On Track Off Road No. 196

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GETD

BEAST MODE ENGAGED

2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R

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

meaner and even more menacing than ever before. Sporting an all-new chassis and suspension

setup, the flagship LC8 V-Twin 1301 cc boasting brutal forward thrust, blinding acceleration

and an advanced electronics package, the NEW BEAST is locked and loaded for battle.


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

The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.

UKED

Photo: R. Schedl


MotoGP

NIGHT

RIDER

The probing, doubts and experiments of the MotoGP

off-season can now be locked away. In just over a

week all will be sealed, and the serious business of

racing begins at the venue where the teams have just

completed their last test. Props to Red Bull KTM’s Brad

Binder for a lap-time that hints at the South African

rookie’s potential…

Photo by Polarity Photo


SX

THE TERRIBLE

TWO??

A tough weekend for some of the

AMA Supercross field in Dallas also

sees the first glimmer of daylight

appearing in the 450 SX standings.

Eli Tomac (four wins from the eight

rounds so far) and Ken Roczen (two

victories and six podiums) are split by

7 points and are almost 20 ahead of

Cooper Web. This one could run and

run to Salt Lake City. Here’s hoping.

Photo by James Lissimore


MX FEATURE

THE ONE TO GUN


Twenty rounds of MXGP is on the verge of getting underway and at 23 years of age, the might of

HRC behind him and two premier class titles in four years it’s hard not to imagine that Tim Gajser is

getting near his peak. Will the Slovenian claim round one? Or Jeffrey Herlings? Tony Cairoli? Glenn

Coldenhoff? Gautier Paulin? Jeremy Seewer? Jorge Prado? Romain Febvre? Pauls Jonass? Clement

Desalle (winner of the most opening GPs of the last decade)? Who is your pick for Matterley?

Photo by ShotbyBavo


FEATURE

WHAT DO


By Adam Wheeler. Photos by KTM/S.Romero/M.Campelli

Polarity Photo/CormacGP & GeeBee Images

YOU SEE?

THE EXPERIENCE OF RIDING A RACETRACK FOR

THE FIRST TIME (WITH A RASPING 2020 KTM

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM

1290 SUPER DUKE R FOR COMPANY)


FEATURE

There is a moment in

seminal 1990s action

movie ‘Point Break’

when Patrick Swayze’s colead

character – the mysterious

Bohdi – dissects the

spirituality of riding waves.

“It’s a state of mind: that

place where you lose yourself

and you find yourself,” he

explains. For decades, from

a range of motorsport and

cultural idols and icons, there

has been a stream of thinking,

philosophy and meditation

of existence on the racetrack.

Mostly connected with

the feeling or sensation of

finding (or ‘losing’) oneself in

the ‘zone’ or being immersed

in a world of extreme competition.

We can all watch and appreciate

that going fast within the

boundaries of a circuit takes

extreme focus and concentration.

It also looks formulaic,

with similar lines and actions

from those attempting to live

within fractions of a second

of each other. Like any skill

it takes practice for a degree

of competence. Unlike many

pastimes, circuit riding comes

with an alarming sense of urgency,

trepidation, occasional

panic and – buried away

somewhere and not spoken

about – fear.

There was a moment at the

recent 2020 KTM 1290 SU-

PER DUKE R launch in

Portugal where a colleague in

the British group of journalists

and testers commented

“your first time on a track is

at Portimao with a SUPER

DUKE?! Fair play…”. Perhaps

the decision to unearth the

possibilities of the Austrians’

180hp and 140Nm of torque –

the ‘ultimate’ naked bike – for

first-time dip around a course

that former MotoGP ace,

track day master-instructor

and key KTM bike developer

Jeremy McWilliams described

as “one of the hardest in the

world” the previous evening

during the media call was not

the most lucid.

Slightly nervous, slightly overwhelmed

by the ability of the

company I was keeping and

extremely curious for the first

of six twenty-minute sessions in

fantastic sunshine and twentydegree

temperatures the moment

of truth came closer.

Luckily a two-hour morning

jaunt around the surrounding

roads of Portimao gave a valuable

introduction to the new

SUPER DUKE and the third


FIRST TIME ON A RACETRACK

generation of the 1290 ‘Beast’.

90% new for 2020 the thrilling

amounts of torque from

the v-twin was matched with a

robust and stable chassis that

genuinely inspired confidence.

The bike tractored out of the

tightest country lane with

ease and a handful of throttle

was met with the feeling that

the bike could shift to another

line at will.

At Portimao the road-going

1290s were parked outside

the pitboxes. A walk through

the garage delivered the sight

of another set of Beasts; this

time in track trim, with four

models in full PowerParts race

guise adorned with slick tyres

and warmers attached. With

the bikes warm and almost

ready to go it was at this point

that the words and guidance

MCWILLIAMS: “IT WAS PRETTY SPECIAL: GETTING MY KNEE

DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME! I BURNT A HOLE THROUGH MY

JEANS! I DON’T THINK ANYBODY WOULD GET ON A CIRCUIT

NOW WITH A PAIR OF JEANS...”

of McWilliams offered something

akin to a soothing effect.

The 55 year old has already

spun a number of test and

demo laps at Portimao on

the launch and thanks to the

prompting of KTM personnel

like Street Marketing Manager

Riaan Neveling and Product

Manager Adriaan Sinke has

agreed to act as a point of

guidance. I casually ask if he

remembers his ‘first time’.

“It must have been thirty-five/

six years ago; at the aptlynamed

Nutts Corner raceway,

close to where I live,” the

Irishman smiles. “We had production

bikes with street tyres

and it was quite a special

moment. We had no restrictions,

no traffic and could go

as fast as we wanted without

worrying about speed traps

or getting pulled-over. I had

no idea what I was doing! If I

went back today then I would

have sought some instruction

or direction beforehand.

It was pretty special: getting

out there and getting my knee

down for the first time! I burnt

a hole through my jeans! I

don’t think anybody would

get on a circuit now with a

pair of jeans. At that point I

realised I really wanted to do

more. We also ventured down

south to a circuit near Dublin

called Mondello Park. It was a

little better. Then Kirkistown.

They are all within a couple of

hours of each other.”

I’m doing my best ‘all the

gear, no idea’ impersonation

thanks to the people at Alpinestars.

My Techair-ready

Specter jacket is the ideal fit

and the V2 pants with knee

sliders (being optimistic)

could not be any more comfortable.

Black and white SMX

V2 boots complete the


FEATURE

compulsory outfit and must

rank as the snuggest and easiest

set of footwear I’ve worn

on a motorcycle. Absolutely

no complaints.

As I climb on one of the racespec

1290s and speed after

McWilliams down the pitlane

it’s impossible not to feel a

‘little MotoGP’ and get excited.

I mean, how often do you gas

a motorcycle in the knowledge

that there isn’t an immediate

car, pedestrian or traffic

hazard to look out for? A few

deep breaths and pitlane exit

means hard throttling and

into another environment. The

plan is to take a few laps to

follow Jeremy and see which

way Portimao winds. Almost

instantly the world is much

faster and there is less time to

get things done. I find myself

doing daft things like flicking

my gaze towards an imaginary

mirror before tipping into a

corner and the fact that Jeremy

is ahead and seemingly

cruising with one hand controlling

the bike and the other

pointing at lines and zones I

should hit is even more humbling

when I have the sensation

that I am abusing the

SUPER DUKE far more than I

would on the road.

It’s hard to fully commit and

lean into corners. The track

is between 10-15 metres wide

but it seems like 100; it’s

tricky to know exactly where I

should be and where I should

be braking, tipping and aiming.

At the same moment it’s

utterly thrilling. The swoop

into the downhill final turn

that winds up to the main

straight is like a rollercoaster

g-out. The speed up to sixth

gear makes my head shake,

my vision blurry and I hold

onto the SUPER DUKE with

all the power in my arms and

with the alarm that I might get

sucked off the back.

Turn 1 is a challenge and

remains so for the entire day.

The dip into the braking zone

makes my stomach roll and

the apex of the right hander

comes alarmingly into view

and quicker than I’d like. Jeremy

tells me to brake when

he brakes but I have no recollection

of trusting my skills

and courage as well as the

bike throughout the day. With

more and more laps I’m learning

that the Brembos of the

1290 SUPER DUKE are pretty

damn good and I slowly get a

bit later and a bit closer. Ironically,

one of the most daunting

parts of the circuit – Turn 1 -

leads immediately into one of

the best: another right-handed

kink where you can feed the

power of the bike in, slide a

little bit, and then test braking

prowess again for a tight right

Turn 4. The section becomes

a meaty challenge throughout

the whole experience. Twenty

minutes feels like twenty seconds.


MXGP NETHERLANDS

FIRST TIME ON A RACETRACK

Following Jeremy back to the

pitlane the sensations are one

of exhilaration, education, humility

and wider understanding

of the art behind track

riding.

“I think I was fourteen years

old when I hopped on my

Dad’s Superbike at Grant

Raceway in Michigan and

everything was too fast and

everything happens too quick,

you don’t feel comfortable,

you don’t trust the tyres: there

are so many different things

going on. It’s foreign!”

Chris Fillmore, former AMA

Superbike competitor, Pikes

Peak winner and long-term

KTM rider is another racer at

the launch. “I grew up racing

motocross and hadn’t touched

supermoto yet. So, you had

to develop trust between the

pavement and the tyre. Some

people have it quite naturally.

Maybe ignorance is bliss!

Some people never do.”

Second time out and we keep

the traction control on the

TRACK setting near the top

and anti-wheel engaged. With

the barrage on the senses

fractionally diminished it is

now easier to concentrate on

doing things a bit better and

thinking about positioning. I

move more on the bike and

progressively trust the tyres

to enter corners a little faster

and a little more committed.

“I did a lot of road riding and

it is quite different when you

get on a circuit,” explains

McWilliams. “You are looking

at completely different things

and obviously don’t have

those reference things that

are on a road. On a circuit the

most important thing is teeing

the point you have to hit

before turning in or braking or

even accelerating.”


FEATURE

FILLMORE: “I’M COMPETITIVE AND I LIKE PUSHING THE LIMIT

OF THINGS AND FEELING LIKE I AM A LITTLE BIT ON THE EDGE. I

LIKE TO DO THINGS THAT SCARE ME. IT OPENS ME UP AND LETS

ME LIVE A BIT. IT’S HOW I ENJOY EXPERIENCING LIFE.”

As the afternoon goes on the

confidence rises, as does the

appreciation for how road racers

go about their task. It is

also easy to comprehend how

the lightest gesture of braking,

positioning or acceleration can

alter fractions of a second of

a lap-time. As for the racing

itself I didn’t come close to

overtaking anybody all day, so

that’s another aspect that remains

undiscovered. Chopping

up the track into sections and

working out which areas feel

slow or harder compared to

others – instead of just riding

around and around - becomes

part of the routine. Bizarrely

it starts to feel a bit like tennis

or golf: a process of hitting

a few good shots, followed

by fist-gnawing ineptitude.

“That’s a pretty good analogy

actually,” McWilliams says.

“What makes a good circuit

rider? Somebody who is very

consistent, very smooth and

learns good throttle control.

A lot of things you don’t learn

for the road you must for the

circuit, like brake management

and how hard you can pull it

and how hard you can push

the front tyre into the turn,

how much throttle you give

when you are in the turn. A lot

of guys will go into a road turn

and opening the throttle when

they want to get out: that’s

not what we do and not how

we go faster, it’s the opposite

actually and our rolling speed

is much higher than it would

ever be on-road. It’s another

level.”


FIRST TIME ON A RACETRACK

“I can only speak from the

opposite direction actually;

so being comfortable on a

racetrack and going onto the

street,” comments Fillmore

by way of a contrast. “As a

racer you hone your skills on

slicks with tyre warmers and

we push the limits. We understand

them. On a surface that

is unpredictable then that is

another thing. For a person

coming from the street to the

racetrack there are a bunch

of ‘red flags’ and it was the

same for me getting on a

street bike where I wanted to

be much more cautious: there

was traffic, white lines, guard

rails and the knowledge that

the road surface could change

at any time or you didn’t know

what was around a corner.

On a track you know, for the

most part, it is in a certain

condition and there are track

marshals to let you know if

there is something wrong. So,

you start to ‘turn-off’ all those

little signals in your head that

might make you hold back a

little bit.”

Even from my very limited

time there was a parallel with

track riding and other sports

in terms of the mental void

where you think about nothing

except when you are doing.

For the most part - before I

knew it - the track’s lighting

system was flashing to

indicate another session had

ended. By the time of the last

outing I’m still trying to digest

what I’m doing. Jeremy runs

as a guide again and gets even

more specific with track markers

and speed but gradually

I’m also thinking about laptime

and how much quicker I

must be compared to the first

try. In the last twenty minutes

I’m shifting as much as I dare

off the bike to try and get a

scuff on the knee slider…but

without success. I know I have

marginally improved – even in

conviction alone and gained

a much deeper impression of

the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R

and its capabilities – but have

also realised how potentially

addictive this can be. McWilliams

instantly agrees back

in the pitbox. “It is something

that starts as a hobby and it

can become an obsession,”

he claims. “There are people

I coach on track that I see becoming

quite obsessed. I think

it tests everything: your brain

power, your physical shape.

You have to use many ‘inputs’

at the same time. It is not

the easiest thing to learn in a

short space of time and every

time you come back then you

can improve. The more you

ride the better you become.

Why do we keep coming back?

Probably because we never

really crack it.”

“Everyone is different,” says

33-year-old Fillmore, an avid

surfer and fan of extreme

sports (a ‘Bodhi’ if you will),

when I ask him if there an

added sense of spirituality

attached to an activity that is

hazardous and could be costly

but then seems to ‘pay back’.

“I’m competitive and I like

pushing the limit of things and

feeling like I am a little bit on

the edge. I like to do things

that scare me. It opens me up

and lets me live a bit. It’s how

I enjoy experiencing life.”

