On Track Off Road No. 195

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2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R

The NAKED rulebook has been re-written. The KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R is now leaner,

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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



The first Dakar Rally of the decade visited fresh ground and was marked by distinction and

tragedy. Ultimately it will be an unforgettable edition for the first American motorcycling winner,

Ricky Brabec, who ended the KTM hegemony that lasted almost twenty years

Photo by HRC




Supercross is clicking up a gear with

the schedule now firmly running.

Adam Cianciarulo has opened eyes as

a 450 SX rookie but you have to

wonder what it going through the

Monster Energy Kawasaki racer’s

mind here in Glendale

Photo by James Lissimore




For all the excitement of a new MXGP term the utter dominance and impact of Jeffrey Herlings’

2018 championship still reverberates, and the Dutchman should – again – be the reference point

for speed in the class…or maybe not?!

Photo by Ray Archer




Could a hungry Alex Lowes be Jonathan Rea’s

toughest challenger yet in the midst of the KRT

set-up? Testing times would indicate that the

Brit will be right there, and the opposition are

also closing-in en masse. Will anyone even

dare to dismiss JR’s chances of title #6


Photo by GeeBee Images




By Adam Wheeler, Photos by MIPS & 6D

Almost eighty years ago

Australian neurologist

Dr Hugh Cairns

published the results of a

study into the effectiveness

of motorcycle helmets. The

document entitled ‘Head Injuries

in Motor-Cyclists with

special reference to crash

helmets’ examined the

effectiveness of vulcanised

rubber and compressed

wood pulp(!) shells of what

were the contemporary ‘pudding

basin’ products. Head

protection or ‘wear’ - like

most new-fangled ‘fads’ or

developments of motorcycling

in the initial throes –

had first appeared in wider

consciousness at the Isle of

Man TT races some twentyfive

years previously.

Quite a lot has changed

since. However, it is only in

the last half a decade that

the effectiveness and safety

performance of motorcycle

‘lids’ has undergone a radical

change. Facets of weight,

comfort, vision, sound and

protective quality all advanced

with technology but

the pioneering exploits of

a handful of scientists and

engineers have led to a rethink

in how helmets work. In

particular how they address

concussion and the effects

of ‘rotational acceleration’.

In short: the consequences

of the brain moving inside

the cranium upon impact,

and how potentially lethal or

devastating results can be


Cairns’ 1943 document was

made public two years after

his initial curiosity and



research into head injuries for

bikers had led to the British

Army making head protection

compulsory for couriers.

Cairns himself was allegedly

inspired into the field after

his treatment of famed and

fated serviceman T.E. Lawrence;

a staunch motorcyclist

who lost his life in May 1935

after crashing his Brough

Superior and spending six

days in a coma. The Army

logged a significant reduction

in injuries after adopting the

helmet policy. Cairns notes

at the end of his follow-up

paper in 1943 (having already

recorded the location of the

majority of blows to the helmet

- front and sides – and

the better performance of

wood as opposed to rubber

as well as grim description

of facial injuries) that ‘further

improvements in the design

of helmets offer a profitable

field of preventive medicine.’

Medicine was not the only

profitable aspect as the speed

and popularity of motorcycles

climbed steadily, especially

in the post-war years and

eras of austerity where owning

a car was more expensive.

Enduring manufacturers

like Arai (Japan), Bell (U.S.),

Schuberth (Germany), AGV

(Italy) soon took note and

were fabricating ‘pudding

basins’ by the end of the ‘50s.

Bell constructed the first full

face helmet, the ‘Star’, and

launched it in 1967. Safety

standard agencies cottoned

on. The DOT test morphed

from other American standard

policies in the 1960s and

was established in the early

‘70s. The renowned independent

Snell Foundation has

been active and very prominent

in the industry since the

1960s and the British BSI

‘kitemark’ has been around

for almost a century and for

bike ‘lids’ specifically since

1953. Australia made the use

of crash helmets mandatory

in 1961 and the UK followed

suit twelve years later. Amazingly

less than half of the

USA’s fifty states currently

have universal helmet laws,

the rest have regulations applying

to younger riders up to

18 and 21. With regulations

comes strict test parameters

but this is a field where the

work and thinking of innovators

such as Sweden’s MIPS

(Multi Impact Protection System)

and the USA’s 6D Helmets

were able to scrutinise

and eventually revolutionise.


Heading north…

Less than 10km upwards from

the centre of Stockholm the

principal HQ of MIPS is a small

and unassuming semi-circular

single-floor building. The

premises used to be home to

a famous light design firm and

10,000 euro fixings still remain

attached to footwell ceilings.

It seems apt, considering how

MIPS’ R&D has illuminated the

helmet industry to the point

where the FIM have worked

tirelessly and polemically to

shake-up their own test protocol

and are dragging the

majority of brands to renovate

and overhaul their catalogues

to be present in the vast

promotional window of world

championship motorcycle




In the cellar the architecture

exposes the ‘Cold War’ dating

of the structure. We stride

through a large bunker door

into former ‘Safe Rooms’ (now

meeting rooms) and eventually

to the pristine lab and at

least three testing rigs – home

of more than 27,000 procedures

- located deeper in the

recesses of the facility.

We meet the two key figures

behind MIPS, and a company

born from the plights of the

duo: distinguished neurosurgeon

Hans von Holst and his

never-ending search to understand

and minimise critical

head injury, then CTO Peter

Halldin whose quest to overhaul

and perfect helmet test

standards led to the theorising

behind the practicalities of

the MIPS solution. Plus CEO

Max Strandwitz, who has been

tasked with expanding the

word, the business and the influence

of MIPS as far and as

effectively as possible, so that

the circular yellow sticker can

now be found on headwear

from skiing to equestrian to

bicycles to building sites.

Before von Holst gives us a

detailed, sometimes daunting

but riveting explanation

of the complexities of brain

injury (scary stuff in some

cases) we’re able to see MIPS’

product piled along the lab

test workstations. MIPS is

staggeringly simple, almost

unbelievably so. The minimal

low friction plasticky ‘sheath’

that fits inside the helmet is

a Brain Protection System

(BPS) and it permits 10-15mm

of movement or ‘play’ independent

of the lid when it

strikes an object: this minimal

shift works in the first 5-10

milliseconds of the impact

and redirects crucial energies

that would otherwise induce

strain and lead to torn brain

tissue. Earlier experimental

and numerical studies showed

that the brain is much more

sensitive to rotation forces

compared to linear (impact in

one direction).

The yellow BPS’ on the workbench

(customised for a particular

helmet) look like a thin

scalps of a mannequin. Being

present at MIPS and watching

Halldin dropping a 4.2kg

headform (the same weight

as the average human head)

strapped into a helmet onto







the rig and using state-ofthe-art

video equipment and

software to register the subsequent

results then hearing

some of von Holst’s vast bank

of knowledge on the most

mysterious part of the human

anatomy (“we are still in

the stone age now compared

to the next 100 years”), and

lastly absorbing Strandwitz’s

account of how hard it was

to sell and manage the MIPS

patent and philosophy into

a business model gives full

appreciation of all the effort,

expertise and cost that has

gone into the BPS.

“We do get that comment

sometimes,” says Strandwitz

on how ‘basic’ the BPS seems.

“For me it is an ingenious construction.

There is so much

money and thinking going into

that solution: it is affordable,

scalable, can be retrofitted

into most helmets. We have

looked at so many different

materials over time, and so

many different technologies

and, so far, we haven’t found

anything superior to slip-plane

technology. Through our testing

and technology we have

found that you really need this

10-15mm margin of movement

to reduce forces into the

brain and that’s where we see

and feel that most competition

falls short. People might

say ‘I have a natural MIPS


because I have a lot of hair’

but the pressure point you are

exposed to during an accident

is somewhere between 750 to

1000kg and try to move something

with that: it’s impossible.

So, it is simple…but that’s one

of the reasons we have been

able to scale. There is a very

long-driven thought process

on why it looks like it does.”

In 1995 MIPS was founded

as a project between von

Holst and Halldin and the first

patent was lodged in 1998.

“The language between us

just didn’t match,” smiles

von Holst. “MDs [Doctor of

Medicine] cannot do everything

and engineers neither;

it took six months before our

dialogue was on the same

page.” Von Holst’s research

at the time found there were

“22,000 head injuries annually

in Sweden because of falls,”

he says. “65-70% of those

involved rotation. The energy

is absorbed by the skull but

there is always a register for

brain tissue and just a little is

enough. Even now concussion

is still a mystery; we don’t

know what it is, and no MD or

expert can tell me more.”

“It sounded stupid but we

wanted to create the internal

helmet…and it might have

taken years,” von Holst added

before divulging studies of

protein impact and how urea

and the physiology of Great

White Sharks can hold even

more secrets for how brain

injury and malformations can

be treated in years to come.

“With the first tests in 1996

we saw that we could reduce

the moment of impact that

refers to rotational acceleration,”

says Halldin of the idea

behind BPS. “We played with

prototypes of oil, Teflon and

some micro-spheres that left

dust all over the lab when we

impacted them! We then made

a two-dimensional spherical

model and went step-by-step.

I got a small amount of university

funding at the time

and then bigger funding so

I could go to the UK and the

University of Birmingham

where I’d heard of a professor

[Nigel Mills] who knew how to

test helmets for oblique impacts.

That was in 2000 and

we spent half a year building

the test method together. We

made the first test with a real

MIPS helmet, one with a sliding

layer and got great results

so I wrote a scientific article

on it in 2001. We started the

company and went out trying

to sell the fantastic MIPS concept…but

it was not that easy

because it was too expensive

at that time.”

It is puzzling as to why von

Holst and Halldin’s knowledge

and theories were not noticed

or discovered sooner by the

motorcycle industry. “A lot of

the helmet industry has been

quite conservative and the test

standards themselves have

driven the design of helmets,”

Halldin references. “Such as

the protrusion test – when

a helmet is dropped onto a

fifteen-degree angle surface –

but it is just to see that there

is nothing on the helmet that

will ‘grab’ into the road. They

didn’t measure anything inside

the head but rather the

impact force on the plate. So,

while it has been understood

that rotation is something you

should avoid it hasn’t really

been tested as part of a standard

and put into helmet to

absorb it. Conservatism is one

reason, another is that it takes

time to change and to educate

people. Others will point to

the fact that the way to measure

rotational acceleration was

not really developed at that

time either…but now there are

more sophisticated systems

to measure acceleration and

rotational velocity.”

“We are seeing a shift of

mindset. People used to laugh

at rotation as a problem…but

now everybody is working on

it. We see with our clients that

people are more aware and

are educating themselves,”

asserts Senior Project Manager

Daniel Lanner, revealing

that while the MIPS story is

a success and is being used

by almost 80 different brands

and in nearly 450 helmets

across sports and industries,

the story wasn’t always so

streamlined. After the first


patents and mathematical models in the 1990s

the company took the initial steps to their own

helmet product. “Equestrian is really big in

Sweden,” Lanner recounts “and at one point

was the second most popular sport. MIPS was

looked up to by many here and the equestrian

helmet was a big success.”

However, due to a design fault of the retention

system for the extreme cold of Swedish winters

the lid had to be recalled and MIPS faced

bankruptcy. “We then became an ‘ingredient’

brand, and not an expert in helmets but in

rotation; we knew the idea had so much potential,”

Lanner stresses.

Shortly afterwards salvation, growth and an

eventual float on the Swedish Stock Exchange

in 2017 came about because large-scale helmet

companies could not develop their own

technology to tackle rotation.

“Investment companies that owned brands

like Bell and Giro took two years to do their

due diligence and saw that they could not beat

the MIPS patent, so they made an investment

with us. Again, we had success, this time with

the system ‘insert’ into a snow helmet.” Today

MIPS belongs to 36 patent families and is

present in a number of sports and activities. It

is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution though. “It is

crucial to know how we should build for certain

helmet categories,” says Lanner. “We are

extra strict in understanding the requirement

before we start with a new category.”

“We usually spend around 120 days on each

case,” he adds. “We’ll have the CAD for each

helmet model and size. Each helmet has its

own tooling and process. They have to match

our criteria and we need to see a minimum

reduction of strain for our tech to be released

and sold as part of the helmet. If we don’t see

that then we don’t release until the helmet

has been re-designed. We usually see a lot


more than the minimum threshold though.

MIPS is not just a ‘plug-in and play’ but

then I have yet to see one helmet where we

haven’t been able to make it work.”

“We customise the MIPS insert for the

shape of the helmet, EPS and things like

ventilation channels and fixing points but

it still needs to move in that 10mm-15mm

bracket in all directions,” says engineer

Marcus Seyffarth, who is operating a horizontal

rig next to Halldin and is one of a

team of twelve-fourteen people running up

to 6000 tests a year.

Was there a time when MIPS and the BPS

wasn’t the solution for a client? “Yes, we

had an approach from a company in baseball,”

admits Lanner “but we saw that our

technology would not have so much effect

for those type of injuries, so we had to walk


Halldin’s work – and he is busy dropping

a full-face motorcycle helmet from a hefty

height before coming to talk – has been

implicit in the modification and advancement

of test protocol. “He is part of CEN

TC158/Working Group 11 that looks at test

set-up, impact materials and developed a

new head form; a new version of the Hybrid

III for helmet testing, scalp friction and

inertia properties…the FIM is setting up its

own tests with the same model,” says Lanner.

“At MIPS we don’t tamper with standards,

we just add protection. It is a severely

conservative industry and a sharp change in

standards would mean a lot of cost…but we

are 100% convinced it will change anyway.”

