April 2018 No 174
A quite stunning shot from Vaclav Duska at Aragon last weekend and one of a remarkable sequence when Chaz Davies had a push in Superpole and abused his Panigale. The Welshman bounced up to win twenty-four hours later Photo by wd.jrphoto
While the temperatures plummeted and the snow coated the city outside Monster Energy Kawasakiâ€™s Eli Tomac was red hot in Minnesota and splashed AMA Supercross green once more with his seventh win of the season to became the inaugural Triple Crown champion. #3 sits 26 points behind Marvin Musquin and 65 from Jason Anderson with three rounds of the season remaining Photo by Monster Energy/Swanberg
hitting it Major hype, a rapid rise, growing pains and tantrums, stardom, hospital visits and records: this guy is not only brilliantly fast on a motorcycle but he is also an interesting case study as a person and professional athlete. In this issue we tried to forage among the chemistry and components that make Jeffrey Herlings a motocross phenomenon and a clear MXGP championship leader Photo by Ray Archer
grand prix of portugal
agueda · april 16 · Rnd 5 of 19
MXGP winner: Jeffrey Herlings, KTM MX2 winner: Jorge Prado, KTM
orange By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer
Moving this way and that way Red Bull KTM, Jeffrey Herlings and Tony Cairoli are extremely generous; they just keep on giving. A quarter of the way through the 2018 MXGP season and the deadlock between the two multi world champions has yet to be broken by a rider that is not on a 450 SX-F. Cairoli has already mentioned in more than one MXGP press conference that the premier class “only seems to be me and Jeffrey” with a tone that is both slightly dismissive of his peers and weakly inviting at the same time. It is almost as if the defending number one knows that the ‘duel’ needs the influence of some other parties both for invigoration as well as convolution to pull the racing away from the constant emphasis on the points and speed of the orange bikes. With seven motos from ten and four from the five GPs in his pocket it would seem that Herlings is in the ascendancy. Fixing his starts in order to ease the desperate need to plough through the top ten and deal with Cairoli has been another significant episode in this 2018 story. The Sicilian is already proficient with his set-up in this area and must be looking for gains in other places; it was interesting to hear him mention for the first time in Portugal that he is still not 100% fit “as it is a long season”.
Perhaps this was the revelation that #222 still has another gear to hit when MXGP gets into the summer and when some of the Grands Prix are likely to encounter high temperatures and demanding conditions (weirdly not the forte of the super-fit Herlings). It might also be the first hint of mind games coming into play. Cairoli said to me on the eve of the 2015 and after a tense buildup where he was relentlessly pitted against Ryan Villopoto for a period of hype I hadn’t seen in MXGP before that he was relishing the challenge of the American star in Grand Prix. He’d won his 2014 crown riding at 70%.
Tony’s excellence and experience means that he is like a Chess Master when it comes to race tactics, judgement and championship construction. 2018 might be a chase that is harder than his battles with Desalle in 2010 and Pourcel and Searle in 2007 and it is undoubtedly forcing him to stretch his legs and capabilities. Part of me suspects that he actually quite likes this adversity. He admitted the season so far is “a good championship and very difficult” but the point at which he starts to get worried could remain more of a mystery.
By Adam Wheeler
The narrative between the teammates could spark, become explosive, acrimonious and dramatic. It could also remain polite, reserved and tempered. There is a decent chance of the latter with a determined character like Pit Beirer (and a diplomatic and shrewd observer like Robert Jonas also keeping watch) overseeing the Italian and multi-national components of the five-rider KTM crew. Despite the achievements and profiles as the two biggest motocrossers in the FIM Motocross World Championship this decade both Cairoli and Herlings are entrenched in KTM. They have both been part of the factory for almost ten years and both have another two to go on their contracts. Their terms and battle-hardened maturity means it would take very significant gestures to cause a meltdown. The atmosphere at Red Bull KTM is cordial and functional as well as co-operative.
Like an egg balancing on a spoon part of the shape fits together simply through the amount of time the staff have worked and won together. It won’t take much of a wobble to start making an omelette however. Portugal was notable for Cairoli deciding to nestle in the gate next to Pole sitter Herlings for the second moto. Somewhat predictably he immediately swerved across the #84 once onto the dirt. It was a move that irked the Dutchman and he felt compelled to express his exasperation with the tactic live on TV once he’d crossed the finish line 34 seconds ahead. By the time of the press conference less than an hour later Herlings was more reserved with his words and passed the manoeuvre off as something understandable. It was a more careful and measured comment compared to the public shaming and rebuke he administered (with voice-wavering emotion) to Dylan Ferrandis in Germany 2016 after the latest of serial risky episodes in the midst of that MX2 campaign.
The Frenchman was reaching a critical point in their tussle that season where the only method of restraining Herlings’ formidability was to crowd him out along the start straight. Somewhat mischievously Dylan make a sport of it. Herlings would retort, and Ferrandis swung back again at the following race. So what prompted Cairoli to try it at Agueda? He could have been testing Herlings. After all it is a tactical move, albeit a sketchy and potentially disastrous one. It might also have been a decision made through necessity. Tony was sporting a badly swollen right eye in between the motos after a chunk of Portuguese rock had broken his goggles. Having finished second to Herlings initially and now wary of his peer’s new propensity for holeshots his swerve might have been calculated with a view to breaking free early-on in the style of emphatic training partner Jorge Prado in MX2 that day. Predictably Cairoli struggled with his sight and pace and probably settled for second far earlier than he normally would do.
Afterwards he said that his only regret of the season so far was the fourth place he scored in the first moto at Arco di Trento. Five Grands Prix into the contest and awareness of every single point is already pronounced. As WMX winner Courtney Duncan noted Sunday evening, the wonderfully rutty, technical and tricky Agueda course (‘wonderful’ for the superlative job the club and Youthstream did to save the track from flooding) was “not a good one for knees”. The demands of the soil expired the Kawasaki and Husqvarna of Clement Desalle and Gautier Paulin but it also potentially wrecked the season of Thomas Covington with a possible rerupture of the ACL he broke at the ’17 Motocross of Nations. It was a reminder that the best efforts of teams, riders and trainers can be undone in a fleeting moment or the brief drag of a foot. A hard flick to the helmet of world champion Pauls Jonass with his crash and collision with Henry Jacobi in Italy could be a factor in the Latvian feeling off his game in Portugal. Fifth
overall for #41 seemed like a dramatic swing from the athlete that won all six first motos of the season, even if he said he struggled for feeling and flow on Sunday. Mindful that the Red Bull KTM storyline could unravel at any time – and in a way I feel thankful that we’ve had five chapters and some captivating racing already so far – then how the whole dynamic will morph and roll with the results, incidents and moves to gain one-upmanship continues to be an indispensible factor of MXGP at the moment.
There were some worrying rumours surrounding HRC’s second rider and 2016 World Champion Tim Gajser’s teammate Brian Bogers in Portugal. It seems the Dutchman has not recovered sufficiently from the broken right foot he sustained last November and is scheduled for an examination and possible surgery in the coming weeks. “Brian will have another check on May 7th and it looks like he’ll have more surgery,” said HRC Team Manager Marcus Pereira de Freitas. “He has some cartilage missing between the bone and needs that cushion, so it will happen in three weeks. We’ll know more about the operation and recovery time after that appointment. He might be able to race the last rounds of the championship but now we need to wait.” Bogers had been riding the works CRF450RW but had experienced pain in the joint before the Grand Prix of Trentino. The development means that Tim Gajser continues to be the sole HRC representative in MXGP (even if Arminas Jasikonis is starting to show good speed for Honda Motor Europe on the #27 machine and Petar Petrov is in his rookie MXGP term). HRC are already working on a contingency plan. “We want Brian to be 100% so it doesn’t matter how long that takes and obviously we want both bikes out on the track, at least to have some information and updates,” De Freitus adds. “We’ll see what the news is with Brian but then make a plan for the upcoming races.” The rumour mill has already started for a replacement name to take one of the most sought-after berths in MXGP and is likely to involve a competitor from another series, rather than the
small window of capable talent on the Grand Prix scene. The news is not only disappointing for Bogers (twice a Motocross of Nations podium finisher with his country) but also HRC’s racing programme on a global scale. The factory has been hard-hit in MotoGP (Dani Pedrosa), Superbike (Leon Camier’s heavy crash in Aragon), Rally (Gonçalves and Joan Barreda) and AMA MX/SX (Ken Roczen and Cole Seely both with long-term problems).
Bogers blow & HRC to find replacement?
2009 MX2 FIM World Championship runner-up Rui Gonçalves made what could be his last Grand Prix appearance in Agueda as a Yamaha-mounted wildcard after a long, occasionally bright and often interrupted career. The 32 year old was rapturously received by partisan fans and I’ve yet to see a rider with a bigger smile in the paddock after two motos just failing to register GP points. The former factory KTM and HRC veteran came out of semi-retirement and left the comms radio and Youthstream jacket he wears as a technical liaison for a set of gloves and goggles at the venue where he emotionally celebrated victory in that feted ’09 campaign. Intelligent and multi-lingual, #999 was in no doubt as to the task he faced at Agueda. “My last race was the Nations last year and I just was riding a bit during the week,” he said on Saturday. “I felt like racing here in Portugal though and in front of my public and crowd that have supported me for all these years; that was the goal of this weekend.” “When you go on the track it feels a bit different!” he added with a grin. “The guys are fast and the rhythm and speed is high, and when you haven’t raced for six months it is even tougher.” While Gonçalves has not official retired from the sport (and could still fill a role as a replacement rider having maintained his training schedule) he did admit that his bow last weekend was likely to be a final wave to Portuguese fans. No other athlete from his country has come close to his level or achievements. “I’m not sure if I have an answer to the retirement question but this is most likely my last [home]
GP,” he offered. “It is always difficult to put an end to something but it has been seventeen years now racing GPs; 2002 was my first full season.” Gonçalves has had an influence on grand prix tracks in 2018 and there have been noted alterations between Saturday and Sunday; frequently for the better. For all the experience and efficiency of the track design and maintenance team (and the work has improved substantially in the past two years) it was a wise move by Youthstream to put RG in place. It is somehow reassuring to see a rider with Gonçalves’ knowledge directing some important calls on the racing surface…even if he does acknowledge the difficulty of job that draw comments and sentiments like roost to a chest protector. “I’m the Technical Advisor now for Youthstream and I think it takes time to change things and get them better because you have a lot of opinions and people like many different things of a track and track preparation but like I’ve always said I’ve always tried my best and will continue to do that for the racing and the safety as well.”
Farewell to the 999?
Factory teams’ secrets in the search for the golden holeshot The fourth round of MXGP in Arco di Trento and the tight and narrow Pietramurata circuit was a vivid example of how crucial start gate prowess has become in Grand Prix. The nature of the tracks and the ability of athletes and works motorcycles to lap within tenths of a second mean that the real marginal gains involve a 450cc bike’s capability to grip and drive from the metal grill gate and barrel forth to the first turn. It is an area to which factory teams particularly are applying every avenue of thinking, especially since adoption of the grill for the 2017 MXGP campaign. Examples of development work includes increased emphasis on electronic assistance (Jeffrey Herlings is the latest rider to use a rev guide system), the abandonment of rear shock ‘starting devices’, the changing of rear wheels to enable a clean tyre after the sighting lap and even tyre warmers. “Everybody is pushing so hard because it is such a crucial part of the race: you can battle with the fast guys, settle into your lines and grab that fast pace if you are out at the front,” explains Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna’s Team Manager Antti Pyrhonen. “If that start doesn’t happen then many times you need to over-push and that’s when the mistakes and crashes can come.
