potential

to have a significant impact.

First, the factory Yamaha garage

seemed extremely busy. There

were a lot of people in the pitbox,

and a lot of work going on behind

screens. Engineers present included

Kazuhisa Takano, the Japanese

technician who worked on the

M1’s chassis during the period

in which Rossi and Lorenzo were

dominating, and who has returned

to MotoGP after playing an important

role in designing Yamaha’s

Leaning Multi-Wheel technology

which formed the basis for the

Niken three-wheeler. Both Viñales

and Rossi were optimistic that the

changes could help immediately,

especially the electronics updates.

Both riders were happy, Petrucci

saying he felt that turning had

improved, while Dovizioso was

happy that corner entry was better.

These are parts which they

could air at Assen and which

could influence the lap-times.

Marc Márquez also had a new

frame to try, which was a small

improvement. But he was wary of

introducing a major chassis update

while he had a comfortable

lead in the championship. Why

risk making a major change when

you’re leading?

Will these updates make a difference

to 2019 MotoGP? If they give

Dovizioso the advantage he has

been asking for, and help put the

Yamahas among the Repsol Honda

pigeons, they just might. Marc

Márquez may have a 37-point lead

but there is still a lot of racing left

to go.

At Ducati, they were working on

turning. Danilo Petrucci had a

lightly modified frame, while Andrea

Dovizioso had a completely

new chassis to test.


FEATURE

W


A FACTORY

MotoGP BIKE:

HERE DOES IT COME FROM?

LCR HONDA CREW CHIEF CHRISTOPHE BOURGUIGNON

EXPLAINS HOW - AND FROM WHERE - CAL

CRUTCHLOW’S WORKS RCV COMES TOGETHER

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP


FEATURE

Organised, cramped and

functional: probably

just some of the words

that spring to mind for those

fortunate to pay a visit to a

MotoGP pitbox. For all the

panelling, hidden storage areas

(some of those really are

impressive, you’d be forgiven

for discovering a medieval

priest cowering in some of the

covert holes) and carpeting,

teams have to squeeze and

mould themselves into these

zones that can vary wildly in

terms of size and access.

Somehow, somewhere, technicians

need desk space, tyre

warmer racks have to blink

away silently, spare fairings

and a fuel deposit has to be

placed and every tool and

component that has to be

close-to-hand requires its own

home. Then the team has to

hope that the principal race

trailer is parked as close as

possible to the back of the

box for all important storage

purposes.

When we spoke with ‘Beefy’

last year he mentioned that

the LCR Honda team carry

enough parts at each Grand

Prix to build several more of

Cal Crutchlow’s #35 motorcycle.

Considering the complexity

and the special hand-made

nature of the RCV that means

a lot of material and a hefty

amount of haulage.

When does all that resource

arrive from Japan? Does it all

go back? How do the team

keep account of all the hundreds

and hundreds of ‘bits’?

“We don’t really have a parts

guy,” the friendly Belgian

says. “We all do a little bit but

mainly I supervise and make

the orders. After each weekend

the mechanics are logging

the parts they use and

if they feel we are getting low

then a note will be made to

order more. When I get back

home I’ll go through the log. I

will sometimes make an order

the day after a race.”

MotoGP is a long championship.

Now at nineteen rounds

with two pre-season tests,

two post-season tests and

four one-day IRTA sessions

throughout the race calendar

it’s easy for a fan to assume

that the ‘blackout’ window

in December and January

means that teams drop their

headsets and run for the

beach. Not so.

“In December we receive a

list from HRC of all the components

they will send us.

So the following year that

whole list has to be sent back

to Japan,” Bourguignon explains.

“It is a big job at the

end of a season because we

have to dissemble everything.

Stuff like the radiator has to

be separated into parts like

the rubber, the spacer…it is a

week’s work.


The parts that go back are

the ones that will not work for

next season’s bike and that’s

basically everything! HRC are

always making improvements

but you do have basic things

like bolts, nuts, clips, rings

that we keep. The universal

and basic stuff; the service

stuff. If the seat foam is the

same shape or material then

we’ll keep it. All electronics

and engine parts must

go back and everything is

marked and well organised.”

“This takes place after the

Jerez test at the beginning of

December. At that moment I

will have received the parts

list for the following year’s

bike and they’ll ask me to

make a pre-order of maintenance

parts, things like

exhausts, fairings and thisand-that.

So a general order

is made in December and in

January when we go to Japan

for the ‘schooling’ - what we

call the bike assembly – then

we see the physical order!

Sometimes you might ask

for an electric harness but it

could be something that is

30m long! At that moment I

readjust the order and perhaps

add some things or take

some away.”

“With each bike HRC also

organise a set of parts that

is independent to my order.

It’s own ‘kit’ that will at least

cover the first tests. The level

of organisation is such that if

there is a change to one part

and I don’t already have it in

my order then it will be place

in the kit.”

Presumably you pack everything

into special cases?

We have some of those big

wooden crates that you see

around and we keep the original

packaging for everything.

We have stickers from Japan

with the parts numbers ready

to go and if some are missing

then we have to write a comment

where they have gone

because some parts will go

back to Japan even during

the season for an update. It

is all well organised with list

of parts, stickers and notifications

about parts that we can

keep. We pack and dissemble

engine parts, chassis parts

and put them in boxes along

with the bike. The bike returns

as well but if we keep it then

it’s on a carnet so it has to go

back to Japan anyway to have

a new carnet for the following

year.

It sounds like quite an undertaking…

It is a nightmare! The names

of the parts as well! They

mean nothing at first; there is

no relation to what the part

actually is but the people in

HRC are so used to it. They

know that a ‘plate’ means a

set of aerodynamic wings. It

is tricky at first but now we

know - even by looking at the

part number – what is related

DELIVERING A MotoGP BIKE


FEATURE

to an engine or electrical

part or perhaps a suspension

link. It’s like every job: once

you work a lot with the same

names and numbers then you

get used to it.

So does all the order for the

new season arrive at the

workshop in San Marino?

From Japan all it is actually

shipped to Sepang for the first

test and then we arrive there

almost with empty crates. We

get some of the parts then

because not everything arrives

in one go as HRC also

have delivery schedules. You

start to separate what is for

Cal and for Taka and then the

common parts. They all get

labelled because you don’t

want to make any mistakes:

that’s what we avoid in this

job! You’ll then have your delivery

of chains, of brakes, of

wheels and suspension and it

all comes together and while

overseas! So you don’t have

too much room. There are

things that get sent straight

back to Italy because you

won’t need them until later

in the season. It is a big task

but I’ve been doing it since

I arrived here so it becomes

routine.

What percentage of the order

is special for Cal?

99% of what we are using

to go racing is supplied by

HRC. We might adjust parts

like handlebars and footrests

and they allow us to make


some small modifications or

to produce small parts but

nothing that has a big function

because reliability is

obviously very important. It

is similar with carbon parts;

at the beginning of the season

we will order X amount of

fairings and seats and so on

and especially in our case we

are changing sponsors every

weekend sometimes so we

need a big amount for rotation

of painting and stickers.

They allow us to repair and

repaint but we cannot reproduce

any carbon parts, which

is fine because it is their bike.

We had a good guy working

on the repair and repainting

and if there is just a scratch

then it can be fixed. For a

satellite team like us that is

really good. A factory team

like Repsol will just replace

instead of repair. You can

imagine having two riders that

might crash more than 20 or

30 times during a season so it

can be a fortune because the

carbon pieces from Japan are

really high quality and therefore

expensive.

Can you give an idea of

quantity?

I would say each rider has

between 8-10 fairings and for

the seat maybe 5-6 sets. Then

similar for front fender, rear

fender…There is a lot of rotation.

As you know Taka is using

Cal’s 2018 bike so we are

re-using parts and we keep

organised with what we have

and what we can use. Each

part has a life cycle and you

don’t want to save 500 euros

if it then means you have an

issue on a race weekend. You

have to balance the worth of

things and you don’t want to

take any chances. If you have

a scratch on top of a triple

clamp that is not bent or

damaged then it won’t affect

performance but a scratch on

a wire loom? You don’t know

what has happened inside and

if a cable has been affected.

How do you request things

from HRC? Do they have

some online tool?

No, I need to make an official

order by email to just one

contact person at HRC. It’s

a good system. Normally it

arrives two weeks later or if it

needs to be produced then it

can take six weeks.

Is the system all-efficient?

Can it come the next day?

First of all in an emergency

Repsol will help us. Then it

depends on the situation.

DELIVERING A MotoGP BIKE


FEATURE


AS A TECHNICIAN I AM ALWAYS

INTERESTED IN THINGS THAT MIGHT BE

DIFFERENT TO OTHERS. BUT IF I WANT

TO BE REALISTIC ABOUT

PERFORMANCE AND WELL, NOT AN

EASY LIFE, BUT A SIMPLE AND

CONSISTENT ONE THEN IT’S BETTER

TO STAY WITH A PRODUCT YOU KNOW

WELL AND WHERE YOU CAN KEEP IN A

WORKING ‘BUBBLE’.