The discussion…

Both Halldin and Strandwitz appear from

busy schedules – Halldin actually stops

testing and combines his interview with a

lunch break – and present an opportune

moment to quiz the pair on various issues on

MIPS and also their involvement in motorcycling


On having to ‘sell’ or explain the rotational

aspect of helmet performance…

Strandwitz: We see quite a lot of different

attitudes. The first one I think is always ‘not

invented here’ syndrome. We also see some

brands that still believe that rotational motion

is not dangerous…but generally those are less

and less. We also see more and more brands

that say to us ‘we are late on the train but we

understand it’. When we sign a new brand –

and this is important for us – we always want

them to come to our HQ so we can explain

why we really make a difference. Otherwise we

are ‘just a product’ like anyone else. So we invest

quite a lot of time. There are cases when

we don’t see some prioritising safety, and we

say ‘it is better you go back and think why

you want to include MIPS in the helmet’. They

usually return much better equipped to launch

MIPS. Some people think it is great we are

here because we kind-of set the standard and

therefore it’s easy because they don’t need to

think about what they have to include. Other

people think we are too big and have too much

power. When people start to see how much

time and knowledge we have invested into this

and especially our link to KTH [Sweden’s Royal

Institute of Technology] then they say ‘OK…

we understand’. We haven’t lost a lot of brands

since we started, we have a very loyal customer

base and I think this is testimony that we

are doing some things right.

Halldin: We contacted a couple of motorcycle

brands in Europe and at the EICMA fair in

2002 we had some prototypes and no one at

that time really talked about rotation…but at

least two of the biggest brands in Europe at

that time got interested and we had some projects

with them although they ended up stopping

because it was too expensive.


Strandwitz: If you look at our

customer base then 75% have

U.S. origin. They distribute

all over the world but we got

a bit of a headstart with the

Americans because there was

an article published in ‘Popular

Science’ in 2012, and also

because of the whole concussion

debate. The average

consumer in the U.S. is much

more aware of why rotational

motion is dangerous. The average

European consumer is

not. We see some awareness

in the UK but generally in Europe

they are ten years behind

in terms of consumer awareness.

They have not had the

American Football or hockey

injuries and that’s why they

are not that developed when it

comes to thinking why this is

an important subject.

On working with diverse

helmet companies…

Strandwitz: One of the key

reasons for our success is

that we have been able to

retro-fit into helmets. In one

way it means we don’t need to

be part of the design process.

However if we are then this

is beneficial…but it’s not a


Halldin: Our spread means

what we are doing in the test

lab is the right thing. People

have been trying to beat the

MIPS system for quite a while

and work out how they can

get around the patents. In the

end after a couple of years of

research and trying to understand

they realised it wasn’t

possible, so they invested in

the company and the people

and become partners. That is

testimony to the IP portfolio

but also how the system really


Strandwitz: We have the ambition

to get into as many helmets

as possible. If we look at

our position in motorcycling it

is a little bit different. In motocross

we have about fifteen

brands on board, the key

ones, and we are penetrating

their assortment quite heavily,

which is great. When we look

at the more traditional motorcycle

helmets then we don’t

have the same traction there

yet. We are helped by the new

FIM standards and so on, but


we still have a long way to go.

We are constantly developing

new solutions and new technologies

to always be equally

safe and achieve the same

thing: to reach the movement

of 10-15mm in all directions…

but it can be presented a bit


On standards and testing and

the FIM…

Halldin: Now that EC 22-06

has met and started the revision

of the motorcycle test

standard they looked at the

FIM, and for that the FIM has

been very important. When

it comes to the test standard

then the ball had already been

rolling. We started our work

in 2012 and the FIM started

theirs in 2014, I believe, and

the good thing is that they

came to more-or-less the

same conclusion as we did

within CEN TC158/Working

Group 11, except that they

choose a slightly different test

headform. Both of us have

made the same decisions

when it came to simplifications

for what is needed; like

both test methods do not

have or include the neck…

which people could question

because everybody in the

world has one! But we both

concluded that the existing

neck form – Hybrid III - is not

designed for the testing of


Strandwitz: We never publish

our own test results because

we think it is wrong for us to

say ‘see what we have done

at home…’ We rely very much

on third party testing to make

sure they communicate results.

While there is no standard

[for rotational acceleration]

and people publish their

own test results then I think

it will confuse the consumer

rather than educate them.

Halldin: I know the FIM have

been working a lot to make

this happen. Even though it is

not perfect it is a very good

first step and important for

the whole helmet industry.

The fact that there is a rotational

element of the test

standard for MotoGP is an

important thing: that there is

another dimension to helmet

testing. There are other examples

on the bicycle side.

Now there is more of a debate

about test points, impact

angles, pass/fail criteria – but

I think the most important

thing right now is discussion,

and that we are using

the same or similar metrics

for manufacturers when their

design is being done and

optimised. That optimisation

should be done against the

pass/fail metric that is used.

On the wide road for MIPS…

Strandwitz: Before we go into

a category we always look for

relevant injury criteria: can we

make a difference or not? We

are now entering construction.

We have looked at how

you actually hurt yourself on

a construction site; what kind

of damages or dangers are

you exposed to? It is not only

falling objects. You can trip,

you can slip, you can fall, and

you work at heights. We have

validated our solution against

those types of accidents and

we see that we can make a

big difference. We see a lot

of interest from that category

and a lot of construction

companies coming to us to

say: ‘how can we have solutions

with MIPS?’ We looked

at injury statistics in Europe

and especially in Sweden because

they are very well documented

to see where we can

make a difference and then

we model those kinds of accidents

in our computer system

to make sure that we would

add brain protection. We have

that capability, which means a

big advantage.

Halldin: We spent some time

getting into the NFL Head

Health programme – I or II –

and we did not get any prize

or funding at that time. They

have been asking us to join

again but it takes quite a lot

of time. I have chosen to work

on other matters. I would love

to join that programme but

the days are full enough already!

Also, it is about building

a full helmet…and we are

about adding protection to an

existing helmet. We’d need to

team-up with a helmet manufacturer

to participate.


On dealing with competition…

Strandwitz: I believe that

competition is good because

it makes you more agile, and

that you always need to develop.

I don’t think there are

any industry benefits from the

lack of competition. I think as

long as people are trying to

address a safety issue then

this is great; it can be presented

in a lot of different ways.

Of course, we think we have a

superior technology and have

spent a lot of money trying to

develop it. What I am more

worried about is someone

launching solutions that do

not work that doesn’t enable

the redirections of forces that

would otherwise go into the

brain. Other than that…if it

works then I think it’s great.

Halldin: It’s fantastic. There

should be competitors to

MIPS. Comparing MIPS with

others then I can only judge

on what I have seen in other

helmets on the market. Some

of the other technologies don’t

have that 10-15mm movement

or full coverage. I am sure

there are some solutions that

will have all of this in their

system but right now I cannot

see it on the helmets on the


The wider pool…

MIPS are ground-breakers and

the forefathers of addressing

the seriousness of rotational

acceleration, but they are not

the only specialists trying to

tackle the issue. Bell Helmets

invented a three-layered EPS

‘Flex’ system in 2014, that borrows

similar thinking to MIPS.

6D Helmets, based in California,

fabricated an advanced

Omni-Directional Suspension

[ODS] construction that

causes a series of dampers

to shear as part of their radical

energy management. Neck

brace innovators Leatt worked

on the same lines with their

360 Turbine tech.

6D manufacture both street

and off-road helmets and

gathered significant praise and

awards with their successful

presence in the high-profile

NFL Head Health campaign.

The Americans have noted

MIPS’ prolificacy as an ‘ingredient’

brand and are currently

working to develop ODS as a

more modular and ‘transportable’

entity. It is a mission that

has seen some positive traction

in their bicycle range but

ODS is far more complex than


“MIPS is doing great as a

company and have had much

success licensing the technology

to many brands in a

variety of different verticals,

and that is good for the consumer,”

says founder and MD

Bob Weber. “There is not a lot

of cost associated to the system,

so it doesn’t impact the

selling price of the helmet that

much, and also there is not

a lot of engineering required

to insert it in a helmet. As a

simple shear-plane within the

helmet’s comfort liner it can

provide reductions in certain

impact scenarios and does

make for a safer helmet offering

compared to a traditional

monolithic liner design utilized

in most helmets out there.”

As staunch purveyors of the

merits of ODS, 6D naturally

believe MIPS broke the mould

but there are slithers of cracks

still visible. “MIPS is constrained

to some degree by

the shape of the human head

and does not provide any

improvement in low-threshold

linear energy management,”

opines Weber “which is very

important when it comes to

increasing a helmet’s capability

to manage energy over

a broad range of impact demands.”

Debate over the technicalities

of systems to combat

rotational acceleration and to

ensure even more versatility

of a crash helmet is – at this

stage – to miss the point of

what the likes of MIPS and

6D are fighting for, and that’s

even more realisation of how

a motorcyclists ‘lemon’ can be

protected beyond the strength

of some fancy-looking carbon.

Helmet firms are taking

note and are either embarking

on their own expensive solutions

or, like Troy Lee Designs,

putting all their chips behind

MIPS because it is the definitive



Understandably the greatest

degree of innovation is being

seen in the discipline of

motocross or off-road riding

where crashes – usually from

height – are more prevalent.

6D’s first helmet was the

ATR-1 MX model, Leatt placed

the issue of rotational acceleration

front-and-centre with

their slim and narrow GPX

5.5 and Fly Racing’s Formula

helmet caused sizeable ripples

in the American market

with the AIS (Adaptive Impact

System) formed from

Rheon technology. Fox, one

of the most famous apparel

companies in off-road and

bicycle, were part of the MIPS

programme and still have the

yellow ‘dot’ on some of their

helmet catalogue but their

premier V3 moto helmet was

relaunched in 2019 with Fluid

Inside; a network of tough gel

pods in the helmet that mimic

cerebral spinal fluid. Again the

‘movement’ philosophy paying

a debt to the work of MIPS.

The Swede’s curiosity with the

Canadian product led to MIPS

acquiring the company. R&D

doesn’t stop.

“The primary reason to take

on that technology is because

they had some patents that we

thought were quite interesting

and we see a lot of entries into

sharing patents and so-on,”

Strandwitz explains. “We want

to increase our patent protection

and we see they have an

interesting technology but

we need to spend a bit more

time on developing it before

we want to include it into our

MIPS assortment.”

Think of the motorcycle crash

helmet since the 1980s and

many areas of progression are

visually obvious (aerodynamics,

materials, visor, padding,

emergency release systems,

straps) but internally it could

be argued that construction

has not advanced at the same

rate as other technological

aspects of biking. MIPS has

been a vanguard in this sense.

For an appreciation of how

this company has evolved

awareness and protection of

your brain then consider their

position as winners of the

Polhelm Prize; an award that

ranks close to the Nobel prize

and previous winners include

creators of the zip, the refrigerator

and the GPS. “It is a big

recognition for Peter,” claims

Strandwitz. “He has been

instrumental to the whole

industry through his work with

MIPS but also KTH and has

really educated the industry

quite a lot. Peter and Hans

got a lot of recognition and

we piggyback on that when it

comes to the company. They

have worked more than twenty

years developing this.”

Mercifully there is a better

choice between rubber or

compressed wood for crash

helmets these days and,

thankfully, as another decade

starts there is every reason

(and possibility) to think more

about protecting the critical

part of the body that bubbles

all the chemicals generated by







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A soft handlebar strap and an industrial nonslip

cam buckle means just a few of these

products is all you’ll need to ferry the wheels

around. Grip covers (9 dollars) and grip donuts

(5 dollars and made of neoprene) might

seem like the domain of a Pro racer but the

details always count, especially when it comes

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450SX winner: Ken Roczen, KTM

250SX winner: Austin Forkner, Kawasaki




By Steve Matthes. Photos by James Lissimore



Well, it’s official. Honda’s Ken Roczen is fully

back to his pre-2017 injury form. The German

rider has been through hell and back with all

his surgeries, rehab and illness but has two

wins in four 450SX races this year, the latest

one coming this past Saturday night. Of course

Roczen held the red plate signifying the points

lead last season as well but he hadn’t won a

450SX since his horrific arm break at A2 and

ended the drought at St Louis for round two.

In that race he got the lead early and checked

out right away to front almost every lap with

a nice cushion. It was impressive for sure but

can’t really touch what he did last weekend in

Arizona. Roczen won all three Mains with great

rides (although he did get a break when a red

flag was thrown for the last main while he was

buried around tenth) to take another win.

His last two Mains were very reminiscent of

his success in St Louis a couple of weeks ago

but his first Main was the one that stood out

for me. His arch enemy Eli Tomac reeled him

in late-on and appeared to be ready to strike.

Tomac took a bit longer to get into second but

it did seem like the dominant Kawasaki from

A2 would emerge here.

He made a couple of strikes but Roczen shut

the door every time. Late in the race, when you

get caught, it’s very hard for a rider to up his

pace while still trying to protect your inside

lines. It’s a juggling act for anyone out there to

pull it off but that’s exactly was Roczen did.

He not only fought off the advances of Tomac

and held him off for the win, he pulled back

out again a bit. It was a great ride and when

Roczen’s on, he makes riding a motorcycle

seemingly effortless.


so I was in the lead,” said Roczen. “We were

yo-yo-ing, Eli and I, and we made a really

good main event. It was a lot of fun. We go

way back and we have a lot of battles on our

hands. So that was great.”

Forget about the other two main events, Roczen

got the start, Tomac didn’t and the #94

checked out rather easily. “Then, in general,

all the other ones, I can’t even remember all

of them,” Roczen laughed.

So, it’s taken some time but it says here that

Kenny’s back all the way. I’m not going to go

out and say that he’s going to win this title

but he’ll be a factor. Whatever virus he had

sapping of him of energy last season seems

to be in the rear view mirror.

