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#GETD BEAST MODE ENGAGED 2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R The NAKED rulebook has been re-written. The KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R is now leaner, meaner and even more menacing than ever before. Sporting an all-new chassis and suspension setup, the flagship LC8 V-Twin 1301 cc boasting brutal forward thrust, blinding acceleration and an advanced electronics package, the NEW BEAST is locked and loaded for battle.

Photo: R. Schedl

DUKED Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.



The probing, doubts and experiments of the MotoGP off-season can now be locked away. In just over a week all will be sealed, and the serious business of racing begins at the venue where the teams have just completed their last test. Props to Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder for a lap-time that hints at the South African rookie’s potential… Photo by Polarity Photo


THE TERRIBLE TWO?? A tough weekend for some of the AMA Supercross field in Dallas also sees the first glimmer of daylight appearing in the 450 SX standings. Eli Tomac (four wins from the eight rounds so far) and Ken Roczen (two victories and six podiums) are split by 7 points and are almost 20 ahead of Cooper Web. This one could run and run to Salt Lake City. Here’s hoping. Photo by James Lissimore



Twenty rounds of MXGP is on the verge of getting underway and at 23 years of age, the might of HRC behind him and two premier class titles in four years it’s hard not to imagine that Tim Gajser is getting near his peak. Will the Slovenian claim round one? Or Jeffrey Herlings? Tony Cairoli? Glenn Coldenhoff? Gautier Paulin? Jeremy Seewer? Jorge Prado? Romain Febvre? Pauls Jonass? Clement Desalle (winner of the most opening GPs of the last decade)? Who is your pick for Matterley? Photo by ShotbyBavo



By Adam Wheeler. Photos by KTM/S.Romero/M.Campelli Polarity Photo/CormacGP & GeeBee Images




here is a moment in seminal 1990s action movie ‘Point Break’ when Patrick Swayze’s colead character – the mysterious Bohdi – dissects the spirituality of riding waves. “It’s a state of mind: that place where you lose yourself and you find yourself,” he explains. For decades, from a range of motorsport and cultural idols and icons, there has been a stream of thinking, philosophy and meditation of existence on the racetrack. Mostly connected with the feeling or sensation of finding (or ‘losing’) oneself in the ‘zone’ or being immersed in a world of extreme competition. We can all watch and appreciate that going fast within the boundaries of a circuit takes extreme focus and concentration. It also looks formulaic, with similar lines and actions from those attempting to live within fractions of a second of each other. Like any skill it takes practice for a degree of competence. Unlike many pastimes, circuit riding comes with an alarming sense of urgency, trepidation, occasional panic and – buried away somewhere and not spoken about – fear. There was a moment at the recent 2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R launch in Portugal where a colleague in

the British group of journalists and testers commented “your first time on a track is at Portimao with a SUPER DUKE?! Fair play…”. Perhaps the decision to unearth the possibilities of the Austrians’ 180hp and 140Nm of torque – the ‘ultimate’ naked bike – for first-time dip around a course that former MotoGP ace, track day master-instructor and key KTM bike developer Jeremy McWilliams described as “one of the hardest in the world” the previous evening

during the media call was not the most lucid. Slightly nervous, slightly overwhelmed by the ability of the company I was keeping and extremely curious for the first of six twenty-minute sessions in fantastic sunshine and twentydegree temperatures the moment of truth came closer. Luckily a two-hour morning jaunt around the surrounding roads of Portimao gave a valuable introduction to the new SUPER DUKE and the third


generation of the 1290 ‘Beast’. 90% new for 2020 the thrilling amounts of torque from the v-twin was matched with a robust and stable chassis that genuinely inspired confidence. The bike tractored out of the tightest country lane with ease and a handful of throttle was met with the feeling that the bike could shift to another line at will.

At Portimao the road-going 1290s were parked outside the pitboxes. A walk through the garage delivered the sight of another set of Beasts; this time in track trim, with four models in full PowerParts race guise adorned with slick tyres and warmers attached. With the bikes warm and almost ready to go it was at this point that the words and guidance

MCWILLIAMS: “IT WAS PRETTY SPECIAL: GETTING MY KNEE DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME! I BURNT A HOLE THROUGH MY JEANS! I DON’T THINK ANYBODY WOULD GET ON A CIRCUIT NOW WITH A PAIR OF JEANS...” of McWilliams offered something akin to a soothing effect. The 55 year old has already spun a number of test and demo laps at Portimao on the launch and thanks to the prompting of KTM personnel like Street Marketing Manager Riaan Neveling and Product Manager Adriaan Sinke has agreed to act as a point of guidance. I casually ask if he remembers his ‘first time’. “It must have been thirty-five/ six years ago; at the aptlynamed Nutts Corner raceway, close to where I live,” the Irishman smiles. “We had production bikes with street tyres and it was quite a special moment. We had no restrictions, no traffic and could go as fast as we wanted without worrying about speed traps or getting pulled-over. I had no idea what I was doing! If I

went back today then I would have sought some instruction or direction beforehand. It was pretty special: getting out there and getting my knee down for the first time! I burnt a hole through my jeans! I don’t think anybody would get on a circuit now with a pair of jeans. At that point I realised I really wanted to do more. We also ventured down south to a circuit near Dublin called Mondello Park. It was a little better. Then Kirkistown. They are all within a couple of hours of each other.” I’m doing my best ‘all the gear, no idea’ impersonation thanks to the people at Alpinestars. My Techair-ready Specter jacket is the ideal fit and the V2 pants with knee sliders (being optimistic) could not be any more comfortable. Black and white SMX V2 boots complete the

FEATURE compulsory outfit and must rank as the snuggest and easiest set of footwear I’ve worn on a motorcycle. Absolutely no complaints. As I climb on one of the racespec 1290s and speed after McWilliams down the pitlane it’s impossible not to feel a ‘little MotoGP’ and get excited. I mean, how often do you gas a motorcycle in the knowledge that there isn’t an immediate car, pedestrian or traffic hazard to look out for? A few deep breaths and pitlane exit means hard throttling and into another environment. The plan is to take a few laps to follow Jeremy and see which way Portimao winds. Almost instantly the world is much faster and there is less time to get things done. I find myself doing daft things like flicking my gaze towards an imaginary mirror before tipping into a corner and the fact that Jeremy is ahead and seemingly

cruising with one hand controlling the bike and the other pointing at lines and zones I should hit is even more humbling when I have the sensation that I am abusing the SUPER DUKE far more than I would on the road. It’s hard to fully commit and lean into corners. The track is between 10-15 metres wide but it seems like 100; it’s tricky to know exactly where I should be and where I should be braking, tipping and aiming. At the same moment it’s utterly thrilling. The swoop into the downhill final turn that winds up to the main straight is like a rollercoaster g-out. The speed up to sixth gear makes my head shake, my vision blurry and I hold onto the SUPER DUKE with all the power in my arms and with the alarm that I might get sucked off the back.

Turn 1 is a challenge and remains so for the entire day. The dip into the braking zone makes my stomach roll and the apex of the right hander comes alarmingly into view and quicker than I’d like. Jeremy tells me to brake when he brakes but I have no recollection of trusting my skills and courage as well as the bike throughout the day. With more and more laps I’m learning that the Brembos of the 1290 SUPER DUKE are pretty damn good and I slowly get a bit later and a bit closer. Ironically, one of the most daunting parts of the circuit – Turn 1 leads immediately into one of the best: another right-handed kink where you can feed the power of the bike in, slide a little bit, and then test braking prowess again for a tight right Turn 4. The section becomes a meaty challenge throughout the whole experience. Twenty minutes feels like twenty seconds.


Following Jeremy back to the pitlane the sensations are one of exhilaration, education, humility and wider understanding of the art behind track riding. “I think I was fourteen years old when I hopped on my

Dad’s Superbike at Grant Raceway in Michigan and everything was too fast and everything happens too quick, you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t trust the tyres: there are so many different things going on. It’s foreign!” Chris Fillmore, former AMA Superbike competitor, Pikes Peak winner and long-term KTM rider is another racer at the launch. “I grew up racing motocross and hadn’t touched supermoto yet. So, you had to develop trust between the pavement and the tyre. Some people have it quite naturally. Maybe ignorance is bliss! Some people never do.” Second time out and we keep the traction control on the TRACK setting near the top

and anti-wheel engaged. With the barrage on the senses fractionally diminished it is now easier to concentrate on doing things a bit better and thinking about positioning. I move more on the bike and progressively trust the tyres to enter corners a little faster and a little more committed. “I did a lot of road riding and it is quite different when you get on a circuit,” explains McWilliams. “You are looking at completely different things and obviously don’t have those reference things that are on a road. On a circuit the most important thing is teeing the point you have to hit before turning in or braking or even accelerating.”



As the afternoon goes on the confidence rises, as does the appreciation for how road racers go about their task. It is also easy to comprehend how the lightest gesture of braking, positioning or acceleration can alter fractions of a second of a lap-time. As for the racing itself I didn’t come close to overtaking anybody all day, so that’s another aspect that remains undiscovered. Chopping up the track into sections and working out which areas feel slow or harder compared to

others – instead of just riding around and around - becomes part of the routine. Bizarrely it starts to feel a bit like tennis or golf: a process of hitting a few good shots, followed by fist-gnawing ineptitude. “That’s a pretty good analogy actually,” McWilliams says. “What makes a good circuit rider? Somebody who is very consistent, very smooth and learns good throttle control. A lot of things you don’t learn for the road you must for the circuit, like brake management

and how hard you can pull it and how hard you can push the front tyre into the turn, how much throttle you give when you are in the turn. A lot of guys will go into a road turn and opening the throttle when they want to get out: that’s not what we do and not how we go faster, it’s the opposite actually and our rolling speed is much higher than it would ever be on-road. It’s another level.”


“I can only speak from the opposite direction actually; so being comfortable on a racetrack and going onto the street,” comments Fillmore by way of a contrast. “As a racer you hone your skills on slicks with tyre warmers and we push the limits. We understand them. On a surface that is unpredictable then that is another thing. For a person coming from the street to the racetrack there are a bunch of ‘red flags’ and it was the same for me getting on a street bike where I wanted to be much more cautious: there was traffic, white lines, guard rails and the knowledge that the road surface could change at any time or you didn’t know what was around a corner. On a track you know, for the most part, it is in a certain condition and there are track marshals to let you know if there is something wrong. So, you start to ‘turn-off’ all those little signals in your head that might make you hold back a little bit.” Even from my very limited time there was a parallel with track riding and other sports in terms of the mental void where you think about nothing except when you are doing. For the most part - before I knew it - the track’s lighting system was flashing to indicate another session had ended. By the time of the last outing I’m still trying to digest

what I’m doing. Jeremy runs as a guide again and gets even more specific with track markers and speed but gradually I’m also thinking about laptime and how much quicker I must be compared to the first try. In the last twenty minutes I’m shifting as much as I dare off the bike to try and get a scuff on the knee slider…but without success. I know I have marginally improved – even in conviction alone and gained a much deeper impression of the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R and its capabilities – but have also realised how potentially addictive this can be. McWilliams instantly agrees back in the pitbox. “It is something that starts as a hobby and it can become an obsession,” he claims. “There are people I coach on track that I see becoming quite obsessed. I think it tests everything: your brain power, your physical shape. You have to use many ‘inputs’ at the same time. It is not the easiest thing to learn in a short space of time and every time you come back then you can improve. The more you ride the better you become. Why do we keep coming back? Probably because we never really crack it.” “Everyone is different,” says 33-year-old Fillmore, an avid surfer and fan of extreme sports (a ‘Bodhi’ if you will), when I ask him if there an added sense of spirituality

attached to an activity that is hazardous and could be costly but then seems to ‘pay back’. “I’m competitive and I like pushing the limit of things and feeling like I am a little bit on the edge. I like to do things that scare me. It opens me up and lets me live a bit. It’s how I enjoy experiencing life.” A portion of what he says strikes a chord. It must explain why track days seem like the domain of an exclusive club but remain popular draws. I cannot help but feel that my experience was helped by the use of the SUPER DUKE. The bike felt like a missile although the torque meant it was a blast and a whole lap became a simplistic process of flicking between 3rd, 4th and 5th until the straight. “You have more torque on this motorcycle than I think anything else out there on the market today,” Jeremy said. “Torque is our friend: when you have that much on-tap it makes the riding experience that much more fun. It doesn’t really matter what gear you exit the corner on this bike, we never use second gear here. We don’t need it because third has so much push to get it off the corner at any speed.You can become a bit of a hooligan on this and you can also ride it as sedately as you want. There is a lot of variety thanks to the electronic settings. A lot of options.”