There are little margins we can try to improve and with the metal grill somehow everyone is very equal. There are many factors still in play for starts such as the position near the inside, which still gives a slight advantage, and the area of dirt beyond the gate might be slightly harder and better in some spots. So the position is still important. Bike development also though; you cannot have too much power away from the grill because it still needs to be controllable and when you hit the dirt you still need lots of torque when it is ripped deep.” The dramatic sight of the majority of the MXGP swapping rear wheels as officials sound the two minute warning is a new fad. A few riders began the trend and now it has caught on. “Basically it is for a clean tyre,” says Red Bull KTM MX2 Team Manager Dirk Gruebel and also overseer of Jeffrey Herlings and Glenn Coldenhioff’s 450 SX-Fs “and it can make a lot of difference. If the ground is wet or you hit a puddle on the way back to the gate then it can mean a disadvantage.”
Pyrhonen is unsure. “Difficult to say,” the Fin opines. “We have done everything and we are doing everything to find the best way to reduce spin on the grill. If you wheelspin then the start is over. Honestly I don’t think those things don’t make too much difference whether you holeshot or not: it starts from a rider’s reflex as to whether you are spinning, wheelying and going over the metal plate which can be different each track. You have to be able to use all the acceleration power that the 450s offers. Despite all these developments and launch control systems, clean tyres or not it is still a pure rider technique and performance that makes the difference.” Tim Gajser gives the rider’s perspective. “For sure if it is really muddy then it is better to have a clean tyre for traction but when you have ‘normal’ conditions I don’t think it is necessary,” the Slovenian says. “You just need to ‘clean’ the tyre by spinning it on the ledge before dropping onto the metal. I think it is good enough. Somewhere like Matterley at the Nations where there was sticky mud then it was important to change.” Renewed scrutiny of the metal grid has required extra testing and other theories. “I think the grid is also not the same [as last year] because it has been painted,” Gajser adds, referring to the green and black shade for 2018. “There is less traction and I spin many times. We test a lot of starts and at home it is good but here I have more spin so we need to figure it out.” Interestingly it has lead to questions of how much more the gate can be ‘manipulated’. Teams claim that each slot can vary in terms of how dirty, wet or clogged it might be. The 2018 FIM rulebook states that riders can ‘visually’ select their gate (nothing about drying it or laying rubber and adjustments would be similar
to former gate prep anyway) but Team Managers were emailed an update to the regulations at the start of the season forbidding any personnel to stand on the metal. It is a ‘bike only’ zone. The start procedure is under review again to take in account the busy gate space (VIPs and other pass holders can be there prerace) and to possibly limit the amount of team staff that can accompany a rider. This could influence the wheel-changing tactic. While extra material and work has become part of the pre-race MXGP routine the disappearance of the rear suspension start system (that compresses the shock until the bike bounce across the gate) is another victim of the analysis of the metal grill. The front fork ‘catch’ is still widely prevalent. “We’re pretty low with the front end of the bike because the grip from the gate is really high but this is also something that depends on the weather and the condition of the gate,” reveals Gruebel. “It varies quite a bit and it is hard to say ‘this is the perfect setting for the fork for the start’. Personally I don’t believe in compressing the rear shock. We’ve tried it and we didn’t see any benefit. We pull the front down to try and eliminate any wheelie but if you drag the rear down as well then you have to go lower in the front again! There is a limit. OK, the centre of gravity is lower again but we didn’t find an advantage and I see it less and less in the gate.” Tyre warmers? It has been tried. Even though heating a wheel too much could have a negative influence on the mousse and its expansion, some MXGP participants have discovered that slightly warmer rubber has assisted with optimum drive from the metal. The search goes on.
In Italy last week MXGP standings leader Jeffrey Herling alluded to the work made by his Red Bull KTM in helping cure some of his starting woes in 2018, which forced strong but tiring comebacks to win in both Argentina and Holland. The Dutchman won from the front after two positive getaways in Arco di Trento for round four and was a holehotter again in Portugal. Although he wasn’t specific on what adjustments had been made to the factory KTM 450 SX-F other eagledeyed teams were quick to notice some upgrades to the electronic set-up on the #84. KTM have been busy with their own internal development – they do not partner with a specialised company like GET – and we asked MX2 Team Manager Dirk Gruebel what upgrades had been made. “We have a start light for him now which shows the RPM because he had a bit of a tendency to runaway with the revs when all the other bikes were blasting away next to him,” the German says. “This just makes it easier to judge and keep on the right level, instead of missing the right torque that he needs. It seems to have helped him quite a bit and we’ve been working on it for quite a while now and we got it dialled in for him.” Curiosity was peaked when Herlings seemed to be reaching under the seat of the bike to engage the system. This unusual action is not because of a secretive innovation (“he has launch control, like almost everybody else out there now, which harnesses the power a little. It lets shuts off when into third gear and where it reverts to normal race-mapping,” says Gruebel) but instead is simply another location for the switch to prevent the sparse space around the 450 SX-F handlebars becoming too cluttered. “Everybody is putting in a lot of effort and
also in Austria behind-the-scenes in coming-up with some of the technical solutions,” concludes Gruebel. “We make many requests during a season - as you can imagine - and every little thing helps.”
Herlings puts faith in electronics
ktm For their 2018 functional off-road clothing KTM have aligned with some proven and excellent suppliers to cover various essential elements of a riderâ€™s kit bag. Alpinestars provide the boots (Tech 7s shown here) and the A10 body protection while the threads have been especially produced by another key partner, Troy Lee Designs. This is not some quick, tacky knock-off with logos; the SE Slash shirt and pants are ventilated, durable (900 denier) with advanced construction and leather panels. Lastly Scottâ€™s Prospect and WFS roll-off option is one of the most popular goggle choices on the market. SX-F or SX (or EXC) riders now have some tasty and value-for-money variations to complete the KTM look.
head Why Jeffrey Herlings hasnâ€™t stopped yet
start By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer
few amazing things about Jeffrey Herlings: he is still only 23 (now almost a decade as a Grand Prix rider and it feels like he has been terrorising record books for an age). He’ll reach eleven years with Red Bull KTM before his next contract is up. He is a sensational athlete and vision in the sand. He has reached a phenomenal 71 GP wins (a little under an average of 8 a season) all with one brand and team. And…he hasn’t quite learned to drink-in the elation of his feats. “Hmm, not much,” the Dutchman admits. “Even in the last few races that I’ve won the feeling goes very quickly after crossing the line because the job was done…so the mind switches immediately to the next race and thoughts of: What could be better or improved? Was it something of my performance? My fitness? My starts? Race strategy? I always want to get the best out of myself. On the other side you do feel like giving yourself a bonus now and again. You feel like saying “I won today…I’ll eat some French fries!” but then I’ll stop myself because I know that in five days I’ll have to prove myself again, so no presents. It’s tough. That’s why I have a lot of respect for certain guys, like Tony [Cairoli] who is 32 and has done it at this level for so long. It’s pretty special.”
For now what defines Herlings is the force of nature of speed, potential and results on a motorcycle. It doesn’t look like slowing or stopping soon... Like all geniuses Herlings is a ball of conflict. The former ‘wild child’ that likes to total stats, cash and hefty winning margins is tempered by a more mature individual that has learned more restraint, respect
and greater awareness of how he is perceived. A rider that would scrape the physics and physical limits of what is possible on a dirtbike is now one that admits to settling for lower podium places.
A former feeling of ‘immortality’ is firmly checked by scars on his femur and tenderness around the hip. A person that both wants and likes to show off their supremacy but also seek quiet corners and the company of the few people he really trusts and – for a 23 year old – he barely exists in the social media landscape (“I know it is important to share things with the world…but I still want to keep things private. Some riders share almost everything and I share basically nothing!”).
Jeffrey is a rare sportsman and human being. A world-class performer and achiever before many are legally allowed to vote, his ascension to the top of Grand Prix was rocket-fuelled and the space to grow and mature was extremely limited. “He’s come a long way,” muses Team Manager Dirk Gruebel, who has been overseeing Herlings’ racing since 2011. “In the past you would be happy when he finally got on the bike because it was the least stressful part of the day: he was a handful! He changed a lot in that way and it comes from growing up and getting older. Finding his way as a person and in society.”
Feature For all his fame Herlings often cuts a lonely figure. He is open and friendly and will talk to any rider in the gate and has his buddies in the paddock. He doesn’t use a motorhome and exists between the race truck and the Red Bull Energy Station. He usually arrives late on a Friday for a grand prix and will normally be booked on the earliest flight possible on a Sunday evening. Three world titles and victory in eight of the nine home Grands Prix at Valkenswaard that he has contested means that he has experienced a degree of craziness and intense demand around him. He will gain national press coverage in Holland but otherwise is a mysterious minor celebrity; a guy with the same few pals and the same rank of sponsors almost since the beginning in 2010. “He has his private side and if he doesn’t want to be found then you won’t see him,” asserts Gruebel. Naturally Jeffrey has been the subject of various feature interviews and covers in OTOR. He is a good talker (and typically loud for a Dutchman) but has become even more guarded with his
opinions and comments over the last few seasons. His profile reached a new level of the stratosphere in the summer when he squeezed a wild-card appearance at the last US AMA Pro National at Iron Man in Indiana and slotted the victory among the five wins from the last six rounds of MXGP. A week after the American success and at the USGP in Florida, the clamour for his time was easily on a level with the top MotoGP riders. It was a baffling period for #84 and undoubtedly opened his eyes to the extent of his international appeal. This time we are catching up over lunch. We feel guilty for interrupting a very simple plate of chicken and rice on Friday at the Grand Prix of Comunitat Valenciana at Redsand but Herlings insists it is fine to chat. We’ve gained some perspective from those around him like Gruebel and practice mechanic/close friend/confidant Ruben Tureluren to intersperse some of his comments and feelings and in an effort to gain the latest 360 picture of Jeffrey as he bids to become just the third MX2 and MXGP Champion since the categories were inaugurated in 2004.
Now established as an MXGP standings leader and race winner (he has only missed two podiums since round six of the 2017 campaign) the Herlings’ tale continues with vigour. Just how and why is he so damn good? “For me he is very talented on a motorcycle, he has inherited a big ‘engine’ genetically from his parents and he trains really hard, so he doubles up on that part,” offers Tureluren. “He is mentally strong and knows his abilities and works so hard. Don’t forget that he has a very strong commitment and desire to win. I’ve never see anyone else like that.” “I would say yes, he is one of the best I have seen,” opines Gruebel. “In terms of determination and the way he approaches his job…we’ve had many good riders at Red Bull KTM but some of them you had to push to fill their programme and race on the level they are able…to but not with Jeffrey; he wants it more than anybody else.” ‘Wanting it’ means serious saddle time and therefore a heavy commitment from his team and people like Ruben. “It is very demanding and time-consuming,” the Belgian says. “Not only in the fact that he rides a lot but everything else: the tyres wear out faster, the frame and engine accumulates more hours…even though he is not hard on the bike.” “We put a lot in…but we get a lot out of it because he pays us back with the results and that’s all that counts in the end,” equates Gruebel. “It doesn’t help if I have a grumpy Jeffrey at the weekend because I only let him ride twice that week and he wanted to go three times.”
