NOVEMBER 2016 ISSUE 20
W h e n d e d i c at i o n meets perfection Interview with Igor & Uroš – founder and owner & CEO
Jochen Schmid and Kawasakis at Grobnik
E V E RY T H I N G I S D I F F E R E N T , BU T NOTHING HAS C HA N G E D KTMs Road into MotoGP
READY TO RACE Corvette Z06 and Spa-Francorchamps
A FANTASTIC COMPROMISE – ON BOTH SIDES Wheels and Waves in Biarritz
LEATHER, CHROME, AIR COOLING... PLUS A column by Toby Moody
AKRAPOVIČ Akrapovič Lifestyle Magazine Issue 20, November 2016 Akrapovič d.d. Malo Hudo 8a SI-1295 Ivančna Gorica Slovenia www.akrapovic.com Editor in Chief: Miran Ališič Publisher: Korpmedia d.o.o. Tomšičeva 1, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia www.korpmedia.si Managing Director: Mateja Kos ID No.: 2272237000 VAT No.: SI14601737 Client Coordinator: Primož Jurman Photo Editor: Aleksandra Saša Prelesnik Special Adviser: Bor Dobrin Art Directors: Neja Engelsberger, Saša Kerkoš Cover design: Zdenko Bračevac Illustrations: Mitja Bokun Contributors: Alenka Birk, Mitja Gustinčič, Matevž Hribar, Primož Jurman, Gaber Keržišnik, Toby Moody, Imre Paulovits, Mitja Reven, Tina Torelli Contributing Photographers: Aleš Rosa, Alex Štokelj, Bor Dobrin, Branko Cvetkovič, Gold and Goose Photography, Hoch Zwei, Imre Paulovits, Jure Eržen, Marc Robinot, Matej Povše, Saša Kapetanovič, Uroš Podlogar Translation: Matjaž Horvat Proofreading: Katarina Mahnič Ad space marketing: www.yvision.ch Y.Vision GmbH, Poststrasse 9, 6300 Zug Switzerland On the cover: Anniversary edition SlipOn Line (Titanium) exhaust systems Printing: Mabo Grafika, d. o. o. Cesta v Mestni log 88/a 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
06 akrapoviC news
12 Anniversary 25 years
30 ON TRACK
36 ON TRACK
44 Anniversary Charity 48 ADVENTURE
54 VISIT WITH US
62 Drive with us
68 Travel with us
78 HIGH GEAR
NOTE All the longer articles in the Akrapovič magazine
This magazine and its entire textual and pictorial content are subject to copyright. Any reproduction thereof without prior written consent of the copyright holder is prohibited. The articles contained herein do not necesseraly correspond with the opinions of Akrapovič d.d. the publishers of the editors. Not for sale. Printed in Slovenia in November 2016 in 6,000 copies.
include a text that will be marked with the // Si sign and placed in a special frame. The Akrapovič company is based in Slovenia and this is why we decided to keep this part of the text in Slovenian as well.
42 EURO 4
Illustrations: Mitja Bokun
ABOUT SOUND Sound and emotions. My first youthful attempt at engine tuning by changing the original to a racing exhaust on my moped was a fantastic experience of power and sound for me, even if my neighbours were not so enthusiastic. But it was the lion’s roar of an MV Agusta ridden by unsurpassed legend Giacomo Agostini on the old and extremely dangerous Preluka road circuit that dramatically altered the course of my life forever. From that moment my only goal, my mission, was to become a MotoGP rider. And 1979 started tremendously. In February of that year my then still girlfriend Slavojka and I attended the most incredible and for me still unsurpassed rock concert. It was Queen and, of course, Freddie Mercury. The enormous stack of loudspeakers was extremely impressive, and then there were the first chords that hit my chest with the power of a pneumatic hammer. Yes, another revelation, rock music has ever since been my main passion apart from motorcycles – and fortunately both still are. And in June of that year my childhood dream came true. I participated in my first Grand Prix, a 250 class race on the Grobnik racetrack. Just being in the paddock with all the stars of that era, like Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts, was a privilege, and our 250 class was won by none other than Graziano Rossi. Unfortunately that race ended quite abruptly for me, with the so very familiar infinitesimally short squeaky sound of a seized engine, followed by a high speed crash. In the following years, until 1989, I was active in different categories of motorcycle rac-
ing and learnt a lot about engines. As a result, I was asked to prepare motorcycles for other teams and eventually, in 1991, I started my own company. During years of experience I found that engine, exhaust and sound are so incredibly correlated that sometimes working on a dynamometer you can evaluate performance before actually reading the results, just by sound. Yes, I was fortunate enough to live through an extremely emotional era, but my concern is that we are currently setting a course for future generation towards a different world of soundless racing. The results of these new guidelines, together with overregulated and complicated rules can be seen in today’s F1. On the other hand, MotoGP with the sound and epic, almost unrestricted fights, has become unprecedentedly popular. I personally think that we still have a choice between restrictions and reasonable limitations. It is very clear that sound and all the other senses can give us a maximum experience only if they are in perfect correlation.
Because of the world-wide distribution of Akrapovič d.d. products, neither Akrapovič d.d. nor any of its subsidiaries make any representation that the products comply with the air and/or noise emissions laws, or labeling laws, of any jurisdiction. The purchasers are entirely responsible for informing themselves of the applicable laws where the products are to be used and to comply with those laws.
laws regulating the use of aftermarket exhaust parts and systems, especially as those parts and systems modify, remove, or replace original equipment catalysts. Please consult the appropriate laws in your area before installing any aftermarket part or system on your vehicle to ensure compliance with all applicable laws. Neither Akrapovič d.d. nor any of their subsidiaries or the sellers of the parts or systems make any representation that any of their parts or systems comply with any such laws.
Warning / USA
Warning / California
Various U.S. states and the U.S. federal government have individual
California laws prohibit the use of any aftermarket exhaust part or sys-
tem that modifies, removes or replaces original equipment catalysts unless the California Air Resources Board has issued an Executive Order regarding such part or system or unless the part or system is exempted by being used only on racing vehicles on closed courses. Neither Akrapovič d.d. nor any of their subsidiaries make any representation that any of their parts or systems has received such an Executive Order or that any of their parts or systems conform with the racing vehicles exemption. The purchasers are entirely responsible for informing themselves of applicable California laws and to comply with those laws.
AKRAPOVIČ NEWS Celebration with Partners and Press As part of the company's 25th anniversary celebrations, Akrapovič organised two special seminars for business partners and media representatives from all over the world. The two-day seminars, the Akrapovič Partner Seminar and the Akrapovič Media Seminar, took place in Ljubljana, where the guests were welcomed by company founder and owner Igor Akrapovič, CEO Uroš Rosa, and representatives from the company’s key departments – Research and Development, Racing, Metallurgical Laboratory, Foundry, and Carbon Composites – and were told the story of Akrapovič exhaust systems from every aspect – from development to the final commercial product, as well as about the exhausts used for racing. On day two the theory turned to practice, with approximately 60 participants visiting the Akrapovič headquarters in Ivančna Gorica and its manufacturing plant in Črnomelj, to see live how Akrapovič’s exhaust systems and other products are developed and manufactured and look into what‘s going on in other departments. This was the first Akrapovič Media Seminar, while the Akrapovič Partner Seminar attracted visitors from the car and motorcycle brands Akrapovič is partnering with, as well as teams competing and winning in various racing championships across the world, such as MotoGP™, WorldSBK, MXGP, BSB, EWC, FIA WEC, and DTM.
Casey Stoner visits Akrapovic Ducati’s MotoGP test rider Casey Stoner dropped in at Akrapovič for the first time ever just before Ducati, equipped with Akrapovič exhaust systems, secured a historic victory at the Austrian Grand Prix. “When I reunited with Ducati I was very happy to find out we were using Akrapovič exhaust systems and one of my first questions was whether I could come and visit the factory. I am very happy to have arrived at Akrapovič and got to see what goes into the exhausts," the two-time MotoGP World Champion, who gave a comprehensive interview for the previous edition of the Akrapovič Lifestyle Magazine, said during the visit. "I always had a fascination with exhaust systems and how important they are in all aspects; from fuel consumption to power control. It’s so critical to get it right. I know how difficult welding is, I know the materials that exhausts are made from,” Casey unveiled his knowledge about exhausts and enthusiastically continued about “how something so ‘simple’ on a bike can create such a performance upgrade or cause such a change on the bike.” In Ivančna Gorica Casey looked into the exhaust systems design department for road bikes and performance cars and at the development of the bespoke racing exhaust systems he is using when testing for the Ducati Team. He moreover
took a peek at what is going on in the company's other important departments, such as metallurgical laboratory and Akrapovič’s own titanium foundry. He also took his time and spent the afternoon visiting the new state-of-theart production facility in Črnomelj. "Impressive. I really didn’t expect the size and how professional the factory is. I have been to lots of factories around the world and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so clean, well run and disciplined," Casey said at the end of a very full day, adding that visiting Akrapovič was a “very amazing experience”. The winner of 38 MotoGP races really took his time while examining Akrapovič’s facilities and inspected exhausts down to the
smallest weld as well as discovered that Akrapovič invests a lot of energy in developing new materials for exhausts and that the company builds practically all of its exhaust system components in-house. The Australian moreover used the visit to Akrapovič to take a short tour of Slovenia. The few days he spent on the sunny side of the Alps certainly left a mark and with it a promise of returning. “Next time I will bring the family and have a short holiday here, because the people, the countryside, the rivers, everything has been really beautiful and I’ve enjoyed my time here a lot.” Perhaps he will also stop by Akrapovič again, where he’s bound to find something new.
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The Bullet’s third After a series of injuries that prevented Jeffrey Herlings from taking the MX2 crown in the previous seasons, the Dutch rider saw
everything come together in 2016, despite a forced rest due to injury. He won his third world champion title at USA’s Charlotte Motor Speedway
race before saying goodbye to the 2016 season with a convincing 1-1 victory at Glen Helen. At the end of the season, a very special Akrapovič exhaust system, with a unique engraving that hails the title of this year’s MX2 champion, appeared
on the Dutchman’s KTM 250 SX-F. The Bullet will be moving to the elite MXGP category in the 2017 season, where one of his goals will be to break the 100 GP victories barrier. He is currently sitting on over 60 of them.
Photo: Archer R./KTM Images
Tenth time at BMW Motorrad Days Akrapovič and BMW Motorrad Days are closely linked as the Slovenian manufacturer appeared for the 10th year in a row at the event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The jubilee appearance at the July’s festival of BMW motorcycles was used by Akrapovič to promote the newest aftermarket exhausts for the Bavarian company’s BMW S 1000 RR, BMW S 1000 R, BMW S 1000 XR, BMW R 1200 RT, BMW R nineT, BMW C 650 Sport, BMW R 1200 GS, and BMW F 800 GS models as well as others
that confirm the dedication to push to the limits, use innovative materials, groundbreaking design and the latest technological advances. Akrapovič moreover used the opportunity to unveil the exhaust and set of unique add-ons for the BMW M2. This year’s BMW Motorrad Days saw Akrapovič’s exhibition area attracting passers by with the TT Isle of Man race bike BMW S 1000 RR from Ian Hutchinson’s Tyco BMW team and the unique Slip-On Line (Titanium) exhaust system for the BMW S 1000 RR, one of the limited series of 25 exhausts
that Akrapovič crafted to mark its 25th anniversary. Akrapovič’s exhibition area was visited by numerous famous racers, including Sabine Holbrook, Ian Hutchinson, Jordi Torres and Mathieu Gines, while globetrotter Željan Rakela told the tales about the most recent from the total of 320,000 kilometres on the odometer of his BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.
Phillips makes history
Matthew Phillips won a total of two titles at the final racing weekend of this year's Enduro championship; namely, he became the EnduroGP World Champion and Enduro World Champion in the E2. This fantastic success was accompanied by Matthew making history by becoming the first Enduro world champion on a Sherco motorbike. Matthew’s motorbike was equipped with a run-of-the-mill Akrapovič exhaust system throughout the entire season, from Morocco to France.
PS magazine sent some wonderful news, revealing that its readers have yet again chosen Akrapovič as the best brand in the motorcycle exhaust systems category. Akrapovič won the
Best Brand Award for motorcycle exhaust for the ninth year running. The Slovenian brand earned the trust of over 83% of the readers. Thank you again for your vote, PS readers!
First Rally World Championship title
Photo: Husqvarna Motorcycles GmbH/Kin M.
Seven Readers of the German sport auto magazine have voted Akrapovič as the best brand in the category of car exhaust systems for the seventh year in a row. The seventh title for Akrapovič serves as another reminder that the company develops top-of-the-line exhaust systems for a great variety of performance cars. Akrapovič would like to thank the magazine’s readers for their vote of confidence and continuous trust.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Pablo Quintanilla carefully and tactically approached the last rally of the season, managed to keep the overall advantage and became the 2016 Cross-Country Rallies World Champion. “For me this is a dream come true. It is something I have been dreaming about for many years, and with so much passion,” Pablo ecstatically exclaimed after finishing third at the last race of the season. His first title was also the first Cross-Country Rallies title for his team as well as the first for full titanium Akrapovič-equipped Husqvarna motorbike.
BMW Motorsport and Akrapovic expand partnership BMW Motorsport and Akrapovič confirmed their cooperation in the DTM championship for the coming years and expanded it to include the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC), where the BMW Team RLL competed in 2016 with two BMW M6 GTLMs, and the iconic 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. In the 2016 season, Akrapovič’s logo as well as its exhaust systems were featured on BMW M6 GT3, BMW M6 GTLM and BMW M4 DTM racing cars. “I am delighted that a company like Akrapovič, which is so deeply entrenched in motor racing, is not only continuing its partnership with
BMW Motorsport, but is actually expanding it,” said BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “In recent years, a really close cooperation between Akrapovič and us has developed on various different levels. You can just tell that Akrapovič is an active player on the motor racing scene, and that it is actively shaping many areas. A partnership like this is successful for both parties.” Akrapovič has been a BMW Motorsport Official Partner since 2012, when BMW returned to the DTM championship, and took all three titles in its first season. “Everybody at Akrapovič is delighted to announce the continuation and expansion of the partnership between BMW Motorsport and ourselves,” said Uroš Rosa, CEO Akrapovič d.d. “This is yet another milestone for Akrapovič, and to take this step during our 25-year anniversary, with such a valued partner as BMW Motorsport, makes it even more significant. To continue with this important collaboration is a great testament of the trust shown in us to deliver the latest technological advances to BMW Motorsport in its racing activities, and to extend that even further simply emphasises the bond in that relationship. To increase our involvement with BMW Motorsport in the customer racing side as ‘Official Partners’ for the 24h Nürburgring and the IWSC just reinforces our ongoing alliance and makes us very proud to be involved.”
06 / 11
What a year Brad Binder not only won the Moto3 2016 season at the race in Aragon, but made history by breaking various other records. In what was an exceptionally successful year for the Red Bull KTM Ajo racer, Brad became Moto3's fifth world champion and KTM's third. He managed the greatest comeback of all time at the Spanish MotoGP racing weekend, battling all the way to the top of the podium from starting 35th on the grid with his full titanium Akrapovič-equipped KTM bike. The 21-year-old Brad is the third South African after Jon Ekerold and Kork Ballington to win a world champion title and the first representative from the southern tip of Africa to win the title and a race in the lower cylinder class. He won the title with four races remaining in the season, something that has not happened in the lower cylinder class since the current points system was introduced in 1993.
Audi takes Spa The Audi R18 with the starting number 8 and a titanium Akrapovič exhaust system was decidedly the fastest race car at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps race track. Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Oliver Jarvis crossed the finish line two laps ahead of their nearest rivals. The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was one of the most tense races in this year’s season, punctuated by numerous accidents, mechanical breakdowns and thus a host of yellow and red flags. The victory in Belgium was the first for Di Grassi in an Audi LMP1 race car and the 106th for Audi in the LMP category since 2000.
Historic race goes to Aston Martin Racing The FIA World Endurance Championship race in Mexico saw Aston Martin Racing drivers Darren Turner and Richie Stanaway lead from start to finish and make history as the first winners of the inaugural 6 Hours of Mexico in the GTE Pro class. Their Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE, equipped with an Akrapovič exhaust system, was not the sole British racing car on the podium as its sister vehicle, driven by Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen, came in third.
GTspirit Tour This year’s jubilee 10th GTspirit Tour took the participants from Germany’s Munich over the hills, valleys and mountain passes of neighbouring Austria all the way to Slovenia and Croatia and then brought them back to Bavaria via the Italian Dolomites and Austria’s Kitzbühel. Their trip through Slovenia meant a stop at the Akrapovič company,
whose parking lot on that day shone with mechanical masterpieces like the Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Mercedes-AMG GT S, Porsche Cayman GT4 and others. As the horsepowers and brakes were happily resting, the drivers and fellow passengers peeked behind the scenes of exhaust system development, the company’s foundry, labs, admired Akrapovič-equipped victorious racers and dropped in at the company’s other departments, thereby getting to know the secrets of performance exhaust system production and development.
Award for Megafon The Content Marketing Institute awarded Akrapovič’s internal corporate newspaper Megafon with the 2016 Content Marketing Award in the Internal/Employee Publication category. The award, plucked by the company from at international competition that included over 1,300 applicants, can stand side-by-side with the numerous Best Brand and Red Dot awards as well as world championship titles, proving that the company not only produces the world's best exhaust systems but excels in other areas as well.
Unforgettable season After winning all the titles in the 2015 season, Kawasaki Racing Team repeated the feat in 2016 as well! Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes both stood on the podium at the race in Jerez, handing Kawasaki the Manufacturers’ World Championship Title. The two Brits were the main contenders for the Drivers' World Championship title, battling for the overall win at the night race in Qatar, the last round of the season, and winning another title for their Akrapovič exhausts, the close relatives of the Evolution Line (Carbon) exhaust system everyone can buy.
History made in Austria History was made at the August MotoGP race in Austria’s Zeltweg. Andrea Iannone rode to his first MotoGP win, and the Ducati Team recorded its first victory since Casey Stoner finished fastest at the 2010 Australian GP. Andrea Dovizioso’s second place only served to solidify Ducati Team’s dominance, whose last double victory prior to 2016 occurred in far gone 2007. The victory in Austria, which returned to the MotoGP race calendar this year, is also the first in MotoGP for a Ducati equipped with a full titanium Akrapovič exhaust system.
Two titles for Audi Audi’s DTM racing drivers collected more points than any other team, handing the DTM manufacturers’ champion title to Audi as well as making Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline team champion for 2016. Only four points separated Edoardo Mortara from winning the overall drivers’ title. Mortara’s Castrol EDGE Audi RS
5 DTM was convincingly the fastest at the last two races in Hockenheim and his fight for the championship title will go down in history as nothing short of epic. The 2016 season will also be long remembered by Nico Müller, who won his first ever win in the DTM at Norisring.
Unstoppable Viñales Maverick Viñales’s convincing victory at the race in Silverstone allowed him to join the list of Grand Prix winners in the elite class of motorcycle racing. “My feeling with the machine was perfect, I tried to push hard at the beginning to take advantage and then I just controlled the race,” the 21-year-old Maverick told the press after completing the race of his life. Viñales’s victory with an Akrapovičequipped Suzuki GSX-RR also broke an almost 10-year fast for Suzuki, whose last MotoGP victory came as far back as 2007, with Chris Vermuelen winning Le Mans.
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Wittmann wins DTM BMW works driver and Akrapovič brand ambassador Marco Wittmann bested all others and became DTM champion at the last race of the season in Hockenheim for the second time in three years. “What a feeling! Being crowned DTM Champion for the second time in three years is incredible. It was a difficult season, but now the emotions are indescribable. We fought right down to the wire and had no idea that we would finish at the top before the season started. We've done it now,” Marco said after the race at which he became the first BMW driver ever to win the DTM Drivers’ Championship twice. He was previously crowned champion in 2014 and he won both titles with an Akrapovič-equipped BMW M4 DTM.
Kenan Sofuoglu wins fifth title
Title for Laia
Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Kenan Sofuoğlu, who already became the most successful racer to ever take part in Supersport World Championship last year, solidified his place in the record books by winning again this year. The Turk won the fifth title by finishing first at the penultimate race of the season in Jerez and thus contributed another cup to Akrapovič’s showcase of champions.