A portion of what he says

strikes a chord. It must explain

why track days seem like the

domain of an exclusive club

but remain popular draws. I

cannot help but feel that my

experience was helped by

the use of the SUPER DUKE.

The bike felt like a missile

although the torque meant it

was a blast and a whole lap

became a simplistic process

of flicking between 3rd, 4th

and 5th until the straight.

“You have more torque on

this motorcycle than I think

anything else out there on the

market today,” Jeremy said.

“Torque is our friend: when

you have that much on-tap it

makes the riding experience

that much more fun. It doesn’t

really matter what gear you

exit the corner on this bike, we

never use second gear here.

We don’t need it because third

has so much push to get it off

the corner at any speed.You

can become a bit of a hooligan

on this and you can also ride

it as sedately as you want.

There is a lot of variety thanks

to the electronic settings. A lot

of options.”


FEATURE

PORTIMAO

Constructed in 2008 and only

ten miles from the rolling

waves of the Atlantic, 4.6km

Portimao has been a regular

on the WorldSBK calendar

since ‘08 and has been described

as one of the most

technical racetracks on the

continent. Current BMW racer

Eugene Laverty has previously

likened Portimao as a

‘motocross track covered in

asphalt’. The 15-14 corners

(depending on configuration)

and the undulations make for

some thrilling and difficult

sections with blind corner entry

and cambered turns constituting

frequent obstacles.

Apparently Portimao could

host it first round of MotoGP

as early as 2022.

On the last run I had the traction

control down to 4 from

9 and the anti-wheelie disengaged

and revelled in the

brief laps with the bike giving

marginally more movement.

It still felt wild. The naked

bike seems simple and almost

pure in form but the 1290 is a

sophisticated piece of kit. The

slick tyres were another dimension;

where a slide never

felt too unsettling. “On any

bike, of course, you always

have the input of the rider to

the rear wheel through the engine

and you have to control

the engine through the electronics:

what we tried to do is

give back the rider a lot more

feeling for what the engine is

doing and what the traction

control is doing and this has

been a large part of the development,”

reveals Sinke of the

2020 model. “We now have a

6D lean angle sensor. We’ve

had cornering ABS and traction

control for a while with a

lean sensor that measures the

side-to-side and front to back

motion of the bike and this

one also detects the drift motion

of the bike and it helps

us to determine whether a

certain loss of traction of the

rear. Is it information to make

that connection between rider

and bike that much better.”

Portimao permitted a more

extensive exploration of the

SUPER DUKE and its new

virtues. The satisfying part

was the fact that I’d ridden

the 2019 model for almost

two months the previous summer

and could already detect

the improvements on the

road (the quicker and shorter

gearbox among various upgrades);

the amplified limits

of the track just increased the

fondness and admiration for

the bike.

“We are here just to show

how good the SUPER DUKE

is,” Sinke says. “There are

people that use these bikes

just for the track and we love

that because it shows just

how capable they are and how

superbikes can be scared! If

you are a good rider then you

can be very fast on a SUPER

DUKE. The chassis, torque

and brakes: it’s a really good

package and we hope we

might be able to convince a

few track riders to pick it up

and I’m sure we will. You will

ride the SUPER DUKE on the

streets but if you want to go to

the track then you won’t need

two bikes.”

The 1290 lacks a fairing but

that makes it even more brazen

in terms of its sporting

potential. “It is more of a hybrid:

a race bike but more for

the street,” ponders Fillmore.

“The first thing I noticed was

that you could really plant

and put a lot of energy into

the front tyre and trail brake.

I think that was a bit more

of a struggle on the previous

generation. Coming out of


FIRST TIME ON A RACETRACK

the corner it is really good. It

is one of those bikes where

now you can grab a handful

and feel like you are pushing

forward. It’s an improvement.

One of the most impressive

parts was the chassis and

when we went onto the street

I was thinking ‘it’s stiffer so

it’s going to be more harsh’

but the feeling was the complete

opposite. They did a

great job of making it so compliant

for the street.”

According to Project Leader

and creator – the man who

fashioned the first 990 SUPER

DUKE back in 2005 – Hermann

Sporn, the traits of the

1290’s performance were born

from some serious mileage

on-track and with the likes of

McWilliams providing technical

affirmation for electronics,

handling (the chassis is threetimes

stiffer with a freshlypositioned

engine) and even

moulding the new Bridgestone

S22 tyre with a compound

especially made for the Beast.

“We were given a free hand

to make our brief for the new

bike, and we had some discussions

with management

when they saw the amount

of tests we were making on

the track,” the Austrian explains.

“We said: ‘that doesn’t

mean it will be worse for the

street…we have to feel the

limit to know what the tyre

is doing and so on’. You can

sometimes only make discoveries

at the maximum. 95 or

even 99% is not enough. It has

to be at 100. The work goes on.”

“For me it is always about testing

the limits of what you have,”

says Fillmore of choice of machinery

for the circuit. “Right

now we have the street and the

track versions of the SUPER

DUKE and they are pretty much

the same except for some suspension,

but the biggest thing

are the tyres. A slick tyre just

feels different and you need to

get up to speed and get to know

them. The limits are similar…but

you still need to find them.”

“The lovely thing about riding

on the circuit is the idea you

have a lot more freedom and

that you can ‘test’ everything

that the bike is a lot more capable

of,” says McWilliams, a man

who has battled on Irish streets,

against Valentino Rossi and still

troubles the stopwatches. “You’d

never be able to do that on the

road. Today’s machinery is so far

advanced and with horsepower

figures right up into the 200s; it

is not something you can really

use on the road. There are guys

that are only riding circuits now

and forgetting about the road.”

The search for precision, seconds,

betterment, a strain on

the bike’s potential and even the

eye-widening effects of speed

seems to be what it is all about.

I couldn’t recommend it enough.


COMMENT


2020 1290 SUPER DUKE R VERDICT

BEASTY

By Roland Brown

Photos by KTM/S.Romero/M.Campelli

The Super Duke has long

been regarded as slightly

crazy, with its manufacturer’s

encouragement. Back in 2005

the original 990 Super Duke

established KTM as a maker

of hardcore streetbikes, notably

when terrorising urban

Japan in a famously feisty

promo video. Six years ago

the 1290 Super Duke R upped

the stakes in similarly

wheelie-happy fashion with

the help of its much-hyped

Beast prototype.

Hyper-naked bikes’ popularity

has inspired a flurry of activity,

with new arrivals including

Ducati’s Streetfighter V4 and

MV Agusta’s Brutale RR joining

a host of others in combining

a wind-blown riding

position with four cylinders

and outrageous horsepower.

KTM’s revitalised contender

keeps its traditional V-twin

layout to take them on. The

Super Duke’s distinctive knifeedge

look is subtly revised; its

riding position slightly


COMMENT

sportier thanks to a lower

and more forward-set handlebar,

but still comfortably

upright for street use. A new

TFT instrument panel is part

of an electronics revamp that

includes more easily used

switchgear plus updated

Bosch traction control and

cornering ABS.

Changes to the 1301cc, 75-degree

V-twin engine begin with

a new intake system. A duct

between the headlight’s aggressively

angular halves, instead

of one each side, feeds

new top-mounted injectors via

a larger airbox. Many internal

parts and the crankcases are

lightened. Peak power goes up

by 3bhp to 177bhp; more importantly

the eight-valve unit

kicks out a hefty 100Nm-plus

of torque everywhere above

3500rpm.

Biggest changes are to the

chassis, whose retained layout

of tubular steel frame and

aluminium swing-arm masks

a complete redesign. The

frame uses larger-diameter

tubes and employs the engine

as a stressed member for the

first time, trebling rigidity and

saving 2kg.

The engine is held higher in

the frame, which KTM say

aids handling and gives a

5mm higher pivot for the

single-sided swing-arm, which

is also substantially stiffened.

A new rear subframe of cast

aluminium and carbon-fibre

replaces saves more weight.

The WP forks are revised and

now fully adjustable. More importantly

the WP rear shock

gains a rising-rate linkage

that allows a longer action,

“STRAIGHT-LINE PERFORMANCE IS NOT

DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT, WHICH IS FINE

BECAUSE THAT MEANS IT’S AS BARKINGLY

ENTERTAINING AS BEFORE. THE BIG

V-TWIN LUMP IS WONDERFULLY FLEXIBLE,

REGARDLESS OF WHICH MODE IT’S IN...”


2020 1290 SUPER DUKE R VERDICT

while reducing the excessive

rear wheel travel (from 156

to 140mm) that was a hangover

from the original frame’s

origins with the dual-purpose

Adventure.

Straight-line performance

is not dramatically different,

which is fine because

that means it’s as barkingly

entertaining as before. The

big V-twin lump is wonderfully

flexible, regardless of

which mode (Sport, Street

and lower-output Rain) it’s in.

Throttle response is refined,

low-rev running civilised –

and the charge from 4000rpm

threatens to dislocate your

shoulders.

On the road that makes the

Super Duke huge fun as well

as outrageously fast. It revs

smoothly, nonchalantly hoiking

its front wheel if required,

and despatching gears with

help from efficient two-way

shifter. At least, it does if

you’ve paid extra for the

shifter and the Track Pack

that allows the anti-wheelie

function to be disabled.

Cruising at 80mph-plus is

effortless for the KTM, if not

always for its rider, who has

nowhere to hide up near

the 160mph-plus top speed.

Whether the lack of wind

protection or reduced, 16-litre

fuel capacity are drawbacks is

debatable. More of both would

be ideal, but wind-blast is part

of a naked bike’s appeal on


COMMENT

the road, and the range of about

120 miles is tolerable.

The Super Duke always handled

fine on the road and it’s now

better still: slightly sportier and

more composed even when its

rider is shifting weight or battling

the wind. Unlike some

rivals there’s no semi-active

suspension option, but the forks

are manually adjustable via

knobs at the top of each leg,

and the shock has an equally

useful remote preload adjuster.

On track the new chassis is

a notable improvement, as

a launch blast around the

swoopy Portimao circuit in

Portugal’s Algarve confirmed.

The KTM felt sharp on its way

into turns, its frame’s extra

rigidity beneficial especially

when slowing with the eyeball-bulging

force of Brembo’s

Stylema front calipers. And

when exiting bends the Super

Duke was more firm and controllable.

It no longer squatted

under power but stayed taut,

steering more accurately and

delivering its V-twin grunt

more controllably to the fat

Bridgestone rear tyre.

That chassis improvement

means that for the first time

the Super Duke is as capable

on a circuit as it has always

been on the road. It’s competitively

priced, too (at £15,699

in the UK), even though most

riders will pay extra for the

quick-shifter and Track Pack.

Keyless ignition and cruise

control come as standard; accessories

range from heated

grips and tank-bag to rearset

footrests and an Akrapovic

silencer.

This Beast 3.0 update is an

effective and timely reboot

for KTM’s hyper-naked contender.

Its four-cylinder rivals

are gathering with menace,

and the 1290 Super Duke R

is fighting fit to take them on:

slightly more refined, distinctly

more composed and bursting

with as much crazy V-twin

character as ever.


“THE SUPER DUKE

ALWAYS HANDLED FINE

ON THE ROAD AND IT’S

NOW BETTER STILL:

SLIGHTLY SPORTIER

AND MORE COMPOSED

EVEN WHEN ITS RIDER

IS SHIFTING WEIGHT OR

BATTLING THE WIND.”

2020 1290 SUPER DUKE R VERDICT


PRODUCTS

HUSQVARNA

www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com

Husqvarna’s 2020 Street functional clothing sees the brand continuing their association with

Dutch company REV’IT for another batch of fetching and dependable attire that must rank as

some of the most stylish and subtle on the market. We like the Gore-Tex Pursuit GTX jacket

which is waterproof, windproof and features several ventilation openings for when winter ebbs

into spring. The garment has SEEFLEX protection in the elbow and shoulder areas. The Pursuit

jeans are a cool complement – literally – with COOLMAX elements in the construction

ensuring effective moisture-wicking properties. The Pursuit jeans have the added advantages

of triple seams, safety stitching and a relaxed fit for maximum comfort. The Pursuit gloves

look a little heavy-duty but they are made with dyed goatskin palm, Hydratex® liners and

knuckle protection and will suit most climate and conditions. We own several pieces of the

2019 collection and love the way that Husqvarna have crafted clothing that works in the saddle

but is casual enough to wear on an everyday basis.

Click on any image for more information.


M

FEATURE

HIDING

TO

NOTHING

WHAT GOES INTO A MotoGP

RACER’S LEATHER SUIT?

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP


FEATURE

High-tech synthetics or

the butt of an animal?

MotoGP and WorldSBK

race suits offer a wealth of

protection thanks to the presence

of airbag engineering but

custom-made leathers still

blend properties of materials

that go back before the wheel

was even invented.

Curiosity regarding what

MotoGP athletes are using

as their principal form of

safeguard against high speed

tumbles and scrapes led us

to a revealing sit-down with

Alpinestars Jeremy Appleton

last season. Just under half of

the entire MotoGP grid were

wearing their leather suits in

2019 (and more than twentyfive

throughout all classes),

among them the world champion

and his HRC brandmate

Cal Crutchlow. “They have so

much experience with what

works and what doesn’t work

that it is very rare to see a

problem with the leather or

any problem,” says the Brit

who has been using ‘Astars’

since 2014. “They are specialists

and are constantly improving

and that’s important

because we have to maximise

protection with weight, safety,

design and many things.”

Onto the details then…

We have two fundamental

materials in terms of

leather…

It is either bovine (cow) or

kangaroo and the vast majority

of riders use kangaroo.

The reason being that we


MotoGP LEATHERS

can make the suit somewhat

lighter because we can reduce

kangaroo leather to be thinner

than bovine. It is all to with the

properties within the skin of the

animal and kangaroo offers a

bit more flexibility: the tensile

strength is similar but a thinner

kangaroo hide is more-or-less

the same as a thicker bovine.