“He always told me that he took a ‘click’ from being beaten by [Max] Anstie when they were on 85s,” reveals Tureluren. “It made him realise from one day to the next that to be successful he had to step things up and work harder or ride more than the rest. It was a chain reaction and whatever he did seemed to work and pay off. It is then easier to hold onto that and do even more. If you look at it another way then if you do a lot of work and you don’t see the benefit then it is difficult to keep going like that week-in, week-out. With Jeffrey he puts in the work and always gets the results somehow!” Gruebel gets even more analytical: “He is not the most technical rider but he is very talented and he has such a big heart. He never gives up. He puts so much effort in, perhaps more than anybody else in terms of riding hours during the week. I don’t know if it is necessary to ride that much…but that is just him and he is constantly improving. He is never satisfied and if there is something to be improved then we go riding again and we test. He has a good eye for lines and is not scared to go for something.” Jeff, what does it feel like to be the fastest motocrosser in the world? Good…because thinking like that can give you a lot of confidence….but also not that good sometimes because it brings a lot of pressure. You feel like you have to prove it day-in-day-out year-in-year-out and sometimes you don’t feel it. It’s tough because there are some days where I’m tired or carrying a small injury. I feel that I don’t need to win every race…as long as I can try and win the ones where I am feeling good then that’s OK for me. The GPs where I’m not riding great then if I can do my best then fine. f that means a fifth place then that’s what it will be.
How do you keep happy away from the bike? The results speak. That’s not answering the question... Yeah but when the results are there then the sacrifice doesn’t matter so much. If you are out front then you are happy in your daily life and everything. Last year when I was struggling at the beginning of the season with injuries I was not happy and it was tough in my private life. My friends accused me of being grumpy. I was not doing good ‘at work’ and felt it everywhere.
be facing one guy who is just like me: he wants to win badly and is physically good with the same team behind him. I’m racing someone very strong and that makes it hard because in MX2 – and I don’t mean this in a bad way – but I was not facing the level of rider that I am now. Is it annoying that people talk about you and Tony all the time or is it cool for the sport to hype it up? I think it’s actually a cool thing and it is good in a few different ways; for me,
Gruebel: “He is still a very temperamental guy and if things are not going his way then he has a tendency to freak out and we have to get him down from the cloud again. At the end of the day it is a total pleasure to work with him; you put so much work and he gives it all back and double. He tries hard. He never gives up and is not holding back.” In the past you seemed to be about ‘more’ than the result. It was about winning with authority… It’s so true when they say you’re only as good as your last race. If I blow the next one then they won’t talk about Valkenswaard, Argentina or Trentino. Things come and go quickly but I feel like I have been on a high since I went to the U.S. last year. I won the last three races and did good at the Nations. I’m here to deliver the best results I can. MX2 came so easy for you. You must have had more question marks over the 450s though…? For sure, especially because I knew I’d
for Tony, for KTM, Red Bull. For a manufacturer it is like a dream come true. For both of us we want to be the best one on the brand. I would not say I’m at the beginning of my career but I am new to the 450 stage whereas Tony is coming to the end – I’m not saying he’ll retire in two years but it’s not like he has another ten to go. Overall I think it’s cool. After winning you mentioned thinking directly about the next race. Did those big injuries with the hip and femur not teach you to enjoy life away from racing a bit more? No, because you almost forget them. When you are injured it swings the other way. You think ‘I want to retire from this
Feature Yeah…but there were also a lot of good things from that. I did have a lot of spotlight but also had a lot of good times. With all the highs and lows together I’m still happy with my life. It definitely wasn’t easy growing up with that knowledge you had to do well every week and get the results but it was a path I chose and I wanted to take when I was younger.
sport’ and ‘I’m over it…’ but when you start racing again and a bit of success comes then it feels like your only option. It is a mixed way to live and I definitely remember the days of lying in bed with a broken leg for a few weeks and also with a hip for weeks unable to move…but they are times that come and go and you just try to forget about them. It’s a funny way to live… Yeah, but I did learn a lot from that time. When I go into a battle now I will do it 100%, but I won’t go over that mark. I won’t take the extra risk. Being in a hospital bed is not worth it for me any more. It’s easy to say that because it is a dangerous sport and we must not forget what can happen. So it is a mix…but we try to look to the positives. I think I also developed as a rider because I can accept to lose. I can accept third place and be OK with it. A few years back I would go crazy and crash my brains out. I think I improved in that respect. Looking back do you think it is almost a bit of a shame that you had to grow up in the public eye? There are not many fifteen year olds succeeding in a world championship and having all the acclaim and pressure you had to deal with…
You’re only 23 but does the body sometimes feel 33 or older? Nah! Until now I had the two big ones with the leg and hip but they both healed well and I don’t have problems with any others. When I wake up I still feel 23… or maybe a bit older! But I think many riders who do this sport have the same thing. People watch you ride and I hear comments about how close – or over – the limit you are. Does that make you smile because you obviously know the truth about how much you’re in control? This year and last year I can honestly say I have not gone over the limit. It might look like that but if you look at the facts then I have not been crashing. You always have scary moments in a race but I haven’t had one where I thought ‘whoah, slow it’. I felt I have been in my comfort zone the last two years. I don’t feel I am out of control. How does it feel for a rider who has been so dominant for most of his career to now be in a real dogfight for the top prize? Do you feel like ‘bring it on…’ or do you hark for the days of winning races by twenty seconds? Well, as a rider you always prefer to win by twenty seconds! To make a hard job as easy as possible. On the other hand
jeffrey herlings xxxxxxxx: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I enjoy what we’re doing and this thing with Tony. There are also a lot of other guys who are fast and in good shape. I’m facing the best on the planet so we shouldn’t underestimate that. You cannot expect to go out and win by half a minute every time because most of the riders out there are really great.
Two more years with KTM. Do you feel that your next contract could be the real big one of your career? Well, I’m here until 2020 and KTM have an option for 2021 so I’m not going anywhere soon. I’ve been with KTM since 2009 and I don’t know whether I ever want to see a change.
If I do then I guess it will be the next contract…or maybe I will want to complete my whole career on a KTM. It would be a nice story to finish where I made my Pro start. I don’t know for now but I can tell you that I’m very happy at KTM and they are like my family because we have been together for so long. We’ll see what happens in the next two years. After the Grand Prix in Argentina you mentioned that your Mum taught you to never give up. She was obviously instrumental in your upbringing. How is the relationship with her now? Good, she’s still instrumental by taking a lot of work out of my hands and makes sure things get done. I still see her a few times a day, even if we don’t live in the
same house any more. Not much has changed. I find myself appreciating her more and more. I think, as you get older, you learn to give out more respect. When I was sixteen I would sometimes scream at my parents and now I’d think ‘why do that?!’. When you are young you think ‘I can do whatever I want…’ but with age you learn to give out respect and love to people that have helped make your life and have always been there for you. Most successful motorcycle racers – athletes even – have always tended to have an inner circle or close personal team. Do you think that is essential to achieve goals? It must be hard to do it all – and cope with it all - by yourself…
xxxxxxxx: jeffrey xxxxxxxxxxxxxx herlings
You absolutely need good people behind you. I’ve been working with the same group for a very long time and we all know our jobs and what to do and what to expect from each other. We are such a strong group and the bonds are so tight that we’d ‘cross through fire’ for each other, and that is such a valuable thing. Is it hard to work at those relationships sometimes? Yeah, we all have different and difficult times, personal issues and moments when the motivation or results are not there. The dynamic of a team sometimes means it is tough to keep all faces in the right direction with the same goal. At the end of the day I know I can really count on the group I have and they can count on me. Mentality is a big deal. People look at Cairoli as a mentally strong racer. They might look at you and see the name and number and remember a cocky kid from 2012. Can you talk about how you’ve strengthened this part of your game? [Bristles slightly] It is hard to really talk about yourself mentally. I think I am doing the best possible job I can and [maybe] in some other people’s eyes I’m not doing such a good job. I just try to do my best every day in terms of promoting the brand I am racing for, the sponsors and myself. I want to race as good, as hard and as fast as possible for the best results. I always want to feel that I am not leaving much on the table. Maybe I can improve in things and maybe still my behaviour but I don’t think I have made ‘bad news’ in the last couple of years and I’ll try to keep it that way.
To exist in the extremely narrow margin at the top of this sport and on a global stage is it really all-consuming as the cliché says? It is 24-7. That’s why we get paid to do what we do and why KTM hires me to be good to the brand and good on the racetrack, and to make sure that people buy bikes because of people like me, Tony or [Ryan] Dungey or [Marvin] Musquin or whoever. Thanks to them KTM continues to make bikes and we get to keep our jobs. We should always be thankful to the fans, the guys who buy the gear and those that come to the racetracks. Do you feel like you are at your peak? Right here, right now? Erm, no. I still feel I can grow. Tony is 32 now and he says the same. When you see him race he is super-good and super-fast. I think I can still improve mentally; physically I am there but mentally in terms of experience with the bigger bike. I still think I have some way to go. You’re only 23 but your legacy is already being measured in numbers. That’s 70 wins nowBut only three championships! Compared to the wins I haven’t got paid out in titles but we all know I had some bad luck. The femur and hip cost me two championships and I’ve been runner-up three times. Surely 102 wins [thus the all-time record] means just as much as 10 championships? Well, I’m close to 102 than 10! We have such a big calendar now and I’m only 23 and I need 32 more.
I know this year I’ll get beaten often and I won’t be on the podium all the time and that’s totally normal with this [MXGP] field, so if I go to a GP and I finish fourth but rode well and came out safe then I’ll be a happy man. Herlings could be world champion this season. ‘Could’ is a weighted word considering that titles were lost in 2014 and 2015 with leads of almost 150 points in the standings. It was the harshest of lessons. “I think the hip injury in 2015 was really tough because it came after the broken collarbone and the split finger that same season and happened because of a very small crash in the Czech Republic but then Jordi [Tixier] did not see the yellow flags and hit him,” says Tureluren. “The broken femur in ’14 was hard also because he was five days away from winning the world championship and it was in a charity race. The hip took a long time though and that was a different kind of hurt for a rider.” 2018 spoils would take his career title tally to four. He is already the most successful Dutch racer by a distance and is lofty in other record book columns (3rd in history for GP wins). Rather than the numbers – which he has publicly admitted are a source of motivation for him – it could be the mileage that causes the train to slow. “I don’t know…he has done it for so long already,” Gruebel ruminates on Herlings’ longevity despite his relatively young age. “He’s been in MX2 since he was fifteen and from the age where other guys are just entering the EMX class. He’s 23 now but has been eight years at the top level and that of course takes a toll.
