On Track Off Road No. 192

online.magazines

MotoGP


DOWN

UNDER

Danilo Petrucci is sent flying after a

ferociously fast crash on the second corner of

last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

Miraculously the Italian was not hurt in the

incident. CormacGP’s lens captured the

Ducati man in the fractions of a second

before he smashed into Fabio Quartararo

(who’d had a major ‘moment’ just in

front) and both went on to wreck some

of the wet Phillip Island turf

Photo by CormacGP


MXoN

100,000

DOLLAR MAN

Adam Cianciarulo might have missed

the final ‘0’ of the Monster Energy Cup

bounty but the Kawasaki rider’s victory in

Las Vegas and the mind-bending format

of the off-season spectacle meant a very

assured 450 class debut for the new #9.

The MEC is akin to a Supercross ‘test’ but

AC has shown some decent synergy with

the KX450F already. Another surprise A1

winner in the works?

Photo by Octopi Media/Monster Energy


WorldSBK

THE

FULL

FIVE

What is there left to

say about Jonathan

Rea? The WorldSBK

record-blaster

admitted in

Telegraph in April

that there was a

“massive fire and

desire to see myself

on top of that

podium in Qatar,

ten feet tall” after

frustrating defeat

in the first three

rounds of thirteen

in 2019. Rea duly

boosted his height

and overthrew

his toughest challenge

yet in Alvaro

Bautista. 17 wins

was a remarkable

achievement

making his fifth, the

finest

Photo by GeeBee Images


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MotoGP

TURNED UP

PRAM


TO ELEVEN

MotoGP

AUS

Blogs by David Emmett, Neil Morrison & Sienna Wedes, Photos by CormacGP

AC GENERAC AUSTRALIAN MOTORCYCLING GRAND PRIX

PHILLIP ISLAND · OCTOBER 25-27 · Rnd 17 of 19

MotoGP WINNER: MARC MARQUEZ, HONDA

Moto2 WINNER: BRAD BINDER, KTM

Moto3 WINNER: LORENZO DALLA PORTA, HONDA


MotoGP


MotoGP AUS


MotoGP


MotoGP AUS


MotoGP


MotoGP AUS


MOTOGP

BLOG

A MELTING 99?

After Motegi, Jorge Lorenzo was telling journalists that he

had had his best race since fracturing his vertebrae in his

huge crash in Assen. “Especially the second part of the

race. And we found a solution that made me feel better on

the bike,” he said.

He had finished 40 seconds

behind the winner, his Repsol

Honda teammate Marc Márquez.

A step closer to the target of 30

seconds he had set himself after

Silverstone. At Misano, Aragon,

and Buriram, he fell well short, 46

seconds at Aragon his best effort.

Motegi had felt like something of

a turning point.

That illusion was shattered at

Phillip Island. Jorge Lorenzo

finished 66 seconds behind the

winner, his teammate, and dead

last, the Repsol Honda team

bookending the results. Was it

his worst weekend since returning

after Assen? “In terms of the

difference to the pole position and

in the race, yes,” he said. He gave

a long list of reasons for his poor

performance.

“This track was bad for me in the

last years,” he said, citing lowly

results in recent years. “Especially

when you are not in good physical

condition, and with the wind and

the cold, it makes the situation

worse.” The cold meant less confidence,

the wind meant crouching

behind the fairing, head forward

to keep weight on the front, which

was painful with injured vertebrae.

“I had to force my neck and the

part where I am injured. And you

have to grip the bike with more

force in acceleration because of

the wind. So I suffered a lot.”

The scale of Lorenzo’s humiliation

becomes apparent when

you compare his times to World

Superbikes at Phillip Island. In

February, Alvaro Bautista won the

22-lap race on the Ducati Panigale

V4R in a time of 33:38.114. On a

bike with 40 more horsepower,

Lorenzo took 23 seconds longer to

complete the same distance.

Lorenzo’s time would have put

him seventh in WorldSBK race 2,

nearly 6 seconds adrift of Marco

Melandri on the GRT Yamaha R1,

and 3.5 seconds ahead of Chaz

Davies on the second factory

Ducati.

Teammates bookending the results

had happened a few times

previously, mostly after one rider

crashed and rejoined the race.

The last time it happened - when

both teammates completed the

race - was when Marco Melandri

partnered Casey Stoner in the factory

Ducati team in 2008.

That was truly a disastrous year

for Melandri. The Italian had seen

what Stoner had done on the factory

Ducati the year before and

joined him expecting to challenge

for the title.


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By David Emmett

The shock of finding that it was

really Stoner doing the winning

on a truly terrible but fast bike

shattered Melandri’s self confidence.

Twice in 2008 Melandri

finished last when Stoner won the

race, first at Assen (where he had

won his very first Grand Prix as a

fifteen year old exactly ten years

earlier), then at Phillip Island, 71

seconds behind his teammate.

The Ducati GP8 broke Melandri’s

spirit. I remember the shellshocked

look on his face in the

garage at Jerez during practice.

It was so bad that Ducati tried to

send Melandri to a psychologist.

The solution to the Italian’s problems

was much simpler: he left

Ducati at the end of that season,

and joined Kawasaki.

Things are not quite so dark for

Jorge Lorenzo. Before he banged

himself up at Assen, Lorenzo was

finishing somewhere between 15

and 20 seconds behind his teammate,

and within 10 seconds of

Cal Crutchlow, perhaps a better

yardstick. And that was after

missing testing in Sepang, and

still recovering from a broken

scaphoid injured in January.

There was a sense that 2019 was

playing out like Lorenzo’s first

year at Ducati. A long period of

adaptation with a bunch of small

gains, which suddenly exploded

into success in his second year.

If HRC could find the right puzzle

pieces to put together, Lorenzo

would be competitive.

That crumbled with Lorenzo’s

injury. How that was handled –

mostly by Lorenzo, it has to be

said, with a holiday to the Seychelles

when he was supposed to

be recovering and talks about a

return to Ducati becoming public

– caused the relationship between

HRC and the Spaniard to disintegrate.

The atmosphere in his garage

is poor, and his relationship

with team manager Alberto Puig

is strained. Despite their public

utterances, Honda are rumoured

to be exploring ways of dropping

Lorenzo at the end of the season,

their biggest obstacles money and

finding a replacement.

And yet that still feels like a mistake.

Lorenzo is still in pain, and

obviously not fit (though training

was never his strong point). He

was fast early on the Honda, and

once he mastered the Ducati last

year, he looked genuinely capable

of taking the fight to Márquez.

Like the Ducati GP8, the 2019

Honda is a pig of a bike, incredibly

fast but hard to ride. If Honda

do as they promise, and make

the 2020 RC213V easier to push,

a fully fit Lorenzo could replicate

what he did at Ducati.

Or he might not. And that is Honda’s

– and Lorenzo’s – dilemma in

a nutshell.


MotoGP


MotoGP AUS


BLOG

THE TOAST OF THE TOWN

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

How can one judge a rider’s maturity and big game

temperament? To start, the ability to remain composed in

the face of adversity stands out. As does sticking to your

convictions. Learning from mistakes of the past is a sign

of using experience to your advantage. And then there’s

the holding of nerve when a big prize comes into sight. All

of the above was very much evident in Jack Miller’s

Sunday’s performance at Phillip Island...

It was a result and showing that

suggested the Australian, now at

24 years of age, is well on his way

to fulfilling that deep well of talent

that first became clear in his

crash-happy days as a Moto3 loon.

Shrugging off an average qualifying

performance was just the

start. “We weren’t too phased

to be ninth on the grid,” he later

said. “I’ve been much worse.” He

was true to his belief when prerace

favourite Maverick Viñales

switched from Michelin’s hard

rear compound to the soft on the

grid. “I was just thinking, ‘They’re

pretty keen.’” He held back and

conserved his rear tyre for much

of the race. And when a podium

presented itself on the final lap he

ignored his “heart rate jumping

up about 50 beats per second” to

hold third place to the flag.

There were so many takeaway

moments from yet another Phillip

Island classic on Sunday. Not

least the sight of Andrea Iannone

leading a race aboard Aprilia’s

unfancied RS-GP for nine corners.

Or Cal Crutchlow making a heroic

podium return at the track that so

nearly ended his career a year ago.

Then there was Marc Marquez’s

expert dismantling of Viñales that

led the latter to conclude he’d

rather throw his Yamaha M1 down

the road than congratulate his

great foe on another victory.

But Miller’s well-judged third place

that sparked an impromptu parc

fermé pile on from team, family

and friends alike wasn’t just special

because home fans witnessed

a full ‘Shoey’ in the country that

thought up the craze. This was

further evidence of added maturity

and a rider that, to borrow crew

chief Cristian Pupulin’s words, is

now “using his mind more than

his talent.”

There was a moment as Marquez

barged Crutchlow off line and out

of the way at Lukey Heights to set

off after Viñales when attentions

turned to further back in the pack.

Where was Miller and why had he

been so subdued until then?


By Neil Morrison

At the tail of this nine-bike freight

train is where he was. But this was

part of a larger strategy. Phillip

Island’s layout always places emphasis

on rear tyre conservation

with turns two, three, six, eleven

and twelve requiring bikes to do

all of their accelerating on the left

side of the tyre. Miller found that

out the hard way, leading the start

of the 2017 and ’18 races before

deteriorating grip sent him out of

the podium fight.

This was a race of patience and

keeping cool when events around

him were anything but – far from

easy in the midst of a home race

brawl. “At one point Rins jammed

me pretty hard at turn two and

stood me up,” he later recalled.

“Even then I didn’t get nervous. I

just kept being calm.” There was

an element of fortune to be in

the top three. But like Brno and

Aragon, Miller showed his throttlehappy

instincts of the past are

being smoothed out.

It’s in line with what has been a

largely impressive year. Thoughts

on whether Miller could make it to

the very top weren’t always clear.

A rider doesn’t earn a three-year

factory contract with HRC in MotoGP

after just three full seasons in

Moto3 without having something

about him. Nor does he become

the premier class’ first satellite

winner in just under ten years

when no older than 21.

But he was some way from the

finished article. Last year – his first

with Ducati – was something of a

disappointment, even if he spent

it on a year old machine. Two top

six finishes, including a tough run

of results from June to October, fell

below the expectations. “I think it’s

like when, for many years, you are

not used to being at the top,” Pramac

team boss Francesco Guidotti

told me last September. “[Then]

feeling the pressure of being at the

top can tire you out.”

Yet a step up to current machinery

gave Miller a boost. So much so

that he’s been in the running for

top sixes everywhere with the exception

of Jerez, Assen and Misano.

Off the bike he consummately

dealt with the mid-season titter

linking Jorge Lorenzo to his seat.

And he has begun to develop a

working method with eyes on the

race, when he weighs up events

around him.

The second half of the Aragon race

was a case in point. There was

a chance to appreciate the tyresaving

talents of fellow Ducati man

Andrea Dovizioso from up close.

“He was a little tighter in a few

corners and getting better at acceleration

whereas typical-me I was

going in far too fast, running wide

and opening maybe a little early.

Once he came past, I understood

what I needed to do.” Sunday’s

outing saw him put this in practice

for the full 27 laps.

