On Track Off Road No. 194





At almost the same time that Anaheim 1 will be

underway in California, the 42nd Dakar Rally –

and the first to take place in Asia – will be

launching from Jeddah. Once more full-strength

factory efforts from KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha

and Honda will give extra credence to this

popular race event. In this issue we were

given a slither of insight into some of the

demands of the 8000km two-week trek with

Red Bull KTM’ Sam Sunderland: can the

first ever British winner of the

competition beat his teammates and a

gathering of other potent rivals to rule

again and bring the Austrians their

nineteenth consecutive success?

Photo by KTM/Sebas Romero




This photo was shot at the 2019 Oakland round of AMA

SX, and the seventeen round stampede of

supercross fixtures begins again in just over two weeks

time. Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb wears the 450SX crown

but who will be his nearest challengers? The

Kawasakis of Tomac and Cianciarulo? The Huskys of

Anderson or Osborne? Or will Ken Roczen remain healthy

enough to finally bag the main prize? Of course A1 is bound to

throw-up the traditional anomaly but it’s all rush from there on

Photo by James Lissimore




Jeffrey Herlings was one of the first to

post a story on Instagram in solidarity for

Red Bull KTM teammate Jorge Prado after

the news that the eighteen year old had

broken his left femur during a

training accident in Italy last week.

Herlings knows only too well the pain and

misery of snapping the hardest bone in

the human body (and his 2014

championship loss is still one of the most

dramatic Grand Prix episodes in recent

memory). The recovery period for Prado’s

most serious injury yet begins in earnest

but – perhaps thankfully - the pressure

and spotlight will have dimmed appropriately

for his delayed MXGP debut in


Photo by Ray Archer








By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Riki Rocket

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM


2019 Rallies

FIM Cross


World Champion Sam Sunderland

throttles his Red Bull

KTM Factory Rally 450 past

my stationary enduro bike. I’ve

stopped and parked to one side

of a sunny Catalan trail a short

distance outside the town of

Igualada, west of Barcelona.

I’d like to say I’m waiting for

the Brit to catch up…but the

truth is that he’s been helping a

media colleague and I’ve been

free to explore the path with

my own version of a ‘roadbook’

mounted on top of the KTM

450 EXC-F: just one of the latest

and smallest insights into

what an athlete like Sunderland

has to deal with in his day job.

The 30 year old drifts around

the following corner and disappears.

He swiftly becomes

nothing but an echo and a settling

plume of dust.

In 2017 Sunderland became

the first British winner of the

fierce Dakar Rally, an annual

two-week 9000km chase that

began in 1978 and is now heading

to its third continent after

a decade exploring the peaks,

depths and vast topography

of South America. In a matter

of weeks, the factory Red Bull

KTM rider will be in Saudi Arabia

as one of the favourites for

the contest that has claimed

lives, limbs, machinery and


The amiable and articulate athlete

from Poole in Dorset, England

(not too far from British

MXGP venue Matterley Basin)

is in the final phases of preparation

but has offered the day

to show some of the intricacies

of rally riding; a discipline

that can see more than 500km

covered in one stage and often

at speeds topping 100mph

while taking navigational references

from the paper scroll

- the roadbook - mounted in a

rudimentary plastic box above

the bike’s handlebars. Sunderland

not only has to be fast,

talented and brave but also

perceptive, analytical and mechanically

‘aware’. Not to mention

boasting a freakish level

of stamina and determination.

Rally competitors are arguably

the definition of complete


“As a rally rider I think you

need to be really good at reading

new terrain,” he says earlier

in the day and before we’ve

found the trails. “Imagine:

100% of the time it’s all new.

Every time we come to a blind

rise we need to anticipate if

it is going left or going right.

Does it look a bit gnarly? Can

you see a little rain rut coming

in from the edge that might be

on the other side? You have to

pick-up everything and almost

have a sixth sense for it. You

question everything while riding

as fast and as safely as you


Sunderland also has to contend

with the Dakar at a

time when the opposition

has never been stronger with

multi-million euro efforts from

other manufacturers vying for

the top prize. Stage wins and

overall success makes the

evening news in many countries,

especially southern Europe

and the Benelux region.

It’s a big business for brands

that relish the extreme conditions

for motorcycle development

as much as marketing


Now there is KTM, Husqvarna,

GasGas, as well as Yamaha

and Honda and they all

have navigation trainers and

big budgets where they will go

to similar places to train,” he

says. “The level has gone up

and up, and it’s good! I like it.

I like that it progresses. If you

want to win Dakar you need

to be more than perfect. You

cannot afford to make navigation

mistakes because fewer

and fewer guys do things like

miss a waypoint whereas in

the past it was quite common.”

The capability to throw a motorcycle

quickly through sand,

mud, rocks, dirt, water is just

one facet of the job. Sunderland

needs to be fit enough

for twelve-hour stints in the

saddle and cannot lose precious

minutes from his overall

race time through the stages.

In the last three editions of

the Dakar the winning margin

after two weeks of utter endurance

(and great personal

risk across a distance that

twice covers the breadth of

the United States) has been

32, 16 and just 9 minutes.

We’ve given a glimpse into the

physical side of his training

regime. The day starts with

a gruelling cross-fit circuit of

rowing, lifts, squats and power-cycling

stints. Sunderland

completes the cycle, although

it’s reassuring to see that it’s

no cinch for him either. He

wanders over when we’re still

trying to catch our breath and,

surprisingly, explains that

intense gym sessions are not

his basis of training for rally.

“I think there is some relativity

between training in the

nature and rally,” he reveals.

“Rally is about how fast you

can read what’s in front of you

and when I’m running in the

mountains you have to study

everywhere; where you are

putting your feet and keep

your focus. Compare that to

running on a treadmill in the

gym where you put your brain

in a box and survive how long

you want. Outside on foot or

a bicycle you are dealing with

the elements, you have to

keep that concentration and

always watch for one rock that

can catch you out.”



“When you want to start doing

some specific things like getting

your back a bit stronger

– because you can have a

sore back after a few days

riding – then it’s beneficial to

get in the gym,” he adds. “If

you feel that your legs are not

strong enough for some of the

impacts then you can work on

that. Honestly though, 90-

95% of my work for fitness is

done outside. I like working in

the rain and the snow and suffering

a bit.”

Suffering seems to be a common

theme of chasing Dakar

glory, but Sunderland’s preparation

is not solely based on

becoming a beefcake on a

bike. “There is a big mental

side to it with the navigation

and trying to understand your

strategy for the next days

as well as the timings while

you’re on the bike and on the

move,” he says. “I like doing

cognitive work while training.”

He seems meticulous, as

you’d expect from an athlete

of his ilk. “There are a lot of

variables in rally…they also

change! There are always

factors that you can control

but a lot you can’t. So, for the

ones where you have some

influence then you need to

have them perfect such as

hydration packs, food, prep

the night before a stage and

constant routines. These are

factors that should be beyond


Once you arrive to the middle

of the desert and a place

like Merzouga in Morocco it’s

not like you can just pop to

the stock and buy what you

need,” he stresses. “A lot of

our stuff is quite specific. You

just try to be two steps in

front to lighten the workload.”

Sunderland is now somewhat

seasoned at the Dakar and a

challenge he first affronted as

a 22 year old. His debut spluttered

to a halt in 2013 due to

a mechanical problem while

two broken wrists delayed his

second attempt. “The Dakar.

First time: It was huge,” he

says, puffing out his cheeks.

“I was a motocrosser, and I

got into rally because I was

living in Dubai. The first world

championship round I did was

a five day rally in Abu Dhabi. I

was young and raced as hard

as I could every single kilometre.

When you arrive to something

like the Dakar you have

to adjust that mentality to do

the long-game. The sport has

changed so much, now it is so


The workshop of Red Bull

KTM team manager and former

Dakar podium-finisher

Jordi Viladoms is located in

Igualada and just around the

corner from the gym. We walk

in and past the immaculate

form of the KTM Rally 450

that took Sunderland to the

’19 world title – an international

five round mini series

of short rallies - and will soon

be shipped to the Middle East.

“I feel like I know my Rally

bike really well, all its in-andouts,

how it reacts and works

under braking and traction. I

don’t feel I miss much if I am

not riding it,” he comments

by way of explanation for how

much bike mileage enters his

training programme. Sunderland

hones his feeling between

throttle, wheels and dirt

thanks to copious laps on a

motocross bike and will soon

embark on a ten-day riding

‘bootcamp’ in Dubai as the

last surge of work before the


Viladoms enters the room.

He concurs with Sunderland’s

view on the evolution of the

Dakar. “For the old generation

it was not ‘flat-out’ every day.

Many times a group would

come together at some point.

You were all pushing but we’d

arrive together, like cyclists,

and nobody would push extra

because everyone knew it

would be so hard to breakaway.

It was more about survival.

Now from the first kilometre

it is full-gas and 100%

every minute until someone

makes a mistake.”

In the workshop Sunderland

gives us the next insight to

the demands of the Dakar. On

the table before us is a scroll

of paper. It’s a roadbook for a

35km course around Igualada.

The roll spills out across the

floor as we are given three



different coloured pens and have to make

sense of a series of numbers, arrows,

symbols and French acronyms. The paper

is easily ten yards in length. Sunderland

smiles; sometimes he needs to deal

with a roadbook for more than 500km.

“It is so big that it won’t fit in the bike, so

you have to cut it in two…and make sure

you don’t leave the second half in the


Dakar competitors are given the roadbook

before a stage and then colour

co-ordinate or ‘paint’ the series of instructions

for fast reference. “Everybody

has their own system: green might mean

‘turn’, danger is ‘pink’, important information

is ‘orange’,” he says. “The worse

ones can take up to four hours of marking

and work and you have to be superfocussed.

We’re racing on the limit and if

you don’t paint a danger 3 because you

missed it through being tired or you were

talking to your friend then it can be a

really bad day. Painting is part of the accumulative

fatigue. The roadbook is like

your bible when you are racing. I don’t

want anyone to paint for me; it’s my life

out there. I want that on my shoulders.”

Good navigation is nigh-on essential

for the Dakar. “The desert can be such

a lonely place sometimes when you

are lost,” laments Sunderland who first

tackled the Dakar in 2011. It is also an

element of racing in which that teams

invest heavily. They train and use specialists.

“Every team has a Google Maps guy.

When we get the roadbook for a 500km

stage then we plot it out on Google Earth

and have a look. We know more or less

where we are going but the stages are

too long. You’ll remember so little when

you start to set out.”

But what are the basic mechanics of Dakar

stage route-finding? “We have a GPS

on the bike - but that is normally ‘closed’

- so we navigate through roadbook and

kilometres and CAP [compass],” Sunderland

says. “As soon as you get inside the

radius of a waypoint marker [WPM] then

it opens and guides you in with an arrow

for the last 800m and then you validate

it. So hitting a WPM is quite easy but in

the last three-four years there have been

more waypoint controls, WPCs, which

has only a 300m radius and it doesn’t

open, it just changes a small number in

the GPS: so, you don’t know at which

point you catch the ‘area’ before your






next turn. You might be on the borderline

of catching the next one through some

horrendous terrain and it increases your

chances of getting lost.”

“You end up looking down and thinking

‘s**t, why hasn’t it validated?’ and you

start to do a figure of eight looking for it.

Then you start going backwards. The goal

is to always ride with a good CAP. WPC

to WPC is really scary because you don’t

know where you are starting from. And

there is no way to know. You just have to

hope you have done good. Quite often

you’ll use references. If you know you

have a good CAP and you look left and

see a big dune peak then I claim it as my

reference and push like hell until I get

to a certain point and then take another

CAP reading and look for another peak.

That’s an ideal world.”

The explanation sounds tiring already.

“In a long stage with a lot of ‘off-piste’

then there can be up to a hundred waypoints,”

he adds. “Dunes are so up-anddown

and they look so similar. If you

think you are near where you should be

and there is no ‘opening’ on your dash

then that’s the worst feeling ever, and

you just want to start praying to every

single god that there is.”

Frequently images of the Dakar show

riders bunched within view of each other:

surely through the sand there are tracks

of rivals to follow?

“The first guy that sets off in a stage,

especially on sand, is at a huge disadvantage,

in general, because he’s the first

one to come across any situation and

wherever he goes he leaves a little black

line as a reference,” Sunderland admits.

“But now the level is so high that there

are many guys that can open a stage and

almost be uncatchable. There is also a

lot of strategy involved. There are some

riders who are better than others at navigation

and you can trust them more, so



you see their tracks and just gas it. That’s

why it is important to know who is opening

the stage and to know how much confidence

you can have.”

“Sometimes people try and do sneaky

things, like riding the wrong way and confusing

the guys behind…but then it gets a

bit tricky,” he grins. “The first guy opening

a stage has the responsibility of the whole

race on his shoulders in some way. Sometimes

he can get lost. So, you constantly

have to check and make decisions. If there

are ten days in Dakar and stage four is

sand and is really difficult then nobody

wants to win day three!”









Sunderland has tasted the utter dejection

of losing his way among a complicated

process of hitting waypoint markers and

controls. “In my first Dakar with KTM I

won Stage 1, and Stage 2 was 470km and I

was doing super-good but in the last 30ks

of the stage I got lost for two hours. I was

devastated. I arrived like a drunk person.

You are dehydrated and you are mentally

fatigued because you’ve been riding many

hours and you are not as mentally alert as

you should be. The urgency to try and get

to the finish and not let the whole stage go

downhill means you make rash decisions.”

Painted and coloured between warnings

and directions my roadbook is wound into

place through the box on the KTM and

with the November sun working wonders,

we start to ride. Concentrating on the road

and path while electronically spooling the

roadbook with my left thumb - thanks to

a small switch under the handlebar - and

interpreting the notes is a mind-boggling

feat of multi-tasking. After about 10km it’s

possible to get a bit of a rhythm. I spend

less time looking down and become quicker

with the winding.

This swift blast is the equivalent of a run

to the local shop for Sunderland. Conquering

tiredness and fighting his own performance

demons is another component of

the Dakar. Thankfully it is an experience we

don’t have to taste but our riding companion

– who snapped his femur rallying less

than three months before the 2016 edition

and had to watch it from his sofa - is able

to elucidate. “The team can do as much

as they can and be absolutely perfect but

from something like 3am until 4pm it’s

all on you: ‘there’s your bike, have a good

day.’ You cannot make any mistakes. You

get so tired. The accumulative side is horrendous.

You start slacking.”

“The first three days always seem really

hard, then once you get past day four –

and as long as nothing has happened like

picking up a small injury or suffering a

drama – then you kinda get in the swing of

it,” he shrugs.

“Often it is the tough moments where you

find out a lot about yourself,” he reflects.

“I remember one Dakar there was a really

long stage and I made a navigation error

quite close to the finish. I had been racing

for seven hours and it was fifty degrees.

I had no water left in my CamelPak and

I was beyond destroyed. I was shivering

despite the temperature and felt

confused. I wasn’t really sure what was

going on. In those moments you are not

really sure what is good for you in a way.