We saw it before with [Ryan] Dungey: they go ten years with this sport, even if the US mix of Supercross and Motocross is even more intense and more races. Jeffrey has already paid a high price with injuries and your body will tell you at some point ‘go or no-go’. I’m surprised he is still at this level: five years no problem but he is at eight already and is still training a lot and giving everything on the track every weekend.” Herlings without a motorcycle? Is it possible? “That’s a tough one but, for him, knowing what he might do next will come with experience and age,” says Ruben. “I think if he races five-six-seven more years I think he find his way. Of course every rider has to kick-on from the sport and I’m pretty sure he will not sit around and get fat. By the time he will retire he’ll have it all figured it out, whether that’s in the industry or something else.” His immediate breakthrough (podium in just his second GP, maiden win in his third) came at a time when other young sensations were also making their mark like Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin and were sailing on the high wake of other teenage wonders like Tommy Searle and Christophe Pourcel. Jorge Prado aside the fad for ridiculously young starlets seems to have subsided a little in MXGP, particularly with the emergence of the EMX European Championship providing a more stable and efficient window of opportunity and learning; ultimately meaning less need to rush any prospects. Prado has the advantage of an ever-present family support system that can guard where necessary.
Feature The somewhat ‘raw’ experience Herlings had as a weird Professional/teenage hybrid and all the discoveries, pressures, scrutiny and insecurities that went with it might not happen again. “I think he suffers with this,” Gruebel observes. “I’m not sure if he has a big group of friends around him because it is hard and unusual at such a young age to be winning already. You’ll have many guys that just want to jump on a successful bandwagon and as soon as it goes down then they jump off. When you are fifteen-sixteen you also have a lot of bullshit in your head…but he was already so focussed at that time and sacrificed a lot for this sport. I think he made big sacrifices in his private life and I think the situation is still like that. I don’t think he has that big group…I think he is also someone that doesn’t trust people right away and it will take a whole to get that.” For now what defines Herlings is the force of nature of speed, potential and results on a motorcycle. It doesn’t look like slowing or stopping soon. “I think if you are always challenging for the win or the podium then it is a big motivation,” Tureluren reasons. “I think it is also to do with that utter will to win. He has always said that he wants a short but good career. He talks sometimes about the Villopotos & Carmichaels that did five-six years and won everything and then went. His career has already lasted nine years, although we cannot compare GPs to SX/MX. I don’t think he wants to be out there until he is 32 like Tony. Also the injuries started to make him think differently because he went through a lot of pain. It is a tough and dangerous sport.”
the sidekick Ruben Tureluren, once a promising racer in his own regard, has been Herlings righthand man and close friend since late 2009 and when the Dutch youngster came into the factory team. There is a twelve year age gap between the two but it is rare to see one without the other at MXGP. We asked the Belgian about the relationship and the origins… How did the link with Jeffrey and KTM begin for you? Everything we see now – the determination and the talent – was pretty obvious from the first practice session. My goal was always to be working with KTM and now Jeffrey has been there nine years and we could not have hoped for everything that has happened. I think a rider always needs to have a ‘click’ with the practice mechanic because he is more than just a mechanic as you spend so much time together. It was 2009 and Tyla [Rattray], who I had been working for, was world champion but then moved onto America and so Jeffrey came into the team. As I was a free man the onus was on us to work it out. There was a ‘click’ between us and the same desire and commitment. I think that is the only reason it has lasted so many years because we have the same kind of personalities.
In the early days were you almost like a big brother as well as the mechanic? In some ways yes. He was fifteen when we first started working together and you not only want him to be a good sportsman but also have the same desire, behaviour and values you have…without really pushing him in a direction you give tips here and there. Was it hard to maintain that relationship for so long? We had one fall out, when he was still young, and it lasted for a couple of months but we talked it out and it all came good. I’m a little bit older so I know my space and when we reach a ‘limit’ then I back it down a bit and we have a bit less contact. In the winter, when he has some weeks off - sometimes! – then that’s the time to ease off and then ramp the work back up again. Obviously when there is always a good vibe and the results are coming then it is easier than say when you are fighting for tenth, and there is more possibility for conflict. Now we’re either on the podium or we’re injured! The start of last year was a bit difficult but he was injured, although those results were not just about the injury… Is it hard to be the friend as well as the critic sometimes? No, I don’t care. I have an honest opinion and I think that has also helped us because I’ve always been honest to his face. For example in Assen last year he won but Tony was on his ass and he didn’t ride well, and I told him so. He won and his lap-times were good but I said: “that’s not the Jeffrey I see during the week…” He takes my criticism in a positive way, takes the best from it and filters it in the Jeffrey Herlings way. There are plenty of people out there that lick his balls you know? You can never push Jeffrey in a certain way
Last summer around the time of the USGP his profile was bigger than ever. Did it feel like a big fuss? When you are in a positive flow and things are going your way then you get positive attention but then we went to the US and we doubled up. It was definitely a high. And the decision was made only a week or two before because we had a mechanical problem in Sweden and that night at dinner he came up with the idea, called Pit [Beirer] and it snowballed from there. A couple of days later we were on a flight. It is always fun when you are winning and it was a great day there. He rode well, was motivated and wanted to show something of the level in Europe. Do you have to protect him sometimes? Yeah…but he’s pretty good at hiding! He has thrown some extra work onto my shoulders before by saying ‘speak to Ruben’! We want to work on his profile for himself and for KTM and the sponsors but you have to draw a line somewhere because we are here to race. We can make everybody happy on Saturday but if we are not on the podium Sunday? That’s the ultimate goal and it is a fine line between being ‘good’ and focusing on your riding, eating and other parts of the job. Lastly it seems like he doesn’t have many weaknesses as a rider. What about off the bike? Any frustrating moments? There is a bunch of things but I’m not going to say! Like any human being there are certain areas where he can still work on!
fly racing Look exactly like Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Supercross star Zach Osborne by picking up one colourway of Fly Racing’s smart Kinetic Era race kits (also available in a ventilated mesh version). The shirt (39 dollars) and pant (115 dollars) provide the ideal blend of performing materials and catchy looks. The pant in particular uses 900D like many peers on the market but careful attention to detail help the product stand out, such as emphasis on fitting with the ‘full-floating seat with stretch-rib fabric to move naturally with the body’ and adjustable waist belt and ratchet Fly closure system. There are 7 breathable stretch panels in the build of the pant and leather heat panels fixed with Dupont Kevlar stitching. It has a small internal pocket, mesh liner and is ergonomically shaped (taking into account knee braces). The shirt also has multi-panel construction and comes as a ‘standard fit’ so it won’t suck to your kit like some brands and won’t blow around like others. We know Fly Racing’s wares work…we just think they look pretty cool as well.
The Softer Bump? How airbags are inflating into Grand Prix racing & MXGP
By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer,
CormacGP, GeeBee Images & Alpinestars
t a time where MotoGP is seeing an average crash rate of more than 60 tumbles per round it is not unusual that new rider protection ideas and schemes are being written into an already thick rulebook. For 2018 all participants in the three classes of MotoGP must have an airbag system in place. For most competitors this is a fairly simple adoption of a brand’s advances in this field (Alpinestars have almost sixty racers with their TechAir technology) for some others it means installing an independent jacket or vest inside their leathers. While Alpinestars have had their TechAir on the market for the last threeand-a-half years – the Street version was launched at the 2014 EICMA show in Milan - and continue to develop the hardware and software since the con-
“I wore a sensor all through 2017 but it was small and weighed just a few grams,” the 2015 MXGP World Champion says. “I had it fixed behind me on the chest protector. We can give our feedback when we can but what it records is already another level of complexity! It was not a big deal to wear it.” Febvre, who like most of the company’s flagship athletes also tests prototype models for other products such as the Tech 10 boot, has not seen much of the motocross airbag [more on that later] but has his suspicions how it will work. “I think it is similar to the road model,” he says. “It is a different concept to something like a neck brace. I have the feeling that the airbag will be better for me in a crash. We have seen that is helps a lot in MotoGP and when it comes to impact. We’ll see when we come to try it.”
“Alpinestars are again leading the way with their research when it comes to the dirt. The off-road airbag is already years in the making and they teased the proximity of a first working version at the 2016 Motocross of Nations...” cept’s inception fifteen years ago, the Italian firm are also working diligently on a motocross/off-road version. A prototype is likely to surface in Rally and the Dakar initially but Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre has been wearing a data recorder to gather information as to how the protective device could function in a sport where a rendezvous with the ground can be just as serious as one with the tarmac…however also far more innocuous and frequent at the same time.
Since 2001 innovators like Alpinestars and Dainese have been honing their airbag based protective theories. Issues such as bulk, weight, cylinder performance (the timing of ‘explosion’ in inflation) and dense computer algorithms and data have all advanced in the world of MotoGP to the point where the FIM felt confident to be able to officially oblige and sanction their presence.
airbags: Motogp & mxgp
“For me is a great step for the safety, especially for the shoulders, for the collarbones,” says Valentino Rossi, who has a career and two-decade long association with Dainese and their D-Air. “At the beginning, I think around 2009, Dainese started to bring it after a long study but I don’t feel too comfortable because I lost some movement and weight. It was too big. But from that moment they are able to improve a lot and now, sincerely, I don’t want to go on the track without the D-Air.” “Super-happy,” says Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaro, another of Dainese’ crew and reacting to a query on the function of airbags more through tried-and-tested relief rather than any kind of sponsor fawning. “I can clearly remember two very fast crashes last season where the airbag responded immediately. I saw a photo of one crash and even before I had arrived to the gravel – which is less than a second – it was already inflated. It is fantastic because when you hit the tarmac and you start to move with the airbag ‘on’ then you are preventing injuries with the shoulders and the upper body.” It is actually tough to find a MotoGP rider that remains sceptical. “I love it,” says Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller. “There have been a few times where I’ve had a highside and as I’ve left the seat it has exploded and saved my ass. You don’t notice it when you are riding and it gives an extra cushion and padding to deflect the blow.”
Even if some were dubious about its role. “As a rider you are always searching for marginal gains so when Alpinestars first came to me about the airbag I thought about it in the wrong way: I believed it would be added weight,” says three times WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea. “I’m not sure how many grams extra it was but they convinced me and the suit fitted like a glove the first time I put it on. I think it is 600 grams.” “The first time it went off for me was at the Lausitzring in 2016, and it saved my championship,” he adds. “The bike found a false neutral and then went into first and prettymuch catapulted me into the ground on my left shoulder and I’m 100% sure it would have caused damage if I didn’t have the airbag. Generally when you have a crash there is a ‘tumble-drier’ effect due to the g-forces and you wake up the next morning feeling a bit battered; the airbag takes a lot of that feeling away, a lot of that onset muscle soreness. When it goes off then it’s the last thing you think about: I tend to freeze a bit when I’m crashing and close my eyes waiting for what’s to come. So you don’t really know it has gone off. Then you pick the bike up and you are like this [mimes an inflated profile] so you know it has worked.” “At the beginning of last season I probably had the biggest crash I’ve ever had,” the Irishman reveals. “It was at Jerez in testing because I had a huge highside at Turn3. I was able to go to have lunch, come back and go even faster, so without that kind of protection and safety measure it would be impossible.”