“He’s arriving,” crew chief of

nearly two seasons Cristian Pupulin

believes. “He’s learning new

things every race. He’s improving

his behaviour during the race. He’s

using more his mind more than

his talent. That is important. OK,

he’s not 100 percent consistent

but he’s young and he can improve

that last step that he needs to do.

“[Last year] was quite different.

He was trusting 100 percent in his

talent and not working so much


BLOG

in other areas. In MotoGP in these

years you have to manage the tyres,

to not ruin them in the first laps, the

first part of the race to be patient and

calm to have something more at the

end.”

“I’ve worked with Ruben Xaus, Carlos

Checa, Loris Capirossi, Casey Stoner,

Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri, Andrea

Dovizioso… so I’ve seen a lot of

riders. Jack’s talent is one of the best

that I saw. He was lacking the ‘managing’

of the weekend and the race.

But now he’s improving so it’s possible

he can reach the top positions if

he still continues to improve like this.”

Team boss Guidotti concurs when

assessing Miller’s improvement in

2019. “I think it’s a mix of technical

status and maturity. He realised he

had to make more, more and more,

to develop his way of training, his

way of thinking. It’s a difficult sport.

The competitors are on the moon. He

needs to raise his level [again] in the

near future to stay constantly on the

podium.”

At 24, Miller still has time on his side.

Should he continue to show the intelligence

witnessed on Sunday, those

“constant podiums” won’t be long

coming round.

Polarity Photo


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MotoGP AUS


MOTOGP

BLOG

IN THE SHOT

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

Phillip Island: a place of beauty, speed and fear. A

photographer’s playground perhaps. Taking a photograph

is a very personal activity and most of us can-or-have

made hundreds in our time. However, it must be said that

there is a knack to it when the point of interest is operating

at exceptionally high speed.

I’ve tried myself and maybe if I

was lucky, I captured the back

wheel, a leg or an exhaust. Photography

is obviously as skill that

is developed over time predominately

through dedication, evolution

and the willingness to make

a hefty investment in an industry

where the technology is evolving

and that is generally so commonly

watered down. Many become

good, but few have the chance

to crack the market. HRC Repsol

Honda Team photographer Cormac

Ryan-Meenan (CormacGP)

and Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

are among those who conquer

these challenges with little protest

and have come out swinging

with top teams.

It all starts the same: a camera,

lens and a receipt that weighs

down your pocket. Then, trying

to break into a sport that is loved

and admired by millions. MotoGP

is no different. Walking around

the paddock there are so many

men and women with cameras

draped over their shoulders and

photographers like Cormac and

Rob have multiple pieces of

equipment just to do their job.

From camera bodies, to lenses,

to flashes, monopods, travel

bags, converters, extenders and

rain covers, the list goes on and

the cost would blow you away.

However, those who are serious

about their path take a gamble

on themselves and have the work

and contacts to prove it.

Cormac: “No one sees the cost

behind it. People think you have

a camera, take photos and make

money straight away. Which

couldn’t be further from the

truth. They are so expensive and

when I had all my gear stolen

last year I had to fund my entire

kit, all over again. The window to

make money has become narrower.

I think if you are in that

window, the potential is higher

than it’s ever been. It’s super difficult

to get into and even harder

to stay inside. I think if people

knew what you had to do from

the time you woke up to the time

you get to bed, 80% of people

would not want to do it. It’s expensive,

time consuming, difficult

and tiring, but I do love it.”


By Sienna Wedes

Rob: “The first time I ever really

looked at the prices of entry level

or half decent equipment, I was

really shocked and those prices

haven’t come down. If anything,

in some cases they have gone up.

You get a lot of people who have

managed to afford one or two

pieces of the equipment which is

expensive but they have resigned

to the fact that they are probably

not going to make proper money

out of it long term. It makes you

learn that you have to charge

what you are worth and not to

undervalue yourself.”

Other media and team members

rush over to photographers

after a crazy crash, or an artistic

picture is published and it’s clear

that the demand is there. Naturally,

this puts even more pressure

on photographers to perform

and cater to the expectations

(sometimes unrealistic) of teams/

sponsors/magazines. They form

one of the pivotal connections between

the sport and the fans. It is

easy to be flippant and forget that

every photo we see across a race

weekend is either a spur of luck,

a strain of inspiration or a work

necessity. They are trying to keep

up with the growing constructs

of the modern world just as we

are and with the influx of social

media being so instantaneous.

Photographers never stop moving

and trying to be better than each

other.

Cormac: Each time you improve,

then people perceive that as your

new base level. Next time they expect

you to get that magic thing

on top of what you have already

done. Which ok, sometimes you

can do it and sometimes you

get lucky. But, then other times

I can’t do that. Either it doesn’t

exist in the day or no opportunity

presents itself.

Rob: Everybody can see everything,

it is so accessible. Any

team or PR person or outlet can

look out there and see what every

other team is posting. If there

was that one shot of a crash or

the sea in the background or

whatever just because a certain

team got it, they instantly think

‘well, have you got it? Can you

get it as well? Why don’t you have

it? Back in the day that content

wasn’t accessible. But now, they

see it and then they think ‘that’s

what we want’. The expectation

constantly goes up.

Within this world of immediacy,

lies the struggle of finding your

authenticity and style and battling

against perfectionism. For

teams, the ‘perfect photo’ is one

that is either action packed or

simply reflects the brand. That

however, is not how a photographers

mind works. Every inch of

the photograph is analysed as

they zoom in to examine their

work. There is a gut feeling. And

most of the time they are their

worst critics. The addition of

posting on social media where

every man and his dog can have

their say only makes them second

guess themselves. It removes

the romance of releasing photos

that make you feel something

and replaces it with anxiety.

These men and women are just

brave enough not to listen to all

the noise but that doesn’t mean

they’ve pressed the delete button

more than once.


MOTOGP

BLOG

Cormac: Yes, all the time I only

see what’s wrong with them and

not what’s right. I have a folder

called ‘instagram’ on my Mac’s

desktop and about 2% of those

pictures actually make it to my

instagram account. I try not to

care about what other people do.

I don’t think I’m a perfectionist,

I’m learning to embrace what’s

technically ‘wrong’ because I see

photography as art, a painter has

his brush, and me my camera.

Art is subjective and I want to

‘break down’ the walls of what’s

perceived as ‘right or wrong’,

I don’t think there’s a right or

wrong. You just have to keep going.”

vision of a perfect picture never

changes because you’ll always

just get that sharp photo with a

nice background until you find

something wrong with it.”

Photographers help bridge the

gap between the paddock and

the rest of the world. They battle

against social constructs, team/

media/sponsor requests and the

yearning to improve and be the

best in their own minds. Anyone

can take a photo but few can take

the photo.

Rob: I’m basically a perfectionist.

I spend way too much time

overthinking and overanalysing

the ins and outs of each photo.

Whether I should do this-to-it

or that-to-it or if I should post

it or which one I should post;

sometimes it even stops me from

posting at all. Cormac is hard on

himself too. There is an unavoidable

balance but if you don’t

do that then I don’t think you’d

change. You don’t grow. Your


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FEATURE

THE TURN

AROUND

LESS THAN A YEAR AGO, ALEX MARQUEZ

WAS WRITTEN OFF AS OVER-HYPED AND

CRASH-HAPPY. BUT NOW HE’S ON THE

BRINK OF A SECOND WORLD TITLE. OTOR

CAUGHT UP WITH THE CATALAN TO FIND

OUT HOW.

By Neil Morrison, Photos by CormacGP/Polarity Photo


FEATURE

Twelve months is a long

time in motorsport.

Anyone in doubt need

look no further than Alex Marquez.

Once a figure scorned

for his freequent crashes and

carelessness, the 23-year old

is just two races from taking

a second world title. And it’s

only a matter of when – not

if – he secures a spot in MotoGP

for 2021.

Where has it all gone so right

for the figure once described

as having more talent than

Marc Marquez by Marc Marquez

himself? Those weren’t

easy times for Alex through

2016, ’17 and ’18 Moto2 campaigns

when he was routinely

mocked for falling out of

promising positions and failing

to outdo his teammates.

Then his elder brother’s words

appeared to weigh heavily on

his shoulders..

But the younger Marquez has

cut a different figure in 2019.

He took an instant liking to

Triumph’s new 765cc triple

cylinder engine and the internal

reshuffle within his Marc

VDS team - and appointment

of ex-racer Joan Olive as team

boss - quelled the internal

competition that existed between

opposing sides of the

box, allowing him to operate

with a newfound air of calm.

Crucially the addition of

David Garcia (previously Dani

Pedrosa’s data technician in

MotoGP) as crew chief for

2019 has helped instill Marquez

with the self-belief that

seemed to go missing after

his championship success in

Moto3. Take any one of his

five victories this year, and

he outclassed the opposition

with a blend of sheer speed

and careful, measured thinking.

There have been tribulations

along the way, including a

glaring error at Silverstone

and an unexpected midseason

swoop from a rival team.

But from that first win of the

year at Le Mans to a brilliant

fight back in Austria, barely

anyone was able to lay a

glove on him from May to late

August.

On Track Off Road recently

sat down with Alex to discuss

his season so far, why having

the right people around him

has been crucial to his recent

success and how he’s learned

to deal with the expectations

that comes with being

a Marquez (and even showing

he can match his sibling’s

exploits for saves with the

spectacular images in the

race of Motegi).

Are you surprised at how

2019 has gone?

Surprised? No. I think we

worked quite well, but the

difference in the

championship is quite good.


The situation is completely

different compared to the

other years because normally

I was the other one, chasing

my opponents. I’m feeling

confident. At Silverstone

I made a mistake. It was my

mistake, but the confidence

and the level that we’ve shown

in every practice is really

good.

Dunlop introduced a new rear

tyre at Jerez. From there you

have been capable of podiums

everywhere we’ve gone.

Did that make the difference?

In Argentina and Texas the

potential was also there! The

only thing we missed was

the consistency in the race.

Some laps I was losing one

second, then later it’s so difficult

to recover. When you’re

on the limit, it’s easy to make

a mistake. I already said after

Texas, we are not so far from

our limit. So to put everything

together, we were not so far.

At Jerez we had the new rear

tyre that we worked on quite a

lot, more than the other guys

in the pre-season. When we

got to Jerez we knew how to

adapt to it. The team had really

clear ideas how to work on

the bike in that area because

we had a lot more information

from preseason. When we arrived

there I was really consistent.

Also the new front tyre

in Qatar, for example, I was

the only Kalex using the hard

one. So then I put it in Argentina

and Texas, but it took a

lot of time to know its limit.

From Jerez, I started to know

exactly what that tyre could

do so it was also that. Overall,

it’s been a combination of the

front and rear tyre, the set-up

and how we adapted to them

with the team.

It seems that you are a lot

calmer in races this year. If

you have a difficult start, you

don’t panic. Do you think

mentally you’re more mature?

If you do a really good

practice and are P1 and P2

through qualifying, if you have

the right people with you, and

they give to you that calm for

the race to say, ‘If something

happens, don’t fall’ then it’s

easier. If something happens,

like in Barcelona on the first

lap, you say, ‘OK, I have the

rhythm. If I cannot win, I cannot

win. But now I try to make

my rhythm and I see where I

finish.’ So when you know that

you have the pace, you can go

to the race with another mentality

and just be calm. So this

is the big change. In previous

years, I was more in trouble

in FP1, FP2, FP3. There were

more questions for the race.

