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February 2018 No 172


in italian style Marco Melandri quietened critics that still doubted whether he had the stamina and ‘winnability’ at the highest level through expert management of some tricky conditions (rubber & rain) at Phillip Island for the WorldSBK opener to post an emphatic double. He might have gained the second race win by only the length of his Panigale from Jonathan Rea but it created a yawning two decade win gap from when the 35 year old first triumphed on the international stage at the age of 15 in MotoGP Photo by GeeBee Images


another 2 MXGP World Champion Tony Cairoli will just click into his 36th year when his new Red Bull KTM contract comes to an end in 2020. What is it with Italian record-setting Grand Prix winners?! For another three seasons (including the one about to begin in Patagona, Argentina this weekend) #222 will be the main protagonist. Stefan Everts now has good cause to consider his haul of ten world titles as authentically ‘under threat’ as Cairoli needs just one more gong to match the achievement they said would never be equalled… Photo by Ray Archer


...another 2 MotoGP puzzle pieces are quickly being fitted. Marc Marquez committed to Honda until he turns 27 (then a good time for a change?) although it remains to be seen whether Dani Pedrosa will stick-or-twist from the brand with which he entered Grand Prix back in 2001. The 2018 pre-season seems to be progressing smoothly for HRC – not always the case in recent years – with just one test remaining before the Qatar opener Photo by CormacGP


keeping it in the red

Jason Anderson is getting used to that red background on the ‘21’. The 25 year old holds a thirty-nine point lead over Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin with his ProTaper-equipped Husqvarna FC450 after his sixth podium finish at Tampa last weekend and as Monster Energy AMA Supercross approaches the half way stage. However a broken pelvis and tailbone for HRC’s Cole Seely only highlights once more how delicate any advantage can be in this sport Photo by Simon Cudby





yamaha finance australian ro

phillip island ¡ february 24-25 ¡ Rnd 1 of 13

Race one winner: Marco Melandri, Ducati Race two winner: Marco Melandri, Ducati


worldsbk aus

melandri flies at pi Blog & Photos by GeeBee Images

worldsbk aus

worldsbk aus


The More Things Change... This year’s WorldSBK series got off to its usual start in Australia with what now seems a customary sense of false anticipation. The Ministry of Tinkering has changed the technical regulations, again, and everyone waited to see what the outcome would be. Much has been written about these changes and at the recent Kawasaki team launch in Barcelona KHI’s project leader, Yoshimoto Matsuda, was quick to express his opinion that this was not a technical regulation but a sporting one, and that manufacturers would be penalized for being successful. So we arrived in Australia to a romantic notion that everything would change, we would see close racing and the end of the domination of the big two. If you recall we actually had that at Phillip Island last year and JR’s victories were genuinely hard fought, so I wasn’t expecting anything less this year. What we got on Saturday was a bit of an anti-climax with Marco Melandri dominating on the Ducati being joined on the podium by Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies.

The big news of the weekend was the failure, once again, of Pirelli to supply tyres that would last a race distance. In race one several riders suffered problems with the wear of their rear tyre; Yonny Hernandez highsided coming out of Siberia corner after his rear tyre exploded, he would be declared unfit on Sunday as a result, and Jonathan Rea’s rear rubber blistered causing him to slow dramatically and drop from second to fifth in the last few laps. Rea himself had mentioned post-race that he had flash backs to Donington when a similar problem caused him to crash in race one there. It is something that can be an issue when supplying a mass produced race tyre to all competitors. Bridgestone experienced a similar problem at Phillip Island in 2013 after the track had been resurfaced, but we are five years on and this is a glitch that has

dogged Pirelli for as long as I can remember. I recall in 2005 at Monza when riders finished qualifying with huge blisters on their rear tyres and again at the same track in 2007 when James Toseland finished the race with the centre of his rear tyre missing. Just a couple of examples from over ten years ago. For any doubters I have the pictures to prove it. In Supersport it has been a problem every year at Phillip Island and in recent times the race distance has been shortened to take account for the lack of longevity in the tyres. This year former champion Kenan Sofuoglu had a massive crash that left him in a pretty bad way. He raced on Sunday but finished well down the field and was really lucky not to come away from his crash with more serious injuries.

By Graeme Brown

One excuse put forward on Saturday was that the teams were not running the correct pressure in the tyres. The final solution was to have flag-to-flag races with mandatory pit stops at half race distance. I also heard that someone from Pirelli mentioned that, of the rear tyre options they had brought to Australia one was, as they put it, a fast option and the other a safe option. The problem, they saw, was that the riders all wanted the fast option. Funny that. It begs the question though; why was a tyre made available to the riders when it is known that it won’t last the race distance? The bigger question however is why this is allowed to happen again and again. What will it take for everyone to say the outright performance and lap time from the tyres is not the ultimate aim when placed ahead of rider safety. Would it really be such a terrible thing that the lap record at a given track is never broken again if it means that we never have a situation where a rider crashes and injures themselves due to a tyre failure?

For a championship that is perceived amongst some pundits as being on a downward trajectory in terms of popularity, it is a real shame that the main talking point from the weekend was this embarrassing issue surrounding tyres again. The results of the races in terms of the new technical regulations actually took a back seat. I have worked full time in the WorldSBK paddock since 2000 and like everyone there have a vested interest in the series, but it goes beyond that. I feel a wee bit personally offended when people criticize the championship in public forums. Particularly those who take only a fleeting interest in it. Situations like this, on the other hand, can’t be defended. Rider safety must always be the top priority at all times and anything that compromises that must be addressed. Putting this aside I actually thought race two on Sunday proved to be quite a spectacle.

The pit stops added an extra element of the unknown and made for an exciting race. I remember reading somewhere last year in a social media thread the suggestion that Saturday’s race could be a short sprint and Sunday’s race be longer, with pit stops. Based on the experience of the weekend, as an idea, I think that has some merit. Maybe that is something for the Ministry to look at for next year.

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Shorter version first published in


Jonathan Rea’s racing elixir of success is mixed in the garage By Adam Wheeler, Photos by GeeBee Images



here is something peculiar about the Kawasaki Racing Team’s pit garage. Outside, the last testing session of 2017 at a sunny Jerez in southern Spain sees Superbike and MotoGP motorcycles scream along the start straight with deafening intensity. Inside, the immaculate work spaces and busy staff is largely soundless except for the clang of a tool here or the bang of a bike part there. The black carpeting adds to the almost-surgical ambience. A collective of four-five mechanics communicate in looks, gestures and rapid actions. Crew Chief Pere Riba sits ahead of rider Jonathan Rea but behind a complex screen of data, and conducts the motorcycle changes and preparation in front of him with a series of glances and enquiring facial expressions. The mostly-Spanish/Catalan technical crew utter brief words into headsets.

The-then 30 year old (he was 31 in February) holds the slightly weary expression of a man who has barely ‘squeezed the brakes’ both on the track and off it throughout 2017. As one of the fastest at Jerez, even with teammate Tom Sykes in the same pit (and now three years into a search for a way to depose his rival) Rea is in a comfort zone with his race bike and the dedicated troop around him that are making tweaks in readiness for a fourth title attempt in 2018. He looks distinctly more composed than when Kenny Dalglish would read out his name as surprise runner-up in the famous BBC Sports Personality of the Year a few weeks later. That evening in Liverpool not only demonstrated Rea’s popularity (and that of bike racing) in his homeland but also illustrated the passionate following that motorcycling generates in the UK.

REA: “I don’t feel that I am on a clock or anything... but it is important to enjoy these moments because they might not happen again.” Rea beckons us to the second chair in his small corner that contains several monitors of information involving testing laptimes and GPS maps and a shelf for his helmet, gloves, drink bottles and towel. “Guim likes the black carpet,” he says of Team Manager Guim Roda’s interior design preference. “Muffles the noise and makes everything look on-point.”

The recognition was appropriate as no other British two-wheeled racer can lay claim to such results and achievement this century. Rea’s ability and limit-searching has taken him a long way. But the almost ruthless streak of 39 wins from 78 races (70 podium finishes) in three years is down to more than just his skill set and the union with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR: at the end of 2014 Rea made a connection with the Spanish group to almost devastating effect.

chemistry: rea & his success

“There was a secret meeting in 2014 that actually took place at Jerez - where I sneaked off and signed my Kawasaki contract in a hotel room, it looked like a right dodgy deal. I just rode off into the night on my scooter,” Rea smiles over a coffee in the hospitality rig in the paddock shortly after his testing duties have wrapped. “I signed my letter of intent and from that moment Pere created a WhatsApp group. He welcomed me to the team and introduced my two mechanics at that time, Uri and Arturo. From that moment we have been in daily contact. Without that beginning it might have taken a lot longer to build that relationship.” “I came from a team where I was the No.1 guy and loved so it was important for me to try and recreate that feeling and Pere also understood that,” he adds. “I don’t think we realised what we were going to achieve in those early days.” “It is nice and curious that forms of communication and social media in the 21st century means you can meet people without really knowing them,” offers the staunchly opinionated Riba. “Before ‘officially’ meeting Jonathan at our first test we had already talked a lot and it was like we already knew each other. We talked bikes, life, families; it was useful. So we had that connection from the very first day of work.” Rea is a devoted family man and he travels the world for the thirteen rounds of the SBK series (and a lot more) with wife Tatia and young sons Jake and Tyler in tow. He appears to effortlessly veer from stepping over toys in his paddock camper to cables and spare parts in the Kawasaki garage where he is richly entrenched in another form of ‘family’.


chemistry: rea & his success

“The connection is the key,” says Chief Mechanic Uri Pallarès. “If you ask Johnny about his previous teams then technically no problem, but in human terms? Perhaps that is the difference. Maybe not all riders need that type of atmosphere, but he is someone that responds to that trust and friendship around him. I think that is what we were able to give him.” “I have to thank the team [management] for allowing or encouraging that bond to happen because it can be awkward: mechanics are employed by the team not through the rider,” Rea ponders aloud. “In certain circles riders have changed manufacturers or championships and taken their crew with them and it is daunting for teams to think they might lose half of their staff roster. [But] Guim understood that I needed an arm around me and that family feeling and Pere created it…and it’s like we have created a monster. These guys are like my best friends. We win together and we lose together but I have always been very open and honest with them. I have been in some teams in the past where I felt it was like ‘me against them’: I told them what they wanted to hear at times rather than what I was feeling,” he openly admits. “But these guys: at the track, away from the track and the way they have accepted my family I could not ask for better surroundings to come to work.” Riba, a 47 year old former world championship racer and an engaging and passionate talker, is not dissimilar in his demeanour and ideologies to countryman and Manchester City FC Manager Pep Guardiola. In a sense he ‘jostles’ for position as ‘leader’ of this #team65 (that also includes PA Kevin Havenhand & suspension tech Javi Gonzalez among wider team personnel) and has his hands on the reins in terms of direction, mood and efficiency.

Feature “There are many philosophies about racing and each rider is different,” he says. “Some need a lot of people around with a warm feeling. Some are ‘colder’ and don’t need anything or anyone and just do the job. It doesn’t mean they are better or worse: just different. I knew Johnny from a few years ago and I knew he was a guy who liked the family atmosphere. Uri, Arturo and some of the other guys have been working together for many years and we have a special relationship, personally as well. So when the rider comes into the team we try to make him part of this family. For some riders it has a big value and ‘power’ and for others it doesn’t.” “My philosophy is that everything is in the brain, and you need to have balance: technically we have to give a good bike otherwise the job is much harder for the rider but as soon as you have a base then you will gain more by having the rider at 100% rather than 90. Johnny is a family guy and his values are similar to this group of people and it makes things easier. The relationship is strong and this helps professionally because there is a lot of trust.” “I think you maybe have four-five really good friends in life and I would honestly count these guys and Pere – who is like the father figure - among those,” claims mechanic Arturo Perez. “Away from the track we’ll meet up to eat, play golf or just hang out. It feeds into the work and makes everything that much easier.” Many teams gel and work in harmony, but it seems the nature of the relationships Rea and co have encouraged and fostered has been outstanding for its effect for the racing and results.

“Confidence and trust goes a long way,” says Perez. “Pere and I have talked about this a lot; when we tell each other something then it is with ‘total belief’ when it comes to the racing side. When I do something around the bike then I know Pere and Uri are relaxed and it is the same if Uri is on the tools.” “We seem like idiots with our little comments to each other around the bike and it is not a subject of distrust, the opposite in fact,” says Pallarès. “It is like a ‘double-check’ and a system that works well for us. It is another way to know the bike inside-out. If for example I break my leg and cannot go to a race Arturo knows perfectly what needs to be done from my part, and vice-versa.”

chemistry: rea & his success

“I can completely forget about the mechanical side of the bike because I have total trust in Uri and Arturo and that’s great for me,” asserts Riba. “If you don’t trust someone 100% - and this happens many times – part of your brain remains in that area of the job, and you cannot dedicate yourself elsewhere.” Riba is positioned at the forefront of the band and is therefore the psychological ‘caretaker’. Nursing the dynamic of the corps is important but extracting the best out of Rea is his primary target. “Everyone has their own character and sometimes they get angry or frustrated but that’s a normal thing. The advantage of knowing each other so well is that you can tell just by a look or a reaction if someone is OK or perhaps not having the best day. Racing is many, many things all pushed together and what makes that group come together and work together is part of it.”