PORTIMAO Constructed in 2008 and only ten miles from the rolling waves of the Atlantic, 4.6km Portimao has been a regular on the WorldSBK calendar since ‘08 and has been described as one of the most technical racetracks on the continent. Current BMW racer Eugene Laverty has previously likened Portimao as a ‘motocross track covered in asphalt’. The 15-14 corners (depending on configuration) and the undulations make for some thrilling and difficult sections with blind corner entry and cambered turns constituting frequent obstacles. Apparently Portimao could host it first round of MotoGP as early as 2022.

On the last run I had the traction control down to 4 from 9 and the anti-wheelie disengaged and revelled in the brief laps with the bike giving marginally more movement. It still felt wild. The naked bike seems simple and almost pure in form but the 1290 is a sophisticated piece of kit. The slick tyres were another dimension; where a slide never felt too unsettling. “On any bike, of course, you always have the input of the rider to the rear wheel through the engine and you have to control the engine through the electronics: what we tried to do is give back the rider a lot more feeling for what the engine is doing and what the traction control is doing and this has been a large part of the development,” reveals Sinke of the 2020 model. “We now have a 6D lean angle sensor. We’ve had cornering ABS and traction control for a while with a lean sensor that measures the side-to-side and front to back motion of the bike and this one also detects the drift motion of the bike and it helps us to determine whether a certain loss of traction of the rear. Is it information to make that connection between rider and bike that much better.” Portimao permitted a more extensive exploration of the SUPER DUKE and its new virtues. The satisfying part was the fact that I’d ridden

the 2019 model for almost two months the previous summer and could already detect the improvements on the road (the quicker and shorter gearbox among various upgrades); the amplified limits of the track just increased the fondness and admiration for the bike. “We are here just to show how good the SUPER DUKE is,” Sinke says. “There are people that use these bikes just for the track and we love that because it shows just how capable they are and how superbikes can be scared! If you are a good rider then you can be very fast on a SUPER DUKE. The chassis, torque and brakes: it’s a really good package and we hope we might be able to convince a few track riders to pick it up and I’m sure we will. You will ride the SUPER DUKE on the streets but if you want to go to the track then you won’t need two bikes.” The 1290 lacks a fairing but that makes it even more brazen in terms of its sporting potential. “It is more of a hybrid: a race bike but more for the street,” ponders Fillmore. “The first thing I noticed was that you could really plant and put a lot of energy into the front tyre and trail brake. I think that was a bit more of a struggle on the previous generation. Coming out of


the corner it is really good. It is one of those bikes where now you can grab a handful and feel like you are pushing forward. It’s an improvement. One of the most impressive parts was the chassis and when we went onto the street I was thinking ‘it’s stiffer so it’s going to be more harsh’ but the feeling was the complete opposite. They did a great job of making it so compliant for the street.”

According to Project Leader and creator – the man who fashioned the first 990 SUPER DUKE back in 2005 – Hermann Sporn, the traits of the 1290’s performance were born from some serious mileage on-track and with the likes of McWilliams providing technical affirmation for electronics, handling (the chassis is threetimes stiffer with a freshlypositioned engine) and even moulding the new Bridgestone S22 tyre with a compound especially made for the Beast. “We were given a free hand to make our brief for the new bike, and we had some discussions with management when they saw the amount of tests we were making on the track,” the Austrian explains. “We said: ‘that doesn’t mean it will be worse for the street…we have to feel the limit to know what the tyre is doing and so on’. You can sometimes only make dis-

coveries at the maximum. 95 or even 99% is not enough. It has to be at 100. The work goes on.” “For me it is always about testing the limits of what you have,” says Fillmore of choice of machinery for the circuit. “Right now we have the street and the track versions of the SUPER DUKE and they are pretty much the same except for some suspension, but the biggest thing are the tyres. A slick tyre just feels different and you need to get up to speed and get to know them. The limits are similar…but you still need to find them.” “The lovely thing about riding on the circuit is the idea you have a lot more freedom and that you can ‘test’ everything that the bike is a lot more capable of,” says McWilliams, a man who has battled on Irish streets, against Valentino Rossi and still troubles the stopwatches. “You’d never be able to do that on the road. Today’s machinery is so far advanced and with horsepower figures right up into the 200s; it is not something you can really use on the road. There are guys that are only riding circuits now and forgetting about the road.” The search for precision, seconds, betterment, a strain on the bike’s potential and even the eye-widening effects of speed seems to be what it is all about. I couldn’t recommend it enough.



BEASTY By Roland Brown Photos by KTM/S.Romero/M.Campelli

The Super Duke has long been regarded as slightly crazy, with its manufacturer’s encouragement. Back in 2005 the original 990 Super Duke established KTM as a maker of hardcore streetbikes, notably when terrorising urban Japan in a famously feisty promo video. Six years ago the 1290 Super Duke R upped the stakes in similarly

wheelie-happy fashion with the help of its much-hyped Beast prototype. Hyper-naked bikes’ popularity has inspired a flurry of activity, with new arrivals including Ducati’s Streetfighter V4 and MV Agusta’s Brutale RR joining a host of others in combining a wind-blown riding position with four cylinders and outrageous horsepower. KTM’s revitalised contender keeps its traditional V-twin layout to take them on. The Super Duke’s distinctive knifeedge look is subtly revised; its riding position slightly


sportier thanks to a lower and more forward-set handlebar, but still comfortably upright for street use. A new TFT instrument panel is part of an electronics revamp that includes more easily used switchgear plus updated Bosch traction control and cornering ABS. Changes to the 1301cc, 75-degree V-twin engine begin with a new intake system. A duct between the headlight’s aggressively angular halves, instead of one each side, feeds new top-mounted injectors via a larger airbox. Many internal parts and the crankcases are lightened. Peak power goes up by 3bhp to 177bhp; more importantly the eight-valve unit

kicks out a hefty 100Nm-plus of torque everywhere above 3500rpm. Biggest changes are to the chassis, whose retained layout of tubular steel frame and aluminium swing-arm masks a complete redesign. The frame uses larger-diameter tubes and employs the engine as a stressed member for the first time, trebling rigidity and saving 2kg.

The engine is held higher in the frame, which KTM say aids handling and gives a 5mm higher pivot for the single-sided swing-arm, which is also substantially stiffened. A new rear subframe of cast aluminium and carbon-fibre replaces saves more weight. The WP forks are revised and now fully adjustable. More importantly the WP rear shock gains a rising-rate linkage that allows a longer action,



while reducing the excessive rear wheel travel (from 156 to 140mm) that was a hangover from the original frame’s origins with the dual-purpose Adventure.

and lower-output Rain) it’s in. Throttle response is refined, low-rev running civilised – and the charge from 4000rpm threatens to dislocate your shoulders.

Straight-line performance is not dramatically different, which is fine because that means it’s as barkingly entertaining as before. The big V-twin lump is wonderfully flexible, regardless of which mode (Sport, Street

On the road that makes the Super Duke huge fun as well as outrageously fast. It revs smoothly, nonchalantly hoiking its front wheel if required, and despatching gears with help from efficient two-way shifter. At least, it does if

you’ve paid extra for the shifter and the Track Pack that allows the anti-wheelie function to be disabled. Cruising at 80mph-plus is effortless for the KTM, if not always for its rider, who has nowhere to hide up near the 160mph-plus top speed. Whether the lack of wind protection or reduced, 16-litre fuel capacity are drawbacks is debatable. More of both would be ideal, but wind-blast is part of a naked bike’s appeal on


the road, and the range of about a launch blast around the 120 miles is tolerable. swoopy Portimao circuit in Portugal’s Algarve confirmed. The Super Duke always handled fine on the road and it’s now The KTM felt sharp on its way better still: slightly sportier and into turns, its frame’s extra more composed even when its rigidity beneficial especially rider is shifting weight or batwhen slowing with the eyetling the wind. Unlike some ball-bulging force of Brembo’s rivals there’s no semi-active Stylema front calipers. And suspension option, but the forks when exiting bends the Super are manually adjustable via Duke was more firm and conknobs at the top of each leg, trollable. It no longer squatted and the shock has an equally under power but stayed taut, useful remote preload adjuster. steering more accurately and On track the new chassis is delivering its V-twin grunt a notable improvement, as more controllably to the fat

Bridgestone rear tyre. That chassis improvement means that for the first time the Super Duke is as capable on a circuit as it has always been on the road. It’s competitively priced, too (at £15,699 in the UK), even though most riders will pay extra for the quick-shifter and Track Pack. Keyless ignition and cruise control come as standard; accessories range from heated grips and tank-bag to rearset footrests and an Akrapovic silencer. This Beast 3.0 update is an effective and timely reboot for KTM’s hyper-naked contender. Its four-cylinder rivals are gathering with menace, and the 1290 Super Duke R is fighting fit to take them on: slightly more refined, distinctly more composed and bursting with as much crazy V-twin character as ever.





Husqvarna’s 2020 Street functional clothing sees the brand continuing their association with Dutch company REV’IT for another batch of fetching and dependable attire that must rank as some of the most stylish and subtle on the market. We like the Gore-Tex Pursuit GTX jacket which is waterproof, windproof and features several ventilation openings for when winter ebbs into spring. The garment has SEEFLEX protection in the elbow and shoulder areas. The Pursuit jeans are a cool complement – literally – with COOLMAX elements in the construction ensuring effective moisture-wicking properties. The Pursuit jeans have the added advantages of triple seams, safety stitching and a relaxed fit for maximum comfort. The Pursuit gloves look a little heavy-duty but they are made with dyed goatskin palm, Hydratex® liners and knuckle protection and will suit most climate and conditions. We own several pieces of the 2019 collection and love the way that Husqvarna have crafted clothing that works in the saddle but is casual enough to wear on an everyday basis. Click on any image for more information.




By Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP



igh-tech synthetics or the butt of an animal? MotoGP and WorldSBK race suits offer a wealth of protection thanks to the presence of airbag engineering but custom-made leathers still blend properties of materials that go back before the wheel was even invented. Curiosity regarding what MotoGP athletes are using as their principal form of safeguard against high speed tumbles and scrapes led us

to a revealing sit-down with Alpinestars Jeremy Appleton last season. Just under half of the entire MotoGP grid were wearing their leather suits in 2019 (and more than twentyfive throughout all classes), among them the world champion and his HRC brandmate Cal Crutchlow. “They have so much experience with what works and what doesn’t work that it is very rare to see a problem with the leather or any problem,” says the Brit who has been using ‘Astars’

since 2014. “They are specialists and are constantly improving and that’s important because we have to maximise protection with weight, safety, design and many things.” Onto the details then… We have two fundamental materials in terms of leather… It is either bovine (cow) or kangaroo and the vast majority of riders use kangaroo. The reason being that we


can make the suit somewhat lighter because we can reduce kangaroo leather to be thinner than bovine. It is all to with the properties within the skin of the animal and kangaroo offers a bit more flexibility: the tensile strength is similar but a thinner kangaroo hide is more-or-less the same as a thicker bovine. Interestingly the bovine leather tends to retain its shape and fit for longer, and some riders really like that. They like the fact that a suit is tight and hugs them closer. Casey Stoner always liked to have a bovine

suit because the feel he got was very particular. Someone like Jorge Lorenzo prefers more space and Kangaroo works just fine; if the suit flexes out for him then that’s better. It comes down to each rider’s approach and they are all super-sensitive to everything. So, for us, once we have defined the pattern and the fit solution for a rider then – until a change is planned – then every suit is made exactly the same as the previous one. Riders are sufficiently sensitive that they will pick up the difference in feel between two “CASEY STONER ALWAYS LIKED TO HAVE A BOVINE SUIT BECAUSE THE FEEL WAS VERY PARTICULAR. SOMEONE LIKE JORGE LORENZO PREFERS MORE SPACE AND KANGAROO WORKS JUST FINE...” different suits and we go to great lengths to make sure they are identical. Nevertheless, you are dealing with an item that is made from a natural product and there are vagaries within that. In terms of construction then the base material for the suit is the animal hide… Then it goes through a tanning process and we have a very unique technology which we apply to the outer surface, which is a coating that accepts the print finish that we

put on the material. The suits in MotoGP are prominently printed. That allows us to make them as light as possible because we are not adding extra material and the base graphics can be any colour and whatever intricate patterns to get good registration, so they look very sharp. Most importantly it means we don’t cover up the ventilation system we build into the suit or the perforation and the suit’s natural flexibility is retained because we are not putting extra layers in. So, in the tanning and finishing process there are other chemicals used to make sure the leather feels good; things like antibacterial treatment and similar considerations. For our wet weather suits we have an aquaphobic treatment we also apply to the outer skin… For the rain riders have traditionally put on an extra layer, or a plastic, the problem with that - as you have probably seen on camera - is that they flap around because it is very hard to get the fit really tight and they don’t breathe very well. During a Grand Prix you are not getting rid of the moisture from a rider’s perspiration which is fatiguing. So, the aqua treatment has been a good win. We’ve substantially reduced the intake of moisture into the leather (which absorbs it quite ef-



fectively) so it is around 70% better with the treatment. That means we tend not to put as much venting on a wet weather suit and it just shoots the water off the surface, which is helpful. The Pros and Cons to bovine and kangaroo… Generally-speaking bovine will last longer…but that that’s to do with the filaments in the hide of a kangaroo suit being longer and more flexible so

over time they tend to stretch more than a bovine suit. The hide in the bovine suit is a bit thicker so again you have more longevity out of it. There are not too many other differences between the two. Kangaroo is more expensive and, critically, you have to select a good hide. At Alpinestars we define very carefully where the hides come from before we even get to the tanning process, and with kangaroo your sources are always going to be limited: the differ-

ences in quality can be quite great. Kangaroo hides can be effective provided they are the ‘right’ kangaroo hides and that takes research, development and an understanding of what makes the right hide.


We don’t add anything specifically with the material itself to help with abrasion… What we tend to do is put external protection on the suit, like the polymers you see on the shoulders, elbows and knees, and where we have really high wearing areas we have either double-thickness or we scarf-out the leathers to a lesser degree. For instance, a lot of a kangaroo suits in MotoGP will be about 1-1.5mm but we might leave a little bit more thickness in certain areas. We could always go with harder and stronger leather but the trade-off is that you have less feel and with a stiffer finish. Riders don’t want that and in MotoGP it is all about sensitivity and as little weight as possible. Like other

The MotoGP suits and customer suits are really similar… They will have the same materials, same construction process and same performance and protection, even down to the lessons and applications we learn about venting and keeping a rider’s body ambient temperature during the race. We can move that across for the customer. In GP we are dealing with many highlyindividual fits as well as the graphic customisation, which means that the make-up process is slightly different even if the technology is the same. The suits that we offer to customers are simply a couple of months behind what we are doing with the riders in terms of the tech. The Kevlar stretch

athletes in may sports these guys are operating at the absolute limit of their physical potential so anything preventing that is not ideal.

panels and everything else is the same spec. Of course, not all of the suit is leather… We have sought to improve the flexibility of the suits and

that’s a case of using aramid fibres for the elasticated stretch panels that you see. On our suit we have what we term as a fully floating back: there is a multi direction stretch panel all the way around but that is actually concertina leather. So we stitch elasticated thread through the leather and that gives you that ‘accordion type’ effect which allows the suit to move very comfortably in any direction and also means the consistent leather itself is not being pulled in any particular direction because the suit flexes out and back in those joints. The aramid fibres perhaps don’t have the length of travel that the stitch has but they are very strong and allow us to join the leather panels with an area that is lightweight, very flexible and very strong for abrasion resistance. Those areas have increased. We have probably gone from 80-90% of leather down to something like 65-70% - hazarding a guess. The airbag has made a difference as well because we had to re-spec the suit to accommodate not only the airbag in its passive state but when it’s activated, we need to give the rider some breathing space. Fundamentally the suits have remained predominantly leather because at the moment there is no better substitute…

FEATURE If you look at all the performance criteria from a leather suit, then natural leather still does the job better than anything else. We’ve looked at multiple man-made fibres to try and improve areas and maybe in abrasion you can find a better material but it doesn’t breathe, or it doesn’t stretch or it is too heavy. All sorts of issues that don’t quite work. There is an ongoing battle and the material research department are always looking at different industries for new technologies and new ways to define the performance characteristics of a suit…but the lab test is the ultimate dictator before we get to the track. Until the lab team sign-off for something that is proven to be better what we’re already using then of course it does not make it onto the product. Then it comes down to our field testing at the track. First off what sort of response we get from the riders and what sort of evidence we get out of the use of the materials. We actually have a test team… Before the material would ever make it to the track it would be evaluated through all of the scientific processes and laboratory analysis. It would then go out on the road. It’s very likely that Gabriele [Mazzarolo, company owner] himself would be


trying it. If it got through the road stage then it would probably come here to MotoGP and likely make its absolute debut at a test and we would involve different riders across the categories. The athletes themselves – by-and-large – tend to be very happy with the specification they are using at this particular time and any change we introduce needs to be done in a very open and communicated way so they understand what it is coming and why. They are extremely good for testing because they are mentally attuned to being highly sensitive and capable to analyse what is working and what is not working

and what makes a difference to the performance on the bike. And they are used to giving feedback, which means we get great feedback! The development team are always looking to push ideas to change technologies as new things become available to us but ultimately the athletes are testing those ideas and new construction techniques and giving us the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or what adjustments need to be made to optimise it. There have been times when the performance of the suits have amazed us… I know we had a couple of riders in the AMA series – about ten-fifteen years ago - go down on the Daytona banking at very high speed and the suits were remarkably intact. That was impressive. Perhaps the one issue we began to look into as a result of those accidents was not so much the leather technology but the control of friction heat. Through our auto racing we came up with some solutions involving Nomex fibre which is a fire/heat shield material to see if we needed to be lining areas of suits for very highspeed racetracks to prevent that heat coming through. More recently the incident that immediately comes to mind is Loris Baz’s crash in testing at Sepang three years ago. That was a 200mph+ get-off and the deceleration

between the time that Loris lost control and hit the track was minimal because we saw the airbag data. He hit the track at more than 180mph and the suit was battered but it held and Loris’ only fallout from that was a slightly bruised elbow. It was a good ‘pat on the back’ for the development team – not that we ever want to see riders crash or take pleasure in seeing them go through that situation but the fact that suit held up was pretty special. It does beggar belief that MotoGP is so high tech but we are using the same materials as the cavemen…! But like anything when you are dealing with it daily then you don’t think of it that way. It is a big compliment to ‘mother nature’ and it is extraordinary that something so simplistic has stood the test of time. With all the technology and all the know-how we have not been able to replicate what we source from an animal. The team of people in the racing development centre and the product department are incredibly clever at being able to harness properties of very natural material that has been around forever and find ways to use it better and more effectively.


ALPINESTARS Alpinestars Techair 5 airbag is the latest generation of a technology that he company have been fashioning for the better part of twenty years and the efficiency of which has been protecting riders on a weekly basis in international racing series. The firm claim it offers a greater effect than 18 back protectors and now has more upper torso coverage than ever (shoulders, chest, ribs and full back). It uses 3 gyroscopes and 3 accelerometers to deploy in a maximum inflation time of 20 to 40ms based on the volume of the airbag size. Alpinestars claim ‘the impact absorption while wearing the airbag results in a decrease of the impact force by up to 95% compared to a passive protector’. The autonomous product comes in Race (triggers at higher speed) and Street settings - which are easily configured - and is compatible with a range of leather and textile jackets in the Alpinestars catalogue. It simply slips underneath, is connected via cable and provides up to 30 hours of riding time before needing a recharge. Expect to pay around 700 dollars.


AT&T STADIUM · RND 8 OF 17 · FEBRUARY 22 450SX winner: Eli Tomac, Kawasaki 250SX winner: Chase Sexton, Honda


ET TRIPLE By Steve Matthes. Photos by James Lissimore




THE HARD YARDS... The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series is coming up to its halfway point (who knew?) this weekend in Atlanta and we’re starting to get some separation here in the 450SX class. But not in a good way in case you’re wondering. Look, supercross is dangerous, we all know this and year after year it becomes a series with the walking wounded going out each weekend. We all know this but the past weekend in Dallas, we saw the first time all year just how much of a toll this sport takes on people. We had round two of three of the Triple Crown format, we had the second round of the 250SX east coast and maybe we had a full moon. I’m not sure because the stadium in Dallas is covered but how else to explain the carnage we saw?

he’ll be out for a month or so. His impressive rookie year is on hold for now. Honda’s Justin Brayton crashed five or six times throughout the day and finally the final one after the finish line did him in for the night and he missed the final two races.

Let’s recap shall we?

Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb had a bad crash in the second Main exiting the dragon back where he landed on the concrete. It was very scary for the defending champion and although he missed the last main event, somehow it looks like he will be ok for this weekend’s race in Atlanta.

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo crashed off the dragon back and broke his collarbone in practice,

JGR Suzuki’s Jimmy Decotis had a big fall off the, wait for it, dragon back, in practice and missed the entire race.

Monster Pro Circuit’s Jordon Smith crashed approximately 14 times in his three races while Martin Davalos appeared to want to match his racing number (37) with his number of spills. And these are just the ones that I can remember, I’m sure there were more than a few more out there. What was it? The Triple Crown format? Some riders like Rockstar Husqvarna’s Dean Wilson is pretty adamant that it’s the format that’s doing it as the shorter races cause more riders to really go for it as well as the simple math of more laps equals more crashes because, well, it’s supercross and for most racers, it’s not a matter of if they’re going to ditch, it’s when.

CREATED THANKS TO BY ADAM WHEELER BY STEVE MATTHES But you’ll notice that in the description above there were a few mentions about the dragon back obstacle. There’s a certain speed you can go off of these and more than a few guys pushed it a bit hard, missed the top jump

Meanwhile out front, we have Monster Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and Honda’s Ken Roczen starting to pull away from everyone else here as Webb crashed out and Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson has had a few bad races.


“The dragon back was sketchy a little bit, for sure. I’m sure everyone had a moment on that thing because the dirt here is really good but it breaks apart and gets slick and you lose traction, and then you get kicked on that last one,” said Monster Yamaha’s Justin Barcia after the race. “So it took out a lot of guys. Then there were other sections that took out guys, too. It sucks to see some competitors get taken out right now.”

that “bumps” you over the landing. When you miss it, things go sideways. Perhaps the obstacle itself could have been built a little better but the riders are always free to go to the track crew and recommend some changes. The track in Dallas was also slicker than the riders thought it would be. There was a hard base to it and traction looked good but a few riders told me how they would spin out there.

“In my opinion, it was the dirt and the way they built the obstacles,” said Brayton who was a victim of the night in Dallas. “If we have good dirt and traction, we don’t see

the crashes. The whoops are the same way. The obstacles and the dirt didn’t match. Also, too many whoops on dragon back also and the way it shaped up didn’t work out either. It was more of that, we were hoping and expecting traction and didn’t get it.” I went to one of the more outspoken riders on the circuit in Chad Reed the day after the race and asked him about “Carnage Cross” that we saw this weekend. “It was the easiest dragon back I’ve ever raced,” said Reed and thereby confusing me even more. “There is this weird thing on the right side of the bars guys can use!” Typical Reed, blunt and not holding back, continued: “I thought it (dragon back) was like everything nowadays, super fast and easy and the top one got steep. The issue is everyone’s just used to pinning it with no real technique.


