On-Track Off-Road issue 210

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There is something about this photograph from Salt Lake City last weekend that just seems to summarise Cooper Webb’s character in the 2021 series: attack, focus, commitment. The KTM man is close to turning that red plate gold with just one more Main Event to go. He’s also the subject of our principal interview this month Photo by Align Media



The returning Marc Marquez eyes the standard, fixes on the target. Joan Mir might only have one MotoGP victory to his name but knows that tackling and beating the HRC rider when fully fit will only validate his achievement and status even more. Another 2021 sub-plot begins Photo by CormacGP



As 2021 MXGP drags slowly closer race fans may well need to keep their eyes on the Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna team. Why? There is strong story potential with Thomas Kjer Olsen making his premier class debut, and the return of Arminas Jasikonis after his serious accident last summer could be one of the most memorable comebacks in recent times Photo by ShotbyBavo



There are few more photogenic riders in supercross than Justin Barcia. Although the 29-year old has yet to take the GASGAS to a repeat of his Houston #1 victory, three more podiums and 4th place in the series almost guaranteed means a decent enough campaign for his first away from Japanese machinery Photo by Align Media




SUPERCROSS Blogs by Steve Matthes & Mike Antonovich Photos by Align Media

450SX POINTS 1. Cooper Webb, KTM, 362 points 2. Ken Roczen, Honda, 340 points 3. Eli Tomac, Kawasaki, 312 points


East: 1. Colt Nichols, Yamaha, 187 pts 2. Jo Shimoda, Kawasaki, 164 pts 3. Christian Craig, Honda, 158 pts West: 1. Justin Cooper, Yamaha, 180 pts 2. Hunter Lawrence, Honda, 160 pts 3. Cameron McAdoo, Kawasaki, 158 pts








With just one round to go in the 2021 Monster Energy SX series, it’s been another trying one for the teams, riders, promoters and yes, even the media. With COVID still affecting the world, everyone involved with the championship has had to adapt and do things that were way out of the norm from past years. I mean, the series didn’t even go to California this year for the first time in, well, forever I think. With vaccinations happening at a rapid rate and the world seemingly ready to resume normalcy one has to start thinking about the 2022 SX series and what we might see. There are some things that are positive to come out of this COVID-induced SX program this season and although it remains to be seen what carries over into the new year. Of course we saw just seven cities hosting the 17 rounds as opposed to the

regular sixteen and we had three Tuesday races as well. There’s no doubt that before the world stopped, the guys at Feld Motorsports wanted to take the series worldwide as well as add more events. They may not get their wish with expansion into some other countries but they can look at the mid-week races last year in Salt Lake City and this year in Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas and Atlanta and see what the appetite was like. The issue with trying to add more Mains is two-fold; one is the American motocross series is a quasi-partner in the sport bound together with Feld through the AMA and they are promised their mid-May dates. So this gives supercross a limited window in the calendar year.

The second is that the teams are already pushing back against the 29 races we currently have on the schedule. It’s like a never-ending topic. But…what if Feld were able to show the teams that one, two maybe three Tuesday or Wednesday races could be added to the regular 17 and not tax their programs too much? What if the series TV partner, NBC, antes up a bit more dough for these races as mid-week races seem to do well for the fans and the ratings? Spectator attendance wasn’t great by any means but if you’re Feld and you can save on expenses by renting the stadium for 6 days, throwing two SX races in there as well as an amateur day SX futures program then it makes financial and logistical sense.


BY STEVE MATTHES The teams will need to be convinced but the riders certainly didn’t mind the midweek contests and I think it’s not a stretch to see one or more next year. The second thing we might see is going to more speedways like Daytona and this year, Atlanta. The longer track and the (presumably) cheaper venues must be appealing to the series promoters. The fans are, in normal times, packed into Daytona and it’s a cool look for the sport. Also, the most expensive part of the track is the cost of dirt and hauling it, in Atlanta it was free because it was on-site and plentiful. Again, thinking of costs for the promoter here. Therefore, I think we hit up Atlanta again in 2022. Also, as far as the pits are concerned, I’m sure Feld wants to get the fans jam packed into them again like before and have the riders

signing and interacting. The OEM Friday night dealer signings that almost every rider hates haven’t been there for a year and it’s hard to see them coming back. Maybe they are consolidated at the venue in the future? I think the track walk won’t be coming back, the one lap rolling of it seemed to work out pretty well and the riders had no issue with that. I think it’s pretty convenient for everyone to just keep the new system You’ve got to turn a positive out of a negative situation and I think that Feld did that in some cases when it comes to the SX series this year. Not all of it was negative and it’ll be interesting to see what sticks and what doesn’t in the future. I don’t see the series going back to doing everything that we were doing in the past. What changes, what stays the same and if the sport fundamentally changes some things, well

that won’t be so bad either. I’m excited to see what happens.




ET COME HOME? “Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that meet each day.” For the last ten years, most of my weekends have been spent in the paddock of Pro motocross races, side-by-side with the same people from one to the next. We catch up over dinner or drinks in a hotel lobby on Friday, have a chat at the track during Saturday’s limited downtime, and barely acknowledge each other while placed in a bleary-eyed order at the airport Starbucks on Sunday morning. I see some of them more often than I do my relatives, and together, we’ve experienced once-in-a-lifetime moments in far-away places and watched each other change from year to year. But just because we can recognize someone other from across a room and identify their allies-enemies in the industry doesn’t mean we “know” a person. There are people I will never have a profound connection with or need something from,

despite us meeting up in a different city every few days, and the same goes for them to me. That sort of social dynamic makes the pits an interesting place to be, especially when it comes to guys that always seem to be topics of conversation. Eli Tomac is usually one of the popular talking points. The 28-year-old has been at the top of the sport for just as long as I’ve had a press pass, and still, no one outside of his inner circle seems to have an accurate idea of who he is or what he wants to do. We know that he is the son of a cycling icon, that he grew up on a farm in Colorado, is a new parent, and that when the mood strikes, he can make a Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450-F go faster than it probably should.

While some on the starting line have a perfectly curated social media presence, Eli posts randomly and with a caption that’s just enough to make you wonder. His on-track performance through the last year and a half has added more mystery to the persona. A common belief going into the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series was that if Tomac didn’t win the one title which had eluded him then, it would never happen. He had been close on multiple occasions, particularly in 2017 and 2019, and the narrow losses seemed like the worst way to learn that consistency sometimes exceeds raw speed. Tomac and the Monster Energy Kawasaki team decided to dedicate their program to winning


BY MIKE ANTONOVICH 450 SX after that. Team principal Bruce Stjernstrom told me on record in October 2019 that multiple Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships didn’t matter as much to Kawasaki as one from Supercross would and that Eli was expected to deliver the following year. After getting the usual Anaheim One mulligan out of the way, Eli went on a tear. He won five 450 Main Events (Anaheim Two, Oakland, Tampa, Arlington, Daytona) and finished no worse than fourth in rounds two through ten. On-track scraps with Justin Barcia in Atlanta led to a post-race argument, and Tomac’s laughter in reaction to Barcia’s threats turned into a meme. It was the first we’d seen of Eli’s personality in some time, but he seemed unfazed by the outbursts when he stepped in front of NBC’s camera and explained that his attention was on the title.

His first child arrived during the unexpected break from March to May, and Tomac seemed rejuvenated when racing resumed for the extended stay in Salt Lake City. By now, you know that he scored two Main Event wins and four podium finishes in Utah and was surrounded by his entire family, including newborn daughter Lev, when he was awarded the 450 SX title on Father’s Day. And that he hasn’t seemed the same since. The buzz of “Can Eli win the 450 MX title?” started before the last scoop of dirt was taken out of Rice-Eccles Stadium, but it didn’t take long for his summer to go off the rails. The heavy Tennessee mud at Loretta Lynn’s killed his bike in the second moto at the second round, and from there, he struggled to keep up with Zach Osborne and Adam Cianciarulo in the point standings.

Tomac coasted through the rest of summer, winning the occasional moto and finishing in the top-five more often than not, and most chalked it up to an SX Title Hangover. Tomac was under attack from the first round in the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series, and his defense didn’t seem ready for the strong gang of riders in the 450 Class. A 13th at the Houston One Supercross was what we’ve come to expect of Eli and the opening round, and he bounced back with a win days later at the Houston Two, podium scores at Indianapolis One and Two, and top-five finishes against a field of fast yet inconsistent competitors. He’s won two times since the half-point in the schedule, Daytona and Atlanta One, wide-open tracks that favor his “push the limits” riding style, but has been buried at the start of other races and prevented from


putting in a career-defining charge. No matter what happens at the finale round in Salt Lake City, Tomac will end the indoor season third overall in the championship and more than a race worth of points behind Webb and Roczen. A lack of wins has frustrated Tomac at times, and his replies in the postrace press conference often cite the thick pack of riders in the early laps or challenges with traffic as the reasons for his “off” scores. The drive to win is still there, and when he gets to the front of the pack, it’s a challenge for other riders to keep up. His Daytona victory (he tied Ricky Carmichael with five wins at the Florida facility) was his biggest victory celebration yet; he looked directly into the stands when he crossed the finish line and burned the tire down for the speedway

crowd. This race, plus a win Atlanta One, was proof that Tomac still has what it takes to win. All of this has happened just as Tomac’s current contract with Monster Energy Kawasaki is set to expire. The Tomac family laid out a master plan for Eli when he switched to the green bike, and they eliminated offseason races for an extended career in SX-MX and emphasized training how he wanted. It’s gotten them this far, and now it seems like Eli’s eleventh season in the sport won’t be his last the way we once assumed. The word is that he and Kawasaki have inked another extension to keep him on the track for two more years, likely the last of his career. The Eli that’s on track now is different than the young, wild racer of five years ago. He’s more calculated in his

approach to things, and from what people close to him have told me, he knows that backing down the intensity will lower both his chance of crashing and possible successes. He no longer wants to be put in risky situations because an injury now would rob him of the limited time he has left, but he still wants to go for the win when the opportunity arises. Monster Energy Kawasaki seems to be okay with this approach because they know on any given day, they still have one of the fastest riders in the world on their motorcycle.







he last conversation with the 25-year-old from North Carolina involved a long sit-down with 450SX champion-to-be at the Nashville Supercross in April 2019. It’s been complicated to get back to the U.S. since.

when to be patient. There is more maturity - from a racer’s point of view - and I think he is more confident because of that plan. He’s confident in his training and his bike and all those things together make for a strong rider.”

In Tennessee we chatted in the confines of the Red Bull KTM truck. Webb was still relatively new to the team at that point but had been able to implement his fiery and relentless racecraft to dramatic effect. He would become KTM’s second champion in the space of just five years after the brand had initially raced to success from 2015-2017 with Ryan Dungey.

Training partner Zach Osborne, the reigning AMA 450MX Champion, explained to us “when the gate falls he’s just a mental giant. He’s very good at tactical racing especially in a 1-on-1 situation like he’s in right now. He’s somehow able to always make it happen when it counts. He finds his main rivals and plucks away at them until they fold.”