“You get to know the rider more and more each day and you can learn to see if there are any worries or problems at home with a wife, mother, father, brother or friend,” he adds. “Everything can affect the athlete. My job is to try and understand how the rider is and what to give him – apart from the mechanics and set-up - to do his job. I can maybe organise the test or the race weekend a bit differently. To understand that you have to spend a lot of time and effort with him and try not to be distracted.” “My best friends at home are all good people with good values and I think that is the same in the team,” Rea says. “They are all respectable people and I think that was why I was attracted to them in the first place. It seems mad that you can connect 5-6 people together with the same character.”

Feature “I spend thirteen weekends and six team tests a year with these guys…but I want to spend more time with them. We go out to dinner, we go on holidays together and visit events together. It is also important for me to ‘invest’ in that as well because it is a big part of my success. They sacrifice as much as I do to be in this position, so we have to be able to enjoy it together.” While Rea is able to throw a leg over the compact mass of power that the Kawasaki exudes in the Jerez pitbox without a second thought; his technical team are also able to profit from their athlete’s remarkable sensitivity and bravery to be on the pace. “One moment stands out for me when it comes to Johnny,” recalls Perez. “It was during the Superpole here at Jerez last season. He crashed and came back to the pit.

It precedes a first 2018 run-down at the same circuit and will involve final checks adhering to a new set of WorldSBK regulations that will slice the top of the rev limiter for the grid; a move designed to induce parity to the Superbike field but unofficially viewed as a ‘Rea/Kawasaki handicapping measure’. The team are aiming for an unprecedented fourth crown but further success could splinter the whole effort. The clamour for Rea to move to MotoGP will increase throughout spring and as most high profile contracts in Grand Prix start to glide through emails and slide across tables. The champion would want to take his working environment with him but it is a hefty transition. “We feel like a family in our work…but we are also professionals: I am part of the Kawasaki family – another family – for fifteen years

Riba: “The advantage of knowing each other so well is that you can tell just by a look if someone is OK. Racing is many, many things all pushed together and what makes that group come together and work together is part of it.” We quickly made the repairs, and that involved changing the bars, engine parts and many other bits. He got back on the bike and instantly set the fastest lap. I said to Pere and Uri “imagine the level of trust the guy must have in us to go out and push that hard on the very first lap…” That was immensely satisfying for me personally.” There are undertones to the work the group at doing at Jerez.

now and this means I am not thinking to move to MotoGP,” admits Riba. “I would have to think a lot. It is crazy the amount of time you are away from home, and I know you ‘breathe’ a bit differently in that paddock because I’ve been there.” Rea is stoic and uncommitted about his future but he knows it will be a subject he’ll have to address repeatedly as the WorldSBK term draws near. “I’m not kidding myself, these are the best moments of my career and it is impossible to aim for anything higher.

chemistry: rea & his success

I have said time and time again that ‘this is my time’ and next year it might be someone else’s. That change might come through injury or a lack of confidence or technical limitations: whatever it might be. I don’t feel that I am on a clock or anything but it is important to enjoy these moments because they might not happen again.” “I always tell the guys that ‘we are in a dream’ because I have thirty years experience in this world and what we are living now is not normal,” adds Riba. “It’s almost unreal. It’s not racing. The tough moments haven’t arrived yet.” There is a very real chance of WorldSBK being coated in green again for another ten months. The ‘tough moments’ might not arrive. Rea’s team are not spilling the beans but they are metaphorically rubbing their hands with what they have in store in 2018. The nods, contentment and ethos of authority ooze an air of confidence in Jerez. At the end of the afternoon with the pitbox door closed work is over until the pre-season and like the curves of the Phillip Island circuit itself a new competitive term will swiftly zoom into view. Pallarès wanders over and neatly summarises the ambience of the most prolific motorcycle racing operation in any world championship discipline. “Everyone comments on how fast Johnny can ride… but if you really knew him then you’d see how good he really is,” advocates the Catalan. “I’ve never won the lottery but I think in this aspect it is like holding a winning ticket. These times, these people and this rider at his peak combined with this bike, the brand and the whole moment: it is unbelievable. Everything has come together and exploded.”


the hidden hq The factory Ninja ZX-10RRs sit in the pristine glass-walled workshop bay of the small Provec Racing headquarters. The bikes are gutless, the latest-spec of the WorldSBK engines have only just arrived from Japan and the team are busy constructing the stage and decorations for that evening’s 2018 Presentation and at which the new Ninja would be lowered through the ceiling (amusingly counter-balanced by two large containers of oil) surrounded by lights and smoke. Mounting the engines in Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes’ on-track weaponry would have to wait for now. Chief Mechanic Uri Pallarès says the final job won’t take long once the guests and media have long-gone and the crew can complete the motorcycles and get them into freight boxes for the trip to Phillip Island and the first round just two weeks later. Kawasaki’s principal racing hub sits in the small industrial estate within the shadow of the principal grandstand of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Despite the proximity (the team could almost wheel the bikes into the facility) Team Marketing and PR Manager Biel Roda – who is giving the swift tour of the set-up in the hours before the presentation – explains that the team never ride around the MotoGP/F1 layout. WorldSBK does not use the circuit so there is little to be gained, even if a typical three day test tends to cost the team around 50,000 euros travelling to another location – normally Jerez or Portimao, as is the case for pre-2018 work. The exterior of the four-unit HQ has been Provec’s home for the last four years. There is a lot of glass. The aforementioned workshop is surgical, and is adjacent to an admin space – also heavy on the glass – permitting full visibility and control at all times. Upstairs there is more crystal separating offices and a large team of people that focus on design and marketing campaigns for the race team’s sponsors. The ‘boardroom’ area is full of Kawasaki Motor Europe staff looking at slides and proposals of 2019 Kawasaki Racing Team official apparel. To emphasis how much of a central point this place is for the manufacturer’s efforts we spot the presence of MXGP Team Manager Francois Lemariey also part of the discussions.

Provec is a large-scale operation dedicated to more than just development and being a custodian of Kawasaki’s competitive hardware. In another area of the locale a quad project for former rider Joan Lascorz sits in transit. Today the team have the twofloor hospitality unit and race truck parked outside. Two bikes and a red carpet as well as moody lighting would be added for the evening spectacle. Remove the units of green however and any passers-by would be none the wiser for the inhabitants foraging away all year around inside. “When the bikes and team are on the road then the workshop is largely empty,” explains Roda. “To ship the whole team is a complicated affair with material permanently on the road between three continents. A collection of boxes doesn’t even come back to Europe and remains either in transit or storage between legs such as Phillip Island and Thailand. On our visit 3000kg of equipment had already gone to Australia by boat; the cost is around 1 euro per kilo compared to 14 per kilo for airfreight. There are always two principal structures on the road for the team.”

the hidden hq

Upstairs and the ordered Spares bay and graphics room provide more behindthe-scenes glimpses of how a race team is organised. The neat piles of stickers ready to adorn the fairings and carbon hung on the walls. The functional and professional air around the workshop has an extra edge considering that WorldSBK is so close to beginning again for 2018. Aside from the bikes and recent delivery of the motors, the squad also have the even-

ing formalities to consider with Rea again gathering a lot of attention as the three times world champion and opinions on the controversial new rules floating around incessantly. It is this subject that prompts SBK Project Leader (and former MotoGP boss) Yoshimoto Matsuda to hold court with a select group of journalists that afternoon in the hospitality rig, parked in the tight workshop forecourt.

Matsuda explains the shifting evolution of Kawasaki’s Superbike technology with the ZX-10RR and how the bike has moved from a focus on midcorner speed and now drivable torque to orientate around the championship’s restless rulebook. The Japanese is conservative with his explanation and very open about the work done by KHI technicians in Japan until asked his general opinion on the rev limits for 2018 and what it could mean for the brand that has scooped four titles since 2013.

Feature “Honestly speaking, as an engineer and also as a senior manager in a powersports factory like Kawasaki, I have a great worry about the future of World Superbike because this regulation is not just a regulation, it has great impact for World Superbike itself,” he opines. “It seems like the concept of the race will be changed. [there is] A lot of freedom for the organiser to control the result of a race. I feel a bit anxious about World Superbike. Can we keep the attraction for the audience? I was a great fan of racing and was watching a lot as a child. Schwantz, Rainey and those guys and wondered if one rider had another bike or another engine what would happen? I think questions like this is part of the fun for fans.” “The racing should be fair and equal but not even,” he continues. “If you have a great idea or design a fast bike then the results should be ‘fast’. It should be healthy competition. My worry is that this is the start of the end. We are a motorcycle company and we must think of the future of the motorcycle world. I think we should give some area to be able to invest in technology and the future. If Superbike is a production-based race then everything must be open. This is healthy for the future and I ask Dorna to please think about this.” Understandably non-committal about Kawasaki’s short and long term competitive future, Matsuda also exudes the frustration (but also the defiance) that oozes forth from almost a full day being around the team and Kawasaki staff (asked why he agreed to the proposals that would slice 750 rpm from Kawasaki’s limit he answers: “I didn’t agree, I accepted...”). 2018 is another target for the company.

They are aiming for the bull’s-eye again, but if they have to alter their sights once more the year after then there is a feeling that patience is being strained. Inevitably the question of MotoGP comes up, particularly with the partial illusion of close competitiveness in times with Rea at Jerez for both pre-and-post Christmas tests. “This is not the right way,” Matsuda says, also mentioning BMW in the same lines of his answer. “We must think ‘what is the meaning of MotoGP? What is the feeling with that technology? How much budget we much take into consideration?’ And, it is not our choice.” Phillip Island would see Kawasaki take two runner-up positions to Ducati and Marco Melandri in particular but the opening round of thirteen was a strange weather-and-tyre determined affair. Not all answers to the consequences of WorldSBK’s changes were evident but the superbly close second dash on Sunday (Rea missing out on the Italian by the length of a bike) might be a sign of the closer field, much desired by Dorna. A new phase of adversity begins for the world champions. Rea and Sykes almost won but for once do not head the championship standings as another round of Superbike beckons in a month’s time. From the feeling in Barcelona and the words of staff in green and black shirts, 2018 will be the most testing but potentially the most rewarding campaign in recent memory. What will happen after is less certain.

the hidden hq


fly racing We love the sheer diversity of the Fly Racing catalogue. We’ve had products in these pages from helmet to hydration packs, gloves to gear bags, boots to body armour. For women, Fly typically has a good range of choice when it comes to t-shirts. No less than seven different types of clothing from long sleeve to short and sleeveless are available. Shown here are the Logo, Credit, Moto and Watercolour options and come in various colours. Prices flex from 21-30 dollars and the full range can be seen by clicking on any of the links on this page. On another note, Fly Racing have just announced a bigger partnership with MXGP as they continue to look at a wider international spread in off-road racing circles and the brand and their decent assemble of motocross gear should be more visible to Grand Prix audiences through 2018. We’ll have more details soon.














talk By Adam Wheeler, Photos by R.Swanberg/Monster Energy

king ANTETITULO XXXXXX XXXXXXX Firma xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


talking tomac: getting personal with et

From his victorious and sensational debut as professional motocrosser at Hangtown in 2010 with just 17 years on his life clock, Eli Tomac has rarely been away from the pinnacle of his sport. ET’s focus, athleticism, capability and speed easily puts the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider (already a one time AMA 250SX Supercross champion and twice AMA Motocross number one) firmly in the same lineage as Carmichael, Stewart, Villopoto and Dungey.


he name already echoes loud in international MX and SX – Tomac has represented Team USA at the Motocross of Nations and has participated in European supercross events – and in the first five months of 2017 he duelled with Ryan Dungey in a gripping supercross championship campaign that went down to the final laps and turns at Las Vegas after seventeen rounds in eighteen weeks. Tomac lost out by just 5 points despite posting nine wins on the Monster Energy Kawasaki; his form automatically establishing him as a favourite for the recently-retired Dungey’s vacant throne cushion in 2018. Taking last weekend’s Tampa success into account, then he already has the most victories of the current campaign so far and is trying to catch up in the standings after an early shoulder injury caused a setback. After just a few minutes with Eli in the confines of the Kawasaki team truck, parked on the plush lawn of the Sam Boyd Stadium at the 2017 Monster Energy Cup in Vegas – only five months after that curtain-dropper with Dungey – and Tomac is already laughing.