Interestingly the bovine leather

tends to retain its shape and

fit for longer, and some riders

really like that. They like

the fact that a suit is tight and

hugs them closer. Casey Stoner

always liked to have a bovine

suit because the feel he got

was very particular. Someone

like Jorge Lorenzo prefers

more space and Kangaroo

works just fine; if the suit

flexes out for him then that’s

better. It comes down to each

rider’s approach and they are

all super-sensitive to everything.

So, for us, once we have

defined the pattern and the fit

solution for a rider then – until

a change is planned – then

every suit is made exactly the

same as the previous one.

Riders are sufficiently sensitive

that they will pick up the

difference in feel between two

“CASEY STONER ALWAYS

LIKED TO HAVE A BOVINE

SUIT BECAUSE THE FEEL

WAS VERY PARTICULAR.

SOMEONE LIKE JORGE LOR-

ENZO PREFERS MORE SPACE

AND KANGAROO WORKS

JUST FINE...”

different suits and we go to

great lengths to make sure

they are identical. Nevertheless,

you are dealing with

an item that is made from a

natural product and there are

vagaries within that.

In terms of construction then

the base material for the suit

is the animal hide…

Then it goes through a tanning

process and we have a

very unique technology which

we apply to the outer surface,

which is a coating that accepts

the print finish that we

put on the material. The suits

in MotoGP are prominently

printed. That allows us to

make them as light as possible

because we are not adding

extra material and the base

graphics can be any colour

and whatever intricate patterns

to get good registration,

so they look very sharp. Most

importantly it means we don’t

cover up the ventilation system

we build into the suit or

the perforation and the suit’s

natural flexibility is retained

because we are not putting

extra layers in. So, in the tanning

and finishing process

there are other chemicals

used to make sure the leather

feels good; things like antibacterial

treatment and similar

considerations.

For our wet weather suits we

have an aquaphobic treatment

we also apply to the

outer skin…

For the rain riders have traditionally

put on an extra layer,

or a plastic, the problem with

that - as you have probably

seen on camera - is that they

flap around because it is very

hard to get the fit really tight

and they don’t breathe very

well. During a Grand Prix

you are not getting rid of the

moisture from a rider’s perspiration

which is fatiguing.

So, the aqua treatment has

been a good win. We’ve substantially

reduced the intake

of moisture into the leather

(which absorbs it quite ef-


FEATURE

“A LOT OF A KANGAROO

SUITS IN MotoGP WILL

BE ABOUT 1-1.5MM BUT

WE MIGHT LEAVE A LITTLE

BIT MORE THICKNESS IN

CERTAIN AREAS. WE COULD

ALWAYS GO WITH HARDER

AND STRONGER LEATHER

BUT THE TRADE-OFF IS THAT

YOU HAVE LESS FEEL AND

WITH A STIFFER FINISH.

RIDERS DON’T WANT THAT

AND IN MotoGP IT IS ALL

ABOUT SENSITIVITY AND

AS LITTLE WEIGHT AS

POSSIBLE.”

fectively) so it is around 70%

better with the treatment. That

means we tend not to put as

much venting on a wet weather

suit and it just shoots the

water off the surface, which is

helpful.

The Pros and Cons to bovine

and kangaroo…

Generally-speaking bovine will

last longer…but that that’s to

do with the filaments in the

hide of a kangaroo suit being

longer and more flexible so

over time they tend to stretch

more than a bovine suit. The

hide in the bovine suit is a bit

thicker so again you have more

longevity out of it. There are

not too many other differences

between the two. Kangaroo is

more expensive and, critically,

you have to select a good hide.

At Alpinestars we define very

carefully where the hides come

from before we even get to the

tanning process, and with kangaroo

your sources are always

going to be limited: the differences

in quality can be quite

great. Kangaroo hides can be

effective provided they are the

‘right’ kangaroo hides and that

takes research, development

and an understanding of what

makes the right hide.


MotoGP LEATHERS

We don’t add anything specifically

with the material itself

to help with abrasion…

What we tend to do is put

external protection on the

suit, like the polymers you

see on the shoulders, elbows

and knees, and where we have

really high wearing areas we

have either double-thickness

or we scarf-out the leathers to

a lesser degree. For instance,

a lot of a kangaroo suits in

MotoGP will be about 1-1.5mm

but we might leave a little bit

more thickness in certain areas.

We could always go with

harder and stronger leather

but the trade-off is that you

have less feel and with a

stiffer finish. Riders don’t want

that and in MotoGP it is all

about sensitivity and as little

weight as possible. Like other

athletes in may sports these

guys are operating at the

absolute limit of their physical

potential so anything preventing

that is not ideal.

The MotoGP suits and

customer suits are really

similar…

They will have the same materials,

same construction process

and same performance

and protection, even down to

the lessons and applications

we learn about venting and

keeping a rider’s body ambient

temperature during the

race. We can move that across

for the customer. In GP we

are dealing with many highlyindividual

fits as well as the

graphic customisation, which

means that the make-up process

is slightly different even

if the technology is the same.

The suits that we offer to customers

are simply a couple of

months behind what we are

doing with the riders in terms

of the tech. The Kevlar stretch

panels and everything else is

the same spec.

Of course, not all of the suit is

leather…

We have sought to improve

the flexibility of the suits and

that’s a case of using aramid

fibres for the elasticated

stretch panels that you see.

On our suit we have what

we term as a fully floating

back: there is a multi direction

stretch panel all the

way around but that is actually

concertina leather. So

we stitch elasticated thread

through the leather and that

gives you that ‘accordion type’

effect which allows the suit to

move very comfortably in any

direction and also means the

consistent leather itself is not

being pulled in any particular

direction because the suit

flexes out and back in those

joints. The aramid fibres perhaps

don’t have the length of

travel that the stitch has but

they are very strong and allow

us to join the leather panels

with an area that is lightweight,

very flexible and very

strong for abrasion resistance.

Those areas have increased.

We have probably gone from

80-90% of leather down to

something like 65-70% - hazarding

a guess. The airbag

has made a difference as well

because we had to re-spec the

suit to accommodate not only

the airbag in its passive state

but when it’s activated, we

need to give the rider some

breathing space.

Fundamentally the suits have

remained predominantly

leather because at the

moment there is no better

substitute…


FEATURE

If you look at all the performance

criteria from a leather

suit, then natural leather still

does the job better than anything

else. We’ve looked at

multiple man-made fibres to

try and improve areas and

maybe in abrasion you can

find a better material but it

doesn’t breathe, or it doesn’t

stretch or it is too heavy. All

sorts of issues that don’t quite

work. There is an ongoing battle

and the material research

department are always looking

at different industries for

new technologies and new

ways to define the performance

characteristics of a

suit…but the lab test is the

ultimate dictator before we

get to the track. Until the lab

team sign-off for something

that is proven to be better

what we’re already using then

of course it does not make

it onto the product. Then it

comes down to our field testing

at the track. First off what

sort of response we get from

the riders and what sort of

evidence we get out of the use

of the materials.

We actually have a test

team…

Before the material would

ever make it to the track it

would be evaluated through

all of the scientific processes

and laboratory analysis. It

would then go out on the

road. It’s very likely that Gabriele

[Mazzarolo, company

owner] himself would be


MotoGP LEATHERS

trying it. If it got through the

road stage then it would probably

come here to MotoGP

and likely make its absolute

debut at a test and we would

involve different riders across

the categories. The athletes

themselves – by-and-large –

tend to be very happy with the

specification they are using at

this particular time and any

change we introduce needs to

be done in a very open and

communicated way so they

understand what it is coming

and why. They are extremely

good for testing because they

are mentally attuned to being

highly sensitive and capable

to analyse what is working

and what is not working

and what makes a difference

to the performance on the

bike. And they are used to

giving feedback, which means

we get great feedback! The

development team are always

looking to push ideas to

change technologies as new

things become available to us

but ultimately the athletes are

testing those ideas and new

construction techniques and

giving us the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or

what adjustments need to be

made to optimise it.

There have been times when

the performance of the suits

have amazed us…

I know we had a couple of riders

in the AMA series – about

ten-fifteen years ago - go

down on the Daytona banking

at very high speed and the

suits were remarkably intact.

That was impressive. Perhaps

the one issue we began to

look into as a result of those

accidents was not so much

the leather technology but

the control of friction heat.

Through our auto racing we

came up with some solutions

involving Nomex fibre which is

a fire/heat shield material to

see if we needed to be lining

areas of suits for very highspeed

racetracks to prevent

that heat coming through.

More recently the incident

that immediately comes to

mind is Loris Baz’s crash in

testing at Sepang three years

ago. That was a 200mph+

get-off and the deceleration

between the time that Loris

lost control and hit the track

was minimal because we saw

the airbag data. He hit the

track at more than 180mph

and the suit was battered but

it held and Loris’ only fallout

from that was a slightly

bruised elbow. It was a good

‘pat on the back’ for the development

team – not that we

ever want to see riders crash

or take pleasure in seeing

them go through that situation

but the fact that suit held up

was pretty special.

It does beggar belief that MotoGP

is so high tech but we

are using the same materials

as the cavemen…!

But like anything when you

are dealing with it daily then

you don’t think of it that way.

It is a big compliment to

‘mother nature’ and it is extraordinary

that something so

simplistic has stood the test

of time. With all the technology

and all the know-how we

have not been able to replicate

what we source from an

animal. The team of people in

the racing development centre

and the product department

are incredibly clever at being

able to harness properties of

very natural material that has

been around forever and find

ways to use it better and more

effectively.


PRODUCTS

ALPINESTARS

Alpinestars Techair 5 airbag is the latest

generation of a technology that he company

have been fashioning for the better part of

twenty years and the efficiency of which has

been protecting riders on a weekly basis in

international racing series. The firm claim it

offers a greater effect than 18 back protectors

and now has more upper torso coverage

than ever (shoulders, chest, ribs and

full back). It uses 3 gyroscopes and 3 accelerometers

to deploy in a maximum inflation

time of 20 to 40ms based on the volume

of the airbag size. Alpinestars claim ‘the

impact absorption while wearing the airbag

results in a decrease of the impact force by

up to 95% compared to a passive protector’.

The autonomous product comes in Race

(triggers at higher speed) and Street settings

- which are easily configured - and

is compatible with a range of leather and

textile jackets in the Alpinestars catalogue.

It simply slips underneath, is connected via

cable and provides up to 30 hours of riding

time before needing a recharge. Expect to

pay around 700 dollars.

www.alpinestars.com


SX

ARLINGTON

AT&T STADIUM · RND 8 OF 17 · FEBRUARY 22

450SX winner: Eli Tomac, Kawasaki

250SX winner: Chase Sexton, Honda


SX TEXAS

ET

TRIPLE

By Steve Matthes. Photos by James Lissimore


SX TEXAS


SX TEXAS


SX BLOG

THE HARD YARDS...

The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series is coming up to its halfway

point (who knew?) this weekend in Atlanta and we’re starting to

get some separation here in the 450SX class. But not in a good way in

case you’re wondering.

Look, supercross is dangerous,

we all know this and

year after year it becomes

a series with the walking

wounded going out each

weekend. We all know this

but the past weekend in Dallas,

we saw the first time all

year just how much of a toll

this sport takes on people.

We had round two of three of

the Triple Crown format, we

had the second round of the

250SX east coast and maybe

we had a full moon. I’m not

sure because the stadium

in Dallas is covered but how

else to explain the carnage

we saw?

Let’s recap shall we?

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s

Adam Cianciarulo crashed off

the dragon back and broke

his collarbone in practice,

he’ll be out for a month or so.

His impressive rookie year is

on hold for now.

Honda’s Justin Brayton

crashed five or six times

throughout the day and

finally the final one after the

finish line did him in for the

night and he missed the final

two races.

Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb

had a bad crash in the second

Main exiting the dragon

back where he landed on the

concrete. It was very scary for

the defending champion and

although he missed the last

main event, somehow it looks

like he will be ok for this

weekend’s race in Atlanta.

JGR Suzuki’s Jimmy Decotis

had a big fall off the, wait for

it, dragon back, in practice

and missed the entire race.

Monster Pro Circuit’s Jordon

Smith crashed approximately

14 times in his three races

while Martin Davalos appeared

to want to match his

racing number (37) with his

number of spills.

And these are just the ones

that I can remember, I’m sure

there were more than a few

more out there. What was

it? The Triple Crown format?

Some riders like Rockstar

Husqvarna’s Dean Wilson is

pretty adamant that it’s the

format that’s doing it as the

shorter races cause more riders

to really go for it as well

as the simple math of more

laps equals more crashes

because, well, it’s supercross

and for most racers, it’s not

a matter of if they’re going to

ditch, it’s when.


CREATED THANKS TO

BY ADAM

WHEELER

But you’ll notice that in the

description above there were

a few mentions about the

dragon back obstacle. There’s

a certain speed you can go

off of these and more than

a few guys pushed it a bit

hard, missed the top jump

“LOOK, SUPERCROSS IS

DANGEROUS, WE ALL

KNOW THIS AND YEAR

AFTER YEAR IT BECOMES

A SERIES WITH THE

WALKING WOUNDED

GOING OUT EACH WEEK.”

that “bumps” you over the

landing. When you miss it,

things go sideways. Perhaps

the obstacle itself could have

been built a little better but

the riders are always free to

go to the track crew and recommend

some changes. The

track in Dallas was also slicker

than the riders thought it

would be. There was a hard

base to it and traction looked

good but a few riders told

me how they would spin out

there.

Meanwhile out front, we

have Monster Kawasaki’s Eli

Tomac and Honda’s Ken Roczen

starting to pull away from

everyone else here as Webb

crashed out and Rockstar

Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson

has had a few bad races.

“The dragon back was

sketchy a little bit, for sure.

I’m sure everyone had a moment

on that thing because

the dirt here is really good

but it breaks apart and gets

slick and you lose traction,

and then you get kicked on

that last one,” said Monster

Yamaha’s Justin Barcia after

the race. “So it took out a

lot of guys. Then there were

other sections that took out

guys, too. It sucks to see

some competitors get taken

out right now.”