Cycle forward two years and we’re again inside the dark and metallic truck but communicating thanks to Facetime. Webb’s easy manner and youthful smile come to the fore. Outside, in the Atlanta Speedway, rain is dropping on the truck roof.

Webb doesn’t explicitly show his emotions. The days of the ashen-faced - and the worldhas-caved-in demeanour - from the 2016 Motocross of Nations and where his third race tumble lost Team USA a victory in what were already challenging circumstances seem like another time, another racer.

Webb has specialised in harnessing momentum in 2021. Team Manager Ian Harrison told the KTM Blog that “this year I have definitely seen a guy that can really plan how a race will go. He’s really thinking about his positions and what the other riders are going to do, how he is going to attack on the track and where he is going to push and

It can be hard to tell from a distance just how much he has had to graft for a result. But graft he does. Webb has not been prolific when it comes to heading practice sessions or Heat races but the total of 12 podiums and 7 wins with only the final round in Salt Lake City to go indicates he’s an athlete who knows when to invoke peak performance.

“He’s an incredible racer,” understates Harrison. “He gets stronger as the night goes on. When he’s in the battle and he really needs to dig deep he can stay so calm and be calculated; this is something in which a lot of other guys have a hard time to do. You cannot teach that or give it to somebody. They just have it.”

Osborne recalls Webb’s emergence on the scene with Star Yamaha and an indifferent outward projection on and off the dirt that didn’t always expand the rider’s fan club. “There’s definitely some of that cockiness still in him but it’s maybe a little more hidden and it shows itself in a much less arrogant light than earlier in his career,” the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna racer says. “Age will do that to you!”



FEATURE Osborne has seen more of Webb on a day-to-day basis than many other riders on the line thanks to the fact that the pair form part of Aldon Baker’s KTM-backed training regime. It means that the veteran has witnessed Webb at his best and worst and been integral to that collaborative pact that has led to such a high bar. “There’s always going to be some level of rivalry but I also believe we both have enough maturity and respect to realize that we help each other and we kind of have a synergy when training hard together,” Osborne reveals “but there’s no lack of prods or pokes when one of us is faster than the other.”

Not wishing to prod or poke Webb today, we are however interested in how he has handled the scrutiny of warring with Kawasaki and Honda… Are you better than you were in your first title winning year in 2019 or do things somehow feel a little easier now? I’d like to think I’m better. 2019 was a great year but I have the belief you can always improve and get better as a racer. 2020 was just a solid year as we got 2nd in the championship but I feel I’m at my best so far. I’m maturing a little bit and I’ve gotten to know the team and the bike a lot better and my competitors more. Importantly, what it

takes to win at this level. This has been my best season so far. You got married recently, right? Yeah! Last October and that was a big thing and a dream come true. A great way to end the year. Has there been an effect from that feeling of stability? I’ve been ‘building’ my life for a couple of years now and everyone talks about how things can be a distraction but for me [getting married] helped a lot and knowing that we are moving forwards as a team. Having trust in a relationship means that I know she will have my back in

On the track Ian said he was impressed by the fact that you always ‘had a plan’ for the races. It was one of your main strengths. Would you agree? Yeah, I think so. The preparation on and off the bike has been the same but I think knowing my competition a bit more and what it takes to win has helped in a season that was different to normal. We are on the road a bit more and you have time to think and to know what to expect. I’ve fixed my weaknesses, one of which was the whoops.

I feel that I have improved a lot in that department and that’s helped me, but also knowing who I am racing and how to attack them has been good this year. Is it satisfying working out how to ‘do’ people? To get those last gasp wins? It’s always satisfying when you win obviously but it’s also cool to have a strategy, being able to stick to it and then it works out. A lot of the races – whether its me and Kenny or Eli or Barcia – have been really close and when you win a close one is almost like a game of chess, if you will. It’s super-satisfying. The late race wins and the hard-fought ones are super-cool and give you

confidence or the momentum you are chasing. Performance or victory? Erm, to be honest there is nothing like winning, that’s for sure. Obviously, there are circumstances for every race and as long as I go out and gave the best of my ability then I am always happy but there is nothing like that feeling of crossing the finish line first and knowing your hard work paid off that night. Nothing compares. It seems like you have instilled winning belief in the team: that’s a major compliment for a rider isn’t it? We work as a team and we have belief in each other but


everything, and vice-versa. It was a big milestone in my life and the butterflies were real. It’s definitely been a benefit.


now we’re at the end of the third year together we all know one another that much better. In the past I would give them a lot of grey hairs where the practice or the heat race wasn’t great! But now they kinda know me, and when the Main Event comes around that I will be ‘in it’. On the rare occasion when I’m not then it’s unfortunate but to have that standard set high of ‘on any night, the podium or the win is our goal’ keeps everybody motivated. We’re always looking for that extra edge. We all work super-well together because we all have that same goal and it’s inspiring. It’s satisfying when we reach those standards. Is it important for you to be a multi-title guy? To backup your name in the record books? Not really. I want to win this championship because that’s the goal and that’s what makes me happy. Every time I’m on the track the aim is to win. That’s why I do this. The number doesn’t matter but it does to know I’m in the battle and I’m chasing the title.

You said you always believe you can get better…but sometimes do you feel like you are hitting a peak in terms of ability? Jeffrey Herlings said he couldn’t imagine being much faster in the sand… For me, no. I always feel I can be a bit better but I think that’s to do with the constant new tracks we have and never knowing what to expect; different soils, different terrain. You can prepare yourself to a certain level and know you are good in a certain area but it’s always ever-changing right? I know I’m at the peak of the sport in terms of being one of the guys in the 450 class and going for the championships, but I honestly feel there is plenty of room for improvement - and - the moment I stop believing that then I don’t know if I will be around racing any more because that’s also what I’m chasing: to be better. You do get to a point where you know you are very good at something…but you know there can be more. I know that Jeffrey is a freak of nature in the sand. I cannot speak for him but it’s impressive watching him ride and race and his competitiveness is bar-none. It is maybe different for him than it is for me.

Perhaps that’s how - and why - elite athletes are freaky: that endless obsession to be better… Yeah, it’s tough. My wife always gives me a hard time. Even when I win then I’m very happy but I’m already processing what I did wrong and what I did right and what I need to work on for the next week. Yeah, it is a bit obsessive, especially for me and the attention to details and wanting to get better but I also think that’s what makes me the racer I am. I definitely enjoy the moments we finish first because – man – it’s not easy. It’s gratifying. How is the Aldon Baker ‘effect’? Some riders have had a natural lifespan with that programme… Yeah, the physical training side has been really good and at Aldon’s place we have really good riders to practice with. That’s the great thing about it: really good riding partners. I got a riding coach this year though which I felt helped me to get to the next level. The whoops was one thing that I needed to be better at and I felt like I made a drastic change in that department. While fitness is super-important we cannot forget about



technique. You need to be in shape but also the best you can be on your motorcycle so it’s a fine balance between training and riding. So far, the programme has been really solid. The 450 SX contest has been really close, so will a championship feel more satisfying than the first in 2019? Or will elements like the repeat races, less venues, less public take some of the impact away? Nah, not so much man. We’ve had fans again and, yeah, it’s different but is also feels a lot more normal. To win again would be a huge goal and accomplishment. After winning one and knowing how that feels to the adversity of the big crash last year means the bounceback would feel like a huge thing especially because I was quite far behind in points at one point. To claw back and win the title would speak volumes.





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There is a range of five colours and designs, including the licenced Rockstar Energy black/white Husqvarna alignment. Consider the boots, the Zone Pro goggles and the superb Formula helmet and it’s possible to go head-to-toe for the full look. Expect to pay around 160 dollars for the Kinetic mesh shirt/ pants set alone.



Blogs by David Emmett, Neil Morrison & Photos by CormacGP/Polarity Photo

MotoGP 1. Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha 2. Pecco Bagnaia, Ducati 3. Joan Mir, Suzuki

Moto2 1. Raul Fernandez, Kalex 2. Aron Canet, Boscoscuro 3. Remy Gardner, Kalex


1. Pedro Acosta, KTM 2. Dennis Foggia, Honda 3. Andrea Migno, Honda





ARE HOLESHOT DEVICES HERE TO ST When Marc Márquez returned to the MotoGP grid for the first time in eight months, he came back to a very different bike. Despite the engine development freeze put in place because of Covid-19, there had been a lot of changes to his Honda RC213V. The engine was the same but the frame and chassis had altered, needing a different setup for Márquez to get his head around. An even bigger change were the holeshot devices which have been added front and rear. “I never used it, and today they explained to me the front device, the rear device, and because everybody is using it, it’s something that I need to use to ride and for the start it will be important,” the Spaniard told the press conference on Thursday afternoon before the race. All of a sudden, Márquez had extra levers to push in the right order upon arriving on the grid.

The six-time MotoGP champion was not a fan. “For me, honestly speaking, it doesn’t make sense to have a holeshot device on a bike. Two years ago, we didn’t have a holeshot device, even on the straight, and the show was the same on the TV. It’s an extra thing that doesn’t improve the show, and will be even more difficult to overtake.” As it happened, there was plenty of overtaking on Sunday, and plenty of show. And Marc Márquez is really far too young to be complaining of technological novelties. Even when, like holeshot devices, they are very far from being new fangled. Holeshot devices have been around for a long time. They started in motocross, with a system for locking down the front forks at the start. When I asked the expert – namely, the esteemed editor of this publication – Adam Wheeler told me they became common at the start of the century, though there are rumours of them being used as far back as the 1970s.

The device for lowering the rear and compressing the shock was first used sometime around 2013 in MXGP. They are no novelty in road racing either. Honda was using them in BSB around a decade ago, while Gresini Honda tested a system around 2012. So ubiquitous have holeshot devices become that they are now available at MX specialists around the world. For a couple of hundred pounds, you can have a device fitted both front and rear. If they are so old, why the interest in MotoGP all of a sudden? Two reasons: firstly, the switch to spec electronics took away the weapons the factory engineers were using to control the bikes. No longer could factories throw resources into their custom ECU software, and devise ever more sophisticated anti-wheelie and launch strategies. That cut costs enormously, and it also made the racing much, much closer. And with racing so tight in MotoGP – the Doha MotoGP race was the closest top 15 in Grand Prix history – details


TAY? become ever more important. When tenths of a second aren’t available, then hundredths really begin to matter. The aim of the holeshot devices is to get into the first corner ahead of the pack. They achieve that by turning the bike into a dragster, either by locking the front forks down (Suzuki), locking the rear shock down (Yamaha), or preferably both (Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM). Lowering the centre of gravity like that reduces wheelie, creates more mechanical grip, and that translates into better acceleration. The peculiar circumstances of MotoGP compared to MXGP opened up new avenues. Beyond the budgets (a massive factor, admittedly), MotoGP bikes have to complete a lap before arriving to the grid. This means that riders, not mechanics, have to engage the holeshot devices. This means riders have to have levers and switches (butterfly or otherwise) at their disposal so they can actually lower the bike for the start.