To me the real problem is everything’s so easy and fast so when there are crashes that are huge and costly. The bikes are the best they have ever been, tracks are faster and easier than they have ever been.” So there you have it, a couple of riders that said they didn’t have an idea of why it was so nutty in Dallas while some others point to the track, dirt and the TC format. Myself, I go back to the top of this column. We usually see the field thinning out a little more gradual than we had at Dallas and maybe, it’s the natural order of things but this past weekend, we were reminded of the brutalities of the sport all in one night.


Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost. Photo: R. Schedl


ADVENTURE MORE Fuel your restless spirit with a new adventure every day. Discover KTM’s sporty attitude and proven performance credentials aboard this new, compact single-cylinder travel-enduro machine – the KTM 390 ADVENTURE. Versatile ergonomics, smooth power delivery, and innovative technology all come together in a comfortable, lightweight package – created for those who want to fit more adventure into their daily lives.



FLY RACING Fly Racing’s owners – Western Power Sports – have prided themselves on sourcing proven, quality goods right across their product range and therefore their Sedona Tyres project (mainly in the USA) is worthy of note. Of particular interest is the new MX-208SR; a steel-belted radial carcass that allows motorcyclists to run at lower air pressure and to withstand hard, sudden blows without rebound or shock to the bike’s handling. The tyres also feature a dual rubber compound with a front elliptical and rear drive-link tread pattern. “The comfort that I get was unmatched out on the trail,” said industry product tester Kris Keefer. “On longer days in the saddle, the MX-208SR’s almost acted like a second set of suspension, which at my age, was a welcomed feeling”. “The knobbies are the deepest I’ve seen, yet to my surprise I did not experience tyre roll,” offered former racer Brock Sellards. “It also hooked up well on the motocross track that was on the dry side. Sedona hit it out of the park on this one.” Sedona claim the model offers ‘a controlled footprint for predictable performance’. Clink a link to read and see more.




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TROY LEE DESIGNS Watch for the Monster Energy Yamaha MX2 team (Jago Geerts and Ben Watson) this weekend at Matterley Basin: thanks to the squad’s new association with Troy Lee Designs both the Belgian and the Brit will be wearing not only some of the best looking gear in the gate but also some of the most technically advanced. We visited TLD’s HQ in California last year - and will hopefully be getting over again in the next two months - and can verify that the Ultra Limited Edition line is featherlight, stretchy and feels ridiculously tough; it’s a premium set of kit and sits at the top of the perch with the likes of Fox FlexAir, Fly’s Evolution, Answer’s Trinity and Alpinestars’ Supertech. In collaboration with Adidas the jersey is made from HeiQ® Smart Temp Technological fabric which ‘thermoregulates’ depending on the body’s temperature. The Yamaha Ultra livery won’t be on sale until April apparently, so fans should get in touch with the company or a reliable TLD dealer to make enquiries asap in order not to miss out.

See more on the Ultra here:






his weekend the 64th FIM Motocross World Championship gets underway at arguably the best track on the calendar. For the first time in the modern era the British Grand Prix will run the gauntlet of late winter weather to open the schedule for what will be the tenth MXGP visit to Matterley Basin. Not since 2012 has the championship got underway on European shores so the turnout from across the north of the continent for the initial taste of twenty will be curious to chart. In 2019 Matterley demonstrated that the southern English can play ball. Regardless of the conditions – except for a 2017 MX of Nations style deluge – there is little doubting the fine stage and course that the Winchester venue provides. As March 1st draws closer, we spoke with a handful of athletes keen to develop their own individual narratives for 2020…

There are still a few hours and days left to go but it seems that a fully fit Jeffrey Herlings is ready to slay MXGP once more. From an utterly dominant 2018 in which he owned 17 from 19 Grands Prix and finished runner-up in the other two events to a virtually non-existent 2019 where he made just 4.5 appearances (winning two of those however) Herlings is hoping the pendulum swings back the other way. Aside from 2012 and 2013 where he stamped his name into the annals of the sport, Herlings has bounced from dominance to disaster almost on an annual basis. 2014: loses the MX2 crown by just 4 points after having a lead of more than 150 and breaking his left femur. 2015: loses the MX2 crown in a similar position after dislocating his hip. 2016: claims third MX2


title at a canter. 2017: breaks hand on the eve of MXGP debut but finishes as runner-up. 2018: sets a new benchmark for performance at elite level. 2019: double break to the right foot. Herlings could be ready to unleash a degree of anguish but he insists he is ready to sacrifice short-term glory for long-term gain from within the confines of Red Bull KTM (the greatest team ever assembled in the premier class) and his eleventh world championship season. We’re struggling to believe him as well… Mentally, was 2019 worse than 2014? That year you were still very young and lost the crown so narrowly [special feature coming up in the next OTOR!]… Way worse. I think I won every

GP I raced that year except for Mexico [the final round]. So it was awesome…apart from missing those three-four races and then the championship! I also had a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season. But…2019 was easily the worst year of my career. You had two tricky starts but still came back to win and then claimed the Nations at Assen… it finished well. The last races were just the cherry. The complete cake was long gone. It had been eaten by the time I got to the table! It was a tough year mentally and physically. The second injury was not so bad but the first one was. I was out for a long time. It’s a part of the sport where ‘everyone gets their turn’ kinda thing; you can see it with [Jorge] Prado and it happened to Tony [Cairoli] as well,



[Romain] Febvre and [Clement] Desalle. Everyone has their turn every couple of seasons. It frustrating. Is there a different approach to this season then? Realisation of the sixty starts and forty motos to come? A repeat of 2018 perhaps isn’t necessary… My mentality is different. I don’t feel that I have to win any more – I mean, I want to win but in the past if I didn’t then I had ‘failed’ and the world would fall in. I’ve learned that your health is the most important thing. Racing is important to me but my health and my life waymore. So if I have to take risks to win then I don’t want to do it. I want to be in the ‘safe zone’. You can definitely still crash or go down in the start and break bones at any time but sometimes I went a bit ‘over’. Now I

prefer to be in the safe zone and take a 3rd at whatever race than take a risk and end up in hospital again. My goal this year is to be at all twenty races. And to try and fight for the championship. Try to become a bit smarter and maybe lose a few fights but try to win the war. In 2018 you virtually changed the sport and raised the level. Do you ever think about that or are you too close to it? I did it the Aldon [Baker] way. I went all-out. If 100% was the maximum I did 110. I watched every single piece of food I ate, I calculated sleep and jet lag, I trained my ass-off, I left my social life on the side for almost a year. It was tough. I took the Aldon method for supercross but perhaps went even more extreme. It is hard to do that just for a few years, physically and

mentally. It was worth it though to come to that level and win 17 from 19 races and finish second twice: I think it is one of the greatest seasons a rider has had. I also won pre-season races, all the Dutch Championship events I did, and my class at the Motocross of Nations. It was almost a picture-perfect year…and I cannot do it again. First of all you need to be lucky and you need to take some risks to make it happen: I remember starting some races from fifteenth and still pushing hard for the win. I’m not looking for that now. I won the championship by something like 150-points and through missing a race and you can win a championship by just 5 points if necessary. I don’t feel like I need to win every single race anymore.


The way you race makes that difficult to believe… You need some injuries, and then you’ll understand. It is rare to see you at anything less than 100% committed… Look at Assen last year. In the last moto I was OK to take fourth. I wasn’t feeling good that day with the mud. I thought ‘if this is my worst day – a 2nd and a 4th – then I’m still looking good if it was a championship’. You need a few hospital visits to be able to think that like. You still looked annoyed that day though… I was disappointed in myself because I feel like I failed…but at the same time I was smart. It wasn’t my day, but I accepted it. I had worked for more

than two months just for that race but nothing went for me; the starts were bad, the track had been flattened each time and that meant it was harder to pass, and then the conditions. So, I was pissed, mainly because it hadn’t rained for like two months in Holland and then it didn’t stop that weekend! Quite a lot went wrong for me but looking back I think it was one of my best races because I accepted not to win. It’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do two years ago. The older you get; is it easier to think more like Tony Cairoli where a podium each weekend means a very high level of consistency…? Yeah, that’s my goal as well this year. There are definitely some tracks where I really want to go for the win, but when I

go to somewhere like Russia or Czech Republic then I know these places are not my tracks. If I can get on the podium then that’s good enough and – most importantly – I get to the races after. I need to be at each GP. Injuries can happen but you have to remind yourself to be smart. It’s easy to sit here at this table and say it but you’ll see it in my racing this year: if I can get a win or a podium then I’ll try for it otherwise I’m OK to let it go.


COLDENHOFF: “I’M NOT A COCKY GUY” Another member of the strongest (current) motocross nation and something of a recent MXoN specialist, Glenn Coldenhoff is sitting in front of us in KTM racewear. The hurried nature of the factory GasGas deal means that Matterley Basin will be the big unveiling for the latest marque to grace the premier class. The 29-year-old is using his Standing Construct 450 SX-F in the meantime for the final stages of winter prep and an off-season period in total contrast to 2019 where he broke several vertebrae and raced his way back into fitness and form.

Coldenhoff frustratingly chucked the positive momentum from his RedBud Motocross of Nations crowning moment into the sand with his violent and shocking crash at the end of 2018 but is hoping that the five podiums and three wins (including Assen) from the close of ’19 will run into the new campaign. #259 scaled the top fifteen of MXGP in rapid style to snag the bronze medal at the final round. Anything like the same level of form will mean the Dutchman is an outside title contender, regardless of the colour of the plastics.


The question everyone must have for you‘Can I back it up?’ [smiles] I don’t really know. I feel very good and had a good winter so far I just had a small injury before Riola [Sardo in Sardinia and the first International race of 2020 at the end of January] and that’s why I did not race there. It was to the same ribs where I broke my back, so I tend to feel any problems quite quickly there. Anyway, it was just one week off the bike and I rode some more in Italy before going to Hawkstone Park. I definitely have more confidence and more experience. It will be pretty interesting to see what I can do from the start.

You’ve always relied quite heavily on confidence, so there must still be some important value in leading those races in Turkey and China and making someone like Herlings work hard to catch you… Yeah, he also said something like that in an interview; like he was dealing with a new ‘Glenn’ that he hadn’t seen before. I definitely felt really good at the end of last season and everybody recognised that. I think when Jeffrey is really fit then he is hard to beat…but you never know. I will try to be up there every single weekend with the guys. Consistency is very important, and you need to make sure every start is good. The injury must have severely dented the first half of 2019 because people see you racing and assume you are fit and 100%...but that’s not the truth… Sure, but I also feel that I underestimated myself. I had a lot of pain until the halfway point of 2019 and then you are always playing catch-up to the others that are fit. There was one moment early-on where we ended up having a five-week break in the

calendar and I could work in that period. Only having two weeks on the bike coming into the season definitely isn’t good. In the end I got fit, got better, got more confidence and made the results. Another obvious question: is a bid for the championship a realistic goal? I’m not a cocky guy and won’t tell it like that but I’m working my ass off every day to get the results and winning is the best feeling out there. I will go into every single race for it. Championship-wise I got 3rd place last year and there were a lot of injuries [to others] but I was also injured myself. Anything can happen. I had a strong finish to the season and for most of it I was around tenth in the standings and finally pushed up to third, so it is a very long series. I will try to be consistent all year long and hopefully be on the box many times.