I could have stopped and called for help,

but you don’t do that…it is the very last

resort for a rider. I think in those moments

you rediscover how far you can go

to survive [in competition] and it is not

nice but sometimes you end up in those

positions because you have messedup

or made a mistake. Quite often you

see what you are made of. In Rally you

are against the elements: It can be really

hot, really cold, really high. You

can be 5000m up in Bolivia and it’s -2

and then suddenly in 45 degrees in the

Dunes in Argentina. You definitely pass

through some rough moments that make

you look at life quite differently in some



“In the end it’s about risk management

because you are going so fast. How much

do you want to push the boundaries and

miss a moment of danger? Once you are

in it then you are in a state of flow and

focus where it is something you don’t

have to think about. It’s really nice.”

Despite the lengthy, drawn-out nature of

Rally, in reality the stresses coupled with

the pressure, expectation and spotlight

for a rider of Sunderland’s status makes

for a dizzying, intense and fraught existence.

Then, of course racing is not the

same as leading.

“When I was leading the Dakar I found it

even more difficult because I was trying

to ‘manage’,” he says. “It’s funny, when

you are second then all you are thinking

about is how you can win and how you

can get to the front. But as soon as you


are leading you start thinking ‘how do I not

lose this?’ All these ideas come into your

head of ‘this or that could happen’. It’s difficult

then to stay on-point with the mental

side and not have any doubts or worries.

You are on your own all day. In the Bivouac

you have your team and team manager

and others around you that can reassure

you. We human, not robots. There is this

race that you have worked so much for and

the team and manufacturer have put in so

many hours and budget and effort. You feel

pressure and responsibility and if you do

something stupid then it’s ‘on you’.”

“I remember feeling really tired when I was

leading Dakar and that was from day five

to fourteen; I was so emotionally drained.

It was like I had this ‘baby’ I was trying

to protect from danger. And everyone is

watching you and people are looking out

for the smallest mistake. If you enter the

time boards too early then bang! A penalty.

If your mechanic hands you a water outside

of the zone then it’s ‘outside assistance’. You

try not to worry but you are in protection

mode and any little mistake feels so much

bigger than perhaps it really is.”

Returning to base for lunch and Sunderland

is chipper. He’s in good shape and Red Bull

KTM are clearly the leading team at Dakar.

His ’17 success is one of eighteen in a row

now for the Austrians. Saudi Arabia is a

new landscape for a race that becomes the

centre of attention in the motorcycle racing

community for a fortnight in January.

“It’s a clean slate for everyone,” he enthuses.

“I feel that South America has been discovered.

This one will be tough on the bikes,

tough physically, tough mentally and I hear

we’ll have really long stages – 500-odd kilometres

some days - it’s a good thing!”


So far, the recently overhauled ‘second

generation’ of Fox’s Legion Enduro riding

gear is some of the best I’ve worn on a

dirt bike.

The Americans’ released the initial

Cordura-laced kit three years ago and

pegged it towards the off-road user seeking

extra resistant material but with the

performance properties of motocross

and more towards their featherlight

FlexAir. The first Legion collection was

impressive. It was light for the durability

it offered (I remember scraping my way

through trees and foliage at Dave Thorpe’s

Honda riding school in Wales and

was surprised by the lack of marks or deformation

on the jersey arms in particular).

The 2020 kit I used in Igualada is

a step further towards FlexAir. It weighs

barely anything, is still heavily mixed

with Cordura and the fitting is sportier

and less rigid compared to the first lines

due to Fox’s TruMotion 4-way stretch


I’ll admit to loving the original blue/

orange colourway – especially when

combined with the same colours in the

Instinct boot – and the 2020 black/grey

jacket, shirt, pant and glove combo was

too conservative if admirably neutral.

The new Fluid tech V3 completed the

look and even if the fit felt very narrow

at first then the ventilation properties of

the helmet were noticeably good; it was

sunny but as the day neared dusk then

the cooler air meant that our final blast

back to the Viladoms workshop on the

road was pretty chilly.

I was lucky enough to use the best goggles

on the market - Scott’s Prospect

– and a tinted lens with TruView technology

meant it was a breeze to keep an

eye on the loose gravel along the faster

stretches of the trail. There wasn’t a

single doubt about wearing any other

eyewear; even Sam’s Oakley AirBrakes

looked less capable than the Prospect.





Not content with neck brace innovation, Leatt

have applied their creative and pioneering

R&D to helmets and knee braces in the last

half a decade and have now produced the

5.5 Flexlock boot.

The product has been three years in the

making (meaning that Leatt are now a headto-toe

brand) and prioritises comfort and

protection; to the degree that the Flexlock is

proven to provide 35% reduction of forces to

the knee and 37% to the ankle. To find out

how we asked Dr Chris Leatt himself.

“The thing about motocross boots is that

they are traditionally really rigid; the idea is

that the more rigid the boot the more

injuries it will prevent,” the South African

says. “We looked at all the AMA accident

statistics and lower leg injuries, knee injuries,

hip injuries and the design of boots. We

took one of every boot on the market and we

went to a military test centre where they test

seats for armoured vehicles when they go

over IEDs. It is very high-impact velocity and

involves a plate being accelerated upwards to

the dummy in the seat. You can position the

foot so that it flexes or inverts or has rapid

deceleration. We put the products through a

test and measured all the forces in the ankle

and the forces in the knee. We compiled all

the data and the problem we saw is that the

foot is not allowed to escape. The more rigid

the boot then everything you are putting into

the bottom of the boot will be dampened by

the sole and will be transmitted up the leg.”

“So, we ‘chopped out’ the middle of the

boot just above the ankle and lo-and-behold

fantastic results. It reduced the forces better

than anything else on the market. That was

the thesis: to make a boot so the foot can

escape the initial impact but not be allowed

to go as far as producing an inversion injury

or allowing the ankle to twist in or out. Now

we are left with a boot like the C-Frame knee

brace that allowed you to change gears, feel

the bike and it transmits far less force.”

Other features include 3D-shaped impact

foam over ankles, heel grip ankle design for

stability when riding on your toes, low-profile

toe-box for easy gear shifting, a DualZone

hardness sole, an extended foot peg riding

zone for arch and on-the-toes riding style,

steel shank reinforcement, CE certified, a

cool slideLock system, auto-locking, one-way

sliding closure and forged aluminum, overlocking

function buckles. The inner liner is

made from breathable mesh 3D with antislip

reinforcement for zero heel lift and the

5.5 Flexlock comes in three colour options.

Expect to pay around 330 pounds in the UK.






By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Polarity Photo/CormacGP


Tuesday. Day one of the

2019 EICMA motorcycle

show. The late afternoon

flight from Milan to Barcelona

is somewhat star-studded

with a smattering of jetlagged

MotoGP riders having fulfilled

promotional duties on the way

back from Sepang and the

Shell Grand Prix of Malaysia

the previous weekend.

In the seat directly behind me

sits the 2019 World Champion.

He is showing friend and

trainer/coach/fellow motocrosser

Jose Luis Martinez a

video on his iPhone of what

sound like a dirt bike at full

rasp. I turn around and that

familiar smile-and-laugh pops

up. “Motos!” he grins.

For a 26 year old with so

much success, so much acclaim,

arguably the second

biggest profile as a motorcycle

racer and all the demands

on his time (and physique,

it would turn out, as barely

three weeks later and he’d be

heading for his second set of

shoulder surgery in a year)

Marc Marquez is still the archetype

‘boy with a toy’.

To the best of my knowledge

(several interviews, occasional

casual run-ins and

numerous debriefs and press

conferences) what-you-see is

what-you-get with Marc Marquez.

There is not too much

mystery. The same rabid outward

profile of riding aggression,

pursuit and desperation

for spoils is no shade of an act.

He also takes the other side of

the business lightly. That easyto-laugh

demeanour – that

has been parodied on Catalan

daytime radio – is natural, and

a consequence of a feted, decorated

but partially grounded

individual who is wholly committed

to getting what he wants

and is wholly accustomed to

achieving it. Why wouldn’t he

be joyful?

Marc knows how much power

he has inside MotoGP, HRC

and when it comes to contract

numbers, but has also

sampled some of the bitter

taste that comes at the other

end of the sporting spectrum

(slithers of doubt, unpopularity

due to his ability, being the

adversary and the ‘other rider

that is not Rossi’). For all the

brash bravado and confidence

there has also been signs of

sensitivity (the various olive

branches and conciliation to

Rossi) and a desire to avoid











His willingness to engage fans

(I’m never seen him blast by

a patient, waiting group in the

MotoGP paddock) and to be

aware of the impact and reach

he has on peers, younger riders

and his still-growing army

of admirers is also unusual for

an athlete of his stature and

all the requirements of his

time and energy.

As we’ve written in these

pages previously, Marc is a

force of nature and physics as

a sportsman and also a careful

strategist and cultivator of

a winning team ethic at Honda,

with a group of loyal and

family-esque relationships

around him in the garage.

Toward the end of a term

where he pushed his numbers

up to eight world championships

(six in seven years in

MotoGP) and 92 victories in

12 years of Grands Prix (at

least one a campaign for the

past ten) and has banked a

top three championship bonus

every season since 2010 (not

forgetting seven BMWs as the

best MotoGP qualifier), Marc

is treading a plateau.

“I think this one is the best

season for him in MotoGP

together with 2014,” commented

Valentino Rossi; the

Italian speaking openly about

his toughest and sometimes

most antagonistic rival after

spats in Argentina (two occasions),

Holland and of course

Malaysia easily recalled.

“From the first season he was

very fast but now he is in a

moment of his career where

he is still very young but also

he has a lot of experience so

he has reached the top level.

After that I think the marriage

and the feeling with the bike

[helps explain]. It looks like

that now he will win a lot of

races but [he] always arrives

in the top two…I think that

this is very close to the perfect

season [for him].”



How deep is his thirst to keep

going, to keep striving? To continue

to usurp Andrea Dovisiozo?

To relish the last lap last corners

slap-downs to the youthful affrontery

by Fabio Quartararo and

dish-out repetitive reminders to

fellow Catalan Maverick Viñales

that he still does not have the

package to renew their rivalry

from junior racetracks?

Marquez evidently revels in victory.

He now has 56 from 127 in

MotoGP and all with Honda. He

works and takes risks to retain

the hairline-margin of superiority

necessary in the series - in

spite of the physical costs – and

a vein of dominance that eventually

caused a second teammate

to crumble and curtail a career.

Is his yearning to win and create

a legacy still parched? It’s a

theme that we sit down to talk

about before the Grand Prix in

Sepang. Time is tight but Marquez

chats animatedly in English

and devotes his full attention

what is one of a habitual glut of

media requests every weekend.

He makes continual eye contact

under the Red Bull cap; semigrinning

expression in place. The

answers are direct and enthusiastic,

occasionally with those

chiselled hands and arms rising

to add gesture to his comments.

Do you feel like you are

changing the game? Do you

see the videos and sometimes

think ‘is that me?’

Yeah! Two-three years ago,

after some saves and comments

from people about

good things I was doing, it

was strange. I did think ‘is

that me?’ but more in the way

of ‘can I do that again? Can

I make it work next season?

Am I just lucky?’ I had those

question marks. Over the last

three years we have always

been quite competitive and

always with the same riding

style and philosophy and the

way to win and approach the

championship. Now I don’t

think any more about it. I try

to learn from mistakes, but I

also don’t [over] think what

we are doing.

Is that a big compliment for

you? The way you are

moving the boundaries of this


The championships and the

statistics are, of course, the

most important thing but I’d

like that the people remember

me – or I give the image – as

a guy who gives everything on

the racetrack. Whether I lose

or I win; every year I give what

I have. The way to ride and

the passion I give to bikes.

To want to do more than

winning takes a lot of


Energy and a lot of priority.

You need to make decisions

all the time, especially in your

private life. Many things. My

main priority in life is my job.

My passion is motorbikes and

that means many times I have

to say no to things and stay

focussed. It is all about priorities:

if you really want something

then you have to say ‘no’

to many other things.













Can it also be frustrating that

in this social media fifteensecond-age

people remember

you for the dances, saves and

other antics and not 27 laps of

amazing performance…?

Yeah: I had that a Le Mans this

year. I did an incredible save

on Friday but had an incredible

race on Sunday and led

every lap. I wasn’t even on the

TV actually because I was at

the front alone and there was

no interest. After the weekend

people were speaking more

about the save on Friday than

the win on Sunday! That’s the

way. I like that though. I love

motocross and there are riders

in that sport that win a lot

but maybe their style is not

‘visual’. I think people really

remember the visual stuff.

Perhaps the problem with

victory is that the memory is

very much in the short-term

present, especially when you

win so much…

If I struggle next year and

crash a lot and an opponent

wins then what we did this

year is quickly forgotten. I

think people will remember

more things like what we did in

Qualification in the Czech Republic

[taking a risk with slick

tyres on damp track in Q2]

this year or the last corner in

Thailand [beating Quartararo

to take the championship with

a win…two days after a massive

practice crash]. It was

important to win the title there

but to take a lot of risk and

overtake in the last corner?

This is a different thing.

What degree of satisfaction

or motivation do you get from

key moments like that?

I like to review and to check. I

get proud and satisfied…but in

the opposite way when I lose

some of these battles it takes

energy away. If you win and

do the things well then I like

that…but I find that I just want

to arrive to the next ‘moment’.

If you lose then you also lose

more time to analyse what is

going on. I am proud of what I

do but I do worry when something

is not moving in a good


With mounting success does

life get a bit harder every

year? Judging by your

Instagram account you never

stop or are rarely at home…

This is something that I had

to learn about, and it is another

type of experience. A

few years ago I was doing

something every single day.

Now we do a calendar with my

manager and my people and,

for example, with the sponsor

we put X days [for promotion]

and we won’t do more than

these days. Of course, if there

is a very, very good opportunity

then we will think about it

but otherwise we have 30-

40 days for events and if we

want to take another sponsor

or compromise then we need

to take something else out.

In the end the personal life

is also important. So is taking

a break. Three years ago I

did not have a holiday at all.

I was doing motocross races

and dirt track events and it is

my passion but I [later] saw

that I didn’t start the following

season in the best way, with

not the best energy. Again,

you need to be able to say

‘no’. That can be hard because

I like motocross, bicycle races

and my friends are there doing

it, but having a break is


People ask me ‘is Marquez

really like the guy we see?’ I

say ‘yes, it doesn’t seem an

act’ but there must be some

part of it that’s image controlled…

[shakes head] I’m like this

because, in the end, I cannot

act…and I think if you

tried to play that game then

sooner or later you will show

your real face. I do try to put

a limit though. Many times

I’ve had people asking if they

can make a report inside my

house or follow me while I

train. I’m always thankful but

that’s [beyond] the limit. I do

not want to show everything to

the people.