“I got to just take all the good things,” he

added. “We didn’t gain a whole lot of points

but at the same time we did gain some. I’m

on cloud nine right now. It’s amazing. It’s

good to wipe everything clean after a couple

of days. No matter if I win six in a row, I want

to go every single weekend and just fight as if

I’m going for my first one again.”

Good for Roczen and good for Honda also

who have signed Kenny for four years now

and outside of a couple of races, haven’t gotten

the best return they could’ve due to that

crash. Good things come to those who wait

and everyone is getting their monies worth

right about now.

And for Kenny this season is on its way to a

possible magical ending. That’s got to feel

pretty good for him and his crew. Title or not,

this is a great thing for the sport.

“The first moto was super fun. I came actually

from fourth or so, so I had to make some

passes happen. Zacho (Osborne) went down,



Round four of the Monster Energy Supercross series took place in

Glendale, Arizona and for the first time this season we saw the

Triple Crown format crop up. We’re three years into using this format

at three races a year and although I’m a fan of it, I’m not sure

everyone else is just yet. The jury is out on this first radical change in

supercross since 1985.

There are some good things,

in that every race the fans

watch actually counts towards

something. The shorter

races (250SX class does

10 minutes plus a lap, the

450SX is 12 minutes plus

a lap) definitely have some

intensity that the heat sprints

lack and the change that

was made to make all three

Mains the same amount of

time was a good one, the first

year the racers just didn’t

have enough laps to make

any passes if they had a bad


So, we saw some great action

and some riders that

generally shine at this type of

format didn’t have the best

of nights and some riders

that didn’t have the greatest

stats at previous Triple

Crowns did. Honda’s Ken

Roczen was dominant in all

three “Mains” (we NEED a

better name for these things,

we already call the real

mains “mains” and these are

shorter and there are three

of them. So they’re different.

We need record keeping for

these “mains” in our sport

but they need a name you

know what I mean?) which is

a good sign for him going forward

because he hasn’t been

amazing at the more intense

chases. Monster Kawasaki’s

Eli Tomac was second and

Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason

Anderson was third.

Good starters like Roczen’s

teammate Justin Brayton

didn’t get those usual decent

getaways and had to work

like hell to get up into the

mix and same with Malcolm

Stewart on the BullFrog Spas

Honda team - he didn’t shine

as much as some would


The triple crown format isn’t

something that I’d want to

see for all 17 rounds but as

a change of pace, it’s been

refreshing. As a former mechanic

though I feel for the

teams and staff…most of the

factory teams have second

back-up bikes they can use

(a new rule put in last year)

so they aren’t in danger of

missing a race, but smaller

teams can’t do that. The gaps

between races is long enough

now to give the teams

enough time to do what they

need to do in-between so

everything is jusssst about

figured out right.




However, some riders still do

not like the whole format for

safety and effort/pay reasons.

And I can’t sit here and say

I don’t get it because I do.

Rockstar Husky’s Dean Wilson,

for one, had some harsh

words for the format.







“I think it’s stupid. It’s just so

dangerous for us. We had five

starts tonight, and we had a

fifth gear start straight,” he

said. “It was good training

for me but it’s dangerous just

because it’s so chaotic the

first few laps. It’s gnarly. Of

course from a fan’s perspective,

it’s awesome. If I was a

fan, I’d be loving it. But as a

rider, it’s dangerous.”

Others have mentioned the

bonuses for the riders/purse

money is the same as a normal

race. Plus add-in that in

Glendale the riders were hitting

75 miles per hour down

the longest start straight of

the year and due to red flags

for downed riders had to do

five starts compared to two

and it makes sense.

From people I talk to, then to

win a Triple Header “Main”

means a rider gets a heat

race bonus…but that ain’t

right really either. The Triple

Crown races are longer than

a heat and with all the riders

involved. So the riders

are getting the short end of

the stick when it comes to

compensation. In due time

the agents of the top guys

will work to even this out I’m

sure but for now, the riders

are putting out more work.

Roczen drilled pretty damn

hard three times to win these

races but in the end, only

gained three points on Tomac

for the championship; this

doesn’t seem correct either

but awarding full event points

for each “Main” is way off


also and would penalize anyone

who missed one of the

“Mains” too heavily. There’s

got to be a compromise in

there somewhere.

As far as the fan in the

stands, well as I said every

gate drop means something

and all the stars of the sport

are out there more which

is always a good thing. The

gaps between the Mains,

while great for the teams, is

a bit long during the night

when you’re watching dozers

work on the track. I understand

that it’s hypercritical

to complain about this while

praising the changes for the

riders and teams but I think

the promoters need to fill the

dead time with something.

The KTM Jnr race is cool,

the promotional Toyota thing

works I guess but what about

a B Main for the riders that

didn’t make it?


Here’s the main drawback of

the Triple Crown format and

that’s the death of the privateers.

With just 22 racers

out there, there are some

name riders that missed out,

and the teams/sponsors that

invest in these guys miss out

of being part of “the show”.

I know, survival of the fittest

and that type-of-stuff but I

don’t know if you’ve noticed;

times are tough and we need

the private teams in the

sport. The fact that the LCQ

races in both classes are

most often some of the best

of the night seem to be lost

on the promoters.

If you don’t want to do a B

main then throw the LCQ’s

at the start of the night and

announce to the crowd that

the top four get to go on, the

rest go home for the evening.

It’s drama at its finest.

The fans don’t care that

these aren’t the stars, they

want bar banging action and

these things deliver just that.

Plus, the smaller teams and

lesser names get their five

minutes of fame on live TV.

It’s a win/win! Why this idea

hasn’t been implemented already

is beyond me, outside

of perhaps lengthening the

program by a bit, there’s no


So, all these things are to

be considered when talking

about the decision to alter

the sport’s 40 year history

format for a few races a year.

One thing is for sure, after

three season there is still no

universal love for either format

either way. I think with

a few tweaks though, the TC

agenda might just be a home






Troy Lee Designs will be much

more prominent at the front of

the MXGP series in 2020 thanks

to their new deal and association

with the Monster Energy Yamaha

MX2 crew; meaning some of the

coolest and best styling on the

track can be found on the backs

of Jago Geerts and Ben Watson.

Initially the Belgian and the Brit

will be wearing the new Ultra LE

kit; TLD’s super-exclusive and

benchmark-setting stuff made in

collaboration with Adidas.

Usually the Ultra is made in limited

bulk so fans need to quickly

find their closest dealer or stockist

(online or not) to place an

order and the Yamaha gear won’t

be dropping until the end of

February so we’ll flag it again in

the next issue. In the meantime

catch the ‘very’ TLD LE Stranded

design for the accomplished and

under-rated SE4 MIPS-equipped

helmet (the black adorns the

carbon model, the white and multi-colour

feature on the composite

shell). Crabs, desert, skulls, webs

and plenty of other illustrations

mean this will be one of the most

talked about lids on the track or






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a 37% reduction in force to the

go faster than ever before.








By Andrea Wilson, Photos by James Lissimore


Anticipation for the new Supercross

season on the heels of the New Year is

fever pitched. A new campaign brings a

lot of uncertainty, and the fun of speculation.

Riders are lined up at the Anaheim I pre-race

press conference and asked about preparations

in the off season, fitness and changes


This year, sitting in the back row, Justin Barcia

talked about preparation, feeling good and

alterations in the team for 2020. Then he went

on to win Anaheim I for the second year running.

For anyone who knows the sport, the hype

leading into the championship opener is familiar,

as is the fact that titles aren’t won at

A1. That doesn’t escape the 27-year old either.

He’s gone far enough along the learning curve.

He took home back-to-back crowns in the

250SX East category in 2011-2012 but Barcia’s

time in the premier class has been rocky. He

got a pair of wins his rookie season but Supercross

is relentlessly unforgiving and frequently

unkind. It’s tough enough to transcend from

the amateur ranks to the upper echelons of

the highly competitive 250 class, but the 450s


is a whole other level and there is a long list of

riders snapping for a coveted ride.

Injuries were prolific, team and brand changes

didn’t work and the results petered-out. At the

end of 2017 he was essentially out of a job. He

entered the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas

as a privateer and finished in the top five. He

got a fill-in ride at the Yamaha Factory team

after injury sidelined Davi Millsaps before A1 in

2018 and earned the full-time gig after showing

that he was a still a front-runner.

Last year’s win at A1 was a big boost for Barcia.

It was his first triumph since 2013. But it

again slipped downhill from there. A broken

tailbone after a crash at A2 was followed by a

big training crash before mid-season at Atlanta.

He came back two rounds later, but he

wasn’t fully ready. There were more crashes,

struggles in general and that carried on until

the end of the outdoor season. So what’s

different about 2020? Although there are still

doubters, and definitely more for him to prove,

the 27-year old is pretty relaxed and comfortable

with his current place – third in the standings,

11 points behind the red plate and still


Do you think there’s a certain amount of pressure

after winning Anaheim 1? Do you think

it’s a high mark to maintain in a 17-round


No, not necessarily. I think coming out and

winning A1 was fantastic. It was a great feeling.

Then I got really sick and pulled through

in St. Louis. I had a good setup and good vibes

there. Then I had a bad race (A2) and then a

sub-par race (Glendale). I’ve been at the highest

of highs in this sport, and the lowest of

lows. I’ve come back and went down and come

back again. So for me, I don’t necessarily feel

the pressure from anyone. Obviously you put

more pressure on yourself than anyone. But

I know I belong there now, so that’s a great

feeling to have. I know I can do it. So, when

everything clicks, which it will click again very

soon, I feel like I’m in a very good position. I

don’t feel like there’s a ton of weight on my

shoulders (after that win). I believe I should be

in that position. It’s not bad at all.

Going into this season, like a lot of Anaheims,

there’s a lot of hype and a lot of uncertainty.

Do you feel like people overlooked you?

I was honestly so busy working and preparing

for the season, I wasn’t really looking at any of

the pre-shows, pre-interviews or media things

like that. Then after Anaheim I goes by, I had a


BARCIA’S 2020?

lot of the media saying: “sorry we overlooked

you.” I told them, “I didn’t really notice, to be

honest, so don’t feel bad about it.” I probably

did get overlooked a little but for me I didn’t

feel that at the time.

Did that maybe work out better for you?

For sure. When you can just put your head

down and work and get the job done, that’s always

easier. I feel like I handle things quite well,

whatever is thrown at me, but sometimes when

there’s a lot more going on, more pressure and

stuff, it makes it a little more difficult. So being

under the radar is definitely not a bad thing.

It’s pretty hard to stay healthy as a supercross

rider. What’s your current physical state?

It’s cool to be healthy this year; coming into the

season at full health and now we’re at round

four and I’m feeling really good on the bike. Like

I said, I had that flu. A few riders got those flu

symptoms. I went through that round two and

round three, so that was very difficult to get

over. But physically I’m super-awesome right

now. With my training and the things I did in the

off-season, I feel like I’ve really never been in a

better position physically and mentally, which

is a really good thing. That’s a thing you have

to have for the championship. Staying healthy

throughout, making smart decisions, and not

riding over your head but also pushing it really

hard… it’s definitely a fine line in racing.


Supercross is basically looked at as a young

man’s sport, but is it a little bit too much to

expect young riders to come into the 450

class and be able to meet the demands of

a 17-round season in a highly competitive


Supercross is definitely a young man’s sport,

but coming in as a 19-year-old or 18-year-old,

or whatever, into the 450 class, it’s a very difficult

road to manoeuvre. As you get older your

body doesn’t work as well, but when you’re

young, your brain is kind of crazy. There’s a lot

of maturity that comes to play in racing and

learning. When I went to the 450 class it was

tough, lots of highs and lots of lows: balancing

that is one of the keys to the sport. You have

to have all the pieces to the puzzle in place. I

believe in supercross there are a lot of puzzle

pieces and to put all those in place in the first

or second year as a young kid is extremely

difficult. I know, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to

go into a championship hunt right-off the bat.

There are some kids that win races and stuff,

but it is definitely a sport where it’s difficult to

win a championship your first year.









In sports, navigating those highs and lows is a

big challenge. How do you as a racer manage


The highs and the lows of any sport is something

that I think any great athlete has to able

to manage. For me, obviously I love winning

and I love that feeling, but I try not to get

too crazy high, and when there’s a bad race I

definitely don’t beat myself down super-bad.

I look at the good and I look at the bad and

I take all those things, those strengths and

those weaknesses, and try to become better.

You definitely have to be very cautious with the

highs and the lows of the sport because if you

get too low, sometimes it’s impossible to get

out of it. I have been there. I’ve been in that

position where I’ve been so low that you can’t

dig your way out. There’s a fine balance. I love

winning. You don’t want to get too excited, but


you definitely enjoy the moment. Then you’re

right back to work because there’s a race every


Were there any moments where you thought

maybe I’m done? What am I going to do now?

For sure. After my whole stint at JGR, it definitely

put me in a mindset where I wasn’t sure

what I really wanted to do anymore. There

were definitely times where I asked myself,

“is this really what I want to do?” I took some

time off and I missed the sport a lot. At the

time, there wasn’t any racing going on or anything,

but I did miss riding and the thought of

not racing was something that I didn’t think I

could live with. So I hit the reset button and

was like, “let’s give this another solid go.”

That was about probably two years or so ago,

or three years even. It’s crazy how time goes

by so fast. I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve

been in the 450 class right now. So I’m really

glad I decided to race. I don’t think I was ever

going to [stop], but I definitely would have

been very disappointed in myself if I did.