Ryan Dungey successfully defends title Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Ryan Dungey notched another superb season. After taking the crown in
Photo: Cudby S./KTM Images
2015, he was unbeatable in 2016 as well, winning the overall standings one race before the final event. The three-time Supercross World Champion won two of his titles on an Akrapovič-equipped KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition and finished the season with a victory in Las Vegas, his 31st victory overall and his ninth in 2016. He also set a record by standing on the podium 31 times in a row, while never finishing worse than 4th in 2016.
Photo: Cudby S./KTM Images
Photo: Future7Media/KTM Images
The queen of the 2016 enduro season was decided at the very last race in France, where KTM factory rider Laia Sanz confirmed her status as Enduro’s top female racer by winning the EnduroGP EW Cup with a seven point advantage. “This was a difficult year. At the beginning of the season in Sweden I almost lost the championship but I fought hard and I think I am really strong in my head and I believed in myself," was the formula for success for the speedy Spaniard, who is eagerly awaiting January’s Dakar rally.
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Anniversary, 25 years
INTERVIEW Igor Akrapovič, founder and owner of Akrapovič d.d. & Uroš Rosa, Akrapovič d.d. CEO
by Mitja Gustinčič photography Katarina Veselič, Alex Štokelj, Bor Dobrin, Aleš Rosa, Branko Cvetkovič, Dragan Arrigler, Črt Slavec, Željko Stevanić, Audi Sport
WHEN DEDICATION MEETS PERFECTION
Igor Akrapovič, the company founder and owner, has his office on the first floor of an intriguingly designed industrial hall. To reach his place of work, one must walk up extremely simple metal stairs. This simplicity seems slightly confusing to the visitor. Shouldn’t such a dignified company, adorned with the glory of victories at the world’s most demanding races, invest in a bit of luxury veneer? But it doesn’t. Igor Akrapovič most certainly is not nouveau riche. From the metal staircase the visitor can survey the large prototype workshop and immediately feel the regularity and relaxed work rhythm. Underneath his office to the side is the Racing R&D department, but one can barely see anything there.
Here is your first shock. The landing is jammed with factory racing bikes, icons of technology. Every single bike is like a milestone in the company’s history. Igor’s office is separated from the industrial part by a glass panel. We are received there by Igor, dressed in his customary black, and Uroš Rosa, Akrapovič CEO. Uroš rose to his position from working in the Research & Development department for Akrapovič. He is considerably younger than Igor, more of a car enthusiast by heart and more an engineer than an economist.
The Akrapovič company is celebrating its
address in the future.
25th anniversary and its annual sales growth has been in two digits on average
Your focus on environmental issues comes
since the beginning. To use a climbing
as a surprise, because we have always
metaphor, your 25 years of climbing
been talking about ways to increase the
a major mountain has left you where,
performance, the horsepower, to improve
exactly? What is the way forward? Which
base camp have you conquered?
Igor Akrapovič (IA): I could say we’ve reached a summit… But there are always higher summits. Numerous extremely complex challenges lie ahead, mainly due to the changing environment. Not just economic or geostrategic. The challenges are mainly linked to environmental requirements, which will undoubtedly be a key issue we will face and
IA: And we are still talking about the horsepower and the sound, but also and above all about emissions. This is currently one of the biggest challenges, bikes use the Euro 4 standard and cars Euro 6. One of the key challenges for car and also for motorbike makers in order to reduce emissions is to reduce weight. Everybody might not know that, but the formula to calculate emissions also involves a
Akrapovič is celebrating 25 years of successful work in 2016.
vehicle’s weight. The lighter it is, the lower the emissions. If you reduce the weight by 10 or 20 kilograms on a car, let’s say, you will see a drop in emissions. The car is lighter, it accelerates better and that causes lower emissions. This is a big push currently. The sound is an interesting challenge as well, mainly for cars, where everything is moving towards downsizing and plug-in hybrids. Smaller displacement engines are coming… and this means the sound is not as pleasant. This is why we are working on active exhaust systems. On systems that will change their geometry and consequently their sound. Uroš
Akrapovič 7 years ago. Was the industry back then already discussing weight and emissions?
Uroš Rosa (UR): Yes. Absolutely. Reducing weight was key from the very start. As I remember, a major project for us in 2010 and 2011 was for the BMW ALPINA B6 Bi-Turbo, an OEM installation of a titanium system. They approached us with the desire to reduce weight, change the sound and improve performance.
Reducing weight was a main driving force of development from the very start. But I remember it also from my student years when I was writing my thesis. I was then working on designing and optimising the chassis of a sports car. The literature included an equation, introduced by the German car manufacturers, for the lightweight design efficiency factor, calculated by the use of torsional rigidity and the vehicle’s mass. In essence it says how effective and at the same time light the chassis is, because designing a rigid and heavy chassis is not particularly challenging. Everything stems from that: reduced weight, improved performance, lower emissions and the need for a smaller engine… IA: …and lower consumption! UR: We keep talking about the same things. Low weight alone improves performance, boosts the car or bike’s driveability, but the emissions part plays the main role. As mentioned by Igor, calculating CO2 emissions is strictly linked to vehicle weight.
Still though, how do you assess shaving off 20 kg in a total mass of 1,500 kilos... is it interesting?
UR: Increasingly so! I’m not going to mention any names, but I had a meeting in 2011 with engineers from a company that wanted to build a competitive supercar. We were in Frankfurt. They mentioned back then that they had invested three million euro in order to reduce the weight of the gearbox by two kilograms. This can tell you the approximate value of weight reduction in a serially produced sports car. It might have been an exaggeration, but still… How much is a kilogram worth today and how much was it worth 10 years ago? That’s where the major difference lies. Nowadays literally every gram counts in serial production cars. IA: To give an example: you take a car to the track and have a co-driver present. A good driver will feel a huge difference. We can save 20, even 25 kilos with an exhaust. A sports car with a rear-mounted engine has a tendency to oversteer in turns, and reducing the exhaust’s weight has shown distinct performance improvements on a racetrack with a professional
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Anniversary, 25 years
Akrapovič’s more than 100 World Championship titles sparkle like glacé cherries on the company’s delicious cake.
driver. These improvements were seen in the results. UR: Racing drivers feel the difference!
processing, welding and the rest. I believe that nobody else has approached it like we have. Igor, I was watching you in 1995 or
So why don’t the factories do this
thereabouts bending tubes alone in a
mainly empty factory.
IA: In general (slight pause) they could, but their suppliers don’t possess the technology. UR: They don’t do it by themselves. IA: Nobody does that in-house. We are currently the only company doing it, let’s say, sort of serially. The technology is considerably different from stainless steel, including the
IA: It was in 1996. I think I personally bent all the tubes until 1997. And then I got help (laughter). It was very interesting at the start, we used a home-made machine without electronics. That was quite a big and sometimes unpredictable challenge. Our more modern equipment makes it easier to do such things now. But bending
ultra-thin titanium tubes in as demanding a way as we have mastered is not exactly standard industrial practice. I actually know of no other company with comparable know-how and technology. It happened that we supplied our titanium pipes to a decently large exhaust manufacturer, only to get them back three weeks later and be told that they were no good, that they cannot be bent. So we took them to manufacturing and bent them ourselves. Problem solved. UR: Another anecdote from a few years ago. One of our suppliers came to tell us that it is
1997 Complete titanium systems
1992 Dyno / Photo: Igor Majdič
AKRAPOVIČ THROUGH THE YEARS
employees’ dedication and care for the brand, resulted in the Akrapovič we know today.
The company that began in a small workshop has certainly passed numerous milestones. Let’s have a look at the technological ones, which, alongside the
The company buys its first dynamometer and places it in the centre of the workshop. In the years to come, the number grows to the current five – one for cars and four for motorcycles.
The first Akrapovič exhausts that receive TÜV type approval and the coveted “e” number. These exhausts with a titanium outer sleeve turn out to be very complex, and are soon replaced by solutions with noise inserts.
Akrapovič takes a step forward by purchasing its
selling the same alloy we use to somebody else. And that that company couldn’t bend the tubes in a 90 degree angle. It was a no go. Could we, please, show that it could be done and send them a sample. So our boys took it and bent it (gestures with hands) by 180 degrees! IA: When I started bending titanium, I produced a terrifying amount of rejects. In those days, when a metre of a hand-made tube cost around 100 Deutsche Marks, it was quite interesting to watch the pile of waste I produced in the beginning. Those were crazy times. I heard that you also purchase scrap titanium for the foundry?
IA: No, we don’t. We use our own, because we have a lot of it. Unless we are using it for special applications, not related to exhaust systems. In such a case we purchase certified Grade 5 titanium. When you were standing in that manufacturing hall, bending the tubes, did you see into the future, did you envisage the 900 employees?
IA: No, I definitely didn’t back then. But I did see enormous potential in the bike segment. There were no big manufacturers that would produce quality exhausts at a level enjoyed
Various exhaust system brands were already present, some with good renown to boot. How come nobody saw what the future would bring?
IA: I don’t know… They didn’t do business in that way. I think they didn’t decide to develop a perfect exhaust for a client. They always made special exhausts for factory riders and their teams and sold a different product. I think we are the only company in the world that provides the same quality exhausts to our buyers as we do to a factory racing team. I’m not saying that the exhausts are completely alike, because the teams have several versions at their disposal, but it might happen that they are the same. We are talking minimal deviations. The two are made in exactly the same way and from the same material. UR: And that’s the key!
Akrapovič’s portfolio already includes exhaust systems manufactured entirely from titanium, first available for Kawasaki and Yamaha bikes.
UR: Perhaps in the long run. But we still have a lot of reserve in Črnomelj. By moving and by optimising production processes we have alleviated the need for any large employee growth at the moment. IA: It is a very complex question and it depends on what and how will happen globally. And not in the next five years, but rather in the next six months! So you do have a plan B in such a case?
IA: We do. UR: And plan C as well! We have been closely monitoring what’s been happening around the world and in the industry since last year. IA: China has good potential as a market for us, but that is not the main issue. If the Chinese economy wobbles, it will cause problems in Europe. What manufacturers sell in China is all connected. And that’s leaving out issues facing Europe or taking into account everything else, including the USA. It can become quite unstable. Uroš, you were fresh on the boat when you joined Akrapovič on the first day of
After successfully moving to the new site
2009 and I presume you didn’t feel as if
in Črnomelj, I saw a projection that you
the motorcycle segment is collapsing?
plan to have 1000 employees by the end of
1999 3D engineering
first professional tube-bending machine. Until then the tubes had been bent on a homemade tube bender, which could not cope with the increased demand.
by Japanese factory teams or arrived at by legendary tuner Pop Yoshimura. From titanium! But such an exhaust cost 10,000 Deutsche Marks back then. Those were high, unreachable numbers!
1999 Tube mill
2000 First world champion
The company moves from its small Ivančna Gorica workshop into a larger hall in Malo Hudo and later opens a newly constructed R&D facility. The first machine added at the new location is a CNC machine for the production of flanges.
UR: I knew some of it, of course.
First steps into 3D modelling – today’s Akrapovič
would be difficult to imagine without it. 3D modelling speeds up the development process. The first modelling software is Pro Engineer.
The purchase of a tube mill is revolutionary for the company, turning Akrapovič into a tube maker, independent from tube suppliers. The company gains total control over the tubes it uses for its exhausts.
12 / 23
Anniversary, 25 years
“When we were a smaller team, I could be quite irrational. I still am, but they sometimes manage to stop me.” Igor Akrapovič
IA: We had a very challenging year in 2008! Our sales dropped by 75 % in September that year. We then discovered that sales at the distributors’ level did not drop by quite so much. Their sales dropped by 25 %, so they simply stopped the orders and started clearing stock. Our biggest issue was that we increased the number of employees from 400 to 460 in August. And then the sales plummeted by 75 %. Things were really bad up until January 2009. And that was, I’ll be honest, quite a shock. We needed quite a bit of time to get back on our feet.
2005 Hexagonally-shaped muffler
IA: We didn’t. We were in the middle of an investment cycle into the foundry. If one is investing and one has to pay salaries... it can quickly become an issue. But if I look at others in our industry, they were hit worse. We didn’t drop again in 2009, which was a critical year for us, we grew by 2 %. Those hard times came as a shock to many, including motorbike manufacturers. Did it leave any lasting traces on you or your competitors?
IA: I think that the competition got off even worse than us. We still kept investing, we
2004 Yamaha MT-01
Colin Edwards rides his Honda, equipped with an Akrapovič exhaust system made with extremetemperature resistant carbon fibre outer sleeves, to the WorldSBK title and at the end of the season also brings the first world champion title for Akrapovič.
You didn’t have plan B then?
The company starts using hydroforming, a
developed, we still put a lot of money into marketing and into racing. We didn’t reduce any expenses in those areas. We tried to work better and overtake the competition so as to take away some of the market share in a drastically reduced market. As the sales of motorbikes and consequently exhausts dropped, so our share in the pie grew. UR: And we entered into the car segment. IA: This was one of the directions agreed upon in the past. A company cannot stand on only one leg, i.e. producing motorcycle exhausts alone. One needs to reach a certain level of security, which we now, apart from the car segment,
2006 Laser cutting machine
technology that uses high water pressure between 1000 to 4000 bars to shape the tubes. One of its achievements is a type D collector tube.
At the Intermot 2004 a brand-new Yamaha MT-01 with an Akrapovič full-titanium exhaust system appears in the limelight at the Yamaha exhibition area.
2007 Laboratory for dimensional measurements
The hexagonally-shaped muffler causes a revolution in the motorcycle exhaust world. With it Akrapovič sets the trends that are still in use today.
The company’s first laser cutting machine is an important addition to the production department. Akrapovič becomes independent also in this area,
also see in the foundry, in the composites. The foundry has also been working for other industries and could work even more in that direction. And especially the composites, because you can make numerous different products there. You always have to be prepared to start doing new things in case something unexpected happens. UR: As the company is growing now, we cannot focus only on a single segment, a single market. Let’s take a look at plan B, which is maybe even more extreme than simple diversification, because in case of crisis it’s too late to do that. You have to start with activities a lot sooner, so that when a crisis hits, you are ready instead of just starting to think about what to do. We started adding new segments, for example, we are in talks with ultralight aircraft industry and those in other segments. We started with side-by-side projects, still producing exhausts, but for other means of transport, where there is still a lot of potential. And then we have castings. In the past years we have made such a qualitative jump in the foundry, that we can in more earnest start selling what we had wanted to in the past, but hadn’t yet mastered the process to perfection. We also make sure to maintain a stable ratio between the aftermarket and OEM sales. We try to maintain stability between USA, European and Asian markets… Between cars and motorcycles. This gives us more legs to stand on and results in greater stability.
requirements. Euro 4 especially requires a lot more in-house development for a manufacturer to produce a bike that will be approved in Europe and the USA. And this is also a greater challenge for us. It takes longer to develop suitable catalytic converters in cooperation with the producer and to receive type approval. In the beginning it was noise that was the most challenging part, now it’s emissions. Over the years we’ve been seeing representatives of various manufacturers in front of Ljubljana hotels and all of them were there to see you. Is there anyone out there today who doesn’t cooperate with you, who doesn’t feel the need to?
UR: All of them do, in one way or the other. IA: They all work with us. But I do have to say that it would be almost unbelievable for Honda and Yamaha to have the same supplier in MotoGP. It would be extremely difficult politically, they are the main competitors. UR: A similar story unravelled in DTM after we started working with BMW. Then Audi knocked on our door. In such cases one must maintain professional relations with the clients and keep a tight lid on trade secrets as well as nurture a professional and trustworthy relationship. IA: You can’t have them all, we only managed that once in our lives, in 1999 in WorldSBK. You have evolved from a strictly motorcycle brand into an important player on the car
As the motorcycle segment began tearing
scene. How were you received by that
up, most luxury cars kept selling. But bike
producers went to South America and Asia to sell less demanding products. Did you feel that motorbike manufacturers did nothing for three years?
IA: Yes, we have felt it a bit. Previously, there was a new model out every two years. But that was not just because the number of new products has dropped today. It is also due to the increasingly demanding emission and other
IA: We needed a lot of time and energy to enter it. The car scene is more traditional. You need a lot of time to be recognised. They are extremely worried about quality and all other issues. Our location in Slovenia might also not have been perfect. We really had to give it our best. The breakthrough? GT2, the first OEM installation in a Porsche was a big thing. As is the interesting fact that a titanium exhaust
2007 Car segment
and uses the machine to cut various materials, mainly stainless steel and titanium. At first it does so within the planned four hours a day, but only six months later the company needs to switch to double shifts.
First emission testing for type-approved exhaust systems is carried out on a new TÜV SÜD certified dynamometer.
was used by Manthey-Racing in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring; and their Porsche won. We were a bit worried back then because the exhaust was all wrapped up in ceramics due to temperature radiation. The heat that is produced in there is really terrifying. Plus it’s a 24-hour race. It was right on the limit. UR: Those were the years 2008 and 2009. Two years, very much on the limit. You cannot really test for that. IA: Our exhausts today would have even fewer problems handling it. We have coatings, we have better materials. Our titanium is almost as durable as Inconel and it behaves better than normal stainless steel. My belief has always been that car and bike specialists never really got on well due to several reasons... How do you experience these two different worlds?
IA: Yes, they are quite different. That is why we have different people working on the two. For bikes we have people who grew up with two wheels. For cars we employ guys who are completely focused on four wheels and don’t care for bikes at all. It is sometimes difficult to coordinate it all. UR: Even within the bike segment. There are huge differences between an off roader, a road bike rider and a Harley rider,… you know (laughs). And there’s a completely different story for cars. Before we started working on cars, our motorcycle sales network has already been telling us that it would like to sell car exhaust as well. But this was usually impossible. The logic is different. As is the development, so we had to build the car segment from scratch within the company, from development, to production, up to sales. IA: New guys came to work for us, they were very focussed and they drove the four-wheel segment forward. Know-how? You obviously use motorbike know-how, an engine is an engine and there are no drastic differences in the working.
2007: Certified dynamometer
A German sports car brand unveils its new model at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, equipped with the first Akrapovič titanium exhaust system for cars. In the following years Akrapovič enters into the car segment in earnest, adding a new dynamometer for car testing to its R&D facilities.
2007 Patented chamber
Set-up of the laboratory for dimensional measurements. Equipped with modern measurement tools and 3D cameras it soon becomes an integral part of the company’s quality assurance system.
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Anniversary, 25 years
Igor, your heart very much beats for bikes, while yours, Uroš, is more partial to cars. Would you say that is true?
IA: Yes, I’m more of a bike guy. UR: More or less a car guy here. Not because I wasn’t tempted by bikes. I simply never had a chance to do much with them. But I always followed the bike races. I’ve been watching MotoGP since God knows when, from the time I dreamt about a moped as a kid. And when I got one, I first replaced the exhaust and put slicks on it and then checked tire wear after every ride (smiles). Once you hit the point, when a decision has to be made, what are the feelings?
UR: (a hearty, long laugh) IA: (also laughing) Well… it can be an issue, because a person in the end does sometimes make decisions through emotions. But I would say that as the company grew, we kept leaning a bit more towards reason. When we were a smaller team, I could be quite irrational. I still am, but they sometimes manage to
2008 Material testing laboratory
First introduced to off-road racing bikes, the Akrapovič chamber innovation was transferred to its aftermarket exhausts systems – the patented chamber improves performance and sound.
The company sets new standards in opening its own
stop me. Now one must have a look at what something brings and takes away. It is true that development today costs a lot more than it did in the past. Five times more. It’s frightfully expensive.
IA: Who also made speakers in his younger days! UR: Who created his own sports car concept in his youth. So we have two interesting profiles. What
You are on an interesting time arc, one 57
about economics, the stuff we constantly
and the other 38 years old. Does that unite
see on the TV?
or separate you, is it just right?
UR: I never even thought of that. IA: I think that it’s just about right. I must play the role of an owner and Uroš the role of the CEO. The owner must look further into the future and have longer-term goals and ideas. The management then tries to fulfil those visions and improve them through their proposals. The owner must also manage and supervise what’s going on in the company as well as in the outside world. The CEO is a mechanical engineer with an eye for design. The boss is an electrician with a distinct interest in high quality music and excellent sound reproduction.
IA: This is something that comes along, something you learn and acquire. But I believe that the most important economics is that of sound mind and logic. Sometimes more so than the overly optimistic business plans that I occasionally get to see and am always surprised at just how unrealistic they often are. Growth also results in experience, usually gained on quite expensive mistakes. I’ve always said that if you want to move forward and if you’re at least 90 % sure, then do it. If you wait for everything to be at 100 %, you won’t advance quickly enough and the competition can overtake you. This naturally means that some of the decisions might be wrong and not the most productive. That happens and you soak it up. You
material testing laboratory, specialising in metallurgical and metallographic analysis of titanium alloys. The lab is focused on broadening the company’s knowledge in the area of special titanium alloys.