There is a light sense of humour under the oft-serious demeanour, and a slightly shy character: typical of an athlete at this level who is highly in demand and who has occasionally been ‘singed’ by the spotlight. I asked him if he’d woken that morning pondering the very realistic chance of ending the day with a million dollars in the bank. He fails to supress an excited chortle. Later that evening and the anticipated battle with Marvin Musquin for three Main Events wins and thus the ‘Monster Million’ was sliced off prematurely. Tomac’s heavy crash while disputing victory with his KTM rival in the first chase ended his participation in the event; it was a complete contrast in mood to the sense of expectation and fun we encounter in the Kawasaki truck earlier on Saturday. The incident also lighted the ‘suddenness’ of the sport: ‘2016 MEC winner and protagonist for further riches’ to ‘sore bystander’ in the twitch of a rear tyre. He has also felt that pang in 2018: leading Anaheim 1 to end the evening pondering a scan on his upper torso.

Feature sentative from another team in the AMA paddock said the biggest demand of the pro racers these days is for video content; a different kind of media exercise) and several times breaks eye-contact to aside a “what am I trying to say here…?” Nevertheless the Colorado resident – and son of mountain biking icon John Tomac – attempts to engage. And when we start talking about his love of bow hunting the juxtaposition between a noisy, violently balletic day job and his stealthy, silent, time-consuming hobby reveals a slither of a complex individual.

As a champion and one of the top racers in the vast American dirtbike racing scene Tomac is undoubtedly no stranger to a seven figure number. But the Monster Million was ‘another one that got away’. “It’s that carrot and creates that hype,” he said of the annual Vegas October showpiece. “It puts a good kind of pressure on us and is good publicity for supercross itself. I always have fun here and have done six of the seven. I don’t think it is a race where I feel ‘I have to be here’.” Before a bumpy rendezvous with Nevada soil, Eli is in chatty form. I get the feeling he’s not quite versed with a lengthy and often personal conversation (a PR repre-

Going back to that first AMA Pro National in 2010 and a remarkable professional debut could you imagine your career and life to turn out like this? After Hangtown and when we won…I’m trying to think back now: actually it is pretty crazy to think about it because as a kid I don’t believe I really expected to be in the position I am now: the number one 450 guy. You secretly hope for it but it is so far out there. It seems crazy to get to the position [of being #1]. I feel very fortunate but also a lot of work and time has been put into it. I don’t know what else I can say but I feel grateful. We’ve been around. I’m almost 25 years old now but I feel like I have had a pretty awesome career so far and have been to some very cool places. It is neat to think I have been all over the world racing my motorcycle. I hope I have many more years in me. There must have been arduous moments; times when you were not in love with it. If there is a downside to this sport then it is that everything tends to happen so young and so quickly…

talking tomac: getting personal with et xxxxxxxx: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Yeah, you have to make sacrifices as a kid. You are not going to college and you are not partying. You are not doing the normal things or what society would call ‘normal’. There is sacrifice early on…but it definitely pays off later if you can be one of those top guys. You can travel the world and it is a great experience along the way. I would not trade it for anything. The race schedule is super-demanding and it is getting to the point now where it is putting the teams and riders on the limit. We have found that limit. We are pushing thirty events a year. A hard part of it as well is the expectation; but that is part of being one of the top guys and having to win every weekend. That part – mentally – is the toughest of the whole deal and it’s how you handle it week-in, week-out.

I don’t want to paint you as someone who is dissatisfied with what he has but if someone had said to you when you were eighteen “it’s gonna get much tougher and more intense” then would you have had the maturity to look back and think ‘I need to make a lot of choices…” I didn’t want to - how can I put it? - I never wanted to go out and play golf or something like that when I was eighteen. There were times when I didn’t like it [the lifestyle] but I loved it enough that it got me to this point. There are days when I don’t want to ride…but those are less frequent than those when I do. Is continually wanting and striving for success and excellence a necessary mindset? Something all elite sportsmen really need? That’s what is so different with our sport: doing it at such a young age and with that pressure there.


talking tomac: getting personal with et

That’s what makes it tough but also what sacrifices the top guys are prepared to make at the end of the day; the ones that are willing to commit and get the job done. How has the relationship with your Dad changed over the years? From guiding his young son and now advising a champion: what is it like now? My Dad is still heavily involved with the whole racing side of things. I, personally, have just moved out of the farm/ranch in Colorado – that was a year ago.

You have different kinds of trainers and motivators. How was he for you and did that change when you reached a certain level and had accomplished quite a lot? He is a silent one. He won’t give you crap for the sake of it. If you are slacking then he’ll call you out but he’s not a crazy guy who will be yelling in your face and telling you what to do all the time. He is very precise and nothing is over the top with him. And I think that is why we have been able to stay together for so long and through my career up to this point. He is not overbearing at all.

“you’re literally just riding without thinking about anything else: just the track and the bike and everything is ‘one’ together. You are not tight, you don’t have arm-pump and you are not breathing hard. It is the situation you want to find [all the time] but you don’t that often...” I’ve taken some space…but I still go down to the ranch to ride four-five days a week. He still comes to every event with me, still writes my training programmes and is still my agent. He is there for pretty much everything. And I’m grateful that my family have been able to stick together. My mum comes to a lot of events. That’s what motocross does, it brings a lot of families together and it cool when you can do that for a long time because you do see those relationships break apart when a kid goes professional but we kept ours together. It has been good along the way.

You got kinda lucky then because there are a few cautionary tales… Yeah! Was that dynamic also complicated sometimes? There are not many people who know what you are going through when you’re leading a Supercross Main Event in front of 50,000 people… Hmm, he has a really good eye for the riding side. He can go out there and see or pick a line and tell me and it’ll be there. I trust him. That trust is there. I think the overbearing ‘thing’ is what crosses the line a lot between parents and kids. There is something that boils over and it all falls apart. I think we have similar characters and we’re mellow and generally content.

Feature We’re not loudmouths and we like our riding to do the talking, as we like to say… What about your Mum? How does she fit into that equation? Does she bring some of that maternal, softer side? Um, she does bring that softer side…but she loves it too. She let’s us do our business on racedays but she also see things out there and will say something. I think she knows where the line is and she’s been there since day one and the amateur races. Like I said, that’s why motocross is so neat because it brings families together from those amateur events and if you can bring that into your professional career then I think it is more beneficial. There must have been times when you really needed them: the move to Kawasaki, the 2015 crash at Thunder Valley [he injured both shoulders] and the fuss around sitting out the Motocross of Nations… That’s when you really need your family. When decisions need to be made then we can all come together, we trust each other and we feed off each other. We work well as a team. Everything is around you when you are on top and on the upswing but it is a matter of who is there when you are down and they always are, whether it is an injury or is not a good race. My Dad will call me out if I rode like crap but he will not go over the top or lose his mind. My Mum can also tell if I am riding or racing wrong. I know I can always count on their support if I need it. Are you hard on yourself? Supercross in 2017 was high-pressure. I can only imagine what it is like for you knowing you need those points and have to perform…

Oh yeah. I remember a bad race and I take it into the next week. You have to be smart and you cannot overdo something and you cannot take that anger out through the entire week because you don’t want to burn yourself out before the next race. It is something that definitely floats in the back of my mind and it gives you motivation to do what you have to do. I will beat myself up if I have to a little bit. There have been some outstanding races in the last couple of years: the 2016 US GP at Glen Helen saw you very much on another level. What is that like? Are you in a ‘zone’? Yeah those 1-1 races when you are beating guys by twenty seconds is about that ‘zone’ and you’re literally just riding without thinking about anything else: just the track and the bike and everything is ‘one’ together.

talking tomac: getting personal with et

You are not tight, you don’t have armpump and you are not breathing hard. It is the situation you want to find [all the time] but you don’t that often. When you do then it is pretty cool. How often does it happen? Ha! You want it as much as possible! In motocross the conditions are so different with the dirt and it is so hard to get the perfect set-up and feel and everything working as ‘one’ in each condition. You have to be the best all-rounder; you cannot be just the best on hard-pack or the best in ruts. That’s what makes it tough…being able to adapt. Is it all about focus? And is that something you need to hone? It’s about preparation also. You don’t want to be playing catch-up during the season or you don’t find yourself in those ‘good’ places because you are searching for something different. So I like to be there [on-track] without any questions in my mind like ‘you should have done more’ or ‘you should have changed that’ before the season starts. If you do then you need to be able to focus to adapt and find that zone. You mentioned having your own house. Was that quite a big thing for you? It was a big deal actually: paying your own bills when they come in the mailbox and doing the whole ‘house thing’. It was a place that was already built so I moved right in. It has been healthy for our family relationship and it is all part of growing up. Racing supercross and motocross has given me the opportunity to be in my own house at this young age. So this is awesome. I live there with my girlfriend and dog and we have our own little set-up.

Kawasaki are in California so you cannot be there that much… Quite a bit during the week actually, between the races there are a couple of days at home. When you are a racer if there is anything like a little ‘off-season’ then you just want to stay at home! Most people want to get on the airplane but we’re like ‘we staying and hanging out on the couch’! I enjoy being home. I think where you grow up always feels like home. I’m just a Colorado guy. People must be curious what Eli Tomac does on a day or night off: will you be at the cinema, doing a BBQ? What goes on? You’ll find me someway up the highway on the National 4, hiking around or flyfishing or shooting our bows. We’re big ‘outside people’. A lot has been made of your bow hunting: did it get to the point where it was a bit irritating to be so associated with that? For me hunters get a bad rep but if you do it in the right way…I think it is all part of nature. People have been doing it for thousands of years… Exactly. If you are trophy hunting and not using the animal in the right way then you deserve to have a bad rep. Whereas if you are feeding yourself and your family…which is what I do. I stock up my freezer and we have meat nine months of the year. We like to get out in the woods with the bows. It is almost a cliché but what is it about riders needing a sport or activity that is the antithesis of the noise and adrenaline of racing?!


Bow hunting must be very silent, very patient: the opposite of a Supercross! Exactly! It is the polar opposite. You are out there alone. Most of the time when I am archery hunting then I am by myselfNo companion or buddy? Sometimes…but you are obviously more silent alone…and there is not as much scent! Haha. You try to be clean and scent-free. We could sit here and talking about hunting all day! It takes you back to where we came from. It is something else. What about the mental side? Is it possible to get bored or do you have to focus? Well, you have to focus. You can also be the prey to a certain degree. Where we live there are bears and mountain lions, so when you are out on the trail and you leave at 5.30 in the morning you have to hike an hour in the dark: it is kinda a rush because there is a chance you could be chased by a mountain lion. You are back-packing around. I’ve had a few ‘moments’. I’ve started to get cold as I am racing back to the trailhead. If you are an Outdoors guy then it is like a survival game and I really enjoy it.

Do you also rationalise it with your lifestyle where you might have hundreds or thousands that want your time or your signature and then being forest by yourself with maybe a bear for company… Hahaha! That’s what so cool about it. It is so ‘opposite’ that I think it’s healthy and gives me the motivation to come back to this [racing] environment. You have to have a little bit of a break hereand-there to be fired-up to come back. If I take a week or two free then I am jumping to get back on my bike but if you ride for four months straight then you do want that day off. You think ‘get me outside’… Are you any good at the hunting? Well, most years we pack the freezerI imagine a bad day in the woods or fishing can be frustrating as well… Oh yeah, and you really need patience for fishing. But it is all about getting outdoors, outside and enjoying yourself. Mother nature is pretty cool! Get away from the cell phone and all the high pace of life and whatever it is. When I stop I will definitely be the guy who will be out in the sticks. There is a time for all the busy-ness but I am more of an outside guy. Talk a bit about performance because it is something you had to raise the bar since you came into the 450s and 2017 supercross was such a yo-yo with consecutive wins and then just missing those crucial points now and again… The head game and the expectation is the toughest part, in my opinion. To go out there and win…and then to come up a little short, like we did in Supercross, was tough to swallow.

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We won nine Main Events and still lost the title to Dungey who won three races. It was hard. But it will make us stronger for 2018 and I think we have a really good shot. Every year we have been improving and there hasn’t been a season where we have taken a step back and that’s what I have always been satisfied about. What did you think about Dungey retiring? I think the mental side of things is why he retired. Physically, he wasn’t even thirty years old yet! I think you can make it to thirty years in our sport but I think it cracks you mentally. That guy was a podium-winning machine and to do that you literally have to be a machine but you know that eventually one of those days it will crack you. Can you imagine retiring at 27/28? In general terms retiring at that age is unheard of. We are fortunate that motocross and supercross gives you the ability to do that, period. If you are good enough. It is all earned and deserved because it takes a toll of you. There must be a part of you that likes being there in the lights, in front of the big crowd and having some of that adulation…? Can you imagine not having that any more? To be able to perform in front of 40,000 people is something else. When you hear the crowd when you are battling, or you are bumping a guy in a turn and they are ‘involved’ in it then it is something else. Being on the podium and seeing everyone there…it is something that will be missed when I retire. At the same time I am not a guy who is feeding all that into my ego.