COVINGTON: “I’M HEALTHY BUT IT TAKES TIME TO GET THAT FITNESS BACK” Midway through 2018 Thomas Covington was picking up form. The Grand Prix of France delivered the first of five MX2 podium results in the next six races and would represent the purple patch of nine trophies and a victory that year. That weekend at St Jean D’Angely he also confirmed that he would transfer works Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teams from MXGP to the AMA and head back to the States for the first time in more than half a decade. Injury and illness meant that Covington – who would have had one more year of MX2 eligibility in 2019 – meant his first season as an AMA Pro was a write-off. Marriage to a Brit and the chance to return to Grand Prix as an MXGP rookie with the Gebben

Van Venrooy Yamaha brought Covington over the Atlantic once more. As one of the only Americans attempting to find his way in the FIM World Championship, Covington is still a novelty and faces yet another fresh start in his career. Can he (or we) expect much from a tentative first step in 2020? First of all: sum-up the Husky experience in the U.S. It just didn’t work out for you… I would have liked to have stayed for my last year in MX2 but the way things were there was not the chance to remain with Husky for a 450 ride at that time [for 2020]. So, I’d rather agree to a two-year deal in America than maybe

nothing. Looking back, I maybe should have stayed but I learned a lot over the past year and I’m glad I did it regardless because I’d always wonder ‘what if?’ otherwise. It was a bummer the way things went with the illness and a few nagging injuries as well as moving everything back home and getting used to supercross it was a lot to take on at once. It was a hectic year for sure. All-in-all I’m happy to be back in Europe. I got married last year and that was great. It is good to be back ‘home’ around family in England. I’m enjoying it. MXGP, Yamaha and more new adventures, so you must have stood at a big crossroads again at some point…


are a lot of positives because the guys are really eager to get the bike dialled-in and are listening to what I say about it while I’m learning.

Obviously, it was a difficult situation with Husqvarna. It was my first year in America [as Pro] and they expected a lot more from me. Things were not going well with my racing and they were not happy. I missed racing in Europe for sure, so when the opportunity came up to possibly do something with Yamaha that was really interesting for me and I decided to go for it. I have always like the 450 and raced it at the Nations a few years ago. I think it suits me…and I was ready for a change. You moved from a factory team to a blossoming privateer team: is that something else to get your head around? Yeah but it’s not been a really big deal because Gebben have been really good in providing anything that I ask for. There

You’ve faced some adversity the last few years - and it must be character building but being a rookie in MXGP must be like starting over… Definitely a new challenge and the field is very stacked, especially this year. It’s pretty crazy. I feel that if my fitness is good and my bike is dialled like I want it then I can put in some decent results. Obviously, I’m not expecting to light the world on fire in my first year but if I can get some consistent good results then I can build from there. By the end of your stint in MX2 you were disappointed if you didn’t make the podium, so what do you think MXGP will be about? Top tens? Yeah, especially this first year. I think the top ten will be good for me. That’s probably my goal; to be in that top ten as much as possible and I feel that it’s realistic. Physically are you 100%? Will you go back to the old GP training programme? Yeah, exactly that. In America I was on quite a different programme and I drove myself into the ground with all the pressure as well. I did everything and anything I had to do to be competitive in that

outdoor championship but I think I pushed my body too far. It took about six months – after consultation with doctors at the clinic – of doing nothing to get back to feeling better. Now I’m healthy but it takes time to get that fitness back. With a regular injury - to your hand, arm, whatever - you can still do some basic training but with this it was a case of ‘do nothing’. I’m working again with Joel Roelants and building myself back up. I wish I had a bit more time but hopefully at some point into the season I’ll be back to my full potential. You’re based away from the U.S. again but perhaps more settled than ever? Yeah, that’s true. I see myself staying over here for at least the rest of my career and maybe even after that too. It is definitely a different mindset. You’ve had a question mark for most of your career, such as ‘can he do it on this bike?’, and it’s still there. Does that feel heavy sometimes? At times I guess, last year it did get pretty heavy. I had so much time on my hands to do nothing and you start thinking about those things. But that also forced me to grow up too. I don’t really care any more about what everybody is saying. I will just do the best I can and what is best for me without worrying about other opinions.


VIALLE: “TO BE HONEST WE HAVE NOT TALKED MUCH ABOUT GOAL Red Bull KTM’s Tom Vialle has a tough lineage to maintain. The Austrians boast no less than eight different world champions in MX2 since 2004 and have missed out on title success with their 250 SX-F only four times in that period. They have won all-but-one MX2 crown since 2010. Understandably KTM are top heavy for 2020 with the axis of Cairoli, Herlings and Prado in MXGP so the MX2 programme falls largely on Vialle’s shoulders for what will be only the French youngster’s second season in Grand Prix. His teammate, Rene Hofer, will be hoping to gather even a slice of the 2019 ‘Vialle rookie effect’ that led to seven podium results, a maiden victory and 4th place in the world. Despite his inexperience (but undoubted potential) Vialle is one of only two riders in the 2020 MX2 pack that knows what it is like to win a GP.

From the status of being an unknown ‘gamble’ for KTM in ’19 Vialle now needs to cope with another level of expectation… So, a different season ahead… Totally different and I keep seeing it [a reminder], even on social media. It’s a big step. Last year I still hadn’t done a Grand Prix and had no idea of where I could be in MX2: top ten? Top five? One year later and many are talking about me for the title! It’s a really big step but I know I have the speed and I was pretty strong in many GPs, especially at the end of 2019. I had a good winter and I feel good on the bike. I want to win as many races as possible but I don’t want to start-off too crazy, I want to stay calm and to see how the championship is going. You were not over-excited or too down in the tough moments during 2019; you seemed to take everything in

your stride. Can you envisage keeping the same mentality? It is a new challenge now and the approach for the season is really not the same as last year. I’m not someone who usually gets stressed though so I think I will be OK. You must have fully assessed 2019. What did you want to improve for this year? At the end of last season my level was pretty good and I was fighting with Jorge. It is difficult to improve the speed much more, so we have worked a lot physically to improve the last ten minutes of the race and to be stronger. I’m also looking at the championship in a bigger way. In 2019 it was a bit upand-down for me and I guess that’s normal in a first season but I need to be more consistent. To be honest we have not talked much about goals for 2020; we just made a plan and followed it as much as we could this winter.


LS FOR 2020” Your starts were good and your race-rhythm also when you were with the leaders but there were some motos when you dropped back, so what was the weak point? Some riders have different rhythms. There are some that start fast and drop down and others who are the other way around and I had to discover that in 2019, both for myself and of the other guys. I felt that was one way I improved every race; my knowledge of where to go and what to do.



SCOTT SPORTS A good few weeks have passed since the San Diego round of 2020 Supercross but Scott’s new Camo editions of their Prospect and Fury goggles are still as appealing as the day the company launched the new gear on the eve of the sixth round of the championship. The Prospect (the best goggle available – we use them – with the widest field of vision on the market, NoSweat Face Foam, the innovative SCOTT Lens Lock System, a 50mm strap, articulating outriggers and more) gets the slightly darker ‘stealth’ black and grey livery. But, we have to be honest here, the new ‘younger brother’ - the Fury – is actually more attractive with the army green and yellow lens. Catch one or both of them now before Scott sell out.

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AWAY WITH THE BUTTERFLIES Matterley Basin is the opening salvo of twenty and aside from the unknown permutations for the results there are also a barrel of different riders and characters dealing with the emotions and heightened fuss surrounding the first major race of the year. Athletes – from rookies, to those with ‘comeback’ stories, to those with the added pressure of the expectancy to win or challenge for championship honours – will all be dealing with the slightly closer microscope of ‘round one’ in a variety of ways, so we thought we’d ask a spread of them about their thoughts, mannerisms and attitudes to what is perhaps the most intense date of the season. Jeffrey Herlings, Red Bull KTM: Nerves? Yes and no for the first races. I use the preseason ones to get rid of a few issues like arm-pump. You go through different phases: I remember being super-nervous at every GP when I was eighteen - I was very anxious about winning – whereas in the last two races of 2019 the championship was already decided and I lined-up thinking ‘I’m either going to win or lose here…and nobody really cares’.

Shaun Simpson, SS24 KTM MXGP: By the time of the first Grand Prix you have usually had some pre-season races, maybe even a British Championship, so the cobwebs are gone, and you are into a weekly routine. The first GP is still a massive deal because it’s the start of the world championship and the first batch of points. Tom Vialle, Red Bull KTM: The fact that we ride a lot before the first big moto helps, I think. We have the practice sessions, the qualification heat, warm-up: all to get a good feeling on the bike. Jed Beaton, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna: Having so much time on the track before the races help let out the butterflies before the races. I think there will be a lot more nerves on Saturday at Matterley compared to Sunday because people will already have a gauge of how they feel and seeing where everybody is with their times. It’s weird but Sunday is more relaxing.


MXGP Rene Hofer, Red Bull KTM: I usually sleep well. It’s a normal situation for me. I might be thinking a bit more about the race and the routine. You can sometimes feel the nerves of other riders around you compared to another race. It’s good that the EMX classes are on the same days as the world championship because that means you can get used to the environment and things like the crowd, the busy SkyBox and the TV. When you finally make it to MX2 then it doesn’t feel like such a big difference anymore. Beaton: You have a lot of nerves going into the event but once you hit the track it just feels normal. You have that tunnel-vision until the chequered flag when you can look around and appreciate the thousands of people that are there and see the chainsaws and airhorns that you have heard while you’re riding. Thomas Covington, Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha: For sure you always get a few nerves before the first race but I’ve never been one to struggle much with that. I just focus on the things I need to do: I know I need to get the bike right, I need the right feeling through the corner and ruts and then I know I have to make a good start. Herlings: I get to the gate late because it’s usually pretty hot and when I’m there I see the other guys but I don’t want to, I want to focus on my own thing and not be intimated by anyone. That’s how I’ve done it for a few years now and since we’ve had the metal mesh. What’s the point waiting there for fifteen minutes until the guy says ‘OK, go out for the Sighting Lap’? Glenn Coldenhoff, GasGas Factory Racing: Experience helps. A few years ago [for me] it was worse. I think I will still feel nervous at Matterley but not to the point where it will affect me. I’ve done enough races now! I don’t



focus on any other guys and I also started to question this idea that you have to do a lot of pre-season races. Why? I’ll ride at Hawkstone and have a few competitive motos against a solid field. Although I do believe it’s good to have one race before going to the first GP. Vialle: I sleep pretty good! I’m actually excited more than anything because it feels like the last GP – or big race – was a long time ago, a lot of months. I really enjoyed 2019. Every GP, every day at the circuit, every practice and now it means I’m really looking forward to go again.

Hofer: I try to visualise the track before the sighting lap and then try to highlight areas when I am doing the sighting lap. Simpson: In the past we’ve been in Qatar and Argentina and there has been a stress-free vibe because there is either not much of a crowd compared to a European round or the paddock is not too busy. There is not so much ‘weight’ and just the usual amount of duties like the TV graphics and photos to be done. When it comes to Saturday morning and practice then that’s when you start looking around at the other set-ups and riders and other changes that maybe you hadn’t seen up until



then. You are also not so sure about your form: there is a certain amount of the ‘unknown’ about it. I just want to go, get stuck in, leave nothing on the table and see where we are; my best is only good enough. Beaton: In the same way that everything builds up to A1 in Supercross and it becomes this massive thing and then drops into something a bit more ‘normal’ for round two, I think it’s similar for the GPs: nobody knows where they are going to stack-up and where fitness levels are, but once that first race is done you are like ‘ah, right, OK…’ Herlings: You do know about the others because every year when the championship starts to fall into place then it is always the same guys: it has always been Gajser, always

Tony, always Febvre. Sometimes people step in, sometimes others step away. Prado will ‘join’ this year. It’s nearly always the same though. Hofer: I just try to go smooth because I feel that many riders try to show their potential at the first big race of the year but we all know the season is long. So, you have to almost have a ‘pre-season’ mentality: try to take it easy and put maximum fun factor into it. Beaton: At the first round you have to think ‘it’s a long season’. You cannot get overexcited when there are nineteen more to go. In my case I will need to be pretty relaxed. I missed Argentina in 2019 because of a back injury and by the time I’d come back for round two people had settled-down and I kinda missed that ‘first round build-up’. Being back in Europe I think the hype will be high and it will be cool.