Feature “It is one of those last minute checks for me now; you’ll see me zip up my suit in the garage and I’ll always check my lights are on and everything’s working,” the 31 year continues. “It has got to the point now where if my battery was dead then I wouldn’t ride because I believe in it so much.” How does it work? A system like Tech-Air is a close fitting vest with an ECU ‘hub’ and works by a sophisticated algorithm that detects the initial phases of a crash and ignites canisters and inflates airbags in 45 milliseconds (0.045 of a second). The padding offers full upper body protection for back shoulders, kidney area, chest and upper abdomen. The unit is independent of the bike, can be fired twice without reset or recharge, does not rely on GPS and can be configured through a system firmware swap for either the track or the street. The computer data required to almost ‘predict’ a crash (as opposed to an outof-saddle moment) is highly complex and has been accumulated and coded since Alpinestars first began their R&D seventeen years ago. “We feel that we are just beginning to see the full potential of the technology,” opines Alpinestars Commercial Manager Jeremy Appleton. “In the past there simply wasn’t the components or the electronics to start an airbag programme. We had to start over from zero and when we looked at the automotive sector nothing was really transferable.” “I think it is reasonable to say that it is the most complex bit of engineering that we have done and probably is for
anybody in our sector because it really is still so new. A lot of it is in the algorithms and it was a different type of technology for us. We had to set up an electronics unit and separate staff to build this and take it further. There is a more ‘hidden’ element to it compared to your standard protection item but when it goes off then you see exactly how much protection it gives.” It has proved effective for Britain’s leading prospect in MotoGP, Cal Crutchlow, who has been an advocate for four years and logged a hefty 26 crashes in 2016 (more than 80 in the last five years) without injury. “I’ve been testing it since 2014: different comfort, different ways of deployment and different thresholds,” the 31 year old says. “Alpinestars have so many guys on tracks around the world that this is why they have been able to develop it so fast. We get new and updated stuff all the time.” “I know it cannot go over the whole body but it used to be over the shoulder, top of the arm and down the ribs. Now we also have our hips and legs. The way it works is superb and it has definitely saved me and other riders from broken bones.” In road racing therefore it is not a hard sell, but something like TechAir is pricey for the street and – as with neck braces and other unconventional products – involves a period of time and acclimatisation to sink into general riders’ consciousness. The benefits of airbags are sung by the brands for function and commercial purposes but are rung true by the athletes that have had the unpleasant job of testing them.
airbags: Motogp & mxgp
Their words come with a tone of trust. “Are they worth it on the road? 100%,” states Rea. “Especially when you don’t have full control of what is going on around you. We race in a controlled environment and of course we are pushing limits but on the street where anything can happen, even without you making a mistake, I couldn’t recommend it enough. The same applies to helmets. I cannot stress enough that you only get one chance with your head and there is a reason why helmets cost 7-8-900 euros and that’s because you need them to do a job.” “If it’s a hard sell then it shouldn’t be, it’s like buying a car with an airbag,” Crutchlow opines. “I spoke to my shoulder surgeon, who I have used for many years like many cyclists and other riders.
I asked him how business was going and whether he’d had many clients in recently and he joked he was pi**ed off that the airbag had come along! I think there was only a 50% rate of people who crashed and escaped a broken collarbone, and with the airbag it went up to the 90 because it deploys so well.” Can airbags realistically cope with offroad? Horse for courses and one colt’s safety net is another’s restrictive nightmare. Miller, who is an avid off-roader, succinctly sums up the different dynamic: “It would be hard for off-road because the accelerometers and sensors might struggle to read what is a crash and what isn’t, whereas here [in MotoGP] it is all pretty smooth and you don’t get out of shape all that much.”
Feature “In road racing I think there are quite a few ‘standard’ crash scenarios: highside, front end slide but in MX there are a lot of different types,” offers MXGP Wilvo Yamaha rider Shaun Simpson. “You can hit another rider, slide out, go over the bars, have your own highside. In some instances the airbag might work really well and in others it might impede your ‘exit’. I just think that in road racing nine times out of ten a mid-large size crash means your race is over anyway, in motocross that only happens if you are badly injured.” “We have to be a bit more expressive on a motocross bike and it means upping the levels of protection of what we have and I’ve noticed some guys have already been mumbling and moaning that they feel stiff on the bike,” the Scot adds, half alluding to the FIM regulation that made chest and back protectors obligatory in MXGP from 2016. “If you increased that again to included the extra weight and heat of an airbag – because of less airflow – then it could be a problem.” Alpinestars are again leading the way with their research when it comes to the dirt. The off-road airbag is already years in the making and they teased the proximity of a first working version at the 2016 Motocross of Nations at Maggiora in Italy. A year later at the same event in Matterley Basin in the UK, ‘Astars’ brought their technical rig and specialists – with their own bay inside the modern and immaculate truck set-up – to continue the journey. “The next area for us was always going to be off-road,” explains Appleton.
airbags: Motogp & mxgp
“When the technology was being developed we knew that we’d wanted an off-road component, first-and-foremost because we know serious adventure tourists will be on fire-roads and trails so it was important to have that aspect. Here in the motocross environment – which is fundamental to what Alpinestars has been doing forever anyway – we wanted to bring the benefit of an active safety system, especially giving the nature of a lot of crashes here. It is about evolving what we already have. We know it’s a stable platform and it’s reliable and now it is about applying it to motocross. Which is why we are doing the datalogging and have been for some time…but it is a very different environment and there is a time element of getting the technology up to speed and to package an airbag that is acceptable to the riders. It is part of the evolution plan for TechAir.”
Like anything in 2018 the march of technology and the possibilities of the digital age have helped and pushed thought process and theories into reality. “What we have realised is that the platform we have – that was always conceived to be a modular platform to be applicable in different areas – is showing its worth,” Appleton adds. “We’re achieving objectives but also pushing the envelope faster than we thought was possible. In the past there was simply not the components nor the electronics to start an airbag programme.” The way an airbag would have to work in MXGP means evolution of a product that could even outstrip the intricacy found in MotoGP. Those gains will then feed from racing into something riders can order from a website or pick off a shelf.
Feature Appleton: “The way the technology is evolving means that it will become more compact, not in terms of airbag coverage because that will only grow but the system itself. In MotoGP we are already making significant steps in terms of ‘packaging’ and in that sport if we can shave mere grams off the product then the teams and riders like that. It is always a target. Another objective is to always make the system more ‘capable’. We have new electronics and we are finding new algorithms all the time; so it is like any form of technology in that it’s a process. The future? Maybe lighter and most compact in terms of componentry, a larger airbag and being more accessible to the market.” What are the practical problems for motocross? Deployment; when and where? But also deflation and re-use. It is no surprise that Alpinestars’ technicians need years
of data-logging and hundreds of race hours deducing what make a ‘motocross crash’ where the airbag would play a role. These are implications that some safety-savy MXGP riders are well aware of. ”I am always looking to protect myself in any way shape or form while still feeling free on the bike,” says Simpson. “But at the same time it is a subject to really sit around and talk about and bounce some ideas as to how he can really work. We often go down and bounce back up a few times to get back on the bike (if you are having a bad race) so it could be an issue unless it was detachable. Riders get the choice to wear neck protection, knee protection, wrist braces but very few actually like it, especially on their upper body, and I think it would be hard to get people to opt in to wear it unless it was mandatory.”
airbags: Motogp & mxgp
“Alpinestars also have the re-inflation system; if we can have that in motocross then it’s perfect,” reasons Febvre. “I think also when it goes off then it is not too big or too crazy so you cannot move. We can have small crashes and I think if we had two chances then this is enough.” Another consideration is the prominent type of injuries when it comes to motocross. A snapped collarbone is almost an unwanted ‘badge of honour’ at any kind of level, but it would seem there is a different sphere of hurt. Simpson: “It tends to be more about the extremities: fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankle, knee, hip…occasionally ribs. Another factor in a motocross crash is that when you hit the dirt then very rarely is it an even surface and that can be to your benefit or detriment. In MotoGP at some point you are going to slide because of the speed even if that first impact is big enough to break things. You don’t hear of too many ACL or twisted ankles there, for example. In motocross all you have to do is catch your foot in a rut and get it twisted and your knee will be blown out or your ankle broken. There just seems to be many more variables and conditions. I don’t know how you could ever raise that protection level.” MXGP and the airbag remains the next frontier. Realistically it is difficult to visualise many other forms of protection for the rider – there is a reason that motocross kit has remained largely unchanged over the decades. Underneath the racewear then the different type, shape and performances of things like chest protectors, body armour, braces, goggle lenses and even ‘assists’ like cooling jackets, compression gear, underlayers have served their purpose but the airbag is the most ambitious of the lot.
When it comes then Alpinestars (and any other firm) will again enter a phase of promotion and education similar to what they faced with neck braces. Airbags might skip a generation, much in the same way that neck protection appears to be more prominent at youth and junior level, but the message has to be relayed. “The biggest difficulty in terms of communicating about it is that until you crash or we simulate something then you cannot see or understand what it looks like and what it can do,” explains Appleton. “As a concept I think people ‘get it’ because most of us have cars with airbags. Fundamentally the message is that a legitimate, everyday system exists that you can wear while riding. If you crash or have an impact it will give you an enormous amount more of torso protection than any of the passive protection currently available. There is an awareness ‘need’ in the industry as a whole and when we get into the real detail of the technology – how and why does it work and what can it offer? – then the subject becomes more complicated but ultimately comes down to how much people want to grasp.” “First and foremost we have to tell people that airbags exist and they are a practical solution.” On the road or the asphalt track the word is out there. When airbags eventually come to MXGP, assuming that Alpinestars do not get lost in the labyrinth of the task, then it could be one of the biggest safety provisions for quite some time.
indian A couple of pieces from Indianâ€™s classy 2018 casualwear line-up. The Icon Denim shirt is a more formal choice next to a gathering of new t-shirt options, all made from high grade cotton and featuring designs and variations on that distinctive logo and name. Peruse the Indian website for details on dealers or where to shop the catalogue online.
the forever war... On my way home from the opening race of the 2013 MotoGP season, I bumped into Nereo Balanzin, an Italian journalist and a lovely man, at Doha airport. We sat and chatted about the amazing debut of Marc Márquez, coming third just behind Valentino Rossi, and pondered the relationship between the two. Rossi had just beaten Márquez to second in a thrilling battle, in a special race for both of them, Rossi’s first back on a Yamaha after two years in the wilderness with Ducati, while Márquez was making his bow in the MotoGP class. It was exactly the kind of battle the two riders relished: closely fought and with every attack immediately answered with a counter attack. After years of being in the minority among Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa, who all took a very puritanical approach to passing other riders with due care and attention, Rossi had found an ally with the same lust for action and refusal to either give or expect any quarter. “I think Valentino sees Marc as his heir,” Nereo mused. “He sees the same qualities in Marc which he has himself.” Nereo believed that Valentino Rossi would retire once he had racked up another championship, safe in the knowledge that the future of the sport was in good hands with Marc Márquez.