You like sportsOh yeah… -so it must be nice to know you have put on a great show for people at the stadium or through a screen? [smiles] It’s nice…but at the same time I think that, for myself, I feed more from the racing part. I really enjoy the competition between myself and other riders. But at the end of the day we are not there unless there are people in the stands. We are there because the show is there. I was on that side of the fence when I was five or six and watching Jeremy [McGrath] or Chad [Reed]. I loved watching Chad when I was little. Sometimes you have to stand back at ‘look’ at that fence and remember you were on the other side at one point. You want to be a good example for everyone, and have kids look up to you, keep the sport healthy and keep it going. How does it feel to know that kids might have posters or pictures of you on the wall? [Smiles] I don’t have that much time to think about that stuff but, like I said, I want to be a good example and a motivation for them to get to this point and to keep riding and racing motorcycles and supercross. I like to be people’s favourite rider. Timing is everything. How do you feel right here and now? I think we are in a really good position to go out there and chase for that position in the championship. We are healthy and the motorcycle is in a good spot right now and you have to take advantage of all that and get it done. Before you know it someone else will be coming up…


earning the point... I already know what people are going to say about this years (probable) 2018 Monster Energy Supercross champion Jason Anderson. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider has a 39-point lead in the points and it’s over a cast of the Walking Dead right now. For three straight races the rider who was sitting second in the points standings suffered a significant injury, the latest being Honda’s Cole Seely. Hey, Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin: you’ve been warned! But maybe that trend won’t continue as Musquin’s faced his own issues earlier this year with a missed race due to a crash in the Phoenix Heat race. And the latest winner, Monster Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, of course crashed out of round one and then missed round two. In short, Anderson’s benefitted greatly from all this carnage and has that lead. That’s going to an advantage that people will say is “lucky” and his title deserves an asterisk on it. Phooey I say. [Easy Steve! – Ed] Part of the skill of supercross is staying healthy, knowing when to push it and when not to.

Anderson’s lead has been rightly earned and hey, he’s got three wins this year – the second highest total in the series. Anderson’s wins at Oakland and San Diego, where he sliced through the field to take the chequered flag, proved that he’s more than deserving of this title…if he manages to pull it off. It’s been that kind of year but you’ve got to be in it to win it and that’s exactly what Anderson’s been able to do.

Anderson caught and passed Ken Roczen twice before the Honda rider’s injury. He’s caught and passed Musquin, he’s been better than Barcia and Seely and so on and so on. Jason Anderson’s got to play it smart here with half the series to go but he’s been fantastic and earned every bit of those 39 points. I don’t want to hear otherwise. ***

If Tomac and Anderson were lining up head-to-head for a series of races, I’m not sure I would put my bank on the #21 but against everyone else in the field, give me Jason. Including the #94 before he exited stage right with a hand injury.

Speaking of injured riders, I know there’s an outcry from fans right now with the latest catastrophe to Seely that something in the sport has got to change. And I’m all for that if we can find a way to keep riders healthy but what exactly

By Steve Matthes

can you do? It’s supercross! It’s very dangerous! The folks at Feld do a good job with trying to work with the track to make it as safe as possible but ‘stuff’ is going to happen, it’s been that way since I was a mechanic in 1996. Heck, back then entire factory semi trucks wouldn’t show up at races because all the riders were hurt. And those were twostroke days people, so I think you can say that it’s not these evil four strokes that is causing riders to be hurt. Do I think the bikes are contributing? Absolutely. These modern bikes have way more torque and horsepower than a stadium can contain. Maybe restricting power can help things out but that’s going to take a cooperation level between the factories, the promoters and a commitment to enforce the rules by the sanctioning body that’s not been seen before.

When there was a huge crash at Oakland recently people said that there shouldn’t be whoops right after the start. When there were some crashes in St Louis, people said there shouldn’t be a rhythm lane after a start, same thing with a triple where Justin Barcia got clipped by Tyler Bowers a couple of weeks ago. Soooo, we’re running out of obstacles that ‘can’t’ be after a start right? I guess we’ll run two barrels out on a flat piece of dirt soon enough? Like I said, I’m all for helping the stars of the sport remain out there longer but I don’t know the answer. Let me know if you do because I’ll be all ears.


6d helmets Ground-breaking Californian helmet and head protection firm 6D have been busy over the course of eighteen months. Aside from interest and advances with the NFL and their research, the company have been evolving the next generation of their ODS technology and last week launched the ATR-2; the latest offering of the off-road lid they originally brought to market and captured the attention of major industry rivals over five years ago. The official press release around the product perfectly provides the adequate background to the ATR. ‘6D revolutionized helmet design with the 2013 introduction of the ATR-1 dirt bike helmet, whose ODS technology set new standards in athlete brain protection by providing protection over a broader range of energy demands, including both linear and angular acceleration. Some manufacturers subsequently introduced technology in an effort to address the inherent flaws in traditional designs which 6D exposed. To date, none have achieved the excellent performance of 6D’s ODS system, and now, the evolved ODS system (called “Advanced ODS”) incorporated in the new ATR-2 raises the bar again.’ The ATR-2 has two new liners (Expanded Polypropylene, EPP, and a replaceable Expanded Polystyrene inner: EPS) the damper ‘suspension’ technology has been altered to increase the displacement travel between the two layers. “With this new Advanced ODS system in place the ATR-2 offers improved performance in both linear and angular acceleration mitigation, and at the same time can be made easily re-buildable for a longer service life,” says Robert Reisinger, 6D’s Director of Engineering and cofounder. “This improves rider safety and saves the consumer money.” Stronger, slimmer and more resistant to a wider range of impacts the ATR-2 also sheds 100 grams of weight and provides substantial cooling with 17 exhaust ports. Three shell sizes and the capability to go from XS to XXL comes with a starting price point of 695 dollars and a three-year warranty. The lid also has a ‘structural Brow Rib that strengthens the upper eyeport area, while a strategically designed Cervical Protection Zone works to protect the rider in the event that the helmet is pushed down and back into the neck and spine during an accident.’ We’ll have more details on the ATR-2 (now an officially endorsed MXGP product) with a story in the coming issues but 6D are back with a product that will clearly turn heads (but not too far).

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2018 MXGP ENTRADETA ENTRADETUpio nos fordi im hem abefectum auceremuro nossid aucibus sedet atua dit vis prorbi

What to know and who to watch this year

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/Bavo/JP Acevedo/Yamaha

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mxgp 2018

KTM Civil War? Champions of both classes for the sixth time this decade Red Bull KTM are undoubtedly the main targets for the MXGP and MX2 fields. In the premier category Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings and Glen Coldenhoff will be steering the 2019 450 SX-F pre production model – the same already being raced by Marvin Musquin and Broc Tickle in AMA Supercross currently – and clear indications from preseason races and comments by both Cairoli and Herlings is that the brand new motorcycle is another competitive step from the 2018 machine (that #222 used last year for the 450’s first MXGP title). Increased potency is an ominous sign (even if every other brand will also have been refining their performance) but it is in MX2 where the orange and white have held such superiority. Pauls Jonass bears the #1 in Grand Prix for the first time since 2015 and is a clear favourite again thanks to the continuity of the Red Bull KTM chemistry (his fourth term with the 250 SX-F) and the fact that he should be free and healthy from the lingering effects of the concussion that restricted some of his actions in 2017. The KTMs and Husqvarnas held a distinct advantage over their Japanese rivals out of the start gate last season and unless Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki have done some serious homework then expect a regular and tiring slog of catch-up riding from protagonists like Hunter Lawrence, Ben Watson and Calvin Vlaanderen.

KTM athletes might have to look a little closer to the awning for their biggest threats in 2018. Cairoli felt the full force of Herlings’ speed and formidability in the second half of 2017 (the Dutchman should have won all of the last six rounds, only a broken chain in Sweden dropped that total down to five) and Jonass received several reminders of teenager Jorge Prado’s raw speed, particularly in the sand. Red Bull KTM are one team but there are two factions within and this ‘void’ of metres and even language and culture could be key if the 2018 narrative becomes about the two riders with twelve championships between them. Cairoli has proved in every single race scenario and circumstance that he can formulate a resilient title campaign. Herlings meanwhile, nine years Cairoli’s junior, has been a prolific winning machine and hasn’t so much as defeated rivals in MX2 but crushed them. More eyes will be on Herlings. Cairoli has proved in every single race scenario and circumstance that he can formulate a resilient title campaign. Herlings meanwhile, nine years Cairoli’s junior, has been a prolific winning machine and hasn’t so much as defeated rivals in MX2 (and the latter stages of 2017 MXGP) but crushed them. Will #84 be able to make the mental switch to battle Cairoli for every point as much as weekly or bi-weekly prizes?

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mxgp 2018

If no other rider can interfere then this title will be won through mental resolve and across all steps of the podium through the next half a year. How KTM could handle the duo is another matter and is a potential minefield to negotiate. There is a healthy quota of respect between the pair (to say friendship might be a stretch too far) but they were not afraid to get close on the track at Ottobiano and Lommel last summer.

2018 due to a broken elbow that kept #61 – now alongside Cairoli in the De Carli camp – away from the Italian and International races. His fitness and form and final tweaks with the 250 SX-F will determine the early rounds of the series. Prado could already be feisty by the second Grand Prix in the sand of Valkenswaard and a week later he races on home soil at Red Sands; so he has plenty of reasoning to get busy through the month of March.

“Jonass acknowledged Prado’s pace in 2017 but also knew the sixteen year old was learning the ropes in a debut GP year and what was his longestever racing season by a hefty margin. Herlings will be striving to assert himself in MXGP this year having poured heavy foundations but Cairoli has re-inked a deal with KTM for another three seasons so has clear designs on remaining the brand’s leading figure.

The world champion might have to look at the Husqvarnas instead. Thomas Kjer Olsen will be something special in 2018 while Thomas Covington should also be rushing to readiness after a winter knee operation.

It will be fascinating to watch this one simmer and how each athlete navigates the results and incidents to come. There is also Coldenhoff’s role in the middle and how the whole dynamic could change if one particular rider needs assistance ensuring that KTM remain as champions.

Mercifully for Jonass, the Huskys are similar in bike spec but are enclosed in a different segment of the paddock. If Prado gets firing and sorts out his weaknesses in hot conditions then KTM might have more internal friction to cope with. Prado was conflictive with Jonass at stages in 2017 – in spite of being out of the championship picture while #41 was moulding a campaign with Jeremy Seewer on his tail – and justified some unnecessarily close track action by stressing his desire to win. Ever jovial, Jonass smiled-away his teammate’s challenges but the dicing cause some degree of stress back in the KTM truck.

Jonass acknowledged Prado’s pace in 2017 but also knew the sixteen year old was learning the ropes in a debut GP year and what was his longest-ever racing season by a hefty margin. The Latvian’s concerns about the Spaniard have been eased in the first months of

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The luckiest & mentally toughest The unexpected cancellation of the Grand Prix of Sweden dropped MXGP down to nineteen rounds, staged from March 4th to September 30th. This schedule is the same as 2017 and covers three continents but still represents thirty-eight motos starts and a total of fifty-seven gatedrops: it is a hefty amount of racing and risk and emphasises the sport’s propensity to test sustainability as much as speed. Tony Cairoli’s most vibrant threats in 2017 had to deal with their own issues. For Jeffrey Herlings and Tim Gajser (the defending number one) it was injury (for Herlings also a mental readjustment of how he had to tackle the class) while for Romain Febvre it was a question of race set-up with the Monster Energy Yamaha. Clement Desalle and Gautier Paulin both found consistency with the Monster Energy Kawasaki and Rockstar IceOne Husqvarna but a combination of just three GPs wins and twelve podiums explained their distance from title contention. Desalle hovered around the leaders but his ambitions

dwindled after the Grand Prix of Czech Republic. The MXGP class has nineteen Grand Prix winners as part of the OAT list but what it also has is deeper experience with at least half of that number now aging into their late twenties. MXGP has thrown-up explosive tendencies in the last three seasons: Febvre’s debut sensation, Gajser’s 450 dominance and Herlings’ recovery to lay waste to MXGP in the final third of the 2017 trail. Will 2018 follow suite? Tony Cairoli won his ninth title with six GP triumphs and twelve podiums. In 2013 and 2014 – his last two championship years before the comeback – those numbers were higher at nine victories and fifteen and fourteen podiums respectively. It sounds obvious but Tony’s 24 top three moto finishes until he secured the crown was the platform for his success. Nobody else could match that ratio of points and due to the length and diversity of the championship it has to be the roadmap for anybody hungry for his status.