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TITULAR TITULAR THE VALUE OF THE FIRST... Ah, first round hype. To be honest there is nothing like it. There can be other challenges and situations such as ‘who can defeat Tony Cairoli on Italian soil?’ or ‘who can stop Jeffrey Herlings at Valkenswaard?’ and ‘will the French prevail in France?’ but there are few better prefaces than Grand Prix #1 where every rider has yet to start their roll of momentum and confidence and the formbook is blank. We all know the factory riders likely to be setting the pace at Matterley this weekend but that doesn’t mean nerves, jitters or rustiness won’t come into play and possibly determine a final result. The British Grand Prix is first on the slate for the first time in the modern era which means the conditions could range from a moderate late winter climate to extremely testing mud, rain and wind although it seems that the Winchester-site has braved the grim stormy UK weather fairly well in recent weeks. It’s a mixed bag and who knows what racer will jump out first.

Matterley will see MXGP and MX2 protagonists eager to compete after their last major outing in the Netherlands on September 30th 2019. For the vast majority of the experienced Grand Prix pack it is also the first nibble of a big cake that will carry both sweet and sour tastes over the next six months with visits to sixteen other countries and three fixtures per month (with the exception of July). Once the teams start rolling out of the UK and on towards the Eurocircuit near Eindhoven thoughts will already be working on the next instalment of 57 race starts to take place. Matterley encourages excitement but will also see some reservation, especially from

riders returning from serious injury like Cairoli, Clement Desalle, Romain Febvre and (maybe whisper it with hope) Jorge Prado. A couple might gorge on the occasion, most will show some restraint: this could be another decider in the overall top ten classification on the day. The value of round one is debatable and will be a source of a small feature in MXGP Special Edition of OTOR next week but mathematically it still constitutes a maximum haul of 50 points. Take it or leave it, considering that only two of the last ten MXGP championships have been won with an advantage less than 50 at the end of the season.

CREATED THANKS TO BY ADAM WHEELER BY ADAM WHEELER You could argue for the bolstering effect administered in the victories by Tim Gajser and Jeffrey Herlings in Argentina in both 2016 and 2018. Rookie Gajser went on to be champion that year and Herlings’ last lap battle and demotion of teammate and reigning #1 Tony Cairoli set a template for the ’18 season. In terms of the final outcome in the standings then round

“ONLY TWO OF THE LAST TEN MXGP CHAMPIONSHIPS HAVE BEEN WON WITH AN ADVANTAGE LESS THAN 50 POINTS...” one has proven to be fairly unprophetic in the last ten years. Since 2010 only four athletes have won the premier class: Cairoli (2010-2014 & 2017), Gajser (2016 & 2019), Romain Febvre (2015) and Herlings (2018). From that spell only Cairoli (2012 and 2017), Gajser and Herlings

have walked away from the opening salvo with the first win bonus of the campaign, just 50%. Other victors have included Clement Desalle (three times), Gautier Paulin and Max Nagl; all of whom had their subsequent title plights disrupted or ruined through injury. Of course curtain-closers are fantastically dramatic and watching Herlings limp into the 2014 Mexican closer with a weak left femur and lose out on his second MX2 crown by just four points and witnessing the jubilation that accompanied David Philippaerts’ final race titleconfirmation at Faenza in 2008 (the first Italian to take the premier class crown since Andrea Bartolini’s 500cc success) provided unforgettable fare. Those moments are few-and-far between however whereas ‘round one’ comes around without fail on an annual basis.

That only leaves me to urge fans to make the trip to southern England. Yes, it could be a washout but could also also serve up something a little different compared to the usual British Grand Prix, and is worth the investment considering that Matterley almost didn’t make the schedule for 2020 as part of an events-promotion and organisation landscape that is not getting any easier or more feasible. Even if the odds seem pretty long for a ‘comfortable’ Matterley experience the chances of catching some promising and unexpected action appear to be much brighter.


THE INSIDE LINE Motocross is poorly served in terms of books, and therefore former Grand Prix rider Rob Andrews’ ‘The Inside Line’ is not only a welcome publication but a pretty damn good one. Andrews’ labour of love in documenting a racing life and a career competing in what many regard as some of the glory years of the sport - the 1980s 500cc FIM World Championship - immediately makes his story one of the most comprehensive and detailed accounts available to any fan. As an autobiography the account is obviously first person-heavy and the Brit sometimes feels like he has to justify being part of the start gate with some legendary names but the amount of detail and insight of what it is actually like to have raced on ‘those’ tracks, against ‘those’ rivals and in front of ‘those’ crowds makes this one a little unmissable. The description of the first years falling in love with motorcycling throuhg a chance encounter and schoolboy racing at the tail end of the ‘70s is the start of a journey that would lead up to his first Grand Prix qualification in Germany in 1984 and then onto podium finishes at the highest level, include frank and honest accounts of those experiences.

Andrews can be heard voicing Eurosport commentary on MXGP these days so he keeps up with the sport and is not some sort of dinosaur that has pulled himself off the shelf in order to create something that goes up on it. The book is full of little asides, whether about passion, influential figures like Bryan Wade, paddock life or a detailed recollection of the Namur Citadel. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to describing the lasting effects of injury (the danger of supermarket glass doors!) or his initial appraisal of the 1985 factory Kawasaki KXs. The book costs 40 pounds but Andrews has done his homework and almost 400 pages are chocked-full of stunning photographs both of action and behind-the-scenes. In fact, thanks to the clean and appealing design, ‘The Inside Line’ is both a story and a picture book which only increases the value for money. Andrews may believe that modern motocross and MXGP fans probably won’t be interested in his tale but I disagree. I think many people with even a passing interest in the sport have been waiting a long time for something like the ‘The Inside Line’ and the effort and sincerity that has gone into the book mean it’s almost an essential purchase. To buy a copy simply visit:







ANY TREASURE IN THE DESERT? So MotoGP testing is done and dusted. The new bikes for each manufacturer have been turned upside down and inside out in pursuit of maximum performance. New parts have been tested, approved, discarded, and everything in between. Factories, teams, riders are all as prepared for the new season as they are going to be, or not quite as prepared as they would like to be, in some cases. Extrapolating the results of testing onto the coming season is always notoriously difficult. The best-laid plans of mice and manufacturers rarely survive first contact with the cold, harsh reality of racing. Pace during a long run in testing turns out not to be

the same as running twenty laps in the middle of a hectic battle. Only once the bikes and riders engage in combat on track does the real balance of power become visible. We will only really get an idea of where the MotoGP riders and factories stand at Qatar. Or will we? If predicting how the season will pan out on the basis of testing, is the first race at Qatar all that much more instructive? If history is a guide, then the answer to that is: not really. Last year, Andrea Dovizioso beat Marc Márquez to win the first Grand Prix, but it was Márquez who went on to win the title utterly convincingly. Cal Crutchlow ended up on the Qatar podium in 2019, but he would only manage to get on the rostrum in two of the remaining eighteen races. 2019 is no exception. Andrea Dovizioso won the race in 2018 as well, and again finished second after Márquez. In 2017, it was Maverick Viñales who took victory: he would go on to finish third in the championship, nearly 70 points behind the winner, Marc Márquez. In 2016,

Jorge Lorenzo won in Qatar, but Márquez took the championship again. In 2015, Valentino Rossi won the first race, but it was his teammate who took the title that season. You have to go back all the way to 2014 for the last time the rider who would go on to become champion won the season opener. Why the lack of correlation between the first race in Qatar and the rest of the season? First and foremost, because of the test which happens shortly beforehand. With three days of track time at the circuit before the race weekend, everyone has their bikes pretty well dialled in. No one is scratching around for a setup which might work, and the bikes barely change between the test and the race. Qatar is a bit of an oddity as well, for a lot of reasons. Being in the desert means the track is always dusty, as strong winds bring sand and limestone dust from the surrounding area. Running the race at night means track temperatures are lower than most other events, ironically, without the sun to heat the tarmac. This might

change a little this year, though, with the starting time pushed back to 6pm, shortly after sunset.

blighted by subsidence bumps. Argentina barely sees any use during the year, so MotoGP arrives to a dusty and rubberless track.

The layout of the track is unusual too. From the first corner to the last, there are plenty of flowing corners were an agile bike can open up a gap over a bike which doesn’t turn so well. From the last corner, the bikes blast along Losail’s kilometre-long front straight, which registers the second highest top speed on the calendar, second only to the mighty Mugello. But this doesn’t mean the track suits an all-round bike. Instead, it tends to favour machines with either fantastic corner speed or mind-blowing top speed. It isn’t a track which suits compromises.

It is only once the teams get back to Europe that they get back into their stride. On tracks they know like the back of their hands, on circuits the engineers had in mind when designing the bikes, the championship starts to shake itself out. By mid season, factory engineers will have figured out what they got wrong at the start of the year, and brought parts to address that, adding a further twist to the championship. Crashes, injuries, mechanicals can all add extra complications. The season never quite pans out like you expect.

The season doesn’t get any more predictable after Qatar either. The first few overseas races take place at venues where the teams lack data, so setup routinely involves a bit of guesswork. Thailand is hot, humid, and punishing, and has three massive straights. Austin is another peculiarity, a rollercoaster of a track

Would I bet on the outcome of the Qatar race on the basis of the test here? There are a few names I’d be willing to put money on. Would I bet on the eventual MotoGP champion based on what happens in the race? History tells me I’d do better to invest my money in a decent meal in downtown Doha.






Polarity Photo


CRISIS AVERTED? Crisis? What crisis? One or two headlines were made to look a touch foolish come Monday night when Marc Marquez claimed parity had been restored amid the Repsol Honda ranks, and he would sleep easy in the ten days between the end of the preseason and resumption of hostilities on 8th March. Qatar provided the backdrop for a turbulent three days for HRC and its trio of riders attempting to make sense of the 2020 machine they will command in what will be MotoGP’s longest ever season. The long, fast right bends that mark out the 3.8-mile Losail International Circuit were the new RC213V’s kryptonite on days one and two as a lack of front end feel (sound familiar?) dogged Honda’s boys.

Come the close of Sunday’s running and it was hard to conclude anything other than things were looking dire for the factory that has emerged from each of the past three seasons with MotoGP’s elusive Triple Crown. Its riders using the latest factory trickery were 14th, 19th and 21st on the time sheets. And it didn’t end there. The elder Marquez was unable to lap the track within a second of riders he beat with one eye closed a year ago. Cal Crutchlow abandoned his media duties in favour of resting a right arm that had ballooned up to the size of pig’s thigh after a bruising crash at turn two. And class rookie Alex Marquez was sporting the kind of thousand-yard stare normally associated with returning war veterans. “Of course I’m worried,” Marc told us on Sunday. The issue stemmed from front instability and a lack of agility. “We’re pushing on entry and stressing the front tyre and the consequence is that you push the front more.” Crutchlow chipped in, saying “we

can’t decelerate the bike and we can’t turn the bike with this pushing that we have on it. So, it’s essentially, you’re holding the brake a long time, you’re unable to turn the bike in the middle of the corner.” We all know one of Honda’s maxims is to provide power, believing it a requisite of its riders’ jobs to do the rest. But even their technicians’ efforts seemed a touch extreme. Last year’s machine was no walk in the park, as Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo’s struggles demonstrated. With their comments appearing to go unheeded, management in the factory team was privately less than impressed with the fruits of HRC’s winter labours. So, the following day, when engineers were spotted wheeling one of Takaaki Nakagami’s ’19-spec RC213Vs into the reigning champion’s garage, it was safe to assume drastic measures were being undertaken at a less than ideal time. Team manager Alberto Puig told a group of us they were attaching and testing parts from the ’18 machine, as

well as last year’s, including the aero package. Later that evening there were smiles. And just out of shot sighs of relief. “We found the problem,” Marquez exhaled. His time was some way off pace setter Fabio Quartararo. But he was within range of both Suzukis and Maverick Viñales. For a man that hasn’t finished a race outside the top two in 18 months that’s all that is needed to know he can push to repeat his feats of the past four years.

Rushing to any hasty judgement at this test is a perilous task. Historically it’s never been kind to Honda with the track’s flowing sections more suited to the Yamaha and Suzuki’s characteristics. Repsol Honda was approaching full-scale meltdown here in 2016 before Marquez won two of the first three races (and finished third in the other) on the way to a third premier class title. Last year Crutchlow lingered in 17th in the test yet both were on the podium two weeks later.