How times have changed. In Argentina, Rossi tore into Márquez, after the Spaniard had made a wildly irresponsible pass on the Italian, forcing the Yamaha out wide onto the grass and out of the points. “This is a very bad situation,” Rossi fumed. “[Márquez] destroyed our sport because he doesn’t have any respect for his rivals. Never. I’m scared on the track when I am with Márquez. I am scared today when I see his name on the board because I know that he is coming for me. I don’t have fun to fight with him, because I know that he raises the level.
He doesn’t play clean. He doesn’t play aggressive. He plays dirty.” The story of how Rossi went from potentially seeing Márquez as his heir to hating him on sight is a familiar one to anyone who follows MotoGP. First, there was a suspicion that Márquez was doing a reboot of the highlights of Rossi’s career: the collision with Jorge Lorenzo in the final corner at Jerez (reprising Rossi vs Gibernau in 2005); passing Rossi at Laguna Seca by running through the dirt at The Corkscrew (a remake of Rossi’s legendary pass on Casey Stoner in 2008).
By David Emmett
Then came 2015, and the pair clashed several times on track: Rossi clipped the front wheel of the Honda at Argentina causing Márquez to fall; Márquez tried to stuff his RCV inside Rossi’s Yamaha in the final chicane at Assen, and came off worse. In the press conference, any trace of fondness between the two had gone. Then came Sepang, Rossi’s accusations, the do-ordie battle between the two over the space of a couple of laps, then Rossi forcing Márquez wide and down. Rossi accused Márquez of helping Jorge Lorenzo to win the 2015 championship, in effect stealing it from him. After the tragic death of Luis Salom at Barcelona put their feud into perspective in 2016, Rossi and Márquez were at least cordial with each other. The vitriol may still have been there, but it was kept behind closed doors. “I just say ciao to him, because it’s easier,” Rossi said after Argentina, revealing how uneasy the truce had actually been.
Will this rift ever be healed? The short answer to that question is no. It was inevitable that their relationship would descend into vendetta. The two most talented riders of their respective generations, each with egos demanding the respect that comes with that. In the two most powerful factory teams in racing, both of which demand influence over the running of the sport. Both men at the centre of powerful groups, seeking to have things run their way. If either Valentino Rossi or Marc Márquez demand a change – to procedure in Parc Ferme, to the order in which media debriefs are done, to the way the tyre allocation is organised – those changes are made. The MotoGP paddock was never going to be large enough to contain two riders whose interstellar talent is only matched by the size of their egos. At some point, they would clash on track, bringing the off-track issues to a head. This is no longer even about a sporting rivalry. Valentino Rossi’s hatred of Marc Márquez burns with the intensity of a thousand suns.
Márquez’ disdain for Rossi is as deep as the Pacific Ocean. There can be no reconciliation while the two occupy the same paddock. It is a law of nature. And so we have another three seasons at least of bitter and angry rivalry, until Valentino Rossi (maybe) retires. And after that, Rossi managing a team of young riders whose primary objective will be to beat Marc Márquez to the championship. The tide of battle may ebb and flow, but the war goes on forever.
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KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE LINE
what’s eating jorge lorenzo? Those were two intriguing weeks between the first and second tests of this winter’s preseason. During those 14 days there were grounds to place full belief in Jorge Lorenzo’s return as a genuine contender, one who fancied his chances of replicating his finest glories of the past and pushing early favourite Marc Marquez all the way. There was the swagger that accompanied his outright circuit record at the Sepang test; there were his declarations that Ducati’s new GP18 was, piece for piece, an upgrade on what he had sat on three months before; and there were his social media interactions, as Jorge chided and occasionally tore into critics past and present - an unremarkable point, you may say, but one which painted a rider using all the criticism from last season’s Grand Prix at Valencia to fuel an extensive winter of training. How surprising then it has been to see the subsequent two months unfold. The second preseason outing in Thailand was an unmitigated disaster. Aside from lingering outside the top 15 in the timesheets, the three days there were spent flustering between chassis, fairings and pieces from Ducati’s ’17 and ’18 machines. Testing in Qatar offered a little res-
pite, but not before his race weekend went badly awry, as a fuel pump issue in free practice was compounded by a front brake failure in the race. But it’s tempting to wonder whether last weekend’s outing in Argentina was the nadir of his time in Ducati’s corner. That exasperated expression was never far away and his on-track performances were well below par. The news that Alex Debon, his personal coach hired at the beginning of the year, had already split prior to flying to South America didn’t exactly project an image of tranquillity behind the scenes and had Marc Marquez not attempted an opportunistic move on Valentino Rossi two laps from home, Lorenzo would have finished a dismal 17th. As it stands just one point sits next to his name after two races.
Yep, two races – much too early to sound the alarm bells, I know. But it feels as though this spell is amounting to more than just a pair of lousy results. To watch Lorenzo on Saturday evening in Argentina soon after his dealings with the media was to see a man dumbfounded, grasping desperately for reasons behind his current plight. Deep in conversation with personal assistant Artur Vilalta, it was as though the five-time world champion was being talked down from a ledge. Those watching wouldn’t have been surprised to see him walk away from it all there and then. There have been noises from Lorenzo that he’s reaching a conclusion that Ducati’s GP18 is simply not made for his style, that he cannot express himself as he pleases. There was a sense of resignation in his words when he told French sports daily L’Equipe that his attempts to
By Neil Morrison
mould his precise, high-corner speed style to the added power and more stubborn handling of the Desmosedici is “as if Paris Saint-Germain were hiring Lionel Messi to play in midfield.” Little wonder his name is currently linked with Suzuki for 2019 and beyond, with Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi revealing his rider is holding off contract talks with the Bologna factory until improvements are forthcoming. Sources close to Lorenzo say that his current return is falling way below what he’s putting in. The Majorcan feels he’s training harder than ever, analysing his riding more than ever. Yet still he needs to remind himself how much rear brake to use in each bend that approaches, which gear to select, which line to use. Nothing is coming naturally. For a man that has amassed 65 grand prix victories across an illustrious 17-year career, these continued failings must be tough to stomach. Could he really be nearing an acceptance that championship successes won’t be possible in Ducati’s red? Clearly there is more at play. There have been whispers that Lorenzo’s
behaviour behind closed doors has begun to tire those around him. He may have treated his mechanics to a holiday in the Dominican Republic at the close of last year, but his renowned hot-headedness in the garage isn’t endearing him to Bologna’s technicians. His relationship with Tardozzi appears strained and even technical leader Gigi Dall’Igna gave a revealing interview before Argentina. “I’m convinced if [Jorge] stays a little calmer it would lead the whole team to work better,” he told the Gazzetta Dello Sport.
And then there is his team-mate. One only needs to watch Dorna’s recent documentary on Dovizioso’s epic title brawl with Marquez to see the awe with which he is regarded within Ducati. One of Lorenzo’s principle reasons for leaving Yamaha was the realisation he would never be treated as number one when sat a little distance away from Valentino Rossi, no matter how many titles he amassed. How galling it must be to see Dovizioso continue to prosper in the face of his own repeated failings. This isn’t what he signed up for.
Surely there is a feeling of frustration the ’18 bike hasn’t changed sufficiently to suit his needs. Last November Tardozzi had spoken of the factory’s responsibility to build a bike more in-line with an early braking, high corner speed style. Yet his potential remains largely as it was last autumn; with podiums possible, but a title charge some way off. With Ducati’s ’18 aerodynamics package placing too much strain on the front, forcing it to push mid-corner, Lorenzo has been robbed of a part that pushed him toward a string of top six finishes nine months ago – a clear source of frustration in Argentina.
Which leads us to what happens next. Suzuki’s GSX-RR has one of the grid’s sweetest handling chassis – one that would surely be tailor made for Lorenzo’s graceful, laconic movements - and a much-improved motor to boot. In Alex Rins’ hands it has podium potential. Should there be no improvement in coming weeks it may just be time for the five-time champion to jump ship. To do so would be an admission that his tenure at Ducati has been a failure. But as things currently stand, Lorenzo may feel he has little choice but to gamble on another factory that appears to be on the way up.
British riders might be dominating in WorldSBK but thereâ€™s no easy path from Britain to the world stage for young riders
A Ray of hope for Britainâ€™s future Words & Photos by Steve English
hen Bradley Ray claimed his first Bennetts British Superbike Championship victory at Donington Park, it sent reverberations throughout British motorcycling. The 20 year old became the second youngest winner in the history of the series, and when he backed up his maiden victory with a double it was clear that he had thrown down a marker to the field. For Ray, a former Red Bull Rookies race winner, the path from the MotoGP paddock to BSB race winner has been filled with twists and turns. In 2014, his final year of Rookies, Ray finished fourth in the standings that were led by Jorge Martin and Joan Mir. While both of those riders have gone on to firmly establish their Grand Prix credentials before his Donington success, Ray had spent a few years in the wilderness. “I think that my career has taught me that it’s about finding the right opportunities at the right time,” said Ray. “I had a duff year in 2015 because when I left Red Bull Rookies, I wasn’t really sure about what series we should race in. I knew that I wanted to get into MotoGP in the future, but not getting it straight away has definitely made me more patient. In 2015 I did some Moto3 and STK600 in
Britain and some Moto2 in Spain, and was at Silverstone for the Grand Prix, but I knew that racing in different series wasn’t the best plan for the future. I knew that I needed to do a full championship in 2016, so I went to British Supersport.” “It wasn’t a great start to the year, but from the third round to the end of the season we had a really good run.
We finished third in the championship and we won some races. Last year Hawk signed me for the British Superbike season, and that was a big learning curve! Getting the first podium at Oulton Park, and pushing for the top eight at the end of the season was really positive towards the end of the year. We worked really hard during the winter with the team, really improving the bike and I focused on my fitness.
gEtting to thE WoRlDS
“I’ve changed my style a bit over the winter too because of that experience, and we came to Round 1 expecting to fight for the top five or a podium, so to walk away with a double win is unbelievable. It gives us all so much more confidence. Every rider wants to race on the world stage and BSB is a path towards that for me. If we can keep doing what we’re doing, it can open doors. Alex Lowes is a good example because he won the British championship and went to WorldSBK, and over the last five years he’s been able to do a really good job. That’s the aim for me and I want to try and achieve that.”
Alex Lowes was the most recent rider to make the transition, and the Englishman did so after claiming the BSB title in 2013. It was the platform for Lowes, then 23 years old, to make his debut and he’s a firm believer in making the jump as early as possible. “You need to find the right situation at the right time to get out of Britain as quickly as possible,” said the Yamaha WorldSBK star.
“I really rate Brad Ray and I like how he goes about his business, and how he handles himself. His results at Donington have been coming for a long time because in the past Being able to get the opporhe’s been able to win despite tunities on the world stage is not having the best bike. In something that young British racing there’s some people riders have struggled to achieve that from the outside make it in recent years. WorldSBK has look nice and easy, but isn’t been dominated by Brits over never like that and I think that BEING ABLE TO GET THE OPPORTUNITIES ON THE WORLD STAGE IS SOMETHING THAT YOUNG BRITISH RIDERS HAVE STRUGGLED TO ACHIEVE IN RECENT YEARS. the last decade, but the likes of Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies and Leon Camier have all been established on the world stage for some time. It’s hard for a young Brit to make the step when the series already has so many leading riders from the country.