And if you have the lever close enough to hand, why not use it during the race? If lowering the rear of the bike improves acceleration at the start, then why wouldn’t it help on the exit of corners as well? Especially corners which lead on to long, fast straights. Which is pretty much what Ducati did. After debuting their rear lowering device in 2018, by 2019, they had revised it so that it could be used during the race on corner exit. That was not always easy to deal with while hanging off the bike at 160 km/h. And so the rules, bolstered by paddock rumour, suggest that this has been taken out of the riders hands. Since early this year, the rules include a paragraph which allows the use of ride height systems which operate based on bike pitch and load, without the intervention of the rider. Active control systems (e.g. via electronics) are still banned. But passive systems, operated by the movement of the bike, are allowed.

Is this a technology that has no bearing on the real world of motorcycling outside of a race track? The proliferation of electronic suspension systems suggests the opposite. Understanding the interaction between bike pitch and suspension behaviour is a crucial part of vehicle dynamics. You can learn that from passive systems in MotoGP, and refine it in electronic systems on road bikes. Ducati has its Skyhook system, BMW Dynamic ESA, and now, even Harley Davidson has an Adaptive Ride Height system on its brand new Pan America adventure bike. Marc Márquez acknowledged his resistance was a lost cause. “Now everybody is using it so, of course, we will use it,” he said on Thursday. And by Sunday, he had accepted his lot. “The start was really good,” he said after the race. “It was my first with this holeshot device.” It won’t be his last. Whether he likes it or not.




NO MORE FUN TIME FRANKIE? We all know about the brilliance that carried Joan Mir to last year’s MotoGP title by now. The Spaniard was one of the more unexpected victors in the 72-year history of the premier class. But there are grounds to argue the man that finished behind him was even more impressive in his pursuits. Franco Morbidelli won more races (three to Mir’s one), scored more poles (two to zero) and ended the season stronger than his younger Spanish rival. That he managed to do it all in a satellite squad on a year-old bike with just two working engines for ten of the year’s 14 rounds – a massive handicap for rider and technicians alike – adds further weight to his cause.

With that in mind, there was every reason to think Morbidelli would be back to go one better in 2021. Certainly preseason times were good. Yet recent indications haven’t been good. There is a growing sense the 26-year old has already accepted that a repetition of his heroics last year will be out of reach this time around.

The most pointed comment came when he was asked if he could attack in the race. “It’s difficult to overtake when you’re missing 15k’s on the straight,” he said. “We will need to check that out.”

The grid is a different place to what he found in those autumn months: the factory Yamahas have upped their game considerably; both factory Ducatis are no longer mired toward the back of the top ten; on the tracks we’ve visited so far, the Suzukis have been faster than before. And with Marc Marquez only going to get stronger, the pack will likely be stretched further by mid-season as they dance along to the Catalan’s tune. All the while, the former Moto2 champ remains on a 2019 spec Yamaha M1.

And it wasn’t just to the press. It is believed Morbidelli was not his usual self during the exhaustive two-week stint in Qatar. His results fell well below par. But there was a lacklustre approach behind the garage doors, too. He voiced his frustration of the situation, and not just to the Dorna cameras. “I know I’m not on the top of Yamaha’s list at the moment,” he said in the aftermath of a disastrous race one, where he limped home 18th, 23s back of race winner Maverick Viñales. There was a walk back five days later. But alarm bells were ringing that such negativity was being broadcast with the season just one race old.

Qualifying day in Portugal was a prime example. Across a sixminute debrief, Morbidelli mentioned the limits of his package four times.

It is, of course, easy to judge this from the outside. To give him his dues, Morbidelli rode a superb race in Portugal. His time over 45 minutes of a spirited podium

fight with Pecco Bagnaia, Johann Zarco and Mir was less than 0.1s slower than what he produced in Portugal last November. And the motivation and mental strength needed to face up to the most competitive grid in history on two-year old equipment is hard to put into words. Let’s be honest: Franco can consider himself among the best riders in the world at the moment. That he finds himself on such outdated equipment when team boss Wilco Zeelenberg earmarked him as the “guy who is in charge of our results for the moment,” at the start of this season is perplexing. “The decision for the spec of the bike for Frankie was taken in the middle of last year. So, it’s not something that could have been changed in October or November,” explained Managing Direction Lin Jarvis this March. But in the middle of last year, Morbidelli was third in the Andalusian Grand Prix before his engine blew. And he so nearly won in Brno, but for Brad Binder’s brilliance.

Ducati and KTM have shown the benefits of having four identical bikes. With Morbidelli competing at the highest level, his input on development direction for 2021 would only have been a good thing. But here’s the thing: Franco was clearly down Yamaha’s pecking order in 2020. But rather than focus on it, get upset by it, he channeled whatever anger or feeling of negativity into more focus, more effort, more desire. He was unerringly positive, a fine alternative to the occasional histrionics witnessed by Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales, two names whose expected title challenge crumbled. How Morbidelli spoke after last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix should be taught to any rider guilty of focussing on the negatives of a race weekend. On the back of a complicated GP – tinged by sickness and an offtrack excursion to avoid an Aleix Espargaro crash – he was asked if he was upset with eighth, he was the total opposite.



“I’m happy because I’m 5th in championship, I’m happy because I did a great comeback, I’m happy because I spoke with Spike Lee, I’m happy because I’m sick but I’m not so sick. It could’ve rained but it didn’t rain! I could’ve crashed in Aleix’s accident and I didn’t. Everything could’ve been worse and it wasn’t, so I’m happy about that.” That evergreen positivity hasn’t been anywhere in sight this season. Instead, he’s coming to terms with and accepting his predicament, rather than attempting to rail against it. His plight underlines the difficulties of anyone expected to challenge for a title in a satellite outfit, even one as professional as Petronas SRT, and just how exhaustive it is to battle against the world’s best riders and bikes when making up a mechanical deficit. Back in March Zeelenberg said, “It takes a lot out of the rider to do these kinds of things,” of his rider’s 2020 heroics. The situation bears some resemblance to Johann Zarco’s sophomore year in the top class, when it became frequent to hear him talk of the limits of his situation.

Or even of Pol Espargaro’s exasperation at the same team, to the point where the Spaniard left to join total beginners KTM. Morbidelli’s future at Yamaha looks exceedingly unlikely with a factory bike the absolute priority for 2022. But the grass isn’t always greener. To recapture that very highest level of performance, that magic must come from within.

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

693 cc 75 hp 158 kg

The best lines happen offline. Just like surfing the web has nothing to do with the ocean, you will never Feel the thrill of twisting the throttle from behind a desk.

i t p i l e n

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HUSQVARNA In a recent issue we wrote about Husqvarna’s on-road functional apparel with garments like the Pursuit carrying impressive elegance and class. Now we’re throwing the light on the offroad segment where Husky have plenty of choice – with the same lofty standards – when it comes to motocross and enduro. The link with Dutch gear brand REV’IT means extra validity for the Pursuit range and there are other co-operations with companies like Bell Helmets, Shot, 100% for goggles, Leatt for body armour and protection and Sidi for boots; all providing a special Husqvarna design or livery to the catalogue. Offroaders might have their heads turned by the Gotland gear.

www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com The jacket is described as a: ‘lightweight, breathable, water-repellent offroad enduro jacket with multi-season appeal. When the temperature rises the Gotland Jacket doubles as a vest, with sleeves that can be detached and stowed in its large rear cargo pocket.’ Add waterproof internal pockets and preformed shoulders and elbows for extra benefits. The Gotland pants are Cordurareenforced and the shirt is water repellent. The Gotland collection also has a hard-wearing waterproof set. The Railed ensemble is specifically for motocross and is an alternative to the Factory Replicas from Shot. The stuff looks gorgeous, as is frequently the case with Husqvarna Motorcycles’ apparel.



LEATT Underrated and missing credit, Leatt’s range of body armour is class-leading stuff thanks to the simplicity of the design and the performance of the protection. Now the South Africans have released the new 6.5 Body Protector and the 6.5 Chest Protector Pro. The unisex body unit has shoulder, elbow, chest and back airfoam amour that is CE certified and ‘3D’ formed to ensure a ‘custom’ fit. There is also a kidney belt to complete the 360 package. The protector is modular so panels can be detached as desired and the whole unit is held together with a zipped compression sock that is anti-odour. The 6.5 Chest Protector Pro boasts level 2 CE certification for the chest and back (the 3DF impact foam is now injected in place of previous adhesive forms to wick away moisture, retain shape and be more comfortable). They claim the 2021 6.5 is ‘is best level chest protector in our range’ and have reshaped and slimmed the panels for less bulk. Removable sections also ensure full compatibility with or without the 6.5 Leatt neck brace. Leatt have looked closely at cosiness and practicality for the new 6.5 armour and due to their experience and nuance for other protective wares on the market these additions have to be considered essential purchases.





Sunday, February 18th 2018. It is chilly but dry at the Tazio Nuvolari circuit in the heart of the city of Mantova in Italy. Tim Gajser is holding 2nd position around the sandy and jumpy layout and is chasing Tony Cairoli at the Internazionali D’Italia – one of three rounds in the small domestic series that MXGP riders traditionally use as a pre-season ‘warm-up’ for the coming world championship. Launching over the long leap on the exit of Turn 5, the factory Honda rider has badly misjudged the section. The first rider to win backto-back titles in the MX2 and then the MXGP classes (20152016) lands with shocking

force into the next take-off. He smashes his head onto the handlebars, is knocked unconscious and fractures his jaw in two places. Three years and two operations later Gajser says he still cannot feel part of his jawline due to the nerve damage. The pain, the concussion and the aftereffects of the accident ruined the 2018 MXGP season

for the-then 21-year-old. He picked up only three podium finishes in the first half of the campaign and eventually finished 4th in the standings, a staggering 264 points behind Jeffrey Herlings. The previous year Gajser started using Fox’s V3 helmet; one of the first in motocross to licence the award-winning Swedish Mips technology.



Ray Archer

Mips spread into other brands’ products such as Troy Lee Designs and Alpinestars.. The V3 was selling over 50,000 helmets annually in Europe and the construction of the lid came to Gajser’s rescue in Italy. “There are two pieces of kit where you need to feel 100% comfortable: the helmet and the boots,” he says now, on the eve of the 2021 Grand Prix season and his sixth in the category, all with HRC.

“I’ve had some gnarly crashes and the one in Mantova when I over-jumped and hit my head on the handlebars…I smashed the whole side of the helmet. It did its job.” Mips are one of the original pioneers in the revolution of helmet technology to combat rotational acceleration which may lead to concussion. With their modular insertion ‘layer’ crafted in the middle of the ‘00s, the company were able

to add a shift plane of 1015mm when a lid strikes an inanimate object or surface and from thousands of different crash scenarios. They went to great pains to scientifically prove that this margin of ‘slip’ inside the helmet had a positive influence on the movement of the head . Headgear was no longer only about impact resistance, rockhard shells, ventilation, light weight and nice graphics.