If I didn’t make a good start,

I would lose the front group

and then I wouldn’t catch

them because the rhythm

was so similar. So this year in

some races I have a little bit

more. Then you have a plan

for the race.

ALEX MARQUEZ


FEATURE

You’ve won five races so far.

Has one given you extra satisfaction?

The Sachsenring! Every year

we struggled a lot there in

Moto3 and then even more in

Moto2. I had a lot of crashes

and made a lot of mistakes.

From the start of the season

we made a plan of every circuit,

of which ones I preferred

more. For the Sachsenring

I thought we needed to get

through it and then we’d see.

But I crashed in Assen [he

was hit by Lorenzo Baldassarri],

a bad result I came back

in Germany. It was a big relief.

There is new management,

new people and new way of

working in Marc VDS in 2019.

How difficult was it last year

with everything going on

behind the scenes? And how

different is it this year?

It was difficult for sure. You

try to not listen to people and

say ‘It’s all OK’. It was not

really easy to control. Then

with the new contract [for

2019] there was a little bit

of confusion with that. In the

end we controlled it quite well

because after Le Mans it was

really critical. Last year there

was more tension inside the

team. This year, the team did

a lot of changes inside with

Joan [Olive] and a new technique.

The group is calmer

and everybody is working in

the same way. Everybody is

only focused on racing, not on

business and other things.


At Silverstone you made your

first mistake of the year. Was

it easy to bounce back from

that because of your earlier

success this season?

I knew it was a good track

for us. If there were some

problems, I’d still have been

in the top five. But then I

tried to make the gap to the

first group small and go with

[Jorge] Navarro, who was the

main rival for that race. But

I was a little bit nervous. I

was only focussed on making

the gap, on pushing and not

thinking. It’s easier to react

after a mistake like in Jerez or

Holland because it’s not your

mistake. But from our side,

we had a test [at Misano after

Silverstone] and I crashed in

the test, you already build up

a little bit the confidence so

it’s already forgotten. That’s it.

Also it was a good experience.

I was on the bike and coming

from many places that was

really good, and I say, ‘okay,

I can make what I want with

the bike, but I will not crash.’

Good also for that.

When you were still racing in

the Spanish Moto3 championship

Marc told us, “Alex is a

super talented rider, maybe

even more talented than me.”

Looking back, was it difficult

to manage these expectations

that were put on you?

Yeah, for sure. Also the extra

pressure that you have.

It’s easy to control when the

results are coming easily.

Like in Moto3 the first year I

was already there, then world

champion the next year. But

bad results came in ’15, ’16, a

lot of crashes. In that point it’s

difficult to control the pressure.

People were trying to

compare me with my brother

who is one of the most tal-

ALEX MARQUEZ


FEATURE

“IT’S NOT EASY TO BE COMPARED

WITH MARC; AND NOT JUST ME – FOR

ANY RIDER IN THIS PADDOCK. BUT I

LEARNED FROM THAT YEAR A LOT TO

CONTROL THIS PRESSURE...”

ented riders ever. It’s not easy

to be compared with Marc;

and not just me – for any rider

in this paddock. But I learned

a lot to control this pressure,

to not think about what the

people are thinking about you.

Now I know that I made my

career in my own way.

You’re staying with Marc VDS

for another year in Moto2.

Having the same people

around you is a big help,

right?

Yeah. It’s what I had in Moto3

because I was with the same

people from the Spanish

championship. This is what

I was missing a little bit last

year. I have a really good relationship

with Joan and he

pushed me in the test. He

knows me and he knows how

he needs to say things. To say

‘push now’, or ‘clutch a little

bit’, ‘you are a little bit over

the limit’. So I have this confidence

also to speak directly

to him. And also with David

[Garcia], my crew chief, I didn’t

know him before but from the

first day when I sat with him

at a table, I saw that he was a

guy with a lot of experience in

MotoGP. I remember the first

meeting he asked me: “Do you


want to win?” I said, “Me? Of

course. You?” He said, “Yeah,

of course. If I came to work

with you, it’s to win. Not to

improve. It’s because I want

to win and I want to make

a career with you.” He was

working in MotoGP before so

Moto2 was a risk for him. [He

thought] ‘this rider, I need to

find the confidence in him to

do then go to MotoGP again.’

It’s the dream of the technicians,

of the riders. So this

confidence that I have with the

people is the main thing.

There was a lot of speculation

mid-season about your future.

Was that something that was

quite close? Looking at other

teams, the view of MotoGP,

what was the situation there?

some contacts [between the

team and me]. But from the

first moment I was really clear

with everybody that my objective

was to continue with Marc

VDS. They did all these changes

inside the team to give me

the confidence. They gave me

the opportunity to come to

Moto2 in 2015. I feel so appreciated

inside this team. We

are like a family. So it was not

correct that now everything is

nice to go to another team. In

bad days and good days you

need to stick together.

ALEX MARQUEZ

There was some contact because

Petronas was looking

for a rider to fight for the

championship. The rumours of

having a contract with Yamaha

in MotoGP, they were only

rumors. I was only watching


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FEATURE


Chop

it

up

By Adam Wheeler

Photos by Ray Archer

SHOULD MXGP CHANGE?

THE CASE FOR A SHAKE-UP AS 2020

APPROACHES… AND THE THOUGHTS OF

GRAND PRIX RIDERS


FEATURE

From what feels like the

dawn of time motocross

has been a two-moto affair

but is one of the very few

motorsports to accumulate

those races for an overall winner.

The two outings harness

some of the essence of the

sport: endurance, adaptation,

strength, fortitude and a capable

motorcycle. The action

is often as rewarding for the

spectator as it is for the racer:

full-bore competition and all

the possibilities and stories

that a double dose of laps and

luck can entail.

But is motocross and that

age-old structure stubbornly

resisting evolution as the

second decade of the century

approaches?

There is little escaping the

facts or the feeling that motorsport

is trickier or more

expensive than ever, that

sporting events are harder

to stage due to dwindling

crowds, that the fans themselves

have much more in the

way of distraction and digital

immersion compared to even

ten years ago.

Traditional models for coverage,

TV broadcasts, sponsorship

and the revenues that

help racing series’ existence

are going through change.

Should motocross twist also?

Should it explore ways to

entice and find the next one

or two generations that might

help it to prosper or even

survive? Are the kids (and

their parents) that can and

want to ride and who can fuel

the next ten-twenty-thirty

years of motocross participa-


tion and fandom fully onboard

with the relentlessness of an

AMA SX/MX schedule and the

– admittedly - drawn out fourmoto-four-hour

commitment

that MXGP requires through a

screen?

For the sake of nostalgia and a

forty-something that still appreciates

the papery-feel of a

magazine, the cover design of

a CD, remembers when politics

was not 95% lies, loved the

smell of two-stroke, there is

a lot to be said for resistance

to change. For all the fanciful

figures that float around

MXGP (and motocross is not

the only sport, by a long shot,

to accentuate its marketable

worth) it still seems in decent

enough health. Walking

around most paddocks it’s

possible to see hundreds of

spellbound kids and for every

lukewarm attendance like

Imola there are strong ones

in France or Holland. But the

importance of watching and

even interacting with a sport

now via a screen cannot be

ignored. Quality TV and digital

conveyance of something like

MXGP has become essential

for the sponsors that are

involved, the ones that could

arrive and the potential catchment

of new and future fans.

“TRADITIONAL MODELS

FOR COVERAGE, TV BROAD-

CASTS, SPONSORSHIP AND

THE REVENUES THAT HELP

RACING SERIES’

EXISTENCE ARE GOING

THROUGH CHANGE...

SHOULD MOTOCROSS TWIST

ALSO?”

Like it or not MXGP, in particular,

has been referenced

alongside sports like F1 and

MotoGP for the way that the

series is trying to expand to

a global audience, the level

of presentation and professionalism,

in using officially

approved teams and becoming

more elitist through the

increase of races and geography.

Depending on your viewpoint

that is either a detachment

from the roots and ethos of

motocross or it is a simple

case of moving with the times.

Motocross might seem quite

archaic in its simplicity but

let’s not forget that the FIM

World Championship has

been partial to experimentation.

The one moto format

was used from 2001-2003 as

all three 125, 250 and 500

classes were brought together

in a single calendar. Partly

through necessity and partly

through prioritisation for TV,

contemporary promoters and

Youthstream predecessors,

Dorna, sliced the race programme.

It was a strategy that

was ahead of its time: motocross

certainly wasn’t ready

for it in terms of acceptance

from the paddock. Combined

with an erratic and decreasing

calendar (2003 saw only 12

rounds – 12 starts compared

to the 60 riders will face in

2020! - and included Stefan

Everts’ successful attempt to

win all three classes at the

French GP at Ernee) meant

a low point of interest and

a high level of concern. Riders

complained bitterly of

the format at the time, the

way Grands Prix were disappearing

and of things like

the farcical 2002 Motocross

of Nations. Youthstream entered

the scene and restored

those values and some of the

old venues but the riders’ ire

CHANGING MXGP & ONE MOTO


FEATURE

would rise considerably again

when the first big cultural

bend took place and prizemoney

began to evaporate: it

was the death knell for the old

concept of the privateer.

By the beginning of the next

decade Youthstream were

looking at the idea of a ‘Superfinal’

and combining both

MXGP and MX2 classes for

the second moto. The scheme

was promising on paper but

had two significant flaws: it

made the action even more

convoluted (MXoN style) for

the viewer and created consternation

over safety and the

mix of machinery around a

fast course like Losail in Qatar.

As thoughts move to 2020

the question is whether MXGP

should contemplate another

variation or even revolution.

Standing back from motocross

and there are many

other disciplines that are wriggling.

MotoGP has a flawless

premise (two tiered and short

qualification sessions and one

race per category) but has

endured a myriad of technical

and sporting rule alterations

in the search for parity. Supercross

has used the Monster

Energy Cup to trial format

novelties and has employed

a Triple Crown race arrangement

the last two years, Enduro

has splintered into two

series and dallied heavily with

the Indoor Extreme show,

while something like BSB has

also embraced an Americanstyle

‘Showdown’ finale.

MXGP can hold up a metal

mesh start gate, a qualification

‘heat’ (for ten years now)

and a goggle lane as the only

significant amendments, as

well as throwing all manner of

support class into the pot to

laden the weekend.

Change for change’s sake is

an accusation that could be

thrown at WorldSBK. Never

mind the mind-boggling technical

rules of race prototypes

and RPM limits, the production-based

series has weaved

from its two race format

(something that worked by

treating each dash as a sepa-


ate entity) to two-over-twodays,

a reversed grid and now

three races.

“The target became making

sure that televisions were

switched on and fans were

watching,” explains journalist,

photographer and commentator

Steve English. “Adding a

race to the Saturday schedule

in 2016 was the first step.

This was motivated by a goal

to give fans more action on

“qualifying day.” For this year

the Superpole race was added

to Sunday’s schedule. The tenlap

shootout race has been

well received by riders.”