“In my opinion, it was the dirt

and the way they built the

obstacles,” said Brayton who

was a victim of the night in

Dallas. “If we have good dirt

and traction, we don’t see

BY STEVE MATTHES

the crashes. The whoops are

the same way. The obstacles

and the dirt didn’t match.

Also, too many whoops on

dragon back also and the way

it shaped up didn’t work out

either. It was more of that, we

were hoping and expecting

traction and didn’t get it.”

I went to one of the more

outspoken riders on the

circuit in Chad Reed the day

after the race and asked him

about “Carnage Cross” that

we saw this weekend.

“It was the easiest dragon

back I’ve ever raced,” said

Reed and thereby confusing

me even more. “There is this

weird thing on the right side

of the bars guys can use!”

Typical Reed, blunt and not

holding back, continued: “I

thought it (dragon back) was

like everything nowadays,

super fast and easy and the

top one got steep. The issue

is everyone’s just used to pinning

it with no real technique.


SX BLOG

#

To me the real problem is

everything’s so easy and fast

so when there are crashes

that are huge and costly. The

bikes are the best they have

ever been, tracks are faster

and easier than they have

ever been.”

So there you have it, a couple

of riders that said they

didn’t have an idea of why it

was so nutty in Dallas while

some others point to the

track, dirt and the TC format.

Myself, I go back to the top

of this column. We usually

see the field thinning out a

little more gradual than we

had at Dallas and maybe, it’s

the natural order of things

but this past weekend, we

were reminded of the brutalities

of the sport all in one

night.


GO

ADVENTURE

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

The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.

Photo: R. Schedl

KTM 390 ADVENTURE

ADVENTURE MORE

Fuel your restless spirit with a new adventure

every day. Discover KTM’s sporty attitude and

proven performance credentials aboard this new,

compact single-cylinder travel-enduro machine –

the KTM 390 ADVENTURE. Versatile ergonomics,

smooth power delivery, and innovative technology

all come together in a comfortable, lightweight

package – created for those who want to fit more

adventure into their daily lives.


SX TEXAS


PRODUCTS

FLY RACING

Fly Racing’s owners – Western Power

Sports – have prided themselves on sourcing

proven, quality goods right across their

product range and therefore their Sedona

Tyres project (mainly in the USA) is worthy

of note. Of particular interest is the new

MX-208SR; a steel-belted radial carcass

that allows motorcyclists to run at lower

air pressure and to withstand hard, sudden

blows without rebound or shock to the

bike’s handling. The tyres also feature a

dual rubber compound with a front elliptical

and rear drive-link tread pattern.

“The comfort that I get was unmatched out

on the trail,” said industry product tester

Kris Keefer. “On longer days in the saddle,

the MX-208SR’s almost acted like a second

set of suspension, which at my age, was a

welcomed feeling”.

“The knobbies are the deepest I’ve seen,

yet to my surprise I did not experience tyre

roll,” offered former racer Brock Sellards.

“It also hooked up well on the motocross

track that was on the dry side. Sedona hit it

out of the park on this one.”

Sedona claim the model offers ‘a controlled

footprint for predictable performance’. Clink

a link to read and see more.

WWW.FLYRACING.COM


PEACE OF MIND WITH

PERFECT VISION

4.5 & 5.5 GOGGLES

The answer to your question? Yes! Our goggles are bulletproof, they can take impacts like no oth

perfect fit and cool looks that won’t break the bank. They meet all the design criteria we set out w

THE SCIENCE OF THRILL


Jonny Walker

er allowing you to look ahead without fear of the roost or branches,

hen we started developing these for you.

LEATT.COM


PRODUCTS

TROY LEE

DESIGNS

Watch for the Monster Energy Yamaha MX2

team (Jago Geerts and Ben Watson) this

weekend at Matterley Basin: thanks to the

squad’s new association with Troy Lee

Designs both the Belgian and the Brit will be

wearing not only some of the best looking

gear in the gate but also some of the most

technically advanced. We visited TLD’s HQ in

California last year - and will hopefully be getting

over again in the next two months - and

can verify that the Ultra Limited Edition line

is featherlight, stretchy and feels ridiculously

tough; it’s a premium set of kit and sits at the

top of the perch with the likes of Fox FlexAir,

Fly’s Evolution, Answer’s Trinity and Alpinestars’

Supertech. In collaboration with Adidas

the jersey is made from HeiQ® Smart Temp

Technological fabric which ‘thermoregulates’

depending on the body’s temperature. The

Yamaha Ultra livery won’t be on sale until

April apparently, so fans should get in touch

with the company or a reliable TLD dealer to

make enquiries asap in order not to miss out.


See more on the Ultra here:

www.troyleedesigns.com


FEATURE

PLAY

DROP IT!


READY FOR 2020 MXGP? WE SPEAK TO JEFFREY

HERLINGS, GLENN COLDENHOFF, TOM VIALLE &

THOMAS COVINGTON AHEAD OF GP#1 & ASK HOW THEY

(AND OTHERS) DEAL WITH FIRST RACE NERVES

By Adam Wheeler. Photos Ray Archer


MXGP

This weekend the 64th FIM Motocross World

Championship gets underway at arguably the

best track on the calendar. For the first time

in the modern era the British Grand Prix will run the

gauntlet of late winter weather to open the schedule

for what will be the tenth MXGP visit to Matterley

Basin. Not since 2012 has the championship got

underway on European shores so the turnout from

across the north of the continent for the initial taste

of twenty will be curious to chart. In 2019 Matterley

demonstrated that the southern English can play ball.

Regardless of the conditions – except for a 2017 MX of

Nations style deluge – there is little doubting the fine

stage and course that the Winchester venue provides.

As March 1st draws closer, we spoke with a handful of

athletes keen to develop their own individual

narratives for 2020…

HERLINGS: “I DON’T FEEL

I NEED TO WIN EVERY

RACE”

There are still a few hours and

days left to go but it seems that

a fully fit Jeffrey Herlings is

ready to slay MXGP once more.

From an utterly dominant 2018

in which he owned 17 from 19

Grands Prix and finished runner-up

in the other two events

to a virtually non-existent 2019

where he made just 4.5 appearances

(winning two of those

however) Herlings is hoping

the pendulum swings back the

other way.

Aside from 2012 and 2013

where he stamped his name

into the annals of the sport,

Herlings has bounced from

dominance to disaster almost

on an annual basis. 2014: loses

the MX2 crown by just 4 points

after having a lead of more than

150 and breaking his left femur.

2015: loses the MX2 crown in a

similar position after dislocating

his hip. 2016: claims third MX2

title at a canter. 2017: breaks

hand on the eve of MXGP debut

but finishes as runner-up.

2018: sets a new benchmark for

performance at elite level. 2019:

double break to the right foot.

Herlings could be ready to

unleash a degree of anguish

but he insists he is ready to

sacrifice short-term glory for

long-term gain from within the

confines of Red Bull KTM (the

greatest team ever assembled

in the premier class) and his

eleventh world championship

season.

We’re struggling to believe him

as well…

Mentally, was 2019 worse than

2014? That year you were still

very young and lost the crown

so narrowly [special feature

coming up in the next OTOR!]…

Way worse. I think I won every

GP I raced that year except for

Mexico [the final round]. So

it was awesome…apart from

missing those three-four races

and then the championship! I

also had a shoulder injury at

the beginning of the season.

But…2019 was easily the worst

year of my career.

You had two tricky starts but

still came back to win and then

claimed the Nations at Assen…

it finished well.

The last races were just the

cherry. The complete cake was

long gone. It had been eaten

by the time I got to the table! It

was a tough year mentally and

physically. The second injury

was not so bad but the first

one was. I was out for a long

time. It’s a part of the sport

where ‘everyone gets their turn’

kinda thing; you can see it with

[Jorge] Prado and it happened

to Tony [Cairoli] as well,


MXGP 2020: HERLINGS


MXGP

MXGP

[Romain] Febvre and [Clement]

Desalle. Everyone has their

turn every couple of seasons. It

frustrating.

Is there a different approach to

this season then? Realisation of

the sixty starts and forty motos

to come? A repeat of 2018

perhaps isn’t necessary…

My mentality is different. I don’t

feel that I have to win any more

– I mean, I want to win but in

the past if I didn’t then I had

‘failed’ and the world would fall

in. I’ve learned that your health

is the most important thing.

Racing is important to me but

my health and my life waymore.

So if I have to take risks

to win then I don’t want to do it.

I want to be in the ‘safe zone’.

You can definitely still crash or

go down in the start and break

bones at any time but sometimes

I went a bit ‘over’. Now I

prefer to be in the safe zone and

take a 3rd at whatever race than

take a risk and end up in hospital

again. My goal this year is to

be at all twenty races. And to try

and fight for the championship.

Try to become a bit smarter and

maybe lose a few fights but try

to win the war.

In 2018 you virtually changed

the sport and raised the level.

Do you ever think about that or

are you too close to it?

I did it the Aldon [Baker] way.

I went all-out. If 100% was the

maximum I did 110. I watched

every single piece of food I ate,

I calculated sleep and jet lag,

I trained my ass-off, I left my

social life on the side for almost

a year. It was tough. I took the

Aldon method for supercross

but perhaps went even more extreme.

It is hard to do that just

for a few years, physically and

mentally. It was worth it though

to come to that level and win

17 from 19 races and finish

second twice: I think it is one

of the greatest seasons a rider

has had. I also won pre-season

races, all the Dutch Championship

events I did, and my class

at the Motocross of Nations. It

was almost a picture-perfect

year…and I cannot do it again.

First of all you need to be lucky

and you need to take some risks

to make it happen: I remember

starting some races from fifteenth

and still pushing hard for

the win. I’m not looking for that

now. I won the championship by

something like 150-points and

through missing a race and you

can win a championship by just

5 points if necessary. I don’t feel

like I need to win every single

race anymore.


MXGP 2020: HERLINGS

The way you race makes that

difficult to believe…

You need some injuries, and

then you’ll understand.

It is rare to see you at anything

less than 100% committed…

Look at Assen last year. In

the last moto I was OK to

take fourth. I wasn’t feeling

good that day with the mud.

I thought ‘if this is my worst

day – a 2nd and a 4th – then

I’m still looking good if it was

a championship’. You need a

few hospital visits to be able to

think that like.

You still looked annoyed that

day though…

I was disappointed in myself

because I feel like I failed…but

at the same time I was smart.

It wasn’t my day, but I accepted

it. I had worked for more

than two months just for that

race but nothing went for me;

the starts were bad, the track

had been flattened each time

and that meant it was harder

to pass, and then the conditions.

So, I was pissed, mainly

because it hadn’t rained for

like two months in Holland and

then it didn’t stop that weekend!

Quite a lot went wrong

for me but looking back I think

it was one of my best races

because I accepted not to win.

It’s something I wouldn’t have

been able to do two years ago.

The older you get; is it easier

to think more like Tony Cairoli

where a podium each weekend

means a very high level of

consistency…?

Yeah, that’s my goal as well

this year. There are definitely

some tracks where I really want

to go for the win, but when I

go to somewhere like Russia

or Czech Republic then I know

these places are not my tracks.

If I can get on the podium then

that’s good enough and – most

importantly – I get to the races

after. I need to be at each GP.

Injuries can happen but you

have to remind yourself to be

smart. It’s easy to sit here at

this table and say it but you’ll

see it in my racing this year:

if I can get a win or a podium

then I’ll try for it otherwise I’m

OK to let it go.


MXGP

COLDENHOFF: “I’M NOT A COCKY GUY”

Another member of the strongest (current)

motocross nation and something of a recent

MXoN specialist, Glenn Coldenhoff is sitting

in front of us in KTM racewear. The hurried

nature of the factory GasGas deal means that

Matterley Basin will be the big unveiling for

the latest marque to grace the premier class.

The 29-year-old is using his Standing Construct

450 SX-F in the meantime for the final

stages of winter prep and an off-season period

in total contrast to 2019 where he broke

several vertebrae and raced his way back into

fitness and form.

Coldenhoff frustratingly chucked the positive

momentum from his RedBud Motocross of

Nations crowning moment into the sand with

his violent and shocking crash at the end of

2018 but is hoping that the five podiums and

three wins (including Assen) from the close

of ’19 will run into the new campaign. #259

scaled the top fifteen of MXGP in rapid style

to snag the bronze medal at the final round.

Anything like the same level of form will mean

the Dutchman is an outside title contender,

regardless of the colour of the plastics.


MXGP 2020: COLDENHOFF

The question everyone must have for you-

‘Can I back it up?’ [smiles] I don’t really

know. I feel very good and had a good

winter so far I just had a small injury

before Riola [Sardo in Sardinia and the

first International race of 2020 at the end

of January] and that’s why I did not race

there. It was to the same ribs where I

broke my back, so I tend to feel any problems

quite quickly there. Anyway, it was

just one week off the bike and I rode some

more in Italy before going to Hawkstone

Park. I definitely have more confidence

and more experience. It will be pretty

interesting to see what I can do from the

start.

You’ve always relied quite heavily on

confidence, so there must still be some

important value in leading those races in

Turkey and China and making someone

like Herlings work hard to catch you…

Yeah, he also said something like that in

an interview; like he was dealing with a

new ‘Glenn’ that he hadn’t seen before. I

definitely felt really good at the end of last

season and everybody recognised that. I

think when Jeffrey is really fit then he is

hard to beat…but you never know. I will

try to be up there every single weekend

with the guys. Consistency is very important,

and you need to make sure every

start is good.

The injury must have severely dented

the first half of 2019 because people see

you racing and assume you are fit and

100%...but that’s not the truth…

Sure, but I also feel that I underestimated

myself. I had a lot of pain until the halfway

point of 2019 and then you are always

playing catch-up to the others that are fit.

There was one moment early-on where we

ended up having a five-week break in the

calendar and I could work in that period.

Only having two weeks on the bike coming

into the season definitely isn’t good.

In the end I got fit, got better, got more

confidence and made the results.

Another obvious question: is a bid for the

championship a realistic goal?