A major year for Akrapovič as the company opens its own titanium foundry for precision
2010 Wireless Kit
casting. The foundry recycles waste titanium produced in exhaust manufacture and is mainly used for producing extremely complex parts, opening up new possibilities for the research & development engineers.
Akrapovič introduces its wireless control system
“ I feel that every victory brings extreme pleasure” Igor Akrapovič
learn and acquire experience, which are the key building blocks for a long-term stable company. UR: I had an opportunity to attend the INSEAD business school in France, which was this year assessed as the best business school in the world by Financial Times. What I experienced there was a completely different approach towards company management than one feels in Slovenia. The main ideas at these international schools are based on extremely simple principles: on common sense, on principles of treating and managing people and resources at your disposal and on responsibility towards the owners and employees. I haven’t seen that in Slovenian schools. IA: We must first create added value. We need to develop an exhaust, create the technology, make the tools, manufacture the exhaust, sell it and get the money. Once the money is in the bank, you have completed the circle. Only then can you pay for the entire process. The difficulty of financially evaluating the final product requires an exquisite combination of technical and
financial knowledge, possessed by only a few with suitably differentiated education. UR: An example. I had a meeting in Le Mans with the CEO of one of the sports car manufacturers, who spent 20 years at various car development managerial posts within the company, mainly in acoustics. We had 15 minutes to talk. He knew immediately whether I had something to say. These are people who know the background of the product, the technology. They understand the physics, the mechanics and everything else. Business logic comes on top of that.
Meaning that it might not have had quite the juiciness if it was a FIA WEC title, won at Le Mans?
IA: Well, for cars Le Mans would do, absolutely. UR: (roguish grin) Le Mans is, no matter how you look at it, alpha and omega. Especially if witnessed first hand. It’s incredible. I was at the 2014 race. It was madness. There were 250,000 spectators. IA: A person who has not seen Le Mans live, cannot understand the scope of this epic race. Is the excitement of winning 100 titles felt
One hundred immense World Championship titles. How do you perceive and feel them as the head of the company?
IA: I feel that every victory brings extreme pleasure. But a hundredth title did even more so, because it was in MotoGP, because it was won by Lorenzo, and that meant a lot to us.
2012 First car world championship title
for the Porsche 911 Carrera/S exhaust system valves – the Akrapovič Wireless Kit. It allows the driver to choose different sound levels by the simple push of a button.
cells and later a welding robot. The company started using TIG welding machines already in 2003, its configurations have been based on in-house welding know-how.
Beginning of the industrialisation era, with improvements to the welding process using robot
Audi R18 e-tron quattro wins the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and brings the first car world
IA: I think it is, up to a point. UR: It is, but not as much as it could be. I sometimes feel as if the people say “we got another, oh, there’s one more”. Somebody asked me at a news conference whether we keep counting them? Of course we do!
2012 Research and testing department
championship title to Akrapovič by winning the FIA World Endurance Championship.
At the start of the year, R&D department is separated to car and motorcycle parts, with the research and testing department providing support for both. Akrapovič increasingly uses
12 / 23
Anniversary, 25 years
growth depends on work by dedicated individuals, on determination, innovation and persistence. But I feel that once a company grows well, it also attracts those who are in it only for the money, who might not be as dedicated. How do you achieve perfection in each of your products?
IA: It does pose a problem for us, true. But we try to quickly suss out the personnel; is their personality suitable, especially for specific positions. It sometimes happens that individuals conceal themselves a bit. But we usually take measures quickly enough. At key posts we can only have people who breathe, think and live for the company. This is the way of life. There is no other way.
2013 Hybrid exhaust
simulations, static and dynamic measurements and later on constructs its own thermomechanical fatigue test rig.
Akrapovič unveils its first exhaust system for a car with a V12 engine. The system for the Lamborghini Aventador is a hybrid, manufactured
UR: There are people who don’t care as much, who want to get a job, do their thing, meet their targets and then go to the vineyard in the afternoon. You can’t blame them. But there is also a circle of people who have developed a great sense of belonging to the company, after getting to know it and recognising the benefits it brings. We are a family-friendly company, we organise a summer camp for children, offer additional benefits for employees, discounts for various services and so on. We organise various events for employees and include them in activities, so that they can feel the idea that drives the company forward. If a company has no soul and no idea behind it, then it’s pointless. I’m sure that employees
2014 New shape
from titanium and Inconel.
Igor Akrapovič presents a new muffler concept at the Intermot in Cologne. The version presented is made completely from race-proven carbon-fibre. A full titanium version, based on a completely new production technology, is introduced a year later.
proudly wear Akrapovič-branded clothes even when they aren’t on the job. I see Akrapovič as a classic example of how a company is created from a pleasure, a hobby, a passion. If a company originates from such a source it can survive in the long run. These are the main causes why the company exists in the first place. The point is not only to have it to make a profit. This is only the result of other things, not the reason why something is done. Has your renown reached all the way to the region of Bela Krajina, more specifically Črnomelj?
IA: Yes, I think it has. We were extremely well received there. The local community was also
2014 Red Dot: Best of the Best
The well-respected Red Dot jury awards the Evolution Line (Titanium) exhaust system for Ducati 1199 Panigale with the highest possible acclaim, the Red Dot: Best of the Best award.
The know-how gained over the years in sound
extremely helpful in getting all the required documents necessary for the construction and the move in record time. It was a very positive experience. The region suffered greatly due to a departure of a company that used to employ 1,200 people there. UR: We feel that they are very proud. They feel that life has returned to Črnomelj and Bela Krajina. The worst thing is to arrive to a city and see empty, overgrown halls. The mayor recently told me how nice it was to see the parking lot full again. Why does Akrapovič have such a successful image? A metal tube, the basic material, is available to all. You managed to create a
2014 Sound engineering
engineering with spectral analysis and sound presentations on 3D graphs become an important part of the modern exhaust system development. State-of-the-art sound chambers and high-tech measurement instruments allow for precision development of exhaust systems that meet even the most stringent noise regulations while delivering the unmistakable sound of an Akrapovič exhaust.
product that seems to be a must have for
How do you manage in manufacturing to
make the entire product look beautiful,
IA: It must be because of our aim and leaning to perfecting our products. And because of investing into our brand, into everything that surrounds it. Who set the height of the bar?
IA: That would be me. As an active competitor I wanted to have the best. And it is obvious that I want that for our clients as well. I want to offer something that is technologically perfected, that has a quality sound, excellent durability and also looks good. We are aware that satisfied clients bring a lot. And that unsatisfied clients take away a lot more.
2015 Active X-connection
The company completes its move of the production to a new factory in Črnomelj, bringing the complete manufacturing process, including the composites, under one roof. Akrapovič employs additional workforce and invests in new machines and technology.
even in places that are not visible?
IA: We train employees. And we design our product so that it must be produced in a specifically determined manner. As well as the tools, so that everything fits. We naturally have standards for how the end product must look. The weld and the tube, how is it bent and all the rest. This is a set of numerous factors that all combine in a perfect end product. UR: I think that it is exactly this logic, if we are talking about exhausts, which got transferred from motorbikes to cars. It opened up an entirely new area in cars, something that did not exist before, because car exhausts were basically
2015 New factory
Akrapovič presents at that time the worlds first ultra-light EC-/ECE-type approved exhaust system for the Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupé, which includes an active X-connection in the link pipes.
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Anniversary, 25 years
“We naturally have standards for how the end product must look.” Igor Akrapovič
not an aesthetic product. Poor quality, cheap materials, nobody cared what it looked like, whether it would fit or not. First, nothing ever fit perfectly, and second, it was ugly. The only thing that was given some visual attention were the tailpipes. In order to make the irony even bigger, Akrapovič received the 2015 Red Dot product design award for the BMW M4 Evolution exhaust system – 90 % of which is hidden to the eyes. How do you maintain that drive for perfection with over 900 employees. Have they internalised that?
IA: We constantly and continuously insist on it. The majority have internalised perfection. It can sometimes happen along the line that some things do not get done to perfection. But we try to educate the employees, so that such occurrences stop when the next person in line receives the exhaust. Our final quality control is really strict. UR: Anything that is possible can happen. And it does. Especially when dealing with many people. This is why knowledge transfer and systematic setting and upgrading of the system is key.
At races we often see Akrapovič as a partner. What is Akrapovič’s reputation in Slovenia? The company is also linked to winter sports?
IA: We help as much as we can. For example, we lent our “wind tunnel” to ski jumpers. We had Slovenians, Americans, Russians, French and Canadians here. Many Slovenian coaches as well. UR: Last year we received at least 400 applications for help in sporting events, to give aid to charities… We try to help the socially disadvantaged as much as possible in Slovenia and in local communities, where we are present. We also help engineering students with their projects. As an example, we were the main sponsor for the Maribor Faculty of Engineering team in the Formula Student competition. Is it normal to expect annual growth in double digits?
IA: Well, no. I believe that growth will slow down simply due to the production volume, because one cannot grow at 20 % when one makes between 80 and 100 million euro in revenues. We make 1,700 different products
today. We really must see what will happen on the markets in the midterm and in the long run. UR: Things will cool down. Our growth was also helped by our competitors dropping out ever since the crisis, which gave us more market space. And then one must meet more stringent demands. This means that those who are unable to fulfil these criteria, because they failed to invest in knowledge and development, fall by the wayside. And who can their buyers go to then? They go to where a proper product can be bought. All of this aided our growth. Has there ever appeared anyone who wanted to grab your share?
IA: I think that our biggest issue are counterfeit products. I want to stress here that our legal department, the European and, of course, the Slovenian customs, really did a great job. Slovenian customs have been extremely responsive, I’d like to really thank them. They started stopping shipments. We designed a brochure informing customs officials how to recognise whether a product is original or not and distributed it all over Europe.
Akrapovič completed a demanding logistics project in
administration, research & development
2015 by moving its entire manufacturing and logistics
and the foundry, remains full.
– more than 600 jobs – to the town of Črnomelj in
The company posted revenues of 78 million
the Bela Krajina region, 60 kilometres from the
euro in 2015, a 14 % growth year-on-year.
company’s seat. Nevertheless, the parking lot at its
The rhythm has not slowed down for Akrapovič.
headquarters in Ivančna Gorica, which houses the
UR: French customs have also been very active. We also immediately reacted to the first seized shipment and ever since have enjoyed excellent relations with them. But the number of seized products in France is quite large. IA: Last year some 50 to 60 counterfeit exhausts were intercepted in Slovenia alone. The question is how large a percentage that is. But that is all good. The more such products you stop, the more people get to know about that and then don’t buy them. On the other hand, this is also a cost for those who ordered them and those who produced them. A cargo container of copies of our exhausts was stopped in Taiwan. A whole container! This is a lot of lost money for the person who made them, only to see them seized and crushed by the customs. UR: Other popular forgeries, apart from bike exhausts, are car exhaust tailpipes. I ordered one as a test from China and it arrived in a copy of our packaging, equipped with our logo and complete with Made in Slovenia. It wasn’t made from titanium, rather from stainless steel, but its carbon part sported our manufacturing code, logo and matt coating. The whole shebang! This was of course before our customs started systematically stopping these shipments. IA: People know if a copy is poor. But if it is decent, let’s say at 70 %, and if the price is right, they will buy it. But then the thing falls apart and you are faced with a complaint and an angry customer. This is why we put a lot of effort into the brand and into educating people. We will soon introduce product registration, giving our buyers the chance to check whether they bought an original Akrapovič or not.
UR: We have unified serial numbers and will activate the system this year. We will get product traceability. Managing a company like Akrapovič is surely comparable to top racing as exemplified by Jorge Lorenzo, for example. How do you, the CEO, the owner and your management team manage to keep working in the red section of the speedometer?
IA: If I compare how management worked then and now, we used to be a speedboat. Now we are a ship. I used to have 20 employees. We sat down and we agreed that “this is the bike that’s going to be top”. We got the bike and were selling the exhausts in two weeks time. You could basically turn on a dime. But now that we have over 900 people, it’s turned into quite a large boat and we need to see far ahead. We need to anticipate what can happen so as to make timely course corrections. But this requires a lot of data. This is why all departments submit their information at board meetings, so that everybody knows everything that is going on. Based on that we then try to make conclusions and, finally, plot a course. I try to get as much information as possible on what’s going on around the world, the motorbike and car trends and everything else. You must think about all of that throughout the day. UR: You need more sensors than you used to. More data. More anticipation. A large ship must not turn into an unwieldy tanker. You must run a flexible and organised company. Flexibility is of the essence when quick decisions have to be made.
You must observe what’s going on. Trends always come from other industries as well. You must keep an eye on technical innovations which are global in certain areas and impact your business. We know that aviation developments will have a big impact on us in the coming years, as emission and noise regulations at airports mean that titanium usage in planes will increase 18 times. If you don’t keep a daily tab on information like that, you are clueless. It’s a way of life. Let’s conclude by taking a peep into the crystal ball. What will we see on vehicles in the next 20 years?
IA: I think that lower emissions keep increasing the efficiency of internal combustion engines. I recently saw that Mazda managed a 40-45 % energy efficiency. Materials for some parts of the engine, the piston and connecting rods, are improving. Combustion efficiency in the combustion chamber is increasing, reducing the amount of fuel and raising the temperature of exhaust gases. Ideal for a sporty road bike would be to drastically decrease its weight. An ideal motorbike would weigh around 130 kg and have 130 or 140 hp, which could be achieved through a single compressor and a 500 cc two-valve engine. You don’t need 200 or 220 hp to ride on the road. It would be better to reduce the bike’s weight by 60 kilos. It might actually provide even more pleasure on a twisting mountain road than the stronger but less agile superbikes of today.
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Anniversary, 25 Years
Anniversary, 25 Years
THE INITIAL 7
by Primož Jurman photography Jure Eržen, Aleš Rosa, Primož Korošec
PA S S I O N STILL BURNS! EVERY COMPANY HAS ITS BEGINNINGS. AND ITS ORIGINATORS. WHAT IS COMMON TO THEM ALL IS THAT THEY ARE THOSE WHO WRITE THE STORIES OF SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES, ENTERPRISES, TEAMS. AN EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUAL PLANTS AN IDEA THAT SPROUTS INTO THE BEGINNINGS OF THE FUTURE COMPANY. THEIR IDEA EXCITES THE FIRST CO-WORKERS, PEOPLE THEY CHOOSE THEMSELVES. THESE PEOPLE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT BRANCHES, BECAUSE THEY IN TURN HELP THE COMPANY GROW. THEY ARE SEEN AS THE LEGENDARY DEVOTEES WHO DARED TO BELIEVE IN THE ORIGINAL IDEA. THE AKRAPOVIČ COMPANY, APART FROM ITS FOUNDER AND OWNER IGOR AKRAPOVIČ, HAS SEVEN SUCH HEROES WITH WHOM IGOR EMBARKED ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS.
Peter Čeh, Alojz “Slavko” Trstenjak, Igor Ržek, Igor Majdič, Alojz Rajar, Andrej Habjanič and Peter Orešič.
These are the people Igor trusted, these are the men who have stood by him for more than 20 years. Some even for 25, right from the very
start. They came to Igor from different backgrounds, with different know-how and skills, and Igor then subtly, perhaps subconsciously, gelled them
into a team that germinated into today’s Akrapovič company, a leading global high-performance exhaust system manufacturer.
SMALL BEGINNINGS, BIG IDEAS One of the surprises at the company’s 25th anniversary party was the sheer number of young families that came to Otočec, a popular attraction in southern Slovenia with a medieval castle on a river island, at the start of summer. Almost all of the employees attended; dressed in jubilee T-shirts, which were also given to their family members; they partied, played sports and mingled. A special place at the event was, besides Igor, reserved for his first employees. What a difference from the days when they worked in a modest workshop, where the creative Igor turned his first ideas into reality! Those men, some already retired, frankly admit that they are quite flabbergasted by the growth of the company that today employs over 900 people. They find it difficult to imagine that the beginnings actually turned into what they see today. Peter Čeh, with nods from Andrej Habjanič, says: “Looking at it, the company as it is today, I have to admit that I never imagined it would get this big.” Slavko Trstenjak chimes in: “When we came to work for Igor, none of us thought that our modest beginnings would become as large as Akrapovič is today. But if we look back to Igor’s father and remember all the things he did under the then socialist regime, which almost considered it a crime to employ four or five people in a private enterprise, we should have anticipated that Igor’s entrepreneurial spirit won’t stop and will keep expanding.” Most of the company’s earliest employees came to Igor with the desire to make money – some saw his job advertisment, some simply knocked on his door. Igor Ržek, one of the three early Igors, adds: “I came to the company because I needed work and money. There weren’t many companies around back then looking for workers. In 1991, while Igor was still working alone, I was unemployed, so I found him through an ad. I called him, he answered the phone and invited me for an interview. He was looking for experienced workers who could make what he could imagine. My first impression was that I was meeting somebody special and somebody who actually trusted in me.” While some came for the money, others came for the bikes and the racing adrenaline. Slavko Trstenjak: “I always enjoyed tinkering with engines, they were a real hobby. The feelings after becoming part of the team, after being able to turn my hobby into work, something I liked doing and even got paid for, were incredible! Igor was not picky at the interview. He asked whether you could weld and that was it. We were once visited by a famous Slovenian rider Lojze Pavlič, who told us that we really were a great team as he was leaving. It was very important that Igor had a solid team, individuals with relevant know-how and skills, at his very beginnings.” Igor Majdič, whose skills include technical drawing, was on next: “They had been inviting me for some time. I was already employed
by a craftsman, but Igor told me to come and I decided to take a look. I knew who he was, I went for an interview and we made a deal. I was very interested in engines, I competed in motocross and I had some experience with exhausts. I worked on many machines, including a lathe, I could weld, draw a sketch and a plan, and that actually allowed us to maintain an archive of sorts.” Peter Orešič: “I met Igor in the late 70s. It was important back then to rebel against the system and motorbikes were one of the ways for us to tease the authorities. The other was CB radio. I got my first radio receiver and that’s how I met Igor. Serious racing began about then at the Grobnik racetrack near the Croatian town of Rijeka, and Igor also took part. He rode Moto Guzzis and Kawasakis, and bought himself a Suzuki GSX-R as a wedding present in 1986. He quit racing after the birth of his son, and was asked by his father to continue working in the family workshop in the town of Buzet, Croatia. Instead he started working in his garage in 1989, while we kept looking for a place near the road to the Grobnik racetrack. He ended up buying a workshop here in Ivančna Gorica, which we renovated and equipped with machinery, including the first piece, a lathe given to him by his father, which is still with us. So that took care of the facilities, but what about the people. A person he knew said he had a friend who was a very skilled welder. And that was Peter Čeh.” Peter Čeh picks up the tale: “I found out that Igor needed a welder. I went to his shop, Igor told me to weld something. I hadn’t been welding for a while, as I worked at different posts, so I had no idea what the result would be. But I managed to pass the test and Igor invited me to start on the very next day.” Andrej Habjanič, a passionate fisherman in his free time, shares the experience of being hired on the spot: “I was working for the Avtomontaža car assembly company, the salaries were good at the beginning and there was plenty of work, but then the company began sinking. I was looking for new employment and discovered that Igor was looking for people to work in Ivančna Gorica. So off I went, we met each other and I was hired right then and there.” Alojz Rajar joined in 1993 and is also surprised by Akrapovič’s growth: “There were six of us then, now there are >>
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Anniversary, 25 years
Trstenjak: “An important milestone for the company was moving from the garage to the new facility. This resulted in new machines and technology and that in turn meant a new step forward. Igor has always been a forward-thinking man with vision. We were visited by riders, because we ran a workshop for tuning bikes as well as worked on exhaust systems. The riders got to know us, spread the word and thus helped us expand. Up until at least 1996 this, alongside racetrack experience, was an important factor for our growth. Our goal back then was to make the best exhaust possible, none of us were thinking about world champion titles.” Peter Orešič: “The company grew in stages. A new growth spurt
more than a 100 times that many of us. The progress is amazing. But to me, the garage we worked in actually looked like a pretty large workshop. There were 25 of us there before we moved, but what we have today is simply unbelievable. I was employed by a heating appliance manufacturer in Ljubljana before joining Igor. I worked as a planer and toolmaker, while being a machinist by trade. I was told about Igor by a co-worker, who was working for a craftsman from Borovnica, to whom Igor came to grind the engine’s heads. Igor called me and I went to see him with a friend. He asked me if I could sharpen a drill – that was all he expected from me. After I said that I could, he told me I can start the very next day.”