DELIVERING A MotoGP BIKE


FEATURE


If it is a technical issue then

they are really quick. I don’t

want to say 48 hours but it is

really fast.

So can the team take their

own technical partners?

Our deal with Honda does not

include the wheels, the brakes

and the suspension and basically

we make our own deal

for wheels to HRC spec. We

have to buy the brakes from

Brembo – again on HRC spec

– but we can choose our own

master cylinder and it is a bit

more rider related. We have

the suspension on lease from

Ohlins and this is a team issue,

the same as all the painting.

Almost everyone uses the

same brands on the MotoGP

grid: Brembo, Ohlins and so

on. Isn’t it tempting to use

something else to find a tiny

bit more performance?

It is always good to be different.

I started working in suspension

and was in Kayaba for

seven years and then Ohlins

and if you can have better

product then why not? But it

is also good to be the same

as the others. Ohlins have the

monopoly here and it’s good

to know that everyone has

the same product. You might

change company and suddenly

have much more rear grip

but then soon everybody else

will change! If it is something

people can buy then at this

level [other] people will take

it…unless you have a special

deal. If you are different then

it brings more questions if the

rider is not confident or happy

or the results don’t come.

He’ll then want to use the

same as everyone else. You

need really good organisation

and preparation to decide to

change suspension or brakes.

We have tried. When I joined

Honda they were on Showa

and because of my background

with Ohlins we moved

to their product and we were

with Randy De Puniet and he

had full confidence in me…

but you could be in a situation

with a rider that he’d want to

revert to Showa like the others

and your initial project is then

dead after three months. We

continued. Then HRC decided

to try, got some good results

and then they swapped. As a

technician I am always interested

in things that might

be different to others and I’d

jump directly onto a project

like that…but if I want to be

realistic about performance

and well, not an easy life, but

a simple and consistent one

then it’s better to stay with a

product you know well and

where you can keep in a working

‘bubble’.

With everything you need and

you carry does it ever feel

that it is now too much?

It has always been like this

but ten years ago people

didn’t really care about the

panels in the box or whether

it really looked good and

presentable for TV. When you

work with the same people

every year then they remember

the system in the pitbox

and what worked. The box

looks ‘busy’ but for us it is

part of the overall job of building,

assembling and disassembling!

DELIVERING A MotoGP BIKE


BLOG

HOLDING ON FOR AN ANTI-HERO

The World Superbike season has come alive over the last

three rounds, with Jonathan Rea taking varying-sized

chunks out of Alvaro Bautista’s championship lead to turn

around his ailing title defence.

Bautista’s mistake in race 2 at

Misano – a carbon-copy front-end

lowside to the one that also saw

him slide out of race 2 at Jerez –

can now be considered a chink in

his otherwise seemingly flawless

armour, and the Spaniard will be

forced to think twice about forcing

the pace from the front at Donington

Park.

As well as a decent dose of drama

served up by the #19 Ducati, Superbike

fans have also been treated

in the last few races to the spectacular

sight of Jonathan Rea riding

on the ragged edge, a spectacle too

often denied to us over the last four

years as he cruised to the title with

virtually one hand behind his back.

The beauty is that it’s not just Bautista

pushing Rea to new limits, but

other rivals in the shape of Yamaha

pair Michael Van Der Mark and Alex

Lowes – who could both have easily

come away from Misano with a win

if things had gone their way – and

Toprak Razgatlioglu, who came of

age with an entertainingly impudent

attempt to deny his Kawasaki colleague

maximum points on Sunday

afternoon.

So, with the title chase very much

alive (16 points in it with just under

half of the season to go) and the

racing as good as it has been in

a long time in World Superbikes,

what I reckon we now need is a

good old-fashioned feud.

I’m not talking about the handbags

in pit-lane or the insults thrown

around in race direction after the

on-track collisions at Jerez. I’m

talking right-hooks aimed at your

team-mate’s jaw in nothing but a

bathrobe in the team hospitality.

Isn’t that what the spirit of Superbikes

is really all about?

It is hard to visit Misano and not

think of the legendary Pierfrancesco

Chilli, who now owns a restaurant

on the beach nearby. At some point

during a weekend in Riccione –

especially when sharing a dinner

table with my esteemed Eurosport

colleague Jamie Whitham - the

conversation will turn to the flamboyant

Italian, who famously tried

to send Carl Fogarty sprawling over

the canapés following their coming

together at Assen in 1998.

Chili wasn’t the first person to be

upset by Foggy, who always said

that he needed to hate his rivals in

order to beat them. Aaron Slight,

Scott Russell and Colin Edwards

– amongst others – will no doubt

attest to that.

Yet somehow, as far as his army of

fans were concerned, Foggy managed

to turn all of those guys into

the pantomime villains of the time

- even though he was quite open

about being the aggressor. It was

a trick later mastered by Valentino

Rossi with Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau,

Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo

and Marc Marquez.


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Matthew Roberts

When Rossi punted Gibernau off

in the final corner of the race at

Jerez, or hustled Stoner for 32 laps

around Laguna Seca, he shrugged

his shoulders in parce fermé and

laughed at them for overreacting.

I’m not even sure Foggy or Rossi

did it on purpose but because they

were honest and showed that they

truly didn’t give a damn about their

rivals’ feelings, nobody else did

either. To millions of viewers around

the world it didn’t matter who was

in the right – Foggy and Rossi were

heroes and anybody else was a sore

losers, end of.

Nowadays we are entering different

times, when riders seem more

bothered about protecting the

clean-cut image they think is best

for their profile - appealing to all

fans and appeasing their sponsors.

But they often end up projecting

a dull, diluted version of their true

self. You can never please everybody,

so why try?

Don’t pretend to be upset because

you have knocked another rider off.

Don’t play down your expectations

to protect your reputation. Tell us

what you really think.

Tell us the truth - that all you care

about is winning and you will do

anything to achieve it.

Only this weekend, Daniel Riccardo

increased his reputation as

the most interesting thing about

Formula 1 in a post-race interview

with Dutch television, when he was

told that some other drivers had

complained about his dangerous

moves. “Fuck ‘em all, how does

that sound?” he said, with a massive

grin. Who wouldn’t love him for

that?

Riders shouldn’t need to worry

about boosting their social media

numbers with lame videos of their

training programme or their photos

of their latest nutritional creations.

Race fans don’t worship vloggers,

they worship racers.

So split opinions, create some

rivalries and bike fans will vote with

their feet rather than their fingers,

showing their colours not on Instagram

or twitter but in the grandstands.

Humans are tribal by nature and

every pantomime needs a villain

just as much as it needs hero.

A motorcycle racer shouldn’t be

afraid to be either.


FEATURE

STITCHING

THE

FLY RACING’S JASON THOMAS TALKS

TESTING RIDING GEAR, ADVANCEMENTS

AND THE DEPTH OF CHOICE

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by James Lissimore

SPORT


FEATURE

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly

Fly Racing

have inched towards the

position of vanguard when it

comes to progressive helmet

technology, thanks to their

recently released Formula

model. However for the last

two decades the brand have

also established their name

and quality for riding and racing

gear. Any regular readers

of OTOR will have seen some

of the range of items that Fly

produce - both for off-road

and street - but the depth of

the catalogue (and the commitment

that requires) does

not mean they are ‘easing the

throttle’ on finding new possibilities

for that jersey-pantglove

combo.

Putting Sales Manager, MX

lynchpin and former racing

star Jason Thomas on the

spot, we decided to find out

more about Fly Racing’s work

and their priorities.

How do you go about testing

new apparel?

It changes depending on the

product. Our latest one was

the Formula helmet and we

have been pushing very hard

in the media and trying to

educate consumers and dealers

alike on the technology

we have developed. For something

like that you are talking

about multiple years of testing

before it ends up in the consumer’s

hands. We’ve learned

that we needed multiple ‘levels’

of riders to test a product.

In the past we’ve depended

on Pro level testing too much

but we learned that what a

Pro rider needs out of a product

means his demands are

quite different to the average

consumer. We’ve instituted a

programme where we’ll have

our core guys testing but also

‘intermediate’ riders that are

specifically contracted and

then beginner and novice

riders also because as the

brand grows you are really

engaging all of those people.

Riders who will be using entry

level product and the type

of wear they are generating

is important; it’s because of

those different demands. We

have learned a lot along the

way and building product only

for Pros will not work with a


different customer. It’s not an

easy ‘ask’ of course – to produce

something that will work

for everyone – but I think that

is why we are able to boast so

many segments of gear.

Is it risky to have such a disparate

range? To have product

for singular purposes or consumer

groups?