They could offer a more comprehensive rate of protection. More companies, more theories and more tech soon poured forth as traditional helmet manufacturers were pressurised to develop their own solutions while trying to circumnavigate the Mips’ patent and then, finally, to adapt to evolving standard

tests (which hadn’t changed for decades and still need to align with the modernisation of helmets) and initiatives like the FIM’s helmet homologation scheme. Companies specialising in safety gear also saw an opportunity to fabricate ‘lids’ for customer groups that were becoming wiser to the added benefits. Mips, as an ‘ingredient’ element, stood as the reference and has so far sold more than twenty million low friction layers to more than 120 brands. Their success and resonance for head health led to recognition through the Polhem prize in 2019; an award for scientific innovation and whose previous winners include the names behind inventions such as the GPS

system, the refrigerator and the zip. Mips initially forged their own helmets in equestrian sports and centred on their domestic market but had their fingers burnt when a design fault (on the retention system, not the Mips system) almost led to bankruptcy. Becoming an ingredient brand was the next logical step in a quest for improved safety that begun between two like minds: neurosurgeon Hans von Holst and scientist Peter Halldin. The pair poured hours and sweat, years and cash into their theory and then practically re-invented the helmet testing process to show the scientific fruit of their endeavours. The actual Mips product is a low friction layer that is built into the helmet in

the construction phase. Behind the simplicity however is a lot of shrewd science that acted as an inspiration to corners of the market. From the many sports and disciplines that depend on helmets, MX and off-road was a rich field of research and experimentation, and because the rate of incident is much higher compared to a road motorcyclist. Mips sold their first helmet solution in 2007 and by 2014 Fox had decided to upgrade the spec of their V3 and V4 products. “The truth is that the Mips system

The American firm had begun a union with the HRC factory squad in 2013 with riders Max Nagl and Evgeny Bobryshev and have subsequently had athletes like Gautier Paulin, Todd Waters, Brian Bogers in the full ‘head-to-toe’ arrangement that is still in place today. Interestingly Fox elected to move from licencing Mips for the V3 to another technology called ‘Fluid Inside’ in 2018. “Mips was the logical way to go for us,” Fox Global Category Director Mark Finley explained at the beginning of 2019 “but as we moved forwards, we thought ‘what is the Holy Grail? Is there something else that might give an advantage?’ So we partnered with this laboratory up in Ottawa in Canada that has been study-

ing brain injuries in a lot of stick-and-ball sports as well as cycling. We’d seen it used in hockey helmets and thought it might be something good to bring to motocross. So we started retro-fitting V3s a few years ago. We had to re-certify the helmets so the riders could race with them. We tested them and realised we were getting some nice results for rotational and linear [acceleration].” Mips would complete the acquisition of Fluid Inside in 2019. “It was the for the patents and to expand our portfolio,” said Halldin during a visit to the impressive Mips facility near Stockholm that same year. “We have a range of eight-nine products that we can put into our clients’ helmets and if we can complement our offering by acquiring something then it is interesting.” Fox inserted Mips again for 2020. The change satisfied at least two of their users. “I switched to Fox in 2017 and when they had the V3, and the version we had in the second half of 2020 – so the 2021 model - was one of the most comfortable yet,” says Gajser. “It was much lighter and the padding was really comfortable. You almost don’t feel you have a helmet on. I’m really happy with that work by Fox and the improvement made.”


is very well perceived,” said Fox’s now Global Brand Director, Christophe Chavanel, to us in 2017. “At Fox we are also working a lot in mountain bike and we know Mips and the benefits well from that side. We wondered ‘why couldn’t it work also in motocross?’. The intention of protection is to reduce the effects of a crash; you will never remove them completely just as there will always be crashes! Mips made some very interesting studies with different crashes.”


“A good helmet obviously has to be comfortable,” says Gajser’s teammate on the CRF450RW; Mitch Evans “and I found with the Fluid technology it wasn’t as comfy as Mips, so when Fox said they were going back I was pretty stoked. We race for 35 minutes in a Grand Prix moto but when we’re riding during the week then it’s an hour to an-hour-and-a-half every day so a bad-fitting helmet can be annoying and distracting. So, it’s all about safety and comfort for me.”

Ray Archer

Fox, Mips and Honda is a dynamic that will become pronounced in 2021 with Mips edging out from under the EPS and becoming an official partner of the team. They will be more visual and more vocal in MXGP but Fox is already one of the most prolific and established apparel and protection brands in motocross and mountain bike so why the extra push?

“There are quite a lot of ingredient brands, think of Intel or GORE-TEX, that have been very successful in terms of communicating to


their consumers and help the brands drive demand for their product,” says Mips CMO Fredrik Kjellberg. “We believe we have a very unique and purposeful product. Our mission is to save as many lives as possible so the more consumers that are using a helmet and the right kind of helmet then the better. In categories where we are more ‘mature’ like bicycle or snow and where we are present in the majority of the world’s leading brands that we can work with, then we have such a broad reach and it becomes a natural thing to be more consumer centric.”

the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. “We wanted more athletes and more variety,” claims Kjellberg. “We’ve come very far in bicycle and snow but motocross is a close third, and we are onboard with a lot of brands. Motocross is a good audience for us because the community is very aware that they will take a hit now and again and they are keen on - or are aware of - good protection. The perfect fit as ambassadors fell on HRC because the team and Honda as a brand are very safety conscious. It was a great opportunity with a mutual willingness from the get-go to make it happen. Both Tim and Mitch are fantastic riders and good role models.”

Mips have already started building an athlete team that includes the likes of Henrik Harlaut, the most decorated X-Games skier of all-time and American Mountain Bike Champion Kate Courtney, who should take the Mips brand to

Gajser has always taken a proactive attitude to protection and consistently uses a neck brace. Evans also claims he’s conscious of the capabilities of his gear, particularly being part of a sport where the off-road motorcycling speed

FEATURE and performance hover right on the limit. “I do take an interest, even if I haven’t done too much research!” the Australian states. “If I had to buy a helmet now then I would want this technology inside and I would want to pay for the safest one on the market. You obviously need protection to race at the level we do but also to think about life away from the track. The helmet is probably the most important safety gear we have.” “It’s motivating for us when we hear athletes sharing the confidence they have to commit to their sport with Mips equipped helmets as part of their protective clothing,” comments Halldin. “Motorsport will never be completely risk-free, and motocross especially has a high rate of crashes, so if we can contribute to lowering the risk of brain injuries then we feel we are adding real value to the sport.” The sheer array of products and brands in the MXGP paddock means Mips could be in a politically delicate spot with their Fox/HRC deal. Troy Lee Designs have invested heavily in Mips with their moto and bicycle helmets and Alpinestars have also embraced the round yellow logo. Both companies have their own flagship Grand

Prix teams and even Fox has other squads and athletes in the world championship. “Fox had made a really big commitment to safety and to us,” says Kjellberg. “We are expanding together and they are another part of the reason that we saw Honda as a great partner to go with.” “There is a risk,” he concedes on the point of perceived favouritism “but on the other hand when we announced this deal to other brands or talked about the athletes we have signed we haven’t had sort of complaints or heard any frustration. I think many have been happy to see us invest in this. But we try to have a balance. [Mountain bike world champion] Brandon Semenuk

is part of our team as well and he’s with Troy Lee Designs. We like to have diversity between sports, genders, brands, everything. Building this team is a complex thing.” Altering attitudes to helmets has also been a slow process, particularly as the more prominent companies – names and logos we’ve seen for decades on roads and tracks – were lethargic to evolve. The FIM homologation programme has helped but was a lengthy and arduous process. It was created to push companies to meet an elevated standard (at least two years in the making) in order to have their products on tracks and in the racing

promotional window. The FIM described the implementation as an “uphill struggle”. “A lot of the helmet industry has been quite conservative and the standards themselves have driven the design of helmets,” Halldin opines. “It has been inside the helmet standard test with the protrusion test. They didn’t measure anything inside the head but rather the impact force. So it has kinda been understood that rotation is something you should avoid but it hasn’t really been tested as part of a standard and put into helmet to absorb it. So conservatism is one reason, another is that it takes time to change and to educate people. There are now more sophisticated systems to measure acceleration and rotational velocity.” The presence of systems like the Mips technology in a championship like MotoGP would shed even more light on the positives of advanced helmet technology but there is far more innovation and experimentation in motocross. Mips in particular chose to focus on the international pull of Grand Prix as opposed to Supercross or another competition. “We felt MXGP was the place where we had the best traction and the best connection with a lot of brands present and a lot of people

already using Mips,” Kjellberg offers. “We are more mature as a brand in motocross compared to street or road bike racing. It felt like a natural first step for us to take. I think it is important for us to describe – in the correct way – what we are doing and to help the helmet brands do that also. The more we talk to the consumers ourselves then the less of a job they have to do and less differentiation in how the story is told. It’s a safety product, so it’s important that the story is told well and correctly.” Gajser’s 2018 crash can be seen on YouTube together with hundreds of other gruelling MXGP accidents. Motocross is notoriously fickle with injury: the slowest fall can mean a seasonending problem while the highest and most outrageous ‘get-offs’ can be surprisingly kind. Mips and other technical groundbreakers have contributed to the fight against some of the harshest and most catastrophic of ailments. Together with progressive motorcycle performance that is helping the bikes to be faster, easier, more reliable and the riders’ attitudes to force the envelope even further it feels like the sport is on a spectacular knife edge. Whether this is a good thing or not, the presence and persistence of companies like Mips means the excitement barely dims. It’s important we know about them.




TITULAR TITULAR LUCKY LID-LIFTING As a journalist or a writer, you’ve often invited to ‘peek behind the curtain’... Companies or brands involved in racing – at least the more imaginative ones – strive to find new ways to help you tell a story and it can lead to some curious experiences, which end up feeling even more like a privilege after a year of pandemia restrictions. From 2005-2007 Yamaha were one of the main driving forces behind the Japanese Grand Prix at the Sugo circuit. By-and-large the MXGP paddock loved the event, the gorgeously loamy track and the culture shift of the trip. Everyone stayed in the nearby centre city of Sendai and commuted en masse to the venue in a series of small buses, fighting early rush hour traffic, passing countless rice fields and cutting through dense morning fog.