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Goodbye to Rookie prolificacy? The championship exploits of Romain Febvre and Tim Gajser in 2015 and 2016 led many – myself included – to ruminate on the changing trend of MXGP and whether a younger,

more daring, less pressurised, less traumatised generation on 450cc machinery were a solid bet for success. The term ‘wild-card’ meant more than just infrequent appear-

ances in the leading circle; it summarised an approach to the races that was aggressive, exciting and damn fast… if perhaps a little foolhardy (if the older segment of the

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MXGP field were to be heard). With the weight of being No.1 Febvre eventually paid for his blossoming confidence with a season-wrecking concussion in 2016 and Gajser narrowly escaped some big crashes in his title term only to be bashed on several occasions in 2017 (and is again injured now for an early dent to his 2018 tilt). One of the oldest riders in the field prevailed last year but was upstaged at the end of the season by Herlings and the latest purveyor of youthful abandon. Herlings missed out on being the third consecutive rookie to own MXGP by just 50 points; the bulk of which he lost steadily in the opening five rounds of the championship. Even twenty-year old Lithuanian Arminas Jasikonis threw the now defunct works Suzuki around with disregard for his novice stature in the competition and caught the eye at numerous Grands Prix until he fractured a femur in the United States. Herlings should be a major force again in 2018 but what of the new rookies? Circumstance hasn’t been too kind to those coming into the contest and a similar impact to the previous three seasons (and even as far back to 2011 when Steven Frossard blazed his way to runner-up spot) will be a tough ask. MX2 contender Jeremy Seewer had his plans disturbed by the bitterly disap-

pointing meltdown at Suzuki and the meek surrender of decades of presence and excellence by the team in Grand Prix. The Swiss has found an excellent satellite opportunity with Wilvo Yamaha but the shoulder injury to countryman Arnaud Tonus means the attention level on his efforts has increased a notch. Julien Lieber was the surprise inhabitant of the second saddle alongside Clement Desalle at Monster Energy Kawasaki but needed another knee operation and has been frantically catching-up in terms of testing and acclimatisation and will have only a month of riding time on the race-spec KX450F by the time of Argentina. Benoit Paturel’s story is puzzling. The Frenchman was tipped as the principal name for MX2 title glory and his first grand prix chase with Pauls Jonass in Qatar indicated as much as he finished second to the Latvian. A mixture of the Yamaha’s lethargy from the gate and the stylish rider’s wavering confidence saw him disappear from the podium for an age and eventually into mid-top ten obscurity. His Swiss GP win was a highlight but by then Paturel was being connected with three-four different teams for his forced MXGP year in 2018 (he was 23 years of age) and for various reasons no contracts were confirmed.

Benoit makes the gate this year but it is still a mystery why he is not on factory equipment and he won’t be in Argentina. While Seewer and Lieber have the ability and the tools to possibly stir the podium pot at times perhaps the heaviest bet for an authentic eyebrow-raise will come from British Champion Graeme Irwin. The Northern Irishman completed fleeting GP appearances near the start of the decade as a highly rated teenager before injury forced him to restart his career back in the UK. At 26 years of age Irwin has the maturity and the character to ruffle the establishment. Other aspects in his favour include the Hitachi KTM UK ASA Scaffolding 450 SX-F (see how the supported production machine is producing starts and podiums in Supercross with Justin Brayton and Blake Baggett) and the fact that Roger Magee’s crew now have more attention from the Austrian manufacturer as the sole British unit in orange. What could count against Irwin is his commitment to the British Championship; a fixture list that includes eight more races and a further sixteen starts.

mxgp Feature

Rebellious Youth MXGP might be the domain of experience once more and there is a feeling that riders like Van Horebeek, Searle, Simpson, Strijbos, Bobryshev, Coldenhoff and Nagl (Jose Butron even?) still have plenty to say in the competition but there are youngsters firmly in their tracks. Question marks remain over the 450 possibilities for individuals like Brian Bogers, Petar Petrov, Jordi Tixier, Valentin Guillod, Arminas Jasikonis and Benoit Paturel with bright moments shown but little to indicate a sizeable MXGP force in the making. What rider could burst forth from this tier? MX2 carries some genuinely exciting potential, mainly because many of the riders have yet to show their best and explore that rich and exciting territory of flowering confidence and achievement for the first time. Presently the sole GP winners in the category are Pauls Jonass, Thomas Kjer Olsen, Jorge Prado (all of whom triumphed for the first time in 2017) and Thomas Covington. The rest are straining at the leash for some podium spoils and names like Watson, Vlaanderen, Vaessen, Sterry, Beaton, Mewse, Brylyakov, Pootjes, Lesiardo

(a deserving EMX250 Champion), Cervellin and Bernadini. Then there are athletes like Brian Hsu and Brent Van Doninck looking to return to former levels of hype. Perhaps Jonass’ toughest opponent in his objective to be KTM’s third back-to-back MX2 champion this decade is Hunter Lawrence. Two podium results in the last two rounds of 2017 on the unfancied Suzuki and an awardwinning Motocross of Nations outing suitably embellished his credentials. Now on a factory-backed Honda under the guidance of Livia Lancelot, Lawrence is on the clock. A Geico Honda berth in the US beckons for the Australian in 2019 meaning his second full season in MX2 will be a winit-or-forget-it job. This extra urgency coupled with his partnership on Honda’s new and unproven CRF250F means the 18 year old is unlikely to hang around. Lawrence demonstrated his vast ability in 2017 but also showed plenty of rookie misjudgements. If Lancelot can help eradicate some of these decisions and the Honda can get out of the gate then Jonass will have an enforced battle line.

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mxgp Feature

The old and the new Where will MXGP move in the latter part of 2018? Rising social media data, stable TV coverage and numbers, an elongated calendar - and therefore general interest in staging Grand Prix events - are all signs that the championship is pushing onwards. Rising costs of racing (but also staging races) and a start gate that sometimes looks like it is struggling for calendar-wide participants has become another aspect in the last few years. Suzuki have disbanded their factory team and the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer have scaled down their HRC effort despite two titles, one in each class, since 2015. At a time when other sports and championships are looking towards the future there has to be questions of how MXGP could morph in the short term and when race fans might learn of any plans or ideas. WorldSBK have taken a controversial step towards tightening up the entertainment value of the ‘product’ through technical rules. MotoGP already has controlled

tyre, electronics and limited aerodynamic regulations. AMA Supercross is experimenting with a three Main Event format and looks set to try other alterations to what is already a very popular and well-watched spectacle. Emergence of E-Sport ‘branch-offs’ and the surge towards electric motorcycle racing (and all the political ramifications) by the part of MotoGP promoters Dorna indicate that this is a miniera of speculation. MXGP fans will remember the ill-fated Superfinals trialled in overseas Grands Prix in 2013 that pushed MXGP and MX2 classes together for a singular televised second moto. The concept was interesting and worth exploring but the end results were convoluted and the practicalities and hazards of mixing 250s and 450s on a regular basis were stark, especially on a rapid track like the now defunct Losail MX circuit in Qatar. Will there be another effort to shape-shift MXGP?

The Superfinals are now five years in the past and the digital landscape of many people’s lives (and especially those of the kids and the younger demographic that MXGP enjoys over most other motorsports) has become much more prevalent, condensed and more urgent. Whether a format scramble is right or wrong it is hard to imagine MXGP retaining a four-moto format and expecting realistic television minutes in the near future. The way the sport is presented - and marketed at least - is in the midst of a small revolution. The support card of a popular European Championship means that 21st century MXGP venues have to be of a certain size, ilk and infrastructure to cope and present a suitable commercial image. Fans through the gates get value for money for track action but does more need to be done to create the exclusiveness and excitement of the main MXGP races and its stars? What about electric bikes? The appearance of the Alta machine in the hands of Josh Hill at the Geneva SX in December was a piece of promotional wizardry and raised the topic of e-racing to wider circles. KTM recently had a high-profile press conference to underline their commitment to developing the technology (see the separate story in this issue). Motocross is perhaps ideally placed to showcase what these bikes can do thanks to the bigger depth of product and the simpler possibilities of chassis and performance. Will Youthstream and the FIM take the baton? One way in which MXGP is unafraid to tread is in the search for fresh ground. From the nineteen rounds in 2018 four Grands Prix will occur on brand new circuits. Another six are less than five years old, seven more at what MXGP fans might consider ‘old school’. Partly through a desire to spread the word and partly through understandable commercial reasons MXGP finds itself heading back to Turkey for only the second time, staging two races in Indonesia and dallying again with road race infrastructure thanks to the enthusiasm of the group behind the historic Imola facility. In 2019 MXGP is hoping to make a genuinely exciting move to China; the extent of the possibilities there and the size of the fandom for motocross remain an enticing mystery.

What else do you need to know?

mxgp 2018

Where to watch? MXGP have made another promising deal with Eurosport that will see four motos shown every Sunday on the Eurosport 2 channel. The company also have a range of regional broadcasters committed to MXGP and provide viewing details usually on the eve of the Grand Prix through social media channels or through the official website. Arguably the best port is www. where only 130 euros will guarantee live coverage of every moto, qualification heat, EMX round and behind-the-scenes magazine programmes through the season. Where to go? There are staple events for that mixture of decent viewing and atmosphere: St Jean D’Angely in western France is remote but the amphitheatre setting makes it special and Matterley Basin in southern England is popular among the riders, which can translate into some close action. Great spectating at Matterley can be offset by distances away from the track and the weather is always a gamble, especially on the British GP date of June 3rd. Potentially the best mix is the Grand Prix of Switzerland at Frauenfeld-Gachnang. There are some rumours over the status of the race due to environmental complaints but the layout of the track ensures a good overall scope of the motos, there is stadium seating and the vocal support for the Swiss contingent means it is a genuinely exhilarating experience. The venue is also only a short distance from Zurich. For a change of scene try the shallow undulations of Talkessel in Germany, the red dirt of Agueda in Portugal or the new setting of Red Sands in Spain, 250km from Barcelona and much closer to Valencia.



At the pinnacle of motocross, the sharpest weapon always prevails. For 2018, KTM has refined the KTM 450 SX-F, delivering unrivaled power, razor-sharp handling, and aggressive styling, making this motorcycle the ultimate weapon to race into your next on-track battle.

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troy lee designs Troy Lee Designs’ link with KTM and their whole 250 programme (it is more than just a team, judging by the Bakers Factory component in Florida) is all-encompassing and the company even have a comprehensive collection of casualwear to complete the powerful ‘VI’ of their racing effort. Two jackets, a fleece, hoodie and pullover compliment shirt, trousers and shorts and four different types of t-shirt (both in Youth and Women’s sizes as well). Accessories extend to two caps, two beanies, a rucksack, umbrella and gloves. A selection of some items appear on these pages and carry a distinctive team look with the proper logos and smart two-tone blue and orange scheme. Changing brands and TLD’s decade-long link with Cole Seely means a range of Honda related garments also. A spectrum of hoodies and layers as well as Honda-heavy t-shirts for both men and women form the hard base of the catalogue. Being TLD the gear looks the part and the level of quality cannot be disputed. Check out the TLD website for more or ask at a known stockist for a look at some of the 2018 wares.


which generation? Does Tony Cairoli need to be beaten? This obviously depends on your opinion of the 32 year old and his extended mark on the sport that now reaches fifteen world championship seasons, more than 200 Grands Prix, nine titles, 83 wins and some 163 moto victories among almost 300 topthree moto appearances. #222 is a force of numbers as a consequence of his brilliance. 2017 was a fantastic new episode in the saga of a scrawny Sicilian obliged to leave his home for the Italian mainland at the age of fifteen to advance his career. 2015 and 2016, those injuries and limited performances had raised questions. Mostly concerning Tony’s position on the hill of sporting achievement, and whether he was already on the downslope as younger and more vivacious characters seized MXGP and scurried up to catch him. Cairoli dug his flag a little deeper last year. To emphasise that his return to the peak of the sport was not solely about conservative consistency fitting of a ‘veteran’, he produced some thrilling sights to remind motocross and motorcycle fans of his capabilities and seemingly stubborn youth.

What now? As the original ‘rookie’ MXGP FIM Motocross World Championship winner in 2009 Cairoli has owned six of the last nine contests in the premier class. 2018 will be his tenth attempt at mastery with a 350/450 and, fittingly, it could bring him level with Stefan Everts on ten career titles; a total that was deemed ‘uncatchable’ when the Belgian retired in 2006 (when Cairoli had just one crown to his name). And he’s signed to KTM until 2020 for three more shots at the apple. For this reason alone Tony could be willed to yet more glory, much in the same way that Valentino Rossi is romantically supported by thousands in his sustained charge to rule MotoGP again for a tenth time; the 39 year old’s last triumph coming ten seasons ago.