Sure. I mean, if the gear for

people at Blake Baggett and

Zach Osborne’s level functioned

great for twenty-two

minutes in a Supercross Main

Event and then fell apart then

that would be OK: it would be

something built for a specific

purpose. A consumer buying

a premium level product

would expect it to last a season,

so it is a delicate balance

and in the end you hope you

are building a product at a

high enough level so it caters

perfectly for your supercross

rider’s needs but also has

durability. I believe to successfully

reach that objective

takes a lot of experience and

creativity, and the team go

through a lot of trial and error

to get there but that is part of

development for gear. We’re

proud because we have introduced

new materials and our

Evolution DST line is a good

example of that. It is durable

stretch technology. Stretch

materials have progressed in

the last couple of years but

the DST has that durability to

last a season or appeal to the

off-road or Enduro rider who

is out in the woods or heading

through the mud and for

whom a ‘one-ride’ pant will

not work. It is challenging but

I think we have accomplished

that and we can offer that. We

also have product that doesn’t

have all the bells-and-whistles

but if you want high performance

or durability then there

is this offering. We get good

feedback that the gear fits a

wide range of people and we

pride ourselves on that. We

want to be a consumer driven

company.

Is the tech and performance

on Pro level stuff sometimes

overcooked? Do they really

need all of it?

Some of it is. To have triple

Kevlar stitching and all the

reinforcements are probably

JT ON FLY RACING


FEATURE

not necessary. We could perhaps

minimise it and take out

all of the weight and make it

so that it’s not durable and it

would fall apart at some point.

Will it make a performance

difference for the rider? Probably

not. But it’s possible. We

really believe in racing what

we sell. So if Blake Baggett or

Zach Osborne are out there

on Saturday afternoon or

evening in a product then we

want to be able to say to our

customers that it is the same

thing they might be holding

in their hands. We are not

custom-building anything. We

can alter small things however.

Usually most riders will

have a small waist but big legs

because they are cycling a lot

and we can make alterations

to accommodate individual

shape, but down to the core

and durability of the product

then they wear what we sell.

Do you think consumers are

aware of the complexities and

materials of the gear?

Maybe. Even when I am talking

with the creative team and

request a small reorganisation

of something on a pant

then they will tell me about

all the panels that have to be

cut at certain angles and if

you change one then in essence

you are changing the

entire pant. It is almost like

a puzzle and a pant has to

work together. You don’t want

a part that cannot be easily

moved by a stretch panel.

Your base materials at 900 or

600D do not ‘give’ and it creates

a bind point: something

you don’t want. So it all has to

work together and the design

team spends hours and hours

drawing it out. It all has to be

cohesive.

What about additions such at

the BOA fit system? That was

a big definer for Fly’s gear but

is an example of how the apparel

varies…

You want to create distinctive

reasons for someone to buy a

premium level pant. You could

put BOA and stretch panels

on an entry level pant but you

wouldn’t get the price point

you’d want and for the average

rider who just wants to

head into the woods then he

won’t know the difference any

more. For the person who has

done the research and knows

exactly what they want to buy

then you need to give them

reasons to want that premium

level. It’s a fine line and it is a

subject we debate constantly.

How far do you bring the value

down in the line but also ensure

a high level as well?

It feels like the industry has

really stepped forward with

new product. It’s about more

than just new colours and

designs now…

We have seen more innovation

in the last five-six years

than in the ten-fifteen before

that: the introduction of all the

stretch materials (that all the

brands are using now), the introduction

of compression, the

ideas for more athletic-type

cuts of gear in general. The

BOA system was exclusive for

us and anyone who has tried it

will tell you that is a very positive

step forward. If you look

through the 90-00s then there

really wasn’t much progression.

Even before that. There

was the transition from cotton

jerseys to polyester but that

wasn’t too ground-breaking

because it was still baggy and

not performance-minded. Now

I think the motocross industry

is following in the footsteps

of companies like Nike, Under

Armour and fitting a range of

consumers. It is the material

and the fabric doing

the hard work there.

Technology has

finally caught

up with

motocross

and everyone is

benefitting.

What’s the market like in

2019?

It’s funny; some of our

own problems are

that the Fly Racing

product lasts a

long time. In

your heart of

hearts you’d

want to

produce

gear that

lasts

enough

to satisfy


the customer but would

then encourage them to

buy again. Obviously it is

an impossible goal to meet

and everyone is pushing

to create better and better

products. Some people will

say to us “I’m wearing the

same pants I bought four

years ago” and that’s great

to hear and it’s a good

product reputation to

have but you also

know inside

they

JT ON FLY RACING

XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX

‘THERE WERE CONCERNS THAT THE 450S

WERE TOO FAST, TOO HEAVY AND TOO MUCH

FOR THE ATHLETES AND WERE LEADING

TO A SPATE OF INJURIES... NEAR-CRISIS

MEETINGS WERE BEING HELD.’


FEATURE

have been missing the latest

and greatest every year. Everyone

talks about the challenges

of getting people to ride motorcycles

but that transfers

across to apparel as well, we

need more people actively

involved in the sport to create

the next generation. I think

it is a great time to be in the

apparel industry because of

the advances that are happening,

and helmets are definitely

at the forefront of that. Motocross

helmets are heading

development on a global scale

and I think that is something

we should be very proud of.

Obviously for motocross it

goes hand-in-hand with the

amount of crashes that people

sustain and there is a need

for it but whether its NFL, or

hockey then they are looking

at motocross and it’s a cool

position to be in.

and their airbag coming more

into moto. Rheon has been a

big find for us and a lot of the

long-term meetings have been

about ‘how do we utilise this

revolutionary material?’ We

need to find way to insert it

into the line as efficiently as

we can.

Understandably you don’t

want to say much but can you

tease where it can go?

I think you will see pretty significant

advances in protection

technology. Our Formula helmet

uses Rheon for next-level

protection tech and I think

you’ll see other products use

this. The uses of it are endless

as long as you find the right

optimisation and I think you’ll

see things like Alpinestars

Photo by Ray Archer


JT ON FLY RACING


PRODUCTS


www.flyracing.com

fly racing

As highlighted by former racer Jason Thomas

in our Fly Racing article this issue, the

Evolution DST is another pace forward for

the American firm with their unfailingly impressive

gear line. This is cream of the crop

stuff. The jersey features a full mesh back

and integrated mesh in key areas. It is built

from multi-direction lycra in the neck and

shoulders and with other panelling hiking the

stretch and durability performance. The armpit

construction is seamless in a bid for more

comfort and, of course, it comes with purpose

fit and ergonomics as well as a silicone

‘tail’ to prevent it easily slipping out the seat

of the pants.

Speaking of which, the Evolution DST pant

is high-grade. Fly say its ‘exclusive four-way

HEX-Stretch fabric construction is flexible

and tough’ and the ‘leather heat shield panels

come with DuPont Kevlar stitching’. A

900 denier build means tough wearing but

the Hex stretch is the offset. Don’t forget the

BOA adjustment system. The shirt is priced

at 59.95 and the pants at 189.95. The gloves

also have four-way stretch and lycra as well

as a vented Clarino palm. They are shaped

with a ‘comfortable fit’ in mind and a Clarino

leather wrist closure there is also an added

layer; the ‘soft-flex KUP adds protection and

a clean look. KUP provides stronger logo

adhesion and higher wear tolerance.’ The

gloves will cost just under forty dollars.


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MOTOGP

BLOG

A REAL FIGHTBACK

While the big talking point from last week in Montmeló was

the Jorge Lorenzo collision that ultimately settled the race

in Marc Marquez’s favour, there were notable performances

right the way down the top ten...and a special one in

particular

Aside from what felt like a decisive

victory for the reigning world

champion, Fabio Quartararo’s

debut top class podium rightly received

a fair share of the plaudits.

Danilo Petrucci’s third place was

a surprise and showed advancements

in conditions that were so

often his Achilles’ heel in the past.

Jack Miller was solid in fifth and

Joan Mir was remarkable in sixth,

7 seconds back on the race winner,

a performance that led Suzuki

test rider Sylvain Guintoli to

call him and team-mate Alex Rins

“geniuses.”

But perhaps the most remarkable

of all was three places behind the

Majorcan rookie.

Tito Rabat’s ninth may not seem

like a great deal. But consider

where he’s come from and his

first top ten finish since last April

was remarkable. It came nine

months and 22 days on from that

horror smash in FP4 at Silverstone

that not only threatened his

competitive career but came close

to taking his life.

Rabat suffered three fractures

in his right leg, a limb that was

“twisted like an S” after Franco

Morbidelli’s errant Honda RC213V

collided into him at the end of the

Hangar Straight, a consequence of

the track’s inability to drain water

away. Three riders crashed, with

the 2014 Moto2 world champion

easily the worst affected. At the

scene there was so much blood,

doctors initially feared he had

severed his femoral artery.

It hasn’t been an easy road back.

I met with Rabat at Mugello to

ask about his recovery. Quickly

(and unsurprisingly) I discovered

he was less concerned about his

physical condition, and more

railing at an inability to find a setting

that matches with Michelin’s

2019 rear tyre, altered slightly for

this year.

“When I tested this bike [at Valencia

last November] with just

one leg I was very fast,” he said,

all frustration. “Then when we put

this new generation of [rear] tyres

I lost this feeling. This is why the

season has been so bad until

here.