“It has been a few years now

since they changed the two

race format on a Sunday and

introduced the Saturday race,”

says GeeBee Images and

OTOR’s Graeme Brown. “This

was primarily to secure a live

TV slot with MediaSet but

many people felt that it diluted

the essence of WorldSBK.”

“In a fan survey last year it

was shown there was still an

appetite for two races on a

Sunday and so a 10 lap Superpole

race was introduced

to the Sunday programme,”

the Scot adds. “It certainly

gives the fans more action on

a Sunday and seems to have

been well received but the

Saturday race remains.”

“Overall the new schedule in

WorldSBK isn’t perfect but we

get an extra race and an extra

opportunity to see them battle

it out on track,” says English.

“Some paddock insiders have

called for the Superpole race

to be held on Saturday and

used to set the grid for two

grids on Sunday. Some have

called for it to be scrapped.

Some have said they love the

changes. Having taken family

members to Donington Park

over the last two rounds I

asked them for their thoughts

and they’re verdict was clear;

having more action on track

throughout the weekend was

only a good thing.”

More track time has an obvious

benefit at the circuit but

this still hasn’t helped inflate

WorldSBK crowd figures (and

their live Paddock Show/Podi-

CHANGING MXGP & ONE MOTO


FEATURE

um set-up is brilliant and very

accessible). For the screen

it makes even more sense; a

WorldSBK TV/internet fan or

viewer has the luxury of dipping

into any race, without

worrying about other results

and the appearances of a final

different podium order as

found in MXGP.

There is the danger of damaging

the image and identity of

a series with too much meddling.

Is MXGP too niche to

withstand a hefty makeover?

There is also the issue of

practicality with the current

amount of track time or even

an increase: twenty Grands

Prix means a lot of gate-drops

and more propensity for injury

and therefore weakening the

entry list.

Why not ask the stars themselves?

Even though the hypothetical

nature of the question

means it is a little unfair, we

still put a few of the present

MXGP riders ‘on the spot’ to

gauge reaction to a one moto

Grand Prix, or a two moto format

but with the second racer

longer and more distinguished

for the final result…

REACTIONS

Jorge Prado, Red Bull KTM:

I raced my whole life doing

two motos. So, it would be

a very different system…for

training as well.

Jeremy Seewer, Monster

Energy Yamaha:

It would be a big game

changer.

Tony Cairoli, Red Bull KTM:

My view is still the same as it

was a few years ago: one moto

on Sunday would be the best,

as it is for all the other main

motorsports. The fans that

have been following motocross

for fifty years will not agree

but if we want to step things

up and make them a bit better

we need to introduce new

people and fans, otherwise

the sport will go down. I think

people get bored with the

format.

Shaun Simpson, SS24

KTM MXGP:

The one moto thing scares

me a little bit because it is all

down to that one chance…but

that’s the case for many other

motorsports. I do think it

would generate more interest

in motocross if it was just one

moto. It might not be good for

the riders but for the sponsors

and brands it would be a good

way to go. Even for a massive

motocross fan like myself it’s

a big ask to sit down for two

or four motos on a Sunday.

I think it’s hard for people to

grasp now what’s going on

with the sport and things like

why there is a ‘virtual GP winner’

in the second moto.

Ben Watson, Monster Energy

Yamaha MX2:

To try and make it a little bit

more pristine or special, a

‘one race or nothing’ would

really emphasise consistency

by the end of the championship.

[But] If it went that way

then my first reaction is that a

one race format should mean

a one day format.

Adam Sterry, MXGP:

My opinion is split. From an

injury point of view there are

too many races and the level

of risk increases. I’ve never really

thought about a one moto

format but figured it might be

cool to do three-four shorter

races at one round. With the

way they prep the tracks now

then at the end of the moto

nothing really happens, so one

moto could be boring on that

front. Maybe three 15 minutes

or 20 minutes + 2 laps would

be more exciting.


CHANGING MXGP & ONE MOTO


FEATURE

Jorge Prado, Red Bull KTM:

If you did one moto then the

tracks would be flatter as well.

Jeremy Seewer, Monster

Energy Yamaha MXGP:

For twenty GPs I think one

moto would be an option

because we are at the stage

where it starts to get heavy

for everybody. A one moto

format could help but I think

it will also not make such a

big difference because we are

already shipping bikes and

travelling thousands of kilometres

just for one race. It is

tough if you have a bad one,

but then you can liken that to

F1 or MotoGP.

Romain Febvre, Monster

Energy Kawasaki:

I really don’t know. It would be

the half of what we race now

and I think this is a bit too extreme:

forty motos to twenty.

If you make a mistake then…?

I lost almost five GPs in 2019

because of injury but could

still push up to nearly fifth in

the championship.

Jorge Prado, Red Bull KTM:

Maybe it would be easier to

get it on TV but I like the two

moto system: it’s motocross.

MotoGP, F1 and Supercross

have one, motocross has two

and that’s the identity. It’s

what makes it special. You

need to be consistent twice.

Glenn Coldenhoff, Standing

Construct KTM:

It would work for TV but for the

sport itself and for us as riders

I think we should stick to

two motos. I feel it brings more

for the fans to have two motos.

We already have a qualification

heat so maybe skip that.

Shaun Simpson, SS24 KTM

MXGP:

A GP is won by being consistent

over two motos and being

able to redeem yourself if

you’ve had a bad race.

Jeremy Seewer, Monster

Energy Yamaha MXGP:

Logically, as a rider, one moto

brings more pressure. But

there is also pressure with two

motos: a bad moto is still a

bad moto but there is also that

small chance of being able to

save something. It also rewards

the guys who are consistent.

Gautier Paulin, Monster

Energy Yamaha MXGP:

It is a big challenge because

you are breaking tradition. It is

something that we’ve spoken

about quite a lot and I think I

would be open to it. As a rider

it is cool to have two motos

and as a fan also: to see more

starts. But to be more popular

it would be good to go to one

moto because you would increase

interest as well as immediate

understanding of the

race.


Thomas Kjer Olsen, Rockstar

Energy Husqvarna:

I had one moto in the Europeans

[EMX European Championship]

for one year and, for

me, it wasn’t really the nicest

thing for motocross. I grew up

with two motos so it would be

hard to make the change.

Glenn Coldenhoff, Standing

Construct KTM:

If you mess up the start then

you cannot do anything more

that day. With two motos it is

always more exciting.

Jeremy Seewer, Monster

Energy Yamaha MXGP:

It would be a big change. I

don’t know what the spectator

wants to see; maybe it increases

the spectacle because

it is only one race and everything

is decided in one hit or

maybe they want to see more

than two! It’s tricky to say.

Calvin Vlaanderen, MXGP:

I don’t know how one race

could work. We had it a few

years ago in the Europeans

and personally I don’t like it.

Adam Sterry, MXGP:

For watching MXGP on TV

then one moto makes sense,

but it might not be so exciting

for people at the event. It

could depend on the track; if

you have a place like Imola

then nothing will really change

but a track like Lommel where

there are so many options for

passing then one moto could

be good. If one of the top boys

gets a bad start then they can

come back.

Calvin Vlaanderen, MXGP:

We go to a new track every

weekend and it doesn’t get

boring. But I’d still like to

see a one-day schedule and

maybe it would be cool or

interesting to try three shorter

motos at some events.

Gautier Paulin, Monster

Energy Yamaha MXGP:

Forty riders behind the gate

might not be the way to go

any more. If we are twentyfive

to thirty then this is fine

for me. The level of the sport

is getting higher and it feels

like we are getting faster and

only the best can keep their

place. There are twenty GP

winners in the class: it is cool

to see that talent and people

are not getting lapped after

three laps.

Adam Sterry, MXGP:

If it is something that might

help the sport be better or

bigger then I’d be up for it.

It would be nice to actually

see a change. I like the Monster

Cup format where they

have short, intense races and

where somebody else can win

if they make the right start.

One moto would be something

to think about.

CHANGING MXGP & ONE MOTO


FEATURE

WATSON: “IF SATURDAY WAS PRESS DAY &

WITH LONG ‘OPEN’ SESSIONS TO DO LAPS,

WORK ON YOUR SET-UP AND GET READY FOR

SUNDAY – WHICH WOULD BE A QUICK FREE

PRACTICE, A QUALIFICATION RACE AND THEN

THE MOTO - THAT CAN WORK.”


Gautier Paulin, Monster

Energy Yamaha MXGP:

I would really need to think

about it but it might be a solution

to go like MotoGP or F1:

people will look at a race on the

TV and know who is the winner.

I think we would make the sport

a bit clearer.

COPING WITH ONE, LONG

RACE

Jorge Prado, Red Bull KTM:

Forty minutes? It’s too long,

even for spectators. I mean,

thirty plus two when I am

watching it on TV is too long,

it’s boring. The Qualifying Heat

is too short and the current

moto length is really on the

limit of being boring. But then

if the races are too short then

a bad start and one small mistake

can throw it away.

Calvin Vlaanderen, MXGP:

It would have to be longer than

30+2.

Shaun Simpson, SS24 KTM

MXGP:

The length of a longer moto

does not phase me one bit. We

used to do 35 plus two.

Gautier Paulin, Monster

Energy Yamaha:

To go to 40+2 we’d need am

enduro fuel tank! We already

struggle to finish a thirty minute

moto in Lommel. When I

started my Pro career the motos

were 35+2 and we already

had to fit a bigger tank then.

A NEW SCHEDULE

Shaun Simpson, SS24 KTM

MXGP:

If you just sit down for one race

– 40+2, winner, podium, interview,

job done – then this could

be an easier way to sell the

sport but it’s a massive effort to

go anywhere for just forty-five

minutes of race-time. I think

a Grand Prix could drop down

to one day then with practice,

qualification and race and have

all the European support races

on the Saturday.

Ben Watson, Monster Energy

Yamaha MX2:

At the moment with twenty

races and three sessions per

day it is a bit too much. Add

the pre-season Internationals –

which we use as preparation –

and a handful of national races

that can be obligatory for some

teams and riders then it feels

like a lot.

Romain Febvre, Monster

Energy Kawasaki:

I’m not scared of a longer calendar

because when I started

in GPs it was already sixteen/

seventeen rounds. We race

the GPs but we also do preseason

races which we like and

we need. I also do the Dutch

Championship between GPs

because I like to keep the race

rhythm. So 20 rounds is not

bad for me.

Thomas Kjer Olsen, Rockstar

Energy Husqvarna:

It would be more obvious to

skip the qualification moto instead.

That would help us out a

little bit. I wouldn’t be a big fan

of the single moto deal.

Jeremy Seewer, Monster Energy

Yamaha MXGP:

What makes MXGP so tough, in

my opinion, is all the travelling

but also that event schedule

from Friday evening to Sunday

evening. We’ll have events and

signing sessions and have to sit

around a bit before the qualification

race – which takes a lot

of energy – before we finally go

racing on Sunday.

Ben Watson, Monster Energy

Yamaha MX2:

If you are flying to Argentina

or China for just one day then

it feels like a long way for not

much. If Saturday was press

day and with long ‘open’ sessions

in order to do some laps,

work on your set-up and get

ready for Sunday – which would

be a quick Free Practice, a

Qualification race and then the

moto then I feel like that can

work. I quite like that strategy

and structure.