Cairoli has been dealing with questions about his motivation for a number of years now. A desire to be world champion once more after the ardour of 2015 and 2016 is completely understandable; a rider with his pride and zeal for the sport would not want to stare at a slow slide from the winner’s circle hampered by physical problems (even if this is the primary cause for most decorated motocrossers to unwillingly ‘pass the torch’). Tony extinguished a lot of personal angst in 2017. Those persistent queries in regards to his reasons for continuing to weather the mental and physical blows of the sport will echo on with the ‘10th title’ angle.

By Adam Wheeler

For his last two years with Yamaha - 2008 and 2009 - I wrote Tony’s personal column/ Blog and looking through one of them recently I spotted this line from May 2009. “I really like to set new records. I am satisfied with my career so far and I am happy that people might be starting to take more of an interest in motocross because of the results.” This was said when he was 23, the same as Jeffrey Herlings now and with the Dutchman renowned for his preoccupation with milestones and leaving his footprint in motocross, the ‘records’ part hints that Cairoli is also moved by the idea of carving his name into the sport’s stone. At that stage he trailed the likes of Alessio Chiodi for accolades but by September had bagged the first of his gongs in the blue ribbon category and would hunt six more as #222 became the personification of the ultimate skilled and savvy constructor of championships.

What athlete at the top of their game doesn’t think about a possibility of immortality? Records simply mark a point in time and I believe it is part of a naturally competitive psyche to shoot for some target if the field around has been defeated.

He will bat away talk of No.10 easily and frequently – a old and quickly-learned trick of pressure redirection – but every time he extends his lead at the top of the MXGP standings or reduces the gap to a rival in 2018 it will bubble close to the surface.

Of course Tony has won much more since September 2009. He has set new benchmarks and is a clear second to the Everts-behemoth in most aspects. That urge to “set new records” may have long dulled, particularly when the extent of his achievements and fame in Italy is so visible and tangible and he can see how he has substantially spread the word of motocross.

2017 was a great story for Cairoli and MXGP: the comeback of a ‘great’ and the confirmation of his legend. It brings his sporting chronicle tantalising close to something truly remarkable. KTM Sport Director Pit Beirer credits the balance he has in his personal and professional life as reason for the longevity.

Cairoli has the Italian propensity for flair and his own style but he is also a modest guy. Reaching double-digits for those framed FIM certificates will be a splendid bonus in a remarkable career but it won’t be a do-or-die crux.

Was it – and should it be - the last hurrah though? Herlings is undoubtedly the standout threat for Tony due to those five wins from the last six rounds (it would have been six from six if #84’s chain had not let-go in Sweden) and the same starting prowess thanks to the works KTM – even with the brand new 2019 prototype that the team will roll out in Argentina.


Cairoli may have been taperingoff his risk-taking in the second phase of 2017 while his rival was flying but Herlings looked so strong once he’d figured out the demands of the class that he rarely had any peer. MXGP Fans had unexpected diversity in 2015 and 2016 with two rookie champions after a six year Cairoli-run, but a second phase of #222 dominance might not be welcomed with the same reverence. Herlings is hardly an underdog or a rider starved of acclaim – he has 67 GPs wins at 23 compared to Tony’s 87 at 32 – but he is perhaps the brightest star in the category since the dual emergence of Cairoli and a young Clement Desalle in 2009 (Gautier Paulin – a winner in his first race with the 450 in Italy at the end of 2011 – also has a shout at the same exciting status). Cairoli’s fiercest rival could be one that is a only a few metres away from him in the awning every weekend and not since 2004 and his first term with Claudio De Carli and alongside Claudio Federici could the Italian contemplate a teammate that is just as able and potent as himself.

That proximity could be the spur that Tony also needs to excel once again. To defeat Herlings on the same bike and with the momentum he generated in 2017 would be some accomplishment. Should the pendulum swing and it is Jeffrey’s turn then MXGP could be looking at the start of another hegemony. There is slightly less predictability with Herlings though. He might well have been part of the Red Bull KTM set-up before he was legally allowed to vote but there is a nagging feeling that he could be swayed by big money offers or the enticement of another challenge with another team. Cairoli was heavily courted by Suzuki at one stage in his career but knew the chemistry he had with De Carli and the same band of mechanics was all he needed to fulfil his goals. However, to ruminate solely on KTM riders for 2018 is not only a disservice to another high calibre gathering in the MXGP gate but also ignoring the spectacular edginess of the sport and its often cruel twists and turns. Like it or not, chances and opportunity is running out for athletes like

Desalle, Paulin, Van Horebeek, Simpson, Searle, Strijbos. Timing and budgets can something skew a career and close that narrow window of fate; just look at the situations for Evgeny Bobryshev, Max Nagl or even Arminas Jasikonis and Benoit Paturel. Tim Gajser is enduring his own dark days after two ground-breaking years of back-to-back plunder. Cairoli and Herlings have proved that there are ways to return to the top after adversity but they have to be wise to the rider or two that grasps every possible crumb of the cookie in ’18. After all, somehow, there could be an even better narrative than a KTM victor.


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monster energy Viewers of the EPL – that’s English Premier League for non-football fans – may have noticed that prevalent energy drink brand from motorsports invading some of the pitch side advertising. Monster Energy have used one of the world’s biggest sporting showcases to flash awareness of their new sport drink ‘Hydro’. The product comes in three flavours and is still caffeine-based but definitely orientated towards the sport-leisure side of the market and a different slant to the standard energy brew. The three flavours are Mean Green, Manic Melon and Tropical Thunder. “Lightly sweetened and non-carbonated: it’s easy drinking for when you’re going hard at it,” the website information states. “Powered by glucose, it pulls no punches and combines refreshment with awesome flavour.” Your local supermarket is bound to have some in stock next to the staple blue and green cans.

motogp BLOG

the black orange... The news that Tech3 are to end their association with Yamaha and switch to KTM was a genuine bombshell (and for once, that word is appropriate). Though Hervé Poncharal was finding it ever harder to hide his growing frustration with Yamaha, Tech3 actually abandoning the Japanese manufacturer was a genuine shock. Since Valentino Rossi left Honda for Yamaha, they have won seven of the last fourteen MotoGP championships. Between them, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger scored four podiums, two poles, and six fastest race laps last year. Why would the Tech3 team give up all that for a bike that has never finished better than ninth? Lots of reasons. First and foremost because of the promise of extensive factory support from KTM. Traditionally, Yamaha wheeled the factory bikes out of the Movistar garage and into Tech3 after the last race at Valencia. Updates were few and far between.

Though precise details of Tech3’s new deal with KTM are yet to be announced, it is clear from Hervé Poncharal’s statements that KTM support will be significantly better. The idea is that Tech3 will be a “junior factory team”, much more closely aligned to the factory, with near-factory spec machinery and direct input into the development process. KTM can use Tech3 as a conduit for young talent coming from Moto2, giving more options than just the factory squad. I fully expect the Tech3 line up next year to consist of Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, at least one of whom KTM expects to win the Moto2 championship with this year. The Tech3 switch caused an earthquake in the MotoGP paddock. But it is really a symptom of the tectonic shift in the underlying structure of the series which has been going on since the 800cc era.

The switch from 990cc MotoGP bikes to 800cc proved to be a failed experiment, which, together with the global financial crisis of 2008, almost triggered the collapse of the championship. A rapidly shrinking grid, lack of sponsorship, rising costs, and processional races forced Dorna to take on the might of the factories. CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta challenged the orthodoxies of the MotoGP manufacturers, and committed Dorna to a game of high stakes poker against the factories, united in the MSMA. When their contracts with the manufacturers ended in 2010, Dorna demanded a number of changes: a rev limit, a spec ECU, and a return to 1000cc bikes, restricted to four cylinders. The MSMA rejected both the rev limit and the spec ECU, but accepted the 81mm maximum bore proposed by Dorna, seeing a technical challenge to

By David Emmett

get around a de facto rev limit. (In theory, a 81mm bore meant revving beyond 16,500 RPM would be difficult. In practice, MotoGP bikes are already revving well over 18,000 again.) To back up their threats, Dorna introduced the much-maligned CRT class, production engines in prototype chassis. The aim of the CRT bikes was not to challenge the technical supremacy of the factories. It was to send them a message: if you leave in protest over the rules, we can still go racing without you. The threats worked. The factories stayed. Even better, departed factories expressed an interest in leaving. Ezpeleta called Honda’s bluff, forcing through a spec ECU the next time the contracts were up in 2015, with spec software following in 2016. A series of concessions slowed the top factories down, and allowed the laggards to catch up. Honda grumbled, but remained. Suzuki returned. The bosses of Honda and Suzuki both told me separately that a spec ECU would be reason to leave the sport. Yet they didn’t.

With the technical regulations secured, Dorna turned their attention to the financial side of the series. In 2015, Dorna agreed with the teams and the factories that they would ‘up’ their payments to the teams, and the factories would limit the amount they could charge for leasing satellite bikes. From 2017, teams would receive roughly 1.9 million euros per rider per season, while factories could charge a maximum of 2.2 million euros per rider for leasing bikes. Factories also agreed to supply at least two satellite riders, if they could agree terms with a team. This dynamic is just starting to play out. Tech3 are leaving Yamaha for KTM because, for the first time ever, they have viable options to choose from. KTM may not be competitive now, but the budget and ambition of the Austrians should take them a long way by 2019. Other teams are following a similar path: there are whispers that Marc VDS is considering abandoning Honda to become a Suzuki satellite team.

The Angel Nieto team (formerly Aspar) could take on the satellite Yamaha role, at least until the VR46 team arrives after Valentino Rossi retires at some point in the future. It has taken ten years, but Dorna’s gamble has paid off. Now they just need to reproduce that success in WorldSBK...


By Neil Morrison, Photos by CormacGP

keeping in trim fitting on a motogp bike



ew year, new me. January and February are the months for change, when resolutions prosper. If ever there’s a time to put in more time at the gym, consume less junk and postpone those post-work drinks, it’s when the excesses of Christmas and New Year are still fresh in the mind. For the MotoGP contingent, it hardly differs. While many of the 24 riders on the grid exercise a good deal more discipline over the holiday period than most, January still offers up a unique opportunity of remaining in a settled location. Without the constraints of travel and time zones changes, diet can be strictly regulated. Unlike the season, when some tend to put weight back on, the majority of time can be used to hone the physical condition. Thus seeing a number of riders at Sepang, the first test of 2018, required one to do a double take. Updated bike designs, timing screens and lap analysis were only part of the intrigue as several individuals were thinner, lighter, and sporting slighter frames than before. Judging by the appearances of Cal Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci, the winter slimming programme appears to have been more intense than ever.

“Being underweight is not positive for the body or for performance. Maybe you gain two tenths, but at the same time, because you are not focussed and because many things in your body are not working well, you lose time elsewhere.” Official rider stats, taken at the first test of the year, reveals the weight loss, and, in some cases, gain. Jack Miller, for example, dropped from 70 kilos at the start of ‘17 to 64kg this February. Aleix Espargaro’s diligent work on a pushbike led to him shed five kilos to sit

at a trim 66kg. Scott Redding – the grid’s tallest rider - claims to have watched his weight fall from 83 to 77.5 kilos over the winter months, while Crutchlow (-6.5kg) and Petrucci (-4kg) have also trimmed down substantially from November to February.

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Over 7,500km were covered on a bicycle as Crutchlow pushed toward his early New Year goal. Espargaro-the-elder feels he is at his absolute physical limit, after a steadfast winter of toil when training. “I think 66kg is quite low,” he recently said. “Actually, riders that are not tall like me, like Rins, are 67 or 68 kilos, so I definitely can’t lose more.” There are stories of certain riders using the weight of rivals as a marker, and they consequently selfdiscipline until they reach that mark. Dr. Michele Zaza, head of the Clinica Mobile,

speaks of “at least a couple of cases in the past four years” when slimming down or changing diets had a negative impact on a rider’s overall wellbeing. To hear Redding speaking of his winter of weight fluctuation sounds like a full-time job in itself. “It’s quite a lot that I lost,” he says. “I’ll try and stay at this, and hold it as a plateau. I don’t want to drop too much. I was coming down to 77.0kg and then it would go back up to 78kg. Then it’d go up to 79kg and after it’d come back down.”