The race was well attended and supported in the first edition but then disappointingly and inexplicably (although ticket prices were one possible reason) decreased in both aspects for 2006 and 2007. Despite enquiries and several attempts to take the series east once more, MXGP has yet to roll over Japanese soil since. Thankfully Yamaha’s interest didn’t wane quite so badly and they took a small group of media for a tour of the main factory in Iwata in 2007 along with the-then factory riders Josh Coppins, Marc de Reuver and Tony Cairoli. Unsurprisingly photographers had to hand over their equipment at the gate (camera phones were not quite such a thing at this time). We had to sign non-disclosure agreements and we were left

with the firm impression that we were breaching an area of ultra-exclusivity. Yamaha have the impressive ‘Communications Plaza’ upon entry. It’s like a vast, open, glassy multi-level museum-style celebration of their technical and racing history with bikes, cars, instruments on display. We were accompanied by staff from Yamaha Motor Europe and people like Michele Rinaldi who had been frequent visitors to the race department and were slightly less in awe than us. The shiny presentation of the hall was countered somewhat by the shabby factory buildings nearby that seemed unlikely cribs of technical masterpieces like the R1. Unsurprisingly the race workshop was completely off limits, but we were taken through the en-


BY ADAM WHEELER gine assembly plant. It was a space the size of a football field with numerous lines filled with staff who were quickly and quietly bolting bits onto reams of motors. We passed through on a suspended walkaway, observing like aloof overseers. Into another building and this time on floor-level we were strictly orientated by coloured tape and a chirpy guide. These were the main assembly lines and that particular day Yamaha were building YZ motocross bikes that circled around the route, hung like toy models and were added to and augmented at every station. We had to watch out for the robotic and automated carriers that delivered components to each zone (hence the green floor tape). At the end of the ‘journey’ for each bike the finished machine was wheeled off and pushed onto a rolling road where one employee’s

sole job was to fire-it-up and work up and down through the gearbox. The bike was checked, stamped and then guided into another area ready for packing.

“THE CHANCE TO SEE THE INNER WORKINGS OF ONE OF THE MOST PROMINENT MOTORCYCLE MANUFACTURERS JUST FELT LIKE PART OF THE GIG AT THE TIME BUT NOW – IN 2021 – IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE A SIMILAR TRIP OR EXCURSION HAPPENING AGAIN FOR A GOOD WHILE...” Two things hit me. Firstly, how easy and quick the whole process looked. Yamaha explained how the lines will build several thousand of one model and then change and adapt for different machinery. We also saw snowmobiles being clipped together in another

zone. Secondly, how ‘basic’ a YZ450F actually was. Typically a new bike always looks gleaming, enticing and special when it’s on a dealer floor or parked in a race paddock but watching it being pieced together from a collection of metal and plastic somehow removed some of the mystery and the magic. I also enjoyed Josh Coppins’ reaction. The Kiwi was engrossed by the methodology in front of him revealing a new bike every two minutes. Coppins was very much Yamaha’s star man at that point. He had only dropped out of the top two positions once from the first nine motos and had nicely laced up the dwarfing shoes left by Stefan Everts. “It was so precise, clean and perfect,” he said. “I have only been around mechanics before working on bikes so I think I expected something similar but it was


like a hospital. I could have stood there for hours!” The chance to see the inner workings of one of the most prominent motorcycle manufacturers just felt like part of the gig at the time, and I was writing quite a lot of texts for Yamaha, but now – in 2021 – it’s hard to imagine a similar trip or excursion happening again for a good while. KTM’s factory lines were smaller and felt more intimate and Ducati’s set-up is a glorious juxtaposition between the archaic interiors and the wonderfully advanced technology of the superbikes and design work going on within. Elsewhere I watched, impressed, as Scott Sports’ goggle fabricator fired a ball-bearing at the speed of a bullet towards a motocross lens and the Perspex thwarted its trajectory. At the same facility in Austria racks of goggle frames were being dipped in a solution covered by a film of paint.

Plain white eyewear was suddenly colourised; the haphazard nature of the decoration meaning that not a single goggle was quite the same. I’ve seen an Arai technician in Holland lie on the ground and invite someone to stand on his head while wearing basic shell composite. Leatt dropping headforms onto various shapes in their lab in Capetown to demonstrate the wealth of data that goes into their neck brace R&D. Mips in Stockholm use the same testing structures to reveal how their Brain Protection System increases the safety performance of helmets. Alpinestars in Asolo have a diverse mix of machines heating, wearing, scratching, opening, closing, beating and stretching the material that goes into their gear. An F1 team like Toro Rosso in Italy have a whole department of specialists bending and moulding eyewateringly expensive carbon components all day long in a spotless, clinical environment.

A design agency like Kiska scrape at pieces of clay to finalise prototype versions of new KTMs and how other brands like Troy Lee Designs show the depth of science, knowledge, calculations and resources that go into a pair of motocross riding pants. Then the precision and dedication of an outfit like Pro Circuit and how a modest but immaculate complex in Corona can be the foundation of the most decorated and feared race team of them all. Interpreting the fortunate adventures that come along is the task and the job and it never gets old.


SCOTT SPORTS The ISDE reaches edition #95 this summer in northern Italy and the occasion has prompted goggle specialists Scott Sports – an official partner of the event - to create another of their Limited Edition Prospect models. From August 30th in Rivanazzano, international teams and some of the best offroad riders in the world will gather to try and topple the recent hegemony forged by Team USA.

The Six Days Italy Prospect has been made in a deep Italian blue (with matching bag) with the official ISDE logo on the wide strap to entice Enduro fans, particularly those from the host country this year. Of course, the Prospect’s excellent wide vision, Scott Lens Lock System, NoSweat face foam and other attributes mean it is arguably still the best moto eyewear on the market and, now, comes in yet another guise. Grab a set before stocks disappear down the trail.



BELL HELMETS Bell Helmets’ Moto-9 Flex was ranked as one of the safest offroad lids on the market and the latest upgrade in a brand stretching back five decades, but the Americans have spent the better part of six years developing the new Moto-10 Spherical, used by the likes of Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac in supercross this season. Naturally the Moto-10 is a fresh concept and the Flex system has morphed into Spherical, which embraces the MIPS concept – used in other Bell helmets in their range and especially in cycling. Why ditch Flex? Marketing Manager Ben Tozzi said that Bell have evolved rather than switched. “Flex is still very much a part of our protection offerings,” he told us. “Spherical is our proprietary tech used originally on the bicycle side of the business, and now brought over into offroad. We partnered with Mips on the Spherical and they provided their elastomers for the system. This ball and socket design offers greater rotational energy management over Flex, and combined with the segmented 2-piece shell allowed us to have superior ventilation.” We’ve yet to try a Moto-10 Spherical but the innovation inside the headgear looks promising. Tozzi insists that one of the development priorities was to orientate around Pro athletes; arguably people using the product most often and in the most extreme of circumstances “it’s where the Spherical, TEAS ventilation, Sweat Management, NMR Bumper, Panoramic Goggle port, Virus comfort liner, and Segmented shell come is a one cohesive package that now not only provides

these athletes with the highest level of safety, but is a performance advantage,” he claims. From the initial press material it seems that Bell has put extra effort into areas such as the ventilation and comfort (space for the enlarged and more frequently available googles, and magnetic liner fixings) as well as the protective capabilities. The shell also looks condensed and fit for business. The helmet has been on sale for two weeks. There is a limited edition black, matt version of 1000 units that comes packaged with a special bag, visor, decal and dedicatory book to the Moto series. Click on any image for more info.




Ray Archer





im Gajser, Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Tim Gajser and Tim Gajser: those are the MXGP world champions each year since 2016 and those three names have stamped their presence on the premier class of Grand Prix with Honda and KTM machinery. From the opening round of the 2016 campaign at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar which Gasjer claimed (and Herlings was busy running his 250 SX-F knife through the MX2 class for the final time) to the closing date of the 2020 campaign at Arco di Trento in northern Italy – also won by the Slovenian - there have been a total of 93 Grand Prix and 185 motos: the second race at the rain hit Pangkal Pinang for the Grand Prix of Indonesia was cancelled, thus explaining the odd number. Here are the riders who were able to dominate in that 93-date period. All apart from two (Jeffrey Herlings joining in 2017 and Jorge Prado in 2020) have been racing 450s in that time frame. All apart from two (Glenn Coldenhoff and Romain Febvre) have stayed with the same team and manufacturer.

Ray Archer




29 GP W

JP Acevedo





Ray Archer

Jeffrey Herlings’ career will be defined and perhaps stalked by his peerless 2018 campaign. Across 20 rounds - the longest of any FIM World Championship - the-then 24-year-old aced 17 GPs and scooped 19 podium finishes, winning 33 of the 38 motos he contested. By comparison an injurywrecked 2019 was a deep comedown, even if he did post 2 victories and helped Holland win the Motocross of Nations at Assen. The Red Bull KTM stalwart’s often electric and superior performances can easily be lost in the mire of the numbers, but scenes like his 2-1 scorecard in Indonesia 2018, two weeks after surgery on a broken collarbone are the definition of ‘impressive’.

For the Dutchman though there is only one contender when it comes to his best and favourite of the 29 and almost a 40% MXGP win ratio: the penultimate round of his coronation season. “For me it’s Assen in 2018. A double moto win, the world championship at the same time and all in my home round. It’s mostly based on emotion rather than performance. To be MXGP World Champion in Holland was something special.” Herlings has won a Grand Prix in MXGP or MX2 every single season of his career since coming into the world championship as a 15-year-old in 2010.


2. TIM GAJSER 21 GP WINS FROM 93, 54 MOTO WINS FROM 185. ALL WITH TEAM HRC Tim Gajser is close to Herlings by being tied on moto wins and is the second most decorated world champion since 2006. He is also the only rider so far to have clinched back-to-back titles in MX2 and MXGP (although he was the third to ace the premier class in his rookie season since 2009, indicating that some MX2 riders don’t find the leap to the 450s so vast). Even though Tim has mixed physical and technical prevalence with some wince-inducing crashes, he has also been consistent enough to excel and profit from the mistakes of others. 2018 was his only ‘blank’: his serious pre-season crash in Mantova knocking form and confidence. Only Gajser and Herlings have alternated between the highest total of wins each year since 2017.

Honda’s new CRF 450 RW was the key to a thorough title defence in 2020 and he celebrated crown #4 at Pietramurata, Arco di Trento high in the Dolomite mountains. The same venue had been the scene of his very first success in MX2 in 2015 and is his personal pick of GP wins four years later. The circuit usually welcomes the biggest conglomerate of Gasjer’s brightly coloured fan club; they even gather around Turns 3-4 to create a noisy, yellow pocket of the facility. “One of my favourites wins was in Arco in 2019 when we had a great battle with Tony [Cairoli],” he recalls. “You can win many GPs and you do appreciate all of them, in my case all 21 but I would say 2019 in Italy is one of the best for me because of the track. It has a different kind of atmosphere to anywhere else thanks to the crowd and the noise and to do it in front of many fans from Slovenia was amazing.”