Do you think people write racers off too


Yeah, for sure. One hundred percent. Lots

of people wrote me off. A lot. When I went

through those lows and tough times on some

teams, and then didn’t have a ride…they write

you off right away. At the end of the day, it

doesn’t really matter if people write you off or

not because as a rider, as a person, or whatever

you do, you make your own destiny. I was

able to turn that around.

It wasn’t really all that long ago that you were

without a ride, a privateer racing the Monster

Energy Cup...

That’s the biggest thing in this sport. You just

have to believe in yourself. For me, at one

point in time, I lost the fun and lost the belief

a little. So I had to do my own little privateer

thing for a minute, and regroup and get that

good feeling again and believe in myself again.

Once you get that back, it’s on. It’s a very hard

road to take, but for me as a racer, all the

things I’ve been through, it’s not only made me

a better racer, it’s made me a better person. I

really wouldn’t change anything.

You have said that you feel like you’re riding

the best you have in years. What do you think

has been the difference maker there?

There’s a lot of things that changed in my life

since a few years ago. I got married and have

my wife Amber by my side, which is awesome.

It’s just great to have someone that can


go through the tough times of the sport with

you and the really good times as well. Also,

being on the Factory Yamaha team, I would

say for me, has been a fresh start. Yamaha

hasn’t been back in supercross all that long.

This sport, so much goes into it. I think when

a team takes off as many years as the Factory

Yamaha team did, it takes a while to get back

to that position. There’s been a lot of things

changing. We’re adapting and learning as we

go. It’s been a good relationship with Yamaha

during this building [process]. Everyone is

working together and realizing that we have

to start over and keep building this thing back

into a championship-winning team. So I think

where we started and where we’re moving to is

really good. We won the first race this year and

we’re third in points right now, so we’re at the

top of the sport. I feel like we’re moving in the

right direction for sure. Team aside, I’ve matured

a lot as a rider. Every year you learn different

things about your training, your fitness

and your mind. So it’s not just one thing. It’s a

combination of lots of things. Like I said, this

whole thing is like a humongous puzzle and to

connect all the pieces together, it takes a lot of

work. And sometimes, you need to get some

glue and scissors to put all the pieces together.

There’s a lot of times where teammate dynamics

are a challenge. You and Aaron seem

to get along really well...

Right now at Yamaha there’s a really good

team vibe. Me and Aaron are good friends and


we enjoy racing each other, we enjoy riding

together during the week and things like that.

I couldn’t ask for a better teammate. Aaron’s a

really fun kid to be around. He brings a lot of

excitement to the team. His birthday was this

past weekend. I always think we’re the same

age because I feel really young at heart and

joke around and stuff but he’s 24. I’m going to

be 28 next month. It’s cool. I remember being

the young kid on the team and now he’s the

young kid and he brings the excitement out in

me, it’s motivating. The team has really come

around this year. We’ve had a really good offseason

and spent a lot of time together and

work together really well. We all have the same

goal in mind and that’s winning races and

fighting for championships. When you all have

the same goal and you all click, it’s awesome.

A lot of athletes talk about there’s the team at

the track, but also the team at home. You and

Amber moved out here to California to live in

a motorhome for several months. How many

wives would be like: “Sure, honey. Let’s just

live out of a motorhome?!”

Yeah, for sure. In this sport there’s insane

sacrifices. I’ve never lived in California really

and I don’t have a house out here or anything.

My plan was to do whatever I needed to do

this year. So we made the big decision. We got

a motorhome and we parked it down by the

beach. We haven’t been home in four months.

For me and her, we sacrificed a ton to do that.

It’s been a really positive thing, though. We’ve

been able to work with the team a lot and

build a really strong relationship. I’ve been

able to do a lot of work on the motorcycle,

which we needed to do. So I can’t complain

at all, but it would be nice to be home sometimes.

That just hasn’t been the way it was

planned. We definitely made sacrifices this

year, and we’ll continue to make sacrifices to

be the best.

Your wife being from the UK, would you ever

consider going international?

For sure. I love the UK. I love Europe. Our plan

in the future, when I retire from racing in the

States, is to move to the UK part time because

we have a lot of family over there and really

good friends. In the past I’ve talked to teams

in MXGP, way back in the day, about racing in

Europe. So it’s never out of the question. My

main focus though, for the next two, three,

four, or however many years that I’m racing in

America before I retire is full focus on America.

Whatever happens after that is whatever

it will be. But I’ve always enjoyed racing the

Motocross of Nations and the Paris Supercross

and Geneva Supercross and racing Italy supercrosses

back in the day. I’ve always loved

traveling and seeing the world. You never know

what could happen. I’ve built good relationships

over in Europe. I enjoy it. Maybe one day

we could go race over there. We’ll just have to

see how everything goes.

Supercross is 17 rounds in 18 weeks. It’s

pretty intense and fast-paced, but it’s not a

sprint. It’s a marathon in the end…

I like to look at is as the Tour de France. You

can’t win every race. You just have to be there

throughout the whole thing. In the Tour de

France they don’t want to lose time. In supercross

we don’t want to lose too many points.

It’s a long run. The competition level is really

high. You have to win races, you have to be

near the podium, and you want to eliminate

those bad races. I think Supercross is the most

demanding sport there is and there will ever

be. It’s unbelievable what we’re able to do but

to win a championship it takes a whole group

of people all coming together.




By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/Kawasaki

Bavo/Honda, KTM & Yamaha Racing














The British Grand Prix will

open the FIM Motocross World

Championship for the first

time this century on March 1st

but the initial round of twenty

in ’20 will be without double

MX2 title-winner and one of

the star names of the series,

Jorge Prado. The Red Bull

KTM rider underwent surgery

to fix a broken left femur mid-

December and is pushing to

regain fitness and eventually

ride the works 450 SX-F again

before considering his debut in

the premier class. 2020 MXGP

starts at pace with four Grands

Prix occurring before the first

weekend of April.

Presently, Prado is focussing

more on rehab rather than

training but doctors approved

a greater degree of prep ten

days ago. “It’s only been four

weeks, so it is still very early

but I can now cycle and get in

the gym to work on strength in

my upper body,” the recentlyturned

19 year old said. “I cannot

run yet. People are really

impressed with the progress I

am making. It was a pretty serious

injury and a complicated

operation but the surgery could

not have gone any better.”

The Spaniard – who will be the

focus of attention at just his

second home Grand Prix at the

new venue of intu Xanadú – Arroyomolinos

in Madrid on April

18-19 and could well be racing

by that stage – has had to deal

with the consequences of the

largest setback of his young

three-year world championship

career to-date. “In the first


you are

full of


and pills

to reduce

pain and


it takes a

while to

feel normal



there is

swelling around the tissue and

the side-effects mean you don’t

feel hungry and generally a bit

miserable,” he described. “So

it was a hard time…”









Prado suffered the break after

losing grip and balance on the

450 SX-F around the Malagrotta

track near Rome; the

regular training base he uses

with teammate and mentor

Tony Cairoli. “I’ve not thought

that much about the crash,”

he admits. “For a day or two

afterwards I was replaying in

my mind what had happened…

but I didn’t make a mistake

and there was no problem with

the bike: it was just bad luck.

It had started to rain and I lost

grip over a very easy jump! I

think an amateur could crash

there…but there is no way a

rider at my level should do

that. The circumstances mean

that it hasn’t affected my confidence

or my desire to get on

the bike.”

MXGP teammate and 2018

world champion Jeffrey Herlings

was one of the first to

message Prado once news of

the accident filtered through.

The Dutchman snapped the

same bone with a commanding

145 point lead in the 2014 MX2

world championship and while

riding an 85cc machine at a

charity event. Eight weeks (and

one stomach infection) later

Herlings was able to hobble

back on his KTM for the final

race of the season in Mexico

and despite a valiant 11th place

finish overall in one of the

most dramatic championship



finales in recent memory lost

a third crown in a row by four

points to then teammate Jordi

Tixier. Herlings would have to

wait another eighteen months

before wrapping his MX2 hatrick.

“He wrote to me and sent

some nice messages of advice

and what I should do next

with the injury,” Prado says.

“Honestly that surprised me…

and I really appreciated it.”

Prado might have followed

Romain Febvre (2015) and

Tim Gajser (2016) as rookie

winners of the premier class

crown at the first attempt

(Herlings managed the feat

in his second ‘go’ in 2018).

He’ll now be able affront 2020

with a softer spotlight. “All I

want to do is progress,” he

said of his realigned goals for

the year. “It’s hard to think

of the season [ahead] when

I just want to concentrate on

the next weeks to get back to

a position where I am back

on the bike and fit. I had very

little time on the 450 but the

bike was already ready to race

and that also gives me

confidence for when I can

finally be in the MXGP gate.”

If #61 does have a Grand Prix

in mind to return to the

orange awning next to Cairoli

and Herlings then he’s being

understandably discrete. “I

really want to start riding as

soon as possible mainly because

I miss it!” he admitted.

“But we don’t have a set date

at the moment. This break

needs quite a bit of work and

it means I might be on the

bike when the leg is not in an

ideal condition. I also need

to work as much as I can to

build up the muscle strength

again, that will be the main

thing before I can think about

the bike.”


Jeffrey Herlings was 19 years

old and on the way to a third

world championship when he

fractured his femur in 2014.

At the time the argument over

whether the Dutchman was

too young and too inexperienced

for the 450 and the premier

class was particularly hot

and was occurring in a miniera

where he was smoking the

best that MX2 had to offer.

The future of the 450s was

still a talking point at the time

with Tony Cairoli having won

three straight championships

on the 350 SX-F and Herlings’

occasionally rash decisionmaking

and riding style had

many claiming the bigger bike

was simply a step too far for

an athlete so young. The MX2

class saw two rule changes to

protect and then finally eject

athletes aping Herlings’ dominance

from what is essentially

a category to funnel talent into

MXGP. Prado is the first real

‘victim’ of this stipulation after

establishing a similar rate of


aloof results as his teammate, but

there is not the same level of outcry

and concern for the Spaniard and his

forced entry into MXGP at the same

age. This could possibly be down to

the narrowing gap between 450 and

250 performance and dynamics but

also because of Prado’s ability and

technique. In his debut term in 2017

Prado was so slight and unprepared

for the exertions of Grand Prix that

he was forced to pull out of the two

hottest races that year. A quick fast

forward to 2019 and his promotion to

MXGP seems natural, expected and

unquestioned. Jorge’s skill, his phenomenal

starting prowess and steely

character hidden by a boyish charm

and smile, means he would have been

a contender from the outset in 2020

and the undoubted dark horse of the

greatest MXGP team ever assembled.

This injury is a test for his patience

but – assuming he recovers well and

fully – is not a disaster for his


Prado can hand-off the pressures of

victories and title-scrapping to

Cairoli and Herlings and go about

his business learning the differences

between MXGP and MX2. Missing

the first three rounds of the year is a

completely different scenario to, say,

having won the first three and emerging

as the main face of the sport and

all the extra attention that entails. As

a champion in various classes, a

factory rider and the star of

motocross in a bike-mad country

like Spain, Prado is hardly a shrinking

violet when it comes to carrying

a public profile and has been in front

of TV cameras since pre-puberty but

he has been given breathing space to

adapt and find his place at the last

and biggest step that there is. Having

just turned 19 that’s not a major cause

for concern in his career. If he copies

Herlings and clinches the gold plate in

2021 he will still be 20 at the time and

it’s scary to think what he might go on

to achieve…




There are some, like Mitchell Evans on

a HRC CRF450R, Thomas Covington

and Calvin Vlaanderen as MXGP rookies

with Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha

and Glenn Coldenhoff on a GasGas

and of course the incoming Jorge

Prado with Red Bull KTM that hold a

high curiosity factor for 2020 Grand

Prix but perhaps Romain Febvre’s

sixth campaign in the premier class

that he won as a debutant in 2015

tops the bunch.

Febvre is not only competing for his

second brand in MXGP (his fourth

since entering Grand Prix in 2012) but

his second factory, and he joins the

Monster Energy Kawasaki crew and

the domain of Clement Desalle since

2016. The recently turned 28 year old

has only just completed his first serious

tests with the KX450F after full

recuperation from a broken femur

sustained last August. The Frenchman

scored five podiums in 2019 despite

two snapped bones and earned his

first victory since ’16 with success in

the Czech Republic.

Febvre started to ride a stock Kawasaki

at the beginning of December. “I

was riding three months after surgery

and the pin caused some pain but no

inflammation and wasn’t bothering

my knee; it wasn’t simple to get comfortable

on the bike and to feel like

normal,” he admitted. “I guess that is

expected and, honestly, it has been

getting better every time and I have

been starting to get some speed.”


The accident and fractured femur came

just six months after he broke his foot in

Argentina. It was the severest injury of

his career. “I could feel a reminder of it,”

he said of the recent spells of riding. “I

wasn’t thinking of crashing, so I wasn’t

afraid or worried, but I had trouble doing

consecutive days on the bike and had to

rest and recuperate because it had been a

big injury. The only effect really was in the

left corners when my foot would hit the

floor. It was something new to get used

to…but everything is new at the moment!”

Personal development, or recovery, aside

Febvre also has to handle two new ‘obstacles’

in his race prep for 2020. The first is

the feeling and synergy with the KX. The

second is the working relationship and atmosphere

with fellow title-contender (and

another rider returning from a broken leg)

Desalle. When it comes to the bike then

Febvre has good form in adapting quickly

to the production base and making the

most of a simplistic package: in the winter

of 2014 he recovered from a broken arm

by making laps with a standard YZ450F

and then morphed the basis of the motorcycle

to gain momentum, confidence and

eventually the ’15 championship.