“I’m very sad, angry, frustrated…

Whatever you want to call it,” he

said. “We have a good chassis, a

good engine. We have to work for

this. When you can’t attack you

must defend. This is the biggest

level category. We need to recover

this. If you don’t have confidence

you are f**ked.”


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Neil Morrison

You would be hard pressed to

find someone unwilling to focus

the horrific events of before.

But in MotoGP the demand for

results never stops. And Rabat

is aware he has a contract up

for renewal at the close of 2019.

Avintia Ducati, his current squad,

are talking with other riders for

2020. Looking back is of no use.

Essentially he’s riding for his job.

“I need some results soon,” he

reminds me.

Rabat is still undergoing physio

two or three times a week. That’s

complimented by regular exercise

to build strength in the right leg.

“Gym and bicycle every week,”

he says. All of which has led him

to claim he now has “100 percent

power in the right leg,” even if

that seems dubious.

Although he does admit his current

performance is still somewhat

blunted by his leg. “Especially

when I change direction,” he

says, “or when I have to change

gears, to go up, I struggle a bit

with the right leg, the knee and

the ankle. There is still a bit of

pain. Every time is better. But now

the problem is not the leg.”

But this is the man who was

pictured standing upright thanks

to a walking aid the day after his

horrendous smash. It was then

that Rabat’s reputation for being

slightly eccentric in his sheer

enthusiasm for riding again became

apparent. “I was completely

fucked,” he says of his condition

when that photo was taken. “But

the day after the crash I thought,

‘I’ll go to the next race at Misano!’

Then I realised it was not possible.

Then it was Aragon. But the

doctor said it was too dangerous.

So I went, ‘I’ll go to the next one!’

It was like this until the end of the

season.”

Three months in bed were a timely

reminder of what one can lose

through injury. “We have a nice

rhythm of life,” he says. “To stop

this it’s quite hard.” But it has offered

a sense of perspective: “We

do what we do every day and we

forget that we can lose our lives

doing this. This I learned. Now

maybe I pay more attention when

I’m on track.” And does he ever

think about the consequences of

not jumping up and away from

Morbidelli’s bike? “Better not to

think too much,” he smiles.

“If you think, you stop.”

Rabat only gained seven points

for his efforts in Barcelona. But

this felt like a victory. This latest

result was a timely reminder of

his talents; and proof that right

the way down the premier class

top ten, talent and unflinching

desire is evident in every corner.


FEATURE

LAST

ACTION

HERO

THE ELBOWS ARE STILL SHARP AS

SPIES SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT

By Steve English, Photos by Scott Jones

Ben Spies was always a straight talking,

no nonsense rider. He’s made no bones

throughout his career of his thoughts on

racing, rivals and his own career.

On Track Off Road catches up with one of the

all-time Superbike greats


By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM


FEATURE

What is the legacy of

Ben Spies career?

That’s been a regular

question over the years. With

Jonathan Rea smashing records

left right and centre, the

Northern Irishman holds the

record for titles, wins, points

and podiums. He is now the

undisputed greatest rider in

WorldSBK history, but where

does that leave the American?

Carl Fogarty, Colin Edwards,

Troy Bayliss all are rightly

regarded as Superbike royalty

but Spies? He’s almost

seen as a one hit wonder

to some. They discount his

domestic dominance in the

United States. On the back of

his 2009 WorldSBK title he

jumped to MotoGP and within

four years his career was over.

Spies is a burning star who’s

light was extinguished by

injury.

That’s the legacy that many

think of but it couldn’t be

further from reality. The Texan

achieved plenty by the time

he lined up on the international

stage for his debut as a

full-time rider. The confidence

that he brought from the US

was seen by some as arrogance

but that wasn’t the case; he

knew what he could achieve and

he backed it up on track. Todate

he is still the last American

Grand Prix winner with that

fantastic success at Assen in

2011; scene of the latest episode

of MotoGP this weekend.

Here is Spies, in his own words,

looking back at his career and

the future for American racing.


DOMESTIC BLISS

IN THE AMA

Honestly, I liked riding Superbikes

more than GP bikes.

MotoGP bikes are awesome:

the technology, the money

spent on them. It’s the premier

class for a reason. But I

preferred riding a Superbike

because when it comes to

having fun on a motorcycle - I

don’t care who you are - it’s

more fun to ride a Superbike.

If Marquez was riding a Superbike,

he would have more

fun just because it moves

around more. There’s more

weight transfer. It’s more lively

to ride. I loved my AMA days.

I loved the ’09 year in WorldS-

BK but the AMA days were a

lot harder than people think.

Mat [Mladin] was a lot faster

than people think. In ’09 we

had a lot of little headaches

through the year and a lot of

things to learn but the level

of competition in WorldSBK

wasn’t what I was racing back

home. Mat was faster than

all those guys. I think we had

pace on all those riders that

year [09] and AMA was the

reason for that.

“GP BIKES DON’T WORK

LIKE ANY MOTORCYCLE ON

THE PLANET. THEY HAVE NO

WEIGHT TRANSFER. THEY’RE

STIFF AS BOARDS. THEY’RE

SUPER HEAVY CHANGING

DIRECTIONS BUT THEY RIP

THROUGH CORNERS.”

I’d say that the fondest memories

I have from racing, just

because there was a huge rivalry

with Mat, are from AMA.

People will ask me which

day was your best day, winning

the world title, winning a

Grand Prix or this or that? I’ve

always said that the day I won

the AMA title in ’07 was the

best. It went to the last race at

Laguna and whoever won the

race won the title. That was

probably the best day of my

career.

I would have stayed in AMA

without any regrets if the

economy hadn’t crashed.

I’d probably never would

have come over to Europe.

The whole reason I came

to WorldSBK in ’09 was because

the Suzuki boss in ’08

said that if I wanted to make

money racing motorcycles, I’d

have to go to Europe. That’s

what forced me to go. I was

never going to go to Europe

otherwise because I hate flying.

RECORD

BREAKING

ROOKIE SHOCKS

THE WORLD

I enjoyed my time in Europe

and I loved the ’09 year I did

in WorldSBK. Racing in MotoGP

had some good moments,

some not-so-fun moments

and it was definitely

great for my whole career.

When you look back, basically

I think I had one pretty shitty

year in my career and that’s

how my career ended. At the

same time I raced a Superbike

for five seasons and I

won four titles. When it comes

to Superbike rides, I’m pretty

happy with what we did.

I had planned to come back

to WorldSBK, that was with

Ducati, and Ernesto Marrinelli

wanted me here alongside

Chaz Davies for 2014.

BEN SPIES & HIS CAREER


FEATURE

The plan in my head was to do one

last year in MotoGP in ‘13 and then

go to the Factory Ducati in WorldS-

BK. I wanted to win two more titles

and then I was done. Then I’d go

home. It just didn’t work out like

that.

When I won my WorldSBK title I

knew that I was one of the best riders

in the world. For a rider there

are no teams or no bikes. It’s just

you and the other riders. It’s an

individual sport. I was a top six rider

going into my rookie MotoGP season.

I didn’t have to make changes

to the Superbike that year, and it’s

the same for Bautista now, because

all I’d say to the team was ‘let me

be comfortable. Don’t mess with

me.’ That’s where he’s at right now.

He’s just got that confidence. When

you’ve got it like that, it’s awesome. I

never felt like that on GP bikes. On a

Superbike from ’06 onwards I didn’t

feel like anybody in the world could

beat me on a Superbike. That was

the feeling I had at that time.

In my prime I felt like we were kind

of the third-best there for a couple

years. It’s not easy to deal with the

lack of winning when you’ve had that

confidence and feeling.

Now in WorldSBK with Alvaro you’re

also seeing that there’s a difference

to MotoGP again. The gap isn’t quite

as big as we see but it’s there because

he’s really gelled with the bike

and everything is really good. Johnny

Rea made the smartest decision for

his career to stay here. He could

have gone to MotoGP and he could

have had a couple good races, but


in the end I think he would

have been more on the fifth

to ninth places and then it’s

just a matter of time until the

Moto2 kid from Italy or Spain

replaces you. That’s the politics

of MotoGP, so I think he

was right to stay in WorldSBK.

If you’re a really good rider all

you need are a lot of kilometres

on those bikes. Someone

like Valentino or Marquez

would be very good on Superbikes.

Their advantage on GP

bikes is more because of the

way the electronics and the

chassis and the tyres are. But

I really believe that if certain

riders were put on a Superbike,

that they could struggle

a lot. Jorge is such a Grand

Prix rider. He carries so much

corner speed, has the bike

in line, all that classic Grand

Prix style that he wouldn’t be

as good on a Superbike as he

is on a GP bike. I’m not saying

he would be bad but he

wouldn’t be as good.

The gap that Valentino would

have on somebody else in

Superbike wouldn’t be as big,

because the bikes and tyres

are different. At the end of the

day the riding does the talking

and you’ve got to finish it out.