Calvin Vlaanderen, MXGP: One

moto would pull us into the

same as other motorsports but

I feel it would be better to have

a one day event. The whole

weekend is drawn-out and it’s a

long calendar for everyone.

CHANGING MXGP & ONE MOTO


FEATURE

TALKING

BLUEPRINTS

The maxim ‘if it’s not broke,

then don’t fix it’ underlies

some of the rumination on

these pages but while there

might be little call or need to

unearth the foundations of a

sport that doesn’t mean you

should neglect analysis or the

possibility of experimentation.

Even if Adam Sterry’s

thoughts about trying a three

moto programme glides away

from the premise of trying to

make the sport more obvious

or digestible to new fans

it does indicate that there is

some appetite for change.

In short, what would we do?

Youthstream have already

stated that they have no desire

to alter the weekend

structure or tradition for a

Grand Prix, so MXGP is unlikely

to change from being a

two-day affair, especially when

a 48 hour window for an event

allows clubs, circuits and organisers

more opportunity to

increase revenue for the initial

outlay in establishing a Grand

Prix infrastructure (think fencing,

facilities, staffing, maintenance).

But that doesn’t mean the

format of a Grand Prix has to

remain rigid.

Taking a less radical route

then how about maintaining

two motos with new emphasis?

The first is a shorter dash for

world championship points

for the first ten positions:

10-1. This gives spectators at

the circuit another fill of action,

and Grand Prix riders a

valid reason to compete while

keeping one eye on lines and

set-up for the crucial second

moto. The second showpiece

event can last 35 minutes

plus 2, run the current points

scheme down to 20th position

and provide the framework for

a much easier and sellable TV

package.

What about the standings?

The table will make sense to

the indoctrinated MXGP fan

and the first moto will end up

providing another narrative

stream as the season moves

on; single digit points will

become more valuable and

essential. Youthstream could

still give full online broadcast

importance and coverage to

that first race but in terms

of the ‘Grand Prix’ then the

prestige and the bigger championship

haul goes down to

that second ‘single’ moto. A

renaming might help make it

clearer. The first outing could

be something a rudimentary

as the MXGP Sprint Race and

the second as MXGP Grand

Prix Race. The results, TV

pictures and press conference

would all focus on the podium

of the Grand Prix race. The

implications of the Sprint race

would only come into play

when confirmation of the title

is on the line.

A far simpler alternative would

be to adopt the WorldSBK

model and have two races,

two winners. Perhaps give the

second moto more prominence

or credence for broadcast?

Points should also only

be awarded to 15th (or maybe

even 12th!) position to heighten

their value.

As seen by comments from

the riders then placing more

relevance on one race will

require a cultural shift, a real

change in thinking. Ben Watson’s

remark that ‘if you are

flying to Argentina, China or

Indonesia for just one day

then it feels like a long way for

not much’ is a good example.

It would be a long distance for

one key moto, but that’s the

Grand Prix; and riders would

be duty-bound to prepare as

well as they can for that crucial

moment as much as any

other. The fear of not having a

second chance to amend for a

mistake should not be a barrier

in performance for elite

level motorsport athletes.


WORDS FROM

THE TOP

Youthstream CEO David

Luongo was kind enough to

respond to an enquiry for the

company’s viewpoint on any

potential MXGP shapeshift.

The firm, recently acquired

by the Swiss entity Infront,

have faced their critics in a

fifteen-year stewardship of

the FIM World Championship

but they are fully aware of

the delicacy of taking Grand

Prix into the leftfield. “We

are always open to evaluate

some changes that could

help to develop and help

MXGP to grow,” he said. “In

the past, promoters already

tried these kind of changes

and the result was very negative.

MXGP is very successful

right now and the format of

today is very good. The classical

format fits perfectly to

motorsport fans with the two

days of racing and the two

races on Sunday. Motocross

is also an endurance sport

and one single race would

change completely the roots

of our sport. We would take a

too big risk to lose the historic

fans to maybe seduce

some news ones.”

XXXXXXXX CHANGING XXXXXXXX MXGP XXXXXX & ONE MOTO XXXXX


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6


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2020 crash helmet to have the means of

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issues but the brand also have a compliment

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in keeping with the rest of the growing

portfolio (in allying with an expect apparel

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LEATT.COM/NEXTSTEP

THE SCIENCE OF THRILL


next

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LEATT.COM


WORLDSBK

FINAL

REAS

Blog by Graeme Brown, Photos by GeeBee Images


MOTUL QATAR ROUND

LOSAIL · OCTOBER 25-26 · Rnd 13 of 13

Superpole Race winner: Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki

Race one winner: Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki

Race two winner: Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki

WORLDSBK QAT


WORLDSBK


WORLDSBK POR QAT


WORLDSBK


WORLDSBK QAT


SBK

BLOG

END OF A SEASON EPIC

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

The last acts of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship

have been played out in the desert heat of Qatar. The

focus now turns to 2020 where the jigsaw puzzle is almost

complete. Whilst most of the rumours and conjecture over

the ‘bums on seats’ part of the equation have been resolved

a final piece still has to be put in place.

As we move into November

WorldSBK finds itself in the now

familiar position of being the last

major motorsport championship

to publish a schedule of any form

for the coming year. It’s something

I have become familiar with, but

something no less frustrating. On a

personal note I have been asked by

more than one client to prepare a

budget for 2020. Teams and manufacturers

are trying to set their

own budgets for next year and it is

impossible to do so without knowing

how many races the series will

have, and in what countries they

will take place.

What would seem to be the case

is that WorldSBK is falling out of

favour with venues as they themselves

fight for bottom line. It is all

but confirmed that the championship

will not return to Buriram in

Thailand, now that MotoGP has

secured the early season slot on

the calendar and news from the US

suggests that the race at Laguna

Seca is becoming less likely by the

week.

Whilst WorldSBK plans to retain

a 13 round calendar both MotoGP

and Formula 1 are increasing the

number of dates each year. F1 will

have a ridiculous 22 races in 2020

year whilst MotoGP has increased

to 20. It’s laudable that both these

series have venues that are desperate

to host an event, but I can’t help

thinking that it is to the detriment

of other forms of motorsport. In

relation to WorldSBK and MotoGP

the situation over Buriram does

nothing to allay the fears expressed

previously by FIM President Jorge

Viegas that to have Dorna representing

both series is unhealthy.

Those comments received sharp

criticism from the top brass at

Dorna’s HQ but maybe they themselves

have a conundrum to solve

and the split interests across MotoGP

and WorldSBK is not helpful.

The issue I guess, like everything

in the modern world, comes down

to money. In an article in Indonesia

by Tempo.Co, the Governer

Anies Baswedan outlined the costs

to the government to host a race

in Jakarta: Formula 1 would be

$29.4million USD and MotoGP

would be $7-9million. There was

no mention, and I have no knowledge,

of the costs for WorldSBK,

but if we use the same ratio (F1 to

MotoGP) and assume that it’s a

third of the value then the cost of

hosting a WorldSBK event would

be around $2-3 million USD. If you

are Dorna and you have a choice


By Graeme Brown

between placing a MotoGP event or

a WorldSBK event at a venue which

would you go for?

That said I had previously heard a

story suggesting the smaller size of

the paddock, and associated staff

within the organization, meant that

the profit levels for Dorna of staging

a WorldSBK and a MotoGP event

were pretty much the same, especially

those in territories where everything

has to be airfreighted. I will,

however, state again, I have no direct

knowledge of the costs involved and

with many of these things we are left

to forming our opinions on hearsay.

Something I touched on in my last

grumblings

The point is that most of these

costs are met by local, regional and

sometimes central governments.

They make the calculation based on

the revenue generated in the local

economy by the hundreds of staff

and thousands of fans who will visit

the location over the course of a race

weekend and spend their money in

the hotels, bars and restaurants of

the surrounding towns. I have written

previously about the hotels and

businesses in Alcañiz that survive

solely on the basis of the events

that take place at Motorland Aragon

throughout the year.

With both F1 and MotoGP calendars

expanding there is only so much of

the state funded pie to go around.

If MotoGP had only 17 or 18 rounds

on the calendar there would be

venues that had been left out and

may be keener to host races like

WorldSBK. However, it would seem

that if a track applies to have Formula

1 or MotoGP, and if the cheque

book is big enough, then they’re in.

That could be leaving other championships

like WorldSBK scraping

around.

From what I know at this stage,

based on some rumour and gossip,

the 2020 WorldSBK calendar will

look more or less the same as this

year, without Buriram for sure and

possibly without Laguna. Oschersleben

in Germany looks a fair bet

to fill a space in the summer, probably

early August, and if Laguna

Seca does fall from the calendar I

have heard that Circuit de Catalunya

would be offered as a replacement

but that in itself may bring forward a

series of date changes.

Losail could actually become the

first round of the series in early February

and Catalunya would be the

final round. Having the season finish

in Qatar in front of minimal crowds

is not ideal. It’s also a place where

many like me want to leave as soon

as they can. Jamie Morris and I finished

up working at 3am and drove

straight to the airport to fly home.

As did Aruba Ducati, HRC and a fair

few of the teams in the paddock it

would appear. Having the last race in

Europe would mean a bigger crowd

at the race and also the possibility

of a prize-giving ceremony where all

the teams, mechanics, support staff

and everyone involved could attend

and enjoy.

On the rider front, announcements

are coming thick and fast. In the last

few weeks a number of team and

rider rosters have become clear, with

only a few loose ends to tie up.

The main switch in the paddock was

confirmed last time out in Argentina

with Alex Lowes taking up the seat

vacated by Leon Haslam in KRT. This

is a great opportunity for the 2013

British Superbike Champion and it

may be a pivotal move in the 2020

WorldSBK campaign.


SBK

BLOG

I still can’t help thinking that

Kenan Sofuoglu has been premature

in steering his charge, Toprak

Razgatlioglu away from Kawasaki.

I understand his reasons, and I

am sure Yamaha are absolutely

delighted, but in recent races

Razgatlioglu has shown to be a

committed and bona fide challenger

to Jonathan Rea. Guided

by his crew chief Phil Marron,

Toprak has finally got to grips with

the Kawasaki ZX-10RR and had

he stayed with Puccetti Racing I

would have put him down as one

of the favourites for next year. Now

he will move to Yamaha and will

need to find his feet somewhat in

a new team and on a new bike and

all that that comes with.

Over at Yamaha both men have

scored wins and podiums but

haven’t been consistent enough to

challenge for the prize. It will remain

to be seen if the young Turk

can offer that little extra consistency

on the 2020 YZF-R1.

Lowes has steadily improved since

he arrived in WorldSBK for his

rookie season in 2014. He made

an instant impact on the Crescent

Suzuki by scoring a podium in only

his third event in Assen. However,

visits to the rostrum have been

less frequent over the years and

it wasn’t until Brno 2018 that he

broke his duck and took his first

WorldSBK win. This year he has

improved again and has been

rewarded with third in the Championship.