Feature “With the smaller riders, they can do strength training because they can afford to put on some muscles. But I can’t. I need to avoid that and do other things to build my strength to avoid building any size.” So is there a method to this madness? At first glance it paints members of the grid as weightobsessed and diet-wary, like leggy sculpted models on a catwalk counting calorie intakes and pondering food-types as though their lives depended on it. The answer is, of course, yes. As in most modern day elite sports, there are gains to be found in the narrowest of margins. Going off official figures, there is a range of 27 kilos from the grid’s lightest member - Dani Pedrosa (51kg) – to the heaviest – Scott Redding, whose 185cm frame sees him stand at just under 78kg. Pedrosa’s weight is not always ideal, and, in cooler conditions or when there is rain, is a hindrance due to his inability to generate sufficient heat in his tyres. But a lightweight frame such as his has its benefits. “When you see Dani accelerating,” says Christophe Bourguignon, crew chief of Cal Crutchlow, “even if he ever picks up the bike later or opens [the throttle] after us, he still accelerates better because of his weight. If you’ve gone go-karting, and there is a kid with 45 kilos next to you, he’ll pass you on the straight. That’s the only difference - he’s 15 kilos lighter. That’s quite important in the end.” In terms of top speed, a lighter, more ‘aerodynamic’ frame can also play a significant role on straights. Aprilia’s technical chief Romano Albesiano is sure that placing certain names on the RS-GP would result in a top speed increase. “There are riders in this paddock that if we fitted them on our bike, we’d immediately gain five kilometres per hour,” he says.

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Feature If a rider of Pedrosa’s height (160cm), can benefit from an increased top speed then the grid’s taller riders – Petrucci and Aprilia’s Espargaro (180cm), Karel Abraham (181cm), Valentino Rossi (182cm) and Redding included – face a fight to trim down accordingly, and ensure the body fat is at a minimum. Manufacturers are constantly attempting to find ways to trim a bike’s weight down to size, as witnessed by the recent usage of Ohlin’s carbon front forks. So naturally, if a rider weighs more than the average, he should attempt to shed a few pounds here and there. But to what extent can a difference of five kilos make on a bike that clocks in at close to three times a rider’s weight and pumps out more than 260 brake horsepower? Albesiano believes advantages can be seen in all aspects of the motorcycle. “For sure you will see a different load on the tyres; different tyre life; different aerodynamic power loss,” he says. “Anyway, for tyre life, stress on the mechanical parts, and the aerodynamics, it’s important.

“The biggest [difference] would be more acceleration and some stress on the tyres. That would be the most critical, and the most difficult to measure, but the stress on the tyres. Also fuel consumption is more. A heavier rider has a higher fuel consumption. This is a critical parameter at certain tracks.” Bourguignon adds: “If you have less weight the bike is easier to handle, and when you have G force – that’s a calculation of the weight – then the lighter you are, the better you can keep the line, the less force you put on your front tyre, and the less force you put on your rear tyre.” Yet the Belgian, who has worked in Crutchlow’s corner for the past three years, concedes, “probably each kilo compared to the full package of the bike is a really narrow margin.” It is tempting to conclude that Crutchlow’s recent speed in preseason testing, which saw him place third overall at Sepang and fourth at Buriram, is a consequence of his recent diet.

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Bourguignon, however, believes the benefits of such a regime are more mental, with his rider safe in the knowledge he is more than prepared for the year ahead. “It’s probably more in his head, knowing that he’s prepared,” he says. “Looking at the data, we cannot see a difference [to when he rode last November]. It’s really close. By calculation and by experience we know that five kilos of fuel is worth about 0.1s a lap. When you consider the rider’s weight is [placed] even higher than the fuel tank... “Also there’s less moving mass. I don’t think you can say this is what made the difference, but if you calculate, you’re going to see that in 30 laps you’ll gain ‘X’ tenths over a race distance. It cannot be worse; only better. When you have a light rider it probably means he’s in good physical condition, good in his head and prepared for racing.”

There’s no doubting it can be tough. Riders that push their bodies relentlessly over the winter run the risk of losing too much strength. Petrucci felt the strain in the heat at Sepang. “My main problem was [the strength] for the G-force in the acceleration,” he said there. “I struggled a lot.” Temptation is never further away either. Crutchlow again: “I cracked the other night, went to Starbucks and had a large Frappuccino with cream,” he said at the recent test in Thailand. “To be honest I could have just injected it into my vein, it was that good. I’ve had my fix now and I’m done for a while. I could go lower, but I’d get sick. Traveling, I’d get way too sick. I’ve got no body fat. When you’re on planes all the time, that’s not good.” Dr. Michele Zaza has also witnessed occasions when diets and overtraining goes too far. “Sometimes if they are on too strict a diet, maybe they don’t have enough strength,” he said.


motogp diet

“We’ve seen this in the past. We saw some riders, and they didn’t come out in the press, but we had at least a couple of cases in the past four years when riders were really weak because they changed diets. They were doing really strict diets.” “In both cases they were low carbohydrate diets. You can do this for a limited time and under medical control. Whereas these riders had been doing this for a long time and with no control. If you want to lose weight you can limit the carbohydrates, but if you want to do sports you need carbohydrates. They’re the fuel of the body. It’s very important.” “Being underweight is not positive for the body or for the performance. Maybe you gain two tenths of a second, but at the same time, because you are not focussed and because many things in your body are not working well, you lose time elsewhere.” Considering 17 of the grid’s 24 riders are between 64 and 69 kilos – only Pedrosa, Thomas Luthi and Alvaro Bautista weigh less – does an optimum weight for a MotoGP rider exist? Albesiano isn’t sure: “It can’t be too light because the rider has to have the energy to manoeuvre. So he has to be strong and have some mass. Honestly, I couldn’t say what it is.”

For Dr. Zaza, there are too many factors to consider for a reliable number. “It depends on the body type and the type of activity that you do,” he says. “When you finish with the bike, if you go cycling for one hour then you need a number of calories, which is higher than a rider than the rider that goes to relax in the swimming pool. It also depends on your habits when you are off the bike. Also, it depends on the age and the height, a lot of things.” The Italian doctor that took over from the legendary Claudio Costa is sure of one thing, however: training and dieting can only take you so far in this sport. “It is something in motorbikes that we’ve seen in recent years – the aim for reaching the perfect training, the perfect preparation, the perfect nutrition,” he says. “These are things that I don’t think will help you to win a championship. At the end of the day, this is still a sport which requires you to be fast and have your riding skills.” Bourguignon agrees. “Cal was quite heavy when he won at Phillip Island two years ago,” he says with a grin. “This [losing weight] is not the only answer; I think I could still win a few!”

motogp BLOG

why is yamaha in a spin? The second test of 2018 threw up more questions than answers regarding Yamaha’s three possible title contenders. So what’s going wrong in the factory squad? History was made during the recent test in Thailand. Hafizh Syahrin was the first Malaysian to climb aboard a MotoGP machine during an official outing, his overall performance sealing his place on 2018’s grid for Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Crew chief Nicolas Goyon could be forgiven for feeling a little jaded. “Six riders in the past seven events,” he said, referencing the merry-go-round that has been in a perpetual spin since Jonas Folger’s withdrawal to illness. “It was too much.” Syahrin’s adaption was the least of Yamaha’s worries in the blazing Thai heat. The factory squad looked lost throughout, doing very little to suggest 2017’s myriad of issues have been resolved. Riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales reverted back and forth between chassis and settings, turning their bikes upside down. But the problems remained. The pace sagged. And the Catalan -remember where he was this time last year? wore a sullen expression of defeat by the end.

Most worrying of all, there was no clear explanation. “We tried everything, and nothing works,” Viñales said on day three, a reflection of the rider repeatedly seen staring off and into the distance in the autumn of last year. So why then, has Syahrin’s team-mate Johann Zarco continued to prosper, ending the test second; six places ahead of Viñales and ten of Rossi? Goyon provided a clue as he relayed those instructions he imparts to new riders sitting in the seat opposing his own. “You need to get the ‘Yamaha style’ as soon as possible,” he said. “Otherwise you struggle. We all know Pol Espargaro struggled with this. You have to understand the ‘Yamaha style’ is Jorge Lorenzo. For the style he is still the number one in Yamaha. He’s the target. For a new rider, he has to match this style: smooth, with the bike not moving. This is the way to ride the M1.”

In Buriram it wasn’t just new-boy Syahrin taking note. Zarco has been speaking in similar terms to Goyon of late. Since the turn of the year the Frenchman has stated the best means of extracting the maximum from his current package – a chassis that is more or less from ‘15, and updated engine with 500 more revs than last year – is to reproduce Lorenzo’s metronomic timing, swooping lines and inch perfect throttle control. “It’s the way to go fast [on the M1],” said the Frenchman. “He’s the one to have perfection, so I’m trying to understand this.” To state all Movistar Yamaha’s issues stem from a failure to replicate the #99’s style would be to oversimplify the situation. Neither Rossi nor Viñales can boast of Lorenzo’s rapid fluency. And, for that matter, neither appears intent on replicating that style. Why should they? Rossi came within five points of winning a tenth title with Lorenzo by his side three years ago.

By Neil Morrison

Meanwhile Viñales began last year with the grit and fire of a rider capable of going all the way to the very top. What is apparent is the struggle for direction within the factory squad is still ongoing. In Lorenzo’s departure to Ducati, Yamaha has also lost a clear reference for development. In the past the Majorcan’s lap-for-lap consistency provided a useful imprint on telemetry that showed clear differences between set-up and component changes. What’s more, he placed emphasis on the M1’s ability to enter the corner as he pleases. Rossi often demands the same. Recent evidence points to Viñales seeking another path. The 23-year old, more aggressive when braking and accelerating than his Spanish predecessor, wants his bike to bite on corner exit. The latest Yamaha engine is too docile to react accordingly with his right wrist. Again, the factory has two riders requesting opposing things. In Thailand their feedback made heads spin. For Rossi, the electronics were an issue on day one. By the third, he was convincing everyone rear tyres were the problem - a sign, perhaps, that he himself cannot nail the reasons underpinning his lack of speed.

On Viñales’ side, corner entry was a problem, a statement that directly contradicted Rossi’s. Desperation soon began to set in. On day two a late run offered brief respite, but, realistically, that set-up - electronics turned down, allowing him to push hard on exit - was never going to work over race distance. As 2017 drew to a welcome close, Viñales spoke of the need to ‘follow his own instinct’. He was more guarded on the matter at the team presentation in January but by Saturday in Buriram he was definitive: “Following my own feelings and my own set-up - that’s when I feel good, when I have my bike and can ride [with] my style.” That technique won three races from last year’s first five. Even when development turned in Rossi’s favour he still had the measure of the 39-year old more often than not. Should Yamaha not back the younger of its two men, the one who has already signed an extension to stay until 2020? Clearly a conclusion cannot be drawn after one test, not least when a “strange track” with “strange conditions”, according to master of perspective Andrea Dovizioso, could possibly distort reality.

The previous outing at Sepang featured two largely positive days, and let’s not forget Rossi’s love for 2pm on a Sunday. For the 39-year old, last year’s preseason was a disaster and still it was he leading the championship before the beginning of the European ‘ground war’. What’s worrying is Yamaha appears to have cured few of last year’s ills. The factory stands at a crossroads: follow Rossi, who may be slightly slower, but resolves to maintaining the M1’s character; or listen to Viñales, quite possibly the faster of the two, but a rider demanding the bike to be set up in his manner, his way. From last season’s evidence, it appears obvious which side they’ll follow.


THE BuZZ By Adam wheeler, Photos by kTm Images

EuRopE’s bIggEst bIkE mAnufActuRER suRgEs towARds ElEctRIc futuRE As fREERIdE E-Xc REAdIEs foR mARkEt

First published on



here was a moment during KTM’s presentation of their ambitious second generation Freeride E-XC electric off-road motorcycle last December that was eerily odd. The sound of the future was in fact almost the sound of nothing at all. The shimmering and busy interior of the Hangar 7 facility at Salzburg airport – a Red Bull shrine chockfull of vehicles, racing relics, an F1 car here, motocross and Dakar bikes there, stunt planes regally looking out towards the runway – felt cavernous as Extreme Enduro legend Taddy Blazusiak purred and whined his way down a ramp on the E-XC, through the mass of journalists and KTM guests and up onto the stage;

it could be the most delicate, polite and understated introduction of a motorcycle at any bike launch ever. The Pole parked the lithe, quiet, almost courteous, model next to several members of the KTM Group board of Directors with CEO Stefan Pierer and CSO Hubert Trunkenpolz having held court with Designer Gerald Kiska in front of an international media gathering. The Austrian brand (also armed with the Husqvarna name since 2013) registered a seventh year of growth in 2017, reaching 1.5 billion euros in sales and setting another new record for units shifted; “a bit more” than 230,000 globally, according to Pierer.

ktm’s electric future?