GROWTH, TRUST AND CHARISMA The assembled original team got to work and got to know Igor’s genius, although they sometimes found it difficult to keep up with the master. They remained steadfast and bonded deeply with Igor and the company despite their often opposing technical opinions. Igor Ržek, who retired last year and whose son today operates the lathe at Akrapovič, said he drove over a million kilometres to and from work, adding he was attracted by Igor’s enthusiasm and desire for continuous improvement. “He was never greedy,” he added. Alojz Rajar was later joined in the company by brother Marjan, and, more recently, by his son Rok: “Bosses usually think they are somehow better, but I never saw that with Igor. He was and has remained level headed, and I am very happy about that. He trusted us and accepted our ideas. I was never really enthusiastic about motorbikes, but I have the utmost respect for Igor. He was able to draw the spark out of the right guys, even if the work was hard. We worked on Saturdays, we didn’t get overtime, but I didn’t mind that and I always loved coming to work.” Slavko
began in 1998, about 50 people were employed, but we still had a small-business mentality, the owner had to know everything. We had to reorganise, we set up departments: technical, R&D, sales, marketing, racing… Purchasing the dynamometer was one of the most important decisions we made. Up until then we worked according to feeling, but the dynamometer gave us our first measurable results.” Peter Čeh, a master for Ducati and the engine of all New Year’s parties, adds: “We were slowly invaded by the educated crowd. One of them showed up and asked for data to input into the computer. I had no clue what he was on about, I had no figures anywhere. I told him I didn’t have any data. So he went to Igor and told him that I didn’t want to give data to him. What data are you looking for, man? The piece is over there, take it, draw it and put it into the computer. We met again a bit later and he told me that it was very difficult to do so. I told him that I can make it easily, without using computers. I had always worked like that, I made some pieces, examined them, checked where I needed to make adjustments, and the third or the fourth one was good to go.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE Peter Orešič says that stainless steel was practically the only material the company used until 1997. And then came titanium, which was a real challenge, where they learned from their mistakes. But other challenges awaited them too. Slavko Trstenjak: “Honda was the first to ask for standards and demanded we work in a different way. Up until then we did all our work ‘live’ on the bikes. Our task was to produce a Formula 1 exhaust in 2003 and it was a giant leap, because it was all so new to us: Inconel, manner of production, documentation. Honda wanted to know all the data: who handled the pipe, who sawed it off, everything. We learnt together with Honda.” Peter Orešič: “By 2004 we had already mastered titanium. Porsche got excited about it, because this was to be the material that the exhaust for the GT2 was to be made from. They contacted us and we manufactured the first prototype. However, we hit an obstacle, namely we lacked the ISO standard, a precondition for cooperation. Our company was inspected in full and based on that we did some reorganising. We were using SAP already in 2004, also to establish standards in production. The Porsche story thus began to unfold and the idea for creating aftermarket car exhausts was born.” The company employed some 500 people in the middle of our century’s first decade and that number has grown to over 900 today, in the year when Akrapovič celebrates its 25th anniversary. Many are young. Slavko Trstenjak: “We see the young from the viewpoint of the old guard. I believe that many of them are sincerely dedicated, devoted, they love to work and the Otočec event really was something special. Almost all employees and
their families showed up. I know of many celebrations, organised by different companies, where not everybody does. This too shows the level of employee dedication. The atmosphere on Otočec was amazing, we have shown that we are a homogenous company. There is still a passion present in the company, although of a slightly different bent from when there were just the ten of us. Many young guys ride bikes and they like working here, just as we did.” And when you ask the final question, where does the cause of the company’s success lie, Igor Majdič smiles and answers: “Heh, where… Very simple: Igor Akrapovič is the only possible answer!”
Alojz “Slavko” Trstenjak
Bike Stuff AkrapoviÄ? exhaust systems are designed for riders who demand maximum performance from their motorcycles. They feature exceptional production quality, hi-tech materials, increased engine performance and Yamaha Tracer 700 of course amazing sound and + 3 HP/9,000 rpm - 1.9 kg (- 26.4%) appearance. The change is also visual, as mufflers perfectly fit the exterior line of modern motorcycles BMW R nineT and add a clean Scrambler More power racing image. Less weight
Kawasaki KX250F + 2.0 HP/12,550 rpm - 1 kg (- 25%) Yamaha MT-10/FZ-10 + 4.7 HP/11,250 rpm - 4.8 kg (- 42.5%)
Vespa Primavera 150ie 3V + 0.7 HP/6,050 rpm - 1.7 kg (- 30.4%)
BMW C 650 GT + 1.3 HP/5,900 rpm - 3.1 kg (- 44.9%)
Welcome to our range of aftermarket exhaust systems for cars. We offer complete, partial, open or EC-type approved products that significantly improve performance. We use only the best and exclusive titanium and stainless steel. We combine these two materials with high technologies and craftsmanship of our welders that separate this exhausts systems from anything else on the market.
Mercedes-AMG C 63 Sedan (W205)
+ 8 HP/2,000 rpm + 27.9 Nm/1,850 rpm - 13 kg (- 45.1%) Titanium Akrapovič Sound Kit
Ferrari 488 GTB + 7.8 HP/6,800 rpm + 6.3 Nm/5,200 rpm - 3.8 kg (- 35.2%) Titanium Downpipes
BMW M2 (F87) + 13.1 HP/6,200 rpm + 21.7 Nm/4,300 rpm - 4.8 kg (- 19.1%)
Audi R8 5.2 FSI Coupé/Spyder + 11.5 HP/5,950 rpm + 20.0 Nm/6,050 rpm - 19.5 kg (- 57%) Titanium Akrapovič Sound Kit
Titanium Downpipes Akrapovič Sound Kit Carbon fibre diffusers Carbon fibre mirror caps
Jochen Schmid and K awa s a k i s at G r o b n i k
E V E RY T H I N G IS DIFFERENT,
BUT NOTHING HAS CHANGED
It wa s a p ro m is in g b e aut i fu l autu mn d ay a s daw n st art ed to break ov er t h e m ount ai n s t h at surrou nd the G robnik r a ce t r a ck a b ov e R i j e k a, C roat i a . W h i le t h e n i gh t st i ll h un g ov er t h e t rack an d plac i d silence surround e d t he nu me rous p i ck- up s , c amp e rs an d t rai lers h ousi n g t h e snori n g rec reat i on al an d tra ckd a y riders t hat we r e t h e r e to d r ag k n e e , a w h i t e v an stopped i n t h e c ent re of t h e paddock an d t w o f i gu res step p e d out , t he i r s i l h ou e tt e s at fi rst g l a n c e as cont rast i n g as t h ey com e.
One shorter with dark hair and the other quite tall and blonde. They opened the doors of the van and routinely unfastened the clamps holding a motorcycle, lowered it from the vehicle and pushed the featherweight machine into the pits. Having satisfactorily completed the task, the two men gazed over the paddock. With the exception of smaller changes, it looked almost the same as it had during their last visit here, almost three decades ago. German star racer Jochen Schmid, his indispensable technician and tuner Kurt Stückle and their Kawasaki successfully vied with the best Superbike World Championship riders and caused more than just a few grey hairs to their
factory teams. Nobody could figure out how Jochen’s Kawasaki managed to outpace factory machines on the long straights. “The then boss of the Kawasaki factory team, the legendary US motorbike tuner Rob Muzzy, plucked his majestic moustache in anger as the Hockenheimring straights saw Jochen effortlessly sweep past factory team motorbikes, hidden behind the expansive aerodynamic shell of the Kawasaki ZXR 750 RR, prepared by Stückle,” is what one of the German journalists in the MotoGP paddock told me after I explained I was writing a story about Jochen Schmid for the Akrapovič Lifestyle Magazine. “My bike was truly faster than the rest, even though we had no factory support. We raced
under the aegis of Kawasaki Deutschland, the German importer of Kawasaki motorbikes, which fielded its own team at the then open German Pro Superbike series, as did the majority of German importers of Japanese motorbikes. Pro Superbike ran parallel with the Superbike World Championship. The two were almost competing, actually. Its organisation, quality of men and machines as well as TV broadcasts made it the world’s second most important competition. The number of spectators at some of its races in Germany actually exceeded the number at world championship events. We were able to go head to head with the factory teams despite not having a factory team bike but merely a
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by Gaber Keržišnik photography Bor Dobrin
serial-production machine with the factory superbike kit, which was available to everybody anyway,” Jochen explained as he helped Kurt move the last boxes of equipment to the pits. Tools, air compressor, tyre warmers, electric cables, leather suit, helmet. “Credit for the speed of our bike must also go to Igor Akrapovič, who was then still becoming recognised on the international stage. What is that, where does it come from, the other riders and technicians asked us as
they cast incredulous glances at our exhaust, as it was plain to see that it was technologically advanced, flawlessly put together and oozed quality. When I first met Igor, he wanted me to test his products. He assured me that his exhaust will increase the speed of my bike. Well, testing doesn’t cost you superbike points, so I agreed to give it a go. As soon as I completed a few laps on my racing bike, now fitted with an Akrapovič, I realised Igor was telling the truth. The bike accelerated faster and more smoothly and its top speed was higher,” is how Jochen remembers his first meeting with Igor Akrapovič in the early 90’s, before going on to win the 1995 Pro Superbike season, whose crowning achievement for Jochen was undoubtedly the famous Sunday at Hockenheimring, where he stood on the podium at both Superbike World Championship races. Only Carl Fogarty from Britain and Fabrizio Pirovano from Italy bested him in the first race, and only Fogarty’s Ducati was faster in the second. In Jochen’s wake were names like Slight, Edwards, Russell, Corser, Chili, Meregalli, Gobert and other renowned aces. Day was already breaking over the racetrack, so we had to get to work despite the chilling morning cold. Master photographer Bor Dobrin wiped the dust of his lenses and Kurt Stückle deemed the tyres on the spotlessly polished racing Kawasaki warm enough to bring the middle-aged Japanese elderly back to life. All it needed was a few metres’ push and the engine sounded with a sharpness that made my heart sing. In my days I also sat on top of the legendary ZXR 750 RR, racing around this same track in the Slovenian championship, though I was doing it more for the thrill than for the points. And this is why this bike stirs emotions and nostalgia. The inline 4 hissed shrilly through the hefty ellipsoid Akrapovič exhaust, as 20 years ago, while Kurt routinely revved
the engine to warm it up, causing the analogue tachometer to neurotically jump up and down. What a sound! The sound of the 90’s, when racing Kawasakis still gulped air through a battery of Keihin’s 39 mm FCR flat slide carburettors and the engine’s melody could be enjoyed in stereo. From two different ends. Through the carburettors and the exhaust. As the bike was warming up, so was the rider.
“ I t ’s st i ll a good bi ke. I t ’s v ery n i m ble, ev en t h ough qui t e bulky com pared to t h e bi kes w e h av e today . I t ’s easi ly st eerable, relax ed an d st able. T h e S h ow a sh ock absorbers are w orki n g w ell. An d i t i s st i ll a v ery f ast bi ke. . . ”
We asked Jochen to bring the original gear to Grobnik along with the motorbike. Because screaming neon colours were the fashion in the 80’s and 90’s, we made a good choice. We only replaced the helmet for a brand new one, for safety’s sake. The first few laps were meant to reintroduce the track to the rider. Grobnik and Jochen Schmid last saw each other in 1990, when the last Yugoslavian Grand Prix was held
here. Jochen finished that particular season as 8th in the 250cc class. He stayed in the same class until 1993, when he stepped up to Pro Superbike. After the initial laps on the 1994 Kawasaki, Jochen opened the throttle to the max, showing that both he and the bike were still in excellent form, still full of spark and very very
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quick. “It’s still a good bike. It’s very nimble, even though quite bulky compared to the bikes we have today. It’s easily steerable, relaxed and stable. The Showa shock absorbers are working well. And it is still a very fast bike. Thanks to Kurt’s meticulous maintenance, the engine still produces 160 hp. The engine is working well, because we keep it running and not have it
The sun h a s me an w h i l e ma d e i t s p resen c e a bund a nt l y c l e ar ab ov e t h e t r a ck a n d t he f i rst b l e ar y- e ye d v i s i tors to t he paddock m a d e i t to t h e t r ack’s fe n c e to s e e w h o o n e a r t h i s p us h i n g i t to t h e max t hi s e a r ly in t h e mor n i n g . . .
Vse je drugače, a nič spremenjeno Nemški dirkaški as Jochen Schmid ter njegov nepogrešljivi tehnik in tuner Kurt Stückle sta v devetdesetih letih s Kawasakijem mešala štrene najboljšim dirkačem v svetovnem prvenstvu razreda Superbike in povzročala sive lase tovarniškim moštvom. Nikomur namreč ni bilo jasno, kako je lahko na dolgih ravninah dirkališč Schmidov Kawasaki hitrejši od tovarniških motociklov. Dirkal je pod okriljem ekipe Kawasaki Deutschland, torej za nemškega uvoznika Kawasakijevih motociklov, na takratnem odprtem nemškem prvenstvu, imenovanem Pro Superbike. Tekmovanje je bilo vzporedno svetovnemu prvenstvu Superbike, skoraj konkurenca. Po organiziranosti, kakovosti dirkačev, tehniki in televizijskih prenosih dirk je bilo drugo najmočnejše prvenstvo na svetu. Na nekaterih dirkah v Nemčiji je število gledalcev celo preseglo tisto na svetovnem prvenstvu. Da je imel tako hiter motor, se mora zahvaliti tudi Igorju Akrapoviču, ki se je v tistih letih s svojimi izpuhi šele uveljavljal na mednarodnem prizorišču. »Kdo je to, od kod prihaja,« so ga spraševali, ko so gledali njegov izpuh in nejeverno zmajevali z glavo preostali dirkači in tehniki. Toda že na prvi pogled so lahko videli, da je izpuh izdelan tehnično izjemno napredno, natančno in kakovostno.
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idle and whittle away in a museum or a private collection. Such a bike must be ridden. We take it to the track at least twice a year or enrol it as enthusiasts at a classic bikes race or at the very least do a promo ride,” added Jochen while changing from his colourful 90’s racing suit into the newest Alpinestars racing replica in characteristic Akrapovič black to get ready for the next mission. “I had no idea that the old Kawasaki even existed. When I was asked years ago to attend a Pro Superbike revival race, I accepted the invitation and began looking for my old racing bike. Where did it end up? Who has it? Is it still in one piece or was it scrapped for parts a long time ago? It didn’t take me long to find it. The first person I called was obviously Kurt, so I asked him whether he knows who took or bought my old racing buddy. Luckily for me, it didn’t go anywhere. Kurt Stückle kept it at home. Workable, original and spotlessly maintained. The winning duo was soon reunited. Bonnie and Clyde, the stallion and the jockey, Jochen and Kawa.” Time to turn the clock forward nearly two and a half decades (1994-2016). Jochen Schmid has finished changing and Kurt has warmed up the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, year 2016.
The latest in motorcycle technology with all the gear and gizmos that a contemporary supersport-class bike should have. This is the bike whose racing version has reigned supreme in the last few seasons of the Superbike World Championship with Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes. Jochen put his foot over the bike, mounted, stepped on the lever to put it into first and took off. As he was approaching the track, all I could do was listen to the one litre banging loudly through the carbon muffler of the otherwise titanium Akrapovič exhaust every time Jochen went up a gear without closing the throttle. Symbolism. On the old bike a moment ago and now straight on to the new. Almost 25 years separate the two. A quarter of a century. And they allow us to get a visual on what has happened in the past two decades and a half in the year when Akrapovič, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance exhaust systems, celebrates its 25th anniversary. Then and now. Still at the very top. “The difference is immense, of course. The new serial bike is heaps faster than my old racehorse. Everything is different, actually. The bike is smaller and more powerful. There is less space for the rider and the technology is
way more advanced. Suspension is better and the riding characteristics are incredible. The tachometer needle has been replaced with LEDs and an LCD screen. The only thing that remains the same is the colour, really. Kawasaki green. But there is one more thing that hasn’t changed. The exhaust. It is still an Akrapovič, a better, newer and differentlyshaped Akrapovič. Some things never change. So if I really think about it, nothing much has changed in these past 25 years either,” added Jochen Schmid, pushed down his visor and took another lap. The taciturn Kurt Stückle remained silent, gazing after his rider and, I think, listening to the sound of the engine in the distance. The same as he used to. As if he wanted to make sure again that everything is in order and working for the approaching race. The sun has meanwhile made its presence abundantly clear above the track and the first bleary-eyed visitors to the paddock made it to the track’s fence to see who on earth is pushing it to the max this early in the morning.
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KTMs Road into MotoGP
TO RACE by Imre Paulovits photography KTM Images (Marco Campelli, Philip Platzer, Sebas Romero), Imre Paulovits
KTM’s slogan „Ready to Race“ was realised in a wondrous way facing the biggest challenge in the company’s history: entering MotoGP. After just 18 months of preparation, the Austrians are ready to challenge the best in the world in the top division of motorcycle sport.
Orange and blue – that’s how the winning factory racers of KTM are imprinted into our minds. When two bikes in this colour scheme sped down the finish straight of the Red Bull Ring, much faster than their predecessors and with an infernal sound, a new time reckoning began. The Austrians have decided to enter MotoGP. How ready they already are, eight months before the planned debut at the world championship opener at Qatar 2017, was shown to the fans in a formidable way at the Austrian Grand Prix with test riders Mika Kallio and Alex Hofmann powering through the demo laps.
The RC16 is fast. As it turned out during the two test days, alongside the whole MotoGP cream of the crop, even as fast as the fastest on the straights and the lap times only a fraction behind the much more experienced opponents. This is even more remarkable, because the Austrians have chosen their very own path and instead of borrowing the tested components of the opposition they brought their very own DNA into the highest division of motorcycle sport. C O U RA GE O U S DE C IS ION KTM may be the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe, but the decision was made by one man alone: CEO Stefan Pierer. “After achieving the goal we set twenty years ago – to one day become Europe’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer – I realized that such a position also brings a kind of technological responsibility,” Pierer discloses. “Therefore the decision to enter MotoGP to challenge the best in the world was inevitable for
me. It’s not only a marketing tool. If you want to be taken seriously as a global player, one has to be ready to face the best in competition. So at the end our technology is profiting by it too.” Pierer belongs to the group of people who motivate others and push them to achieve the unimaginable. Attaining success after success would never be possible for KTM if every single person in the company didn’t live the brand and see themselves as part of it and its story of success. One of them, who stands at Pierer’s side as a special ally and who has made it possible for KTM, wherever it appears in motorsports, to end up at the very top sooner or later, is Motorsport Director Pit Beirer. The motocross vice World Champion of 1999 controls the fate of the racing department with the same seemingly tireless energy which pushed him forward as a racer. Due to the decision to enter MotoGP his portfolio has grown to a size never known before.