Are you really an animal for

victory? Off the track you

don’t carry that hard, ‘killer’


Even when I was a kid, if I did

not win on Sunday then we

did not achieve our target. If

I did not win then I was crying.

If I lost a game on the

PlayStation I was also crying!

[pause] It is something I can

control a lot more inside me

now. I can understand that

sometimes you need to lose

some battles to win the war,



the final battle. Everybody is

waiting now for when I will

lose or if I am beaten in a

race. The way that some rivals

celebrate beating me, like in

Austria or UK this year, they

do it in a championship mode!

That’s good news. It doesn’t

make me angry. It shows me

that it was difficult for them to

beat me.

To always want to do that

must, again, be tiring. Maybe

it is something that will wane

as you get older…

Could be, could be. The moment

will arrive when someone

beats me [regularly]. I

know that you can go up-upup

in your career but then

you get to a point where it

starts to go down. That downhill

can be fast or slow. You

have to make it part of your

job to have a slow downhill!

You have to be aware that

when this moment comes it

is time to change the mentality

because if not then you’ll

be lucky to get through that


You talk about passion but

how long do you think that

will last? How long will it

keep you right at the peak of

this sport and profession…

It’s a lifestyle. Perhaps this is

not the best word but it’s like

a ‘drug’. In my holiday time

I know I can be three weeks

near a beach if I wanted to but

I know this won’t make me

happy. I won’t be relaxed. One

week is OK but by the second

week I’ll need a bike, a ride.

I will get to the first MotoGP

test after the winter and while

it is good to be riding [a

Grand Prix bike] again I need

to be racing. I joke sometimes

with my mechanics that, for

me, we can remove Friday

[practice] from a Grand Prix! I

want to go direct to Saturday

because qualification starts

to get the adrenaline running

and then the biggest shot

comes on Sunday.

You and that Repsol Honda

are a part of the furniture in

MotoGP. What could possibly

be next?

Continue! The best fuel I

have in my body is the taste

of victory. I see all the effort

I make during the season

has a very good conversion:

this is the best thing. People

sometimes say ‘you win many

times…’ [makes a gesture

of boredom] but the feeling

is really the opposite. I

want more, more and more.

When you win then you can

do many events, lots of training

and many kilometres on

the bicycle and you don’t get

‘tired’. When you have hard

moments then that’s where

you feel it. It is different. The

body is somehow happy when

you win. Anything you want to

do seems like a good idea! It

is difficult to understand. But

I feel good in Honda and my

target is to continue here. And

to continue winning.



otoG B




PORTIMAO · SEPTEMBER 15-16 · Rnd 10 of 13

Race one winner: Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki

Race two winner: Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki

Blog by Graeme Brown, Photos by GeeBee Images

Blogs by David Emmett & Neil Morrison. Photos by CormacGP









So much happened at the MotoGP tests at Valencia and

Jerez in November that it’s hard to know where to start.

There was Marc Marquez’ heavy

crash which saw his team advance

plans for surgery on his

right shoulder – the same surgery

he had on his left joint at the end

of 2018, though the right limb was

nowhere near as bad as his left.

Ducati and Yamaha brought new

frames, which both seemed to


The Ducati GP20 prototype

turned much better than the GP19

did, finally addressing the bike’s

biggest weakness. The Yamaha

engine had a few more horsepower,

and a lot more traction, giving

it some of what the M1, Valentino

Rossi and Maverick Viñales all

craved. Both Suzukis were quick,

Joan Mir continuing to catch Alex

Rins, and appearing as though he

will pose a severe challenge to his

teammate next year. The battle for

supremacy in 2020 started with

no clear winners, which should

mean we have a good year of racing.

Amidst all the excitement of Marquez’

shoulder, brother Alex’s debut

on the Honda RC213V, shiny

new frames on the Yamaha and

more, events at KTM and Aprilia

slipped under the radar. There is

a lot happening at both factories

though the changes at KTM are

far more visible than at Aprilia.

But, at heart, from where they will

make gains is the same for both

KTM and Aprilia: essentially the

methodology of developing a racing

motorcycle has changed, and

that is what is making the difference.

KTM brought two new frames to

the tests, focussing on the first,

a smaller step, at Valencia and

a second, a much bigger step,

at Jerez. The new frame looked

rather different: instead of the

circular steel tubes for the main

part, the RC16 had a more beamlike

tube, using a shape technically

known as a ‘stadium’ (for the

obvious reason that it looks like a

sporting arena: two parallel lines

with a semicircle at each end).

KTM had helpfully colour-coded

the frames for us: the orange one

was the MK1 version, the black

one MK2. At least, that’s what

they told us, as that is the kind

of trick factories commonly use

to distract attention from the bits

they don’t want you to look at.

The new chassis is the result of

the way KTM changed their testing

programme for 2019. With

the arrival of Dani Pedrosa, the

Austrian factory could streamline

and focus their work much better.

Mika Kallio has been testing suspension

and durability, while Pedrosa

concentrated on sifting the

wheat from the chaff, assembling

packages of parts to hand over to

the factory riders to try at official

tests. That process has eliminated

a lot of the tedious work of trying

to figure which combinations of

frames, swingarms, suspension

linkages, top yokes etc are most

effective. That was badly needed,

especially as Pol Espargaro has

effectively had to carry the final

stages of the entire testing

OGS IN 2020


than Europe’s

largest MC store

By David Emmett

programme on his shoulders this


The new frame package was a

big improvement, making the

RC16 lighter, easier to turn, and

providing a bit more grip. “The

chassis feels very good but I think

the room to play with it is much

better,” Pol Espargaro said. “It is

much, much lighter and we are

gaining a lot. There are only benefits.”

After days of hearing “some

positives, some negatives” from

riders, such clear praise points to

real progress for KTM.

There were no new parts for Aprilia

at either Valencia or Jerez, and

yet Aleix Espargaro was remarkably

upbeat. Sure, he would have

to wait until Sepang for a chance

to actually ride the new RS-GP,

but the direction Aprilia had taken

was very positive. “I don’t know

if it looks very different from the

outside, but inside it’s very different,”

Espargaro explained, based

on the drawings he had seen.

“Part of the engine is already very

different. The chassis is different,

the electronics, the position of the


The bike is a small difference

everywhere but everywhere is different.”

The new bike is the result of

radical changes instigated by new

Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola.

New engine and aerodynamics

engineers have been hired, and

the way the organisation works

is very different. Communication

has been vastly improved – inside

the garage, the riders are working

with headsets to talk to all the engineers

at the same time, preventing

the game of ‘Telephone’ which

happens as information is passed

down the chain. “The garage is

ten times more professional than

in the other seasons,” Espargaro

said. “This year more engineers

have arrived than in the last ten

years in Aprilia!”

The proof of the Aprilia pudding

will be in the eating, of course, but

after years of straggling behind,

the Noale factory finally looks to

be catching up. If MotoGP looked

competitive in 2019, just wait until






More than Europe’s

largest MC store

At the close of another exceptional year of action, On

Track Off Road assesses some of the names and moments

that will ensure 2019 lives long in the memory.

Man of the Year: Fabio Quartararo

Never mind the fact he came

into the premier class with just

one win, four podiums and three

pole positions to his name (Marc

Marquez had notched up 26, 39

and 28 by that time), or the fact

he now acts as a reference for the

limits to which Yamaha’s M1 can

be taken: Quartararo was comfortably

the pick of the 2019 rookies

and the man that pushed Marquez

hardest in a dizzying campaign

that exceeded all expectations.

Pure natural talent, the grid’s most

neutral bike and the ideal working

environment (the combo of the

new and the experienced at Petronas

Yamaha SRT) propelled him to

five podiums and six poles. Performances

at Jerez, Misano and

the Chang International Circuit left

us all with the feeling he could be

here to stay. And ‘us all’ includes

some of the all-time greats. Wayne

Rainey labelled his “pure speed”

as “just electrifying – he’s got a

feel for the bike, and you can see

riding gives him pure joy.” Best of

all was no one saw this coming.

Surprise of the Year:

Jorge Lorenzo

If a host of preseason predictions

were to be believed, 2019

would signal the start of a Senna-

Prost in-house rivalry at Repsol

Honda’s self-billed ‘Dream Team’.

The problem was one side of the

garage never got close. A combination

of niggling injuries, a lack of

motivation and an inability to gel

with the tough-to-handle RC213V

kept Lorenzo out of the top ten

prior to his horror smash at Assen.

Then a host of ignominies

followed: chasing a move out of

Honda, which came to the public’s

attention in August; attempting to

convince us all finishing 35 seconds

behind a race winner represented

a good result; and coming

home last and a chastening 66

seconds off his team-mate in

Australia. Thankfully Jorge didn’t

prolong the suffering, leaving the

sport on his own terms in


Race of the Year: Phillip Island,


We got it. Finally. After nearly

three years of billing there was

a Marquez-Viñales showdown to

match the hype. And boy was

it worth the wait. Having broken

away from a chaotic leading

group, Marquez hung in the

Yamaha’s slipstream for the majority

of the race, planning a late

attack. To the surprise of no one,

he managed it. But we didn’t foresee

Viñales crashing out trying.

How glorious to see a rider doing

anything to avoid sharing a podium

with his great rival. Throw in

two Aprilias contesting the lead in

the opening laps, Cal Crutchlow’s

second at the track which nearly

ended his career, and Jack Miller

bagging a brilliant home podium

and this was yet another ‘Island’

duel to savour.

By Neil Morrison

Must Try Harder: Johann Zarco

The paddock doesn’t forget. Looking

back on it, Zarco was naïve in

the extreme to think the Repsol

Honda seat was his after learning

of Lorenzo’s retirement. For what

had gone before was nothing short

of disastrous. A wretched spell in

KTM’s factory team was characterised

by poor speed and regular

dummy spitting. It was a structure

crying out for fresh input and

development direction. What it got

instead was verbal shaming and a

prolonged eight-month strop. By

all accounts, the Austrian factory’s

professionalism is second to none.

So just how the double world

champ reacts to his role as team

leader at regular whipping boys

Avintia Ducati will be one of next

year’s points of interest.

Medal of Valour: Brad Binder

Usually reserved for those overcoming

a troublesome injury,

the elder Binder brother gets the

nod for his spirited acceptance of

his KTM chassis’ shortcomings

in 2019 and consistently riding

around them. Across all three

classes no one was as spectacular

to watch with his no-nonsense

style winning him few fans among

his peers. But there were plenty

of admirers. That Binder came so

close to prolonging the title fight

until the final race was testament

to his unerring dedication. Riders

regularly belittling their equipment

should take note.

Quote of the Year: Danilo Petrucci,

Italian Grand Prix

How often do we hear elite athletes

admitting they were hopelessly out

of their depth? But Petrucci is no

ordinary athlete, a figure regularly

filled with good humour and cheer.

The dust had just settled on his

first MotoGP win in a memorable

four-rider brawl at Mugello when

he opened up on some of the self

doubt that was a fixture during

his early years in the class. “Many

times in the past [I nearly] quit

my career because I said this is

not my world,” he admitted. Well

Danilo, with performances like this

you found a place where you truly


Lap of the Year: Marc Marquez,

MotoGP Q2, Czech Grand Prix

Has there ever been a greater pole

position in history?

Few – if any – match this effort,

when, stung by a boisterous Alex

Rins cutting him up in pit lane,

Marquez exited pit lane onto a

damp track as rain was soaking its

final sector. On slick tyres. No one

generates heat in the rubber like

the hard-braking Catalan. Once up

to speed it was all about precision.

The first of two flyers put him 1s

clear of the rest. The second? It

had to be seen to be believed. Attacking

turns 13 and 14 as if they

were dry, the 26-year old barely

flinched as he put 2.524s into the

second fastest rider. The feat of no

ordinary man.

Shining Star: Sergio Garcia

So young he couldn’t race in

Qatar, the baby-faced Spaniard

only turned 16 in late March. After

the usual growing pains in Moto3,

he was really up and running by

autumn. Three top six finishes in

the final four outings, including a

debut podium at Sepang and then

a first win at Valencia, pointed

toward an extraordinarily bright

future. Yet another Spaniard destined

for the very top.


Moment of the Year: Sepang, MotoGP Q2

A snapshot of the future? Let’s hope so.

For three minutes Marquez took the term

‘shithousery’ to new heights as he slowed

and toured behind new paddock golden

boy Quartararo, hoping for a tow to pole.

The Frenchman repeatedly motioned for

his new admirer to move by, only for the

reigning champ to blankly refuse. In the

end there was comeuppance; the left side

of Marquez’s rear tyre had cooled down

so much it failed to grip as he pitched into

turn two, flinging him somewhere near the

earth’s orbit. He even had the cheek to

later claim he came across the Frenchman

by chance. One of the few moments when

ego got in his way this year, this offered a

glimpse of hope to the rest for 2020.

Photo: R. Schedl



2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R

The NAKED rulebook has been re-written.

The KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R is now leaner,

meaner and even more menacing than ever

before. Sporting an all-new chassis and suspension

setup, the flagship LC8 V-Twin 1301 cc boasting

brutal forward thrust, blinding acceleration and an

advanced electronics package, the NEW BEAST

is locked and loaded for battle.



fly racing

There are four different colourways for Fly Racing’s

FR-5 boots (270 dollars) and for what is a very

functional and affordable set of off-road footwear.

Small details include additions such as the 3D

moulded shift panel with extra grooves and texture

to fight against premature wear. TPU medial and

lateral elements of the construction, soft interior

foam around the ankle and the ‘collar’ of the boot,

TPR calf plate and textile lining.

The FR-5 is CE tested and approved for impact

resistance and has a one-piece plastic injected

midsole. Biomechanical pivots provide increased

ankle stability and the heat shield is made from

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are solid and secure. In terms of styling the boot

looks narrow, supple and modern, helped by the

low toe profile. For the price and the list of specs

the FR-5 is a very worthy option for those partial

to the dirt.







By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Mikey Rutherford/FXR




rounds of the 2020 FIM Moto-

cross World Championship in

seventeen different countries

means sixty race starts (motos and qualifi-

cation heats). Eight dates of the ACU British

Championship adds another sixteen to the

tally. Factor-in pre-season events and useful

(lucrative and obligatory) other International

fixtures and the competitive MX calendar

starts to look daunting, costly and exhaus-


Simpson was able to use the buzz and pro-

file-gain from the MXoN to generate interest

around his new project. It is an alternative

method of tackling the elite of the sport

outside of the factory teams and the narrow-

ing band of established satellite set-ups in

MXGP. The story is interesting as the Scot

– who splits his time between home near

Dundee and a long-term base in Belgium

– not only has to continually analyse his

Friend of the magazine, Shaun Simpson,

holds the distinction of being the last pri-

vateer winner of a premier class Grand Prix

when he claimed the Benelux round at Li-

erop all the way back in 2013. For the 2014

and 2015 seasons Simpson ran his own

operation inside the framework of what is

now the decorated Hitachi KTM fuelled by

Milwaukee team and reached the position

of 4th in the world at one stage and added

more MXGP silverware to the mantle. He

was instrumental in creation of the fledg-

ling RFX squad in 2019 and has launched -

boots-deep - into his own SS24 KTM MXGP

structure for next year.