The current situation

reminds somewhat of Jonathan

Rea from his rookie year with

Kawasaki in 2015. He was showing

great potential and winning races

on a Honda that was clearly at a

disadvantage to the rivals. Likewise

Lowes with the GSX-R1000 was

no match in terms of development

and factory support to the

Kawasaki, Aprilia or Ducati. That

he scored two podiums in his first

WorldSBK season was admirable.

He has been a key component in

the development of the Yamaha

YZF-R1 race machine and he, like

the bike, has progressed each year

since. As with Rea in 2015, a move

to Kawasaki could be the Cinderella

moment for Lowes that finds

him on a machine where it all falls

into place and he becomes a regular

in winner’s circle in 2020.

It was great to see Scott Redding

win BSB the other weekend. From

the point of giving up a year ago

to clinching the title and a move to

WorldSBK; it’s a clear vindication

of his talent. I am sure he will take

a little time to adapt to the factory

Aruba Ducati, with the different

electronics etc, but that is what

testing is for and having hurled the

kitchen sink at the championship

this year and falling short, I expect

to see the fridge, the oven and the

microwave coming as well this

year from Borgo Panigale. I read

on the WorldSBK website that for

Ducati they considered Year One of

the Panigale V4R project as having

exceeded expectations but for

2020 winning the title is no longer

an ambition but a requirement.

A requirement for who? Ducati?

The riders? Dorna? That’s a pretty

bold statement to make and with

a new Yamaha and Honda on the

grid alongside those all conquering

Kawasaki’s it is not something that

can be taken for granted in any

way. I am sure the Ducati management

and the team have their own

ambitions for the year but I can’t

imagine they will stick their heads

that far above the parapet.


Yamaha appear to have a desire

to be the most visibly dominant

manufacturer in the paddock.

There will be no less than six officially

supported riders on the

WorldSBK grid in 2020: VD Mark

and Razgatlioglu in the ‘factory’

team; MotoAmerica star Garrett

Gerloff will be joined by WorldSSP

runner-up Federico Caricasulo,

as announced last week for the

re-branded GRT Yamaha Junior

WorldSBK team; and Loriz Baz will

have a yet to be announced teammate

at Ten Kate.

On top of that there is to be a

shake-up in their WorldSSP line

up, six, possibly seven, bLU cRU

riders in the WorldSSP300 championship,

and a whole new European

series for riders aged 12

to 15, all riding identically spec’d

YZF-R3s. There really will be a

strong hint of blue in the paddock

next year.

In the coming week or so it is

widely expected that Xavi Fores

will be announced as the replacement

for Razgatlioglu at Puccetti

Kawasaki and Leon Haslam is very

close to signing a deal for next

season, with the strong money

suggesting a seat alongside Bautista

in the HRC squad. The chat

at the weekend in Doha was that

Honda would themselves have five

bikes on the grid, with an all Japan

squad run by Moriwaki and Kiyonari

and Takahashi as the riders,

alongside a privately-run Althea

bike as we have had this year.

The new Fireblade has finally

broken cover in Japan with a

video and images being released

of a test mule being ridden by

Stefan Bradl. It is expected to be

presented in its final form at the

EICMA show in just over a week’s

time and we will then get an idea

if there is potential to turn it into a

thoroughbred.

WorldSBK in 2020 is certainly

shaping up to be the most intriguing

season for some time but the

main focus for everyone has to be

how to stop the winning machine

that is Jonathan Rea on a Kawasaki.

JR put an emphatic full stop on the

2019 season with a triple win in

Losail at the weekend.

It was not a situation any of us saw

back in June and huge credit has

to be given to the Northern Irishman

and the Kawasaki team for

turning it around.

With the other manufacturers now

upping the game with new machines

and changes in the rider

line ups I do get a distinct impression

of a feeling that Kawasaki

have had their own way for too

long. Many armchair scribes, and

journalists as well, still say that JR

and Kawasaki winning is terrible

for WorldSBK. If that has provoked

HRC, Yamaha, Ducati et al to take

the fight to them good and proper

it could actually be the best thing

for WorldSBK.


PRODUCTS

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scott sports

Scott took advantage of the recent Monster

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goggle. The Fury is a direct descendant of

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innovative lens-lock system, light-sensitive

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The premium Prospect holds the edge for

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FEATURE

THEBy Steve

English,

Photos by GeeBee Images/Steve English/MCH Photo

ULTIMATE

REBOUND


FEATURE

Legendary basketball coach John

Wooden once said that “sports don’t

build characters, they reveal it.” This

season certainly revealed a lot about Jonathan

Rea. He was utterly relentless in his

pursuit of a fifth world championship but

this season was unlike any other.

Playing catchup through the year Rea was

faced with his toughest test; Alvaro Bautista

and Ducati. The former MotoGP rider

arrived in WorldSBK like a hurricane. He

destroyed everything in his path to win

races by over ten seconds. By the time the

paddock had arrived in Europe the Spaniard

was commenting that he was “changing

the level of Superbikes and forcing

riders to change their styles.” It was a bold

claim but one that couldn’t be challenged

at the time, such was his supremacy.

“IF THIS WAS BOXING

I’D HAVE BEEN ON THE

ROPES IN THOSE EARLY

ROUNDS. I’VE NEVER SEEN

A TURNAROUND LIKE THIS

ONE. IT WAS…A BIG DREAM.”

“If this was boxing I’d have been on the

ropes in those early rounds,” said Rea

after wrapping up the title. “I’ve never seen

a turnaround like this one. Of course every

season your target is to win the championship

but honestly after four rounds it

was…a big dream. We couldn’t see any

weakness in the package of Alvaro Bautista

and Ducati.”

“It’s the strongest package I’ve ever faced,”

he adds. “Assen was a real moment where

it opened my mind. I felt like that was one

of the tracks that we could go to and pick

up some wins. When we didn’t win our

heads dropped a little. We went to Imola

next and we managed to survive there and

take some wins, but one of the races was

cancelled due to the weather. Up until then

I felt like we were drowning but just to get

that little bit of a gasp of air was enough to

compose ourselves and give us the belief

that we can aim for some results during

the year.”


In the early rounds of 2019 - when Bautista

was racking up eleven consecutive

victories - Rea was forced to settle for

runner-up finishes in ten of those races.

It wasn’t enough to stay close to Bautista

in the standings, after Assen he was over

fifty points adrift - at one point in the

season the gap stretched to 61 - but Rea

kept the faith. More to the point his crew

chief, Pere Riba, kept resolute.

Mid-season the Spaniard said “Watch: Johnny

will find a way this season. He is the best.

There’s no doubt about it in my mind. He’ll find

a way.”

At one point that faith seemed like blind conviction.

The past four years had shown what Rea

could achieve but Bautista was rewriting the

history books. For Rea the reason was clear; the

top speed advantage of the Bologna bullet.

JONATHAN REA


FEATURE

“When we went to Thailand we really

saw the advantage the Ducati had,” he

explains. “That was a tough weekend.

It’s really hard when you’re losing that

much on the straight to make it up in the

corners and on the brakes. We were racing

ourselves and carrying more corner

speed and getting a better exit than the

Ducati. With our bike in terms of stability

and mechanical traction it’s probably

the best out there. We just lost so much

in the acceleration areas around the lap

that it was hard to make that up.”

“Alvaro made a series of mistakes as well

which didn’t make the championship

easier but it meant that you could actually

manage to be in the championship,”

he reasons.

“WE WORKED HARD BUT I STILL

CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT TO BE

HONEST. I DIDN’T EXPECT THE

LAGUNA WEEKEND TO TURN AROUND

THE WAY IT DID. TO GO ELEVEN

RACES UNBEATEN AND THEN TO

FACE THE CHALLENGES HE HAS, I

JUST CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT...”

“I feel like he threw the championship

away…but we did stand up and win the

races we should have won. It was just

tiring in the beginning because even

with all the second places I was having

to fight for them. It wasn’t like I was just

riding around. The Yamaha’s were super

strong at the start of the year. We had to

dig deep to challenge.”

“I didn’t know much about Alvaro until

this year,” Rea says. “I heard from people

that I needed to keep the pressure on

him because the season is long and to

keep the lead all the way through is hard.

At the beginning of the year you couldn’t

really see much hope but [his] mistakes

in Misano and Jerez were completely

uncalled for. His crash in Donington

I can understand because it’s a very,

very treacherous part of the track in the

wet. It’s easy to get caught out there.

Even series regulars can get caught out.

Throughout all this, I was just trying

to keep doing my own thing. It’s really

hard to manage the championship from

the front, I’ve been in that position, and

when you’re chasing you have nothing to

lose at times.”

Having seen Bautista start to make unforced

errors in Jerez and Misano, Rea

started to see a chink in his rival’s armour.

By the time the paddock travelled

to Laguna Seca the stronger colours

in WorldSBK had shifted. Bautista was

crumbling and a crash-filled weekend

saw the Spaniard leave the United States

with his title hopes in tatters. No points

from three races had left him with little

chance.

“We saw a whole different side to Alvaro

compared to the beginning of the year,”

Rea opines. “Every time the cameras

went in the garage in the early rounds

he was full of smiles and double hand

waves. He was an angelic kid. After the

first crash it was still the same; he was

still his happy-go-lucky self. After making

a few more mistakes though he was a

shadow of the beginning of the season.”


“You could see the stress building on his

shoulders. That’s when we just had to

keep relentlessly delivering results every

weekend. I didn’t need to win races. I just

needed him to see me beside him on the

podium. I wanted him to know that I was

right there and he couldn’t have a bad

weekend. Since Imola we out-scored him

every weekend. I’m really happy to turn

the season around like that. But there

was definitely a bit of help from his side.”

JONATHAN REA

“We worked hard but I still can’t understand

it to be honest,” he continues. “I

didn’t expect the Laguna weekend to turn

around the way it did. For Alvaro not to

score in all three races, that really helped

my cause. To go eleven races unbeaten

and then to face the challenges he has,

I just can’t understand it. I really can’t. I

can’t understand how you can go to Phillip

Island in your first race on a new bike

and new championship and mentally be

that strong to win races by fifteen seconds.To

then go to Thailand and do pretty

much the same. Then we went to Aragon

and he was still winning by a distance.”

“It’s really hard,” he pauses. “I wouldn’t

want to be in his position. I certainly

wouldn’t want to be answering to Guim

Roda if I did that, because he would be

the toughest guy on me when I make a

mistake, even this year. So to have a catalogue

this year I’m sure is really tough.”

While Rea can be critical of the mistakes

that Bautista has made he’s far from

critical about his rival’s style. Describing

the Spaniard as “clinical on track. He

does everything right and his level is very

high.” It’s clear there’s a respect for the

challenge he faced but that leads into so

much mystery for how and why the mistakes

piled up.


FEATURE


“YOU’RE ALWAYS IN A COMPETITIVE

BUBBLE. YOU NEVER STOP AND TAKE

STOCK OF WHERE YOU ARE. IT’S ALWAYS

ABOUT THE NEXT CHALLENGE...”

JONATHAN REA


FEATURE

“I think it’s clear that the window of

setup for the Ducati is very narrow and

we see that with Chaz, one of the top riders,

dialing the bike in through the year.