But the GP bikes are like Formula

1. They don’t work like

any motorcycle on the planet.

They have no weight transfer.

They’re stiff as boards.

They have high corner speed.

They’re super heavy changing

directions but they rip through

corners. It’s just a different

motorcycle when you get

brought up in the old school

era. It’s hard when you’ve

not grown up the Moto3 and

Moto2, or you haven’t had

electronics from when you’re

13 years old. That’s the difference.

BEN SPIES & HIS CAREER


FEATURE

MAKING THE

SWITCH TO

MotoGP

You always want to win. It’s not easy

when you don’t. I won one race in GP. I

felt like the trajectory we were on was

good and everything was good. Then in

2012, which I felt was going to be one of

my best years because of the change to

1000 cc engines, I got cut at Round 2.

Rossi was coming back and I got hurt at

the end of the year and then it was done.

I look back at it and I feel like I didn’t

do a whole bunch wrong. I was the only

Yamaha WorldSBK champion ever, we

were on a great path in ’10 and ’11. Then

at the second race of 2012 they signed

Valentino. It didn’t matter what I did and

that sucks, but he’s Valentino and he

does bring what he brings. I felt like I got

replaced and having been beating him

regularly on a satellite bike at the end of

2010, that was tough. But that’s racing.

That’s politics. Politics are everywhere

over there but especially in MotoGP.

I couldn’t stand the politics in MotoGP.

That’s something that I’ll say, Casey will

say it, Lorenzo will say it and we look like

the bad guys. I’m not racing anymore

and I can see that MotoGP is cutthroat.

I don’t care for it now and I didn’t then.

I make no bones about it. I’ve said it on

Twitter and I said it in ’12 too. Sometimes

the truth isn’t the popular opinion.

But I will say that it was great to be

there. I wouldn’t take anything back at

all. I wouldn’t have done it differently. I

signed with Ducati for 2013 and the plan

was that after the second year of Ducati

I was coming back to WorldSBK. A lot

of people don’t know that it was in my

contract to come back to WorldSBK and

I think it would have ended my career

great. I could possibly have won a couple

more titles and retired the way I wanted

to retire. The cards were a bit stacked

against me in 2013 though and it sucks

that my career ended that way with an

injury. The way I look at it is that it was

one bad year out of how many. So I’m

not upset now. It’s good.

There a lot of things that are different

in MotoGP. The riding style, the way the

bikes handle, how the tyres work, The

800’s weren’t good for me and then in

2012, when it changed to 1000’s I felt

like I had the power to be up front. For

me the ’12 and ’13 seasons were probably

the best possibilities I had to do

it. If I was healthy it’s possible I could

have been winning. I can for sure say

that Lorenzo, Marquez and Casey, those

three guys, had more talent than I did.

Everybody else? No, I don’t think they

had more talent than me at all. Valentino

is the GOAT but was he better than

me back then? No I don’t think so. He’s

a great rider and I know it sounds crazy

to think you’re as talented as the GOAT

but, and you see it with Marquez now,

that’s the way it is. At the end of ’10 we

were close to each other and he beat me

as much as I beat him and I was on a

satellite bike. I have as much respect for

what he’s done in his whole career but

in my prime I don’t think he was better

than me. I also don’t think I was a whole

bunch better than him.


I was definitely on that level. Marquez,

Lorenzo, and Casey though…they were

definitely the best and they were the

all-time three most talented riders I went

up against. I still think Casey is the most

talented.

What makes them so good? That’s what’s

funny because I was definitely good on

a motorcycle and there were times I was

following Casey and you’d think, ‘I don’t

think I can do that, that consistently.’

That’s one of those things. Even with

Rossi or Dovi or anybody else they could

be two tenths faster but you can see

what’s going on. The way MotoGP bikes

are, how the electronics are, something

could be hurting you and you’re just not

there. But you know what’s going on. You

know that if you could ride through one

section just a little bit differently that

you could be right there no problem.

With Casey though you’d follow him and

there’d be two or three moments where

I’d just think, ‘I can’t do that.’ That’s

pretty amazing at this level of racing. But

if I can say that when I was in my prime

I was one of the top five riders in the

world, or top four, or top three, then I can

live with that.

BEN SPIES & HIS CAREER


FEATURE

WHERE ARE

THE YOUNG

AMERICANS?

I jumped on big bikes early-I

was 17 and riding a 200 horsepower

GSXR-1000. I think

that’s what has hurt America

now because in general they

keep kids on 600’s for too

long. I learned a lot very early

because I had no traction control,

no electronics on that bike

and I was probably last of the

breed of young riders coming

through without electronics.

I think that probably hurt me

in GP a lot because my riding

style was about how to slide

the bike, to manage tyres and

to manage situations.

At the end of races, even in

MotoGP, I was faster compared

to other riders and how

I was at the start of the race.

I won more of the battles in

Superbike at the end because

of that. Then you get on the

computer bikes in MotoGP and

they’re cool because of the

technology but it’s not fun because

you’re not smoking the

tyre. You don’t see any of that

stuff like Garry McCoy sliding

now. A lot of people would

want like to see that.

I was on big bikes early. John

Hopkins was on a 1000 when

he was 17 years old. I started

racing 600’s when I was 15

but on track days I was riding

a 750. I was always riding big

bikes and that made a huge

difference in my Superbike

days. With that experience, and

I’m not dogging MotoGP at all,

but those bikes didn’t suit me.

I felt that I had I probably two

Sundays in MotoGP that I had

the same feeling as when I was

riding a Superbike. Winning

at Assen and another podium

was all I had where I felt at

home on GP bikes.

As for current Americans.

Cameron Baubier needs to be

in WorldSBK. He’s similar to

me when I was in AMA: you

know you can get paid the

same money and do a quarter

of the schedule. Why would

you move? The problem is that

I don’t think that ride is going

to exist four years from now.

He’s too young not to go to


WorldSBK. I’ve told him. I

said: any chance you get to

come over here, you have to

do it. I think he wants to go

now. Three years ago, he was

talking about how he was going

to get paid the same in

America and wasn’t interested

in coming over. I hope he’ll go.

Gerloff is another that could

do it. I think he needs one

more year.

Cam’s ready. Cam is the

type of rider that if you send

Johnny over to America and

he bumps it up by eight tenths

a lap, Cam mightn’t beat him

but he’s the only one that can

elevate his game that fast.

He’s a lot of natural talent.

I wish he came over to Europe

three or four years ago.

He’d definitely be a top-eight

rider right off the bat here. He

showed that at Donington. He

had never ridden a Superbike

there and by the end of the

race he was running the times

of third place. First time on

Pirelli’s to do that and no-one

signed him? I thought it was

ridiculous.

BEN SPIES & HIS CAREER


PRODUCTS

www.automobilist.com

automobilist

The powerful creativity of modern day race event

posters still doesn’t quite have the charm or artistry

of the retro signs of old. Or perhaps that’s

just personal nostalgia kicking-in. Art company

Automobilist have a fantastic collection of designs

for any home or office wall and, although most is

F1 or car based, they recently added Mick Doohan

1999 lid to their helmet series. In recognition of

the Australian’s 54th birthday earlier this month

the five times world champion became the firm’s

first MotoGP rider to make the selection.

It’s an officially licenced product and should cost

just over 30 euros.


FEATURE


MEMORIES

AND

GHOSTS

OF

MONTJUIC

By Adam Wheeler, Photos thanks to Mat Oxley &

Penya Motorista Barcelona

RIDING AND RACING AT ONE OF

EUROPE’S MOST SCENIC AND

DEADLY STREET CIRCUITS

Montjuic Park

Barcelona’s towering,

compact enclave

of greenery and

view, is a hallmark of Catalan culture itself: something contradictory and symbolic. The

hilltop castle at the peak has both bombed and protected the citizens below, and housed

and executed prisoners of a political standoff between Catalunya and central Spain that is

still fervent today. The breathtaking panorama and tranquillity on the city side is offset by

the presence of more than 150,000 graves – a mountain of dead – on the other and from

the 1950s until the mid 1980s it was home to one of Spain’s best loved Grand Prix motorsports

street-based circuits that was also perilous and unforgiving.

The Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya recently took place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Cataluyna,

built in 1991 and located around 20km north of the metropolis and where

commemorations occurred to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the FIM Motorcycling

World Championship. Spain have won eight of the last nine MotoGP titles and observers

will have to trawl back to 2008 for the last time any of the three classes – MotoGP, Moto2

or Moto3 – were not stamped with the Rojigualda flag.


FEATURE

The country’s increasing footprint

on Grand Prix began

around the curves and weaves

of Montjuic back in 1968

thanks to Catalan Salvador

Cañellas who triumphed in the

125cc event – some seventeen

years after the roads had first

been used as a world championship

venue.