G O I NG O N E’ S OWN WAY KTM has already had a short MotoGP adventure. In 2005 they provided Kenny Roberts’ Proton team with a V4-engine developed by Kurt Trieb, but back then the company was simply not yet ready for this category and Pierer stopped the project after divergences appeared with Roberts. After a decade of additional experience, KTM has now approached the task in a different way. Just as with the Moto3 project which immediately led to winning the world championship title, they fully rely on their own resources and take their own technological path. While all manufacturers currently compete with an aluminium frame and spring elements by the Swedish manufacturer Öhlins, KTM insists on a grid-type tubular frame made of steel, a type of frame they acquired an immense know-how about during the last couple of years. The spring >>
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Pit Beirer, Motorsport Director at KTM
elements are provided by the damper specialist WP, which is part of the KTM GROUP. In the meantime Pankl, known for its high-quality conrods and other specialized engine parts in the highest level of motorsports, has also become part of the KTM-empire and this combined in-house technology gave them the confidence to challenge the best in the world. They only went abroad in search of the exhaust, but for a good reason. For all its four-stroke activities, KTM relies on the Slovenian manufacturer Akrapovič. Therefore collaborating on the MotoGP-project as well was never a question for Beirer and all the technicians. In future the RC16 – the official name of the MotoGP machine – is set to rise above all other MotoGP bikes in a way that follows the principles of KTM in the off-road categories. First there is the works racing bike, then an offshoot for top world-level teams, and finally a simpler version available to everyone, which will be able to be modified to an individual’s liking. The plan is that the RC16 will be available for hobby drivers to sharpen their skills with training sessions on racetracks. MAGNIFICENT PLACE For the MotoGP-project, the racing department had to be enlarged. It dwarfs all of KTMs motorsport activities of the past not only technologically but logistically as well. Not only was new staff needed, but also new space. Once Pierer and Beirer agreed about the project, the Motorsport Director became headhunter, head of the organizing committee and project manager, all in one. Two years earlier the racing department moved into a nice building in Munderfing, just around the corner
from the WP factory. It turned out to be too small for the needs of KTM’s worldwide motorsport activities and the new MotoGP-project. So, without further ado, Pierer decided to use it as the future marketing studio and to order the construction of a far larger motorsport complex. A hypermodern building of about 2.5 acres was drawn up, which was envisaged to contain all motorsport activities and which was constructed in a way that allowed a constant exchange of ideas between various departments. The construction took more than a year and when Beirer was not out at a racetrack or a conference he oversaw every moment of it. He was all the more proud at the presentation when it was finally ready. This magnificent palace not only stands out from the racing departments of other manufacturers architectonically, it stands for the acknowledgement of motorsport and the future by KTM. It’s also equipped with everything that makes a working environment efficient. All departments are situated radially around a core of stockrooms and test rooms, connected by a round hallway. The MotoGP department is situated in a big open room, together with the motocross department, to enable the technicians to put their heads together in case of problems. Or they can move into another room nearby to talk it out there. This is so because the electronics department is located just behind the glass wall of the MotoGP workshop. “This department was established for the MotoGP project,” Pit Beirer explains. “But because electronics will be more important in other kinds of motorsports as well in future, we are in perfect shape for this challenge already.”
T HE RI G HT KIN D OF P EOPLE In a bright office on the upper floor overlooking the Alps, a man can be found who is well known in the pits of the motorcycle racing world championship – in different colours though. Former racing driver Mike Leitner was Dani Pedrosa’s crew chief for more than a decade. He became world champion thrice with the little Spaniard before accompanying him into MotoGP, where he learned in detail the technique, the development and organizational structure of a MotoGP project at the powerful Repsol Honda works team. When he parted from Pedrosa at the end of 2014 he was immediately contacted by Pit Beirer and became one of the MotoGP project’s most important persons. Leitner also knows all the important technicians from the MotoGP paddocks and has since recruited the top-class for KTM. So the team which originally consisted of project chairman Sebastian Risse, who earlier led the Moto3 project to winning the world championship title, became a concentrated congregation of the very best in motorsport. But this is only a continuation of the kind of politics championed by Pit Beirer which has led KTM to the top of each motorsport category. He always knew how to get the very best specialists to work on his projects. PO W ERFU L EN GIN E The concept of the MotoGP KTM was set very early in the planning stage. A V4-engine, again designed by Kurt Trieb, was to be fitted into the typical KTM grid type tubular frame. The tall Austrian, who once worked for Porsche and BMW in Formula 1 and also designed the cylinder head of the BMW S 1000 RR in his engineering office, works exclusively for KTM. He also designed the successful motocross
four-stroke engines and the Moto3 engine; all of them have won world championship titles. At the end of June 2015, Trieb’s engine roared to life on the test block for the first time. Four months after it was installed in the first finished motorcycle during a test, not a single engine failure was reported. All test riders who have tried out the RC16 up to now are united: the engine is the biggest asset of the MotoGP KTM. R E A D Y F O R T H E D AY Soon after the start of the project it was made clear that KTM will not join forces with any existing team in the motorcycle world championship but will build up its own works team for racing. Pit Beirer and Mike Leitner gathered the test teams, which will then turn into the racing team as KTM enters the fray. “There’s no question that this motivates people more than developing a racing motorcycle and having to give it up the moment it’s shipped for racing,” said Beirer with confidence.
Together with Mike Leitner he chose a few testriders who made a name for themselves during other projects. At the beginning German Alex Hofmann, who had worked on Aprilia’s superbike world championship and MotoGP bikes before, did the first tests, followed by Mika Kallio. The Finn is known for his sensitivity and his former crew chief Antonio Jimenez once said about him: “Mika notices every single fly on the aerodynamic devices.” Later Randy de Puniet, who played an important role during the development of the Suzuki-MotoGP-bike, became involved, followed by the former MotoGP rider Karel Abraham and the Swiss Moto2 evergreen Thomas Lüthi. “We had test-riders with different driving styles and body structures, so we should be ready for all drivers in the future,” Leitner says.
2016 in Valencia. The rider will be Mika Kallio, this being the climax of his development work. THE LAST STEP The very next day after the Finn dismounts, the two pilots who will ride for KTM in next year’s worldchampionship will take over: Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaró. In them Beirer found two young and hungry lions able to challenge the very best in the field in the longer run. At the same moment Stefan Pierer clarifies: “KTM doesn’t only want to participate. My dream is to win in MotoGP and one day become a world champion.” And up to now every single one of his dreams at KTM has been fulfilled.
When the RC16 raced against the competitors for the first time during a test on the Red Bull Ring and clocked brilliant times, another spectacular announcement was made at the same time: premiere on world championship level will not be as originally announced at the opener of 2017 in Qatar, but rather at the world championship final
Pripravljeni na start Slogan podjetja KTM Ready to Race (Pripravljeni na start) se je čudovito uresničil ob največjem izzivu v zgodovini podjetja, ob vstopu v MotoGP: po poldrugem letu priprav so Avstrijci pripravljeni nastopiti v najvišjem motociklističnem razredu proti najboljšim na svetu. Zmagoviti tovarniški dirkači KTM so se nam vtisnili v spomin v oranžni in modri barvi. Ko sta v vročem poletnem dnevu dva motocikla v tej barvni kombinaciji zdrvela
po ciljni ravnini dirkališča Red Bull Ring veliko hitreje kot njuni predhodniki, se je vendarle začelo novo štetje. Avstrijci so se odločili za tekmovanje v MotoGP in kako so pripravljeni osem mesecev pred napovedanim debutom na začetku svetovnega prvenstva v Katarju leta 2017, navijačem nazorno kažejo demonstracijski krogi testnih dirkačev Mike Kallia in Alex Hofmanna na veliki nagradi Avstrije.
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INTERVIEW WITH KTM MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR PIT BEIRER
One can’t take a team of 40 rookies and a few new trucks full of equipment and go for a grand prix season. In this way the decision was absolutely right.
Is KTM’s MotoGP project on time? Yes, we are still within the timetable set quite some time ago. Nevertheless there is no reason for euphoria, because we are still trailing our opponents. But this does not worry us. All our current problems can be solved and therefore I would say that we are exactly on time. We don’t have a major lead. Saying so would be outrageous in the tight time frame of this mega-project. But I think we have chosen the right people for the team and such a project lives or dies with the people and the involved human power. In this I feel we are very well situated. We have a very good team, they are very competent, they know what they do and so it works out as planned. We will be in Valencia according to plan and we will be very well prepared in Qatar as well.
How many of those forty people were recruited by you, how many by Mike Leitner? I was the first to bring Mike Leitner to KTM. Since then he has been my adviser for all key positions. Together we organized the project managers for the electronics, the chassis and the engine, and we have chosen them very carefully. Those were at liberty to hire the people they needed for their departments. I didn’t participate in every single interview. But the general framework was chosen by both of us and half of the applicants were checked by me personally.
When was it decided to race in Valencia with a wild card? To be honest, for a long time I wanted to use time for development and wanted us to come out in Qatar. But our CEO himself told us last fall that he would like to see this project with a wild card on a racetrack sometime in 2016. Saying this he raised the bar even higher for us and looking back we are happy about it. Because apart from the result, which is not so important actually, it is the absolute general rehearsal.
Stefan Pierer, CEO at KTM
Why did KTM choose to work with Akrapovic on the exhaust, although everything else was done with companies within the corporation? We have been working satisfactorily with Akrapovič for a very long time and have won all our championship titles with their help. Therefore there is a very close relationship between our development department and Akrapovič and many secrets have been shared. They get our engines – which nobody else does – very early on for work on the dynamometer. Over the years we have built an immense trust. It was obvious that, should we start this huge prestige project, we would only do it with
such a well known partner. Additionally, Akrapovič has a lot of experience in the division we haven’t entered yet, and this complements our know-how. Concerning this it was a very easy decision. What are KTM’s aims for the first MotoGP year? Currently we’re not raising our heads too high, but try to get better in the technical work. But of course, we want to score points, and we want to finish the races. But we won’t specify a certain finishing position; we need to settle in first as a team. To achieve this, our riders should have at least as good a feeling as they had with their former bikes. For now this is the aim for the first third of the season. We hope to move towards the Top 10 after that. When will the RC16 be available for general sale? Two things are clear already: The works-team will make race throughout 2017, and in the year after also a KTM customer team might be added with another two riders. This is one of our aims for 2018. But this is not set in stone, it also depends on how well we do our job and if any team is interested in our bikes. Wolfgang Felber is responsible for customer sport. He is currently collecting information about tools and the costs of materials and he is arranging the project, finding out how quickly and for how much money we could produce a replica for sale. I don’t want to name a specific date, we are really trying hard for it to happen soon.
A CHALeNGe? Ye S , P L eAS e ! by Primož Jurman, Mitja Reven
2016 is a very busy year for Akrapovič regarding motorcycle exhaust systems. Not just because of the new models, which raise the pulse of all bike lovers, but also due to new technical requirements of the coming Euro 4 standard.
photography Alex Štokelj
In order to reduce emissions, increasingly harsh and strict requirements have been introduced for motorbike exhaust systems since 1999, when the Euro 1 standard came into effect. Year 2005 saw the introduction of Euro 2, 2007 of Euro 3, and 1 January 2017 will usher in the Euro 4.
What is Euro 4? It primarily lowers permissable exhaust emissions and loudness of motorcycle exhaust systems. The European directive which introduces the new standard will result in increasingly complex exhaust systems, where the ways of implementing new technological solutions in order to meet the requirements will be at the forefront. How do the new rules affect the exhaust? The new technical requirements of Euro 4 will result in more complex mufflers and an increase in the number of hybrid exhaust systems that combine absorption and reflective muffler solutions. There will be more chambers and the engineers will also have to find ways to fit in larger catalytic converters. Due to Euro 4 requirements, volumes of exhaust mufflers have to be bigger. Larger mufflers pose a challenge for the designers, but the Akrapovič guys are on the ball and will continue introducing new shapes, spearheaded by last year’s concept, unveiled at the EICMA show in Milan. The new standard also brings stricter engine noise rules,
with Akrapovič engineers continuing to look for and find the best sound for each bike. Will Euro 4 bring many changes for Akrapovič? The increasing complexity of exhaust systems and meeting the ever stricter requirements mean more testing and development. And not just due to emissions: noise measurements are getting increasingly important and require additional testing and the same goes for power. Increasing the power and improving the power curve while meeting stricter requirements means more work. Euro 4 brings new challenges, but at Akrapovič they don’t mind, because they want to make the best exhausts possible. They like to move the boundaries in exhaust system technology, be it in the ways exhaust systems are made or the exhausts themselves. How to gain an edge with Euro 4? Euro 4 further instigates the pushing of boundaries and the search for new solutions. What helps most here is more than 25 years of experience and in-house know-how, which, however, would not be possible without top-
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Euro 4 brings new challenges, but at Akrapovič they don’t mind, because they want to make the best exhausts possible.
of-the-line technology and equipment. An example of such an advantage of the Akrapovič company is its TÜV SÜD certified measurement system, where emissions are constantly analysed in order to optimise the exhausts. The modern lab moreover means a shorter development cycle for every exhaust system and less time required in getting EC/ECE type approvals. Furthermore Akrapovič will also benefit immensely from in-house technology, ranging
from hydroforming to the titanium foundry, where the possibilities are almost limitless. One must also stress sound engineering, an area where Akrapovič has a great deal of experience and which helps in finding that trademark sound, so characteristic of Akrapovič exhausts. All of the above in order to offer the highestquality exhaust systems on the market.
What will the future bring? Akrapovič will continue developing and manufacturing the best exhausts possible for the global market, guaranteeing the best possible experience on the road. More power and more sound – Akrapovič style.
Anniversary, 25 Years
25 Limited Edition Exhaust Systems for 25 years
STARS ON TWO WHEELS FOR NEW MEDICAL RESEARCH AND BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE IN AFRICA by Primož Jurman photography Marc Robinot, Gold and Goose Photography, Uroš Podlogar
45 T he A kr ap ovi č co mp an y u nve ile d a li m i t e d s e r i e s of 25 exhaust s y st e ms a s p ar t of th e i r 25t h a nniv e rs a r y c eleb r at io ns a nd d on at e d s ome o f t he m to c h ar i t i e s i n orde r to co lle ct m on e y for c har it a ble caus e s .
The Akrapovič company closely cooperates with a number of top racing teams and riders in many classes of car and motorcycle racing and all of them gladly supported the idea to collect significant funds for various charities and took part in the project. The first five exhausts from the limited series were given away at an auction during the Day of Champions at Silverstone in Great Britain, organised by “Two Wheels for Life”, the official charity of MotoGP, which has already done a lot for the health and medical support of people in remote African villages. Akrapovič is proud to be able to take part in the project and has donated five Slip-On Line exhausts: two for the Yamaha YZF-R1 and one each for the Ducati Multistrada 1200, the BMW S 1000 RR, and KTM 1290 Super Duke R respectively. These exhaust systems, individually and as a group, stand for all that defines Akrapovič exhausts and thus the company’s essence: the sport that courses through Akrapovič’s genes, the use of high-quality materials, superb final treatment and innovative design. The numbered exhaust
systems are adorned by an Akrapovič logo, designed specifically to mark the company’s 25th anniversary. All exhausts are EC and ECE type approved. Special exhausts for a great cause To increase the exhausts value and exclusivity each of them carries a MotoGP rider’s signature. On behalf of the Ducati Team, Andrea Dovizioso and Casey Stoner signed their names on the Ducati Multistrada 1200 exhausts. The two-time world champion from Australia signed his while visiting the Akrapovič company in Slovenia, to be sold during an online auction organised by “Two Wheels for Life”. MotoGP 2015 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and nine-time overall winner Valentino Rossi from Movistar Yamaha MotoGP put their names on the exhausts for the YZF-R1. Moto3 world champion Brad Binder from the Red Bull KTM Ajo team meanwhile penned his name on the exhaust for the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, and three-time world champion Loris Capirossi, in his role as a safety advisor for MotoGP and MotoGP expert at BMW M, attached his signature to the BMW S 1000 RR exhaust. Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso were also on stage at the charity event and helped out with the auction. Company founder and owner Igor
Akrapovič, who supported the project from the very beggining said: “I’m pleased that our MotoGP partners and Akrapovič showed support for the Two Wheels for Life charity. This is an immensely important charity, which has already done a lot of good for children in remote African villages. The Day of Champions as part of the British MotoGP race is always a huge event, supported by all riders in MotoGP, and is an opportunity to show our support and allow racing enthusiasts to become part of our history while collecting important funds for a noble cause.” The project was welcomed warmly among employees at Akrapovič company as well, so they poured out their passion and dedication and used all of their unrivalled skills, really giving something extra for the project. The muffler from ultra-light titanium is painted black, while some parts are treated with a special nano coating that keeps the systems as new even after use – that is if those who bought these collectible masterpieces should actually use them. 25 years of racing passion, triumphs and charitable causes In order to mark the 25th anniversary of his company in the WorldSBK Championship as well, Akrapovič founder and owner Igor
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Anniversary, 25 Years
Two Wheels For Life
Akrapovič travelled to a racing weekend in France’s Magny-Cours, where the special celebration involved the riders, teams, Dorna, fans and other Akrapovič partners in the WorldSBK. The racing on the track during the weekend was aptly augmented with a “Paddock Show”, where Akrapovič allocated five exhaust systems for an online auction and where WorldSBK stars joined Igor Akrapovič on stage. They signed the unique exhaust systems, which are numbered and embellished with a special jubilee logo of the company.
Igor Akrapovič was joined on stage in France by 2015 world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) and his teammate and former world champion Tom Sykes, who signed their respective Slip-On Line titanium exhausts for the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Also two-time Magny-Cours winner Chaz Davies from the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team, whose signature embellished a Ducati Multistrada 1200 exhaust, joined the stage. Furthermore Sylvain Guintoli from the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, who won the overall Superbike crown in 2014,
meanwhile attached his signature to a Yamaha YZF-R1 exhaust system, while Markus Reiterberger of the Althea BMW Racing Team autographed an exclusive exhaust system for the BMW S 1000 RR. The signed unique and meticulously made exhaust systems were sold by the CharityStars organisation at a web auction and the proceeds handed over to Dorna’s official WorldSBK charity partner, the Fondazione Telethon (www.telethon.it), which helps finance research cures for rare genetic diseases.
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By Alenka Birk
ABOUT A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility, Amor Towles – a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. After the Communists sentence Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest, he makes a rich life for himself in a grand hotel near the Kremlin. Amor Towles’ new historical novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, is so many things, but basically a hotel-window view of Russia from the time of their civil war following the Bolshevik Revolution, through unification under the USSR, through the long harsh era of Stalin, and on into the middle of the Cold War. A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfils the promise of Towles’ stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011). www.amazon.com
T H E O N LY L O T U S M O T O R C Y C L E EVER HEADS TO AUCTION If you think this motorcycle just jumped off a movie screen, you’re half right. The Lotus C-01 was penned by Daniel Simon, who not only used to work for Bugatti, but was also the lead designer for the movie Tron Legacy. It’s the closest you’ll get to owning a functional movie prop and one lucky bidder seized the opportunity in Pebble Beach, where it was auctioned. First introduced in 2013 as a 3D model, only 100 of these motorcycles were produced, and they went for a staggering 122,000 € when new. Now, three years later, its price has skyrocketed. According to the seller this particular example has never been ridden. Hiking up the price to a pre-auction estimate of 330,000 € - 400,000 €. It looks absolutely spectacular, so if all else fails, you can look at a desperately pretty bike. www.lotus-motorcycles.com
LIMITED EDITION SUMO BENCH Sumo encapsulates the inherent strength and low centre of gravity of the Japanese wrestler but also his seemingly incongruous delicacy and grace. The Sumo is a limited edition, handcrafted storage bench conceptualised as a statement entrance-hall piece with a powerful aesthetic and strong functionality. Crafted from solid American black walnut throughout, every board of timber is hand-selected for its colour, tone, and figure and for being clean of any knots, shakes or defects. This substantial piece (2.2 m in length) incorporates two wool-upholstered seats, each with its own side table, that lift to reveal storage areas for shoes and boots beneath. The quality in this piece lies in the precision of its geometric form which, in solid wood, requires great skill and attention to keep all angles perfectly aligned and the edges crisp. www.treecouture.co.uk
AMAZING SLEEP MACHINE
The benefits of a short nap per day have been proven. And the company MetroNaps made a machine for it. Designed to perfectly fit in workspaces, this chair named EnergyPod is very ergonomic: the movable part makes it possible to partly isolate oneself for a while, the ideal 20 minutes nap length is pre-programmed, you can be awakened by lights and sounds that mimic nature… Everything is made so that your sleep experience will be unique and resourceful. For the wellness of all, this machine should spread as quick as possible across the world! www.metronaps.com
REDISCOVERING POCKET WAT C H E S A style of watchmaking that began to fall from favour almost 100 years ago is being rediscovered by a new generation of makers. That watchmakers are anticipating interest from those whose style is formal and also those whose look is less so – is borne out by the dual approach taken to the pocket watch by Roger Dubuis. However, for the 20th anniversary of the brand, there is a project even more special – the Hommage Millésime collection, with the idea to restore old pocket watch movements and to case them in modern timepieces. The other face of the Dubuis pocket watch is the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument (426.000 €). It is worn either at the end of a bulky blackened chain or suspended on its own sculptural stand so that the movement can be fully appreciated. www.rogerdubuis.com
KINDLE OASIS – A BRILLIANT UPGRADE The Kindle Oasis – which at 350 € for its top model is considerably more expensive than an iPad Mini 2 – comes with a free-for-life 3G connection for downloading books. But what makes the Kindle both highly desirable and a delight to use is the supreme quality, exquisite feel (so important in a book reader), diminutive size and superb functionality. It is a thing of beauty in all respects. The Oasis comes in two parts: the reader itself, which has a swollen battery and electronics section that works perfectly as a hand grip; and the leather case, which snaps on magnetically and contains a bigger power source. The case charges the reader’s auxiliary battery, and together they conspire to give you several month’s power on one charge. The screen, incidentally, is front rather than backlit and contains 10 LEDs, all of which makes it a little brighter and more uniformly lit – and therefore easier on the eye. www.amazon.com
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Adventure P ORS CHE PA R A D E E UR O P E 2 0 1 6 IN SL OVE NI A A ND C R OAT IA
Parade of Stories by MatevĹž Hribar photography Matej PovĹĄe
T he n umb e r 2 00 was e xce e de d f o r t h e first time in t h e h ist o ry of th is b ia n n ua l E urop e a n me e t in g. Th e ot h e r first in th e 30 ye a r h ist ory of th e e ve n t was t h at two club s from two coun trie s orga n ise d it.