In those early rounds they looked had

the bike in the window and the engine is

so strong that he didn’t need to be last

on the brakes or he didn’t need to put

the bike under too much stress. He was

already gaining tenths of a second on the

acceleration areas. The yo-yo effect was

clearest to see in Thailand. He would be

long gone into the braking zone for turn

three but we would have a chance because

I could release the brake and have

a go at him because of the strength of

our bike.

“It’s been a crazy year but I stand by

what I said at the start of the year [about

taking a knife to a gunfight in races]. It

was frustration that made me voice my

opinion really early when I should have

maybe stayed calm but the difference

in speed is crazy. I’d need to really look

hard to see how many times he passed

someone in the braking area but generally

it’s been down the straight passing

one and two guys at the same time.

“I’ve had it in the past where we’ve lost

1400rpm in a season when they change

regulations for this year Ducati lost

250rpm is absolute peanuts. The people

that are on the defensive are guys inside

Ducati, but if you speak with knowledgeable

people inside the paddock,

they know. They know what we’re racing

against. The other riders, the other

manufacturers they all know what we’ve

seen this year. The Ducati is very strong

in that area but it’s not the complete

package.

“I feel like as a real package we have top

package. We just missed the speed they

have. I’m sure if you give us whatever the

horsepower difference is, we would run

into our own problems. I’m just calling it

as I see it, but it’s just very demoralizing

throwing the kitchen sink at it and just

losing free time on the straights.”

While a season like this has left Rea with

an unexpected world title it’s also one

that he knows is just a stepping stone.

In racing if you’re at the front of the field

you’ll always have people gunning for

you. You’ll always have to work harder

to stay at the top than you do to get to

the top. To win races is hard in this class


“FOR ME, THE MOTIVATION COMES FROM BEING SO HAPPY

DOING IT. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE. UNTIL THE LACK

OF MOTIVATION COMES OR AN INJURY OR THE LACK OF

COMPETITIVENESS I THINK I’LL KEEP DOING IT FOR AS LONG

AS I CAN. IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE WORK...”

JONATHAN REA

“For me, the motivation comes from being

so happy doing it. I don’t know anything

else. Until the lack of motivation comes or

an injury or the lack of competitiveness I

think I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can. It

doesn’t feel like work. I’ve a family with two

young kids. The dynamic has changed for

me now because it’s not just about racing.

Once I stop enjoying it and the sacrifices

you make aren’t worth it that’s the time I’ll

hang up my boots. I can’t see it happening

anytime soon though because I’m really

having a lot of fun.

but to keep winning races is even harder.

There are very few times when a rider

truly can reflect on their successes.

“You’re always in a competitive bubble.

You never stop and take stock of where

you are. It’s always about the next challenge.

After winning the championship

in France I was already thinking to Argentina.

After Qatar you think about next

year. It’s ticking boxes. I moved back to

Northern Ireland last year and bought

myself a dream home. We’ve a home

cinema and sometimes I sit there, and

I’ve got my world championship trophies

on display, and I’m so satisfied. I can feel

really proud of what I’ve done.

“I feel like I can still be competitive as well

for a few more years. You think about what

more can I do? You think about how can I

keep going and achieve the same thing?

There’s no better or worse.”

There’s no better or worse but there are

bigger numbers. More wins to chase, more

podiums to stand on, more points to be

had. More titles to be won. Five world

championships aren’t enough for Rea.

He’s chasing more and more. Winning is a

drug for a serial champion. They get up in

the morning and train harder than ever to

stay on top. Can Rea keep the run going in

2020? Only a fool would bet against it.


FEATURE

FIRST PUBLISHED ON

THE KTM BLOG

WWW.BLOG.KTM.COM


AT THE TURN OF

THE DECADE KTM

MANUFACTURED ONE OF

THE MOST STRIKING AND

SURPRISING SUPERBIKES

ON THE MARKET BUT IN A

FEW SHORT YEARS IT WAS

GONE. WHAT HAPPENED TO

THE RC8?

DEATH OF

AN ICON

By Adam Wheeler

Photos by KTM Images


FEATURE

Wolfgang Felber leans

back in his seat. The

former racer and lead

technician has lent a hand to

many KTM projects and was

a leading figure in the company’s

emphatic first step back

to MotoGP with the Moto3

RC250GP in 2011. Talk of the

RC8 – an initiative that he led

and steered – brings a certain

air of satisfaction to his demeanour.

KTM’s first superbike was

initially (and surprisingly)

unveiled as a prototype at

the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show.

“When we fight Japan, we

want to fight them in their

own office,” claimed current

R&D Head Philipp Habsburg

upon the bikes eventual

launch. “The reaction was

very enthusiastic…”

Prior to the crisis that slapped

the global economy towards

the end of the decade, KTM

were on a firm path to expansion

and diversification

(something that they would

eventually resume, streamline

and accentuate after the

financial fallout). Part of that

process was creation of model

that would enter a sportsbike

market that was still vibrant

and seeing motorcycles like

Yamaha’s YZR-R1, Suzuki’s

GSX-R and BMW’s S1000R

inspire the fray.


It was a bold move for the

brand that had opened eyes

with the Super Duke road bike

in 2005; a significant player

outside of the off-road core

of the company. “At the time

KTM was less mainstream,”

explains Felber. “We started

work on the RC8 thirteen

years ago and KTM was more

of a niche supplier then.”

“I remember back in July

2005 when the project was

green-lit for production,” he

continues. “As with most initial

new projects in KTM there

was not really the in-house

specialists at the company, so

we developed the bike while

also hiring and training the

people to get it done.”

KTM allegedly sunk 10 million

euros into a philosophy that

a smiling Felber recalls as “a

1200 v-twin ‘moped’!” But,

as with most innovations that

see the light of day at Mattighofen,

experimentation had

started before that dramatic

unveiling in Tokyo and well

before a young designer (now

Lead Creative at the Kiska

agency and the power behind

the Super Duke 1290 and latest

KTM models) by the name

of Craig Dent would be awestruck

by the sight of the RC8

on the front of a British weekly

motorcycling newspaper.

“When we made the first

950cc V-Twin engine back in

2001-2002 we had already

done a very rough Superbike

prototype together with a

German company,” Felber recounts.

“We used them as our

workbench. Then there was

another prototype that had

DEATH OF AN ICON: KTM RC8


FEATURE

shock. it was a big hurt for all of us, and

of course the project and engine development.

The second thing was the economic

crisis in 2008; the bike was being

produced at the same time that everything

started to crash. The third thing

was that – around that time – instead of

five suppliers to Superbike racing there

were eight or nine and the market shrank

dramatically from one day to the next.”

KTM were winning 125cc and 250cc

Grands Prix but MotoGP was unstable

with changes in the capacity limit between

1000cc and 800cc and eventually

a CRT sub class. Superbike and the

production regulations seemed a better

arena for KTM’s first track weapon. Of

course, the RC8 was not conceived merely

as a Pro racer’s tool or a rich person’s

toy.

even more of an RC8 design about it and

was built in 2001. That was followed by

the show bike built for Tokyo. During the

RC8 development there were constant

questions about why it was taking so

long! But the bike did not officially begin

life until the summer of 2005, so twoand-a-half

years before it was confirmed

to come into stock production.”

The RC8 was a product of ambition, and

the technical architecture was advanced

but it was also a victim of misfortune

and, crucially, timing. “There were three

unlucky things,” says Felber. “One was

the sudden death of one of our chief engineers

on 2nd of September 2006. A big

The bike offered a preview to the ‘slight

of hand’ that the 1290 Super Duke

would eventually deliver: in other words

it looked and promised to be one thing

(with the Super Duke it was this image

of being ‘The Beast’) but ended up being

something a whole lot more. “The RC8

was not designed just to be a WorldSBK

base,” says Felber in the confines of a

meeting room in the old Race HQ in

Munderfing. “We wanted to have a perfect

road bike. That was the beginning of

the philosophy towards it and that’s why

the motorcycle is roomy and adjustable.

It was more of a racebike by accident

finally.”

Despite the step into the unknown and

the difficulties that 2007-2009 would

bring KTM did not ease-off the gas (Felber:

“there was always good support.”).

The investment remained steadfast and

apparently almost 50 engines bit the


WOLFGANG FELBER: “WE WANTED TO HAVE A PERFECT

ROAD BIKE. THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE PHILOSOPHY

TOWARDS IT AND THAT’S WHY THE MOTORCYCLE IS

ROOMY AND ADJUSTABLE. IT WAS MORE OF A RACEBIKE BY

ACCIDENT FINALLY...”

DEATH OF AN ICON: KTM RC8

dust to get the RC8 just right. The R&D

crew funnelled a stream of torque into

riders’ right hands. Even into some of the

best in the business. “I was surprised

how good it was as a road bike when we

made a comparison test,” says former

Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams.

“It was able to hold its own really easily,

especially with the chassis. It was one of

the easiest bikes you’ll ride on the road

or the track.”

There were other redeeming features. “I

wanted to set a new benchmark for manufacturing

quality for KTM but also in

general,” says Felber. “If you look at the

welding on the frame and how the wiring

harness was made ‘invisible’: there is not

a single piece of improvisation on that

bike. We spent a lot of time on it. The

other thing I’m proud of is the technical

layout and how you can work on the bike.

It’s not such a big deal for the average

customer who will leave it in the dealer

or garage for any maintenance or repair

but I was a racer and I worked on all my

bikes by myself. I recently changed the

frame on my own RC8 from black to orange

and I did it in one afternoon. I think

mechanics like to work on that bike.”

And, there were those looks. Felber: “I

knew we were making something powerful.

Kiska’s work is always polarising


FEATURE

with their styling. In fact it is not

just styling; it is a statement. If

you see the RC8 nowadays it is

like it’s a bike from 2025. I love

that approach. It is not a bike

for everyone. It was polarizing:

both for the look and the technical

layout with that under-slung

exhaust system that made it

appear totally different, and the

small and narrow tail section.”

On the track the RC8 was being

raced to top five results in AMA

Superbike by the likes of Chris

Fillmore and even starring at the

Isle of Man TT. In Europe KTM

established a team to enter the

competitive IDM German Superbike

series. “The IDM was moreor-less

a European Championship,”

says Felber. “It was

fully open for tyre development

and no restrictions on

things like electronics.” The

RC8 would go on to beat the

competition. More important

than results however was

the chance for KTM to learn

about road racing. It was a

process that fed directly into

their stunning Moto3 Grand

Prix title-winning debut in

2012. The RC8 was the icebreaking

machine that made

the journey to MotoGP much

smoother. “The IDM was an

ideal playground to develop

the bike but also people,”

says Felber. “We raced for

three seasons and it was

extremely useful. We were

learning a lot about tyres

together with Dunlop, and we

won the title. We reached a

level where we were able to

tell [Magneti] Marelli how and

what we wanted to change

with our electronic software.

That all fed into the new

Moto3 project because it was

clear that 2011 would be the

last in the German Championship

before all the people

moved into Moto3. We had to

start early actually, and I had

to split people between IDM

and Grand Prix. In the end we

had a fully capable and working

group for road racing.”


While the RC8 was being modified

and chiselled in Germany

McWilliams was also running

a separate test programme.