Let it not be forgotten he is still some way off peak fitness, too. A damaged nerve in the right shoulder continues to prod him with pangs of pain. His crashes at both of this year’s tests stemmed from a lack of upper body strength to save the kind of front slide he’d recover from the brink in previous years. And unlike the recovery twelve months ago on the left shoulder, nerve damage has no definitive timeline for full rehabilitation. And while Marquez’s mood was upbeat, Crutchlow is only too aware of the task ahead. “It’s the same problem that I said I had in Valencia when I first rode it. It felt even worse in the area [where last year’s bike was weakest]. It seems that they’ve carried on with it, and this is where we are today. So let’s see if they can work a miracle.” It’s all well and good building for one of the greatest of all time to win. But if the others struggle for top sixes, top eights or top tens, recent history may well repeat itself.




If you were in the Englishman’s shoes, you’d surely be feeling maximum frustration. Like last year, Honda’s thinking seems to have mirrored what technical chief Takeo Yokoyama spelled out last year. “We concentrated in the winter time [of ‘18/’19] to give him as much power as possible, knowing that there will be some other problems. But we decided, OK, the problems will come, but again, he’s the best rider, so maybe he can manage.” To be fair, this thinking has been good enough to bring the rider’s title home in each of the past four years. But for how long can Honda continue placing all its eggs in the Marquez basket without getting caught out. With Viñales, Quartararo, Rins and Mir all lurking in the shadows, you do feel they’re riding their luck.


MX VICE Not content with being the best online outlet for news and updates across their social media and website platform, MX Vice are diversifying with items of casualwear, their lengthy but entertaining Podcasts (always better with studio guests or interviews interspersed) and their interactive MX Manager game. The ‘fantasy’ MX Manager is free to play, features some great prizes and is a fun way to bench-race with hundreds of other fans that think they know which rider is better at bringing in the points. www.evenstrokes is the e-commerce offshoot that features a range of premium brands at competitive prices. Well worth checking out.





WorldSBK Suddenly Redding was winning races again, and the confidence that was his hallmark as a youngster returned. The swagger was there but so was humility. As a racer, the 26 year old had seen his career hit rock bottom. It taught him who to trust, who had his back but most importantly it reminded him how much fun racing can be. Redding showed that winning races can come easily because he loves the grind that goes on behind the scenes.

SCOTT REDDING: HISTORY MAKER? No rider has ever won a British Superbike and World Superbike title in consecutive years. Can Scott Redding be the first? There’s a real chance that the Englishman can live up to the hype. In his final years in MotoGP it was easy to forget that Redding was the youngest Grand Prix winner at one point in time; a 15 year old that turned up for his Grand Prix debut in the 125cc class and promptly qualified on the front row of the grid in Qatar. This is a man who won races in the 125 and Moto2 classes and also had podiums in the premier class. Talent was never a question but there were plenty of doubts hanging over him by the time he was discarded by Aprilia. Twelve months ago, Redding moved to British Superbikes as a curiosity. Would he be able to resurrect his career and adapt to British tracks? Would he be able to get the most out of a production-based bike after a decade riding Grand Prix machinery? Would he be able to deal with the pressure of being a big fish in a small pond? The answer to all of these questions was a resounding yes.


This was shown by his recovery from pre-season injuries. Breaking his leg while mini bike riding in Spain last winter left him with in a race against time to get fit for Round 1. Team boss, Paul Bird, had laid it out in no uncertain terms to Redding how close he was to finding another rider following this injury. His career lifeline was slipping away from him. Training and rehab took over for Redding and when he lined up on the grid at Silverstone, he had already done enough to prove his hunger and determination.

From that point onwards he showed why it was always likely that BSB would be a “one and done” operation for him. His talent, experience and speed didn’t surprise anyone but his approach to the season did. His performances at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and Cadwell Park were very impressive and showed that he was a quick study for new tracks but also that he could accept being beaten and ride for points with a bigger picture in his mind. That bigger picture was the title, and when he was crowned champion at Brands Hatch in October it was richly deserved. Can he repeat the trick in 2020? Redding will have all the tools at his disposal to get the job done and can start the year with lots of momentum behind him. He goes well in Phillip Island, loves Qatar, knows Jerez better than any other track on the planet and then heads to Assen which was a second home. Success breeds success and the confidence that comes from winning keeps a rider rolling. Redding is ready for the confidence to flow in WorldSBK and he won’t be underestimated in ‘20.


KAWASAKI: REA OUT FOR SIX, LOWES OUT TO SURPRISE 2019 was the best we’ve seen from Rea. To win that title meant giving everything he had. Can he go to the well again in 2020? Jonathan Rea was a heavyweight boxer in 2019 but as he juked it out with Alvaro Bautista for the title it was more about rolling with the punches rather than landing a knockout blow. It was Rea’s best championship but also showed how easy it can be to lose his grip at the top. Getting the job done showed that he is still the man to beat but also that the competition is closing in. The Ducati V4R was a game changer in 2019 and it will only get stronger. Kawasaki are back with the same bike as twelve months ago and as the ZX10RR gets longer in the tooth, the odds for Rea extend too. That he was able to weather the storm and come out on top shows that you underestimate the five times world champion at your peril...but it’s the chinks in the armour that his rivals will focus upon. Winning is hard but to keep winning is even harder. Look around the sporting world and there’s countless examples of this but Rea was so relentless last year once momentum shifted

his way. He was a pitbull backed into a corner after four rounds and he came out with only one intention; to put everyone in their place. Let’s see if he has the same fight in 2020. On the other side of the Kawasaki garage Alex Lowes joins from Yamaha. Being the teammate to Jonathan Rea is a thankless task; he’s the greatest Superbike rider of all-time. Rea never gives an inch. Who’d want to be compared to that? After spending three years as teammate to Michael van der Mark and having grown up with an incredibly competitive sibling rivalry, Lowes is arguably the best placed rider in the world to slip into the second Kawasaki berth. He won’t be fazed by days when Rea beats him and he won’t get carried away if he comes out on top. He knows that world class racers all have their days and that it’s about the balance of 39 days of on track action throughout a season.


Winning and learning from the team is the target for Lowes. The move to Kawasaki meant that he switched to a crew that had won six of the last eight WorldSBK crowns. The team - and not the bike - was what impressed Lowes immediately. He’s quietly confident for 2020 but also very realistic. The goal is to make sure that he adds to his Brno 2018 win. Despite a weather interrupted testing programme, Lowes has felt more and more comfortable every time he’s ridden the Ninja. He’ll need to adapt his riding to the Kawasaki compared to the demands of the Yamaha but braking harder in a straight line and being aggressive was what marked him out as a British Superbike rider on a Honda. This could be the year that he makes the step forward and becomes a regular race winner.




Honda is back! We said it twelve months ago but now it’s the real deal… When it was announced at EICMA in late 2018 that HRC would be back in WorldSBK as a full-factory effort, it set up a chain reaction of expectation. For the first time since 2002 Japan was taking an interest in winning a Superbike title. It was a massive story. It was fantastic for the series…until the opening round when suddenly it became clear this was a year of gathering data. As the season went on it became clear that the story for Honda in 2019 was “nothing to see here.” It was disappointing at the time but when the bikes rolled out in January at the Jerez test the initial buzz from EICMA came right back! The bike looks tiny, it’s got a strong engine and seems to be cutting edge at every angle. This is what HRC is all about. With lots of Japanese engineers coming from HRC HQ this is clearly a proving ground for them, maybe before they move to MotoGP, and the same can be said for mechanics and crew members. They are shy on experience in Superbike racing, but maybe a clear set of eyes can be used to their advantage. The excitement around Honda also comes from their acquirement of Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard won the opening 11 races of 2019 and has the tools to be a WorldSBK champion. “This is a full factory team and it’s just like in MotoGP,” Bautista said recently. “It’s full of Japanese engineers from HRC. There’s nothing for us to be envious of because the level is high. Honda is serious and we’re supported by HRC. I’m convinced that we’ll fight for good results. Alberto Puig and Kuwata-san have been at the tests and that shows how serious they are about this project.

“Compared to Ducati this is different. I was comfortable with the Ducati straight away, it was like putting on a glove because the engine character was the same as MotoGP with the V4 engine. Now I’m using an inline four and that’s different, but this is a very new project and we’re working in a good direction with the bike and evolution of the bike. We need more kilometres but Honda are working day and night in Japan.” Bautista and Leon Haslam offer a strong rider line-up with Takumi Takahashi also joining WorldSBK for a full season. Hiring Domi Aegerter as a full-time test rider also shows their ambitions. This project will leave no stone unturned but 2020 is likely to be an inconsistent year. The key for Honda will be to maximise their good weekends and come away from those races with podiums. When Honda puts all their chips to the centre of the table they expect to win big otherwise heads will roll. Patience might be key at the start of the campaign but it’ll wear thin very quickly if the Fireblade isn’t cutting it at the front.


BMW WILL BMW: LAVERTY FINALLY GET BACK TO WINNING? Last year BMW sprung a surprise with their return to WorldSBK. Tom Sykes had podiums and a pole position. In 2020 they’ll expect to make another step Shaun Muir has set a target of fourth in the world for Tom Sykes. To do that he’ll have to beat factory riders from Kawasaki, Ducati, Yamaha and Honda. It’s not impossible but it seems like a stretch to see the 2013 world champion achieve it. Winning races again should be Sykes’ aim, and then wait and see where the chips fall for the points at the end of the year. Mr Superpole showed that the speed is still there with the switch to BMW but a step is needed to be able to fight for race wins over a full race distance. That step can come over the winter but it would still be a big ask for Sykes to consistently win races. Phillip Island is


a chassis circuit where Sykes impressed last year. With more power on tap he might be closer in Australia than people expect but it’s later in the season that the wins will be possible. Donington Park will definitely be the round circled on his calendar. For Eugene Laverty, this is last chance saloon territory. Whichever BMW rider comes out on top is likely to have their contract extended but if you’re beaten by your teammate, you could easily be

the maximum. During winter testing, Laverty was focused on dialling in the electronics on his bike and making them more progressive. Finding the right feeling was key. In Portimao it seemed they had achieved this, so now it’s about getting the most from the bike and hitting the front. With almost the entire grid in a contract year it’s more important than ever to have momentum from Round 1, and Laverty will know this. The dynamic within the team will be very interesting. Sykes has

“FOR EUGENE LAVERTY, THIS IS LAST CHANCE SALOON TERRITORY. WHICHEVER BMW RIDER COMES OUT ON TOP IS LIKELY TO HAVE THEIR CONTRACT EXTENDED BUT IF YOU’RE BEATEN BY YOUR TEAMMATE, YOU COULD EASILY BE SHOWN THE DOOR...” shown the door. Laverty is now six years removed from winning races, an eternity for a man that grew accustomed to challenging for world titles, and now it’s put up or shut up time. A series of bad injuries robbed him of opportunities in recent years and a succession of poor bikes didn’t help his lot. He needs to make the most of his BMW opportunity and that means using the two days of testing in Australia to

relaxed since leaving Kawasaki and is back to his gregarious self. He will row his own boat in terms of setup, and the team has already seen that Laverty offers them feedback that helps develop the bike. Will this divergence be the difference between the two riders?

WorldSBK Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu. Has there ever been a more eye-catching partnership in WorldSBK? No matter what the results this pair will be a box office draw in 2020


For three years Yamaha has had one of the most complete and even rider pairings in the Superbike World Championship. Alex Lowes might have left, having finishing third in the world in 2019, but in his place comes Toprak Razgatlioglu. The Turk would have been a fantastic gun slinger in the wild west. He’s brave, never knows he’s beaten and has the fastest reactions this side of the Black Sea.