If one knows the (political) relations between two former brotherly Yugoslav republics, Croatia and Slovenia, one understands that joining forces in organising the Porsche Parade Europe was an interesting, perhaps even a brave, decision. Not that it matters much to the participants, though: the most important thing for them is to visit some of the most
stunning sights in both countries during an extended weekend. Ladies and gentlemen, please relive fast games without frontiers, composed from numerous individual stories. Lakes are pretty. So are islands. Now then, imagine an emerald lake with an island in the middle and a church on top, surrounded by deep green forests and alpine peaks. Yep, Bled might have come straight from a fairy tale. Well, there is one thing that might be missingâ€ŚA castle perhaps?
I h av e n o t w itn e sse d a si ng l e dr iv e r bur n in g r u b b e r i n c i t i e s. W h il e wa itin g f o r an e m p t y pa r kin g s po t, n o ne o f t he m we r e h ittin g th e r e v l i m i t e r . T he c a r s w e r e pa r k e d i n o r d e r ly Ge r ma n ic fa s h i o n.
Nope, checked and confirmed, it is right there, located on top of a high rock face above the glacial lake. So Bled really does come from a fairy tale. It was under that castle by the lake with the island that the first Friday in June woke up to no fewer than 218 Porsches. The 200 available spots for the Porsche Parade Europe 2016 were booked already during the winter! The number 200 was exceeded for the first time in the history of this biannual European meeting. The other first in the 30 year history of the event was that two clubs from two countries organised it. Sleepy tourists rubbed their eyes and rushed
to take photos of the wildest, oldest and most expensive of them all. The princely vehicles were also scrutinised by none other than the town’s mayor, who cordially hugged an elderly German couple: “They are my old friends, they have had a house here for 50 years,” Janez Fajfar told us later. On Thursday, a day before the official opening of the event, a smaller pack of low slung sports cars (a bit of a lie that, because there was a Cayenne present) drove from the capital to Malo Hudo near Ivančna Gorica. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, not too many Slovenians either have heard of the village
H e im p or ted i t f r om Californ ia, ma inly b e cau s e of thr ee re aso n s : f ines f or tr af f i c offe n se s ar e r e a lly hi g h ther e, so o w n e r s don’t pu sh the cars to t h e ir li m i t; the peop le t h e re h av e e n ou g h m oney to ma inta in s u ch car s ; and t h e wa r m weather obvi ates th e n e e d f o r s alti ng.
where the factory that makes best exhaust systems in the world has grown in the past quarter of a century. “The exhaust is worth every cent, I am now even more convinced of that. I really enjoyed the tour of the factory, it is wonderful,” said Bernard Watz from Berlin. This was his fourth time to take part in Porsche Parade Europe and this time round he brought a 911 S Cabrio, opting to leave the Cayman at home. They especially gushed over the exhibited exhaust system for the 911 GT3. “That really is a product that leaves you awestruck,” said Porsche Club Slovenia board member Gregor Vidmar, who finished second with his Boxster S on that same day at an improvised track on the Lesce airport near Bled. “I was only bested by a GT3 RS driven by former Swedish Porsche Club president Peter Vestergreen, while the third-placed finished more than 4 seconds behind me. But mainly I was heard the most with my Akrapovič exhaust. Damn, does that thing roar when you push the pedal,” enthused Gregor, adding jokingly that the car was actually his wife’s but that he cares for both – the wife and the car.
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Hans-Peter-Schäfer did not abandon his favourite brand after his accident: he adapted his 911 S, so that he can control it without using legs.
Early morning by Lake Bled: 218 Porsches await the start of the first stage to Postojna. Andrej Škulj, the owner and designer of the carefully tuned RSR, holding a dyno graph printout. 341 hp in a car weighing less than a ton is a recipe for primal fun.
The first stop after leaving Bled and passing Ljubljana was Postojna Cave, the largest karst show cave in the world and, with almost a million visitors per year, one of the top tourist destinations in this part of Europe. It should also not worry about the number dropping, especially after the news broke in January that a rare and endangered cave olm laid eggs, itself an even rarer event. This was then followed by the story of the miraculous birth of “baby dragons”, which attracted media attention from all over the world, including the Discovery Channel. The Postojna Cave truly is one of the ‘Must See Before You Die’ wonders of the world. While our guests took the cave train deeper underground, a police van appeared at the cave parking outside. “Good morning, is there anything wrong,” I politely inquired, thinking that one of the participants might have tried to break some speed records. “No, no, nothing’s wrong, it’s just that the traffic at motorway exit got jammed and we helped it to get the traffic flowing again,” the boys in blue allayed my fears, a segue that led to a debate of what combination of a driver and car is dangerous. “Naturally, driving a Porsche or
the like at higher speeds is a lot safer than an unexperienced youth behind the wheel of a rickety rust bucket. In my experience, drivers of sports cars are extremely good and unproblematic. But we did have a serious accident last year, when a young driver was given a chance to drive a Porsche as a birthday present and then he and a friend crashed into a tree. Such cars are not for everybody, the driver must respect the machine and its power,” the police officer continued to break the stereotypes about the boys in blue. True that I thought, those taking part in this year’s event seem to be pleasant, calm and orderly. Because everybody knows what the stereotypical sports car owners are like, right? Pretentious, swaggering, haughty. But my impression of Porsche owners – at least those who came to Slovenia and Croatia – was far from that. I have not seen a single one burning rubber in cities. While waiting for an empty parking spot, none of them were hitting the rev limiter. The cars were parked in orderly Germanic fashion. Hang on a minute, what’s that? A red 911 S sprawled over two parking
spots just as a limo or a luxury SUV might be in front of a shopping mall? But a yellow flag on the driver’s door states that the car is parked so for a reason - its driver is a disabled person. Hans-Peter-Schäfer, the president of the Osthessen Porsche Club, has been faithful to the brand since 1981 and had remained faithful after an accident (no, not traffic related) forced him into a wheelchair. He had his automatic Porsche modified in such a way that it allows him to control the throttle and brakes with his right hand. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Meanwhile, I got to talking to a Slovenian owner of a wonderful brown 911 SC Targa, manufactured in 1979, who has already seen Postojna Cave’s dripping stones and olms, so we started debating about his classical vehicle instead. He imported it from “California, mainly because of the following: fines for traffic offenses are really high there, so owners don’t push the cars to their limit; the people there have enough money to maintain such cars; and the warm weather obviates the need for salting,” explained Matjaž Selko, adding that making
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Brothers Wolfgang and Hans-Peter Porsche signed the underside of a Porsche Carrera GTS bonnet, owned by a Swede.
this particular oldtimer look picture perfect was still not exactly easy. And especially not cheap.” If you want original parts then you have to pay Porsche tax for every one of them. New plug cables cost me 300 €, for example. But you can get everything.” Amongst the beauties, it was the blood-orange RSR that stuck out the most. It underwent Porsche-unauthorised therapy, getting extended by 21 cm, had its weight reduced to 980 kilograms and its power upped to 341 hp. The car has no insulation, all the glass has been replaced by (lighter) plexiglass, it has a differential brake, a shorter gearbox, and a 3.6- instead of the original 2.7-litre engine. Apart from upgrading the electronics, carried out by a German company, this particular RSR was perfected in a home-grown workshop over two years. The organiser offered two possible routes to get from Postojna to the Croatian town of Rovinj. The first one was faster and mainly used motorways, while those who applied for the “Endurance” route, were given
instructions on navigating the bendy littoral roads up to the border crossing with Croatia and tackle more of the same in Istria towards the goal – Rovinj. No, it was not a race. Although, some participants did say that driving past ripe cherries, golden wheat and flowering poppy fields felt...pleasantly dynamic. An Italian, who was unloading a suitcase from an outside trunk of his silver 356 with Verona licence places, probably wasn’t exactly speeding through the turns. Not because of the age of the silver beauty, which, according to the owners, has been gaining value in recent years, but because he was accompanied not solely by his better half but by two daschunds as well. Two passengers, two dogs and luggage – in an approximately 1.3-meter high and 4-meter long oldtimer?! It obviously can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The dogs certainly didn’t look miffed. Rasto Ovin, the president of Porsche Club Slovenia, walks by. “Everything going as planned?” “Everything. It’s a constant madhouse, but it works, because we are like a family.
A couple from Verona with two dachshunds and luggage in a vintage 356.
See that gentleman carrying water bottles? He’s a manager of a successful company, but he helps just like everybody else. It wouldn’t be possible without dedicated individuals,” added Rasto from underneath his white hat, before asking the photographer and I to touch wood for weather. It didn’t help. It was pissing down in the morning. Drivers could only cast sorrowful eyes from the Lona and Eden hotels towards the parking lot, but... What had to be done had to be done. So they drove to the large parking just by the sea on the northern side of Rovinj. As the monitors directed the final Porsches to their spots, the sky ceased weeping, allowing the ladies and gentlemen to take cloth out from the cars’ boots and start shining their vehicles. Englishman Colin Billington even sprayed the tyres of his Cayman, making it look as if it just left the salon. He explained that he bought it new in 2006, sold it to a mate three years later and bought it from the same mate this year with the sole purpose of attending the meet in Slovenia and Croatia. So how is it to drive a car with the steering wheel on the right? “I’ve just got to trust her,” he laughed, pointing to his wife Mavis. “We were soaked by rain throughout Germany,” he added, saying that driving on wide slick tyres was quite a feat in such conditions. After completing the meeting, the couple crossed over the Alps to see the 24 Hours of Le Mans and then Colin is likely to sell the red-rimmed Cayman again. The easterly wind blew the last of the clouds away, the scent of cigars filled the air, tourists walked among the parked specimens and kids glued their faces onto glass panes, trying to find the largest numbers on the speedometer. People from all over Europe chatted about this, that and the other, laughed and took million photos with their smartphones. And as they began getting in line for the panoramic drive through the old part of the romantic Istrian town, a pleased grey-haired gentleman stood by the road, wearing well-worked red corduroys and a white T-shirt sporting a small Porsche emblem. Enthusiastically capturing the moments with an old camera, he turned out to be no other than Hans-Peter Porsche, the 1940-born grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, the father of the Porsche brand. Hans-Peter couldn’t hide his excite-
E v e r s in c e th e mo to r way f o u nd its way to th e S l ov e n ia n c oast, th e o l d w in din g r oa d h a s ma in ly be e n us e d by m o t o r bike r ide r s a n d a l l w h o k no w th at fun is n o t a s tr a i g ht l i ne .
>> ment: “I feel really wonderful, I feel really happy and I’m very glad that I didn’t miss this parade. Wonderful weather, wonderful people, wonderful cars.” He said he had attended 32 parades in the USA as well as 12 of the 16 such events in Europe and that he will undoubtedly bring his family to Slovenia and Croatia as well. This time, though, he brought a special version of 911 Turbo, available only to those who bought the hybrid 918 Spyder. So how does Mr Hans feel when driving a Porsche? “It’s like dreaming. Really.” And is Herr a quick driver? “I’ll tell you a story. My son came back
once after I lent him my 951 and I asked him how fast did he go. And first he said that a little bit over 200. No, no, no, please tell me exactly, I said. And he told me 310! I’ve never driven so fast, so on the following day I tried it by myself on the autobahn from Stuttgart to Salzburg. I did it – 310! But that was only once, otherwise I don’t drive so fast.” My pleasant interlocutor and I also touched on the organisation of this year’s parade, which really seemed to be an inspired mix of German orderliness and Mediterranean, even Balkan relaxedness. You know, Slovenians and Croatians a have quite
Parada zgodb Če bi vsaj malo poznali (politične) odnose med dvema nekdanjima bratskima jugoslovanskima državama, Hrvaško in Slovenijo, bi razumeli, da je bilo združenje moči pri organizaciji evropske parade Porschejev, na kateri se je predstavilo 218 prestižnih avtomobilov, pogumen korak. Toda udeležencev to ne zanima kaj dosti, zanje je pomembno, da so lahko v podaljšanem vikendu spoznali bisere obeh držav: Bled, Postojnsko jamo, Rovinj … Vsak izmed udeležencev je doživel edinstveno zgodbo in z veseljem pripovedoval o njej.
a few unsolved political issues, so an event like this is even more important for us…“I think it’s fantastic. The organisation is perfect, I know how much it takes to make it work, the organisers really did a great job. And yes, we have to work together, not fight. This is how you achieve positive results. People must realize that.” An owner of a Carrera GTS from Sweden received an autograph by Hans-Peter and his brother Wolfgang Porsche, the chairman of the Porsche Supervisory Board, on the inside of the hood. Quite a memento, don’t you think?
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EMOTIONAL PERCEPTION OF RIDING A TWO-WHEELED BEAST text Miran Ališič
photography Bor Dobrin, Eskil Suter Archive
While I was looking him up on the internet, the most succinct
him I found was simply “a motorcycle rider and constructor”. But Eskil Suter is obviously much more than that. I began to suspect that he really is something extra as soon as I began arranging the visit. “No
Wednesday at 2PM, as we agreed. Unless we hear from each other again, it’s set,” was how to the point his assistant was when we agreed on the date of our visit in a 10-second conversation that took place about a month before we spent an afternoon in Turbenthal. Yes, Turbenthal.
Doesn’t sound like it might have much to do with motorsports, does it. But it is not far from Hinwil, where Peter Sauber built his racing empire, which places us squarely in Switzerland. More precisely, in the middle of an idyllic countryside, an hour’s drive from Zürich, deep in the German part of Switzerland. To be honest, without being told how to get here and given the exact address, we would certainly not have been looking for a motorsport factory here. The company is 20 years old, the current factory a few years less. The Suter company thus succeeds in breaking the stereotype that there are only lakes, mountains, clocks, cows, chocolate and cheese in Switzerland, even though Eskil Suter loves to live exactly like most of his countrymen. In a wooden house at the edge of a forest, accompanied by a dog and unusual hobbies.
“It would be wrong to think that we are surrounded by a technological wasteland. There are numerous hightech companies in the region, without which we could not have succeeded,” Suter praised the area where he develops motorcycles and many other things. “To guarantee the growth and quality of a company like ours, it is essential to have excellent suppliers nearby.” So what exactly does Suter Racing Technology (SRT) do? It designed a Petronas motorbike for superbike, prepared and managed a Kawasaki for MotoGP between 2004 and 2006, a bit later collaborated with Mario Illien, another Swiss national and the designer of Mercedes engines for Formula 1, then started the Ilmor X3 project, which was followed by a prototype for BMW as it eyed entering the MotoGP. They also raked up numerous successes in Moto2. They won the
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So what lies ahead? After a lengthy pause Eskil Suter, who found more success in design than racing, replied philosophically: “The future is connected with an emotional perception of riding a two-wheeled beast.”
championship in 2012 with the current top MotoGP star Marc Marquez handling the throttle and equipped with an Akrapovič exhaust. “We won a total of 32 times in five years in Moto2,” said Suter and immediately moved on to MotoGP. “We thought that BMW would enter the premiere class, we were their partner, but they decided otherwise. You need a lot of money for MotoGP and we cannot finance an assault on the premiere class alone,” his Swiss rationality poured out of him as we drove to his lodge, a half an hour’s drive away. It is the place he goes to for inspiration. I got the feeling that MotoGP was a closed book for him. So what lies ahead? After a lengthy pause Eskil Suter, who found more success in design than racing, replied philosophically: “The future is connected with an emotional perception of riding a two-wheeled
beast.” In his racing career, Suter finished second in Daytona on a 250cc bike, came in 13th in two world cup seasons of 250cc class, and scored no points in the 1997 superbike. “It made sense for me to throw my lot in with the constructors. Technology, especially airplanes, have fascinated me since I was little.” There are numerous plane engines in the factory’s lobby, but he “never had enough time to finish a pilot course”.
As we stroll through the factory downstairs, I spot a fascinating bike near one of the exits. The MMX 500. “Now that’s a beast. Two-stroke engine, 195 hp, 310 km/h... The ratio between weight and power is fantastic. But I’m even more thrilled with the exhaust.” And off went, pushing the bike to the parking lot and started warming it up. Then he sat on it and took a few turns on the streets near the factory. Without a helmet. “Hmm… I’m not sure whether Akrapovič will want to print that,” I smiled, requesting another lap, this time with a helmet, please? The response was a thundering laugh by Suter. “If you want to seriously talk motorcycle exhausts, there’s only one place to go. If you want the best, you must go to Igor.” He remembered working with Akrapovič with a smile: “We needed an exhaust for an off-road bike. It was around the year
2000. We barely convinced Igor to take up the challenge. Well, in the end Akrapovič made an excellent, a fantastic product. And the same goes for the twostroke bike. Another first and together again.” This brought him back to his own beginnings. “There were three of us at the beginning. But we grew quickly and the company alongside us. Perhaps I made a mistake by not focusing enough. I wanted to create an entire bike. I’m not sure if I would have made the same decision today. It’s better to be more specialised.” Eskil Suter was enchanted by motorbikes already as a child. His father owned one and he took it to races and meetings, while brother David Suter began competing in motocross. “I was able to ride a bike when I was seven, but didn’t inherit a lot of money from my parents.
I got a workshop instead. To earn money for my first bike, I worked as a waiter and did other things in a hotel, I washed a lot of dishes.” Eskil started to modify scooters and mopeds in that same workshop aged 14, and business boomed. Also due to his skills. He began by tuning engines. And made money. He studied the relevant legislation and after the police confiscated these tuned bikes from the youngsters, they had to be made street legal again. So he made more money. That is how he and his brother paid for their racing careers. “My life unfolded in accordance with the learning by doing system.” But luck also favours the brave. “We only worked at the beginning, we thought of nothing else. Later we did come around to insuring the building, the company, the machinery. We signed the insurance contract
and only about 12 hours later, as we were making a magnesium part, there was an explosion and the damage exceeded a million franks. If we hadn’t been insured then, you would not see all this here today.” So where is SRT today? It employs about 40 people and “there are always many young and motivated workers around, we have no problems getting them. If you work in motorsport, there’s never any lack of motivation. This is our advantage.” Apart from everything already mentioned, SRT also manufactures clutches for Moto3, has a motorbike assembly plant, designs and manufactures three-valve jet ski engines, produces generators for a German partner which manufactures air defence systems, and has recently opened an office in Berlin. “Switzerland is too expensive for
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So where is SRT today? It employs about 40 people and “there are always many young and motivated workers around, we have no problems getting them. If you work in motorsport, there’s never any lack of motivation. This is our advantage.”
many things, so we need to look at cheaper but still technologically superb markets, such as Germany.” The company owns four motorcycle testbeds and is a force in developing software for racing bike chassis. Eskil loves seclusion. He built the house where he spends most of his time on a high-lying meadow by a forest. It is located almost 1000 metres above sea level just below Schnebelhorn (1290 m), the tallest mountain in the Zürich canton. But Mr Suter also owns a flat next to the factory for the times when he’s swamped with work or snowed in. He loves to go hunting and collects pistols as a hobby. He owns more than 50 of them. He takes out a Walther, fires a few rounds towards the nearby trees and puts it back in the drawer, while being lovingly watched by Max, his canine
companion. He has been coming here to nature and solitude for ideas and inspiration for a long time. “I want to start my own product. I want to make my own Suter roadbike. I want to win recognition for my brand. To produce niche products that currently do not exist. The MMX 500 is a case in point, it’s an exclusive motorbike that there is a large enough market for around the world. We hope that we will cooperate even more closely with Akrapovič on this.” At the end of our talk in the fresh air flanked by Swiss forests, Eskil again turns to Igor. “We also built exhausts for two-stroke engines. But then it ended. The market only wanted exhausts for four-stroke ones. And if you want the best, there is only one place in the world to turn to for those. Igor in Ivančna Gorica.”