2019 ended on a bounce for the 31 year old,

who helped Team GBR to their second Moto-

cross of Nations podium appearance in the

last three years, and an upward surge after

struggling through an expectedly thrifty and

wayward term with RFX. Simpson found

extra speed through the slimy sand of Assen

thanks to three weeks of dedicated technical

development on the KTM 450 SX-F through

the knowledge of father and former-racer

Willie Simpson and renowned tuner John

Volleberg – the same crew behind his plucky

underdog efforts in ‘14/15 and now the basis

for his 2020 push as one of just two remain-

ing Brits in the MXGP division.

work as a Grand Prix rider and find a level

needed to compete with the Herlings, Cairo-

lis, Prados, Desalles, Febvres, Seewers but

also manage the intricacies and demands of

organising a supplied and viable structure

ready to travel the world. There is no other

venture quite like it in MXGP, and although

it means the window for risk is that much

wider for the veteran, it also places him in

control and potentially at the beginning of a

whole new chapter in what has been a life-

time invested in the sport.

With only days remaining until the end of

the calendar year, Simpson insists he is

close to the mark for SS24 KTM MXGP to

throw the covers away. So we spent a good

half-an-hour talking to the former British

Champion, asking for insight to the process

and the means to forge a motorcycle capable

of competing in the FIM World Championship

as well as fighting for domestic hon-


In previous years I’d already been

quite hands-on…

…with things like doing emails, talking to

sponsors and helping the team. The two

years at Wilvo Yamaha meant I stepped right

back from that role but I was doing it again

with RFX and had a lot of input. The differ-

ence now is instead of me saying “I think we

should do this and that…” and someone go-

ing-out and doing it for me, I’m the one that

has to come up with the ideas and see eve-

rything through; trying to get people signed

up to different types of deals and cope with

product delivery, numbers and supply. There

are other important ‘new’ things like the

details of working out how the set-up will be

and opting to go for something different to a

truck and then deciding how it will look.

Organisationally I have a pretty good

idea of what numbers of parts are

necessary to do a full season…

…for example, it will take around 40 sets of

grips. Sprockets: you’ll need one for every

weekend and then there are different sizes.

Then I’m working with Renthal and R Tech

for the plastics and Enjoy from America with

the stickers – which has to be planned in ad-

vance as they need to be shipped over. I’m

trying to set time frames and get designs

made. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing



…but then there are days when you get

so motivated. It is a bit like a wave effect.

Sometimes the job list for a particular day

looks daunting but then you start to see

things come together on the bike and prod-

uct starts to arrive, you renew relationships

with contacts and partners and it swings

back the other way. It has also been cool to

see the social media buzz I’ve been getting

about the project. The size of the workload

can feel a bit overwhelming. There have

been evenings when I’ve thought ‘we’ve

achieved so much today…but there is still so

much to do tomorrow’. By January 1st I want

to be fully set so I can focus on my training

and do what I normally do as a grand prix

rider. It means putting the pressure-on up

until new years eve and thinking of things

like a flight crate – which we’ll source and

then adapt. We’ll have the van and the bike

ready to get some testing done.

which I didn’t have to do before. Instead of

a design being pushed through two-three

people before it gets to me, I’m instead

swapping around forty emails to get it to

the point where it is sitting on my bike in

the workshop. Dealing with sponsors, try-

ing to get sponsors on onboard and making

a lot more correspondence. I’ve had to be

more organised – and cope with more email

threads than ever – but from the physical

side I have been trying to hit my marks. I

started training at the usual time and I’m

trying to get as many miles on the bike as I

can at this time of year and being weather-

dependent. The buck stops with me; if I have

a slack day or I’m a behind schedule then it

is all my fault.

There were moments when I thought

‘I’ve bitten off more than I can chew


Sponsors? After the Nations and the

buzz of being on the podium there

was a lot of interest and I thought

‘I’m nailing this…it’s a piece of


…but that slowed down very quickly. I’ve

learned that in some ways you are only as

profitable as the size and strength of your

contact book! I have a lot of experience in

MXGP, and some of the people where you

thought ‘I can definitely bank on them…’

could not commit for 2020 for their own

understandable reasons personal and pro-

fessional. But there were also things coming

out-of-the-blue that then fill a hole. People

or companies have set budgets, and if you

are not quick enough or you are placed

further back in the queue then you can

miss some deals. The good thing about the

team is that if we start the season strongly

and a sponsor wants to come onboard - be-

cause what we are doing is pretty cool and

I’m taking a risk on myself - then they can

jump in. There is the freedom to change the

designs and expand the portfolio. I’m satis-

fied where I am at the moment, but I would

say I’m 30% short of where I want my total

budget to be. I’d really like to sit in the gate

at Hawkstone Park and the first race of the

year knowing I have the full budget to finish

2019 in the same strong way as we start. My

goal is not to be hoping and praying as the

season goes on that everything will be OK.

At the same time, we’ve done enough so I’m

not super-stressed about going racing. There

is a lot more work to be done and I’ll need a

little stroke of luck here-and-there to get the

final bits on board…but it won’t be for a lack

of trying. Sponsorship saps up a lot of time:

approaching companies, getting to the sec-

ond level but then being refused. You need

to know someone, who-knows-someone who

has a motorsport interest. That’s still probably

the biggest hurdle to get over, every-

thing else is dialled-in: engines, suspension,

bikes, parts, tyres, spares, myself, my gym

programme. In a way I am still running off

the fumes of Assen because you are only

as good as your last race. I’m not usually

one to feed off that ideal but it has dripped

into the winter. Another thing is that we’ve

pushed ahead with the ‘Simpson Army’ fan

club concept, which means that anyone can

get involved and almost ‘crowd fund’ us to

the level that they can or want. We put that

all out on the website and social media.

I’m not being naïve and thinking ‘I

can do this for forty grand…’

…I have set a realistic budget. I’m probably

doing it differently compared to other peo-

ple and have perhaps cut costs where other

people blow their money – and I’ve seen

it in teams before where I’ve thought ‘why

have we just spent five grand on that when



we could have put it into the bike?’ I’ve seen

plenty of money wasted and I’ve learned

from that. We’ll run a tight ship and with my

Dad on board and his experience and the

way I’ve been brought-up then we’ll do it

frugally but we want the team to look right,

feel right and for people to walk through our

little hospitality area to feel at home and

like they can have a coffee. We don’t want

it to be too corporate or over-branded but

also not ‘transit-van racing’. It’s a case of me

going racing for myself and everyone who

comes along to help me out will feel like

they are a major part of this project.

As soon as you announce you’re

setting up a team then there is

interest from other riders…

…whether it’s on the presumption that there

is a load of secret budget or a trick be-

ing missed or the fact that it’s just another

potential saddle. KTM were asking straight-

away if there was the chance to put a young

guy under the awning. In the beginning I

entertained that idea and thought it might

even be fun to help and even coach a young-

er rider to maybe reach the top of his class.

But then I took a step back and thought ‘I

could make this work for myself but then to

put my balls on the line for someone else

and have that extra responsibility – whether

it’s for logistics, parts, travel, support…’

and came to the conclusion that it was a

level where I was not ready to start. With

the small group of people I have around me

I thought the best move was to put 100%

effort into myself and that means my own

family, programme and technical set-up. I

didn’t want to compromise at this point.

It is difficult to know exactly how

much extra help we need…

…the workload. The racing is the easy part.

That’s the time to put on the show. Every-

thing has to be set for that though, with the

spare engine, chassis, suspension and if

there is a problem there is always a back-

up and the van is prepped. Nothing should

come as a surprise and there is always a

Plan B. The hard part is the bit that nobody

sees: it is the practicing during the week,

grinding out the motos when it’s wet and

cleaning everything up and travelling all the

miles. I don’t feel that we have a problem in

the actual race paddocks, it’s more person-

nel during the week, speaking with sponsors,

re-stocking the van, orders are made for

spares, making sure the engines are hitting

their service schedules. So, we’re trying to

work that out at the moment: what we have

to do, when and who is the best people to

count on. We’re simplifying things at the

moment and I think we’ll have two races

bikes close to ready and dialled by the first

week of January when we’ll go to Spain for

more testing. We can then evaluate about

the help.

I’m not forgetting my own work as a

rider, and I know everybody always

has a ‘great off-season’…

…but nine times out of ten – and this is

talking from experience – everything will be

going great, maybe differently, maybe varied

but by the end of January you’ll find yourself

in the same place mentally and physically as

normal! You’ll have plans for tests, improved

strength etc but then there is only so much

you can do. So, I want to make sure I’m in

my normal window of preparation by then.

I heard [Jeffrey] Herlings say he will do less

work this off-season compared to previous

years – who knows if he’s playing a game

or not but he knows it is such a long series

and you cannot peak for one specific event

or phase of the calendar. You’ll be prime at

most points but then suffer at others. The

key is to start steady. Be there, be fit and

ready to go with the bike set-up but also

prepared to go the whole year. This season

I want to find the old ‘Mr Consistent’ again.

I’ve started working with Kev Maguire from

Step1 Fitness who I worked with in the past

and his guidelines have been a big help. I

don’t want to come-in all-guns-blazing, have

a big get-off and then be nursing a sore

ankle or something. I want to get back to

solid results and the ‘old me’ where I’m rid-

ing around feeling comfortable, very fit and

strong in the mind. Capable with what I have

under me. With that I’ll gain momentum

and aim to finish the championship with a

decent top ten position, which has not been

an easy task for most riders for the last few






KTM have given me a number of

standard 450 SX-Fs, exactly what you

can buy in your local dealer…

….to be totally honest a standard motorcycle

out-of-the-crate is pretty good these days.

We definitely need to work on the engine

and suspension but the rest is reasonably

decent. KTM also give me a parts budget to

work with and there is a limit but it’s enough

to complete a season if used correctly. You

have to watch carefully what you order: one

bolt might cost 30 cents and another one

that looks very similar is 5 euros. You have

to really spend time at the beginning of the

year and order parts you are going to use a

lot of but being aware that changing certain

components all the time will work out as

really expensive. It’s about looking at your

budget and managing it well. It’s quite easy

to blow it all in the first three-four months

but we’re experienced from riding for KTM

previously with privateer teams and we kin-

da know what we are doing. KTM have also

put a bonus scheme together and gave me

connections to Motorex and WP Suspension.

That’s pretty much it, but it is also a major

part of going racing: you need that backing

from a manufacturer. It’s not just the physi-

cal parts but for them to be onboard with

your idea, and they trust what you can do to

the races and put-on a good show on-and-off

the track. That’s motivating. As soon as you

confirm that support and a van or transport

then you are going racing.

then he’ll try to find out! We did some test-

ing before the Nations and we got it wrong

three, four, five times but come Assen I fi-

nally had something I was really happy with.

For this reason I’m not too worried about

the bike at the moment. It was a dream to

ride, even in those tough conditions in Hol-

land, and we both have some ideas to make

it even better. Right off the bat, coming into

2020, I think the bike can be really good.


Technically this is familiar ground for

me, and I think we can see the results

of someone like Jeremy Van

Horebeek in 2019 to know that it can

be done…

…the bikes I’ve had before in similar sce-

narios were not mega-fancy but they were

put together well and suited me. The en-

gines were tailored by John Volleberg and

he knows what I need. If I come off the track

and I know the motor can be better or differ-

ent then he’ll have an idea, or if he doesn’t

There are a couple of important

things you need to turn a stock bike

into an MXGP racer…

…first of all, an exhaust. The stock KTM pipe

is very good but the HGS guys have been

there for a very long time and, like KTM,

have been good to me and always helped

out. They were number one on my list and

I spoke to them and they came up with the

goods straight away. I’d used them this year

and we had something that worked really

well. So we had our exhaust system. The

next thing would be upgraded WP Suspen-

sion. WP do a 48mm aftermarket fork and

semi-factory shock which was based on the

factory equipment from the last few seasons.

It was something new from the mid-part of

2019. It was high on my list and I recently

tried it. It was really impressive right out of

the box without too much tweaking, so I’m

looking forward to trying to get the maxi-

mum from it. Then wheels and tyres; rubber


is important because you get through

a lot. Dunlop and Pirelli already have

so many teams that getting onboard

and product from those guys is very

difficult. I had a good relationship with

the guys at Michelin this year and, in

my opinion, they are trying super-hard

to bring back a top-quality motocross

tyre and are putting a serious effort

into producing handmade tyres and

compounds. There is a lot of testing

going on. Being involved with someone

that doesn’t only just throw product at

you but actually wants to come to the

races, give support and make a better

product is great, so I decided to go with

those guys. Another thing that ‘makes’

your race bike – and it is superficial –

are the stickers. It’s quite a big thing

for me because sponsors that want

to get involved will have their space

and logo on the bike. You go through

a lot of stickers in a season! I’ve had

a good thing with Enjoy over the years

and they were ready to back me 100%.

When the stickers go on then you re-

ally see your race bike coming together.

They’ll never make you go faster but

there is a feel-good factor and it was

one of the things I wanted to cross off

my list quite quickly. Presentation is a

part of it. After that the ECU and the

work with John was something I abso-

lutely needed.

Mapping is a huge part of

motocross these days…

…but, without going into too much

detail, I think we were that far-off with

some of the basics during 2019 that

the mapping did not help! So for the

Motocross of Nations we needed to

start from zero and build it up again;

compression ratios, valve timing and

all of those things needed to be sorted

efore we fine-tuned it with the mapping at

the end. We will be working with a new com-

pany for 2020, a Dutch firm through John,

that are a new ECU manufacturer and we

are looking forward to testing with them and

going through the motions with the schedule

in January. I think we can make an impact

on the market with a new ECU and deliver-

ing the kind of performance results we want

as well. The bike has to be dialled-in for the

track but also for the starts. You’ve heard

many times that starts are so important in

MXGP now and we’ll be working hard on

that. Starts have not been my strong point

for a couple of years and we want to get

something that helps. When you sit on the

line between two guys that might be a HRC

Honda and a factory KTM then you know

that you need to do something very spe-

cial to even get your elbows on a par. You

got to really gee-yourself-up for it. If you

get squeezed out then you are eating roost

for the rest of the moto. It’s good to get-in,

get the elbows out and make top five starts

week-in week-out. It will make the job a lot


Lastly, the whole show has to live, be

stored and be carted around


…lists are definitely my friend at the mo-

ment and my wife Rachel has spreadsheets

open everywhere. I’m simplifying it. We’ve

actually taken out one of the Cairoli accommodation/workshop

facilities at Lom-

mel. I didn’t get a deal on that! The reason

is that you can literally turn up with a van

and a load of stuff and start working on the

bike. There is a power-washer, heater, wash-

ing machine, sleeping quarters, washroom,

kitchen and so on. I have a great sponsor –

Dyce Carriers – that will pay for that. John is

only 45-50 minutes up the road and will be

doing the main tuning of the engines there.