Up against him is Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman oozes natural ability. Riding comes easy to him and at times in his career he relied on his talent too much. In recent years he’s been able to knuckle down and get the most from himself. If you want an illustration of what van der Mark can do, look at some of his battles with Jonathan Rea. Going toe to toe with the five times champion doesn’t faze the Yamaha rider, and having come out on top of those battles he’s clearly not a man to be underestimated. The same goes for Toprak who, like van der Mark, claimed his first WorldSBK victory by coming out on top in a gloves-off battle with

Rea. The young duo won’t be afraid of upsetting the apple cart. Being the first rider from their countries to win WorldSBK races? Job done. The objective now is the title. They have the talent and both could cut it in MotoGP. Winning is the key to getting there on a good bike and giving themselves that opportunity. The Netherlands is an important market in motorsport, as seen by the crowds at the Dutch TT and the return of Formula 1 to the county, and Turkey has a lot of eyeballs to engage with for television. For both riders the road to MotoGP goes through the opposite side of the garage.


TIME TO GO AGAIN... Even though we are almost two months into 2020, when you work in WorldSBK, there is an almost spiritual feeling crossing the bridge that connects the towns of San Remo and Newhaven. Arriving on Phillip Island, 17,000km from home, it’s only now that the new year has really just begun. It is quite fitting that the season should kick off so far away from the European base of the teams that compete in the championship. It feels like we are properly starting an adventure for another year and it brings with it a tangible sense of anticipation. We have had the winter testing and the team launches and here were are, ready to start the first round, with teams and riders resplendent in the new liveries. The sense of anticipation for this year’s season is greater than it has been for some time. Sure we still have the same reigning champion for everyone to aim at but the distance they have to reach seems to be shortening. The

two-day test at Phillip Island, immediately before the race weekend, is always an opportunity to see who is ready for the task ahead and who is facing an uphill struggle from the start. In the Honda camp the difference couldn’t be starker. At one end of the pit lane the HRC squad arrived fresh from a team presentation in Tokyo days before. They were fully prepared and look every inch the factory outfit they are. At the other end of pitlane however, the MIE Althea Honda squad, run by Moriwaki Engineering, had also come from the presentation in Tokyo but spent their first day in Phillip Island stripping down a road bike, pillion seat

and standard lighting switch gear included, and building it into a race machine that they could go testing with the following day. In Phillip Island they were represented only by Takumi Takahashi. They had confirmed Jordi Torres as a second rider at the team presentation but it was too late in the day to get a bike together for him to race this weekend. On track the contrast couldn’t be starker either. Takahashi was over five seconds slower than Leon Haslam on the factory machine, who ended the test fifth fastest overall, only half a second off Jonathan Rea. That and the fact that the MIE machine blew an engine on the first day leaving Takahashi to jump off it at T4 as flames billowed out from under the fairing. On to bike no.2 then.

In the factory team Haslam would appear to have adapt-

BY ADAM WHEELER BY GRAEME BROWN ed to the new Fireblade far quicker than his team-mate Alvaro Bautista who, it was reported, admitted to struggling to find a set up he was confident with and had only been concentrating on getting a good feeling with the bike rather than setting a fast lap time.

LAST YEAR WAS UNIQUE IN THE WAY THAT BAUTISTA DOMINATED, AND I CAN’T SEE IT HAPPENING THIS YEAR AGAIN, There doesn’t seem to be much room for maneouvre at the top of the time sheets as we head into a day-off at Phillip Island. The Yamahas of Loris Baz and Toprak Razgatlioglu, the BMW of Tom Sykes and Scott Redding’s Ducati, alongside the aforementioned, Haslam, were all within half a second of Rea, who only set his fastest lap on the second day. He

improved his time from the first day by half a second but I think that improvement is more down to the rider being a bit more in the groove over any set up changes to the Kawasaki. With all that anticipation floating in the air the old cynic in me has been offering some words of caution - we have been here before. Phillip Island is a fairly unique circuit that throws up some close racing, regardless of the class, and I don’t expect this year to be any different. What is doesn’t do is open a window to the form for the rest of the season. Last year was unique in the way that Bautista dominated, and I can’t see it happening this year again, but Razgatlioglu, Sykes and Redding all seem to be within striking distance of Rea. Rea himself looked relaxed and comfortable. Phillip Island is of course a second home to him as his wife

hails from the Island and her parents still live here. A few years ago Jonathan and Tatia built their own house so every night after leaving the track JR heads home to sleep in his own bed. He therefore seems pretty chilled when he is out and around in the paddock. On track there are a few little terriers starting to nip at his heel but I wouldn’t bet against him just yet. Looking to the year ahead I have mixed feelings about heading from Phillip Island to Qatar. I never like going there but straight after such a good event in Australia will bring me back to earth with a bump. That said getting it out of the way and having Argentina as the last round to enjoy is actually quite a pleasant option. Let’s hope that this year when we go there we don’t have any difficulties with the track and more importantly we crown another World Champion.



Steve English


JONATHAN REA ON THE SEARCH TO KEEP BREAKING NEW GROUND By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Steve English/GeeBee Images



or all the promise at Honda, the mystery of Yamaha, the growing potential of BMW and the strong personalities now a factor with the works Ducatis, it is still the world championship winning Kawasaki Racing Team that carry the strongest narratives into the 2020 season of WorldSBK. There was a showbiz element of their ‘talk show’ format for the 2020 Team presentation, well within an audible throttle blip of the Circuit de BarcelonaCatalunya pitlane. The KRT workshop had been transformed into a stage where much was made of the crew’s first ‘home’ event – due to take place at the track in September and where, unbelievably, they’d tested for the first time in their existence a few days previously – but also where questions were centred around the adventures ahead for 33 year old Jonathan Rea and 29 year old incoming newbie Alex Lowes. Lowes gave-off a confident air. The former Yamaha man may be holding a heavy chalice as teammate to the fivetimes #1 and assuming a role that frustrated both Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam but was clearly relishing the competitive environment, equipment and atmosphere that proved so effective for Rea from day one of joining the Catalan set-up in 2015. As for the champion, Rea once again props himself up as the largest target on the range and prepares for another season of arrows from competitors, critics, fans and neutral followers of the sport that would like to see a changing of the green guard. Rea was pelted by Ducati and Alvaro Bautista in 2019 but somehow found a way to reverse his predicament and profit from the wavering aim



of the Spaniard in the second half of the campaign. It was his hardest test and real proof of his mettle as title-holder. Rev limits aside, Rea’s quest to stay at the peak of his profession means he welcomes the next threat: how long can the hegemony endure? When the few hundred guests were funnelling to the other side of the workshop

for drinks and copious plates of ‘pernil’, we snuck through to grab JR for a few questions on his perspective for a twelfth superbike season and whether he can do it all again… Last year you tried to boost your fitness further and you also keep using Fabien [Foret] as a rider coach, so what has been the off-season project this time?


GeeBee Images

WorldSBK That’s an ongoing process. I completed all the human performance testing that we do in the team this week and last week and I’m surprised because I am ahead… but I’m getting older! Physically I’m hitting good marks. The most important thing is to stay healthy, especially with the first races happening in quick succession. Australia is not followed by a big break anymore. I’m still working a lot on my style with Fab and my focus for this year is trying to get my bike to turn a bit better, especially in the longer corners. It is a characteristic we struggle with a little bit. So, a few aspects of my riding and the turn is the main area. I will have to understand how the start of the year goes and adapt accordingly.

“[ON POSSIBLY REACHING 100 WINS] WE HAVE SOME RECORDS NOW; I THINK THE LAST ONE WAS SEVENTEEN IN A ROW. I DON’T MEAN TO SOUND UNGRATEFUL, BUT IT WAS ENOUGH JUST TO BE PAID TO RACE, THEN TO WIN & TO GET A CHAMPIONSHIP: I TICKED ALL THE BOXES SO THE REST IS JUST A BONUS.” 2019 seemed stressful but also enjoyable: did you get something from it? Was it educational and, if so, does it sustain motivation? Yeah, especially in the first races when it was clear that Ducati had come with a really strong bike and package. It was super-fast, especially in a straight line and it was really hard to see past that in the first races. It was only after I had accepted that and seen it as a challenge as

opposed to [thinking] ‘we’ve been beaten again’ I could change mentality and come a bit closer when we returned to Europe [and] winning that round in Imola was good for my confidence. After that I think Alvaro just knew we were going to be there every race and he started making some mistakes. It was a season of ‘thirds’ because in the first third we got beat, in the second he made some mistakes - and we were thereabouts - and in the last third we dominated. It was a season that – back in February - I never expected to finish as it did but that’s racing: twists and turns. You’ve taken titles through wins and dominance but – even generally – there have not been many campaigns where the reigning champion has been so comprehensively beaten in the first stages… A few races really stick in the mind. Donington race one was wet and Alvaro was still leading the championship but I saw it as a real opportunity to win and put pressure on him. I remember going out in that race and only thinking about 25 points. Sometimes it is strange with mindset. Sometimes when you are chasing you have ideas of pushing for a win but if I make a mistake and lose more points I am further away. It was like that at the beginning of the year but at Donington – where it was easy to crash – it was like ‘Jonathan; you have to win’: those were the exact words that Guim [Rosa, Team Manager] said to me Saturday morning at breakfast. We had to have 25 points…and we did it. It was almost the biggest race of the season for me. The Qatar weekend was special because I did the triple at a place where I thought I would really struggle. Positive attitude. Now I’ve come to the front, won from the front, won from behind and I think mentally it puts me in a better place for whatever will come.


For this year why do you think people are asking you about Scott Redding so much? Is it because he’s expressive? Almost brash? It could be a good clash… I don’t know. I think as long as there is respect between riders then there is never need for a clash. I mean, it is hard to build a rivalry with someone as quiet as Alvaro. I enjoy the battle. I’ve had a fierce rivalry with Chaz Davies for a few years and Tom Sykes and then the position against Ducati with their V4. I’ve been part of this championship for years now and at this part of the season everyone gets excited. Potentially there are challenges from everywhere. Maybe the media are talking about Redding because he ‘puts it out there’ so much and he’s not scared to talk himself-up but if you do that then you can also hang yourself out to dry. Alvaro got on with things very quietly. There will be other challengers, and you have to respect everybody but to put your finger on who might be champion at the end of the year then there are arguments for five-six guys if they get it right and run with it. My idea is to be one of them. Let’s see.

ily gives you clarity. I know one day I will get beaten and the idea is to prolong that day arriving as much as possible really. It has definitely gone past the point of people being happy for you but in SBK now the travelling support I have from Northern Ireland is incredible and if I look at the support on social media with the mentions and replies then I have so many fans and not a lot of negativity, which has really helped. Of course when you put yourself out there and post stuff on social media then people can get to you but generally I’ve had very positive feedback and that’s really nice. I don’t want to make big statements. I try to be as humble as I can and get through it. It’s funny…with success you can feel the change of people’s perception of you. You can see you get under people’s skin a lot more and there are some that you enjoy doing that to and others that end up judging you for different reasons. I’m conscious of what I am doing, and I am really supportive of my team and I know my fans have my bag. If I can continue what I am doing that will be amazing.

You could say you’ve gone ‘beyond’ the point of people wanting to see you knocked off the perch. How has that changed your philosophy towards racing? Does it make your shoulders even broader? It’s funny now, even with maturity… people are happy for you when you win your first championship and the second as well and then it starts to get a bit sad because now people cannot even look in your direction in the paddock. Other riders. You feel that. But it then makes you stronger because you know how they work. I feel like I am the same guy still doing the job. Having a young fam-

GeeBee Images


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Tom Vialle 2020. By Ray Archer


‘On-track Off-road’ is a free, monthly 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 MXGP, the AMA Motocross and Supercross series’, MotoGP, WorldSBK as well as the latest bike tests. ‘On-track Off-road’ will be published online at on the last Wednesday of the month. 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 James Lissimore AMA SX Photographer Cormac Ryan-Meenan MotoGP Photographer Rob Gray MotoGP Photographer David Emmett MotoGP Blogger Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer Graeme Brown WSB Blogger and Photographer Roland Brown Tester/Columnist Núria Garcia Cover Design Gabi Álvarez Web developer Hosting FireThumb7 - PHOTO CREDITS Ray Archer, CormacGP, Polarity Photo, GeeBee Images, KTM, Bavo/Honda, S.Romero/M.Campelli Cover shot: Alex Marquez by CormacGP/Polarity Photo 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 and click ‘Contact us’.

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