Ray Archer

Ray Archer





Ray Archer

Ray Archer

JP Acevedo

TONY CAIROLI 18 GP WINS FROM 93, 29 MOTO WINS FROM 185. ALL WITH RED BULL KTM The #222 digits have graced many red and gold backgrounds in MXGP and don’t forget that Cairoli is the only rider to do so with three different motorcycles in his premier-class tenure since 2009. The later years of the Sicilian’s career have not been too kind: a weak shoulder in 2016, an unscaleable Herlings ‘wall’ in 2018, a bad knee and wrecked shoulder in 2019 and a ligament-less left knee in 2020 have limited Cairoli’s Grand Prix winning fecundity. In spite of the adversity, Cairoli has maintained the annual streak of at least one triumph every year since the middle of the ‘00s. It reached a peak with 6 in his ninth-title season in 2017 while he was one of only two racers that could defeat Herlings in 2018. Now the oldest athlete in MXGP, he has racked 18 of his 91 so far since 2016, and apart from Gajser and Herlings is the only other rider in double figures for the last half a decade. The debate grows over whether he can grow his statistics, but Cairoli still has the fitness, the guile, the starting prowess and evidently the desire to fully commit to the demands of MXGP.

In 2020 he lacked confidence in his leg for the one-lap qualification speed necessary for a decent gate pick; this could be a handicap in 2021 with MXGP again set to jettison the Quali Heat races in favour of Timed Practice but even with the physical and technical challenge TC claimed three wins on two very different tracks. The pick of his 18? Cairoli doesn’t hesitate: the 2017 Grand Prix of Trentino, Arco di Trento again, where he won the first moto, fell at the beginning of the second and had to work his way back from 15th to 2nd to defeat Gajser for the overall. The place, full of partisan fans, went bananas. Even the Gajser fanclub acknowledged what they saw that day. “I think this is one of my best races, best GPs ever,” he said. “One of the most emotional. When you crash on the first corner and you are hoping to win the GP…most people know it is almost impossible: even myself. When I crashed I was like ‘f**k!’ but I slowly found the right place to pass and could think about being on the box. I gave everything in the last ten minutes. It was fun and I’m happy the fans also liked it.”






5 GP WINS FROM 93, 14 MOTO WINS FROM 185. WITH MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA (2016-2019) AND MONSTER ENERGY KAWAS 2015 was a dizzying year in the life of Romain Febvre. As Yamaha’s new factory rider he became a rookie MXGP champion and the fastest 450 motocrosser in the world in his first season. The way he mastered Glen Helen at the end of that term and then vanquished rivals at the Motocross of Nations at Ernee left no doubt as to his status. Afterwards he duelled with Gajser in 2016 and then suffered concussion, injury and insecurity; that dip in confidence even manifesting itself in the technical set-up of his YZ450F in ‘17. The fourth of his five wins since 2016 offered palpable relief in the Czech Republic ‘19 but came only two rounds before he broke his femur in Sweden. The recovery period coincided with a team and brand switch to Kawasaki and although he dealt with an early season knee problem in 2020 he was able to bring the KX450F to the top step. Febvre gratefully forged a career renaissance in green and logged the fourth highest amount of podiums last year.

The highlight came in Italy. It was also his preferred success from the post-title era. “From the last few years I would say Mantova in 2020 really stands out because it was my first for Kawasaki and with a new team and a new bike for me,” he says. “I had to re-start that season from zero in terms of my physical condition because of the broken femur from 2019: it was the biggest and toughest injury of my career and meant being out of action for three months. So, I had to find my way back and that win helped prove that the move I made was the right one for me and my performance. It felt very special.” “The bike was working awesome in Mantova, like it did in many places, and the competitive level of the package I had meant we didn’t need to change much at all during the season. It’s so good when you have a situation like that. I had the holeshot in the second moto and it made my life much easier. I had some pressure from Gajser, who was world champion, but could keep him behind and finish in front.” Ray Archer


SAKI (2020)

Ray Archer




Ray Archer




3 GP WINS FROM 93, 5 MOTO WINS FROM 185. WITH KTM (AND THEN GASGAS) STANDING CONSTRUCT FACTORY RACING (2019-2020) Glenn Coldenhoff took his time. The first of his four career MXGP wins to-date came in his debut season in 2015 riding for Suzuki. The Dutchman had been struggling for top five results in a tricky rookie term and the success in Latvia, well, “nobody was expecting it…” he openly admits. A stint with Red Bull KTM followed but it wasn’t until his confidence roof-raiser at the 2018 Motocross of Nations that he reached a new level of performance. Once he’d recovered from a grim preseason back injury in 2019 he was the strongest MXGP rider of them all by the end of the season.

The form led to his favourite triumph and another unlikely sight as the sand specialist ruled the ’19 Grand Prix of Italy on the narrow, temporary hard-pack at Imola. “First 1-1 in the MXGP class after a very tough year/season with a serious back injury. And on a hard pack track!” Say no more Glenn. When #259 ruled the 2020 Grand Prix of Latvia at Kegums it was a strong statement in a fully fit and firing MXGP field; the feat also made him the only rider since 2016 to have won with three different brands. In 2021 he might stretch that to four on the Monster Energy Yamaha and his first term on Japanese machinery since 2015.




3 GP WINS FROM 18, 5 MOTOS WINS FROM 36. ALL WITH RED BULL KTM That Jorge Prado makes this list after one season in MXGP speaks volumes for the 20-year-old’s talent and ambition. He already equals Jeffrey Herlings in terms of his impact in the MX2 category (two titles in three years) and came into 2020 and MXGP lacking practice and training on the Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F due to the left femur he broke in December. Prado was able to utilise the first lockdown period from the pandemic to get into better shape and registered his first podium in only his fifth appearance. From there he was moving up the gearbox. In a spell of eight grands prix in the middle of the season he posted seven podiums, three of those as the winner – the

first coming in the sand of Mantova – but the highlight was the superiority he showed at the inauguration of Intu Xanadu Arroyomolinos for the Spanish round. “Every win, every big moment like that in the MXGP class feel like an achievement,” he reflected when we contacted him for this article. “For sure my first one was very special, particularly because it had been a tough season to that point with the two injuries, but I think the win in Madrid tasted even better. To go 1-1 on home soil couldn’t have been better. It was the perfect place to make a result like that.”

Ray Archer


JP Acevedo





LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Remember when very few Grand Prix stars were even acknowledged beyond Europe, as international fans struggled to engage with the archaic riding styles and gear selection on this side of the Atlantic? Those days are firmly in the rear-view mirror now – improved coverage and phenomenal Motocross of Nations results have given riders in the World Championship the respect that they truly deserve. That does not mean that the job is done though. Significant improvements have been made to the aesthetics of a Grand Prix event – those have added some ‘wow’ factor and elevated the perception of the series beyond what most thought was even possible in motocross. There are a lot of restrictions to combat in a muddy field. Combine that with the recognition that the riders have earnt from a wider audience and it is crazy how far MXGP has come since Youthstream (now Infront Moto Racing) took control in 2004.

Now that box has been ticked – it hard to picture how the infrastructure/show can progress further aside from adding a third layer to pit lane – it is a good time to shift the focus onto the athletes again and build their profiles. The on-track action is obviously a priority for all involved, but it seems as though a lot more could be done to convey the personalities of the athletes to get fans to invest in the riders as people. Jeffrey Herlings is a hot commodity across the globe because of his immense speed and oldschool attitude of not really caring about what goes on around him. Herlings is there to take wins and that is all that matters, much like Cooper Webb. Have racing fans really been exposed to the type of

person that Tim Gajser is or been given a reason to cheer for him? The story behind his three-digit number is enough to drive interest and add another layer to the results without a doubt. Those two riders are a bad example of this, as they are at the very top of this sport and everyone has some knowledge (no matter how basic) of them. What about those a little further down the order though? Calvin Vlaanderen missed out on a factory deal in the premier class, despite his list of accomplishments in MX2, and raced with a torn ACL in his rookie term. Vlaanderen even had the South African flag ripped away from him by the federation – they contacted the promoter and proclaimed that he is not allowed to use that on the podium.


BY LEWIS PHILLIPS Does all of that not make him a much more interesting person and someone that you may choose to follow a little closer in the future? There needs to be a place in the television broadcast to showcase storylines and reel the people in – Monster Energy Supercross do an incredible job of building up


There is obviously a lot of time limitations with different channels carrying the racing across the world, but MXGP-TV is essentially a blank canvas. Team reports have been in the MXGP broadcast for as long as I can remember and offer very little in the way of depth. Those are valuable to teams and a portion of their OAT package, but perhaps there is a better way to do them? Each team could still have that dedicated time each term, but how about it gets used in a unique manner each time? The five-minute slot that Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP receive could be a feature on Jeremy Seewer at home on his farm in Switzerland, hanging out in his workshop and showing off his talents away from the motorcycle. There are a lot of them, and that makes him an interesting person to fans in the United States or further afield.

How about a tour of their incredible workshop in the Netherlands, which is a superb example of how big the FIM Motocross World Championship really is? There are so many avenues to explore and that is just with one team! How about the studio show gets replaced with a 30-minute wander around the paddock just before the first MX2 moto, where fans can see riders getting ready to head to the line and some impromptu chats are captured that stray from simply asking how someone is feeling? There has been far too much of that. Sitting here and picturing what variations are possible is genuinely exciting and would build so much excitement going into the motos, which is what is missing currently. That would be an insightful look into the weather and a lot of other factors that are skimmed over.


It would not need to be very polished – think of when a reporter walks around the grid ahead of a Formula 1 race. That is just one of many ideas that could be formed. More could be done for the fans in attendance as well! How about in the hour before the first MX2 moto, which is always kept free for track maintenance, the top five in the premier-class standings are brought out onto the start straight for the opening ceremonies? Add in some music, then they can ride out and do a wheelie or whatever shows their personality before getting interviewed about this titanic battle that is about to take place. A rider could roll over to the fans and chuck a signed jersey into the crowd, which then adds another element of engagement for all involved. The stage would then be set.

Fans would actually be needed for that to be implemented, of course, which is a pipe dream at the time of writing. The lack of on-track activity at the moment allows a lot of time to dream and look at the things that are rarely talked about though – this column is a perfect example of that. Build the personalities and suddenly there is a lot more interest in the racing and everything that surrounds the FIM Motocross World Championship. A rising tide lifts all ships.



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PRIMED FOR WorldSBK: CHANGE AHE We’ve been here before with WorldSBK. After a winter of testing the expectation is sky high and everyone has found improvements but Jonathan Rea keeps winning. 2021 could be different though. Really! WorldSBK is primed for a golden era. There has never been a deeper field of riding talent and mechanical equality. FIM Technical Director Scott Smart has done a tremendous job of finding a balancing format with regulations where bikes hold on to their inherent character and performance advantages but the potential for parity is high across the balance of a season. 2021 should see all five manufacturers competitive at different tracks, pushing for wins and punishing inconsistencies. It’s an exciting time for WorldSBK, so to get primed for the start of the campaign we looked at the key questions heading to Aragon for Rd1.