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Aldo Drudi, designer
“I set my limits beyond my capabilities!”
by Primož Jurman photography Saša Kapetanovič
Aldo Drudi is a legendary designer in the world of motorcycles. An icon. He designed the now world-renowned number 46 for Valentino Rossi and is responsible for his refreshing helmet designs as well as for numerous other riders, including superstars like Schwantz, Doohan and Simoncelli. He is also active in other areas of design, receiving the Golden Compass (Compasso d’Oro) award in 2001 for Dainese’s T-Age collection. He picked up two new challenges recently: he designed the Anvera 55 crossover boat and is currently working on the Storm (Burasca) 1200 motorcycle. This particular baby purrs with unique Akrapovič exhausts.
I met Aldo at a small cafe in the centre of Rimini, a small Italian tourist town. Its long sandy beach becomes a sort of Copacabana of the Adriatic during the summer months. “The Mediterranean is the navel, the centre of the world,” says Aldo after we order a real Napoli-style espresso that comes with a glass of water you drink before getting seduced by the coffee, black as night. “Details matter in life. They matter when drinking coffee as well.
We’ll drink water first to clear the taste buds,” he adds. True, details are especially important in the work he does. “A good designer studies the rider, builds a relationship with him, gets to know his lifestyle. Peeks into his soul. This is the only way to successfully design, for example, his helmet.”
Off the beaten track
first helmet for Graziano. “Wow, did it deviate from the then held norms. Helmets were mainly monochrome, with perhaps a line across the middle. The design was boring, the riders all had similar helmets and you almost couldn’t tell them apart. Then Graziano suddenly appeared with a castle and a rainbow painted
When he was a young designer and motorbike racing enthusiast at the end of the 1980s, he dreamt of becoming a motorcycle racer. A champion, just like his youthful friend Graziano Rossi, the father of the nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi. He designed his
on his helmet, which completely suited his character and the area he came from. That was something quite new back then,” he explains. He continued working with Italian riders before expanding to include international ones. He became more and more popular, but his final breakthrough came after he began
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Burasca – storm on two wheels
collaborating with Valentino Rossi. “We both got lucky. He got to work with a renowned designer and I got to work with a champion,” he quips. He and Rossi both come from this part of Italy. “This is the cradle of civilization: sun, laughter and all that is beautiful in life,” he says.
New challenges, new opportunities
Despite his success in designing racing helmets, his restless spirit urged him on. He started designing racing apparel by employing an analytical approach. He tapped into the experience of riders and the people in charge of
their safety to implement innovative solutions such as titanium guards and elastic inserts at exposed locations. This is what netted him the prestigious Compasso d’Oro (Golden Compass) Italian design award in 2001. He lists this award as one of the high water marks of his career and a confirmation of his work. He also designed the Anvera 55 powerboat, which was a novelty in the world of sailing vessels and which he places into the crossover boat segment. Furthermore, Aldo also sails in charitable waters, having launched a project to help sick children and their parents in Africa.
The project that has kept him awake in the last two years was the Burasca 1200 concept motorbike. “My aim is to push the boundaries of my abilities, as this allows me to find new challenges and by doing so become aware of myself – as I was in my youth,” he succinctly states. Burasca means storm in the local dialect. And this particular storm is announced by a deep and direct grumble of a unique Akrapovič exhaust. “Akrapovič is more than just an exhaust system manufacturer – it sets the style and trends! Their exhausts are work of art. The guys at Akrapovič knew immediately what type of exhaust I wanted. They even proposed some improvements to my ideas. The exhaust was one of the first parts that were made. The headlamp and the exhaust are the two items that define a motorcycle aesthetically, that outline its appearance. Once the exhaust was made, I breathed a sigh of relief, because I knew then that we were going to make it.” Aldo and the D-Perf team have been creating the Burasca 1200, based on Honda’s VFR bike, for the past two years on top of Rimini City’s museum in a place called the Air Garage. And, hey, the bike is rideable – Aldo and I took turns darting around on local roads at the end of the day, including the famous Via Panoramica, Valentino Rossi’s training ground. What’s perhaps the most interesting is that Aldo does not use a computer. “I transfer what’s ripening in my head to paper by pencil. This is original and unique, while a computer would always offer the same solution, be it in Australia, Italy or Slovenia. I don’t like that, but a computer is more than welcome in perfecting an originally devised idea,” Aldo explains his work process.
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Y Z F A F R C S T U R A UZ F Y F CS T by Alenka Birk photography PR, Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago
Real Pink Lagoon in Mexico? -
Is it real or are these photos photoshoped? It is real and completely natural, and there’s a perfectly scientific explanation for it. Its pink colour is the result of a natural phenomenon – the red plankton combined with the large numbers of shrimp found in the water. The fairy-tale-like landscape is also decorated with piles of salt, as Las Coloradas was once a salt mining town. The lagoon can be found in the tiny fishing village of Las Coloradas, located on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. This lake is part of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve and attracts tourists from around the world. www.facebook.com/LasColoradasYucatan
Deep in Alaska explore the most remote national park. You can reach Wrangell–St. Elias National Park via the Ultima Thule planes. They are not for everyone; they carry just two passengers. During take-off and landing, it is necessary to lean towards the front to take the weight off the machine’s tail. But the places you can see are places where no one has ever set foot. You can see grizzly bears, bison, moose, dall sheep, mountain goats, wolves and black bears. Your adventure is defined by you. Throughout the safari you are based at the wonderful Ultima Thule Lodge, where you will decide on your activities during the safari. Six days will cost you from €6,000 per person. www.naturalworldsafaris.com
The Barber at Bourdon House -
Alaska wilderness safari -
It is a discreet and luxurious temple of top-quality masculine maintenance in London and part of Alfred Dunhill portfolio. The bond between man and his barber is a very intimate one. Before every treatment with The Barber at Alfred Dunhill, you are consulted for a detailed assessment of your needs. You can relax in your surroundings – either by consulting your personal entertainment system or by simply enjoying some moments of quiet – as your Barber expertly crafts a cut to best complement your needs. The Barber can provide a faultless wet shave or a considered beard trim. And there is a whole panoply of further Spa services on offer too. www.dunhill.com
The most exclusive Table 55 in NYC opens for reservations -
The iconic King Cole Bar of the St. Regis hotel in New York has seen them all. The famous people that is. From Salvador Dalí to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. They sat at table 55. Now you can, too. This is the only table with access to an exclusive chef’s custom designed menu and a bespoke wine list from the hotel’s coveted cellar. The table, bookable for up to five for the evening from 5pm with a minimum spend of $2,500, is named after the hotel’s location, on the corner of 55th Street and 5th Avenue. St. Regis, 2 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022 (+1212-3507155) www.stregisnewyork.com/table55
One of the creepiest places, Hashima Island, Japan -
The abandoned island off the coast of Nagasaki was home to over 5,000 people as a mining community, until the mines ran dry in 1974. The island was left to deteriorate and now, over 40 years later, stands as time capsule. Gunkanjima, as it is also called, is famed for its unbelievable appearance: surrounded by a sea wall, it is an entire abandoned city with huge concrete buildings. The island’s original name is Hashima, but it’s better known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because it looks like a military complex. There is an official Gunkanjima Tour, but you’ll need permission from Nagasaki prefecture (and a specific project, written in Japanese). This isn’t easy to get nowadays, but of course it’s worth it. www.hashima-island.co.uk
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CHEVROLET CORVETTE Z06 AND SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS by Miran Ališič photography Bor Dobrin, Musée du circuit de Spa-Francorchamps Archive, ATP/Arthur Thill
BOTH ARE A COMPROMISE - A FANTASTIC COMPROMISE Two legends. Two different generations. The first a hundred years or so old, the other about half as many. The first an example of a perfect European racetrack, the other an American sporty and elegant two-seater with a cult following. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and Chevrolet Corvette Z06. We didn’t go racing, we were reliving memories and enthusing over the Corvette, mainly over its perfect sound – delivered from an Akrapovič exhaust, no less.
Let’s start with the track. Races were already held around the Spa health resort in eastern Belgium before World War I. Spa was the meeting place of the rich, the royals, the aristocracy of the time. These were the first people to own cars. And they needed a bit of Sunday fun. The first car race in Belgium was organised as early as 1902 in the town of Bastogne, but it was only held for six years. The next attempt came five years later. The venue was the cosmopolitan Spa. The race lasted two days, was over 1,100 kilometres long and the lap ran through the Sart, Hockai and Francorchamps villages before returning to Spa. Twenty-four kilometres. Forty-six laps. The race was held again 1913, before being interrupted by WWI. The end of the war also brought a new border to the Ardennes. The Treaty of Versailles took land from Germany, the Eau Rouge was no longer the boundary between Germany and Belgium, and Belgium extended a bit further to the east. The motivational force behind the original
track, part of which is still in use today, were Jules de Thier and Henri Langlois Van Ophem. The new circuit could now be built completely on Belgian soil, within a triangle spanning the towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. A smidge over 14 km. The fastest race track in the world. Long straights, hazardous and quick turns, lots of rain, never completely predictable weather… Real racing hell. The first grand prix had to wait for a bit though, as a referendum held among the predominantly German-speaking population, that went down in history as the petite farce belge, resulted in a special status for the area with mixed population. Only after the territory was given to Belgium, could racing begin in earnest. The 1921 race was cancelled because only one driver registered, but in 1922 the organisers had more luck, which extended into the following year, when the first 24-hour race was held. The Grand Prix had to wait until 1925, though, and was then won by Italian Antonio Ascari in what was to
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Our street car was red as well. A Corvette Z06. And just look at it. A 659 hp, supercharged 6.2-litre V8, 881 Nm of torque. A seven-speed manual transmission. An Akrapovič exhaust. A fantastic sound. Like a wind orchestra in full swing.
be his final completed race. Ascari was killed in the following event, the French GP, but his son, famous racing driver Alberto Ascari, was ready to pick up the baton and won in Spa in 1952 and 1953 in a Ferrari. Similar to his son further down the line, Antonio Ascari raced in what was the epitome of racing in the day – a red Alfa Romeo.
What they found there was an altered track that circumvented the Malmedy chicane. It soon became clear that only the most courageous heroes could win on the difficult, fast and dangerous circuit.
Our street car was red as well. A Corvette Z06. And just look at it. A 659 hp, supercharged 6.2-litre V8, 881 Nm of torque. A seven-speed manual transmission. An Akrapovič exhaust. A fantastic sound. Like a wind orchestra in full swing. A very loud wind orchestra. Corvettes have been on the market since 1953 and most of them were sold in the USA. No surprise for an American car. Including all of its singularities. Chevrolet wants to boost the Vette’s sales figures in Europe, though. There is no lack of fans and admirers. But Corvette, despite its idiosyncrasies and its cult status, is not an easy sell in Europe. Regardless of the very favourable price of around 100,000 €. It is easier to see why after you get behind the wheel. There are switches everywhere and while every model is an upgrade and an improvement over the previous one, Corvette remains an exclusively American car inside and out. Midwest mentality. It cannot compete with the Germans and it probably doesn’t want to. I slowly figure out all the knobs around me. The engine roars around me and the car shakes a tiny bit. The new Corvette is a whole 160 kilos heavier than its predecessor, mainly the result of a more durable, rigid chassis. I am getting to know her on the road between Luxembourg and Spa. But I am not in a hurry. There are speed cameras everywhere.
Only in 1930 did the best racing drivers return to the Ardennes. What they found there was an altered track that circumvented the Malmedy chicane. It soon became clear that only the most courageous heroes could win on the difficult, fast and dangerous circuit. Only the biggest racing names won in Spa. Louis Chiron, a star gigolo from Monaco, William Grover-Williams, the winner of the first Monte Carlo race in 1929, Tazio Nuvolari, the Flying Mantovan with his trademark turtle. The superb and precise German Rudi Caracciola also notched a victory at the Spa. The Malmedy chicane made a comeback, followed in 1939 by the famous Raidillon turn, made by shortening the Ancienne Douanne turn, which led past the former border post between Germany and Belgium. Dick Seaman was killed in a Mercedes that year and racing in Spa temporarily followed course. Race cars were for a while replaced by tanks. WWII did not spare the region.
The Corvette Z06 is the fourth version of this performance sports model. It is the first convertible version, like all other Corvettes, which makes the Z06 a sort of targa. Necessary? Not really, but now you can hear it inside the cabin as well. German magazine auto motor und sport said that the sound
“I remember racing
The engine’s large
before the war as
a child. Those were
for a deep gurgling
excellent races, but
sound at low revs, but
then Germans began
anything above 4000 rpm
is a pure song.
A very loud pure song.
of the previous Corvette with its 7-litre naturally aspirated engine remains unbeatable. I bet they didn’t test a model equipped with an Akrapovič exhaust. The magazine also wondered whether Corvette’s sound had crossed the boundary between love and hate. Fans, driver and passengers would say love, but many who accidentally find themselves nearby a speeding Corvette might think otherwise. The engine’s large displacement allows for a deep gurgling sound at low revs, but anything above 4000 rpm is a pure song. A very loud pure song. War wounds quickly healed and people soon got interested in races again. Rene Bovy became secretary general of the car club and held that post for nearly 40 years. We found him in a Stavelot monastery, where a museum has recently been established that contains the circuit’s history as well. Mr Bovy, well over 90 years of age, has an office above the museum. He is surrounded by books, binders, records, the entire history of over 100 years of racing in the Ardennes. “I remember racing before the war as a child. Those were excellent races, but then Germans began dominating,” he somewhat bitterly remembers the successes of Mercedes and Auto Union just before the outbreak of WWII, although the
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â€œSpa-Francorchamps is today a wonderful reminder of race tracks from the pioneering age.â€? Rene Bovy
Rene Bovy became secretary general of the car club and held that post for nearly 40 years.
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bitterness was likely influenced by being interned for a while in the Dachau concentration camp. “The track became extremely fast and dangerous and the cars turned into rockets. Jackie Stewart had a terrible accident, literally flying into a barn beside the road and it took more than 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive,” he described the 1966 accident so animatedly that one felt like the crash happened yesterday. “Stewart launched a fierce campaign against us and convinced the other drivers to demand safety improvements. This was a long track on country roads and it was very difficult to organise better safety and shorter intervention times. We had to stand down and we lost the race.” The last race on the old Francorchamps took place in 1970. It was won by Pedro Rodriguez, with Chris Amon, the best racing driver without a victory, again coming in as second, about a second behind the Mexican. “The race moved far away. To Zolder and to Nivelles, and it didn’t seem likely we would ever get it back. But we didn’t quit, we made a plan for a shorter track. More suited to the modern Formula 1.” The drivers immediately fell in love with the new track, which was probably the reason why the low-lying Zolder in Belgium’s Flemish part lost the competition with the Ardennes five years after the new Spa-Francorchamps opened its racing doors in 1979. “But that was when Ecclestone already reigned over Formula 1. Only one tune played for him – money. That meant new issues,” Bovy, who was at that time stepping down as the chief operator, waved his hand. “I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with him.” Corvette Z06 is available with a seven-speed manual transmission. That was what our test car came with. The gears require short shifts and the transmission is accurate, even though the short space between the gears sometimes makes it difficult to judge where the third and fifth or the second and fourth gear actually are... The Americans, to expect otherwise would be impossible, also offer an eight-speed automatic transmission. But a switch on the steering wheel allows for something else that might further tip the balance towards manual. It allows for rpm increase during downshifting, resulting in a spectacular roar and an occasional backfire. Fantastic.
The modern age, after Mr Bovy moved into the museum and left racetrack management to the younger generation, brought different issues as well. Ardennes had to fight to keep the track operational. The track was only closed for races, which meant Formula 1, the famous 24 Hours of Spa and the 12-hour endurance race, but otherwise these were public roads. The same as 100 years ago. It became clear that the track would not make it to the new millennium in its existing configuration. A dedicated race track had to be built. “Many opposed it. The government opposed it. Only a few of us believed in it,” reminisced the then retired Mr Bovy. “Well, after the politicians agreed to build a bypass between Francorchamps and Malmedy, we were able to close the track.” Spa-Francorchamps is today a wonderful reminder of race tracks from the pioneering age, but its seven kilometre track nonetheless provides all the security of modern times. Perhaps there is a bit too much tarmac surrounding difficult turns, especially La Source and Raidillon, making the drivers a tad too brave. Eau Rouge is not being held in such awe any more and the drivers do not discuss who managed to floor it through it – they all do nowadays. And the Corvette Z06? For the first time, the Z06 model is equipped with electromechanical power steering, which allows for various setups that reflect the needs of a race track like the Spa. While you might feel that steering is not perfectly accurate on the track, its Track mode still gives you the feeling that you are sitting in a proper race car, while the Tour mode allows for soft and comfortable steering during a slower motorway drive. The new Corvette Z06 is therefore an excellent compromise. It remains a pleasant cruising companion on long and straight American or French roads, but feels even more at home tempestuously romping around a circuit like Spa-Francorchamps. Because this track is a compromise as well. A compromise between the long straights like the Kemmel, the dangerous fast turns like the Raidillon or Blanchimont, the downwards and upwards inclines through the Eau Rouge and the turns on the new part of the track as well as the braking and acceleration from hairpins and chicanes like La Source or Les Combes.
It allows for rpm increase during downshifting, resulting in a spectacular roar and an occasional backfire. Fantastic.
Oboje je kompromis – fantastičen kompromis Dve legendi. Dve generaciji. Prva ima 100 let, malo več ali manj, druga približno polovico manj. Prva je simbol sanjskega evropskega dirkališča, druga je ameriški športno elegantni kultni dvosed. Circuit du Spa – Francorchamps in Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Nismo dirkali, obujali smo spomine in se navduševali nad Corvetto. Okrog zdravilišča Spa v vzhodni Belgiji so dirkali že pred prvo svetovno vojno. V Spaju so se zbirali bogataši, kronane glave, aristokracija takratnega časa. Bili so
prvi, ki so imeli avtomobile in so potrebovali nedeljsko zabavo. Velika nagrada je morala počakati na leto 1925. Antonio Ascari je bil prvi zmagovalec. To je bila njegova zadnja dirka. Na naslednji, veliki nagradi Francije se je Italijan, ki je svetu pustil sina, slavnega dirkača Alberta Ascarija, ki je prav tako zmagoval v Spaju, ubil. Antonio Ascari je dirkal, podobno kot pozneje sin, z dirkalnikom, ki je bil takrat simbol dirkanja – z rdečim Alfa Romeom. Rdeč je bil tudi naš »dirkalnik«. Corvette Z06. 485 kW, 6,2-litrski kompresorski osemvaljnik. 881 Nm navora. Sedemstopenjski ročni menjalnik. Akrapovičev izpuh. Sanjski zvok. Kot bi igral pihalni orkester. Zelo glasen pihalni orkester.
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Wheels and Waves in Biarritz on classic motorcycles
LEATHER, CHROME, AIR COOLING… NO TECHNOLOGY, PLEASE by Gaber Keržišnik photography Gaber Keržišnik, Miha Kočevar
Café racers are the current global motorcycle trend. In a way the idea behind them flirts with custom-made bikes, a notion that is far from new; it is in fact as old as the first motorcycles ever built. What makes café racers different from the custom scene with its modifications and additions to HarleyDavidsons, is that the café racer custom spirit tends to move in slightly different waters and that it mainly grabs the bikes that are infused with the sporting spirit of the past. The 1950s, 60s or 70s. Airbrush motifs, a hefty rear tyre and extended front forks hold no sway here. Rather it is about modified BMWs, old Hondas or Triumphs. And many many more. >> The café racer scene proudly marches on under the slogan “Built - not Bought” and a bike, tuned in one’s own garage, is what counts the most here. It’s the idea that matters. As do precision in manufacture, a feel for design, attention to details and a selection of various parts for making the bike, quite often taken from other, perhaps even more recent, motorcycles from the same family. Café racers are becoming increasingly popular and if you want in, you have to start somewhere. Might be a good idea to roll up your sleeves and let your beard grow. Cut all the unnecessary parts from your old air-cooled Yamaha and put on a leather jacket, an open helmet
with plenty glitter, a bubble visor and rolled up jeans. Shoulder a canvas backpack with some basic equipment and tie a sleeping bag on the back of the bike. That should do it. Let’s go! Hmm, but where to? Biarritz. Biarritz? Why? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
The adventure was afoot, so we made a deal. Only classic bikes count, regardless of the year of manufacture. Only one style valid for the gear – the sixties. No modern thingamajigs. No Cordura, Gore-tex, plastic or Kevlar. We were going full old
school. Weathered leather, faded jeans and rainproof waxed cotton. Deal. However, we soon discovered that those things might not actually reside in our closets, so we opted for a new café racer collection. Made by whom? Alpinestars Oscar, for example. We got kitted from head to toe. And ten days later we happily took it all off after it had successfully served its purpose. I mounted my Honda CB 550, built in 1973, which still has all its original parts. No restorations. Our fleet also included two Triumphs: one Bonneville and one Scrambler, a Yamaha, a radically modded Yamaha XS 400 and one completely rebuilt and air-cooled BMW boxer. The model with two
valves per cylinder, since you asked. We began preparing for the trip months in advance, but almost all of us kept tinkering with our bikes, as is usually the case, including on the last night before departure. I was positive before we took off that we would have to do some major roadside repairs as well. It would be an impressive achievement indeed if we all made it to Biarritz, was the thought that ran through my head as we sputtered off.