KTM have expanded to the point where the modest factory on the outskirts of Mattighofen close to the German border has spurted from a few hundred employees to more than 5500 globally. KTM’s e-mobility programme is over a decade in the making and their first Freeride production model was released in 2014. The bike was available in offroad and street ‘Supermoto’ versions and apparently sold just over 300 units. “It might not seem a lot but for our first one it means 80% of the market share and makes us the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric motorcycles,” says Trunkenpolz. That market also features names like Zero, Alta, (even HarleyDavidson) and the large section of the forthcoming EICMA show in Milan this week will house a slew of other companies offering electric wares and hoping to entice the curiosity of the bigger players in the industry. For a relatively minor element of their ballooning motorcycle portfolio the Freeride E-XC (Electric Cross Country) hardly warrants such a lavish location at Hangar 7 and the presence of KTM’s overseers for Blazusiak’s whispering intro. However, there is a wider issue with the technology and KTM’s philosophy towards e-mobility in their products and motorcycling generally (Pierer is also President of the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers) and this press event is more than just a technical run-down of another piece of sumptuous orange Austrian machinery. “I am totally convinced that in the future electric mobility has a place in the two-wheeled world,” opines Pierer, a man who revived a bankrupt firm at the beginning of the 1990s, survived the crisis through diver-

sification of their range and aim towards a bigger share of the (reduced) market, and is now leader of a thriving operation that is Europe’s largest and most prolific, pushing towards more intercontinental numbers thanks to co-operation schemes such as their alliance with Indian manufacturer Bajaj. “E-mobility was something that really grew in mountain bike. To the point where we thought ‘let’s do our own electric off-road competition bike’.”


We took a couple of years because nobody could really serve or supply us and, to be honest, the total investment in that technology up until now has reached twenty million euros. For us, at that time we were a little company and it was a huge risk. Throughout the crisis we stopped for one or two years but we restarted and launched it three years ago. It was very successful. In the bicycle world more than two-thirds of new sales involve electric bikes and we think it will move up to 3-4KW, so the same as moped/scooter class.” For KTM, as with most traditional motorcycle manufacturers, the process of embracing battery-power and converting it into a practical and enjoyable bike is the main challenge. “There was no real supply industry for the motorcycle so we had to hire people and specialists; it was a brand new platform for us so it took time…we have always been an innovative company and the Austrian Research Fund helped a lot but seven years is not your usual project time!” remarked R&D Vice President Philipp Habsburg.

The advantages of the Freeride-E were obvious: zero emissions and noise, low maintenance and the simplistic ‘bicycle’ style of riding with no gearing: just twist and go. The bike was an ideal commuter option or entry port for beginners or a ridiculously light and torquey plaything for experienced riders. By producing offroad and supermoto incarnations (and by navigating logistical and shipping issues that saw the bike delayed for the U.S.) they covered their bases. By next month the arrival of the Freeride E-XC (a price is still to be set) will hike performance up a notch. The new bike benefits from a Sony cell, a completely reworked chassis and an engine management system that actually allows the battery to recharge while the rider is coasting or braking. “We did a lot of upgrades to the point where we have now improved the capacity of the battery by 50% because range in e-mobility is one of the key questions,” adds Habsburg.

ktm’s electric future?

“As always in KTM we try to increase peak performance with the engine and we are close to 25hp and 42 Nm which is the same level as a 250cc two-stroke; the main advantage is that you have that power from 0 rpm.” “It is an exciting time for KTM but off-road is still the biggest segment and this is the latest baby in our family,” said Off-Road product manager Joche Sauer on a more general picture. “We have been working more than ten years on e-mobility.” “The first Freeride-E was more for beginners and this is more for the guy who has already ridden a dirtbike or coming from downhill,” revealed Vice President of R&D Off-Road, Bernhard Plazotta.

Feature “An example is the wider handlebars, better brakes and focus on lighter handling.” At Hangar 7 KTM gave answers, and opened up yet more questions. Will the Freeride E-XC concept really start to catch on? What will this mean for the combustion engine and KTM’s already ferocious four-stroke (and enduring two-stroke, now fuelinjected) technology? How will e-mobility fit into a scale of growth that is chiming in sixth gear for the Austrians? Blazusiak, a stupendously talented motorcyclist, was succinct on how a Freeride E-XC will feel for customers and how his very own ‘toys’ could well change. “The cool thing is that it still rides and performs well,” he says. “I’m an ‘old-school’ guy…but I can understand that this is the future and it is gonna come sooner or later.” “For designers it is a dream time, so to say, because it means new architecture of bikes and new opportunities,” voices Kiska. “We will see the gap today between a bicycle and a motorcycle disappear and we will see a lot of interesting crossover parts between. This is a opportunity that does not come around every year.”

ktm’s electric future?

As efforts in the automobile industry (and Tesla was a name mentioned often at the Hangar 7 proceedings) have discovered, electric engines and vehicles are not without their own lingering doubts and environmental issues but KTM seem to be trying to tackle some of this with their battery policy that involves a cost-friendly leasing scheme. Once defunct batteries are returned to KTM then an alliance with Saubermacher, an Austrian entity, ensures a recycling process and re-usage “this means our recycling issue as a manufacturer is solved,” says Pierer. Frustratingly (tellingly?) there are no plans for a road model at this stage (even if the E-XC is completely street legal); Trunkenpolz hinting that another design direction is required. This could be an area for the more experimental sphere of Husqvarna. “For cities we need more things like pillion possibilities and helmet storage,” he explains.

Talk of bicycles, motorcycles of the future and engine power still feel some way down the line. KTM have – and still are – investing in e-mobility but for now it is yet another facet of their comprehensive catalogue. “E-mobility is not for everyone…but it is another possibility for our customers,” says Kiska. “I think our line of Enduro bikes is a good example,” expounds Trukenpolz. “If you take a look then the consumer is free to pick between a state-of-the-art revolutionarily two-stroke fuel injected engine low on consumption and emissions, the traditional four-stroke engine and now the updated electric. It will depend on the user and their preference and the market will steer by itself. Anyway it is clear that emissions are an issue and we have to bring them down.”

Feature Pierer remains typically bolder but also credits the need for combustion to be the energy source for now: “In my opinion the bridge technology for the next decade is the hybrid. I don’t think the combustion engine will disappear for the next 20-30 years.” “In my opinion the powered twowheeler is the solution for the future of urban mobility. So we have a clear vision and strategy again from our sport motorcycle programme – off-road or onroad – that we are developing powered two-wheelers on an electric base and we think in ten years time at least 50% of our output will be electric,” he says. “It is long-term and to afford and achieve that you need a successful and performing combustion programme so you can earn the money to invest in the future.” As for progress the KTM Group have a lot more on their mind than just current and currency. Over 150 million euros of investment and an emblematic MotoGP racing team raising Street awareness to new levels means the ‘throttle stays pinned’. Husqvarna is primed to start production of Street machinery in 2018. “Instead of 300,000 sales by 2021 we want 400k,” Pierer asserts. “We keep the speed, and we want to become a big global player.”

ktm’s electric future?

TEST Words by Roland Brown, Photos by Milagro

Ducati Panigale V4

In some ways the stunning Panigale V4 is all about the engine: how could that not be the case, given that it is powered by Ducati’s first mass-produced V4, an 1103cc desmo unit that ends decades of V-twin tradition and whose output of 211bhp at 13,000rpm sets new standards of high-revving power and excitement. Yet what makes this new-generation Panigale even more remarkable is that a first racetrack encounter is likely to prove most memorable not for the V4’s ferocious straight-line speed but for the extraordinary composure of its MotoGP-derived chassis. At least, that was the case on the bike’s launch at the Valencia circuit. Sure, the Panigale accelerated out of turns and thundered down straights at an exhilarating rate.

But it was though the infield’s relatively slow, second-gear turns that the Ducati shone most of all, with a blend of light yet accurate steering, mid-bend balance, feedback and controllability that made it both fast and hugely rewarding to ride. This was no coincidence; rather, a result of the fact that the V4 has been designed using expertise gained during Ducati’s many seasons in MotoGP racing with the Desmosedici. Competing at the highest level demands a bike that is controllable as well as powerful, making MotoGP an ideal proving ground for this latest in the Panigale family. That Desmosedici influence is clear from the architecture of the quad-cam, 16v engine, which shares the racebike’s 90-degree cylinder angle, 81mm bore, combustion chamber design and irregular firing order.

Ducati Panigale V4

“The v4 flicked effortlessly into turns, pointed exactly where it was aimed, then catapulted out again with the aid of flawless throttle response....�

It also adopts its contra-rotating crankshaft layout (the crank turns in the opposite direction to the bike’s wheels). The extra gear’s friction robs a few bhp, but the V4 unit revs to 15,000rpm so can afford it. That capacity of 1103cc, via a longer stroke than the 1000cc racebike’s, boosts midrange output to a comparable level. The chassis is based on an aluminium “front frame” that uses the engine as a stressed member and was designed using Ducati’s MotoGP-derived knowledge of the rigidity required in each direction. Styling is similar to that of the outgoing 1299 Panigale, because a dramatic restyle made no sense – not least because the V4 continues the family tradition of elegance, in each of its three model options. The V4 S differs from the standard model by having Öhlins semi-active suspension (instead of conventional Showa/Sachs units), forged Marchesini wheels and a lighter lithium-ion battery.

The exotic V4 Speciale, costing almost twice as much as the standard V4 (which is £19,250 in the UK), gets red-white-green paintwork, a titanium Akrapovic exhaust and numerous highend details. For a bike that is very different to the 1299, the V4 initially feels very similar. Its riding position is identical apart from slightly higher footrests; the view is of a new and attractive TFT display plus, in the case of the V4 S launch bikes, the wired-up fork-tops of the second-generation Öhlins Smart EC suspension system. Ducati’s decision to launch the V4 at Valencia had initially seemed surprising, given that the Spanish track is among the tightest MotoGP venues and has many slow-speed bends. But this supremely powerful bike immediately felt at home through the infield section, thanks to its superbly light yet accurate steering and outstanding mid-corner equilibrium.

Ducati Panigale V4

It flicked effortlessly into turns, pointed exactly where it was aimed, then catapulted out again with the aid of flawless throttle response. Acceleration was also helped by the contra-rotating crank, which reduces pitching both acceleration and braking, as well as the stickiness of Pirelli’s new rear Supercorsa SPs and the safety net of an updated traction control system that incorporates a new slide control system for expert riders.

The Ducati braked super-hard with a squeeze of its new Brembo Stylema calipers (fitted with cornering ABS), down-shifted seamlessly with the help of its auto-blipper, and slowed with the aid of lean-angledependent engine brake control. The Panigale’s cutting-edge, MotoGP-developed electronics are a major contributor to the outstanding chassis balance that is among its greatest assets.

On entering the main straight, my tallness (which also made the footrests slightly cramped) was probably responsible for a mild head-shake that initial tweaking of the intuitive Öhlins system calmed but didn’t completely cure. A even firmer set-up added stability for my final session aboard a slick-shod Panigale whose Akrapovic system boosted output to 223bhp – on par with the Honda RC211V on which Valentino Rossi won the first MotoGP title in 2002.

Five sessions at Valencia were enough to leave me and most other riders reeling, and not just from the physical effort of piloting a machine that generates such forces of acceleration, cornering and braking. Ducati’s move away from its traditional V-twins initially seemed controversial, but in retrospect the wisdom of using all that MotoGP experience is clear. So too is the conclusion that the Panigale V4 has taken mass-produced superbike performance to a new level.

back page Back to Argentina... By Ray Archer

on track off road

‘On-track Off-road’ is a free, bi-weekly publication for the screen focussed on bringing the latest perspectives on events, blogs and some of the very finest photography from the three worlds of the FIM Motocross World Championship, the AMA Motocross and Supercross series’ and MotoGP. ‘On-track Off-road’ will be published online at every other Tuesday. To receive an email notification that a new issue available with a brief description of each edition’s contents simply enter an address in the box provided on the homepage. All email addresses will be kept strictly confidential and only used for purposes connected with OTOR. Adam Wheeler Editor and MXGP/MotoGP correspondent Ray Archer Photographer Steve Matthes AMA MX and SX correspondent Cormac Ryan-Meenan MotoGP Photographer David Emmett MotoGP Blogger Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger Graeme Brown WSB Blogger and Photographer Roland Brown Tester Núria Garcia Cover Design Gabi Álvarez Web developer Hosting FireThumb7 - Thanks to PHOTO CREDITS Ray Archer, CormacGP, GeeBee Images, KTM, Husqvarna/Bavo Swijgers, JP Acevedo, Simon Cudby, Monster Energy, Milagro

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On-Track Off-Road issue 172  
On-Track Off-Road issue 172  

The second 2018 issue of a monthly motorcycle sport magazine with some of the best interviews, features and Blogs from the heart of MotoGP,...