I’m not a cocky guy and won’t tell it like

that but I’m working my ass off every day

to get the results and winning is the best

feeling out there. I will go into every single

race for it. Championship-wise I got

3rd place last year and there were a lot

of injuries [to others] but I was also injured

myself. Anything can happen. I had

a strong finish to the season and for most

of it I was around tenth in the standings

and finally pushed up to third, so it is a

very long series. I will try to be consistent

all year long and hopefully be on the box

many times.

COLDENHOFF FRUSTRATINGLY

CHUCKED THE POSITIVE MOMENTUM

FROM HIS REDBUD MOTOCROSS

OF NATIONS CROWNING MOMENT

INTO THE SAND WITH HIS VIOLENT

AND SHOCKING CRASH AT THE END

OF 2018 BUT IS HOPING THAT THE

FIVE PODIUMS AND THREE WINS

(INCLUDING ASSEN) FROM THE

CLOSE OF ’19 WILL RUN INTO THE

NEW CAMPAIGN.


MXGP MXGP

COVINGTON: “I’M HEALTHY BUT IT TAKES TIME

TO GET THAT FITNESS BACK”

Midway through 2018 Thomas

Covington was picking up

form. The Grand Prix of France

delivered the first of five MX2

podium results in the next six

races and would represent the

purple patch of nine trophies

and a victory that year. That

weekend at St Jean D’Angely

he also confirmed that he

would transfer works Rockstar

Energy Husqvarna teams

from MXGP to the AMA and

head back to the States for

the first time in more than half

a decade. Injury and illness

meant that Covington – who

would have had one more year

of MX2 eligibility in 2019 –

meant his first season as an

AMA Pro was a write-off. Marriage

to a Brit and the chance

to return to Grand Prix as an

MXGP rookie with the Gebben

Van Venrooy Yamaha brought

Covington over the Atlantic

once more.

As one of the only Americans

attempting to find his way in

the FIM World Championship,

Covington is still a novelty and

faces yet another fresh start

in his career. Can he (or we)

expect much from a tentative

first step in 2020?

First of all: sum-up the Husky

experience in the U.S. It just

didn’t work out for you…

I would have liked to have

stayed for my last year in MX2

but the way things were there

was not the chance to remain

with Husky for a 450 ride at

that time [for 2020]. So, I’d

rather agree to a two-year deal

in America than maybe

nothing. Looking back, I

maybe should have stayed

but I learned a lot over the

past year and I’m glad I did it

regardless because I’d always

wonder ‘what if?’ otherwise. It

was a bummer the way things

went with the illness and a

few nagging injuries as well as

moving everything back home

and getting used to supercross

it was a lot to take on at

once. It was a hectic year for

sure. All-in-all I’m happy to be

back in Europe. I got married

last year and that was great.

It is good to be back ‘home’

around family in England. I’m

enjoying it.

MXGP, Yamaha and more new

adventures, so you must have

stood at a big crossroads

again at some point…


MXGP 2020: COVINGTON

Obviously, it was a difficult situation

with Husqvarna. It was

my first year in America [as

Pro] and they expected a lot

more from me. Things were

not going well with my racing

and they were not happy.

I missed racing in Europe for

sure, so when the opportunity

came up to possibly do something

with Yamaha that was

really interesting for me and

I decided to go for it. I have

always like the 450 and raced

it at the Nations a few years

ago. I think it suits me…and I

was ready for a change.

You moved from a factory

team to a blossoming privateer

team: is that something

else to get your head around?

Yeah but it’s not been a really

big deal because Gebben have

been really good in providing

anything that I ask for. There

are a lot of positives because

the guys are really eager to

get the bike dialled-in and are

listening to what I say about it

while I’m learning.

You’ve faced some adversity

the last few years - and it

must be character building -

but being a rookie in MXGP

must be like starting over…

Definitely a new challenge

and the field is very stacked,

especially this year. It’s pretty

crazy. I feel that if my fitness

is good and my bike is dialled

like I want it then I can put

in some decent results. Obviously,

I’m not expecting to

light the world on fire in my

first year but if I can get some

consistent good results then I

can build from there.

By the end of your stint in

MX2 you were disappointed if

you didn’t make the podium,

so what do you think MXGP

will be about? Top tens?

Yeah, especially this first year.

I think the top ten will be good

for me. That’s probably my

goal; to be in that top ten as

much as possible and I feel

that it’s realistic.

Physically are you 100%? Will

you go back to the old GP

training programme?

Yeah, exactly that. In America

I was on quite a different

programme and I drove myself

into the ground with all the

pressure as well. I did everything

and anything I had to

do to be competitive in that

outdoor championship but I

think I pushed my body too

far. It took about six months –

after consultation with doctors

at the clinic – of doing nothing

to get back to feeling better.

Now I’m healthy but it takes

time to get that fitness back.

With a regular injury - to your

hand, arm, whatever - you

can still do some basic training

but with this it was a case

of ‘do nothing’. I’m working

again with Joel Roelants and

building myself back up. I

wish I had a bit more time but

hopefully at some point into

the season I’ll be back to my

full potential.

You’re based away from the

U.S. again but perhaps more

settled than ever?

Yeah, that’s true. I see myself

staying over here for at least

the rest of my career and

maybe even after that too. It is

definitely a different mindset.

You’ve had a question mark

for most of your career, such

as ‘can he do it on this bike?’,

and it’s still there. Does that

feel heavy sometimes?

At times I guess, last year it

did get pretty heavy. I had so

much time on my hands to do

nothing and you start thinking

about those things. But

that also forced me to grow

up too. I don’t really care any

more about what everybody is

saying. I will just do the best

I can and what is best for me

without worrying about other

opinions.


MXGP

VIALLE: “TO BE HONEST WE HAVE NOT TALKED MUCH ABOUT GOAL

Red Bull KTM’s Tom Vialle

has a tough lineage to maintain.

The Austrians boast no

less than eight different world

champions in MX2 since

2004 and have missed out

on title success with their

250 SX-F only four times in

that period. They have won

all-but-one MX2 crown since

2010.

Understandably KTM are

top heavy for 2020 with the

axis of Cairoli, Herlings and

Prado in MXGP so the MX2

programme falls largely on

Vialle’s shoulders for what

will be only the French youngster’s

second season in Grand

Prix. His teammate, Rene

Hofer, will be hoping to gather

even a slice of the 2019 ‘Vialle

rookie effect’ that led

to seven podium results, a

maiden victory and 4th place

in the world. Despite his

inexperience (but undoubted

potential) Vialle is one of only

two riders in the 2020 MX2

pack that knows what it is like

to win a GP.

From the status of being an

unknown ‘gamble’ for KTM in

’19 Vialle now needs to cope

with another level of expectation…

So, a different season

ahead…

Totally different and I keep

seeing it [a reminder], even

on social media. It’s a big

step. Last year I still hadn’t

done a Grand Prix and had

no idea of where I could be

in MX2: top ten? Top five?

One year later and many

are talking about me for the

title! It’s a really big step but

I know I have the speed and

I was pretty strong in many

GPs, especially at the end

of 2019. I had a good winter

and I feel good on the bike. I

want to win as many races as

possible but I don’t want to

start-off too crazy, I want to

stay calm and to see how the

championship is going.

You were not over-excited

or too down in the tough

moments during 2019; you

seemed to take everything in

your stride. Can you envisage

keeping the same mentality?

It is a new challenge now and

the approach for the season

is really not the same as last

year. I’m not someone who

usually gets stressed though

so I think I will be OK.

You must have fully assessed

2019. What did you want to

improve for this year?

At the end of last season my

level was pretty good and I

was fighting with Jorge. It

is difficult to improve the

speed much more, so we

have worked a lot physically

to improve the last ten minutes

of the race and to be

stronger. I’m also looking at

the championship in a bigger

way. In 2019 it was a bit upand-down

for me and I guess

that’s normal in a first season

but I need to be more consistent.

To be honest we have not

talked much about goals for

2020; we just made a plan

and followed it as much as we

could this winter.


MXGP 2020: VIALLE

S FOR 2020”

Your starts were good and your

race-rhythm also when you were

with the leaders but there were

some motos when you dropped

back, so what was the weak point?

Some riders have different

rhythms. There are some that start

fast and drop down and others who

are the other way around and I had

to discover that in 2019, both for

myself and of the other guys. I felt

that was one way I improved every

race; my knowledge of where to go

and what to do.

“DESPITE HIS

INEXPERIENCE VIALLE

IS ONE OF ONLY TWO

RIDERS IN THE 2020

MX2 PACK THAT KNOWS

WHAT IT IS LIKE TO WIN

A GP...”


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MXGP

AWAY

WITH

THE

BUTTERFLIES

Matterley Basin is the opening salvo of

twenty and aside from the unknown permutations

for the results there are also a barrel of

different riders and characters dealing with

the emotions and heightened fuss surrounding

the first major race of the year. Athletes

– from rookies, to those with ‘comeback’

stories, to those with the added pressure of

the expectancy to win or challenge for championship

honours – will all be dealing with

the slightly closer microscope of ‘round one’

in a variety of ways, so we thought we’d ask

a spread of them about their thoughts, mannerisms

and attitudes to what is perhaps the

most intense date of the season.

Jeffrey Herlings, Red Bull KTM: Nerves?

Yes and no for the first races. I use the preseason

ones to get rid of a few issues like

arm-pump. You go through different phases:

I remember being super-nervous at every

GP when I was eighteen - I was very anxious

about winning – whereas in the last two races

of 2019 the championship was already decided

and I lined-up thinking ‘I’m either going to

win or lose here…and nobody really cares’.

Shaun Simpson, SS24 KTM MXGP: By the

time of the first Grand Prix you have usually

had some pre-season races, maybe even a

British Championship, so the cobwebs are

gone, and you are into a weekly routine. The

first GP is still a massive deal because it’s

the start of the world championship and the

first batch of points.

Tom Vialle, Red Bull KTM: The fact that we

ride a lot before the first big moto helps, I

think. We have the practice sessions, the

qualification heat, warm-up: all to get a good

feeling on the bike.

Jed Beaton, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna:

Having so much time on the track before the

races help let out the butterflies before the

races. I think there will be a lot more nerves

on Saturday at Matterley compared to Sunday

because people will already have a gauge

of how they feel and seeing where everybody

is with their times. It’s weird but Sunday is

more relaxing.


MXGP 2020: NERVES


MXGP

Rene Hofer, Red Bull KTM: I usually sleep

well. It’s a normal situation for me. I might

be thinking a bit more about the race and the

routine. You can sometimes feel the nerves of

other riders around you compared to another

race. It’s good that the EMX classes are on the

same days as the world championship because

that means you can get used to the environment

and things like the crowd, the busy

SkyBox and the TV. When you finally make it

to MX2 then it doesn’t feel like such a big difference

anymore.

BEATON: “HAVING SO MUCH

TIME ON THE TRACK BEFORE

THE RACES HELP LET OUT THE

BUTTERFLIES BEFORE THE

RACES. I THINK THERE WILL BE A

LOT MORE NERVES ON SATURDAY

AT MATTERLEY COMPARED TO

SUNDAY...”

Beaton: You have a lot of nerves going into the

event but once you hit the track it just feels

normal. You have that tunnel-vision until the

chequered flag when you can look around and

appreciate the thousands of people that are

there and see the chainsaws and airhorns that

you have heard while you’re riding.

Thomas Covington, Gebben Van Venrooy

Yamaha: For sure you always get a few nerves

before the first race but I’ve never been one

to struggle much with that. I just focus on

the things I need to do: I know I need to get

the bike right, I need the right feeling through

the corner and ruts and then I know I have to

make a good start.

Herlings: I get to the gate late because it’s

usually pretty hot and when I’m there I see

the other guys but I don’t want to, I want to

focus on my own thing and not be intimated

by anyone. That’s how I’ve done it for a few

years now and since we’ve had the metal

mesh. What’s the point waiting there for fifteen

minutes until the guy says ‘OK, go out for the

Sighting Lap’?

Glenn Coldenhoff, GasGas Factory Racing:

Experience helps. A few years ago [for me] it

was worse. I think I will still feel nervous at

Matterley but not to the point where it will affect

me. I’ve done enough races now! I don’t


MXGP 2020: NERVES

focus on any other guys and I also started to

question this idea that you have to do a lot of

pre-season races. Why? I’ll ride at Hawkstone

and have a few competitive motos against a

solid field. Although I do believe it’s good to

have one race before going to the first GP.

Vialle: I sleep pretty good! I’m actually excited

more than anything because it feels like the

last GP – or big race – was a long time ago,

a lot of months. I really enjoyed 2019. Every

GP, every day at the circuit, every practice and

now it means I’m really looking forward to go

again.

Hofer: I try to visualise the track before the

sighting lap and then try to highlight areas

when I am doing the sighting lap.

Simpson: In the past we’ve been in Qatar and

Argentina and there has been a stress-free

vibe because there is either not much of a

crowd compared to a European round or the

paddock is not too busy. There is not so much

‘weight’ and just the usual amount of duties

like the TV graphics and photos to be done.

When it comes to Saturday morning and practice

then that’s when you start looking around

at the other set-ups and riders and other

changes that maybe you hadn’t seen up until


MXGP


MXGP 2020: NERVES

then. You are also not so sure about your form:

there is a certain amount of the ‘unknown’

about it. I just want to go, get stuck in, leave

nothing on the table and see where we are; my

best is only good enough.

Beaton: In the same way that everything builds

up to A1 in Supercross and it becomes this

massive thing and then drops into something

a bit more ‘normal’ for round two, I think it’s

similar for the GPs: nobody knows where they

are going to stack-up and where fitness levels

are, but once that first race is done you are

like ‘ah, right, OK…’

Herlings: You do know about the others because

every year when the championship

starts to fall into place then it is always the

same guys: it has always been Gajser, always

Tony, always Febvre. Sometimes people

step in, sometimes others step away. Prado

will ‘join’ this year. It’s nearly always the

same though.