Rea looking to keep the crown Anyone want to bet against Jonathan Rea in 2021? You’d be a brave gambler if you did but Rea’s dominance will come to an end at some point. The Kawasaki man has won six titles in a row and after two years where the odds were stacked against him he still came out on top. His speed, confidence and most importantly consistency is what has marked Rea as the greatest Superbike rider of all time and until someone can match him over a full season he’s still the man to beat. Kawasaki has brought out a new bike for 2021 and the updated ZX10RR is a sharper tool to go into battle with. Throttle connection was one of the biggest issues that Rea complained about last year but during winter test-

ing he has focused on defining the engine configuration and seems quietly confident. Interestingly his teammate, Alex Lowes, has also said the same, so the green machines should have made a step forward this year. They needed to because their form in the final three rounds of 2020 was worrying. In the past the Kawasawki was the package that worked best from track to track and didn’t have many weaknesses. They’ll need that to be the case this year if Rea is to make it a Magnificent 7. Big year for Toprak Year on year Yamaha have knocked the rough edges off the R1 and made it into a more complete package. The tracks that were blips in the past became



BY STEVE ENGLISH strongholds and the team were more and more consistent. They’re no closer to winning the WorldSBK title but a lot of that comes down to the form of Rea and Kawsaki. For 2021 the fortunes of Yamaha will be focused on Toprak Razgatlioglu and Garrett Gerloff. For Toprak this is a pivotal season. In the final year of his contract he needs to win races and keep progressing. The Turkish rider has won with Kawasaki and Yamaha but has tended to go missing at times. With Red Bull backing and a Turkish passport Toprak is clearly a rider that would interest manufacturers in MotoGP. If he can win early doors he could put his name into consideration for the likes of Iker Lecuona’s seat at Tech3. Can Honda win races and tempt another top rider to switch? Honda is arguably the biggest question mark in WorldSBK.

When Alvaro Bautista switched to Honda last year it was followed by a lot of head scratching within the paddock. The Spaniard had dominated the opening half of his rookie season aboard the Ducati so his change of manufacturer took everyone by surprise. He has been well compensated for the transfer but hasn’t been rewarded with race wins...yet. That could change this season. Underestimate the Honda Racing Corporation at your peril. They are putting in the resources to this programme and their restructure for 2021 is promising with the decision to hire Leon Camier as team manager is an interesting subplot. Camier’s retirement was an unfortunate reminder that talent isn’t always rewarded on track. His ability and speed was never in question but his luck was out for much of his international career. Having called time on his racing due

to a shoulder injury switching gears to leading a team will be a new challenge. The 34 year old won’t lead the team on a micro level but instead will have a key role in liasing between the race team in Europe and the technical team in Japan. Feedback is key in racing and being able to translate what a rider tells and engineer and maintaining the flow to the Racing Department will be key if Honda can improve. Camier can now focus his competitive nature on turning around Honda’s fortunes. The sleeplessness from injury will be swapped for short nights of working out how to drive the team forward. The potential is there with a very strong engine and a good chassis, albeit one that lives on a knife edge. Testing has once again seen Leon Haslam do the lion’s share of the work but Bautista is expected to win races.


Once the bike has had some success there could be a line forming at the Honda garage: with almost all MotoGP and WorldSBK riders out of contract the opportunity to jump on a competitive bike will be tempting to many. Can Davies strike big? Chaz Davies has been a factory rider for much of his Superbike career. Having been ousted from Ducati he found a home with the GoEleven team. The Welsh Dragon could well find that this is the ideal opportunity for him. He knows the Ducati V4R and in Year 3 of the programme the development of the bike will now be slowed and it’s up to riders and teams to make a difference. A change of scenery could be exactly what Davies needs. A change of team and crew chiefs will hopefully allow him to show his ability week in and week out. He is a world class rider who on his day is unbeatable.

If he can find consistency he can still win a WorldSBK title because he’s one of the few riders unafraid of going toe-to-toe with Rea. Davies on a satellite Ducati seems a strange fit but he will win races and if he can get off to a strong start this could be the best thing that’s happened to him for a long time.


GASGAS Husqvarna Motorcycles and GASGAS have been quick to tap into the e-bicycle market and thanks to the rapid expansion GASGAS have been able to add a total of 11 new models to their portfolio. The pedal-assist and eMTBs are powered by Yamaha motors and cover disciplines such as: Enduro Cross, Trail Cross, Cross Country and Dual Cross eMTB. Experienced downhillers will eye the Enduro cross offerings with the long-travel suspension, slack geometry and mixed wheel sizes. Trail has full suspension choice while the Dual Cross is an ideal entry point for

beginners or those curious to try the attributes of the GASGAS’ engineering efforts. Components such as Rock Shox can be found on higher end bicycles. Prices are lodged on the specific country territories through the GASGAS website but the bad news is that the first 2021 eMTBs will only be available in: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Netherlands and Belgium. GASGAS say ‘further market expansion into North America is already planned for 2022.’




100% On the last day of March, 100% unveiled their ‘Forecast’ roll-off system for their top of the range Armega goggles. Monster Energy Yamaha MXGP rider Glenn Coldenhoff had already told us about the Forecast last summer and he claimed the tech would change the game. So, what are the features? The press release states that Forecast has a 50mm ultra-wide film and a transparent mud visor that prevents seepage behind the film. There are also multiple canister scrapers which clean the film to reduce mud consumption. Add translucent rear canisters that provide easy viewing of remaining film to use. 100% say the Forecast has a smooth action puller that provides a rapid cleaning of the entire field of view and an overspin limiter keeps the material taut at all times to resist turbulent wind. Lastly it fits seamlessly with the ARMEGA rapid lens changing and locking system. A rival for the Scott Sports Prospect Super WFS? Looks like the battle of the roll-offs is intensifying. If additions like Forecast can prove effective in the worst conditions then the days of tear-offs might be numbered furthered.

ALPINESTARS Limited Edition time for one of the biggest names in motorcycle gear, protection and apparel. The ‘Dialed 21’ sees Alpinestars adjusting their Racer and Tech 7 boots into a look that they say is ‘inspired by the cool, reborn culture of MX/OFF-ROAD desert riding, Skateboarding, Surfing, and BMX’. Binary colours allow plenty of mixing opportunities. The Racer is the entry level riding-ware alongside the Techstar and the top-of-the-range Supertech. Look carefully and you’ll spot a bike-riding surfer skeleton on the boots. Apparently the ‘Dialed 21’ was debuted in the recent Atlanta Supercross by riders such as Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac. Credit to Alpinestars for also make the Dialed for Youth sizes. There are plenty more colourway and design options through the ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ that is the Alpinestars website.





SCOTT REDDING: TIME TO DELIVER DUCATI HAS THE BEST BIKE ON THE GRID. CAN THIS BE THE YEAR THEY FINALLY RECLAIM THE WorldSBK TITLE? How do you solve a problem like Jonathan Rea? That’s the challenge facing the WorldSBK grid once again this year but if you had to put your money on the table Ducati and Scott Redding would be the safest bet to break Rea’s six years of dominance but it’s far from a sure thing.

“THERE WAS SO MUCH PRESSURE TO PERFORM IN GRAND PRIX: ALL YOU CAN THINK IS THAT YOU NEED TO PERFORM. I WAS CONSTANTLY BUILDING MYSELF UP AND THEN FALLING DOWN. THERE WAS NEVER THE MOMENTUM GOING UP, UP, UP FOR ME...” Last Autumn, with the season drawing to a close Ducati surprised many in the paddock by opting against re-signing Chaz Davies. Their eggs were firmly in the Scott Redding basket. With two years of Superbike experience, not to mention 11 years racing in the Grand Prix paddock, Redding now has to deliver. Ducati has backed him to the hilt to be their focal point. The pressure has not been higher.

“It’s different this year,” says Redding as he contemplates the coming season. “Last year l came here and didn’t know what to expect. I’m much more relaxed now whereas last year, I was anxious. At the time I thought it was a hunger but actually I was anxious because I didn’t know what was going to be the outcome. Now I know where I stand and what I’m capable of doing. “I know that I can fight for a title. Last year some people supported me but a majority said I couldn’t do it. To take the fight down to the last round was a big achievement for me. We had some tough races but it taught us a lot. I had a lot of things to learn because we were learning lessons from one track to the next. Now we can go to tracks using a base setting that was around the podium. I know I can win races.” Winning races won’t be enough to beat Rea over a season. The Kawasaki rider is metronomically consistent and has stood on the podium in 143 of the last 166 WorldSBK races. His regularity and ability to grind out results makes him so difficult to dethrone. This is what happened last year at Aragon. Ducati were expected to dominate the back to back weekends at the Spanish track and Rea was nervous. He knew that this could be the critical point of a title battle. He came away from Aragon having outscored Redding by 32 points. His relief was clear to see; he knew the championship was now in his hands. You can’t give Rea that initiative.

“They know they’re in the ball park to fight for a win. We rolled the bike out and we were a bit 50/50 at first but in WorldSBK if you’re making changes you can lose two sessions and then suddenly you’re into qualifying! “Johnny is a good rider. He’s a strong rider. He’s a fair rider too and I like to battle with people that are hard but fair. It’s all just experience though because he’s not more motivated or stronger or focused than I am. He’s got the experience that only time can give me. I’m trying to fast-track to get to there. Last year I did that. We were at tracks I’d never been to or riding conditions I’d never rode and we still won races. We got stronger to be on the podium or fight for wins in the last race. So, we’re always making steps.” Redding is really warming up to the benefits of experience. His career has been one of false starts, having moved to Spain as a 12 year old to compete in the Spanish Championship. He came through at the same time as Marc Marquez and they were locked in competition. When they both went to the Grand Prix paddock in 2008 it was Redding that made the quicker impact.

2021 WorldSBK

“Experience is the biggest thing in racing,” reflects Redding. “Johnny has just got so much more experience than me in WorldSBK. He’s been riding the same bike for so many years. He knows it inside-out. He knows his bike, he knows the tyres, he knows the tracks. Last year was my second year with Pirelli and sometimes I had to take a gamble whereas Johnny’s experience means they can roll the Kawasaki out of the truck do a few clicks here, a few clicks there and be ready.