He needs to get a handle on Showa

suspension compared to five years with

Yamaha KYB but otherwise has blended

immediately with the KX. “The first difference

is that the bike is thinner, especially

around the tank and seat,” he describes.

“I really like that, and it makes a difference

for the handling. I felt good on it

right away. Another positive is the character

of the engine and the power. This

was something where we had to make a

lot of changes on the Yamaha to try and

adapt it to my style. It [the Yamaha] was

very aggressive and we needed to always

find a compromise for the different tracks

and the starts. From the basic setting I’m

already very happy and we still need to

go through more testing. The Kawasaki

power already matches my style, so I had

proof in my hands and my mind that this

will work. Hopefully it will only get better

and better.”

Febvre claimed the 2015 crown by brushing

aside the threat and profile of thenteammate

Jeremy Van Horebeek, who had

been runner-up the previous year. The two

famously clashed at the 2016









German Grand Prix and were estranged

for another two seasons. Desalle has not

had a rider of the same level or status at

KRT after two years with Jordi Tixier and

two with Julien Lieber. The squad now

have two heavyweights and arguably their

largest billing since Ryan Villopoto made

his notorious and brief attempt at the

world championship in Febvre’s careerdefining


“I’ve never really taken care of who my

teammate is,” Febvre admits. “Jeremy Van

Horebeek was not a title contender but he

finished on the podium a few times and



was also in front of me now and again. I

will just do my best for the team; if either

one of us is putting the team at the front

then this is better.”

“I don’t know Clement so much,” he added.

“He is riding in Spain at the moment

and I’m in Sardinia but we’ll link up soon.

I think it is really good for the image of

the team to have two top riders and hopefully

we’ll have a nice season.”

Febvre did admit to seeking a cordial

working relationship with Desalle – two

years his senior – and in particular tapping

into his experience of having worked

on two generations of the KX. “Clement

is obviously used to the bike,” he says.

“I think this will be his fifth year with the

team and he knows them well and how

the bike needs to be set-up. It will be

interesting to hear his opinions because

I still have a lot to learn. For sure it will

be good top battle this year and whoever

ends up in front will be the better rider.”


Of all the injuries to strike MXGP in 2019

Romain Febvre’s broken foot at the first

race of the year was one of the most

disappointing. His snapped femur while

leading in Sweden was far more serious

and ‘final’ but the mistake at Neuquen

derailed arguably the Frenchman’s best

off-season and what looked like a very

competitive vein of intent thanks to his

work with Jacky Vimond. The pair have

collaborated again for 2020 as Vimond

switched blue for green and Febvre will

be hoping for a quick adaption to only his

second motorcycle in six years of premier

class racing. It’s hard to say which

way 2020 could swing for the new #3. He

mis-stepped with the factory Yamaha in

2017; it took half a season for the team

and rider to calm and curate the YZ450F

power curve sufficiently to make top five

starts and be able to control the Yamaha

enough to vie for MXGP podiums once

more. Febvre was highly rated and highly

paid at Yamaha but arguably needed a

fresh challenge after a cycle of seasons

that did not end as hoped. Not much has

changed around him – he even keeps the

same key sponsors in Monster Energy and

Alpinestars – but the landscape ahead is

untried and partially tested. Febvre is one

of the most fiercely determined racers

in MXGP and it will be fascinating to see

how both he and Clement Desalle interact

and unwillingly drive each other on. Desalle

has not had a teammate of this ilk

since he rode with Steve Ramon at Suzuki

in 2011. It’s hard not to imagine Febvre as

another protagonist of MXGP this year;

the real mystery is to what extent. When

he had recovered from his injury last summer

he was a nuisance to Tim Gajser but

was still relatively untested against the

Red Bull KTMs. Charting Romain’s

intensity and competitiveness will be one

of the more watchable elements of grand

prix once it gets underway.




When the MX2 class lines up

at Matterley Basin at the end

of February for the British

Grand Prix and the first action

of twenty dates in 2020

MXGP there will be only two

riders in the gate with the

knowledge and experience

of having stop atop an FIM

World Championship race podium.

Monster Energy Yamaha’s

Ben Watson is not one

of those but the 2018 world

#4 – who lost the chance to

better himself in 2019 due to

a broken hand and a broken

wrist – will almost certainly

be one of the contenders in a

contest that has been largely

owned by Red Bull KTM since

the turn of the last decade.

Only Tim Gajser (2015) has

dethroned the Austrians who

has seen Marvin Musquin,

Ken Roczen, Jeffrey Herlings,

Jordi Tixier, Pauls Jonass and

Jorge Prado crowned since

2010. The champions will be

hoping 2019 surprise package

Tom Vialle will get close

to joining that list but there

are significant threats from

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna

(Thomas Kjer Olsen and Jed

Beaton) and Watson’s Yamaha

crew with teammate Jago

Geerts very much in play.

2020 will be Watson’s last on

a 250 as he turns 23 in June

and with serial holeshotter

and double world champion

Prado now out of the class

the Brit is in touching distance

of a potentially bright

campaign. “It’s really open

this year

and I















for the

class,” he





case for the last two seasons

where Prado made it

look pretty easy. We’d know

he’d likely holeshot, do some

hard, early laps and pull out a

gap. It meant you needed an

equally good start otherwise

it was just a tough fight at the

beginning of motos and he

was usually gone by the time

you came through. I think

people don’t know exactly

what will happen now.”

2019 runner-up Olsen is

a clear favourite based on

results of the previous two

seasons and Watson knows

he’ll need to put the lessons

learned from two terms as a

factory Yamaha rider to good

use to graduate as GP winner

and then look even further

upwards. “In 2017 I was

15th and made a big step up

to 4th in 2018 so last year

there was a lot of expectation

and added pressure and

that worked against me,” he

admits. “I didn’t have the

experience to handle it. The

results were OK at times but

then I was also disappointed

a lot; for instance, I was 4th

overall at Arco di Trento and I

was pissed off when perhaps

I should have looked at it as a

reasonable result so early in

the season and focussed on

the next race. I wasn’t enjoying

myself, had some problems,

fought with the bike,

made some mistakes and it

led into the hand injury.”


Watson says the prospect of his

final campaign in MX2 does not

faze him. “I see my future in the

450s and where I’ll be riding at my

best, so I don’t want to be putting

pressure on myself as 2020 as the

‘last chance’,” the tall athlete says.

“I want to have fun this season because

whether I’m in contention for

the title or not my future for MXGP

is likely to be decided by the middle

of the year. So, I need to find

my rhythm, enjoy my riding and

the results will come.”

For now #919 could face his toughest

and most competitive 2020

challenge close to home. 19 year

old Geerts emerged as a regular

podiumee in 2019 with six trophies

and superseded Watson under the

former Kemea-Yamaha awning. He

smiles at the suggestion that tensions

could end up running high in

the works set-up. “Jago is not that

kinda guy,” he states. “I think you

could t-bone him or have a hard

fight and he’d still say something

like ‘good race…’ afterwards. He’s

super-chilled and I’m also along

those lines. We both know that

what happens on the track stays on

the track. Within the team we also

know that we go out there to win;

it doesn’t matter if the other guy is

your best mate or even your brother.

The attitude stays the same. I

want to beat him just as much as

the next guy in the gate.”



While Ben Watson’s tall frame on a 250

could mean he’ll be a better fit for a 450

(the same thinking could apply to Calvin

Vlaanderen, Mitch Evans and Thomas

Kjer Olsen) there is little doubt that he’ll

be attacking 2020 both to grasp the last

opportunity in MX2 and make an

impression for MXGP 2021. Watson

might have exploded onto the

international scene with victories and

outstanding speed in the EMX250

European Championship as a fifteen year

old and has long-been touted as a star in

the UK since his junior MX days but his

progress to the top level has been slowburn.

Losing an entire year with a badly-broken

foot in 2016 didn’t help but he was trying

to fast-track his education in terms of

preparation and race-leading capabilities

in 2017 and 2018. 2019 should have seen

another stage of evolution, and despite

the mistakes and misfortune with injury

it perhaps gave him his most important

lesson to-date: dealing with the mental

aspect of pressure, demands and expectation.

Watson has the technique, the

strength (again he has collaborated with

Jacky Vimond in the off-season) and

now, hopefully, the hardened character

and race-mind to judge a weekend and

paint the bigger picture. He is one of the

very few top hopes for the UK in 2020

(perhaps Conrad Mewse can also develop)

and beyond, and British fans will

be hoping his maturation as a Pro and

an athlete delivers the results he really

should be hitting. He’s part of a clutch of

riders that could produce surprises over

the next nine months.









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The announcement that the 2020 Grand Prix of

Spain will take place at a brand-new ‘build’ 20km

from the centre of Madrid came as a small

surprise…but also in this era of modern MXGP

and twenty-race schedules it wasn’t a big shock.

The intu Xanadú – Arroyomolinos

circuit (a mouthful,

even for a Spaniard) is one of

three unseen and debutant facilities

for 2020. There could

be a fourth if the second ever

Grand Prix of China relocates

somewhere else from Shanghai,

and you’d also like to

think that any alarms over epidemics

will have long disappeared

by the time MXGP has

to jet east for the penultimate

fixture in mid-September. Intu

(let’s just shorten it for a moment)

along with the KymiRing

and Jakarta are fresh

creations for MXGP and join

a track record with a varying

degree of success.

Spain is a good example of

a country that should have

a Grand Prix…but somehow

has struggled to make it

happen on a consistent basis.

Bellpuig in Catalunya was a

stable home from 1994 up

until 2012 and through peaks

and troughs in terms of attendance.

Local government

support was key, and the

sports ministry even helped

chip-in almost a million euros

around the start of the century

to allow the permanent circuit

to overhaul and upgrade

infrastructure. The erosion of

this backing, a lack of domestic

stars after the retirement

of Javier Garcia Vico (a larger

than life character if there

ever was one) and Jonathan

Barragan, and small crowds

pushed the club out of the

world championship picture.

Short-term attempts at Leon

(a terrible venue) and Red

Sand and intermittent visits

to Talavera de la Reina were

frustratingly unstable. Talavera

is a historic racetrack and

the definition of old-school

with its incessant climbs,

drops and narrow layout but

far too compact to wedge

MXGP and all the EMX circus

into the surrounds. There was

also a sense that the bikes

had outgrown the course with

a set of processional and uninteresting

motos limited by

frugal passing places.

So, bolstered with a double

world champion and a sub-

20 year old athlete who is

making noises of a Grand

Prix future (as opposed to an

teenager eager to escape to

supercross) the momentum

and desire to push MXGP

back into consciousness continues.

Therefore why the new

circuit instead of a search

to adapt one of the many in

Spain? Why not pick up the

phone to a GP-ready installation

like Bellpuig? The first

answer seems to be in the

coffers supposedly offered by

the Comunidad de Madrid as




well as the Spanish Federation.

Which leads to the second

explanation of requiring

a site in the province that can

do the job.

Intu fulfils certain criteria. It’s

next to a shopping complex,

has easy motorway access

and parking and hard-standing

facilities in the vein of







It’s extremely close to the

seven million population

catchment of the capital,

and thus more spotlight will

be thrown on the marketing

efforts of the organisation to

see if the slimmest fraction of

the well-informed native public

(motorsport is regularly

part of the evening news) will

travel to see one of the

country’s best young motorcycle

racing talents – the

best ever from Spain – with

motocross at last holding its

own against the reams of successful

figures in road racing,

rally, trial, enduro; you name


The Grand Prix is being organised

by the management

team that backs Jorge Prado;

so, people that know the

sport and have visited FIM

championship events enough

to know what should constitute

a viable race. The same

personnel will have watched

the attempt by RedSand to

convert from being a popular

training course to a GP site

with local government backing

and ultimately struggle

and throw-in the towel. The

crew is led by Diego Muñoz

and I contacted him for a few

words on the project. “The

Arroyomolinos council gave

us this possibility and we saw

that the site was perfect; it’s

half an hour from the centre

of a massive city like Madrid


as well as next door to a wellknown

shopping centre that

has around 60,000 visitors

every weekend,” he said.

The framework looks promising

but the layout itself is the

crux and, of course, there is

trepidation over a new-build.

I’ve already seen a virtual

‘rolling of the eyes’ reaction

on social media. New

and temporary (sometimes

ill-fitting) tracks have a chequered

record so far. For every

man-made hit like Nequen,

Matterley Basin, Gore Basin,

Si Racha and Frauenfeld there

have been other less-loved

and unappealing experiments

like Mallory Park, Guadalajara,

Pangkal Pinang, Leon in

Mexico, and Losail. For some

reason the wealth of resources

and passion invested

by the Indonesian government

to orientate a sporting

event around a multi-million

industry in their country has

been met with some derision.

Palembang and Semarang

failed to inspire international



viewers and Jakarta is set to

be the fourth different venue

in as many years.

If the Indonesian Federation

soon decides that MotoGP

should swallow all the funding

for a new road racing complex

then it will be motocross’

loss. The necessity for new

circuits is down to the lack of

history and tradition for the

sport and the desire to tap-in

into the vast amount of people

and riders in urban areas.

Generally, I believe people

have a problem more with

the track themselves rather

than the circumstances that

led the world championship

being at a site; be it old, new,

feted or hated. Palembang

last year – new for 2019 and

constructed in the town and

the shadow of a vast and

modern hotel - was a case

of practical comfort for the

teams and riders that travelled

all the way from European

bases to participate, but

the compact and ungainly

aspect of the place seemed to

gather a wide thumbs-down

from those who felt they

had to voice an opinion after

watching through a screen.

Track crews and Youthstream’s

team have been

guilty in the past of copypasting

certain elements of

one new layout to another

(off-camber spoon curve?