Hofer: I just try to go smooth because I feel

that many riders try to show their potential

at the first big race of the year but we all

know the season is long. So, you have to

almost have a ‘pre-season’ mentality: try to

take it easy and put maximum fun factor

into it.

Beaton: At the first round you have to think

‘it’s a long season’. You cannot get overexcited

when there are nineteen more to go.

In my case I will need to be pretty relaxed.

I missed Argentina in 2019 because of a

back injury and by the time I’d come back

for round two people had settled-down and

I kinda missed that ‘first round build-up’.

Being back in Europe I think the hype will

be high and it will be cool.


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MXGP SBK BLOG

TITULAR TITULAR

THE VALUE OF THE FIRST...

Ah, first round hype. To be honest there is nothing like it. There can be

other challenges and situations such as ‘who can defeat Tony Cairoli on

Italian soil?’ or ‘who can stop Jeffrey Herlings at Valkenswaard?’ and

‘will the French prevail in France?’ but there are few better prefaces than

Grand Prix #1 where every rider has yet to start their roll of momentum

and confidence and the formbook is blank.

We all know the factory riders

likely to be setting the pace

at Matterley this weekend but

that doesn’t mean nerves, jitters

or rustiness won’t come

into play and possibly determine

a final result. The British

Grand Prix is first on the

slate for the first time in the

modern era which means the

conditions could range from a

moderate late winter climate

to extremely testing mud, rain

and wind although it seems

that the Winchester-site has

braved the grim stormy UK

weather fairly well in recent

weeks. It’s a mixed bag and

who knows what racer will

jump out first.

Matterley will see MXGP and

MX2 protagonists eager to

compete after their last major

outing in the Netherlands

on September 30th 2019.

For the vast majority of the

experienced Grand Prix pack

it is also the first nibble of a

big cake that will carry both

sweet and sour tastes over the

next six months with visits to

sixteen other countries and

three fixtures per month (with

the exception of July). Once

the teams start rolling out of

the UK and on towards the

Eurocircuit near Eindhoven

thoughts will already be working

on the next instalment of

57 race starts to take place.

Matterley encourages excitement

but will also see some

reservation, especially from

riders returning from serious

injury like Cairoli, Clement

Desalle, Romain Febvre and

(maybe whisper it with hope)

Jorge Prado. A couple might

gorge on the occasion, most

will show some restraint: this

could be another decider in

the overall top ten classification

on the day.

The value of round one is

debatable and will be a source

of a small feature in MXGP

Special Edition of OTOR next

week but mathematically it

still constitutes a maximum

haul of 50 points. Take it or

leave it, considering that only

two of the last ten MXGP

championships have been won

with an advantage less than

50 at the end of the season.


CREATED THANKS TO

BY ADAM

WHEELER

You could argue for the bolstering

effect administered

in the victories by Tim Gajser

and Jeffrey Herlings in

Argentina in both 2016 and

2018. Rookie Gajser went on

to be champion that year and

Herlings’ last lap battle and

demotion of teammate and

reigning #1 Tony Cairoli set a

template for the ’18 season.

In terms of the final outcome

in the standings then round

“ONLY TWO OF THE LAST

TEN MXGP

CHAMPIONSHIPS HAVE

BEEN WON WITH AN

ADVANTAGE LESS THAN

50 POINTS...”

one has proven to be fairly

unprophetic in the last ten

years. Since 2010 only four

athletes have won the premier

class: Cairoli (2010-2014 &

2017), Gajser (2016 & 2019),

Romain Febvre (2015) and

Herlings (2018). From that

spell only Cairoli (2012 and

2017), Gajser and Herlings

have walked away from the

opening salvo with the first

win bonus of the campaign,

just 50%. Other victors have

included Clement Desalle

(three times), Gautier Paulin

and Max Nagl; all of whom

had their subsequent title

plights disrupted or ruined

through injury.

Of course curtain-closers are

fantastically dramatic and

watching Herlings

limp into the 2014 Mexican

closer with a weak left femur

and lose out on his second

MX2 crown by just four points

and witnessing the jubilation

that accompanied David

Philippaerts’ final race titleconfirmation

at Faenza in

2008 (the first Italian to take

the premier class crown since

Andrea Bartolini’s 500cc

success) provided unforgettable

fare. Those moments are

few-and-far between however

whereas ‘round one’ comes

around without fail on an

annual basis.

BY ADAM WHEELER

That only leaves me to urge

fans to make the trip to

southern England. Yes, it

could be a washout but could

also also serve up something

a little different compared to

the usual British Grand Prix,

and is worth the investment

considering that Matterley almost

didn’t make the schedule

for 2020 as part of an

events-promotion and organisation

landscape that is not

getting any easier or more

feasible. Even if the odds

seem pretty long for a ‘comfortable’

Matterley experience

the chances of catching some

promising and unexpected

action appear to be much

brighter.


PRODUCTS

THE

INSIDE LINE

Motocross is poorly served in terms of books,

and therefore former Grand Prix rider Rob

Andrews’ ‘The Inside Line’ is not only a welcome

publication but a pretty damn good

one. Andrews’ labour of love in documenting

a racing life and a career competing in what

many regard as some of the glory years of the

sport - the 1980s 500cc FIM World Championship

- immediately makes his story one of the

most comprehensive and detailed accounts

available to any fan. As an autobiography the

account is obviously first person-heavy and the

Brit sometimes feels like he has to justify being

part of the start gate with some legendary

names but the amount of detail and insight of

what it is actually like to have raced on ‘those’

tracks, against ‘those’ rivals and in front of

‘those’ crowds makes this one a little

unmissable.

The description of the first years falling in love

with motorcycling throuhg a chance encounter

and schoolboy racing at the tail end of the ‘70s

is the start of a journey that would lead up to

his first Grand Prix qualification in Germany

in 1984 and then onto podium finishes at the

highest level, include frank and honest

accounts of those experiences.

Andrews can be heard voicing Eurosport commentary

on MXGP these days so he keeps up

with the sport and is not some sort of dinosaur

that has pulled himself off the shelf in order to

create something that goes up on it. The book

is full of little asides, whether about passion,

influential figures like Bryan Wade, paddock

life or a detailed recollection of the Namur

Citadel. He doesn’t hold back when it comes

to describing the lasting effects of injury (the

danger of supermarket glass doors!) or his

initial appraisal of the 1985 factory Kawasaki

KXs. The book costs 40 pounds but Andrews

has done his homework and almost 400 pages

are chocked-full of stunning photographs

both of action and behind-the-scenes. In fact,

thanks to the clean and appealing design, ‘The

Inside Line’ is both a story and a picture book

which only increases the value for money.

Andrews may believe that modern motocross

and MXGP fans probably won’t be interested

in his tale but I disagree. I think many people

with even a passing interest in the sport have

been waiting a long time for something like the

‘The Inside Line’ and the effort and sincerity

that has gone into the book mean it’s almost

an essential purchase.

To buy a copy simply visit:

www.theinsidelinebook.com


PRODUCTS:

www.theinsidelinebook.com


NO SHORTCUTS

FACE FOAM

SCOTT-SPORTS.COM

© SCOTT SPORTS SA 2020


SCOTT CAMO EDITIONS


MotoGP BLOG

ANY TREASURE IN THE DESERT?

So MotoGP testing is

done and dusted. The

new bikes for each

manufacturer have

been turned upside

down and inside out in

pursuit of maximum

performance. New

parts have been

tested, approved, discarded,

and everything

in between. Factories,

teams, riders are all

as prepared for the

new season as they

are going to be, or not

quite as prepared as

they would like to be,

in some cases.

Extrapolating the results of

testing onto the coming season

is always notoriously difficult.

The best-laid plans of mice and

manufacturers rarely survive first

contact with the cold, harsh reality

of racing. Pace during a long

run in testing turns out not to be

the same as running twenty laps

in the middle of a hectic battle.

Only once the bikes and riders

engage in combat on track does

the real balance of power become

visible. We will only really get an

idea of where the MotoGP riders

and factories stand at Qatar.

Or will we? If predicting how the

season will pan out on the basis

of testing, is the first race at

Qatar all that much more instructive?

If history is a guide, then

the answer to that is: not really.

Last year, Andrea Dovizioso beat

Marc Márquez to win the first

Grand Prix, but it was Márquez

who went on to win the title utterly

convincingly. Cal Crutchlow

ended up on the Qatar podium in

2019, but he would only manage

to get on the rostrum in two of

the remaining eighteen races.

2019 is no exception. Andrea

Dovizioso won the race in 2018

as well, and again finished second

after Márquez. In 2017, it

was Maverick Viñales who took

victory: he would go on to finish

third in the championship,

nearly 70 points behind the

winner, Marc Márquez. In 2016,

Jorge Lorenzo won in Qatar, but

Márquez took the championship

again. In 2015, Valentino Rossi

won the first race, but it was his

teammate who took the title that

season. You have to go back all

the way to 2014 for the last time

the rider who would go on to become

champion won the season

opener.

Why the lack of correlation

between the first race in Qatar

and the rest of the season?

First and foremost, because of

the test which happens shortly

beforehand. With three days of

track time at the circuit before

the race weekend, everyone has

their bikes pretty well dialled in.

No one is scratching around for

a setup which might work, and

the bikes barely change between

the test and the race. Qatar is a

bit of an oddity as well, for a lot

of reasons. Being in the desert

means the track is always dusty,

as strong winds bring sand and

limestone dust from the surrounding

area. Running the race

at night means track temperatures

are lower than most other

events, ironically, without the sun

to heat the tarmac. This might


change a little this year, though,

with the starting time pushed

back to 6pm, shortly after sunset.

The layout of the track is unusual

too. From the first corner to the

last, there are plenty of flowing

corners were an agile bike

can open up a gap over a bike

which doesn’t turn so well. From

the last corner, the bikes blast

along Losail’s kilometre-long

front straight, which registers

the second highest top speed on

the calendar, second only to the

mighty Mugello. But this doesn’t

mean the track suits an all-round

bike. Instead, it tends to favour

machines with either fantastic

corner speed or mind-blowing

top speed. It isn’t a track which

suits compromises.

The season doesn’t get any more

predictable after Qatar either.

The first few overseas races

take place at venues where the

teams lack data, so setup routinely

involves a bit of guesswork.

Thailand is hot, humid, and

punishing, and has three massive

straights. Austin is another peculiarity,

a rollercoaster of a track

blighted by subsidence bumps.

Argentina barely sees any use

during the year, so MotoGP arrives

to a dusty and rubberless

track.

It is only once the teams get

back to Europe that they get

back into their stride. On tracks

they know like the back of their

hands, on circuits the engineers

had in mind when designing the

bikes, the championship starts to

shake itself out. By mid season,

factory engineers will have figured

out what they got wrong at

the start of the year, and brought

parts to address that, adding a

further twist to the championship.

Crashes, injuries, mechanicals

can all add extra complications.

The season never quite

pans out like you expect.

Would I bet on the outcome of

the Qatar race on the basis of the

test here? There are a few names

I’d be willing to put money on.

Would I bet on the eventual MotoGP

champion based on what

happens in the race? History

tells me I’d do better to invest

my money in a decent meal in

downtown Doha.

CREATED THANKS TO Moto3’S

NEWEST RACING TEAM

BY DAVID EMMETT


CormacGP

MotoGP


Polarity Photo

MotoGP


MotoGP BLOG

CRISIS AVERTED?

Crisis? What crisis?

One or two headlines

were made to

look a touch foolish

come Monday night

when Marc Marquez

claimed parity had

been restored amid

the Repsol Honda

ranks, and he would

sleep easy in the ten

days between the end

of the preseason and

resumption of hostilities

on 8th March.

Qatar provided the backdrop for

a turbulent three days for HRC

and its trio of riders attempting

to make sense of the 2020

machine they will command in

what will be MotoGP’s longest

ever season. The long, fast right

bends that mark out the 3.8-mile

Losail International Circuit were

the new RC213V’s kryptonite on

days one and two as a lack of

front end feel (sound familiar?)

dogged Honda’s boys.

Come the close of Sunday’s running

and it was hard to conclude

anything other than things were

looking dire for the factory that

has emerged from each of the

past three seasons with MotoGP’s

elusive Triple Crown. Its

riders using the latest factory

trickery were 14th, 19th and 21st

on the time sheets. And it didn’t

end there.

The elder Marquez was unable

to lap the track within a second

of riders he beat with one eye

closed a year ago. Cal Crutchlow

abandoned his media duties in

favour of resting a right arm that

had ballooned up to the size of

pig’s thigh after a bruising crash

at turn two. And class rookie Alex

Marquez was sporting the kind

of thousand-yard stare normally

associated with returning war

veterans.

“Of course I’m worried,” Marc

told us on Sunday. The issue

stemmed from front instability

and a lack of agility. “We’re pushing

on entry and stressing the

front tyre and the consequence

is that you push the front more.”

Crutchlow chipped in, saying “we

can’t decelerate the bike and

we can’t turn the bike with this

pushing that we have on it. So,

it’s essentially, you’re holding the

brake a long time, you’re unable

to turn the bike in the middle of

the corner.”

We all know one of Honda’s

maxims is to provide power,

believing it a requisite of its riders’

jobs to do the rest. But even

their technicians’ efforts seemed

a touch extreme. Last year’s machine

was no walk in the park, as

Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo’s

struggles demonstrated. With

their comments appearing to go

unheeded, management in the

factory team was privately less

than impressed with the fruits of

HRC’s winter labours.

So, the following day, when

engineers were spotted wheeling

one of Takaaki Nakagami’s

’19-spec RC213Vs into the reigning

champion’s garage, it was

safe to assume drastic measures

were being undertaken at a less

than ideal time. Team manager

Alberto Puig told a group of us

they were attaching and testing

parts from the ’18 machine, as


well as last year’s, including the

aero package.

Later that evening there were

smiles. And just out of shot sighs

of relief. “We found the problem,”

Marquez exhaled. His time was

some way off pace setter Fabio

Quartararo. But he was within

range of both Suzukis and Maverick

Viñales. For a man that

hasn’t finished a race outside the

top two in 18 months that’s all

that is needed to know he can

push to repeat his feats of the

past four years.