Johnny Rea is a really good example, because we knew that he was when he on the Honda. He was doing everything he could to win on that bike, and then when he gets the best bike he has had so much success.
Winning is a habit, and Ray will be keen to keep that in the coming rounds. Having been discarded after Red Bull Rookies, motivation won’t be a problem and with getting to world level a clear goal, he certainly has plenty of role models in the British paddock. “It’s similar for Brad Ray because this year he’ll feel that he has the package underneath him. He can definitely keep this form rolling too, because when you’re 20 years old and your confidence is peaking, you can take some stopping in BSB. Brad won’t have been surprised to win both races in Round 1, because that’s what he spent the winter working towards. There’ll be other people jumping on his bandwagon and distracting him, so now the key is to stay focused. Jake Dixon is another young rider that’ll win races, and both of them are lucky to have great riders like Shakey, Haslam and Brookes to learn from. It always makes me really happy when you see a young rider win races like they’ve both done.” Winning is a habit, and Ray will be keen to keep in that habit in the coming rounds. Having been discarded after Red Bull Rookies, motivation won’t be a problem in the coming race and with getting
to world level his clear goal, he certainly has plenty of people to use as role models in the British paddock. With Shane Byrne and Leon Haslam both having tasted success in WorldSBK and raced in MotoGP, there are good yardsticks with which to judge him against. For Byrne the path is now very different to when he was a young rider. The six times BSB champion knows that being in the right place at the right time is the key for the likes of Ray. “I think that young British riders can achieve success on the world stage, but you need to go there sooner rather than later. It’s all well and good to look at Jake Dixon at 22 years old, or Luke Mossey at 26 and ask what they can do but, with the greatest respect possible to those guys, Marquez was already winning MotoGP titles at their age. Marc Marquez already has five years of MotoGP experience and these guys haven’t yet won a British championship.
That’s what you’re up against. I hope that we can find a way for younger British riders to get their opportunities earlier. “Bradley Ray is the youngest rider in BSB and he’s done a great job, it’s great to see a rider get the chance to ride a Superbike when they’re 19 because when I was younger that didn’t happen. Now teams are giving younger guys a shot, and hopefully they take that opportunity to shine. When I look at my own career people will think that I wasn’t good enough to win in MotoGP or WorldSBK, but it’s so difficult to win if you don’t have the right package. “Valentino Rossi is the greatest rider of all-time and when he went to Ducati he couldn’t make it work. He’s the best ever and couldn’t win if the package wasn’t right, so what chance does a guy like me have on the Aprilia or the KTM? There were times when it looked like I was in the right place - 2009 with the Sterilgarda Ducati - but we didn’t get the money invested that was promised. The following year I was teammate to Carlos Checa, but the only thing that was similar was our fairings! I still think that if you put me on the Ducati in WorldSBK this year that I’d do as good a job as Chaz or Marco.
getting to the worlds
I’ve no doubt that I could do the job on the right machinery, but the gulf in machinery in WorldSBK can be massive. “Johnny Rea is achieving great things and he’s riding great, but would he still be making that happen if he was on the Honda? The level of your bike is so important in World Championships, because if you don’t have the package you can’t show what you can do.
Sylvain Guintoli is a good example because he was world champion in 2014, but came to BSB and really struggled. Haslam won his last full-time WorldSBK round, but we’ve beaten him the last two years. I’d still love to race in WorldSBK if I could fight for wins, and I’ve no doubt that I could do that with the right bike, but I’m also aware that I’m 41 years old and that the target for me is to cement my legacy in BSB.”
For the likes of Ray having a measure such as Byrne is crucial. The six times champion, not to mention Leon Haslam and a host of other riders, are there to be beaten. If you can win the championship, you deserve your shot at WorldSBK. For Josh Brookes the international road is a perilous one for riders, and one that the 2015 BSB champion and former WorldSSP race winner, still can’t fully understand.
Feature “I’ve tried every which way you can to get a good ride in a world championship,” said Brookes. “You need to have some luck, the right people supporting you, the right attitude and not to piss off the wrong person. There’s so many factors that go into getting the right opportunity, and it’s like a spiders web where there’s so many elements that go into it. I don’t know the answer because I’ve tried every trick in the book to get to where I wanted to be. “I’ve achieved a lot more than most people thought I would, but I’ve never gotten to where I wanted to be. There’s always great riders that could be world champions but they lost their way, got injured or something happened to them. There’s always a story for every rider and talent isn’t the biggest factor; it’s a lottery to the top. You need so much self belief in racing, because there’s so many challenges.” One possible route could well be the British Talent Cup. For both Lowes and Byrne this offers a genuine opportunity for youngsters to be put into the shop window. With Alberto Puig, Repsol Honda’s team manager, and Shuhei Nakamoto, former vice-president of HRC, both spearheading
the series it’s clear that if you have talent you’ll be noticed. “In Italy and Spain they have their programmes where from four years old to 16 years old, they have everything covered. Kids are riding every day after school and they’re racing every weekend all the way through those ages, and that doesn’t happen here yet. The British Talent Cup could be a step in the right direction to push kids from 12 years old all the way through to MotoGP.” Lowes echoed those sentiments, with the WorldSBK star able to also use the perspective of seeing his brother Sam have to move from the Superbike paddock to the Grand Prix paddock at 23 years old. “It’s very hard for a young British rider to get a chance in WorldSBK because we have so many British at the front. The British Talent Cup should help to get riders on the path to MotoGP because it’s so important to get riders into the Spanish system. It’s very difficult to go from BSB to Moto2, so British riders need to go to Spain to show what they can do. There’s no reason to believe that a 12 year old Spanish kid is more talented than a British 12 year old, but the opportunities are definitely different for both of them. You need to get in front of the right people at the right time.”
For Ray the goal is clearly to move into WorldSBK, and he’s put the lessons of the last year to good use. At 20 years old he’s younger than any British rider since Rea in looking to make the grade, but he’s mature enough to realise that spending a year learning a new machine is also a year that he can’t get back. “I want to race on the world stage but I’m patient for it because of what happened in the past. I’m on a Superbike now, so the aim is to go to WorldSBK because moving to Moto2 is illogical for me now. It would be another year of learning a bike and starting from scratch. I think that the past has taught me that it’s not about getting to Grand Prix at any cost, it’s about getting the right opportunity. When I left Red Bull Rookies all I wanted was to find a way into MotoGP, but coming back to England and going through the British championship means that WorldSBK is a more realistic target, and from that hopefully to go to MotoGP in the future. “I learnt so much last year because when you move to a Superbike it’s not about the 1000cc or the power, it’s about getting the most from the electronics, the tyres and the team.
getting to the worlds
Itâ€™s about everything and to make a Superbike work is a big challenge. Last year the goal was to learn as much as we could and knuckle down as much as possible to improve all the time. Coming into this year I knew that we could fight for the top five, and at Donington we proved that we can fight at the front in dry and damp conditions. Itâ€™s a massive confidence boost to prove our potential.â€? It remains to be seen how far that potential can take Ray.
pirelli aragon round
motorland · april 15-16 · Rnd 3 of 13
Race one winner: Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Race two winner: Chaz Davies, Ducati
up & Blog by Graeme Brown, Photos by GeeBee Images
sand shifting... In the UK there is a government campaign that covers gambling, in particular online sport betting. It goes under the banner of GambleAware and their strap line is “When the fun stops, Stop!” In a way, it’s how I feel after last weekend. It’s been a culmination of things over the last few years but what brought it sharply to my mind was a request to look back over my time shooting the Superbike World Championship and come up with one image that would define my career. One image? From 20 years? Impossible. I shot my first WorldSBK race in 1998 at Brands Hatch. It was the heady days of the series and the crowds were massive that weekend. So much so that myself, and the client I was working for took a paddock scooter to the hotel on Saturday night so that we could dodge through the traffic jams on Sunday morning. I then followed the full championship for the first time in 2000 and I have only missed a handful of races since then due to important family events or clashes with MotoGP races when I was working there also. Looking back it remind-
ed me of many of the fun times we had on a race weekend both at the track and in the evening after the work was done. In terms of the programme on the weekend there were two, one hour sessions on Friday and the same again on Saturday before the one lap Superpole shoot out. Within that four hours of track time there was so much scope to think about what you were doing and make the most of the job. No need to rush between corners and you had time to look for different angles. Now we have three, 40 minute sessions on a Friday before essentially having Superpole and racing on Saturday. The 20 minute FP4 session isn’t worth talking about but lets include it, so then I have two hours and 20 minutes to do the same job I did up till 2013 within four hours. A race also used to last around 45 minutes. Now it’s about half an hour. Since Dorna took over the run-
ning of the championship they have continually made changes to the programme and introduced initiatives to make it more interesting; or cheaper for the teams; or more TV friendly; or more spectator friendly. In Qatar at the end of the year they introduced a new idea of having parc ferme and the podium in the paddock; ‘to bring the celebrations closer to the fans’. They had a similar set up in Phillip Island and again this weekend in Motorland. If you are a fan it sounds like a great idea but, selfishly, for me it is the last thing I need when, I am pushed for time, rushing to get back from the track for parc ferme and the podium, to have to fight my way through a crowd of fans, to then find I can’t get the shot I want because the area is now roped off. Then shooting the podium I have people wandering around, getting in the way, not to mention having to keep an eye on my equipment at all times, worrying that it would go missing.
By Graeme Brown
I am all for jazzing up the championship and making it more exciting, more engaging, but in this case there has to be a balance between public access and consideration for those people who are there to do a job. There are not many of us left who make our full time living from working in motorsport media and this weekend I felt more marginalized than ever. Getting the balance right was also the main topic of conversation after the races on Sunday. The much talked about new technical regulations introduced this year have come into full effect this weekend, after the third round. It is, however, a surprise to see that Kawasaki, who have been hit the hardest with the new upper rev limit, will now benefit from the ‘balancing regulations’ that are designed to prevent one manufacturer dominating. Ducati are the only team that haven’t been allowed the concession of an additional engine upgrade due to them clearing the podium places since Phillip Island. The big surprise is that privateer entrant Xavi Fores, on the Barni machine, has been the fly in their ointment by taking
trophies in Australia, Thailand and again at the weekend. I am sure even Ducati couldn’t have predicted that. So, for now, all other manufacturers are allowed to make an additional upgrade to their engine package. In reality nothing will happen between now and Assen. With the race trucks having to be in the Netherlands by Tuesday afternoon the whole paddock was packed away like your dirty washing in a suitcase at the end of a holiday, everything flung in as-is, and a convoy was leaving Motorland by 7pm on Sunday evening to make the long trip north. I guess there will be a bit of ‘washing and ironing’ to do on Wednesday morning. We will see if any of the other manufacturers take up this option before the event in Imola but reports on Monday morning suggest that some don’t have the budget to develop and test a new engine spec at this stage and other teams feel it won’t really make any difference, it is chassis and gearbox development that is more important.