It would have been ideal to work from his

premises but it’s a lot of pressure for all his

other customer work as well. We then have

the base in Scotland as well. There are quite

a few companies that are prepared to give

you a season’s worth of stock up-front or in

January and that gets over a major hurdle.

KTM spares have to be carefully watched

and evaluated in terms of what you are us-

ing, we maybe do 4-5 KTM spares orders

through the season. Plastics, tyres, stickers

can be ordered in bulk which is convenient

and nice to see them turning up because it

gets stocked and stored. From fifteen products

you might only have five you are deal-

ing with on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It

will be a case of locking as much as possible

down by the end of January and having that

stock at the workshops. The WP Suspen-

sion could be a case where you get two sets

immediately, two sets and bit later and then

another two sets further down the line. They

come in dribs-and-drabs but two sets are

enough to get going. It’s about being smart

and getting in early. Being ahead of the

game and, so far, we are doing a good job.


Photo: R. Schedl



2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R

The NAKED rulebook has been re-written.

The KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R is now leaner,

meaner and even more menacing than ever

before. Sporting an all-new chassis and suspension

setup, the flagship LC8 V-Twin 1301 cc boasting

brutal forward thrust, blinding acceleration and an

advanced electronics package, the NEW BEAST

is locked and loaded for battle.




ProTaper: one of the best and most

reliable (and forward-thinking) aftermarket

manufacturers in the motorcycle industry.

For all of their expanding product line-ups

the brand is still best known for their advanced

handlebar concepts. The Fuzion is

a CAD designed T6 aluminium alloy model

with a revolutionary flex locking design that

allows riders to choose between a stiffer,

more controlled handlebar feel and a softer,

more shock-absorbing one. The setting

change can be done in seconds and comes

with six different bends. The Evo is more

conventional but no less ground-breaking

and helped ProTaper establish their name

as the premier crossbar-less manufacturer

at the beginning of the 1990s. The Evo is

allegedly 25% lighter and 45% stronger

than market rivals.

‘Without sacrificing strength, this design

yields increased flex and impact absorption

over conventional handlebars, offering

the rider improved comfort and reduced

fatigue,’ ProTaper say. Eleven bends, black

and magnesium colours and with dirt track

and Adventure models means it is one of

the flagship products for the Brand.

Lastly here the SE (Seven Eighths) comes

in a myriad of bend choice and five different

colours. The crossbar construction is

made from ‘2000 series aluminium alloy

and five millimetre-thick wall design,

combined with its cold-forged crossbar

and CNC machined clamps, make it perfect

for riders who prefer solid, predictable

feedback.’ The range of choice and stamp

of reliability mean that a ProTaper bar for

Christmas could really alter the riding











By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer



MXGP will be


for Tim Gajser’s

maturation, both as a racer who limited

his mistakes and as a 22 year old that

fundamentally changed his approach

away from the track, Tony Cairoli’s worst

career injury, Jeffrey Herlings’ slew of

drama, Jeremy Seewer’s emergence as a

world-class 450 rider, Glenn Coldenhoff’s

sensational second season finale and big

smashes that counted out the likes of

Romain Febvre and Clement Desalle.







A little further down the standings but

still in a plumb sixth position was Rockstar

Energy IceOne Husqvarna racing’s

Pauls Jonass. The 22 year old Latvian

– who could have pushed for a second

MX2 world championship in 2019 but

elected to jump into the premier class –

was distinguishable for that bright Yoko

riding gear on the works FC450 as much

for his results that started to pick up in

the second half of the season and deliver

the likeable former Red Bull KTM athlete

to the position of Rookie of the Year.

Jonass was, of course, part of that entertaining

KTM duel for the MX2 crown in

2018 that came to a crunching halt – almost

literally – with the collision between

#41 and then teammate Jorge Prado at

the Grand Prix of Turkey. The accident in

September would end up carrying heavy

consequences for Pauls. Damage to the

ACL in his right knee forced him out of

the MX2 contest prior to the last round at

Imola and then surgery ruined a winter

of preparation for his debut on the bigger

bike and in a division with no less than

fifteen Grand Prix winners.

Jonass was aware that Febvre (2015) and

Gasjer (2016) had trounced MXGP in their

maiden seasons and Herlings (2018) won

the title at the second attempt but he was

figuratively far behind the pack as they took

their positions in the gate in Argentina. “Not

even close,” he smiles at the recollection.

He survived the mire of Mantova at round

five to bag his first piece of silverware –

another mini landmark for his country in

MXGP – but was posting consistent top

six results by the end of the campaign

when he picked up two more rostrum

champagne bottles: one in Sweden and

another in Turkey, nicely erasing any sour

memories at Afyon twelve months earlier.

Jonass’ progress was a boost for the

IceOne team that had bounced from the

stellar breakthrough by Max Anstie in

2017 to disappointment in 2018 as both

the Brit and Gautier Paulin failed to disrupt

the Grand Prix-winning race pace of

the KTMs. Teammate Arminas Jasikonis

struggled for the same impact but the

reorientation by the team to focus on

development rather than straight-up

delivery of premier results had taken an

upward turn.

The results, form and capability also

reinforced Jonass’ decision to change

classes, teams, trainers and gamble from

being an MX2 contender to an MXGP

speculator. He now has exciting prospects

for 2020 being one of the younger

factory riders in the class and will again

have to deal with Prado amongst all the


Talking with Pauls is never dull. Loud of

voice, free with opinions, quick to laugh

and shrewdly self-analytical – all in impeccable

English - he’s a worthy chat. So

we quizzed him on the over-riding emotions,

sensations, feelings, lessons and

general ‘marks’ of 2019 and for what was

a crucial transitional term.










It’s interesting how some riders

are able to adapt quicker

than others to finding the limit

with the 450. Your disadvantage

was the lack of riding

time before the season started.

Can you talk about learning

a new style while racing

at the same moment…?

Being on a 250 for such a

long time meant a change of

mentality for lines and riding

style. Still even now I’m maybe

revving the bike too much.

You need to be quite high in

the RPM to go fast on a 250,

but the 450 is different and

it’s about keeping momentum

– you don’t need to carry

so much flow in the corners.

You don’t need to go so far to

the outside and can chop into

shorter lines. Anyway, it was

pretty tough, especially when

I only started to ride properly

one month before the first

Grand Prix. It was a new class

and a new bike and a way to

work. The goal for the season

was just to improve and we

did that despite a general lack

of testing and being pretty unprepared!

Thinking back…I’m

sure there were some tracks

where I was doing it wrong…

but at the time I just thought

‘that’s the way to go fast!’ It

might have been alright just

for two laps and then I would

have been done.

We tested more halfway during

the season and I began to

understand the bike better and

that helped me a lot. Sometimes

now I feel that I am not

going fast but by hitting the

lines correctly I can see I am

doing it. An example was at

the Nations on Saturday. In

Free Practice I really pushed

for the lap-time and was

the fastest…but towards the

end I concentrated on being

smooth, hitting my marks and

almost playing with the track

and was just 0.1 away from

that time attack! So, you know

sometimes with the 450 you

can hit your points and still go

quickly. During training everything

is fine because you have

time to think about the lines

and do everything correctly

and shifting well…but then

when it comes to racing and

the gate drop as well as passing

guys then it’s easy to start

revving the bike and going in

1st and 2nd gear everywhere.

After the race you look at the

data and see I needed to shift

up much more.

Overall it was more difficult to

put together than I thought.

Trying to race the 450 correctly

was tough. We also didn’t

have the best starts at the

beginning of the season and in

such a stacked class it is hard

to battle forward.

Another factor is dealing with

the opposition…

For sure. I raced Jeffrey and

Tim on the 250s but otherwise

lot of them were new guys to

race against. Both in the races

and sometimes on training

tracks it was interesting to see

how they rode, how the bike

moves and to learn how they

were reacting. That was an

important learning tool.

You mentioned checking data;

things like that must have

been a new experience in

terms of set-up and work…

Yeah! With the 250 you take

the maximum power, set-up

the bike and just ride with

that. You don’t play so much

with the engine configuration

but with the 450 the testing

– or the chance to improve -

almost never stops because

you can do so many things.

Also, the suspension is more

important. On the 250 you can

squeeze it and go-for-it sometimes

but the 450 feels heavier

and has more power, so the

set-up needs to be better. To

get to the top level you need

to be looking at everything all

the time to improve.

Was the onus on you to

develop even more as a


The basic bike was already

very good but when it came

to racing I was like ‘hmmm, I

need something a little different’.

I needed to improve my

role as a tester but testing by

yourself or with your teammate

and then racing are like

two different jobs. On your

training bike you already have

the mindset of how the race

bike - or race itself - will be.

For example, it’s nice to train

with a very smooth bike but

then when it comes to the GP



then you end up needing something

more aggressive.

You just seemed to gas the

KTM and learned much at the

front of MX2. Were there more

parameters to your racecraft in


It’s a different challenge but I

would not say the mindset has

changed. The focus is to win

but I know I’m a bit off, so it

means looking at everything

that can be done better to be

in contention. The 250 was all

about winning and with the

MXGP class I know I’m looking

for the few percent more to

reach that same level.

Being one of the top MX2 riders

in the MXGP category and

also with the profile and all the

resources at IceOne; was it a

relief to get that first podium


To a point it was a relief. I

thought ‘we made it, that’s

good’ but then the expectation

goes up and people kinda expect

it on a much more regular

basis. It put a bit more pressure

on my shoulders. I knew

the season would be tough

all the way through but I felt

a positive push from the midpoint.

I was battling for 6th-7th

and on a good day I was going

for the podium. It was also

good that I didn’t swing from

those 6th-7th positions to outside

the top ten or somewhere

further down. There was a bit

of consistency.

IceOne seemed to change

philosophy for 2019 with two

young riders: you appeared

to have hit their target for the


For sure. The main objective this

year was to gain experience and

confidence for 2020. We knew

already that we’d missed the

winter and it would be hard to

battle for proper results…I think

we reached our goal though with

three podiums and sixth overall.

Some days I was a bit off. But

I know how to fix that for next

year. I fit into the team right

away. It is a hard-working team

You had some bad luck with

your knee last year but did

2019 give you some insight as

to how injuries can also easily

be suffered with the 450?

For sure you need to be stronger.

In MX2 you have to be riding

at your best to win but the

demands feel much higher in

MXGP because there are ten

guys around you who are capable

of taking that victory. In

MX2 there are two-three who are

realistically there all the time.

In the past you could make a

good start push for some laps

and then just cruise around. In






and having that base in Lommel

helps because it means a family

feeling; it’s not like you only see

your race mechanic at the races.

Was there much more attention

on you – particularly in Latvia –

by being in MXGP compared to


Hmmm, I don’t think it matters

too much if you are still at the

front battling. From the spectators’

side I think MXGP draws

that much more attention because

it is the premier class.

I would say the level of media

attention is the same…but I feel

more from the fans because of

being in MXGP.

MXGP you need to push every

single lap: you need to be mentally

and physically stronger.

Based on 2018 and the end of

2019 Herlings currently sets the

performance ‘bar’ in MXGP, so

do you now know what to do in

order to catch or beat him?

Yes, and I know my training

– the intensity – needs to be

better. I need to hit my targets at

100% all the time and not save

myself for anything. That’s one

of the ways to come to the next







By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/Monster Energy

Motocross is not a kind sport.

The latest high-profile victim,

Jorge Prado, will testify to

painful and sudden reversal

that a crash and injury can

bring. Although somewhat

macabre, the stories of the

smashes and scars usually

involve strong narratives of

recovery, determination and


Over the coming year we’ll

be asking certain athletes for

their tales of ravage to recovery,

hopefully with a photo or

two and some (occasionally

grim) first-hand accounts of

the anxiety that behind the life

of an elite racer.

First-up, current factory Monster

Energy Yamaha MX2 ace

Ben Watson tells us about

his accident in the formative

stages of 2016. The 22 year

old Brit broke his left foot at

the Grand Prix of Argentina for

what was round four of eighteen.

The severity of the crash

caused Watson to sit out the

rest of the year and was by far

the worst ailment of his career.

It came at a crucial time

when he was breaking into the

top ten of the MX2 class.

“I had made a solid start

to the year and we came

to Argentina,” he recalls. “I

was good through Saturday

and then in Sunday morning

warm-up I was trying to

do a fast time. I came up to a

single roller and just clipped

the top of it. I cannot remember

much from there. I hit my

head and don’t have much


“We went to the hospital and

they said I’d broken some

metatarsals,” he continues.

“I was put in a cast and told

‘four weeks’ – this was all

through Google Translate! I

came back to the UK and had

some further checks and a CT

scan revealed I’d shattered my

navicular and three metatarsals.

It meant the season was

over. I had the first surgery

one week after Argentina: that

was to put a screw through

the metatarsals and into the

ball of the foot to hold it all

in place. Some pieces of the

navicular were screwed together

with a plate that was

wrapped around the bone; it

was almost circular. I then had

a bridging plate. Bones either

side of the navicular were held

apart so when the navicular

was healing it did not set-to

the others because the cartilage

and ligaments around

were so damaged that we had

to stop it all fusing together.

I was not allowed to put

any weight through my foot

for twelve weeks. I had the

second surgery after twelve

weeks and that was to remove

the bridging plate and I could

put some light pressure on it

with an airboot.




“I then progressed with physio

and could eventually walk on

it again.”

Although ruinous to the point

where it still affects his daily

life, the most painful part of

the experience for Watson was

the arduous trip back from

South America.

“When I first did it they put

the cast straight on,” he describes.

“We thought I’d just

broken metatarsals but getting

to the Grand Prix in Argentina

means three flights and one

of those is fourteen hours so

my whole foot was just swelling

up in this cast on the way

back. If they had seen the

navicular break – I still don’t

understand how they missed

it - then I think I would have

had a different cast or they

wouldn’t have let me fly home

so early. I remember on the

plane my Dad took his car

keys and run one up and down

the cast until we had a line

and we split it open because

I was in absolutely agony. As

soon as we had some relief in

the cast then it was like freedom.”

Like most youngsters faced

with a sudden and dramatic

jolt to their everyday life and

routine, Watson had to balance

the mental demands of

rehab as much as the physical

discomfort. “I had broken my

collarbone before, but this was

my first ‘real’ injury and the

first time where I’d been more

than two weeks off the bike,”

he explains. “I didn’t really

know what life was like without

motocross and being able

to ride 3-4 times a week. Just

sitting on the sofa and not

being able to move much for

all that time was the toughest

part…but it was also nice

-with hindsight - because it

made me realise and appreciate

what I normally have.”

Watson recovered to become

one of the stars of the MX2

class. He celebrated his first

podium result in 2018, finishing

4th in the world, but was

dealt a double-injury blow

in 2019. 2020 represents his

final term on the 250 and

where he is expected to be

one of the protagonists for the

final top three positions in the

standings. He’ll be challenging

for more trophies, in spite of

the still-deformed left foot.