Rushing to any hasty judgement

at this test is a perilous

task. Historically it’s never been

kind to Honda with the track’s

flowing sections more suited to

the Yamaha and Suzuki’s characteristics.

Repsol Honda was

approaching full-scale meltdown

here in 2016 before Marquez won

two of the first three races (and

finished third in the other) on the

way to a third premier class title.

Last year Crutchlow lingered in

17th in the test yet both were on

the podium two weeks later.

Let it not be forgotten he is still

some way off peak fitness, too.

A damaged nerve in the right

shoulder continues to prod him

with pangs of pain. His crashes

at both of this year’s tests

stemmed from a lack of upper

body strength to save the kind of

front slide he’d recover from the

brink in previous years. And unlike

the recovery twelve months

ago on the left shoulder, nerve

damage has no definitive timeline

for full rehabilitation.

And while Marquez’s mood was

upbeat, Crutchlow is only too

aware of the task ahead. “It’s

the same problem that I said I

had in Valencia when I first rode

it. It felt even worse in the area

[where last year’s bike was weakest].

It seems that they’ve carried

on with it, and this is where

we are today. So let’s see if they

can work a miracle.” It’s all well

and good building for one of the

greatest of all time to win. But if

the others struggle for top sixes,

top eights or top tens, recent history

may well repeat itself.

CREATED THANKS TO Moto3’S

NEWEST RACING TEAM

BY NEIL MORRISON


MotoGP BLOG

If you were in the Englishman’s

shoes, you’d surely be feeling

maximum frustration. Like last

year, Honda’s thinking seems

to have mirrored what technical

chief Takeo Yokoyama spelled out

last year. “We concentrated in the

winter time [of ‘18/’19] to give

him as much power as possible,

knowing that there will be some

other problems. But we decided,

OK, the problems will come,

but again, he’s the best rider, so

maybe he can manage.”

To be fair, this thinking has been

good enough to bring the rider’s

title home in each of the past four

years. But for how long can Honda

continue placing all its eggs in the

Marquez basket without getting

caught out. With Viñales, Quartararo,

Rins and Mir all lurking in

the shadows, you do feel they’re

riding their luck.


PRODUCTS

MX VICE

Not content with being the best online outlet

for news and updates across their social

media and website platform, MX Vice are

diversifying with items of casualwear, their

lengthy but entertaining Podcasts (always

better with studio guests or interviews interspersed)

and their interactive MX Manager

game. The ‘fantasy’ MX Manager is free to

play, features some great prizes and is a fun

way to bench-race with hundreds of other

fans that think they know which rider is better

at bringing in the points.

www.evenstrokes is the e-commerce offshoot

that features a range of premium brands at

competitive prices. Well worth checking out.

WWW.MXVICE.COM


MotoGP


FEATURE WorldSBK

FIVE TO FLY

IN WorldSBK

RESIDENT WorldSBK EXPERT AND

NEW OVERSEER OF

WWW.RACINGLOWDOWN.COM

STEVE ENGLISH GIVES US HIS FIVE

TALKING POINTS (OR QUESTIONS/

THOUGHTS) AHEAD OF ARGUABLY

THE MOST COMPETITIVE

CHAMPIONSHIP CAMPAIGN FOR A

NUMBER OF YEARS

Words & Photos by Steve English


WorldSBK

Suddenly Redding was winning races again,

and the confidence that was his hallmark as

a youngster returned. The swagger was there

but so was humility. As a racer, the 26 year

old had seen his career hit rock bottom. It

taught him who to trust, who had his back

but most importantly it reminded him how

much fun racing can be. Redding showed

that winning races can come easily because

he loves the grind that goes on behind the

scenes.

SCOTT REDDING:

HISTORY MAKER?

No rider has ever won a British Superbike

and World Superbike title in consecu-

tive years. Can Scott Redding be the first?

There’s a real chance that the Englishman

can live up to the hype.

In his final years in MotoGP it was easy to

forget that Redding was the youngest Grand

Prix winner at one point in time; a 15 year

old that turned up for his Grand Prix debut

in the 125cc class and promptly qualified

on the front row of the grid in Qatar. This is

a man who won races in the 125 and Moto2

classes and also had podiums in the premier

class. Talent was never a question but there

were plenty of doubts hanging over him by

the time he was discarded by Aprilia.

Twelve months ago, Redding moved to Brit-

ish Superbikes as a curiosity. Would he be

able to resurrect his career and adapt to

British tracks? Would he be able to get the

most out of a production-based bike after a

decade riding Grand Prix machinery? Would

he be able to deal with the pressure of being

a big fish in a small pond? The answer to all

of these questions was a resounding yes.


2020 WorldSBK TALKING POINTS

This was shown by his recovery from pre-season

injuries. Breaking his leg while mini bike rid-

ing in Spain last winter left him with in a race

against time to get fit for Round 1. Team boss,

Paul Bird, had laid it out in no uncertain terms

to Redding how close he was to finding another

rider following this injury. His career lifeline was

slipping away from him. Training and rehab took

over for Redding and when he lined up on the

grid at Silverstone, he had already done enough

to prove his hunger and determination.

From that point onwards he showed why it

was always likely that BSB would be a “one

and done” operation for him. His talent,

experience and speed didn’t surprise any-

one but his approach to the season did. His

performances at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch

and Cadwell Park were very impressive and

showed that he was a quick study for new

tracks but also that he could accept being

beaten and ride for points with a bigger pic-

ture in his mind.

That bigger picture was the title, and when

he was crowned champion at Brands Hatch

in October it was richly deserved. Can he

repeat the trick in 2020? Redding will have

all the tools at his disposal to get the job

done and can start the year with lots of momentum

behind him. He goes well in Phil-

lip Island, loves Qatar, knows Jerez better

than any other track on the planet and then

heads to Assen which was a second home.

Success breeds success and the confidence

that comes from winning keeps a rider roll-

ing. Redding is ready for the confidence to

flow in WorldSBK and he won’t be underesti-

mated in ‘20.


WorldSBK

KAWASAKI:

REA OUT FOR SIX,

LOWES OUT TO

SURPRISE

2019 was the best we’ve seen from Rea. To

win that title meant giving everything he had.

Can he go to the well again in 2020?

Jonathan Rea was a heavyweight boxer in

2019 but as he juked it out with Alvaro Bautista

for the title it was more about rolling with

the punches rather than landing a knockout

blow. It was Rea’s best championship but also

showed how easy it can be to lose his grip at

the top. Getting the job done showed that he

is still the man to beat but also that the competition

is closing in.

The Ducati V4R was a game changer in 2019

and it will only get stronger. Kawasaki are back

with the same bike as twelve months ago and

as the ZX10RR gets longer in the tooth, the

odds for Rea extend too. That he was able to

weather the storm and come out on top shows

that you underestimate the five times world

champion at your peril...but it’s the chinks

in the armour that his rivals will focus upon.

Winning is hard but to keep winning is even

harder. Look around the sporting world and

there’s countless examples of this but Rea was

so relentless last year once momentum shifted

his way. He was a pitbull backed into a corner

after four rounds and he came out with only

one intention; to put everyone in their place.

Let’s see if he has the same fight in 2020.

On the other side of the Kawasaki garage Alex

Lowes joins from Yamaha. Being the teammate

to Jonathan Rea is a thankless task; he’s the

greatest Superbike rider of all-time. Rea never

gives an inch. Who’d want to be compared to

that? After spending three years as teammate

to Michael van der Mark and having grown up

with an incredibly competitive sibling rivalry,

Lowes is arguably the best placed rider in the

world to slip into the second Kawasaki berth.

He won’t be fazed by days when Rea beats him

and he won’t get carried away if he comes out

on top. He knows that world class racers all

have their days and that it’s about the

balance of 39 days of on track action throughout

a season.


2020 WorldSBK TALKING POINTS

Winning and learning from the team is the target

for Lowes. The move to Kawasaki meant that he

switched to a crew that had won six of the last

eight WorldSBK crowns. The team - and not the

bike - was what impressed Lowes immediately.

He’s quietly confident for 2020 but also very

realistic. The goal is to make sure that he adds

to his Brno 2018 win. Despite a weather interrupted

testing programme, Lowes has felt more

and more comfortable every time he’s ridden the

Ninja.

He’ll need to adapt his riding to the Kawasaki

compared to the demands of the Yamaha but

braking harder in a straight line and being aggressive

was what marked him out as a British

Superbike rider on a Honda. This could be the

year that he makes the step forward and becomes

a regular race winner.


WorldSBK

FULL FACTORY HONDA: CAN THEY LIVE

UP TO THE HYPE?


2020 WorldSBK TALKING POINTS

Honda is back! We said it twelve months

ago but now it’s the real deal…

When it was announced at EICMA in late

2018 that HRC would be back in WorldSBK

as a full-factory effort, it set up a chain

reaction of expectation. For the first time

since 2002 Japan was taking an interest in

winning a Superbike title. It was a massive

story. It was fantastic for the series…until

the opening round when suddenly it became

clear this was a year of gathering data.

As the season went on it became clear that

the story for Honda in 2019 was “nothing to

see here.” It was disappointing at the time

but when the bikes rolled out in January at

the Jerez test the initial buzz from EICMA

came right back! The bike looks tiny, it’s

got a strong engine and seems to be cutting

edge at every angle. This is what HRC is all

about. With lots of Japanese engineers com-

ing from HRC HQ this is clearly a proving

ground for them, maybe before they move to

MotoGP, and the same can be said for me-

chanics and crew members. They are shy on

experience in Superbike racing, but maybe a

clear set of eyes can be used to their advan-

tage.

The excitement around Honda also comes

from their acquirement of Alvaro Bautista.

The Spaniard won the opening 11 races of

2019 and has the tools to be a WorldSBK

champion.

“Compared to Ducati this is different. I was

comfortable with the Ducati straight away,

it was like putting on a glove because the

engine character was the same as MotoGP

with the V4 engine. Now I’m using an inline

four and that’s different, but this is a very

new project and we’re working in a good

direction with the bike and evolution of the

bike. We need more kilometres but Honda

are working day and night in Japan.”

Bautista and Leon Haslam offer a strong rider

line-up with Takumi Takahashi also join-

ing WorldSBK for a full season. Hiring Domi

Aegerter as a full-time test rider also shows

their ambitions. This project will leave no

stone unturned but 2020 is likely to be an

inconsistent year. The key for Honda will be

to maximise their good weekends and come

away from those races with podiums.

When Honda puts all their chips to the centre

of the table they expect to win big other-

wise heads will roll. Patience might be key at

the start of the campaign but it’ll wear thin

very quickly if the Fireblade isn’t cutting it at

the front.

“This is a full factory team and it’s just like

in MotoGP,” Bautista said recently. “It’s full

of Japanese engineers from HRC. There’s

nothing for us to be envious of because the

level is high. Honda is serious and we’re

supported by HRC. I’m convinced that we’ll

fight for good results. Alberto Puig and

Kuwata-san have been at the tests and that

shows how serious they are about this pro-

ject.


WorldSBK

BMW: WILL

LAVERTY

FINALLY GET

BACK TO

WINNING?

Last year BMW sprung a surprise with

their return to WorldSBK. Tom Sykes

had podiums and a pole position. In

2020 they’ll expect to make another

step

Shaun Muir has set a target of fourth in

the world for Tom Sykes. To do that he’ll

have to beat factory riders from Kawasaki,

Ducati, Yamaha and Honda. It’s not

impossible but it seems like a stretch to

see the 2013 world champion achieve

it. Winning races again should be Sykes’

aim, and then wait and see where the

chips fall for the points at the end of

the year. Mr Superpole showed that the

speed is still there with the switch to

BMW but a step is needed to be able to

fight for race wins over a full race distance.

That step can come over the winter but

it would still be a big ask for Sykes to

consistently win races. Phillip Island is


2020 WorldSBK TALKING POINTS

a chassis circuit where Sykes

impressed last year. With

more power on tap he might

be closer in Australia than

people expect but it’s later in

the season that the wins will

be possible. Donington Park

will definitely be the round

circled on his calendar.

For Eugene Laverty, this is

last chance saloon territory.

Whichever BMW rider comes

out on top is likely to have

their contract extended but if

you’re beaten by your teammate,

you could easily be

the maximum. During winter

testing, Laverty was focused

on dialling in the electronics

on his bike and making

them more progressive. Finding

the right feeling was key.

In Portimao it seemed they

had achieved this, so now it’s

about getting the most from

the bike and hitting the front.

With almost the entire grid

in a contract year it’s more

important than ever to have

momentum from Round 1, and

Laverty will know this. The

dynamic within the team will

be very interesting. Sykes has

“FOR EUGENE LAVERTY, THIS IS LAST

CHANCE SALOON TERRITORY. WHICHEVER

BMW RIDER COMES OUT ON TOP IS LIKELY

TO HAVE THEIR CONTRACT EXTENDED BUT

IF YOU’RE BEATEN BY YOUR TEAMMATE, YOU

COULD EASILY BE SHOWN THE DOOR...”

shown the door. Laverty is

now six years removed from

winning races, an eternity for

a man that grew accustomed

to challenging for world titles,

and now it’s put up or shut up

time. A series of bad injuries

robbed him of opportunities in

recent years and a succession

of poor bikes didn’t help his

lot.

relaxed since leaving Kawasaki

and is back to his gregarious

self. He will row his own boat

in terms of setup, and the

team has already seen that

Laverty offers them feedback

that helps develop the bike.

Will this divergence be the

difference between the two

riders?

He needs to make the most

of his BMW opportunity and

that means using the two

days of testing in Australia to


WorldSBK

Michael van der Mark and

Toprak Razgatlioglu. Has there ever been a

more eye-catching partnership in WorldS-

BK? No matter what the results this pair

will be a box office draw in 2020

YAMAHA:

TOPRAK

VS VDM

For three years Yamaha has had one of the

most complete and even rider pairings in

the Superbike World Championship. Alex

Lowes might have left, having finishing third

in the world in 2019, but in his place comes

Toprak Razgatlioglu. The Turk would have

been a fantastic gun slinger in the wild west.