Check.). For example, there

were parts of the track in Losail,

Qatar that looked strikingly

familiar to Beto Carrero

in Brazil. However we’re not

talking about a ‘cookie-cutter’

scenario – and there is only

so much that can be created

from a flat piece of land – but

there was a tendency to make

circuits ‘very busy’ within

a recommended guideline

length of 1.6km (watch how

Matterley Basin will shrink

this year to meet that regulation)

and that means creation

and installation of familiar


It’s not an easy job, and I

wouldn’t - for a second –

believe that a designer and

builder sets-out to chisel

something unchallenging

and restrictive, but they often

have to work with a very

condensed ‘palette’ and even

a lack of machinery or willing

co-operation. They also need

to compromise for the fans’







views, TV set-up, rider’s reaction

and safety…all within the

scope of land and the type of

dirt. Think about it for a second:

it seems like an impossible

job to create something

that ticks boxes for everyone.

“It has good ground,” Muñoz

says of Intu. “Perhaps it

doesn’t have the big hills of

other world championship

tracks but it will be spectacular

thanks to decent soil

and a natural setting that the

public can fill. It won’t be a

Matterley Basin or Maggiora

but it is a concept close to

Switzerland [Frauenfeld-

Gachnang] that could work


“We’ll do the basic design

here in Spain with the organisation

taking in all the

necessary details - visibility,

comfort for riders, staff, press

– Youthstream will then send

a technical delegate and a

designer to decide together

on the correct jumps, waves

and obstacles.”

Even if there are basic ‘musts’

such as knowledge and thorough

preparation of the soil,

it is absurd to pre-judge intu

Xanadú – Arroyomolinos as

a track before a wheel has

turned or a gate has dropped.

It’s even hard to be too critical

after the first edition when

there has to be a forgivable

margin for getting every

aspect of the event spot-on.

I also rubbish the notion that

a track is any less worthy

because it hasn’t seen the

good old days of two-strokes

and immense crowds standing

behind a piece of tape

not seemingly caring if they

get wiped out or not. 21st

century MXGP might seem

abhorrent to some but I’m

willing to bet the kids and

youngsters that travel to Intu

on 18-19 of April will be just

as spellbound by what they

see compared to any other

generation or location in the

past. I don’t think you can

get too snobby about a track

that appears and disappears

either. If a fantastic circuit is

established and prospers then

brilliant, but if someone has

the money to arrive, build and

disband every year to escape

the money pit of a permanent

fixation and still puts on a

decent show then fine. Intu

has a three-year contract for

MXGP and the circuit will stay

in place and only be used for

the Grand Prix.

“We haven’t had any strict

rider guidance for the design

but Jorge has seen it and approves,”

reveals Muñoz. “He

told us that too many jumps

mean that riders cannot make

differences in lap-times and

it affects the racing. He also

said that wave sections are

good for allowing riders to

make time but are also very

tiring. We know we have to

look after the ground. It will

be hard-packed but there will

also be enough bumps.”

Intu does lack a reputation,

and the novelty factor can

swing either way in terms of

enticing the curious or dissuading

the sceptical. That’s

why it will require good direction

and strong collaboration

when it comes to its construction.

In a way the mystery is exciting

and there is optimism.

When it comes to survival

rather than looking at the

dirt, look at the dime. If the

bills can be paid - and some

roots laid – then this will

signify the difference between

Intu being a one-stop 2020

budget chop and something

that could become a bright

beacon for the sport, just like








By Roland Brown, Photos by Bimota

On one level, Bimota’s Tesi

H2 is just what its name suggests:

a combination of the

supercharged engine from

Kawasaki’s Ninja H2 and the

“forkless” Tesi chassis long

associated with the small firm

from Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic


But the Tesi H2 represents

much more than this, because

it is the first visible result of

last year’s deal that saw Japanese

giant Kawasaki buy a

49.9% stake in Bimota. Which

means there might well be

an exciting future for a once

glamorous, brilliantly innovative

company that for years

lurched from one crisis to another

before seemingly fading

away for ever.

Bimota will always have a special

place in many motorcyclists’

hearts – mine included

– because it once represented

the pinnacle of two-wheeled

performance and technology.

The firm was founded

in the late Sixties, originally

to make heating systems, by

three friends who included the

late Massimo Tamburini – the

genius designer and engineer

whose later creations would

include Ducati’s 916 and MV

Agusta’s 750 F4.

Bimota soon switched to

building motorcycles, initially

racebikes. Johnny Cecotto’s

1975 world championship winning

Yamaha 350 had a Tamburini-designed

Bimota frame,

as did the Harley-Davidson

(formerly Aermacchi) twins

on which Walter Villa won 250

and 350cc titles. In 1980 Jon

Ekerold rode a Bimota Yamaha

– its Italian chassis now

officially recognised – to the

350cc championship.








But it was for exotic, technically

advanced roadgoing superbikes

that Bimota became

famous. Ironically the first, the

CB750-engined HB1, came

after Tamburini had wrecked

his standard Honda at Misano,

and rebuilt it with a new,

much more advanced chassis

of his own design.

The SB2 that followed in

1977, powered by the engine

from Suzuki’s GS750 four,

was years ahead of its time.

It featured a swoopy full fairing,

one-piece tank/seat unit,

adjustable steering geometry,

and rising-rate monoshock

instead of twin shocks. Other

Tamburini creations included

the KB1 and KB2, powered by

Kawasaki’s four-cylinder Z900

and Z500 engines respectively.

Bimota’s first financial crash

came in 1984 after Tamburini

had quit but the firm was

rescued by the success of the

stylish, Ducati-powered DB1

V-twin designed by his successor,

Federico Martini. Another

Martini design, the alloy

beam-framed, Yamaha FZ750-

engined YB4, led to successful

streetbikes and Virginio Ferrari’s

1987 World Formula One


Sales peaked in the mid-Nineties

with new chief engineer

Pierluigi Marconi’s SB6, which

held Suzuki’s GSX-R1100

engine in a huge twin-spar

alloy frame. But there were

problems, too, mostly due to

bold but over-ambitious engineering

diversions. The Tesi,

whose origins were in Marconi’s

university thesis, held

Ducati’s eight-valve V-twin

engine in a radical chassis

featuring hub-centre steering.

Both that and the later 500

Vdue, with its direct-injection

two-stroke engine, showed

promise but were plagued by

teething troubles.

Bankruptcy was followed by

revival under new ownership

but a key issue remained:

Bimota’s core principle – that

a small, specialist firm could

produce more advanced superbikes

than a big manufacturer

– was outdated. The BB2

unveiled in 2012, powered

by BMW’s S1000RR engine,

highlighted this. How could

tiny Bimota hope to better the

standard S1000RR, let alone

the stunning HP4 derivative

that BMW had just launched?

Predictably the BB2 flopped,

and Bimota’s future seemed

equally bleak. The success

of models including Ducati’s

Superleggeras and Honda’s

RC213V-S MotoGP replica

proved there was a market

for ultra-exotic superbikes.

But the business model that

involved developing them

around bought-in engines, and

hand-assembling them at a

small factory on an industrial

estate in Rimini, no longer

made sense.

Bimota’s deal last year with

Kawasaki, whose motorcycle

division is part of a vast

global corporation, changed

that at a stroke. Suddenly

Bimota had access not only

to a supply of engines including

the Ninja H2’s outrageous

supercharged four, but also


Bimota have also revealed a

concept sketch of a more conventional

KB4 model that will

follow the line established by

the KB1, one of the marque’s

biggest hits of the Seventies.

A retro-themed sports bike

with full fairing and single

round headlight, the KB4

holds the Ninja 1000SX’s

1043cc, four-cylinder engine

in a tubular steel frame.

a network of suppliers and,

potentially, an army of testers

and engineers, marketing and

sales people.

Testing is due to start this

summer, and the KB4 looks

deliciously promising. It won’t

have the radical engineering

or all-conquering performance

of its early, Tamburinidesigned

KB forebears, but

like the Bimotas of previous

decades it’s set to be lighter,

faster and cooler than its

Japanese donor bike. Against

all odds, the old Rimini format

appears to be generating

some magic once again.

Much work is still needed to

turn Bimota into a thriving,

21st-century manufacturer, but

the future looks brighter than

for many years. The firm aims

to produce 200 bikes this

year, most of them the Tesi

H2 whose development will

be overseen by Marconi. At a

rumoured 50,000 euros, it will

have a price tag to match its

exalted specification.




wrapped and ready for the chilly

parts of winter with the latest range of

snow and skimobile gear from the

outdoor specialists.

Some climate curveballs have meant people

either waiting for snow in parts of Europe

or are revelling in a sudden cascade of the

stuff. Writing from personal experience then

the Scott Sports’ range of winter clothing is

a brilliant option when considering fresh gear

to tackle the slopes on your chosen method

of transportation. Scott is the original ski pole

pioneer so their roots are pretty much planted

in the white stuff and their knowledge with

the technical use, construction and properties

of fabrics and materials means they are onthe-money

with what works when it comes

to insulation, protection, ventilation, use and


The compliment of jackets, trousers, thermals,

inner layers, gloves and monosuits is

expanded further with goggles (based on the

excellent Prospect), body armour, helmets

and accessories. Those eying Snowmobile activity

can get fully kitted-out, even up to the

point of protective backpacks.

Just a word on the styling: the combination of

lively block colours and subtle use of the logo

means it falls nicely into that gap between

conservative and classy but also appealing

and youthful. Have a browse by clicking on

any link here and pick up some threads that

will last a good few years (as my ski clothing

has done).







By Adam Wheeler, Photos by OTOR, CormacGP & Polarity Photo

In the last issue of OTOR we spoke exclusively

with the MotoGP World Champion on a variety of

subjects. Now, as the 2020 season approaches, we

visited the HRC man’s hometown to learn about

the state of his shoulder and rate of recovery

ahead of an intense twenty-race schedule.

Less than a minute after entering the age-old town of Cervera,

located atop a plateau in the flatlands west of Barcelona and a

short distance from the city of Lleida, the first signs that this is

‘Marquez’ land is apparent. A ‘Champions’ sign for both Marc

and Alex is the initial warning that this village of 10,000 inhabitants

is the birthplace and home for both MotoGP and Moto2

reigning world champions and a pair of siblings separated by

nearly three years that split ten road racing titles between

them. What is in the water around here?

Fifteen minutes further to the west lies former MXGP grand

prix venue Bellpuig. A brief skip east and back towards the

direction of Barcelona lies MX circuit Pons as well as Parcmotor

and the Igualada short circuit. The green, chilly and inviting

landscape around speaks prime enduro country. Despite the

condensed, historic and almost ghostly aspect of the town it’s

not hard to imagine that motorcycling is a common and easilyfound


A huge mural next to one of the public parking zones in the

cramped urbanity is further evidence of the Marquez’ influence

here. ’93 and ‘73’ flags are dotted around apartment terraces


and balconies. The brothers’ ‘official store’ is a

stone’s throw from the imposing university next

to the narrow high street and is overlooked by

the balcony of the Casal de Cervera bar/hall

where town celebrations to honour the world

champ have become almost an annual fixture.

Cervera is the epitome of a sleepy town at

10am on a Tuesday morning. It’s January, bright

and cold and only a handful of people are wandering

around, flanked by medieval masonry

and covered alleys that are celebrated for their

past association with black magic and witchcraft

(perhaps some of Marc’s bike skills now

begin to make sense). The Central Café is silent

and barely inhabited – two older gentlemen

stir coffee cups and flick through two of Spain’s

four daily sports newspapers. Marquez regalia

is on the wall and outside a small coin-operated

plastic motorcycle offer riders to little kids.








Approaching the town museum – almost entirely

missable were it not for a set of directions

provided by HRC – and peering through the

glass door reveals the Marc Marquez exhibition.

Inside Repsol have hung the eight ‘paintings’

created by the rear wheel of a Honda Fireblade

furiously flicked by the 26 year old for a MM93

‘artist’ concept. At least ten TV crews are fighting

for room next to all of the Catalan’s titlewinning

bikes and a vast collection of trophies,

leathers and other mementos from a dizzying


Marquez is speaking for the first time since

MotoGP entered the brief winter slumber, and

from a fairly dormant period of personal social

media activity and updates from the #93. He is

almost fifteen minutes late after the call-time

to momentarily chat about his creative scheme

with Repsol and then answer enquiries as to his

physical shape – the second winter in a row of

dealing with shoulder surgery and intense rush

of physio and rehab to gain fitness in time for

the season.


He is slight, and slimmer than usual. He also

cuts a slightly more serious – concerned – demeanour

compared to the 2019 season launch

in Madrid at the same time the previous year.

There are around twenty media listening to his

words entirely in Spanish and occasionally in


Although the chances of Marquez showing all

of his cards when it comes to his state of readiness,

he is frank and open about his condition

less than two weeks before he is set to fly to

Kuala Lumpur for the first of just two pre-season

tests before 2020 begins.

“At the start of the month I wasn’t that optimistic,”

he said. “I was doing two hours of physio

in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and

combining that with the training I could do. It

has taken longer than we thought. I’ve disappeared

a bit from social media because I’ve

been 100% concentrated on what I needed to


Marquez explained that while the surgery on his

right joint – which he injured in the spectacular

highside during practice in Sepang last November

and reaggravated in the post-season test at

Jerez – was a simpler correction to fix a


dislocation issue, the recovery process was

the same to 2018 but also “more complex and

more difficult.”

The hassle was not simply a matter of mobility

but regaining the full use and potency of the

muscle group of what is the most convoluted

and problematic articulation in the human

body. “The recovery was less painful than last

year but it has been more difficult,” he admitted.