“It still gives me quite a lot of

trouble on a daily basis now,”

he reveals. “I cannot go running

and if I have to run for

some reason then I will feel

it later that night. I still have

metalwork in there. The broke

can also be stress fractured

and the ligaments aren’t great.

So, any intense work means

I can cause more damage.

With my training I try to stay

away from anything too heavy

for my foot. With a motocross

boot I don’t feel anything –

even on big jump landings -

I don’t notice anything different

compared to before the

accident. I’m lucky with that.”

“Overall it does bring some

realisation to how dangerous

the sport can be…but we all

know that.”



Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations!

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Photo: R. Schedl



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@ P R O T A P E R

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




MXGP 2019 is almost three months in the rear view mirror

but what really stood out?

If 2018 was an orange year, and

arguably fostered a new level of

athletic performance on MXGP

then 2019 could be classified

as a ‘what if…?’ kind-of-season.

Among several narratives of excellence,

survival and development

(Gasjer, Prado, Geerts, Vialle)

there were moments of drama

(crashes, injuries, absence) that

seemed to dilute the bigger painting

of Grand Prix; like a harsh

afternoon sunshine beaming

unrelentingly onto the canvas.

The people that ‘popped’ for me


As easy as it would be to write-off

2019 as a magnificent disaster,

Jeffrey Herlings still nudged that

‘bar’ a little higher in his fleeting

appearances. His five outings

in Russia, Latvia, Sweden,

Turkey and China resulted in two

victories and four moto wins. Of

course his opposition were in a

different stage of season-fatigue

and strategy but that fact that

Herlings could attack the elite

with such abandon and come out

on top in spite of all the adversity,

nerves and the weight of expectation

(as well as literal kilos of

metal in his foot) spoke volumes.

I also want to credit Glenn

Coldenhoff – Herlings’ friend,

KTM brandmate and countryman

- here. I’ve described him

frequently as the definition of

a ‘confidence rider’ but the 28

year old showed the power of

sustained momentum and good

feeling to reach a career high

this summer. You could point to

the collective waning energy of

the class by the time Glenn was

earning his five podiums and two

wins in the final five rounds and

he was dispatched by Herlings

both in Turkey and China, but

#259 still had to make the starts

and run the laps behind at least

three rivals who were also chasing

the silver and bronze medals

for the year (and the subsequent

bonus payments those distinctions


Tim Gajser’s title success was

not wholly unexpected but there

were two factors that makes 2019

stand apart from the Slovenian’s

dizzying debut in 2016. Firstly, the

radical change in his training and

approach to races by maintaining

a distance from his father was

arguably the moment when he

transitioned from ‘boy to man’.

The independence created an

even closer connection with HRC

and could even be described as

a more professional step: more

direct accountability. The second

aspect was the fact that, now

fully fit, he clearly had worked to

match the level of the Red Bull

KTMs. Herlings and Cairoli had

laid waste to MXGP in 2018 and

there were initial fears Cairoli

would have the series his own

way after a 1-1 in Argentina but

Gajser was ‘there’ and the only

one competitive enough to force

the Sicilian into rare mistakes.

Their contests in Italy, Portugal

and France were arguably some

of the best action scenes of the


By Adam Wheeler

I’m still a big advocate of Jeremy

Seewer. Why? Just look at the

Swiss’ career trajectory: 10th, 5th,

2nd, 2nd – then into MXGP from

MX2 and 8th to world #2 in two

years, all the while remaining everpresent

in the gate. Aside from

being humble, approachable and

intelligent (he completed his engineering

studies in his first term in

MX2) and a fantastic ambassador

for any of his brands, he’s a hard

and studious racer. The 25-year

old has not been a perpetual

Grand Prix winner but his knack

for consistency and a high level

of performance means he is a

‘long-game player’. The big question

remains as to whether he can

inhabit the same sphere of speed

and results as Herlings, Prado etc

but he certainly seems to have the

same strategic nuance as Cairoli,

and that could be critical in moving

up the final position on the

slippery world championship pole.

His late transition to the factory

Yamaha camp in Michele Rinaldi’s

swansong year and the rate of

trophies (six In total) accumulated

is another one of the most shining

achievements in 2019.

In truth there are fewer teams better

equipped to cater for a rider’s

wishes and demands that the outgoing

and peerless Italian set-up

(it still rankles that Sylvain Geboers’

benchmark-setting Suzuki

team vanished so quickly when

it was a similar level to that of

Rinaldi’s). Seewer had the perfect

and persistent second term and

was just missing an overall victory

to put the icing on the Swiss


Initially I would have said ‘be

afraid’ for 2020. MXGP could

have quickly been in the grip of a

nineteen-year-old and perhaps the

dawn of another Cairoli or Evertsesque

new era. Jorge Prado made

MX2 a non-contest in 2019 despite

the sniping of Thomas Kjer Olsen,

Tom Vialle and Jago Geerts. To

only lose two motos throughout

the entire term means that the

MX2 field was probably happier

to get rid of the Red Bull KTM

rider than Prado was to depart

to MXGP. Amazingly, Prado had

another five years of eligibility for

MX2. There seems to be barely

a fuss over his graduation to the

KTM 450 SX-F compared to the

furore that surrounded Herlings

in 2015 and instigated the initial

‘Herlings rule’ of a rider only being

able to be crowned in MX2 twice.

This probably has much to do with

Prado laconic and economic riding

style; something initially chiselled

through sharing many hours of

training time with Tony Cairoli

and a radical departure from the

flamboyance the Sicilian initially

showed himself back in the mid


The news that he is now enduring

a long recovery from a broken left

femur throws the planning and the

buzz to the reeds somewhat. Up

until his unfortunate slip from the

footpegs in the Roman rain last

week Prado rarely made mistakes.

In 2019 MX2 he barely looked anywhere

near his limit and was rarely

rattled or pressurised. And he is

of course the best starter seen in

Grand Prix racing in the modern

era, with the statistics to prove

it. When fit and ready he’ll feel a

much warmer degree of competition

in 2020 and continues his education

in terms of racecraft and

race scenarios but it is tricky to

remember a more eagerly awaited



premier class debut; maybe since

Ben Townley in 2005 or Cairioli

in 2009 (although #222 had

provided us with that telling debut

wildcard win at Donington Park in


Question marks hang over the

location of the 2020 Spanish

Grand Prix but it’s not hard to

understand why Youthstream and

native promoters are waiting and

trying to capitalise on the second

phase of the Prado story. I only

hope the venue chosen is suitable

for MXGP and can draw in the

fans that have been patient for an

authentic star since Javier Garcia

Vico’s eccentricity held such

appeal at the start of the century

(neither Jonathan Barragan or

Jose Butron really inhabited a

space at the peak of the elite like

Vico did in the 500cc division

and the highly elevated plinth on

which Prado now crouches).

For now, 2019 surrenders to time.

In a matter of days 2020 cranks

up with Dakar and Supercross.

Next year we’ll hit issue 200 of

OTOR, a special little milestone.

All that remains is to send a massive

thanks to all the advertisers

and partners that keep OTOR going

and the brilliant contributors

that help it look a little different to

everything else out there.

Thanks for reading and spread the





A swift mention for the 2020 FC 450

Rockstar Edition: a truly sumptuous slate of

a motorcycle.

The 2020 model forms the basis for the

bikes to be used by Jason Anderson, Zach

Osborne and Dean Wilson in AMA

Supercross shortly and will be honed

for MXGP by Pauls Jonass and Arminas

Jasikonis. New for this particular bike is WP

XACT 48mm forks, an engine config that

Husqvarna state has ‘CP forged box-in-box

piston and PANKL conrod…providing reduced

friction, the piston and conrod ensure

the SOHC engine continues to offer the

highest level of performance and reliability

available in the market today’. An FMF 4.1

RCT Silencer, CNC Triple Clamps, easy offset

adjustment come with a number of other

upgrades both practical and aesthetic for

the ‘factory’ look. Items such as REKLUSE

clutch cover, D.I.D rims, carbon-fibre engine

protector and a holeshot device. Husky fans

wanting to go full bore can also dip into the

revised clothing and apparel lines. The 2020

FC 450 Rockstar Edition is a limited edition,

so those with a willing wallet had been order





Happy holidays to all you guys reading this, lots to talk about

when it comes to the racing over here even if there are no

actual races happening other than the Geneva SX that has

just finished. Speaking of that, let’s touch on Switzerland,

KTM, Ryan Dungey and more in this ‘emptying’ of the big

filing cabinet in my brain.

First up Geneva SX, where Justin

Brayton, now back on the factory

Honda, took his sixth win

there with 3-1 finishes over the

two nights. Brayton’s returned to

factory Honda for 2020, holding

a spot for Chase Sexton and

as usual, you have to think that

Brayton will be solid all year

long and maybe - when it comes

to the Triple Crown format - a

race winner. It will be interesting

if he absolutely kills it this

year and subsequently what

then will Honda do with the deal

with Sexton in place for 2021?

Does he go back to his old team

Motoconcepts? Does he get

snagged by another factory?

Brayton says that he can’t look

at 2020 like his last year because

then he won’t treat it the

same way…so he’s deferring all

talk until after SX.

It doesn’t appear that he has

any future at Honda no matter

what he does…but ‘never say

never’ right?

Martin Davalos should’vecould’ve-would’ve

won Geneva if

he hadn’t made a mistake while

leading Saturday’s main event.

Davalos won Friday night with

a dominant performance and

when he grabbed the holeshot

and took off Saturday, it seemed

like it was a forgone conclusion

that the win would be his.

But he crashed, Brayton and

Justin Barcia got by and Marty

was forced to take second. He

rode very well though and after

approximately 32 years in the

250SX class, he’ll be on a KTM

with special parts under the

Team Tedder truck for 2020 SX.

Davalos has skills, and the

mentality of the 450 class might

suit him a little better. Potential

sleeper for sure!

With the news that Marvin Musquin

is out for the entire 2020

SX season due to knee surgery,

the industry was buzzing about

who would fill-in for him over at

Red Bull KTM. Davalos would be

a great choice but he’s already

on a KTM (same bike as Blake

Baggett and Justin Bogle) so

‘why steal him?’ is KTM’s thinking,

at least that’s what I’m

hearing. Chad Reed was a hot

rumor because he did indeed

call manager Roger De Coster

lobbied, and tried to get some

social buzz about it when Pete

Fox, from Fox Racing, photoshopped

some 22’s on a bike

and asked everyone what they

By Steve Matthes

thought? Red Bull was on board

with Reed taking Musquin’s place

as well from what I hear. But the

rumor mill also had the bigwigs

at KTM in Austria shooting down

Reed’s request and all is quiet

now on the replacement rider

front. Seems like there might not

be anyone in line for that spot

which is a bit odd. I know the

people want to see Reed, heck

the media wants to see Reed,

but this isn’t going to end up as

a fairytale.

In what he’s announced as his

final season, Reed’s going to be

forced to go the privateer route

on a Honda with some backing

from a dealership out of Georgia.

He’s not been riding a whole

bunch due to getting a late start

while he sorted out whether he

was going to go back to JGR Suzuki

or not and then he crashed

at the Paris SX and hurt some

ribs. Behind the scenes his team

is getting a semi sorted, bikes

and parts and Reed will go out in


One of the biggest things to

happen off the track lately was

the press release announcing

that Ryan Dungey, multi-time SX

and MX champion, had joined

the GEICO Honda team as a

co-owner. Yes, that would be the

same Ryan Dungey that raced for

KTM since 2012 and brought the

brand to new heights over here in

the USA. This deal sure came out

of the left field and had riders

and industry people texting me a

bunch to chat about it. As a matter

of fact, I went to Pro Circuit

shortly after the PR dropped and

that’s the first thing Mitch Payton

wanted to talk about when I saw

him. Dungey had been an ambassador

for KTM since hanging

up the boots but truthfully hadn’t

been around that much.

In talking to some people it was

Ryan’s desire to have more at

stake in the racing that led to

this deal. It doesn’t hurt that one

of the co-owners of the team, Jeff

Majkrzak, is a long-time friend of

Ryan’s from Minnesota as well. I

had heard that KTM wanted Ryan

at more races and that’s

something he wasn’t down for, so

this way he’s got a built-in interest

in racing but yet isn’t forced

to go week in and week out.

“It was a mutual thing, I’ve been

spending some time with him

and we looked at some options

for him to invest in and out of

the sport,” Majkrzak told me

when I asked him how this deal

came together. “He was looking

to sink his teeth into something,

I was advising him and this door

opened up. We started taking

about it, and as him and I were

looking at long term planning for

the team to me he represents the

next generation.”

“I see him working with the

riders closely: I see that as his

number one contribution. He

won’t go to every race but I think

he’ll be available to the guys

when they need him. I would bet

that we will see him at a third of

the races but we’ll see how it all

plays out.”

So, yes, it will be weird to see

Dungey in a GEICO Honda shirt

and riding a Honda when he decides

to go out, but I get it from



his perspective. He’s going to be

right inside the team and have

a hand and a say in whatever

happens. So what about testing

the GEICO Honda and helping

out that way? Majkrzak says not

so fast.

“Specifically he doesn’t want to

ride a supercross bike but I bet

he’ll ride some outdoors and for

some fun,” Jeff says. “He can

also be a problem solver for us

if we have some issues. He can

throw a leg over a bike and help

us. He’ll ride for fun and I expect

him to ride a 250 when he does

get back on a bike.”

Having someone like Dungey in

your corner can only help in my

opinion and this is a real coup

for the GEICO Honda team. It’ll

be interesting to see how it plays

out and helps the team. Stay

tuned for that.

By Cudby/KTM




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troy lee designs

A few prize pieces of outwear from the

clothing section of the brand new Troy Lee

Designs website (have a browse for a more

modern and facelifted page). The TLD Adidas

Rain Jacket (right) is pricey at 285 dollars

but the use of the Adidas Climaproof

technology will be familiar to anyone using

the brand’s fitness wares and is premium

stuff. The insulated version (Insulated Jacket

Solid) uses PrimaLoft Gold for warmth

without adding too much bulk. Expect to

pay a similar price. The 2020 Dawn Jacket

(175) is inspired by the KTM SX team and

has 800 fill fibre for some of the best insulation

found in a jacket of this ilk.

Interestingly TLD state the coat is made

from ‘High-Tech “SUSTANS”, a sustainable

filler made with “Dupont Sorona”, a

renewable bio-based ingredient that has no

dependency on oil and petrochemicals is

used throughout. In fact, Sorona requires

30% less energy to manufacture and the

process reduces GHG emissions by 63%.’.

The Pit Jacket 2020 (139 dollars) takes the

TLD KTM race theme further forward. It is

built from a three layer soft shell, which is

also Teflon coated for water resistance. The

emphasis with the Pit Jacket is for warmth,

dryness and that racing look. It comes in

five different sizes.