So, how to get to Biarritz? Before taking off, we stop at the Catalunya Grand Prix in Barcelona,
which, incidentally, is where some of us work. We start the first leg, as befits the general idea, in front of the racetrack in Montmelo and reach the Pyrenees and the pocket principality of Andorra, where we stop for the first night. We continue through and over the Pyrenees, navigating hills, valleys and passes until we reach the town of Pau. There is a race on as well. The famous street race is the stuff of nightmares for Formula 3 drivers. We then cross the stunning Formigal ski resort, alongside the top of which runs the border between Spain and France, before descending to Pamplona, which, however, did not host its bull run on that day. One of course
has to stop at Bilbaoâ€™s Guggenheim, but at that point we are already in San Sebastian, so our goal isnâ€™t that much further. Time was also a limiting factor. One week. We therefore planned our route so as to see as much of the picturesque nature as possible, eat as much tasty local food as we could, drink just enough to tantalise the taste buds and, most importantly, enjoy the kilometres that passed beneath our old pattering bikes. Clutch, first gear, and open throttle. Wind in the face and a summer atmosphere for a real motorbike adventure. A scarf tied around the neck and a coffee
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>> mug on the belt. Every stop turned into a mini picnic, where a wooden chopping board, a knife and salami would materialize from the backpack and would proceed to be gobbled down with fresh bread, bought from local shops. The route took us over the most beautiful parts of the Pyrenees and its surrounding area. We never turned back â€“ not even if we ran out of road (or a trail). We kept going even if it meant riding on cart tracks, macadam roads and over tree roots. We didnâ€™t give up even if we had to ford a large stream or a small river. Biarritz or bust! We travelled over 1,500 kilometres and tasted the sun, the rain, the wind, the heat, the darkness, even snow. And most of all â€“ we had a real adventure.
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Wheels and Waves
The elegant French seaside resort of Biarritz was waiting for us. For the past few years the local motorcycle club, the Southsiders, has been organising its increasingly interesting and popular Wheels & Waves festival. It is called Wheels because of the motorcycles and Waves because of the epitomes crashing on the famous sandy beaches, the reason why this pearl on the Atlantic became one of Europe’s and the world’s surfing capitals. At any given moment, there are more surfers in the water than you can count, but only until they get swallowed by the foam of the next wave. The Southsiders have proved that it is possible to combine surfing and motorcycle riding and they did so with stellar results. In recent years, the festival has started to attract companies like BMW, Ducati, Yamaha, Alpinestars, Deus ex Machina and others, that set up stands inside military tents at the Cité de l’Océan exhibition area, just above the cliff. This motorcycle meet for the lovers of classical and tuned motorbikes (and cars) has become Europe’s leading café racer event, with a touch of custom and rockabilly culture. We are talking motorbikes, equipment, clothes, lifestyle, music and, hey hey hey, this is France we are in, remember, exquisite food and drinks.
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Superb wines, oysters and select cheese. For all those attracted to an adrenaline rush and different adventures, there are numerous accompanying events. There is Motorcycles and Art, an exhibition set up in nearby San Sebastian. You can also compete in, or, if you’re not in the mood, watch the retro style flat track race on a sandy oval called El Rolo, located a stone’s throw away from Biarritz. Fun and adventure guaranteed! As well as lots of excitement. You can take day trips too. A nearby hill hosts a “vintage” mountain speed challenge on a very short track, with two bikes racing at a time. The Punk’s Peak Race takes place on a public road, of course closed for traffic for safety reasons. Oh, right. I almost forgot. Obviously... WAVES. That is what Biarritz is all about. A surfing competition is also part of the event. Some bring their boards to the beach on their bikes. It is a must see and if you have the balance, you too can join the handsome surfers of all ages and both genders, masterfully gliding across the surface of the water.
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See you next year
If you’re aching for a motorbike adventure, a route similar to ours would seem like a perfect choice. Are you comfortable with crashing waves, cosy summer temperatures, French-European elegance of old villas and seaside hotels, the relaxed atmosphere of California and sandy beaches with the waves and “art deco” with a touch of Florida? If so, Biarritz is the place for you. Should you go there next June, when the Southsiders organise yet another “Wheels & Waves” festival, you will travel a few decades back to a time when nobody was fussing with high speed internet connections or smartphones, but rather when fun, perhaps even a value, was simply a well waxed surfboard and an air-cooled motorcycle that leaked as little oil as possible.
Biarritz Café racerji so danes v motociklizmu svetovni trend. Gre za usmeritev bolj po naročilu narejenega motocikla; ideja je stara toliko, kolikor je star prvi narejen motocikel. Predelavo motociklov navdihuje športni duh iz 50., 60. ali 70. let. Café racerska scena se vali pod sloganom “Built – not bought” (Narejeno – ni kupljeno) in največ šteje v domači garaži predelan motor. Glavna je ideja, še bolj pa natančnost izdelave, občutek za dizajn, podrobnosti. Prav tako
je pomemben tudi izbor različnih delov za izdelavo motocikla, nemalokrat pobranih z drugih, morda novejših motociklov iz iste družine. Pravi cilj za potovanje s takšnim motorjem je Biarritz, kjer zadnjih nekaj let lokalni motociklistični klub Southsiders pripravlja festival Wheels and Waves. Wheels zaradi motociklov, Waves zaradi valov, ki se penijo na zlikanih peščenih plažah Biarritza, zaradi česar je ta biser ob Atlantiku postal ena izmed evropskih in tudi svetovnih prestolnic deskanja na vodi.
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Original by Tina Torelli photography Miran Kambič, Zavod Planica, Jure Makovec, Matej Povše
J U M P O R F L Y ? N O W O R R I E S , I T ’ S P L A N I C A THE DESIRE TO FLY IS AS OLD AS HUMANITY ITSELF AND THE DESIRE FOR FREEDOM GOES HAND IN HAND WITH PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES. ONE OF THE PRIME LOCATIONS FOR THE LATTER LIES BENEATH THE PONCE MOUNTAINS – HUMANS HAVE FLOWN OVER 100 AND 200 METRES HERE BEFORE ANYWHERE ELSE AND THIS IS WHERE OVER 40 WORLD RECORDS HAVE BEEN SET. PLANICA IS TODAY, ALTHOUGH AFTER MANY SETBACKS AND DELAYS, ALSO HOME TO A MODERN NORDIC CENTRE, WHICH OFFERS CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING (IN THE SUMMER AS WELL), FLOATING IN A WIND TUNNEL AND SLEEPING 7000 (SIMULATED) METRES ABOVE SEA LEVEL IN HYPOXIC HOTEL ROOMS. THE CENTRE WAS DESIGNED AND BUILT IN A WAY THAT MAKES A CASUAL OBSERVER BELIEVE IT HAS STOOD AT THIS AMAZING PLACE SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME. PLANICA COULD NOT SWALLOW SOMETHING ALIEN, AND APART FROM THE DAYS WHEN IT HOSTS THE SKI JUMPING FINALS, YOU WILL NOT COME ACROSS STANDS SELLING CHEAP TRINKETS. AS YOU WALK AROUND THE NEW NORDIC CENTRE, YOU WILL ALSO CERTAINLY NOTICE THAT PLANICA IS A PLACE WHERE EVERYTHING IS DEDICATED TO THE SPORT, HENCE YOU WON’T FIND ANY FANCY RESTAURANTS OR LUXURY HOTELS. THE NORDIC CENTRES CREATORS OFFER EXACTLY WHAT THE VISITORS TO THE VALLEY BELOW THE PONCE SEEK.
NEARLY SEVEN DECADES OF HISTORY FLOPPED ONTO THEMSELVES AND IT WAS TIME TO RENEW IT.
So, forget about your classical tourist coddling and make space in your stomach for the butterflies that will surely flutter there as you fly down the zipline. But let us first turn to the beauty of Planica and how and why it all began. In order to create the new, it was first necessary to remove the old. The laws of physics hit Planica hard in 2001, when the foundations of the old K120 hill collapsed. Nearly seven decades of history flopped onto themselves and it was time to renew it. Time for the same courage that in long past 1931 caused the construction of the original Ilirija House for ski jumpers and other enthusiasts to jumpstart the Planica phenomenon. The renovation cost a lot, of course. Private investors, much like 70 years ago, were not interested in the project, but because Planica holds a huge symbolic meaning for many Slovenians, politics got involved. Planica is at the same time a place where microclimatic conditions allow the winter to last longer, the summer to disappear later and the ski jumpers to fly further. A special weekend in March meanwhile causes innumerable Slovenians and others to go crazy in the stands during the finals of the Ski Jumping World Cup. THE ILIRIJA HOUSE WITH ITS TENNIS COURT, SWIMMING POOL AND A VIEW OF THE SKI JUMPING HILL It all began in the early 1930s, with a visionary initiative by Mr Joso Gorec, the secretary general of the Yugoslav Winter Sports Association. Engineer Stanko Bloudek designed a plan for an 80-metre hill, another engineer Ivan Rožman for a 90-metre one and Gorec gave the go ahead to the bigger one. Gorec was the first person in the world to use snow cement in preparing the hill. Very soon after completing the construc-
tion in 1934, which was mainly financed privately by Rožman, who was however not honoured by it carrying his name, the large hill was acquired by Bloudek, who kept enlarging it throughout his life. Austrian Sepp Bradl was the first to soar over 100 metres, already on 15 March 1936, angering the heads at the FIS who subsequently forbade the hill to be enlarged further. The Norwegians also revolted, smouldering from having the 100 metre mark go into Austrian hands, but since progress cannot be stopped, FIS later relented and allowed ski flying… For academic purposes. RECORDS, SPECTATORS AND THE FIRST WORLD CUP Five years later, the large hill hosted a competition called “A Week of Ski Jumping”, which saw German ski jumpers setting a total of five new world records. World War II not only interrupted ski jumping but also the entire world, causing the “Week” to resume in 1947 – in a new country and with new enthusiasm. Records were being set left, right and centre and Slovenian ski jumper Janez Polda began his ascent. In 1960 the organisers changed the name to “Planica Flying Week”, and Planica was visited by Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito, who unveiled a radio and TV tower, that still stands today, in front of a 30-thousand strong crowd. Seven years later the large hill allowed for jumps of 130 metres and more. Meanwhile, a brand new flying began construction in 1968, and the first ever World Ski Flying Cup was organised on it in 1972. Planica’s second and the overall fifth World Ski Flying Cup was hosted beneath the Ponce mountains again in 1979 – this time ushered in by the then brand new and now world famous song “Planica, Planica” by the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble. OVER 200 METRES ON THE GORIŠEK BROTHERS FLYING HILL The longest ski jump on Bloudek’s large hill before its renovation was made by Japan’s Noriaki Kasai with 147.5 metres in the year when the large crystal trophy went to Slovenia’s Primož Peterka. But that was long after the flying hill began pushing the boundaries. The
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modern Gorišek brothers flying hill is undoubtedly unique. Engineer Janez Gorišek was working in Libya at the time he conceived it. His older brother Vlado Gorišek supervised the construction at home, sending long letters to his sibling informing him of the progress. As Matti Nykänen flew 191 metres in 1985, the FIS association decided for the second time to curb the appetite for records and adopted a rule that said points would not be awarded for jumps longer than 191 metres. Official decisions are one thing, but reality kept marching on and Planica soon became the first place where man landed south of 200 metres! The first to fly over the magical mark was Austria’s Andreas Goldberger, who flew 202 metres on 17 March 1994, but touched the ground with his hands on landing. Only a few minutes later, though,
... STANDING IN FRONT OF A ROUND WOOD AND CONCRETE BUILDING THAT PROVIDES A 360 DEGREE VIEW OF ALL THAT PLANICA OFFERS...
Finland’s Toni Nieminen landed at 203 metres, remained on his feet and again made history in Planica. The newly invented V-style jumping technique was introduced, allowing for longer and longer flights in combination with better gear. After a two-year renovation, supervised by Janez Gorišek and his son Sebastjan, the new flying hill was opened in 2015. The aim of the upgrade was to allow for jumps of 250 metres and more. HERE AND NOW So much for the (mainly) history. We touched ground in Planica on a lovely late summer day. The sun was pouring into the narrow and closed valley and the tables on the terrace were packed. There were many tourists. Of all types. The sort that the Planica managers love to see as well as those who miss exact-
ly what the advocates of the Planica asceticism believe would destroy this beautiful venue. Let’s start with the bright side. Jure Žerjav, the head of the Nordic Centre, and I are standing in front of a round wood and concrete building that provides a 360 degree view of all that Planica offers, while its design follows the shape of the cluster of mountains above it. The first thing to appear in the valley was the road leading to it, followed by a 20-metre ski jumping hill and then a chain reaction of ideas and projects. After the original large hill collapsed, a call for applications was published for a Nordic Centre, as envisaged by Jelko Gros, former Slovenian ski jumping team coach and the current head of the Planica Institute. “The centre is not quite finished yet,” Žerjav confided. “We are completing the final touches, the hills are fully booked and the indoors cross-country track is crowded, because it hosts the US combined team, the Slovenian team and some foreign clubs. The wind tunnel has been completed and will be opened soon. The world’s steepest zipline is operational and the skating track is not idling either. The Planica House, some 200 metres from the Centre as the crow flies, provides 10 high altitude rooms, giving 20 competitors a chance to sleep in a simulated hypoxic environment of up to 7,600 metres above sea level, something that has not gone unnoticed by alpine climbers,” enthuses the former mayor of Kranjska Gora, who got sucked in by the Planica story at the time of the large hill’s collapse. 47 MILLION AND SIX YEARS LATER “First we tried to patch up the hill, but that came to nothing. We
(LANDSCAPE) ARCHITECTURE WITH WINGS
“ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF TRAINING SESSIONS, WE ARE THE BIGGEST CENTRE IN THE WORLD, AND NOW THE WORLD IS COMING TO TRAIN HERE.”
couldn’t have done it by ourselves. Luckily the government decided in 2006 to list Planica among the big projects that can vie for EU grants. The MPs have never been as united as when they discussed the importance of Planica, which has for a long time united the Slovenian nation. But where the majority of people saw Planica as a ski jumping centre and a flying hill, Jelko Gros from the start conceived it as a facility that must be self-sufficient. While garbage is usually the only thing left after the crowds return home following the March finals, Gros wanted people never to really leave Planica. He embarked on a strenuous and long process of purchasing the land, slightly simplified by a law on Planica, while a call for bids was published which won two major awards: one for the buildings and one for landscape architecture. The constructors joined forces and the result is here in front of us – 47 million euro and six years later. “According to the number of training sessions, we are the biggest centre in the world, and now the world is coming to train here. Before money went abroad, but now it is coming here,” Žerjav beamed with pride as he introduced the Planica museum, where visitors can also put themselves in the role of a ski jumping judge.
Under the calming image of eight ski jumping hills, spread out in the form of a fan, is a wealth of cleverly built-in technology, which successfully counters nature’s unpredictability. But the hills are just the backbone of the centre. Surrounding it are 40 kilometres of cross-country tracks, connecting Kranjska Gora, Rateče and Tamar Valley, and seven kilometres of the track are suitable for top flight competitions. The start and finish area has a football court with artificial grass during the summer, playgrounds and, down below, an underground tunnel with 800 metres of cross-country track where the snow never melts. Planica boasts a 3-km long snowboarding track and is traversed by a 25 km bicycle track that begins in village of Mojstrana and continues to Italy. And that football field is really nice to see. Luxury that is not only beautiful but also advanced as it is backed by a carefully thought out plan, respect for nature and architectural courage. There are numerous awards to prove it, including the seminal Slovenian architectural prize – the Plečnik award – shared by several architects who designed various parts of the Nordic Centre: Matej Blenkuš, Miloš Florijančič and Klemen Kobal for designing the sports objects, Aleš Vodopivec and Marko Smrekar for the central cross-country skiing facility, the service and warm-up areas and Ana Kučan and Luka Javornik for landscaping the surroundings. The symbolic meaning of Planica is so rich that it does not need or want an architectural ego trip. Its design is restrained, the same as the environment itself – it allows for sports but also for meditation.
High Gear 78
A RACER AT HEART STILL WANTS TO WIN Everyone has a hard story in their life. That’s just life. Some people in motorsport may have had money from an early age or received a scholarship or got in with a young athlete programme, but we all know the reality. Getting to the very top is always very, very hard. Now a works Ducati rider in World Superbike, Chaz Davies, has got to the top the hard way, without big money but with big talent and boundless commitment.
Having started by racing mini bikes at the family go-kart track in Herefordshire, UK, racing was always going to happen for him. Once in the hard world of 125cc Grand Prix, though, it was going to be hard as a non-Spanish or Italian rider. I would go and see Chaz every evening at a Grand Prix, but times were hard for the team that ‘gave’ the British rider to an Italian team just for the money from the championship organisers. That was business, though, and it was a break for him to travel the world and mature very quickly. Once he even took his exams at the Mugello GP during the weekend with a local teacher officiating. I once carried his boots and race kit to Japan for him because his bag was too heavy. His parents would fight for every bit of sponsorship money, and during the races his mum would be a bit nervous and his dad would philosophise about the result and what it could have been. “Never in the back of my mind was there an option not to race motorbikes, so even though those days were really difficult, there was never a second when I was going to stop. Something always told me in my mind to keep pushing – something inside of me to keep going.”
125cc turned into 250cc and some big results came with it. Big to those who knew their value considering the bike he had underneath him. “I had some good results or the odd good ride but no one knows about a 5th place at a wet Valencia in 2004 or something. No one cares about that ride, but I knew it was good. So if I had stopped racing at the end of 2006, then that would have been really sad. But since then things have turned around and I’m very proud of what I’ve done.”
At the end of 2006 the GP team he was with ran out of money… “There was a point where things weren’t going well in 250cc GP as the team folded because sponsorship money didn’t appear, so I was either going to work at the go-kart track back home or go to the USA and ride for a team over there. I got a phone call from Jeremy McWilliams to say there was a good team over there in the AMA Superbike paddock, and at first I was a bit… well, those guys are a bit old over there like Miguel Duhamel and Matt Mladin. But I had no other option, so I went out there for one race and I stayed there for three years!” Returning to World Championship SuperSport 600 it all levelled out after three seasons by winning the World Title. “It was salvaging ten years of shit, really, and a nice repayment for my parents because I’ve done something in the sport that not many people have done, so I had that nice feeling of actually having achieved something in this sport. Good days.” A BMW ride followed in WSBK, but we can laugh about the perks before talking about racing…! “I didn’t get a free car, but I got one for the season! It’s also definitely a huge perk to have Audi
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by Toby Moody illustration Natan Esku
owning Ducati. I’ve got an RS 7 Sportback now; definitely far too good a car for a motorbike rider to have… hahaha.” Even though he laughs off the flashy car with a little shyness, he soon qualifies it.. “Yeah, if I step back, I am very lucky, but I have really worked for it. I do treat it as a job and I’m very serious about it when I go home with at least a trophy from a weekend and if I don’t get a trophy it does grate. It’s work and that’s what keeps me so keen, as when there is competition there is something in my brain that clicks. It’s always been the same. Even back at school sports day when I was seven years old I was competitive!” It also sounds like that competitive streak will remain long after racing… “I really like the idea of helping young riders out because in this sport it’s very hard to get on the right path. But I’ve learnt a lot in doing things right and making the odd mistake. The sport is so expensive these days, but I would love to help a group of talented kids out – apart from that I have no idea because I’m still a racer at heart and I still want to win.”
“Something always told me in my mind to keep pushing – something inside of me to keep going.”
International motor sport TV broadcaster for both two wheels and four having commentated on MotoGP for 19 years.
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