“They told me that when they open the

shoulder that there are nerves and muscles

that can be affected. Last year the operation

affected a few muscles that for the strength

and mobility of the shoulder were not that

important, this year it was a different group

of muscles and nerves that are vital for the

stability of the shoulder. I’m working more and

more on these now because two weeks ago I

had zero strength and I could barely lift a glass

of water. Little by little it has been getting better

and the nerve has been stimulated, which then

activates the muscle.”

It may sound unnecessarily dramatic but Marquez

is dealing with a serious fitness situation

in a matter of days and hours before he’ll need

to handle the factory RCV in anger. “There is

still a difference [to his normal condition] but

I really want to ride again and try at least one

type of bike before going to Malaysia,” he said.

“We haven’t done it yet because I haven’t been

ready but I hope for next week as we’ll be going

to Malaysia the week after.”


2018/2019 gave Marquez experience in dealing

with exactly the same setback as well as a

loud ticking clock to recover from a problem

that might have hobbled most people for many

more week. There is a considerable mental

price to pay. With the MotoGP season stretching

longer in terms of races and travelling in

2019 Marquez had precious little time to evade

the microscope of his job and indulge in any of

the activities he prizes away from road racing.

It’s hard to imagine him having to consider yet

another off-season of compromise and commitment

to what is already a very pressurised

vocation and lifestyle. “It has felt like a long

time…” he reflects “and it reminds me of one

of the sayings or phrases of Alberto Puig, who

always analyses all aspects, no? When we made

the meeting with the doctors and was talking

about the convenience of the operation and our

planning he said: “are you ready for another

winter like the last one?” Well, if I want to follow

my dreams then it takes sacrifice and priority.

I had the same holidays planned [as last

time] and this operation wasn’t planned, so I

had to cancel everything and think again about

the shoulder. It was the best way and the best

path to follow my objective to fight for titles, or

at the very least make it difficult for everyone


The sense of déjà vu is palpable when it comes

to Marquez’ immediate work with the new Honda.

Twelve months earlier he again had his own

physical shape to worry about for the first tests

but also the unknown potential of new teammate

Jorge Lorenzo. A broken wrist was the

first of several band aids on the former champion’s

ebbing desire to continue at the ragged

edge of MotoGP and Marquez, despite his

winter of work and numbing routine, knew he

had to both carry the piano and play it for HRC.

Approaching 2020 and he is in a similar predicament,

although one in which he might be

far more sympathetic on account of his broth-


er’s first strokes in the deep end of the premier

class. “The dynamic is the same,” Marc says

“because Alex is a rookie and cannot ask much

when it comes to concepts of the bike because

– like Jorge Lorenzo – he has to understand the

bike and know how is a Honda [but] there is

also Cal Crutchlow who is very capable to also

have a second opinion of the development. I

think the test in Malaysia will be like last year; I

won’t be able to do all the laps I want but it will

help to work on the shoulder as well.”

Consternation and conjecture could fill Marquez’s

first steps of the

campaign and mystery

around whether he’ll be

able to create a ninth

painting for Repsol. At

the moment he is not

in the position of ideal

strength to mentor or

school his younger

brother and insists that

the presence of the #73

in the same box will

not veer to the point of

being a distraction from

his own aims. “Alex

arrived in MotoGP as

world champion and

with a lot of enthusiasm…but

my mentality and focus is the same

[as always],” he insists. “The first rival is always

your teammate but this year he’s a rookie…I’ll

be working 100%, and don’t want to worry at

all about the other half of the box. The moment

I enter the circuit I will be 100% focussed on

what I have to do, even if we do keep on training

and working together as we have done up

until now. I hope we’ll improve mutually.”

With the opening paces of 2020 MotoGP only

a few days away Marc is talking with the same

cautiously positive outlook that served him well

in 2019 and led to three wins and four podiums

in the first five rounds. “The objective is to arrive

at the first test in the best shape possible

but at the same time remembering that the

first race is at the beginning of March and the

steps have to be made slowly,” he reasons. “We

learned a lot from what we had to do last year.

I didn’t need to change on the bike but in the

first races I had to handle the practice sessions

in a different way. Maybe the same will happen,

I hope not because the evolution in the last

weeks has been pretty good, but it’s possible

that in pre-season I won’t be able to do all the

laps that are necessary and should be made.”

Tipping the Honda

RCV to angles

that routinely defy

belief could involve

a brief and tentative

process of


but there is one

area of his physique

that doesn’t

need any work.

Marquez clearly

had a firm hold of

the Fireblade when

creating his ‘artistic

vision’. “It was a

unique experience,”

he smiles. “I had to hold the bike really hard

with my legs. We’ll see if we can paint another












Like any gallery (or quaint medieval town) visitor,

MotoGP fans will digest and fully appreciate

what Marc and co will be hanging out to view

for the next ten months.




The news that

Maverick Viñales has

signed a two-year

deal with Yamaha is

the starting shot in

what promises to be

a fierce, frenzied, and

extremely confusing

silly season in


The last time we had a similar

merry-go-round, in the run up

to 2019, it all fell a bit flat. That

circus started with Viñales being

the first to sign a contract

as well, staying on for two more

years at Yamaha.

It proved to be a portent of

things to come. The big rider

moves we were expecting didn’t

happen. The one significant

change that did occur was Jorge

Lorenzo leaving Ducati and

heading for Honda, a decision

made days before the Spaniard

finally won his first race on

the Desmosedici GP18. It was

not a switch than ended well,

of course, Lorenzo eventually

choosing to retire at the end

of the 2019 season, opening

the door for the arrival of Alex

Márquez alongside brother Marc

inside the Repsol Honda team.

Does the fact that Viñales staysput

mean that the 2020 transfer

dealings will turn out to be as big

a ‘let-down’ as 2018? Not this

time. There are good reasons

to believe there are going to be

a lot of changes for 2021. One

generation is about to move on

while another is set to arrive.

Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki believe

they are ready to try to topple

the hegemony of Marc Márquez

and the Honda RC213V, and are

looking for the best rider to take

on the reigning champion. There

are plenty of incentives to move,

and few to stay put.

That Yamaha made a big push to

keep Viñales – a pay rise and a

promise of the lead role in development

– is a sign of Yamaha’s

priorities. Although Valentino

Rossi is still competitive, it is

clear that retirement is drawing

near (read Neil Morrison’s always

outstanding column for more).

Rossi may still feature in Yamaha’s

short-term plans, but he is

deciding his future year-to-year

now. Rossi may still be the present,

but Maverick Viñales is the


Which brings us to Fabio Quartararo.

With Viñales taken out of

the rider equation, that makes

Quartararo the hottest property

on the market. Sure, the fast

Frenchman is yet to win a race

(let alone a title) but he made a

devastating impact on MotoGP

as a rookie. So good was he

that he forced the other Yamaha

riders to up their game. Ducati

wants a piece of that. Especially

now they have missed out on


That puts Yamaha in a difficult

position. Can they afford to wait

until Rossi makes a decision on

retiring or racing on, a choice he

said he would only make after

five or six races? If they wait for

Rossi, they risk losing Quartararo

to the temptations of a factory

Ducati ride, or perhaps even a

seat at Suzuki. But Rossi has

ruled the roost at Yamaha for so

long that he won’t be pressured

into an early decision.

Perhaps Rossi will choose to

switch to the Petronas squad,

with full factory backing, on the

condition that his brother Luca

Marini is drafted in alongside

him. That would be no bad

choice: Marini has grown enormously

as a rider in the past

couple of years, winning three

races and becoming a regular

on the podium. The idea of a

Rossi family team to take on

the Márquez family team inside

Repsol Honda may well prove

irresistible to The Doctor.

In Bologna, Ducati is chomping

at the bit. Ducati Corse boss Gigi

Dall’Igna has always felt that the

main obstacle on his path to a

championship was the lack of a

top rider. And when he had one

in Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati CEO

Claudio Domenicali’s impatience

caused the Spaniard to leave.

Ducati will throw money at Fabio

Quartararo and Alex Rins, and

hope that some of it sticks. If it

doesn’t, they still have stalwart

Andrea Dovizioso, and a rapidly

maturing Jack Miller.

And Dall’Igna has promised to

bring more horsepower for 2020,

piqued that Honda matched him

for power last year.

Viñales’ residence at Yamaha

changes the prospects for

Dovizioso as well. At 34 this year,

he looked to be on the way out,

despite finishing second in the

championship for the past three

years. But Viñales’ renewing with

Yamaha could and should win

him a reprieve.

The biggest threat for Dovizioso,

and for the other thirty somethings

in the paddock, is the

wave of young riders ready to

engulf MotoGP. Jack Miller, 25,

is ready to step up to the factory

Ducati team from the Pramac

squad. Brad Binder, 25, and Iker

Lecuona, 20, are ready to make

an impact at KTM. Jorge Navarro,

24, Augusto Fernandez, 23,

and Fabio Di Giannantonio, 22,

are ready to step up from Moto2.

The kids are coming.

















By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM

By Neil Morrison, Photos by CormacGP & Polarity Photo



Going off last season’s showings

it was hard to disagree

with the thoughts of Petronas

Yamaha SRT boss Wilco

Zeelenberg when assessing

the abilities of his rider Fabio

Quartararo after a thrilling

Thai Grand Prix. In the

former 250cc race winner’s

eyes, the mercurial Frenchman

is a long-term cure for

those already weary of Marquez’s

serial success. “Today

is all about Marc,” he said last

October. “But I think for the

future it’s all about Fabio and


Those traits will surely be put

to the test with greater venom

in the two tests and 20 races

ahead, when pole positions,

podiums and – yes – race

wins are expected. The danger

with hyping up young riders

is the difficulty in maintaining

that level. Johann Zarco

was the most recent athlete to

thrill during a rookie year only

to encounter the limitations of

his satellite steed the following

term. Two years on and

he’s now riding in MotoGP’s

least attractive team.

But age (20 to Zarco’s 27

at the time), satellite status

(Quartararo should have

mostly up to date kit in the

year ahead) and the current

fortunes of Yamaha all differ

to Zarco’s sophomore campaign.

There was a youthful innocence

to Quartararo during

his rookie campaign that won

him a new legion of admirers.

Four-time 500cc runner-up

Randy Mamola recalls walking

along the grid ahead of last

year’s Dutch TT, where the

20-year old was showing few

signs of strain that come with

holding pole position.

“At Assen his personal assistant

Tom [Maubant] and him

were f**king laughing on the

grid. They were probably just

saying, ‘How the f**k did we

get here? They’re all behind

me! This is awesome!’ That’s

what young people bring, that

freedom and honesty.”











Despite not liking the proposed

2020 chassis in tests at Valencia

and Jerez last year, Quartararo

was still lightening quick (he

placed second and fourth respectively).

After a steady winter of preparation,

the three days at Sepang

should be an early measure of

Quartararo’s strength for the

year ahead.




Anyone with an eye on Marc

Marquez’s social media channels

will be aware the reigning

world champion’s preparations

for the 2020 season are

far from perfect. A photo posted

on 21st January showed

a right shoulder – operated

on at the end of November

– gaunt and undefined compared

to the left.

With Marquez unlikely to perform

many (if any) long runs,

Crutchlow’s development

experience will be crucial. And

his feedback – rather than

Marquez’s speed – should

indicate whether factory engineers

have made the 2020

RC213V a good deal easier to

ride than its predecessor.

Marquez has been here before,

of course. The way the

26-year old approached his

rehabilitation programme in

the winter of 2018/’19, when

he had “more aggressive”

surgery on a troublesome left

shoulder, was almost as aweinspiring

as his early season

performances. That’s not to

say it wasn’t difficult. His

incredible P1 time on the first

day of 2019’s first test hid the

extent of his discomfort. Over

three days Marquez managed

just 105 laps (100 less than

Maverick Viñales, for example)

with the pain on day two a

serious concern.

We may well see a repeat this

February. Therefore much of

Honda’s development work

over the three days may fall

on the shoulders of LCR’s Cal




As if the challenge to bring

Aprilia in line with the other

five manufacturers wasn’t

complicated enough. The

Noale factory is poised to

debut an all new challenger at

Sepang, complete with a new

engine aimed at improving

traction and acceleration.

But rather than speculating on

the merits of technical chief

Romano Albesiano’s labour

over the winter months, we

are yet to learn of the factory’s

line-up for the Malaysian

shakedown. Andrea Iannone’s

chances of being present took

an almighty hit on 5th

January, when it was revealed

the B sample of his urine also

tested positive for the anabolic

steroid Drostanolone.

From that date the FIM’s International

Disciplinary Court

has 45 days to decide on the

relevant action. With no official

communication provided

at the time of going online,

Iannone’s participation at

Sepang appears unlikely, placing

Aprilia in a state of limbo.

It increases the likelihood of

a new rider dressed in black

exiting the Noale garage next

week. Test rider Bradley Smith

was pencilled in to ride there

anyway, albeit in a testing

capacity. Chances are he’ll be

moved to the factory team to

fill the Iannone-shaped void.

The question is, who moves

into the testing team? Exworld

champion Max Biaggi

has already ruled himself out.

Karel Abraham, the subject

of a criminally late sacking

by Avintia last November, has

been cited as an option.

No matter what pans out over

the coming week, Aprilia is

operating under a cloud of

stress. Any possible ban for

Iannone would represent a

disaster, with his feedback

on electronics set-up seen

as crucial to carry the RS-GP

forward. The formidable task

of clawing its way back toward

MotoGP’s top eight could be

even greater.