Words by Roland Brown

Photos from respective manufacturers


Ducati Streetfighter V4: 205bhp. Kawasaki

Z H2: 197bhp. KTM 1290 Super Duke

R: 177bhp. MV Agusta Brutale 1000:


Top speed of all these four recently released

hyper-naked contenders: over 180mph – or

as fast as you can hold on, given that they all

have sit-up-and-beg riding positions, and their

sum total of wind protection is virtually zero.

Contemplating this latest batch of 2020-model

metal, recently unveiled at the EICMA show in

Milan, I momentarily felt like some bemused

old fellow with no grasp of what these modern

bikes are or who they’re intended for.

Then I realised, perhaps slightly worryingly,

that their target audience is basically… me.

After all, I currently own an Aprilia Tuono V4R

– a 167bhp V4 that was arguably the original

hyper-naked bike when launched in 2011 – so

am in theory perfectly placed to be tempted by

its updated rivals.

And I am tempted, but perhaps it’s just that

some of this latest bunch have topped the

200bhp mark that makes them seem, well,

slightly excessive, even to this fully paid-up

member of the hyper-naked appreciation society.

That, and the fact that while the Tuono

does actually incorporate a small but useful

half-fairing and remains very much within the

spirit of the un-faired hooligan class, of these

latest rivals only the Kawasaki - with a tiny

flyscreen - makes any attempt at breeze diversion.

In a way it’s crazy. What’s the point of developing

these amazing machines that are good

for over three times the national speed limit

(German and Manx readers excepted), when

you can’t use the best part of that performance

without having your shoulders dislocated or

growing a neck like an NFL Linebacker?

But in another way, it makes perfect sense.

Hyper-naked bikes aren’t primarily about

going fast; if that’s your priority you can ride

a superbike with clip-on bars and a fairing.

Sporty naked bikes are appealing because

their riding positions work at normal speeds,

and you don’t feel you always have to wear

full leathers to ride them. And because they

feel fast – and the more you’re getting battered

by the air, the more thrillingly fast they


Kawasaki’s Z H2 is a special case because its

most important air isn’t even the stuff that’s

smashing into your chest at speed, it’s the

intake charge that is being forced into the

engine by a supercharger. The Z H2 is the

latest in Kawasaki’s range of blown bikes,

following the faired Ninja H2 and H2R and

sports-touring Ninja H2 SX.














Forced induction is a tuning trick that has

never made sense to me – going right back

the turbocharged bikes with which all four

Japanese firms wasted huge amounts of

yen and development time in the Eighties.

Back then, Kawasaki’s ZX750 Turbo, Honda’s

CX500 Turbo and the rest had the incentive

that many motorcyclists were desperate

for more power than could be provided by

a conventionally aspirated 750cc four, let

alone a 500cc V-twin.

But quick and capable as the ZX and CX

Turbos were in their day, and convincing as

the appeal of, say, 1000cc performance from

a 750cc turbo-bike might initially sound,

there’s a flaw in the argument: a forcedinduction

middleweight producing litre-bike

power needs a litrebike chassis, not a middleweight

one. The ZX750 Turbo of 1984

confirmed that by being heavier and slightly

less powerful than the simpler GPZ900R

that arrived a year later to end the shortlived

turbo craze.

Like its Ninja predecessors, the Z H2 has

been designed to howl under acceleration

and chirp when you change gear; to give

owners technology to marvel at or brag

about. The other manufacturers presumably

reasoned that providing zero wind

protection is a much simpler way to make

a hyper-naked bike feel fast. Hard to argue

with that, though I’m not totally convinced.

I love my Tuono and I’m well-up for the

idea of upgrading to the latest version, or

one of its new rivals. A tad more shield

against the elements would be welcome,

though; perhaps it’s time to make hypernaked

bikes a bit more useful. In the meantime,

this latest batch is sure to provide

strained shoulders and plenty of excitement.

If forced induction made little sense back

then - when we would have welcomed the

extra stomp that a turbo GPZ900R might

have provided - it’s even more unnecessary

now. After all, Kawasaki could easily have

enlarged and tweaked the Ninja ZX-10R’s

988cc engine to give much more than its

current 200bhp. But that’s not really the


Kawasaki presumably decided to add the

blower instead after concluding that a hyper-naked’s

appeal is not primarily about

performance, it’s about sensation. The impact

of the Ninja H2 and H2R confirmed

they were right. Never mind whether a supercharger

is the logical method by which

to generate torque and power; if it makes a

bike more fun to ride or just more rewarding

to own, it’s doing a vital job.




2019 MotoGP season story

Official review or Motocourse? Honestly,

there isn’t much competition when it comes

to a MotoGP yearbook but at least the

officially licensed version has one of the

best writers in the sport – Mat Oxley –

taking care of the narrative and the


2016 pages move across a technical review,

the bikes, riders, races and support classes

and the book went to press less than a

fortnight after the season finale in Valencia,

so it has been chronicled as the championship

progressed. As per usual the MotoGP

Season Story is a licenced product but the

best thing publishers Motocom have done is

keep the sharp, critical and analytical eye of

Oxley onboard.



24mx is not liable for price changes, tyop’s or changed availablitly of products in the ad

WorldSBK TOP 5





What can be said about Rea’s title winning

season that hasn’t already? This was Rea

at his best. He was relentless throughout

the campaign. He was peerless when

opportunities presented themselves. He

was also riddled by doubt at times.

Meeting him for a coffee at a motorway

services outside Dublin in May left no

doubts in my mind; Rea thought the title

had slipped away. Ducati came out with

the best bike we’ve seen for decades in

WorldSBK. Bautista was a steam roller.

Win after win for the Spaniard. Defeat after

defeat for the Northern Irishman. It was

weighing on his head. “I have to win in

Imola and show him who I am” said Rea.

From that rainy moment onwards he never

left a weekend having been outscored by


By Steve English

Photos by GeeBee Images


Second in the championship. History

maker. On paper Bautista’s debut

WorldSBK season has been incredibly

impressive. Racing however plays out on

the asphalt, not on the statistics sheet.

With that being so, Bautista’s collapse is

one of the most stunning in memory. The

riders below him didn’t plunge to the same

depths on their bad days, but neither did

they rise to the heights of Bautista at his

finest. When I asked him about his season

he said: “I never expected anything like this

season. It’s been crazy.” Throwing away a

61 point lead was indeed ludicrous.

How did it happen? In two stages, gradually

and then suddenly. Suddenly, due to confidence

and perhaps some SBK inexperience,

Bautista was a title bystander.



WorldSBK TOP 5



Lowes spent the winter sticking to a mantra

“Testing is about getting ready for a 13

round season, not Australia.” This was put to

the test when Australia proved to be a tough

weekend. But Lowes quickly established

himself as a consistent challenger who had

ironed out the mistakes and he was ready

to make the step. Even though he didn’t add

to his win tally in 2019, he was able to prove

again that he has all the tools needed.

Out-qualifying Michael van der Mark at all

but two rounds showed his speed. When

push-came-to-shove he dominated his rivals

for third in the standings at the final round in

Qatar. Mid-season he could have unravelled

after the clash with Rea at Jerez, but instead

of dwelling on the incident like he would

have in the past, Lowes boarded a plane for

three days of golf in Portugal. “It was what

I needed. It reminded me that I love racing

but you need to step back from it






The Turk showed his potential in 2019,

which everyone knew was always there.

Working with Phil Marron as his crew chief

brought out the best in Toprak, and the

rewards were there to see with two wins in

France and thirteen podiums through the

year. In Australia Marron spoke about

having to calm his new charge to get the

most from him. In Thailand it was about

keeping him focused. From that point

onwards, Toprak started to soar with

podiums at eight consecutive rounds. A

move to Yamaha for 2020 will bring new

challenges, but don’t underestimate him.

The Dutchman rounds-out the list of top five

riders in 2019, and with a win at Jerez and

fourth in the championship there’s arguments

to be made for him being higher on

this list. Having been soundly beaten in qualifying

by his teammate Lowes though, it also

shows that there is room for improvement

in 2020. Paired up with Toprak Razgatlioglu

for next year, the inter-team battle will be as

intense as ever. Having been in the fight for

third until the last round of the year, van der

Mark’s season petered-out and he’ll know

that he needs to show sign of more progression

next year. WorldSBK insiders have long

said that if “Mickey worked half as hard as he

is talented, he’d be unstoppable.” Collaborating

with Andrew Pitt next year might unlock

the final piece of the puzzle.






More than Europe’s

largest MC store

In the last few weeks of the year most people take time to

wind down, get ready for the Christmas holidays, and inevitably

reflect on the year. For me it tends to be more a time to

prepare for the coming year.

2019 is gone and I have to start

arranging travel and accommodation

for the first few races of the

forthcoming season. However, I am

now of an age that when I look back

things become a bit of a blur. It

seems like only the other day I was

doing exactly the same thing and

getting ready for another year on the

road. 2019 was pretty eventful and

like every year, despite doing more

or less the same thing, it threw up a

few curve balls that made it memorable.

When we get started in January everything

becomes super-condensed.

With WorldSBK there is such a short

time from the end of the testing ban

in January until the cut-off date in

February for the teams to have all

the freight packed, ready for collection

and transported to Australia for

the final test and first race of the new

season. I learned an interesting fact

a few years ago at the press launch

of the KRT team that they have shipping

containers that are simultaneously

travelling around the world by

sea. These contain the tool chests,

pit box displays and the kitchen for

the hospitality staff. This enables

them to fill their freight allowance

with Dorna with bikes, engines, and

as many spare parts as they can

fit in. It is also a cheaper option to

have shipping containers travelling

between Barcelona, Phillip Island,

Thailand, California, Argentina and

Qatar, than to pay for extra air freight

to transport everything they need

along with the bikes.

Nonetheless the last weeks in January

and first in February were jampacked

with tests, studio shoots,

team launches and then travel to

Australia. Last year I was involved

in the pre-season testing and studio

photoshoots for both WorldSBK and

MXGP and it meant three and a half

weeks on the road that took me from

southern Spain, to Portugal, back to

Spain and on to Sardinia.

The season then started with a bit

of a stutter. We are required to get a

temporary work visa for travelling to

Phillip Island which requires some

specific paperwork from the circuit

and Dorna to accompany the application.

This wasn’t made available

to the media until during that

period when I was on the road and

given my schedule it was a few days

before I had time to sit down and fill

the on-line application. It was still

three weeks till I was due to travel,

and in previous years it has taken

as little as two days to be approved,

but this time it never arrived in time.

So after a few days of frantic phone

calls and emails and about £1000

lighter in rebooked flights and rental

car, with help from the staff at Phillip

Island circuit, I finally got everything

in place and was on the way. At that

point I was filled with a bit of trepidation

for the rest of 2019: is this

year going to be one of hassles and

travel woes? In the end it wasn’t so


By Graeme Brown

The only other major drama was

that our hotel in Imola unexpectedly

cancelled our booking 3 days before

the race weekend. They said it was

because I hadn’t confirmed but I

reckon it was because I had booked

it on the off-chance of getting the

date right back in October of 2018 (a

benefit of the free cancellation facility

on booking.com) and had a really

cheap rate. After it was cancelled

I looked again and guess what - it

was three times more expensive per

night over the weekend. It meant another

afternoon spent on the phone

and email but Booking came up with

a solution and matched the price for


One element of each year that you

can’t predict is actually the elements.

Some years you never see a

drop of rain at a race weekend but in

2019 so much of the season was affected

by the weather. It also caused

a fair degree of tension amongst the

riders that would carry right through

the year until the penultimate round

in Argentina.

It really started in Assen when the

Dutch spring weather turned a bit

wintry. A harsh northerly wind blew

over the flat lands of Drenthe and

brought really cold temperatures

and frequent wintry showers. If you

read back over the press releases

you would think it was horrific with

the term “snow storm” used in more

than one. As a Scotsman I can safely

say it was nothing like a snow storm,

there were a few flurries that melted

when they hit the ground but from a

racing perspective the track temperature

was so low that it was declared

unsafe and race one on Saturday

was cancelled. That was the first of

a few rider debates throughout the

season over whether racing should

take place or not. As with any poll

- or a group of people - you will get

differing opinions and there were

those that were adamant that it

was not safe to race and others that

wanted to just get on with it.

We had an almost repeat situation

at Imola at the following round when

heavy rain disrupted the action on

Sunday. Race two was cancelled as

again there was a majority of riders

who didn’t want to compete. It shone

a light, once more, on a lack of

robustness in race direction that we

had groups of riders, discussing and

debating the issue in pit lane with

race direction, staff form Pirelli and

the FIM Safety Officer.

It was all very public and on reflection

not the best way to deal with

the matter.

I will happily be corrected but my

understanding from the past was

that the riders voted for a safety representative

amongst themselves and

that rider/s had a private discussion

with the Race Director over these

issues and a decision was taken and

announced. In 2019 we had a situation

where all the cooks were asked

to add to the broth and inevitably it

was spoilt. We had heavy rain again

in Misano but the system worked

and after a delayed start we got

a good, dramatic race. The issue

came to a head however in Argentina

where the high track temperature

caused an issue this time and

we were once more met with groups

of riders and officials standing in

the paddock having an impromptu

debate which gave rise to the now

dubbed ‘San Juan Six’ and the first

time that I have ever photographed

an event where riders protested and

refused to race. Whichever side you

fall on in the argument I think everyone

can agree that nothing good

that came out of the debacle.



These pit-lane and paddock

debates are one of my key memories

of 2019 and I hope that some

measures have been put in place

to prevent similar scenarios in the

future. Least of all so that I don’t

have to stand out in the rain any

longer than necessary.

Back on the globe trotting, my big

excursion of the year was in July

when I travelled to Laguna Seca,

back home and straight to Suzuka

in Japan for the 8 Hours. I love

both trips. I really like California

as a destination and with only the

WorldSBK class at the Laguna

event it allows us to have a little

bit of a more relaxed weekend.

Suzuka on the other hand is a

complete contrast. I wrote about

this is in the summer but with no

service road transport around the

track it has to be covered completely

on foot and after the 10 or

so hours you are on the go on Sunday

it is a tough shift, but I love it.

I also enjoy travelling to Japan so

whilst it is tiring barreling around

36,000km and crossing back and

forth over 16 times zones, for me

it is the best three weeks of the


WorldSBK is not visiting Laguna

Seca in 2020 and I won’t know if I

have work at the 8 Hours until later

in the year so I will miss this trip. I

suspect I won’t be sitting with my

feet up however as Mrs GeeBee

already has plans for me.

If I look back over the racing the

year it was definitely a cliched

game of two halves. It harked

back to 2002 when Troy Bayliss

smashed the first half of the season

only to be met with a rejuvenated

and dominant Colin Edwards

in the second half of the year,

ending in that classic race at Imola

to decide the title.