The question of balancing the regulations also came up in the WorldSSP300 class. A bizarre name for the series in it’s second year given that Honda race a 500, and Kawasaki and KTM have entered this year with a 400 and 390 respectively. Only Yamaha, with the R3, have a 300cc machine. Having dominated for much of last year they played a definite second fiddle to Kawasaki and KTM this weekend and immediately have cried ‘foul’ and asked for the balancing regulations to be looked at. Now having considered all of the above, to my wizened, old, cynical eye it does look like things are being made up as we go along. Maybe indeed I have just been around too long. I will end this week by passing on my regards to Leon Camier. I was genuinely pleased to see how well he was riding on the Honda and it is such a shame to see him sidelined. The news on Monday was that he had been released from hospital in Alcañiz, and was on his way home to Andorra to recover. Hopefully, that will not take too long. It was also nice to see Eugene Laverty home from Thailand recuperating. Get well soon guys.
racr Tony Cairoli and Jill Cox’s lifestyle brand is slowly growing and expanding as it comes around to a first anniversary this summer. The MXGP World Champion has helped the collection evolve, although the ‘unisex’ basis by focussing on predominant white and black shades has become something of a trademark. Extra Beanies have been added and there are two sunglasses models. T-shirts will cost just under 40 euros with long sleeve priced at just five more. There are also two sweatshirts (70 euros) and a hoodie. The website is not only a place to view the portfolio but is also a hub for the athletes and scenes that are getting onboard with RACR.
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US Bank Stadium · april 14 · Rnd 14 of 17 450SX winner: Eli Tomac, Kawasaki (triple crown) 250SX East winner: Zach Osborne, Husqvarna
Blog by Steve Matthes, Photos by Monster Energy/Swanberg, KTM/Cudby/Husqvarna
clock ticking for #21
hello mr anderson... Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson’s inevitable march to the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross championship seems, looking back on it, to make perfect sense but anyone who says they saw it unfold like this is fooling you. I think even Jason and team manager Bobby Hewitt would agree on that. Coming out of amateurs Anderson, on a Suzuki then, was awarded the Horizon Award for the amateur racer that shows the most promise to make it as a professional. Right out of the ranch at Loretta Lynn’s, he was put onto a Rockstar Suzuki ride and set loose into the pro series. He had some decent 250SX results that first season and ended up 15th in the series after some crashes. Outdoors came and thing weren’t really working out for him, in fact it got so bad that at one point Hewitt (who outright owned the team back then, now he’s allegedly the manager while Husqvarna owns it) had to send Jason home for a few weeks to figure everything out.
He wasn’t in shape at all to do the two thirty-minute motos week after week that the Pro life demands. He came for Millville, put it into the top ten there and carried on the rest of the nationals looking better but still not scoring great results. At this point, Jason Anderson’s career was very much in flux. “The beginning of my career didn’t go well but I always believed in my skill and talent on a dirt bike and I knew if I focused on learning and progressing, it would be a good career,” Anderson told Racer X after his second place at Minneapolis this past weekend. “I didn’t know if I would be a 450SX champion or a long term 250 guy but it’s crazy you get thrown into this deal at a very young age and you have to grow up quick.
My team has been good for me because as they progressed, I’ve progressed. I can be honest with them and if I do stupid stuff off the track, I’m honest with them and they’re honest with me.” We know now that he went on to steadily improve; scoring his first 250SX podium in 2011, his first win in 2012 and after the team switched to a more competitive KTM machine, won the title in his fourth year. There’s no doubt that Anderson’s indoor results have been better than his outdoor efforts throughout his career but he’s no slouch when it comes to motocross as everyone saw for one moto at the 2016 Motocross des Nations in Italy.
By Steve Matthes
So if Jason makes this happens and wins the most prestigious off-road motorcycling title in the world, he’ll join a rare group of riders who won their first 450SX title before winning anything outdoors. Chad Reed was another who did that and before him, some fella named Jeremy McGrath burst onto the scene. Both Reed and McGrath would go on to win premier 450MX titles after having success indoors so Jason looks good to do that at some point. But first he’s got to win this one with just three races left and a over a race lead in the points it’s looking good. Monster Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac won his seventh event of the season to Anderson’s four and even though Anderson is only fourth when it comes to leading most laps this year, when the cheque and the title comes to him in Vegas, no one is going to remember the other stuff. As Anderson explained, sometimes you got to think of the big picture.
“It’s cool to have a points lead but at the same time it kind of sucks cause there’s some races that you have to keep a little more mellow so you don’t take risks,” Anderson again told Racer X. “I’ve had some curveballs thrown at me (Daytona and Indy) and I feel like I managed those races very well. Especially for me, in the past I’ve ridden over my head a little bit. And I feel like I’ve been staying in the game and trying my best.” Still, Anderson’s had the lead all year and as he’s watched one potential champion after another get hurt, or not ride well the #21 Husqvarna rider’s been making it work out there week after week. Some people will always have the “What about…?” syndrome when it comes to Jason winning this title but it says here that this will not be a one and done type of thing. He’s here and he’s for real…indoors anyways!
“We train and stuff, when we’re done we’re chilling on the couch and I’ve been trying to get some hobbies so that I don’t think about stuff. This is stuff we have thought about since we were little kids and it’s tough to not think [about the title]. You go to sleep at night and it’s all you think about. It’s something that would be awesome in my life.” Yes it will be Jason. Bravo to you and the team.
JEREM Y MART IN
MI N NEAPO LI S 25 0 S X W I NN ER
THE DRIVE TO WIN
@ P R OTA P E R
P R OTA P E R.C O M
alpinestars After having a look at ‘Astars’ premium road-tracspawned glove in the last issue here is a slightly more versatile option. The ‘Megawatt’ glove (does it glow?) is a hard-knuckle off-road product what would also perhaps serve for a light and quick intercity scooter or perhaps on a street bike in the heart of summer. Alpinestars claim that this is a durable glove made from premium materials. The top of the hand features perforated leather and stretch polyamide for flexibility. Synthetic suede coats the palm (with foam padding to help against abrasion) and thumb; both areas are reinforced. Other little details include pre-curved fingers, silicon finger tips to increase lever grip and a hook and loop grip cuff closure. Black and black with orange trim keeps things conservative. Check out the website for more info and to see other items from the 2018 Motocross collection.
Words b Photos by Marco
fix a ho
by Roland Brown, o Campelli/Sebas Romero
xing a ole
ktm 790 duke
ake the 790 Duke for a blast on a twisty road, and KTM’s new middleweight works so well that you might wonder why the Austrian firm didn’t create a bike like this ages ago. The 799cc parallel twin is engagingly quick, light, sweet-handling and bursting with character.
Beneath its lean, typically sharp-edged lines, the Duke brings a new level of technology to the class, with features including a full-colour Thin Film Transistor instrument panel, twoway gearbox quick-shifter, and advanced electronics controlled by a superbike-style Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU).
The Duke is exciting yet rider-friendly, epitomising the simple riding pleasure that has long made the naked middleweight class popular. It neatly plugs the large gap in KTM’s roadster range between the single-cylinder 690 Duke and 1290 Super Duke V-twins.
Perhaps the biggest decision KTM’s engineers faced in the Duke’s development was the layout of the all-new engine. They eventually settled on a parallel twin, rather than a V-twin as used by bigger Adventure and Super Duke models, mainly because side-by-side cylinders could be made more compact.
That impression of simplicity is actually misleading, because the 790 is distinctly sophisticated.
The dohc eight-valve unit has its crankpins offset by 75 degrees to give an irregular firing order like the big V-twins. Twin balancer shafts allow it to be a stressed member of the frame, which in KTM tradition is made from tubular steel.
“...as you’d expect in this modern era of platform-sharing, the first all-new model is just the start. The 790 Duke introduces a parallel-twin family that will grow to include more KTMs...”
ktm 790 duke
Maximum output is 105bhp at 9000rpm – not the highest in the class, but a healthy figure for a bike weighing only 174kg with fuel. That electronic sophistication begins with the TFT display, controlled via an updated version of KTM’s familiar four-button switchgear on the left handlebar. There’s a choice from four riding modes, including a Track setting that gives extra functionality. On the launch in Gran Canaria I stuck to Street and the slightly sharper Sport (there’s also Rain, which reduces power), both of which give superbly crisp throttle response. That top-end output is complemented by a usefully flat torque curve. The 790 generates enough midrange torque for strong acceleration from around 4000rpm, and the motor stays smooth even up near its 9500rpm redline. This encourages plenty of revs and frequent use of the six-speed gearbox, as does the quick-shifter, which works sweetly in both directions and contributes to the KTM’s effortless feel.
The Duke is more than happy at speed, though inevitably its upright and exposed riding position means you’re fighting the wind long before reaching the maximum of about 140mph. Even at much lower speeds, the parallel twin’s off-beat firing order gives the 790 an involving character and an appealing bark from the highlevel exhaust. The twin-cylinder unit is slightly less impressive in town, when the Duke tends to hunt slightly at constant throttle openings. At least the clutch action is light, and the bike’s fairly low seat and generous steering lock help make it manoeuvrable in traffic. I didn’t find it cramped, despite being tall. Handling is excellent, combining fairly light steering with confidence-inspiring stability. The suspension, from in-house specialist WP, is fairly basic, with no adjustability apart from shock preload.
ktm 790 duke
ktm 790 duke
Comfort is reasonable, despite the fairly thin seat. What confirms the 790 Duke as a serious middleweight contender is its aggressive price (of £8499 in the UK). It’s very competitive with natural rivals such as Ducati’s Monster 821 and Triumph’s Street Triples, not to mention BMW’s capable but ageing F800R parallel twin.
But both ends manage to feel firm and wellcontrolled, while having sufficient travel for very acceptable ride quality. On very rough surfaces the Duke passes on some jarring through bars and seat but doesn’t lose its cool. The balance between agility, stability and comfort feels just about right. And when you’re riding on bumpy, damp or poorly surfaced roads, the Bosch cornering ABS and high-level traction control give an invaluable safety net. There’s plenty of grip and stopping power, even if the Maxxis tyres and J.Juan front brake, with its pair of four-piston radial calipers, aren’t from particularly glamorous suppliers. The Duke should prove quite practical, too. Fuel consumption averages around 50mpg even with hard riding, giving around 150 miles from the 14-litre tank.
And as you’d expect in this modern era of platform-sharing, the first all-new model is just the start. The 790 Duke introduces a parallel-twin family that will grow to include more KTMs – starting with a dual-purpose Adventure model, due next year – and also bikes from sister brand Husqvarna. On this evidence they’ll be well worth the wait.
back page Monster Energy Girls 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 www.ontrackoffroad.com 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 www.cormacgp.com 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 - www.firethumb7.co.uk Thanks to www.mototribu.com PHOTO CREDITS Ray Archer, CormacGP, GeeBee Images, Simon Cudby, Monster Energy/R.Swanberg, wd.jrphoto
Cover shot: Jorge Prado by Ray Archer This publication took a lot of time and effort to put together so please respect it! Nothing in this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the editorial team. For more information please visit www.ontrackoffroad.com and click ‘Contact us’.
The fourth 2018 issue of a monthly motorcycle sport magazine with some of the best interviews, features and Blogs from the heart of MotoGP,...
Published on Apr 17, 2018
The fourth 2018 issue of a monthly motorcycle sport magazine with some of the best interviews, features and Blogs from the heart of MotoGP,...