“I raced at Montjuic when all

the races in Spain were streetbased;

like annual festivals

in towns and we’d all set off

from the local plaza,” said the

74 year old speaking from the

confines of the opulent Hotel

Casa Fuster in Passeig de

Gracia, and at an event to celebrate

50 years of petroleum

giant Repsol’s involvement in

motorsports from bikes to rally

to F1. “Montjuic was beautiful

and set in the park so there

were a lot of trees and quite a

bit of elevation as it went up

and down the hill. It was a lot

of fun.”

Cañellas prospered at a time

when Spain and Catalunya

were burgeoned with manufacturers

like Bultaco, Derbi,

Ossa, Montesa and just as

Angel Nieto was beginning

a thirteen world championship

spree that would see the

diminutive racer achieve pop

star status in his homeland. “At

the time using the motorcycle

was a way of life for many

people: to get around, to go

to work and it was just at the

beginning the mass emergence

of cars,” says Cañellas, who

also won the 50cc 1970 Grand

Prix on a Derbi. “Bikes were

not really seen as a something

for sport. I think that

came about only when people

replaced them with cars and

they saw the bike as more of a

‘play thing’.”

Montjuic was very much a

place of its time. Grands Prix

occurred from 1951 until 1976

(Cañellas: “I remember as a

kid seeing the International

races and watching bikes like

the Nortons and Matchless,

seeing riders like Flores compete

with his coloured handkerchief.

It made me want to

race. And then there was the

smell. The bikes used to run

oil that gave a distinct odour

of racing – it was like a special

drug. You were addicted. It’s

disappeared now but when

you smelt it then you knew

you were at a motorcycling

event.”).

The 1972 500cc World Championship

– the premier class

and the forerunner of ‘MotoGP’

– also had circuits that

would now strike fear into any

racer: Nurburgring (Germany),

Spa (Belgium), Salzburgring

(Austria), Isle of Man, Imatra

(Finland) and Opatija (now

Croatia). That year Chas Mortimer

became the eighth and

last British winner at Montjuic

to join a roll call of names like

Read, Ivy, Graham and Hailwood.

“The only 500 Grand Prix I

ever won,” the 70 year old

reflects today on the feat

achieved with a Yamaha. “We

never really thought about the

safety thing in those days. It

was just generally accepted

that someone would get

‘knocked-off’ every month. I

think one of most dangerous

circuits we ever raced on was

Opatija in the former Yugoslavia

because there was a rock

face around one of the corners!

Nobody ever battered an eyelid!

It was so dangerous and

two-three people were killed

there.”

“I used to love Montjuic but

then I always used to go well

at the dangerous circuits,”

he adds. “I won the TT a few

times and Opatija as well.


Nurburgring twice. I don’t why;

maybe my brain is not as big

as some of the other guys.”

Mortimer’s philosophy was

emblematic of the times, a

stoic view on the proximity of

mortality. “Montjuic, although

there was a fatality when a

fireman [Salvador Font in 1974]

was killed at the top of the

hill; Takazuki Katayama came

around the corner and hit him,

it generally wasn’t a very dangerous

circuit because they did

protect it very well with straw

bales and it wasn’t particularly

fast,” he reasons. “There was

a quick right-hander leading

onto the start-finish straight

but everything else was fairly

slow, twisty corners.”

“The trees were only protected

MAT OXLEY: “I SEEM TO

REMEMBER IT WAS ALWAYS

WARM, LIGHT AND THE SUN

WOULD SPARKLE THROUGH

THE TREES; THERE IS SOME-

THING SPECIAL ABOUT

STREET RACING.”

by hay bales and in less frugal

times there’d be less of them,”

says Cañellas matter-of-factly.

“You knew a crash meant not

only hitting the floor but also

something else, some other

obstacle. I loved it…”

Thanks to Nieto’s success, the

surge of tourism, the relaxation

of Franco’s dictatorship regime

(that soon crumbled with the

Generalissimo’s death at the

end of 1975) motorcycle racing

boomed and by the end of

the 1970s circuits like Jarama

and eventually Jerez would

become purpose-built and

safer homes for Grand Prix.

Until then Montjuic was the

hub, and the location in a city

that pulses and parties on the

Mediterranean air was key to a

special (and populated) ambience.

“Montjuic’s advantage

was the location in the city,”

stresses Cañellas. “People

would walk to the Park – there

was nothing like the metro in

those days – so there were

always a lot of spectators. You

could walk all the way around

it and see the race all the time

whether you were on the inside

or the outside. It had a beautiful

atmosphere.”

“Nieto was at the top of this

game,” remembers Mortimer.

“There were a couple of other

Spanish riders and obviously

the crowd loved it when they

– or one of the Spanish bikes

like a Bultaco or Montesa – did

well. They were very enthusiastic

and so were the organisers:

it was a lovely, lovely meeting

to come to.”

Montjuic thrived as a motorcycling

site thanks to the 24hr

Endurance race that formed

part of the world champion

ship up until 1982. It was in

this perilous but popular fixture

that riders like Benjamin

‘Min’ Grau (who now owns

a small pizzeria in the 1992

Olympic Village zone bedecked

with racing memorabilia)

achieved local fame.

Renowned journalist, author

and former racer Mat Oxley

barrelled around Montjuic for

the 1983 and ’84 editions of

the event. “I was very young,

early twenties and had hardly

been abroad and had never

raced on a street circuit before,”

the 60 year old remembered.

“It was quite an eyeopener

and before I did the TT.

I was riding a CB1000R – a big

bus of a thing.”

MONTJUIC PARK CIRCUIT


FEATURE

“The track: wow. We used to

do a Le Mans style-start at the

bottom of the hill near Plaza

España and it was just superfast

sweeping up the hill.

Every racer loves fast corners

but even at that young age I

was looking around thinking

‘I really don’t want to crash

here’. There was a right hand

corner onto a small straight

and there was where Tony

Rutter – the father of Michael

- had a big crash in the ’85 TT

F1 race and he still isn’t ‘right’

now. I loved the fast bit but

then it got a bit tight and wibbly

on the downhill. In a 24

hour race and with a big bike

it was really hard work.”

The 24hr was last run in 1986;

an edition that saw local racer

Domingo Parés perish on the

first corner – La Pergola. The

circuit lost its world championship

status in ‘82 after

riders boycotted the fixture

over safety. Four years later

and construction had begun

on the Circuit de Barcelona-

Catalunya and the stopwatch

was on Montjuic itself. “Up the

hill you knew you were going

to hit something if you came

off,” Oxley says. “With Street

circuits you’d consciously (or

subconsciously) decide ‘I’m

not going to crash here’ so

you are not on the absolute

bloody limit. You are going as

fast as you can without risking

a crash. So I was aware of the

dangers.”

“There is no comparison with

the TT because it was fairly

short and smooth and wide,”

he adds. “But there is that

element of needing to make

choices all the time.”

If Montjuic was a questionable

track for the surroundings

and the 1980s superbikes

that were starting to surge

forward in terms of offering

performance and speed

to road users, then lapping

the course through the Catalan

night air added an extra

dimension. “They had road

lamps so it wasn’t as dark as

other places,” Oxley says of

the challenge. “If you speak

to most racers then they love

racing at night because it is

different and you have natural

tunnel vision. The tyres are

running cooler so they are

not sliding around so much

and the engine is running

better because of the cool

air so you have more RPM. I

loved riding at night…but it

was such a silly thing to do.”


In the latter years the Montjuic

24hr was alluring for the postrace

activities as much as the

thrill of the action itself. “We

always used to enjoy Montjuic

because you could walk down

to Las Ramblas, have a few

beers and meet some ladies

if you were that way inclined,”

says Mortimer. “It was a good

meeting; the Spanish ones always

were.”

“The drinking and carousing

seemed as important as

the racing in the early years,”

smiles Oxley.

“There was probably nothing

like it in the world – even

then – when you were racing

in a major city. It was always

hot and so alien. The atmosphere

made it so special and

I haven’t found something like

it again. I was so lucky to have

raced in the middle of a carnival

where people didn’t really

seem to give a s**t.”

“It was a huge buzz when you

are used to club races and

very small crowds and suddenly

there are thousands

around you, and you are

racing through this amazing

CHAS MORTIMER: “EVEN ON

THE BIKES WE HAD THEN WE

WERE DOING 90-100MPH. ON

THE RIGHT-HANDER YOU’D

HAVE TO BE WILLIAM TELL

TO HIT ONE OF THE STRAW-

BALES! THE CHANCES WERE

THAT YOU’D HIT A TREE.”

town. In the first year we blew

the engine in the night and in

the second year my Belgian

teammate crashed going up

the hill and luckily he was OK

but he destroyed the bike. So

we headed off for an all-nighter

in Las Ramblas.”

Before the beer, Sangria

and ‘pa amb tomaquet’ the

Montjuic 24hr was a formidable

prospect. “I rode a 250

Ducati with Paul Smart there

for a guy called Vic Camp and

we were going quite well, in

the first two-three, and then

it started blowing headlights,”

recalls Mortimer. “It was really

dangerous because you’d

be pitching into a corner and

suddenly the light would go

out! I did an hour and half on

it, came in and said to Paul

‘this thing is lethal, the light

keeps going’ and – I probably

shouldn’t say this – we ended

up trying to blow it up. But it

just kept going! Paul went out

and it was over-revving and

popping lights and when he

came back in it was so hot

that it wouldn’t start again.