He’s brave, never knows he’s beaten and has

the fastest reactions this side of the Black

Sea.


2020 WorldSBK TALKING POINTS

Up against him is Michael van der Mark.

The Dutchman oozes natural ability. Riding

comes easy to him and at times in his career

he relied on his talent too much. In recent

years he’s been able to knuckle down and

get the most from himself. If you want an il-

lustration of what van der Mark can do, look

at some of his battles with Jonathan Rea.

Going toe to toe with the five times champi-

on doesn’t faze the Yamaha rider, and having

come out on top of those battles he’s clearly

not a man to be underestimated.

The same goes for Toprak who, like van der

Mark, claimed his first WorldSBK victory by

coming out on top in a gloves-off battle with

Rea. The young duo won’t be afraid of upset-

ting the apple cart. Being the first rider from

their countries to win WorldSBK races? Job

done. The objective now is the title.

They have the talent and both could cut it in

MotoGP. Winning is the key to getting there

on a good bike and giving themselves that

opportunity. The Netherlands is an impor-

tant market in motorsport, as seen by the

crowds at the Dutch TT and the return of

Formula 1 to the county, and Turkey has a lot

of eyeballs to engage with for television. For

both riders the road to MotoGP goes through

the opposite side of the garage.


WorldSBK BLOG

TIME TO GO AGAIN...

Even though we are almost two months into

2020, when you work in WorldSBK, there is

an almost spiritual feeling crossing the bridge

that connects the towns of San Remo and

Newhaven. Arriving on Phillip Island, 17,000km

from home, it’s only now that the new year has

really just begun.

It is quite fitting that the

season should kick off so far

away from the European base

of the teams that compete

in the championship. It feels

like we are properly starting

an adventure for another year

and it brings with it a tangible

sense of anticipation. We

have had the winter testing

and the team launches and

here were are, ready to start

the first round, with teams

and riders resplendent in the

new liveries.

The sense of anticipation for

this year’s season is greater

than it has been for some

time. Sure we still have the

same reigning champion for

everyone to aim at but the

distance they have to reach

seems to be shortening. The

two-day test at Phillip Island,

immediately before the race

weekend, is always an opportunity

to see who is ready

for the task ahead and who is

facing an uphill struggle from

the start.

In the Honda camp the difference

couldn’t be starker.

At one end of the pit lane

the HRC squad arrived fresh

from a team presentation in

Tokyo days before. They were

fully prepared and look every

inch the factory outfit they

are. At the other end of pitlane

however, the MIE Althea

Honda squad, run by Moriwaki

Engineering, had also

come from the presentation

in Tokyo but spent their first

day in Phillip Island stripping

down a road bike, pillion seat

and standard lighting switch

gear included, and building it

into a race machine that they

could go testing with the following

day.

In Phillip Island they were

represented only by Takumi

Takahashi. They had

confirmed Jordi Torres as

a second rider at the team

presentation but it was too

late in the day to get a bike

together for him to race

this weekend. On track the

contrast couldn’t be starker

either. Takahashi was over

five seconds slower than

Leon Haslam on the factory

machine, who ended the test

fifth fastest overall, only half

a second off Jonathan Rea.

That and the fact that the

MIE machine blew an engine

on the first day leaving

Takahashi to jump off it at T4

as flames billowed out from

under the fairing. On to bike

no.2 then.

In the factory team Haslam

would appear to have adapt-


BY ADAM

WHEELER

ed to the new Fireblade far

quicker than his team-mate

Alvaro Bautista who, it was

reported, admitted to struggling

to find a set up he was

confident with and had only

been concentrating on getting

a good feeling with the

bike rather than setting a

fast lap time.

LAST YEAR WAS

UNIQUE IN THE WAY

THAT BAUTISTA

DOMINATED, AND I

CAN’T SEE IT

HAPPENING THIS YEAR

AGAIN,

There doesn’t seem to be

much room for maneouvre

at the top of the time sheets

as we head into a day-off at

Phillip Island. The Yamahas

of Loris Baz and Toprak Razgatlioglu,

the BMW of Tom

Sykes and Scott Redding’s

Ducati, alongside the aforementioned,

Haslam, were

all within half a second of

Rea, who only set his fastest

lap on the second day. He

improved his time from the

first day by half a second but

I think that improvement is

more down to the rider being

a bit more in the groove over

any set up changes to the

Kawasaki.

With all that anticipation

floating in the air the old

cynic in me has been offering

some words of caution

- we have been here before.

Phillip Island is a fairly

unique circuit that throws up

some close racing, regardless

of the class, and I don’t

expect this year to be any

different. What is doesn’t do

is open a window to the form

for the rest of the season.

Last year was unique in the

way that Bautista dominated,

and I can’t see it happening

this year again, but Razgatlioglu,

Sykes and Redding

all seem to be within striking

distance of Rea.

Rea himself looked relaxed

and comfortable. Phillip

Island is of course a second

home to him as his wife

BY GRAEME BROWN

hails from the Island and

her parents still live here. A

few years ago Jonathan and

Tatia built their own house

so every night after leaving

the track JR heads home

to sleep in his own bed.

He therefore seems pretty

chilled when he is out and

around in the paddock. On

track there are a few little

terriers starting to nip at

his heel but I wouldn’t bet

against him just yet.

Looking to the year ahead I

have mixed feelings about

heading from Phillip Island

to Qatar. I never like going

there but straight after such

a good event in Australia will

bring me back to earth with

a bump. That said getting it

out of the way and having

Argentina as the last round

to enjoy is actually quite a

pleasant option. Let’s hope

that this year when we go

there we don’t have any difficulties

with the track and

more importantly we crown

another World Champion.


T

WorldSBK

Steve English


HE JOY OF 6?

JONATHAN REA ON THE

SEARCH TO KEEP BREAKING

NEW GROUND

By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Steve English/GeeBee Images


WorldSBK

For all the promise at Honda, the

mystery of Yamaha, the growing

potential of BMW and the strong

personalities now a factor with the works

Ducatis, it is still the world championship

winning Kawasaki Racing Team that carry

the strongest narratives into the 2020

season of WorldSBK.

There was a showbiz element of their

‘talk show’ format for the 2020 Team

presentation, well within an audible

throttle blip of the Circuit de Barcelona-

Catalunya pitlane. The KRT workshop

had been transformed into a stage where

much was made of the crew’s first ‘home’

event – due to take place at the track

in September and where, unbelievably,

they’d tested for the first time in their existence

a few days previously – but also

where questions were centred around the

adventures ahead for 33 year old Jonathan

Rea and 29 year old incoming newbie

Alex Lowes.

“I HAVE NEVER LOWERED MY

MOTIVATION AND I LIKE TO SET

TARGETS. I GUESS I AM ADDICTED

TO THE BIG W. THE UNIT I HAVE

AROUND ME WORKS SO WELL:

I WALK AWAY, COME BACK AND

ALWAYS FIND A BETTER BIKE.”

Lowes gave-off a confident air. The former

Yamaha man may be holding a

heavy chalice as teammate to the fivetimes

#1 and assuming a role that frustrated

both Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam

but was clearly relishing the competitive

environment, equipment and atmosphere

that proved so effective for Rea from day

one of joining the Catalan set-up in 2015.

As for the champion, Rea once again

props himself up as the largest target on

the range and prepares for another season

of arrows from competitors, critics,

fans and neutral followers of the sport

that would like to see a changing of the

green guard. Rea was pelted by Ducati

and Alvaro Bautista in 2019 but somehow

found a way to reverse his predicament

and profit from the wavering aim


2020 WorldSBK: JONATHAN REA

of the Spaniard in the second half of the

campaign. It was his hardest test and

real proof of his mettle as title-holder.

Rev limits aside, Rea’s quest to stay at

the peak of his profession means he welcomes

the next threat: how long can the

hegemony endure?

When the few hundred guests were funnelling

to the other side of the workshop

for drinks and copious plates of ‘pernil’,

we snuck through to grab JR for a few

questions on his perspective for a twelfth

superbike season and whether he can do

it all again…

Last year you tried to boost your fitness

further and you also keep using Fabien

[Foret] as a rider coach, so what has

been the off-season project this time?

“[ON ALEX] ON TRACK HE IS VERY

COMPETITIVE AND IT’S THE RIGHT

TIME TO COME TO THE BEST TEAM

IN THE WORLD. I THINK A 1-2 IN THE

CHAMPIONSHIP IS A REALISTIC GOAL

WITH HIS LEVEL. IT WILL BE COOL WHEN

HE IS BEATING ME OR IS FASTER IN SOME

SECTIONS BECAUSE I WILL BE ABLE TO

UNDERSTAND AND ADAPT.”

GeeBee Images


WorldSBK

That’s an ongoing process. I completed all

the human performance testing that we

do in the team this week and last week

and I’m surprised because I am ahead…

but I’m getting older! Physically I’m hitting

good marks. The most important

thing is to stay healthy, especially with

the first races happening in quick succession.

Australia is not followed by a big

break anymore. I’m still working a lot on

my style with Fab and my focus for this

year is trying to get my bike to turn a bit

better, especially in the longer corners. It

is a characteristic we struggle with a little

bit. So, a few aspects of my riding and the

turn is the main area. I will have to understand

how the start of the year goes and

adapt accordingly.

“[ON POSSIBLY REACHING 100

WINS] WE HAVE SOME RECORDS

NOW; I THINK THE LAST ONE WAS

SEVENTEEN IN A ROW. I DON’T

MEAN TO SOUND UNGRATEFUL, BUT

IT WAS ENOUGH JUST TO BE PAID

TO RACE, THEN TO WIN & TO GET

A CHAMPIONSHIP: I TICKED ALL

THE BOXES SO THE REST IS JUST A

BONUS.”

2019 seemed stressful but also enjoyable:

did you get something from it? Was

it educational and, if so, does it sustain

motivation?

Yeah, especially in the first races when

it was clear that Ducati had come with

a really strong bike and package. It was

super-fast, especially in a straight line

and it was really hard to see past that in

the first races. It was only after I had accepted

that and seen it as a challenge as

opposed to [thinking] ‘we’ve been beaten

again’ I could change mentality and come

a bit closer when we returned to Europe

[and] winning that round in Imola was

good for my confidence. After that I think

Alvaro just knew we were going to be

there every race and he started making

some mistakes. It was a season of ‘thirds’

because in the first third we got beat, in

the second he made some mistakes - and

we were thereabouts - and in the last third

we dominated. It was a season that – back

in February - I never expected to finish as

it did but that’s racing: twists and turns.

You’ve taken titles through wins and

dominance but – even generally – there

have not been many campaigns where

the reigning champion has been so comprehensively

beaten in the first stages…

A few races really stick in the mind. Donington

race one was wet and Alvaro was

still leading the championship but I saw

it as a real opportunity to win and put

pressure on him. I remember going out

in that race and only thinking about 25

points. Sometimes it is strange with mindset.

Sometimes when you are chasing

you have ideas of pushing for a win but

if I make a mistake and lose more points

I am further away. It was like that at the

beginning of the year but at Donington –

where it was easy to crash – it was like

‘Jonathan; you have to win’: those were

the exact words that Guim [Rosa, Team

Manager] said to me Saturday morning at

breakfast. We had to have 25 points…and

we did it. It was almost the biggest race

of the season for me. The Qatar weekend

was special because I did the triple at a

place where I thought I would really struggle.

Positive attitude. Now I’ve come to

the front, won from the front, won from

behind and I think mentally it puts me in

a better place for whatever will come.


2020 WorldSBK: JONATHAN REA

For this year why do you think people

are asking you about Scott Redding so

much? Is it because he’s expressive?

Almost brash? It could be a good clash…

I don’t know. I think as long as there

is respect between riders then there is

never need for a clash. I mean, it is hard

to build a rivalry with someone as quiet

as Alvaro. I enjoy the battle. I’ve had a

fierce rivalry with Chaz Davies for a few

years and Tom Sykes and then the position

against Ducati with their V4. I’ve

been part of this championship for years

now and at this part of the season everyone

gets excited. Potentially there are

challenges from everywhere. Maybe the

media are talking about Redding because

he ‘puts it out there’ so much and he’s

not scared to talk himself-up but if you

do that then you can also hang yourself

out to dry. Alvaro got on with things very

quietly. There will be other challengers,

and you have to respect everybody but to

put your finger on who might be champion

at the end of the year then there are

arguments for five-six guys if they get it

right and run with it. My idea is to be one

of them. Let’s see.

You could say you’ve gone ‘beyond’

the point of people wanting to see you

knocked off the perch. How has that

changed your philosophy towards racing?

Does it make your shoulders even

broader?

It’s funny now, even with maturity…

people are happy for you when you win

your first championship and the second

as well and then it starts to get a bit sad

because now people cannot even look

in your direction in the paddock. Other

riders. You feel that. But it then makes

you stronger because you know how

they work. I feel like I am the same guy

still doing the job. Having a young family

gives you clarity. I know one day I will

get beaten and the idea is to prolong that

day arriving as much as possible really.

It has definitely gone past the point of

people being happy for you but in SBK

now the travelling support I have from

Northern Ireland is incredible and if I

look at the support on social media with

the mentions and replies then I have so

many fans and not a lot of negativity,

which has really helped. Of course when

you put yourself out there and post stuff

on social media then people can get to

you but generally I’ve had very positive

feedback and that’s really nice. I don’t

want to make big statements. I try to be

as humble as I can and get through it.

It’s funny…with success you can feel the

change of people’s perception of you.

You can see you get under people’s skin

a lot more and there are some that you

enjoy doing that to and others that end

up judging you for different reasons. I’m

conscious of what I am doing, and I am

really supportive of my team and I know

my fans have my bag. If I can continue

what I am doing that will be amazing.

GeeBee Images


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BACK PAGE

Tom Vialle 2020. By Ray Archer


ON

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