There appeared to be slightly

mixed messages coming out

of Bologna last week as Ducati

launched its GP20. Gigi

Dall’Igna, the factory’s technical

director, insisted making

the chassis more friendly and

easier to turn tops his ‘To Do’

list. “The chassis is the priority,”

he told reporters at the

factory’s 2020 presentation in

Bologna last week.

But then came his insistence

that having the grid’s fastest

bike was also of great

importance. Possibly even of

greatest importance. Thanks

to a much improved engine,

Honda slashed Ducati’s usual

top speed advantage in 2019

completely, allowing Marquez

to make a mockery of the idea

this is meant to be the most

competitive era in MotoGP

history. According to Dall’Igna,

it’s time to put that right.

How Dall’Igna successfully

moulds a balanced machine,

which features a sweeter

handling chassis with a more

powerful engine, remains to

be seen. There is a suspicion

his idea of a title-winning

bike differs to his riders, but

Sepang will offer a first true

glimpse of how far he has


Ducatis were first, second,

third and fourth fastest at last

year’s Malaysian test without

ever excelling in terms of

pace. Checking the lap-by-lap

analysis and deciphering Andrea

Dovizioso’s impressions

should provide a better understanding

on whether factory

engineers have succeeded

where they have previously


Should Dall’Igna get it right,

Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and

Jack Miller can all be counted

on for taking wins away from

Marquez in the months ahead.

“Honestly speaking … it will

be more important to have the

speed of the bike to win the

race. For sure it’s easier to win

races if you have the fastest

bike on the race track. I think

to manage the race where

you have the speed, for sure

it’s important to have some

horsepower more than your




Wash the yellow

t-shirts, dust off ‘The


paraphernalia, fire

up the klaxons; ready

yourself for what may

be the greatest

farewell tour of them


Among the many stories vying

for airtime ahead of the resumption

of hostilities in February, the

issue of whether 2020 will mark

the end point of Valentino Rossi’s

illustrious grand prix career

still looms.

Winter testing always carries

great importance. But the six

days of track time between 7th

and 24th of February may be

among the most crucial tests of

the venerable Italian’s recent career.

For it will be during the laps

in Malaysia and Qatar when the

crux of Rossi’s – and Yamaha’s

– decision to prolong a stint at

the pinnacle of the sport that his

fame and allure has often transcended

is bound to be made.

Don’t be fooled by claims he

may well wait until Mugello to

assess his suitability for another

one or two-year contract. The

current market won’t afford him

that amount of time. Team boss

Massimo Meregalli has said discussions

will continue throughout

the preseason to see his

rider’s preference. “We always

talk [about that]” he said last


There have been several occasions

recently when Rossi made

it loud and clear 2020 represents

something of a final shot.

Entrusting MotoGP rookie David

Muñoz to reverse his fortunes in

his new role as crew chief raised

many eyebrows, mainly due to

the Spaniard’s lack of elite-level

experience. But the rider – soon

to be 41 years old – admitted

this amounted to a final rolling of

the dice.

“I prefer to live without regrets,”

he explained last October.

“Someone in my place might

have thought, ‘OK, it’s 2020, my

last season’ and maybe everything

would’ve been comfortable

leaving everything the same.

[But] I thought, ‘Fuck, let’s try

it.’” And early impressions have

been good. The nine-time world

champion talked up the impact

of the change in November at

tests at Valencia and Jerez. “[David]

needs to study, he needs to

check the data, to understand

the way that this bike works,”

he said at Valencia. “But the

first impression is positive, I feel

good, we did already some small

modify and at the end of the day

I was better than at the beginning.”

Yamaha appears a happy place

once more, as communication

between factory and racing outfit

has improved greatly. Rider

complaints are not only listened

to but swiftly addressed. And

last season’s test at Misano saw

them do what had been lacking

for each of the three previous

years: bring a selection of innovative

new parts to try.

But for Rossi will this be

enough? Despite those good

early impressions, times at the

two tests (tenth at Valencia,

eleventh at Jerez) have still been

some way off the top.

That team-mate Maverick Viñales

has been fastest on both occasions

with new talent Fabio

Quartararo close behind won’t be

lost on the Italian.

Nor will Tuesday’s news that

Viñales has become the first

rider to renew for 2021. As he

stepped up from August to

become a regular thorn in Marc

Marquez’s side, Rossi consistently

lagged some way behind.

The same can be said of him

and Quartararo, the sport’s most

explosive young talent to come

along in six years. Will Yamaha

really allow the Frenchman –

still only 20 years old – to slip

through its grasp? With Viñales

signed up, Quartararo is second

only to Marquez as MotoGP’s

most in-demand man.

The idea of switching places

with the Frenchman, based in

the Petronas SRT Yamaha outfit,

has been considered. Rossi even

admitted as much when speaking

to the Gazzetta Dello Sport’s

Paolo Ianieri at the end of last

year. “I don’t see all that much

difference in going to Petronas.

I would prefer to stay where I

am, but we are three riders for

two places, so you have to think

of a third [place],” he said. “And

for me, even if it’s at Petronas,

it doesn’t seem like such a bad


But can we really envision the

sport’s biggest draw stepping

down to a satellite team and

away from the outfit that brought

him four of his seven premier

class crowns? In my eyes, it’s unlikely

in the extreme. He spoke of

his “sadness” last August at the

lack of results coming his way. A

place on the grid doesn’t fuel his

motivation; fighting at the front

and challenging for wins do.

And his appearance at Abu Dhabi’s

Gulf of 12 Hours event last

December – held for sports car

prototypes – offered a glimpse

that competition is still an option

when the curtains come down

on the most illustrious MotoGP

career of them all. “When I give

up bikes, I’d like to race in Endurance

[car racing] – the Le Mans

24 Hours, the Spa 24 Hours and

the 24 Hours of Nurburgring,” he

told Sky Italia.





“Let’s say there are five races in

the calendar that I’d like to take

part in.”

Should he walk away, where does

that leave MotoGP? It’s a prospect

that fills us all with trepidation.

Yes, the sport is in a fine bill of

health with full grandstands, great

racing and an expanding calendar

evidence of this. There has been

no notable decline in audiences

in the past year in spite of Rossi’s


But he remains the sport’s leading

name, known to nearly everyone

with an interest in bikes or otherwise.

The news that one wellknown

quarterly publication that

is no longer in existence saw sales

decrease dramatically on the

occasion it didn’t adorn its front

page with the #46 is an example

of how the sport will be a good

deal less marketable in the great

man’s absence.

The effect of this possibility remains

a great unknown. But one

thing is for sure: Rossi’s retirement

from MotoGP currently

seems closer than it’s ever been.



Like every year it was a bit of a wrench to get

up and running after the winter break and

Christmas holidays, and like every year the

first few weeks are full gas, eyeballs-out

working or travelling every day.

Bautista’s bike being

warmed up behind a screen.

I am not sure what they had

to hide but it added a spark

of intrigue and excitement to

an otherwise cold and damp


This year I am combining

the start of the WorldSBK

season with the European

launch of a new motorbike.

I began in Barcelona in the

middle of the month, shooting

the KRT race machine

in the studio, before driving

down to Seville to repeat the

exercise for Yamaha. It was

then on to Jerez for the first

of the tests in 2020 and with

much anticipation the first

look at the new Honda Fireblade.

What hadn’t been anticipated

was the weather. The

rain in Spain most certainly

wasn’t falling on the plain.

Each and every coast of Iberia

seemed to be being battered

by wind and rain, and

in some cases hailstorms.

Andulacia wasn’t spared

and the two official days of

testing was forecast for high

winds and heavy downpours.

The Kawasaki team however

stole a march on everyone

else through the benefit of

being included in a video

shoot on the day before and

when filming concluded

early, Jonathan Rea and Alex

Lowes enjoyed 2 hours of dry

track time. However, the next

day the weather turned and

testing began on a wet track.

There was a swarm of media

and team mechanics hanging

around the Honda pit box

from early on and as soon as

the doors opened there was

a flurry of activity. The HRC

staff were being particularly

cautious in a way reminiscent

of their MotoGP colleagues

with Alvaro

It started to dry up a little

and I ventured out on track

but there wasn’t much activity.

However, both the Hondas

of Haslam and Bautista

looked fast and it was borne

out by the results with Haslam

topping the time sheets

at the end of the day. Scott

Redding, Toprak Razgatlioglu

and Alex Lowes were predictably

fast but a noticeable

absentee was Jonathan Rea.

He and his crew had decided

to sit it out whilst the track

was wet, and kept their fingers

crossed for a dry spell

the following day.

The track was still wet the

next morning but it dried

sufficiently throughout the

morning to result in everyone

taking to the track,

including JR, and right away



he was on the pace. He only

ran 19 laps but was quickest

overall with a 1m 40 laptime.

There were still damp

patches to be avoided so

the times weren’t really at a

full race pace, with the lap

record being in the 1m 39s.

What was interesting was

that behind him it was pretty

tight in the top four with

Redding, Razgatlioglu and

Lowes all within 0.6s. There

was a pretty big drop-off after

that though with Michael







VD Mark and Leon Haslam

almost two seconds slower

in fifth and sixth spots.

Whilst conditions weren’t

ideal, I was surprised to

see such a big gap between

those top four and the rest.

Part of the reason I think

was because as we got to

the last hour of the test the

heavens opened and brought

everything to a halt. Those

that had been testing set up

changes and looking for consistent

lap times hadn’t had

the chance to push hard for

an outright quick time.

One of those was noticeably

BMW. Eugene Laverty pointed

out afterwards that he

and Sykes were still working

on what he termed installation

laps, gathering data to

programme the electronics

for the bike, to then work

out strategies that ultimately

improve the lap times, but -

in the moment - it called for

steady laps at a consistent

pace, lap after lap. Honda

would have been in the same

boat and when the riders

came in, and on the odd

occasion where the garage

door stayed open for more

than 30 seconds, a team of

electronics engineers were

immediately plugging in

laptops and downloading the


As JR and AB19 know all

too well testing in January

only tells part of the story

and nothing more can be

gleaned than a broad idea

of who will be competitive.

Last year Bautista didn’t

seem to be anywhere like

threatening the dominance

of Rea and the Kawasaki but

subsequently exploded onto

the top step of the podium

11 times in a row at the start

of the year.

I reckon we will see a closer

fight at the front of the grid

in 2020. The KRT duo of Rea

and Lowes will start out as

favourites though. Lowes finished

third in last year’s title

race and has already indicated

that he is really happy

with the 2020 Ninja ZX-10RR

and is starting to feel at

home on it. Scott Redding is

another who has settled in

well at his new team. I overheard

him talking to Michael

Rinaldi about the bike and

he was surprised how different

it felt to his BSB winning

Panigale V4R.


He is certainly quick and

will no doubt take off where

Bautista left off. Toprak Razgatlioglu

makes it a hat-trick

of transferred riders who

seamlessly slotted in at his

new team. As I write this on a

late night working session in

Cordoba, more of that later, he

and Redding were trading fastest

times at the second of the

tests in Portimao.

Again, surprisingly, Kawasaki

chose to sit out this test. They

had no intentions of doing

anything more after Jerez but

as a result of the inclement

weather they hastily chose

to squeeze in a one-day test

at Circuit Catalunya, which is

right next to their workshops.

One thing that Rea also said

in Jerez is that, come the

first race, he fully expects the

Honda to perform well. With

it being a full HRC race team

they will not come to the races

and underperform like some

of the other privateer teams in

the past.

We could therefore see six or

seven riders challenging for

the title this year. If so, it could

be one of the best WorldSBK

seasons of all time, which is

somewhat ironic as I heard in

Jerez that Bridgepoint, parent

company of Dorna, and owners

of WorldSBK are far advanced

in discussions with Eurosport

to sell the rights for the series.

That would put it into the

French media companies stable

alongside the World Endurance

Championship. I wasn’t

able to confirm the veracity of

the claim but I have no reason

to doubt the person who told


That in itself would be interesting

and may spark new life,

but I have said all along, if you

keep the rules to any motorsport

series consistent, manufacturers

have time to develop

a race machine and also their

overall marketing needs,

given WorldSBK is a production

based series, will fall in

line with a race programme. A

healthy competition will then

ensue. Testing in Europe is

now done and the teams will

start to prepare for the first

races in Australia. I will remain

in Spain for the foreseeable

future as I am shooting the

press launch of a new road

bike. For the next 10 days we

will have groups of journalists

ride the bike and myself and

Tim Keeton, of Impact Images

BSB fame, will photograph

them riding and deliver a

package of images at the end

of each day for them to add

to their stories and blogs. It

means pretty long days as we

start on the road at 8:00am

and as today I am still working

at 1:00am.

After that I will drive back to

Barcelona for the KRT team

launch on February 6th, which

is to be streamed live on a

free to view channel the team

will construct. I will have a few

days off before returning home

to tackle the mountain of laundry

I will have been carrying

around for four weeks. Then,

with all the teams and riders,

I will head to Australia to get

another season under way.

See you all down under.






KTM have tied-up again with Red Bull for

their latest collection of casualwear and

accessories for 2020 and enlisted the help

of some familiar faces to show off certain

garments. A range of t-shirts, tops, hoodies,

jackets, shirts, caps, beanies and other

goodies like towels, mugs and drinks bottles

are a distinguished part of the broader

KTM PowerWear range and exist in their

own privileged sub-section due to the Red

Bull KTM link that filters through the entire

racing division. There are Men, Women and

Kids’ wares and the current gamut can be

viewed by pressing on any of the links here.

To-date only Pol Espargaro has his own official

t-shirt (but Tony Cairoli has his RACR

label stocked in PowerWear for 2020) but

there are some other tempting choice here

that range from the obvious ‘Red Bull KTM’

declaration of fandom to items that are far

more subtle.




ET. Supercross. By James Lissimore





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