The bike went back to England

and Bert Furness, Vic’s

mechanic and a really nice

guy, kickstarted it right away

and said ‘no problem at all!

Why didn’t it start at the circuit’!”

“I remember in the 24hr I was

going up the hill and close

to the Poble Español,” says

Cañellas who competed in

the Endurance for thirteen

years and won it three times.

“I was going fast and the rear

tyre blew. Luckily I was able

to control it and didn’t crash.

I was next to a row of trees so

I’m afraid to think what would

have happened. In my last

year riding there I was on a

Ducati 900 and it was down

on top-speed compared to

the Hondas and Kawasakis.

We could make up time in the

corners and we were trying

everything with the set-up to

be able to get closer on what

was very smooth tarmac.

MONTJUIC PARK CIRCUIT


FEATURE

A young and blond Barry Sheene in front of father Frank

at Montjuic (photo by Gregorio Garcia)

We were fractions of a second away and

I was using a new tyre – just two laps –

when I came off on the St Jordi corner. I

went into the haybales and broke the top

of my spine. I broke my arm and it left

me in a terrible state. It was the last time

I raced.”

Formula One visited Montjuic four times.

The cars circulated the 2.3 mile anticlockwise

layout split between the long,

winding and fast climb that feeds onto

the rapid ‘straight’ – now the approach

to the Olympic Stadium constructed in

1927 – and the twisty drop back down to

where the Magic fountains are located.

The Grands Prix were famous for Jackie

Stewart’s wins in 1969 and ’71, and Graham

Hill and Jochen Rindt’s overblown

‘wing’ failure on the Lotus 49 in 1969.

Infamy arrived with Rolf Stommelen’s

crash in 1975 that killed two spectators,

a fireman and a photographer on the first

corner. F1 would never circulate the Catalan

streets again.

“There comes a point where if someone

gets killed or badly injured then

you cannot justify it any more and there

are very few places in the world that do

that i.e. the Isle of Man, which is selfgoverning,

Macau and Ireland – but there


is increasing pressure there,”

opines Oxley on the reason

for Montjuic’s sad passage

of time. “It can be about

insurance and running costs

sometimes more than safety!

It’s a tricky thing to get your

head around because what

separates motorsports from

other sports is the fact that

it’s dangerous. How far can

you reduce that danger before

it gets too sanitised? But then

you cannot ask for more danger!

Although the Isle of Man

is crazy I’m happy that it still

goes on. If people want to do

it then why not? I don’t think

Montjuic will ever come back

so I’m thankful I did it.”

“It was the norm for the

circuits of those days but

when they had that Formula

One crash that went into the

crowd…I think that’s what

ended it,” believes Mortimer

on Montjuic’s erosion as a

world championship course.

“I didn’t consider it any more

dangerous than the circuits

we were racing on in those

days. The average speed was

quite low. The only place

where you could really hurt

yourself was on the fast left

and right-hander onto the

finish straight. Even on the

bikes we had then we were

doing 90-100mph, and on the

right-hander you’d have to be

William Tell to hit one of the

strawbales! The chances were

that you’d hit a tree.”

“It was very small but much

nicer than Monaco that was

just streets,” says Cañellas,

who was born south of

Barcelona near Tarragona.

“Montjuic had its own history

and to be able to race

at speed through there was

something special. The layout

was different: wide and fast

and it produced some good

racing, exciting scenes every

lap because we could run

close up the hill, and even if

you were second or third then

you could still get it won by

the time you reached the finish

line at the top.”

At the magnificent Mugello

circuit in Italy several weeks

ago Misson Winnow Ducati’s

Andrea Dovizioso set a new

high-speed mark for MotoGP

at 221mph and the riders got

close to this figure in Barcelona.

It’s another world compared

to the 76mph average

speed that Mortimer recorded

around 35 laps and 82 miles

in 1972 under the Montjuic

leaves as records wobbled

at the end of the 1km main

straight at the Circuit de

Barcelona-Catalunya. As the

second best-attended of the

four Spanish rounds of MotoGP,

it seems that the Catalans

are still enamoured with

their motorcycling.

MONTJUIC PARK CIRCUIT


WORLDSBK


PATA RIVIERA DI RIMINI ROUND

MISANO · JUNE 22-23 · Rnd 7 of 13

Race one winner: Jeffrey Herlings, KTM

Race two winner: Jorge Prado, KTM

Blog by Graeme Brown, Photos by GeeBee Images

WORLDSBK SMR

ROLL

WITH

IT


WORLDSBK


WORLDSBK POR SMR


WORLDSBK


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SBK

BLOG

DON’T LOOK AWAY

I reckon this year’s WorldSBK championship is like a good

crime drama. Just when you think you have worked out the

ending, another plot twist gets thrown at you.

I had previously expressed my antipathy

towards the Misano World

Circuit as a boring track to photograph

and a venue for me devoid of

all la dolce vita that people effuse

about. On a race weekend I go from

a second rate tourist hotel, that

resembles God’s waiting room, to

the track and back each day (never

once getting sand between my

toes) before jumping on a plane to

come home. Sometimes the racing

is interesting but, in it’s mid season

slot, it is the event that makes me

feel that things can only get better

from here for the remainder of the

season. We are going to Laguna

Seca in a few weeks after all.

This weekend, however, I think you

would have had trouble to squeeze

in any more intrigue if you tried. I

was ready for throwing the towel in

on the championship and putting

all the chips I had left on red at

lunchtime on Sunday. Just as well

I didn’t.

Before we talk about anything else

we have to talk about that crash/

save/recovery though.

I was shooting on the inside of the

track at the exit of turn six in the

Superpole race and noticed that JR

had gone missing. It wasn’t until I

moved round a couple of corners

that I noticed him running ahead of

Melandri in fifth place. I just assumed

that he had made a mistake,

run wide or something, and

rejoined. It wasn’t until I was back

in the press office and someone

said that it was probably the best

‘save’ they had ever seen – “what

happened?” – ‘oh he tucked the

front but just picked it up and kept

going.’ In my head he had just

done a ‘Marquez’, but it was way

more than that. I didn’t actually see

it until Sunday night when we were

back in the hotel and, yes, indeed, I

have never seen anything like it.

If we get to Doha in October and

JR grabs his fifth title that moment

could itself be more pivotal than

what unfolded later in the day. It

was just incredible. If you break it

down, what happened reads like

something from a circus act.

The rider falls over but holds onto

the bike, does a barrel roll, still

holding on, and as he comes out

of the roll, picks the bike up, jumps

on and rides away. Bravo!! Bring on

the clowns!

It sounds ridiculous but that is

exactly what happened.

Someone commented on the physical

strength you would need to bear

the weight of a 170kg Superbike on

top of you and still be able to pick

it up without a moment of hesitation.

It reminded me of meeting

Jonathan in the winter at home

in Northern Ireland when he was

doing repeated exercises pushing

a steel sled, laden with weights, up

and down the car park at his gym.

A car park that that morning had

been cleared of snow and ice. I

would guess the pain and


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By Graeme Brown

discomfort of that session evaporated

in the face of five valuable championship

points on Sunday morning.

It also highlights an oft overlooked

fact that all of the top motorcycle

racers today are supremely fit,

highly trained athletes.

Saturday’s race proceedings were

interrupted by heavy downpours of

rain, accompanied by frequent electrical

storms. Sunday was warm and

sunny but it didn’t stop lightning

striking twice.

The Superpole race had actually

seen Bautista dominating again and

as I said, I had already skipped to

the last chapter. In my mind he was

going to do the same in race two,

another 25 points, and I was working

out in my head at what race he

would clinch the title.

Hold your horses there GB. In a

carbon copy of race two in Jerez,

Bautista shot off into the lead in the

first lap only to lose the front and go

down at the start of the next. Like

Jonathan’s moto gymnastics in the

previous race I couldn’t believe it. It

genuinely looked like a mistake but

it was something that many riders

commented about afterwards, that

all weekend, in dry conditions, there

was no predictable feeling with the

tyres. AB19 was maybe just unlucky

that he has suffered the same fate

two weeks running but if it points to

a deeper issue we could be in for a

clichéd season of two halves.

Bautista crashing out gave way to a

three way Kawasaki battle between

Toprak Razgatlioglu, Rea and Leon

Haslam for the win. Haslam faded

as the race went on, probably due

to a very painful right hand, injured

in a crash earlier in the weekend,

and won out in a battle with Alex

Lowes for third. Rea got the better

of Razgatlioglu with four laps to go

but the Turk mounted a challenge

and treated us to an epic last lap

battle with JR coming out on top. It

meant that we had a Kawasaki lock

out of the podium, the first time

since Sugo 1993 when Kawasaki

Muzzy team-mates Scott Russell

and Aaron Slight sandwiched KRT

wildcards Keiichi Kitagawa and

Shoichi Tsukamoto to give Kawasaki

the top four places. Significantly the

podium from Sunday represented

the KRT Suzuka 8Hr team for the

prestigious endurance race at the

end of July.