The little thing that was missing

in 2019 was the consistency of the

challenge of Alvaro Bautista in the

latter part of the season. In the

first half of the year when he was

outstandingly dominant, Jonathan

Rea was snapping at his heels all

the way. However, after a couple of

crashes and an unfortunate injury,

Bautista was unable to sustain

a similar challenge to Rea and

we ended up at Magny Cours in

France again with a JR championship


Ironically the races at Magny Cours

were some of the best we had.

The Yamaha pairing of Alex Lowes

and Michael VD Mark were going

toe-to-toe, fighting for third place

in the championship, and always

go well at Magny Cours. Alongside

them Toprak Razgatlioglu had fully

found his feet on his Kawasaki

Ninja ZX-10RR and we got some

good wheel to wheel and fairing

bashing. Now that they have joined

forces I hope the momentum that

both Yamaha and Razgatlioglu

gained towards the end of the

season continues into 2020 and

we get more of that same close


As always I have a lot of people

to thank at this point in the year

but chief amongst them are Jamie

Morris and Vaclav Duska Jnr who

push the buttons with me and

keep GeeBee Images moving

along each and every weekend.

Also to OTOR and all the readers

for indulging me in my ramblings

each issue. I try to sail a steady

course through the magazines and

website posts but I occasionally

veer off course and cause some

disagreement and consternation…

ut it is never intended and now

is a good opportunity to apologise

for any misdemeanors.

All that is left is to wish everyone

the very best for the Festive Season

and every success and good

health in 2020.

See you next year.




A few pieces from the 2020 Alpinestars catalogue

with Christmas so close and the final

chance to get orders made before the 25th

comes around. The Camo Neck Tube is made

from soft 100% polyester microfiber and is

seamless to ensure extra comfort. It comes

in two liveries. Also available in two colours

is the Domino Tech Hoodie. Alpinestars have

created a garment that they describe as for

‘urban riding’ but this can also be fitted and

user under a larger jacket. The product has a

water repellent treatment (as well as waterproof

pockets) as part of the soft outer shell,

a fixed collar and hood, is pre-curved in a

riding position, is well ventilated with back

and chest protector compartments and level

1 lite elbow and shoulder protection.

Stella WR-2 V2 Gore-tex are women’s touring

gloves with high standard of insulation (Primalot

Silver 80g on the top of the hand help

guard against the elements) also with

knuckle protection and finger bridge and a

screen-ready fingertip. Lastly, and slightly

more than a stocking filler, is the Supertech

M10 Alloy. This helmet project from Asolo

almost sums up Alpinestars’ values of offering

safety but also innovation and style. Now

on market for two years and a result of half a

decade of development from a special helmet

department in the Italian firm, the M10

is rammed full of appealing specs. The shell

(in four sizes) is multi composite, with a 3K

carbon outer layer for optimal strength and

dissipation of impact. Ventilation through the

peak, MIPS, a shell base profile to help

protect collarbones, hydration tube compatibility

and a lightweight 1240g for Medium

size are just some of the reasons to look into

the M10, there are plenty more.


a trium








By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Polarity Photo


At Valencia a handful of

journalists sat down

with CPO Steve Sargent

to throw some questions in

the evaluation of the first of

three years with Triumph as

the sole engine supplier to the

intermediate class.

MotoGP fans and viewers will

be unianmous that the 765cc

triple motor helped towards

and closer, faster and more

interesting Moto2 contest in

2019; a series that was won by

Alex Marquez by just 3 points

over Brad Binder – two very

different riders on different


The audible and lap statistics

of Moto2 changed for the better

in 2019 but what did Triumph

make of their entry into

the FIM World Championship?

Did it really hit their goals?

And did it whet their appetite

for a stab at MotoGP?

2019 and the first year of

Moto2: how has it been?

Quite honestly we’ve probably

exceeded our expectations.

Obviously at the start of the

year there was probably two

main things that we wanted

to demonstrate as a company.

First was that we can produce

a performance engine,

and really deliver on a sporting

level. Then obviously the

other big piece was around

reliability,and proving that

not only can we produce an

engine that performs but one

that’s durable and doesn’t give

the teams any problems. So

two boxes ticked, I think.

How big of an issue was the


We’ve had no issues at all,

really. It’s an engine that we

know really well. Obviously it’s

developed from the 675. Everything

we learned from racing

the 675 has gone into the 765.

So, a lot of years’ experience.

We were pretty confident that

we had something that was

going to work as a package

and something that was going

to be durable but then you

give it to these ‘lunatics’ to

thrash around a race circuit

and they do unexpected things

with it!

How close is the race engine

to the road bike engine? How

much work did you have to do

on it? Did you have to do anything

you weren’t expecting?

Not really. In terms of what

we’ve done, the 765 street triple

engine does 123ps. These

engines are putting out 140.

So a lot of the development

was not so much around the

durability because we were

confident that we had something

that was pretty durable.

It was really around getting

that extra performance out

of the engine. So, a lot of

the changes that we made

were in the top end, so in the

cylinder head. That was really

focused on getting the

engine to breathe better. So

porting changes, for example,

cam profiles, titanium

valves because we’ve lifted the

rev limit from the road bike

engine. Valve springs, race

valve springs. Then to get the

engine spinning a bit faster,

reducing inertia in the bottom

end, so [we used a] race

alternator in there rather than

a standard alternator. Race

clutch rather than a standard

clutch. Then we’ve got different

first and second gear

ratios compared to the road

bike engine. Then in terms of

fueling, we’ve got high-flow

fuel injectors in there, which

are not standard on the road

bike engine. But most of the

rest is the same as the

production bike. It

was very much [as

case of] tuning

a road

bike rather


actually going

through component by component.

The obvious reason

for that is to keep the cost

of the class down. In

terms of Dorna attracting

people into

Moto2, it needs

to be a package

that is costeffective


go racing,

but something




in terms

of per-

formance. So, it’s getting

that balance really between

cost, durability, and performance

and trying to hit the

sweet spot.

You’ve had lap records and

positive feedback from the

teams and riders but in

what way has Moto2 surprised

you? Or what way

has it maybe fallen

slightly short of

what you expected?







Moto2 2019



Could Triumph have taken

even more marketing


You can never have too much

marketing exposure, can you?

I think we have exceeded our

expectations. In terms of lap

records, quite honestly when

we started doing the development

work we thought if we

can get within a second of the

existing lap records in the first

season then that would be a

decent performance. But from

the ‘off’ at the first test in

Jerez we were breaking lap records.

It was like, this is going

to be really good. Then I think

we have fourteen lap records

to date. Then top speed, we

did over 300kmph an hour at

Mugello. We topped that in

Australia. So, 301.8 in Australia.

So in terms of meeting expectations,

I think we’ve gone

beyond where we thought

we’d be at this stage.

Do you recognize the fact that

this is like the ‘honeymoon

period’? The longer the Triumph

engine is in Moto2 the

more it becomes like part of

the furniture. It reached the

point with Honda engines that

there was almost kind of an

apathy towards the platform…

We’ve had a great introduction,

I think, to Moto2. The

riders have been super positive

about what it allows them

to do with the bike in terms

of being able to pick different

lines going into corners, being

able to use the power, the

torque of the engine on the

way out. So if you do want to

outbrake somebody and brake

later, you’re not penalized

on the exit from the corner.

So all of that stuff has been

super positive for us. Quite

honestly, I think next year

we’ll go faster again. There’s

a number of reasons for that.

This year it was the first time

that the riders have been to

all of these tracks with this

particular package. So they’ve

got a season’s worth of data

behind them. Next time they

go to all of these tracks they’ll

know what their base setup is

already. We continue to work

on the electronics package

as well, so we’re working very

closely with Magneti Marelli.

All the stuff that they’ve

learned this year and all of the

data they’ve collected has

allowed them to continually

refine the engine too. So

I think next year all of the

teams will come to the party

with a better starting package.

Then Dunlop have learned a

lot. This is their first season

with the triple engine. So

they’ve got a whole load of

data that they can take into

next season as well. Quite

honestly, I think next year

we’ll continue to set some


The Dunlop tyre change in the

middle of the season: did that

affect you? Did that make any


It affected some of the riders,

I think, more than it affected

us. If you look at the phases

of the championship this year,

[Lorenzo[] Baldassarri came

out in the first three rounds

eally flying. We were all sat

here thinking ‘this guy’s going

to walk away with it’. I don’t

think the tyre change did him

a lot of favours. Some of the

other riders struggled with

it. Then obviously Alex [Marquez]

got on with it really well.

Started picking up wins and

podiums and stuff and has

been super consistent.

How has the process been

with the chassis manufacturers?

Have you learned from

them? Or has it been very

much: “here’s the engine, get

on with it…”?

We released the engine data

to them - in terms of all the

dimensions - quite early on

so they could start developing

their chassis. And then we’ve

also been involved with supplying

them with their own

private test engines. Obviously

the race engines they don’t

get to take away with them.

They get boxed up and sent

to the next round. We’ve certainly

been working with them

in terms of supplying private

test engines to use. Have we

learned anything about chassis

design? Only kind of anecdotally,

really. I would say that

the teams have all been very

good at giving us feedback on

stuff that they would like to

see changed on the engine,

which has really not been

much at all. A lot of that has

been around the electronics

package more than the actual

mechanicals of it. It’s interesting

to see what some of these

guys do with their chassis

designs. We obviously have

our own R&D department.

We have our own theories

about what a good chassis is.

I wouldn’t say we’ve learned

too much on that side. I think

if you look at the two engines

between the Honda and the

Triumph, the engine mount

points are very, very different.

So, it was always going to be

a case that people were going

to have to figure out what was

the right amount of stiffness

versus flex on their chassis.

Inevitably in the first season,

somebody was going to get

that wrong at the start until

they had got a little bit more

miles under their belt. I think

next season you’ll see that

they’ve all learned something

and it will be probably a bit


In terms of resources, everything

that Triumph is putting

into Moto2, is that stable for

you as a company? Is it manageable?

Can it be amplified

even more?

Yeah. We’ve got a three-year

contract and we’ve got an option

to extend that. We’ll start

some discussions with Dorna

fairly soon about what the

options are. In terms of our

budget, from day one we’ve

known that we’ve got three

years to make the most of it.

We’re working as hard as we

can to do what we can with


Could you give an example of

some of the R&D work that’s

gone back to the factory from


So, again, in terms of inlet

port and exhaust full profiles,

a lot of the gains that we

made with the Daytona Limited

Edition was about getting

a freer flow. So we had a

cylinder head but also through

the exhaust as well. There

are things that we’ve learned

in terms of what these guys

have done with exhausts and

free flowing exhaust that have

helped [us]. We’ve had some

gains from some of the coatings

on some of the internal

components on the engine,

so reducing friction. So that’s

all positive stuff that can feed

back in. Just to come back

to your point, obviously the

marketing piece is key. People

generally go racing for two

things: one to improve their

R&D, and the other is to obviously

get marketing exposure

for the brand. I think where

MotoGP and Moto2 is really

important is that if you look at

the average age of a MotoGP

audience compared to the

average age of motorcyclists

generally, it’s slightly younger.

I think as an industry we’re all

struggling with how do we get

more and more people into

motorcycling? And how do we

get people riding a Triumph

motorcycle at a younger age

than they currently do? Then

this audience is absolutely

perfect for that.



Have you been able to

measure the marketing

impacts? Triumph seem to be

much more prominently

present than Honda ever were

in Moto2…

Yeah. Quite honestly that’s one

of the reasons that Dorna were

excited about us coming into

the championship, because we

do want to be proactive with it.

Obviously we want to promote

the Triumph brand, but we also

want to promote Moto2 and

get the excitement building

around Moto2. So, every single

round we do social media

pieces around what’s going on.

We see the social media reach

that we get from that, and it’s

impressive. That’s a big win

compared to just putting out

a standard piece about other

stuff that’s going on.

Can you take something like

EICMA or Motorcycle Live as

a gauge? Before people would

flock to look at something like

the latest Scrambler. Is there

a sense that more people are

interested in Moto2? Is there

more enthusiasm around the

sports side of the portfolio?

Yeah. I was at EICMA. It was

quite impressive to see the

number of people coming over

and sitting on the street triple.

We also had the Daytona

Limited Edition there. There

was quite a crowd around that

on the public days. So you

get a sense of that. Where we

really start to get a sense of

it, I think, is when the selling

season starts in the spring.

Obviously, we’ve just launched

an update for the Street Triple

that essentially uses the same

engine that we’ve been using

in Moto2. It will be interesting

to see what deposits and what

interests we start getting in

the street triple update off the

back of Moto2.

From a British perspective

and perhaps at a time when

the UK is probably lacking

some top-class riders coming

through do you feel that Triumph

is helping a little bit in

terms of British exposure? Do

you find any kind of pick up

from the mainstream media?

I think there’s that side to it in

terms of getting exposure in

the UK, but the other side is

that when we’ve had discussions

with Dorna, we’ve always

been quite clear that - as far as

we’re concerned - we want to

see some Brits in the championship.

As a British brand it’s

quite important for us to have

Brits. Obviously we sell globally

[and] our ideal scenario

would be a Frenchman wins in

France, a Brit wins in the UK,

a Spaniard wins in Spain! But

certainly we’ve made it quite

clear that it is important for us

to have some Brits in there.

Have you ever considered having

a Triumph factory team in

Moto2? Has that discussion


To be fair, Dorna were quite

clear from the start that they

saw the engine supply as being

separate from the chassis

manufacturers. I guess as

much as anything that’s to

make sure that there’s a level

playing field. I’m sure if we

came into the championship

from day one and said, “we’re

going to supply the engine and

the frame,” there would be

a lot of teams going, “Whoa,

hang on a minute. That seems

a little bit unfair.” So that’s not

really something we’ve considered


Is this also a way to dip your

toes in the water of MotoGP

maybe in four, five, six years’

time? Or do you think the cost

of that would not outweigh the


Cost is obviously massively

different in developing a MotoGP

bike and going MotoGP

racing but I think what Moto2

has done has opened-up the

eyes of people within the company

in terms of what racing

can do in getting your brand

out there and creating exposure.

So we’re not going to rule

anything out. We review these

things on a regular basis. We

report back to the board every

month what’s happened in

Moto2, what kind of reach that

we’ve achieved out of it and

all those kind of things. Inevitably

there will be discussions

around ‘how do we do more

of this kind of stuff?’ Whether

that leads to racing in other

championships, I think we’ll

have to wait and see.



Triumph’s James Bond ‘No Time to Die’ motorcycle





On-track Off-road’ is a free, monthly publication for the screen focussed on

bringing the latest perspectives on events, blogs and some of the very finest

photography from the three worlds of MXGP, the AMA Motocross and Supercross

series’, MotoGP, WorldSBK as well as the latest bike tests.

On-track Off-road’ will be published online at www.ontrackoffroad.com on

the last Tuesday of the month. To receive an email notification that a new

issue available with a brief description of each edition’s contents simply

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will be kept strictly confidential and only used for purposes connected with


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

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Thanks to www.mototribu.com


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Cover shot: 2019 world champions by Archer. GeeBee, Polarity, Cudby

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