“We got Jeremy on the bike

after remembering him well

from the original MotoGP project

and still, to this day, he is

fantastic to work with and still

so fast with so much expertise

over what seems like fifty years

of racing!” Felber grins. “He’s

loyal, honest and he’ll never

talk s**t.”

“To be honest it was a big surprise

to jump on the IDM version

of the RC8 with the full-on

Magneti Marelli spec from the

road bike,” he remembers. “The

improvement in performance

was an eye-opener. Whatever

Wolfgang and the boys had

done with the bike it had huge

mid-range: it was incredible

and pulled like a train. I still

haven’t ridden anything like it

to this day that makes that kind

of torque and mid-range power.

Wolfgang told me it was still

only making 185-87 horsepower

but it felt like 210; it was that

good.”

As with almost every motorcycle

there were imperfections

and the rough waters around

the development and production

bore an influence. “We

were aware that we’d need

some good electronics on the

bike, but due to the ’08 crisis

there were thumbs on budgets

everywhere and we did not

get the chance to develop it in

this term,” Felber says.

Journalists were quick to

praise the RC8’s strengths

upon its introduction but

they also identified some of

the quirks. “Idiosyncrasies?

I guess the slightly rough

gear change, and also those

typically unmistakable looks,

which I’m not sure enough

people liked,” says renowned

British bike tester Roland

Brown. “And the fact that by

sports bike standards it was

so comfortable and versatile,

but I don’t think it got enough

credit for that.”

On the whole though KTM

had hit the mark. “I remember

it was well received and

I think it also sold well in the

first year, especially in Great

Britain,” Felber says. “I think

2000 bikes from the 2008

generation were sold there;

that’s a sign that it was accepted

by customers.”

Towards the end of the second

decade of the century the RC8

is gaining almost cult status.

Particularly as KTM indulge

more and more in road racing.

“I and many of the other

journos thought it was very

competitive with Ducati’s

1098, which is pretty high

praise,” says Brown.

A competitive bike and a

highly rated one: so why is the

RC8 no more? The change in

the WorldSBK playing field

was the first ‘closing of the

door’. Felber explains why:

“The bike was planned as a

1000cc superbike. The engine

was going to be a robust

1000cc capacity with the

potential for enlargement over

the years and this quickly

became the case as Ducati

forced the FIM to set the new

limit to 1200cc. We were

somehow on the wrong rail.

The intake section with the

throttle body dimensions was

designed for a 1000. When we

became aware that we’d need

to beef it up to 1100 (initially)

and then 1200 the deadline

was already gone to increase

the throttle body. This was

one of the ‘birth defects’ of

the RC8. It was not a

DEATH OF AN ICON: KTM RC8


FEATURE

disadvantage at all for the production

bike – in fact it was a

big help because with smaller

units you get better gas flow

and better rideability – but it

always limited us in top power

to enter WorldSBK.”

“There was a new version with

new throttle bodies in the

prototype stage, which at the

time did 215hp, not too bad

but we never got the release

to switch it into production

and have the proper base for

world superbike racing,” he

adds. “It was simply a

company strategic decision in

2011 to go Grand Prix racing

instead of WorldSBK because

we could not do both…and

it was the right decision. We

were always very busy and

were a small group so there

was not too much time to be

disappointed that we did not

see the RC8 in World Superbike.”

As a track asset the RC8 had

limited use, but surely there

was a case for keeping it in

the KTM portfolio? In the end

the project fell foul of other

priorities and the allocation

of resources. “I cannot really

answer the question as to why

the RC8 is not here anymore

but I can give a few points

of view. KTM always ran an

economic growth policy, so

you had the small displacement

Indian bikes coming

along, the new Super Duke

and many other projects.

I think KTM simply had to

choose where to put our R&D

efforts and a Super Duke or a

smaller Duke brings in more

money and is more strategically

important than an RC8.


DEATH OF AN ICON: KTM RC8

We have new customers. It

was the better solution. There

were also some comments

from Mr Pierer about the

speed of Superbikes and they

should just be on the track. I

mean, a Super Duke is also

a fast motorcycle and in the

end I think it was just a matter

of resources and economic

calculation.”

For those that rode or raced

the RC8 the bike was missed.

“I still think to this day it

still stacks up against what

other manufacturers do,” says

McWilliams. “Of course everything

has moved on in terms

of electronic wizardry but we

would have done the same

with the RC8. I got to ride it –

the original IDM bike – again

at the end of last summer and

it brought home how good

it was as an all-rounder. If

we had the chance to make

a 1290 with the same chassis

I think it would be back

up there as ‘one of the bikes

to have’ in the garage. It was

a shame that it wasn’t kept

alive. I’m still hoping – as are

some of the other guys in

R&D – that it will be

resurrected at some stage!”

The RC8 was a technical, stylish

and functional template

for KTM’s road bikes and the

‘accelerating’ racing division.

It was also a memorable addition

to the company’s history:

perhaps even the ultimate

definition of KTM’s DNA to

affect and move motorcyclists.

“Given KTM’s amazing success

since, I guess you’d have

to say that Stefan Pierer got

it right as usual and made

the correct call to invest in

other stuff rather than throw

more resources at that rapidly

shrinking market,” concludes

Brown. “It would have been

great to see them continue

the development though. I

guess it’s never too late to

change his mind and make a

MotoGP replica…”


TEST


CIRCLING

OF A

BADGE

Words by Roland Brown

Photos by Phil Masters/Indian


TEST

You don’t need to wear a steel shoe to

ride Indian’s FTR1200S, but a metal

skid-plate strapped to your left boot

sure would add the finishing touch. The

FTR is the ultimate US-built race-replica

– a streetbike designed to echo the works

FTR750 on which Indian ace Briar Bauman

recently won the firm’s third consecutive

American Flat Track championship.

The FTR750’s story is remarkable. When

recently reborn Indian re-entered flat-track

racing in 2017, the famous old marque had

only ever won three Grand National titles –

all back in the early Fifties, just before the

original firm went bust. More than 60 years

later, Indian had built an all-new 750cc V-

twin, and hired four-time champion Jared

Mees to ride it. Mees won nine races en

route to a stunning championship victory,

which he repeated the following season.

The FTR1200S streetbike is a very different

machine to Mees and Bauman’s factory

racebike (and to the customer FTR750

that privateer racers can buy for $50,000

apiece), but its inspiration is clear. With

its lean lines, neat detailing and flat-track

features including 19-inch front wheel, the

1200S is much sportier than traditional

V-twins, yet still unmistakably American in

style and motive power.

Its 1200cc, 60-degree V-twin engine is

based on the Scout cruiser’s 1133cc dohc,

eight-valve unit, and is comprehensively

reworked with new cams, bigger valves,

increased compression ratio and lighter

crankshaft. Peak power is increased to

123bhp at 8250rpm, and a new electronics

package gives multiple riding modes and

traction control.

Styling and chassis layout follow the 750cc

racebike closely, featuring a tubular steel

frame and diagonally mounted single shock

unit. The distinctive dummy gas tank houses

the airbox; the real tank is under the seat.

The wheels wear relatively slim, specially developed

Dunlop tyres with a flat-track tread

pattern.

The FTR’s riding position stretches arms out

to the wide one-piece handlebar, and puts

feet slightly forward with the reasonably low

seat giving generous leg-room. The higher

spec FTR1200S (which costs £12,999 to the

standard model’s £11,899 in the UK) has a

stylish TFT touch-screen that facilitates rider

input including switching between the Sport,

Standard and Rain riding modes.


INDIAN FTR1200S


TEST

“THE BALANCER-SHAFT EQUIPPED V-TWIN PULLS HARD

AND SMOOTHLY AT THE TOP END, BARKING IN PLEASANT

BUT RESTRAINED FASHION AS THE FTR CHARGES

TOWARDS A TOP SPEED OF ABOUT 140MPH...”


INDIAN WORLDSBK FTR1200S POR


TEST

As soon as you pull away it’s clear that the

FTR is not machined from the same block

as other big naked sportsters like Ducati’s

Monster 1200 or BMW’s R1250R. It’s every

big inch an American V-twin, with a distinct

character all of its own. At 225kg it’s heavy

by naked bike standards but the underslung

fuel tank keeps its centre of gravity low and

helps slow-speed manoeuvring.

Straight-line performance is enjoyably lively,

especially in Sport, the most aggressive of

the three riding modes. Throttle response is

slightly abrupt at slow speed, more refined

in the softer modes. The balancer-shaft

equipped V-twin pulls hard and smoothly

at the top end, barking in pleasant but restrained

fashion as the FTR charges towards

a top speed of about 140mph. The gearbox

is sweet, though disappointingly not aided

by a quick-shifter.

The chassis manages to provide stable handling

and also respectable agility despite the

19-inch front wheel, which can’t match the

light feel of a typical 17-incher. With those

wide bars and fairly sporty geometry the

bike still steers with a light touch, helped by

relatively narrow tyres. The specially developed

Dunlops enhance the flat-track image

although the 150-section rear will break

traction in slightly too authentic fashion if

you’re careless with the throttle, leaving the

traction control to prevent inadvertant sideways

action.

The authentically small, low-slung fuel

tank’s capacity of just 13 litres gives a

range of less than 100 miles, though the

wind-blown riding position means you’ll

normally be glad of a break by then. The

FTR’s usability can be enhanced by accessories

including a touring screen, single

pannier and luggage rack. For a machine

inspired by a championship-winning racebike,

that’s pretty versatile.

More practical FTR-based models, including

adventure and sports-touring V-twins,

are like to follow before long, but in the

meantime this first of the family is a fine

effort. Almost inevitably the FTR1200S has

a few rough edges but it’s a capable addition

to the big-bore naked sector. And if

you’re a fan of Jared Mees, Briar Bauman

and America’s crazy go-fast, turn-left sport,

Indian’s challenger offers a connection that

no rival bike can match.

The FTR1200S has adjustable Sachs suspension

at front and rear, as opposed to the

standard model’s more basic units. Both

ends are quite firm but the generous 150mm

of travel allows a respectably plush ride, and

there’s sufficient damping to keep the Indian

on track when cornered hard. Radial fourpiston

Brembo Monobloc front brake calipers

give heaps of stopping power, in very

marked contrast to a genuine flat-tracker’s

lack of any front brake at all.


“ALMOST INEVITABLY THE

FTR1200S HAS A FEW ROUGH

EDGES BUT IT’S A CAPABLE

ADDITION TO THE BIG-BORE

NAKED SECTOR...”

INDIAN FTR1200S


BACK PAGE

MotoGP Pramac Ducati in need of a clean. By CormacGP


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Adam Wheeler Editor and MXGP/MotoGP correspondent

Ray Archer Photographer

Steve Matthes AMA MX and SX correspondent

Cormac Ryan-Meenan MotoGP Photographer www.cormacgp.com

David Emmett MotoGP Blogger

Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer

Matthew Roberts Blogger

Graeme Brown WSB Blogger and Photographer

Roland Brown Tester

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Thanks to www.mototribu.com

PHOTO CREDITS

Ray Archer, CormacGP, Polarity Photo, GeeBee Images, Steve English

MCH Photo, Phil Masters, Octopi Media, KTM Images

Cover shot: Jeffrey Herlings by Ray Archer

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