One thing I was pleased to see was

that Saturday’s race one took place

in the rain. As the thunderstorms

rolled through bringing periods of

torrential rain the red flag came out

twice, after the initial sighting lap

and again after three racing laps.

I thought ‘here we go again’ and

was waiting for the news that the

race had been cancelled. However,

once a couple of patches of standing

water were cleared the race got

back under way and, whilst it’s a bit

miserable for me working in those

conditions I was glad that racing

went ahead.

The grip problems in the dry however

may have been a large contributing

factor in Michael van der Mark’s

crash. Looking at slow motion

footage he seems to have lost the

rear at the apex of the corner, when

the bike was most likely still off

the throttle. To lose the rear in that

situation is pretty unusual. It was a

big get-off and it was that strange

feeling of relief that comes over us

in bike racing that he ‘only’ had a

bang on the head and a few broken

bones. I think it is a shame that it

happened when it did as Michael

seemed to have made a connection

with the R1 and was fast again on


SBK

BLOG

the weekend. I think he would have

been a good shout for another win.

With Donington and Laguna coming

up in quick succession we won’t see

him back on the bike before Portimao

in September but a strong end

to the season will hopefully set him

up for 2020 when a new R1 will be

available.

The rumour mill is beginning to get

up to speed but I am not sure there

is going to be much movement on

the rider market. The top seats in

Kawasaki and Ducati have two year

bums on them and I don’t see much

shifting in that regard. For me the

interesting developments will be in

the race machine updates.

Kawasaki are still making noises that

they will bring a new Ninja to the

grid as a direct response to the performance

gains of the Ducati Panigale

V4R. I am not sure if they will

bring a whole new ZX-10RR to the

market or whether they will revise

the current model using the homologation

rules to develop a race

inspired machine. Yamaha are at a

similar fork in the road. I have heard

from a few sources that the 2020

race machine will have the same

chassis as the existing one but will

have a heavily revised engine and

new bodywork shape. Conversely I

also heard that in Japan there is a

desire for a complete ground up redesign.

We will have to wait and see.

Honda are the ones that are most

intriguing. It would seem that the

dream of a V4 Fireblade is just

that. The new bike will have an inline

four cylinder power plant but

talk coming out of Japan suggest

that it will have the most powerful

four cylinder 1000cc motorbike on

the market. Mating that to a race

winning chassis is where the real

challenge lies but if anyone can

solve that conundrum it surely has

to be Honda and HRC. It’s a mouth

watering prospect and as I have

speculated before, 2020 may see a

true renaissance in Superbike racing

from a manufacturers point of view.

With the thrills and spills we have

seen over the last two or three races

the championship is certainly losing

the boring and predictable tag and it

might be that those things will bring

the public back on side to start a full

revival of the series.


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is the newest addition to the American

company’s tempting portfolio of control

parts. ProTaper say the hydraulic clutch

lever is ‘taken our proven Profile Pro Clutch

Perch and adapted it for use with current

Husqvarna, Kawasaki, and KTM hydraulic

clutch master cylinders.’ The Profile Pro

XPS boasts tool-less reach adjustment and

increases its worth with multi-directional

folding capability. The lever is CNC-ed aluminium

and with a slim, low-profile Cross

Pivot System it ‘is virtually unbendable’.

For green, white or orange bike owners then

this is a worthy upgrade. Expect to pay 70

dollars in the U.S.


Profile Pro brake lever XPS

Profile Pro clutch lever perch XPS


WILD

TEST

RIDE

450F

Words by Roland Brown

Photos by Double Red


TEST

Transformations this dramatic normally

only take place when Dr Jekyll

drinks a potion, or Clark Kent puts

on a cape. Minutes ago the WR450F was

being mild-mannered and polite, obligingly

helping me negotiate a muddy hill with

its gentle power delivery, light weight and

knobbly rubber.

Now I’m on a wide gravel fire-road, and the

same bike is going ballistic – answering

a tweak of throttle by simultaneously lifting

its front wheel and shooting out stones

with its rear tyre as it tears towards the

horizon with shoulder-wrenching force.

The change is so striking that the WR feels

like a different bike. And all I did, after

turning onto the fire-road, was press the

illuminated blue button on its left handlebar.

This instantly changed the power map,

restoring full performance to what is

essentially an open-class enduro weapon,

closely related to Yamaha’s YZ450F motocrosser.

Such performance would of course not remotely

faze the riders frequently pictured

launching motocross projectiles through

the air on these pages. But as a motorcyclist

who’s ridden off-road a fair bit but

never competitively, I’d previously viewed

big YZs and WRs as knobbly-tyred MotoGP

bikes – fast, light, slightly mad and

best left well alone.

A blast on the latest WR450F, borrowed

from the excellent Yamaha Off Road Experience

(www.yamaha-offroad-experience.

co.uk) in central Wales, put me right.

Turns out the big blue single is as riderfriendly

as it is rapid, partly due to the

new power button that is among this

year’s many changes.

The basic format remains: a dohc, fourvalve

single engine with reversed cylinder

head sits in a YZ250F-derived aluminium

frame.


YAMAHA WR450F


TEST

Updates start with the engine, which has

some tweaks to intake and exhaust systems

that Yamaha claim add a few horsepower.

Maximum output is unquoted but somewhere

north of 50bhp.

That’s in full-power A mode, but pressing the

new button switches to a softer B map with

reduced output. The WR previously allowed

tuning of its fuel-injection and ignition via an

external Power Tuner. This is now incorporated

into the bike and operated by a smartphone

app, via Wi-Fi, with the additional

option of swapping instantly between the two

modes.

Chassis updates include a revised aluminium

frame that is slimmer and lighter than the

old WR’s. Suspension was already serious kit

from KYB, with 310mm of front wheel travel

and 318mm at the rear. The forks get revised

internals including longer springs; the shock

has a lighter spring and larger reservoir for

better cooling.

Bodywork is mostly new: slimmer, with the

help of the new frame and more compact radiators,

and featuring a lower headlamp surround

and larger, 7.9-litre fuel tank. The seat

is 20mm narrower and also lower, though at

965mm still mighty tall by most standards.

Starting it is easy – if you do it right. Apply

a fraction of throttle before hitting the button,

and the WR barks instantly into life, hot

or cold. But keep the throttle shut or open it

too far, and the engine churns over without

firing. This was initially irritating but stopped

being an issue once I’d learned the drill.

From then on the overriding impression was

of how sweetly the Yamaha fuelled and how

controllable it was with the softer B mode

selected. On muddy Welsh tracks the flexible

WR was happy to stay in third gear most of

the time, occasionally needing a tap down

through the reworked and sweet-shifting fivespeed

gearbox (whose Wide Ratios, compared

to the YZ450F’s box, give the WR its

name).


YAMAHA WR450F

In B mode the Yamaha wasn’t the scary-fast

weapon I’d imagined, seeming almost as

agile and easy to ride as the WR250F. But it

sure was livelier after a press of that button.

Throttle response was immediately thrillingly

sharp, sending the wheelie-happy Yam charging

through the gears while I hung on tight.

Chassis performance was fantastic; good

enough to impress some very capable offroad

riders. At 123kg dripping wet it’s only

five kilos heavier than the WR250F, which

helped explain why it steered so effortlessly

in response to pressure on the serrated and

widely-spaced footpegs.

The long range of superbly well-controlled

suspension movement was a huge benefit

too, allowing the Yam to float over obstacles

or land controllably from jumps.

And the small, wavy front and rear disc

brakes were adequately powerful, at least on

dirt.


TEST

“AS A NEWCOMER TO OPEN-CLASS ENDURO

BIKES I GOT OFF THE WR450F BLOWN AWAY

BY BOTH ITS PERFORMANCE AND USER-

FRIENDLINESS...”


WORLDSBK POR

YAMAHA WR450F


TEST

As a newcomer to open-class enduro bikes I got

off the WR450F blown away by both its performance

and user-friendliness.

Better still, it’s very competitively priced, costing

less than last year’s model (at £7599 in the UK)

and only slightly more than the WR250F. That’s

largely because it is no longer homologated for

road use, so doesn’t come with parts including

horn, mirrors and indicators that many buyers

immediately removed. Riders in the UK wanting

to take the WR on the road will need to get a few

of those bits fitted, and register it as an enduro

bike using a Certificate of Newness.

Other countries including Australia and the US

present few problems but the homologation issue

means the WR won’t be sold in some European

markets. That’s a shame because this big blue

bruiser is a tempting proposition – whether for

serious enduro competition or merely for mucking

around in the mud.


YAMAHA WR450F


BACK PAGE

Arnaud Tonus, by Ray Archer


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