FEATURE A front row start on his debut and a midseason win at Donington Park, with Marquez also having his first career podium that day, marked Redding as the coming man of the paddock. It all went off the rails though. “Experience is so important and I would loved to have been ‘this Scott Redding’ six or seven years ago. It would have been a completely different ball game for me in MotoGP but you can’t buy experience. I’ve learned a lot coming up through my career but I’ve been guiding myself. I’ve done the right things. I’ve done the wrong things. I’ve not been perfect in some areas and people have maybe looked at me the wrong way, but I didn’t know. I was just a young kid out of Gloucester, finding my way and I was put out to sea on my own. “I was in the Red Bull Academy but it didn’t suit me. It wasn’t my style and I took a chance to go a different way and we started to start win races. I was getting where I was with my results that other riders weren’t doing and I think that people forget about that. They forget about when I was 13 or 14 I was qualifying on the front row and winning races in the Spanish Championship. I was dominating races over there by 15, 20 seconds. People forget that. I got my name on the map by doing things others couldn’t even come close to doing. You need to make the sacrifice in the early days. “Looking back I’m grateful for my dad and my uncle for pushing me and taking the chance to get me to Spain. They pushed me every day because I didn’t enjoy riding back then. It wasn’t fun. A lot of these guys did it because they

wanted to do it but I didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t fun and I was pushed into it because I was good at it. As I got older, I started to enjoy it and I started to realise the talent that I had and that I could build something. But if it was my choice as a kid, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m grateful that I had a family that was pushing me to get me where I am. “People like Marc Marquez have been kept in check all the way through their career by people who know where they need to go. They’ve got the budget behind their career and they’ve got the sponsors. It makes a difference. But I can’t complain. I can only work and never stop trying to improve. There’s still more to come from me. I know I can fight for a title. Honestly, I can’t wait to get racing. I’m like a caged dog at the moment.” When he’s released from his cage Redding will be ready to attack. After so long racing mid-pack in MotoGP he’s been reinvigorated by battling at the front of the field again. He’s relaxed because the pressure now comes from within rather than being omnipresent in the Grand Prix paddock. Redding is a natural fit in WorldSBK and a throwback to the generation of riders that made the championship so special in the ‘90s. “There was so much pressure to perform in Grand Prix: all you can think is that you need to perform. I was constantly building myself up and then falling down. There was never the momentum going up, up, up for me. For someone like Jonathan he’s always been a good rider and in BSB, World Supersport, WorldSBK he’s always been there. He’s perfected it over the years and since he’s gone to Kawasaki he just keeps doing the small things right.

“I’m still building myself up because of the damage that I had in the past. A confident rider and a happy rider is always a dangerous rider. You see that with Jonathan and the team. The whole connection is great. And I have that connection with my team, but we need more time. Time is something you can’t buy. So we have to be a bit patient and do the right work so we can be competitive from the first round. “What’s a successful season? Winning, that’s all I can do. Last year I took it to the last round but we know that we had a couple of weak points. Ducati has gone back to Bologna. They’ve been working really hard through the winter to bring

parts that should help us, and we’ve got a great opportunity. The work has been put in over the winter and I believe that we have the opportunity to win a title. There is weakness with Jonathan. He’s not unbreakable and I’m coming closer.”

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AMERICAN EXPECTATION LAST YEAR THERE WAS BUZZ AROUND GARRETT GERLOFF. NOW THE AMERICAN IS VIEWED AS A LEADING CONTENDER IN WORLDSBK That tricky second album. The next instalment of a blockbuster movie franchise. It isn’t easy to follow up from a surprise debut and Garrett Gerloff is facing up to that prospect in WorldSBK 2021. The American, again racing for GRT Yamaha, will have a brighter spotlight turned his way this year but he’s keen to get started. Last year, he was looked upon with curiosity as he embarked on his rookie season. How would he adapt? Was he fast enough?

Could America still produce world class riders? His first race saw him try and run with the hares at Phillip Island before cooking his tyres. Write that off as a foolish rookie mistake. Top ten finishes in Jerez and Portimao showed he had learned some lessons when racing resumed. Continued progress meant he was a consistent podium threat by the end of the campaign. “Last year I had more pressure,” reflected Gerloff ahead of the new season. “It was make-it or break-it and I had to prove myself. That was more pressure. Now, I feel good on the bike and with the team. I just feel really excited for this year because I feel so comfortable now. When I show up at the track it’s somewhere I’ve already been. It all feels so familiar and natural.

“With everything a little bit more delayed I feel more relaxed. The team is not under such pressure to have everything ready to go so early, and neither are the riders. It does feel a lot more like MotoAmerica where we have a little bit more time to prepare. I feel good. I like having time to prepare because I feel like at least in the past I did a good job of sectioning off my months to get ready with my training. I’m more motivated than ever so having a couple more months to get fired up isn’t a bad thing.” The longer off-season has meant that testing has been possible at Jerez, Misano, Catalunya and Aragon for Gerloff. With a factory Yamaha in his garage, the same specification as Toprak Razgatlioglu’s machine, there can be no excuses; he has to perform. In recent years for Yamaha that has been to win races and challenge for top three in the championship. Last year, with three podiums in the final two rounds, Gerloff gave himself momentum heading into the off-season.

Now he needs to kick the campaign off with strong results in Aragon. This has traditionally been an unhappy hunting ground for Razgatlioglu. This could be an opportunity for Gerloff to gain the initiative before the second round in Estoril where both were very quick in 2020. “I have the same bike as Toprak so I don’t see it as a negative at all with staying with the GRT team. I wouldn’t have had the season that I had if it wasn’t for these guys. It was nice when it seemed to click last year. Over the winter I’ve been trying to work on some things that I feel like I can improve on. I’ve been learning new techniques and new things that I can try to do on the bike with my body position. That’s probably been what I’ve been most exciting thing about the last twelve months; learning new things. “I think that there’s another click that needs to happen for me. I’m sure that this season is not going to be just smooth sailing and easy all the way, but I feel like we’re starting at a lot higher level than we were last year. We just need to improve little by little.” Steady progress was the order of the day last year for Gerloff and now the target is different. The Yamaha R1 is a competitive package and being compared to Razgatlioglu means that there’s no hiding place. If Gerloff can challenge his Turkish rival his standing will only increase within the paddock. “It’s so cool that there’s some of us over here now. Joe [Roberts] came over to Europe a little bit earlier than we did. It’s definitely nice to have American faces here in the paddock and people that I

2021 WorldSBK

“I remember arriving at tracks last year not really knowing my team as well as I would have liked to. It all felt so new. Now, it’s just another day. That’s a really nice change. It just feels like it did when I was showing up to a MotoAmerica race and I love that. When I heard that we were going to start in April this year I thought it was perfect. Last year felt so rushed for Round 1 because I was at home in Texas for Christmas and then I was on a plane to Europe. Then all of a sudden I was on a plane to Australia and the season was starting! It was just bam, bam, bam. Just getting hit left and right.


recognise. We’re all fighting each other in a way. We support each other but there’s only a certain amount of spots in the paddock so we’re always trying to do the best we can to put our name at the top of the list. “Being at home this winter really rejuvenated me and just gave me a fresh motivation and really got me fired up to come back here. It was awesome. I can’t wait to go back home. I’m always torn because I feel that I’ve got one part of me in the US and one part of me in Europe and I feel like I’m being stretched the whole time. I want to be at both places at once. I just can’t wait for this year though. I’m excited to see where things go and what’s going to happen. I know that no matter what I’ll be ready for everything that comes my way and just go from there.”

MICHAEL VAN DER MARK’S DECISION TO SWITCH TO BMW FOR 2021 COMES WITH RISKS BUT HE’S EXCITED BY THE UNKNOWN... It’s very easy to wonder what motivates a rider to switch teams. From the outside Michael van der Mark’s hop from

“I wanted something new,” said a forthright van der Mark. “I wanted a new start. I had been on the Yamaha for a few years and I felt for my future it would be better to make a change. I’m looking forward to working with BMW. My priority is to win and I think that if you don’t win a race or a championship in WorldSBK you won’t get an opportunity to go to MotoGP. My priority is to win in WorldSBK. If we can do that, we can look at the future. I want to win.”

“IT’S GOOD TO HAVE JOINED BMW WHERE WorldSBK IS THEIR MAIN TARGET. WE HAVE A CLEAR TARGET HERE TO WIN IN WORLDSBK AND THEY’RE TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING TO ACHIEVE THAT...” Yamaha to BMW seems puzzling. With Yamaha winning races and being a consistent podium threat for years the transfer to the German machine carries a lot of risk. On the other hand Yamaha hasn’t been able to turn a consistent bike into a championship threat. For van der Mark the prospect of jumping on an all-new BMW M1000RR was a chance to roll the dice and see if they come up with his numbers. Is he leaving a sure fire title tilt? Maybe he’s taking a step backwards in the hope of making two steps forward.

Having mentioned MotoGP it was interesting that he felt that he would have a better opportunity of changing series through a saddle BMW; a manufacturer without any Grand Prix presence. With Toprak Razgatlioglu having joined Yamaha last year van der Mark could be forgiven for feeling pushed down the Iwata pecking order. With a new project his motivation is clearly refreshed. A rider that was once described by the Ten Kate team, for which he won a Supersport

2021 WorldSBK



World Championship, as one who relied on his natural talent too much, van der Mark’s maturation has been impressive. Becoming a full-time Pro, and ditching his job as a haulage driver, he focused on racing and dedicated himself to it. Speed was never an issue but his time with Yamaha saw him focus on fitness and preparation. He knows what he wants from a team. Among the big lessons he has learned is to avoid the tendency to over-

complicate matters: some riders need to know a lot of detail before being able to get the most from a package. For the BMW recruit the balance is about having enough confidence to ride to the limit rather than getting bogged down by the technical side of racing. His job is to give feedback and the team’s job is to use that to improve the bike. It’s a simple approach but one that has given him plenty of success. “Where do I have to improve?

“Having another set of eyes watching from trackside can make a difference. At Yamaha I had Nico Canepa and Raymond Schouten and it does help you to find that last little bit. I think though right now we have to get the bike right, or close to fully right, and then focus on these last few things. They’re small details and that’s what I said at Yamaha as well. “Winning as soon as possible is my goal for this year. I think there’s a lot of potential in this bike. I’ve seen it in the past as well when I rode with Yamaha for example. It’s difficult in WorldSBK but we want to get the bike ready to fight for wins and then championships. I haven’t set a clear target for this year. I want to win every race of course, but we need to get on the podium first.”

2021 WorldSBK

I think first we need to get the bike right and get my feeling right with the bike, and from that point on you can see where I need to improve. I’ve learned a lot over the years, so hopefully I just picked up all the good stuff. I’ve worked with a lot of great crew chiefs and they all work differently. For me the main thing you have to do is to be clear and don’t talk too much. I think that’s the way I work with Marcus [Eschenbacher]. Our plan is clear; fix the problems and move on.

FEATURE The Dutchman’s switch to BMW for 2021 was one met by scepticism by many when it was announced but for the 28 year old this is an opportunity. A new challenge was something that attracted him to Yamaha in 2017 but leaving that manufacturer is certainly more of a risk compared to when he switched from Honda. With new bikes from Ducati and Honda, not to mention a face-lifted Kawasaki, in recent years the goalposts are shifting in WorldSBK and van der Mark didn’t want to fall behind. “When I joined Yamaha they weren’t winning races. We brought the bike along and started to win. With BMW it’s essentially the same. I believe in their future and they brought this new M1000RR because they want to win in WorldSBK. They brought a new bike, a fresher bike. It looks promising. We need to get everything together. Other manufacturers are bringing new bikes as well so I felt that I had to get on a new bike. Maybe we don’t win this year but I think for sure it will be a solid choice for the future. The sole focus for BMW is WorldSBK and that made them appealing for their new recruit. “I have quite a good feeling with this bike but it’s so much different compared to what I was used to. The power delivery is very different to the Yamaha which was obviously quite easy to ride. They sound different too but I’m having a lot of fun. I’m starting to adapt and we had some good tests so far without any problems. For sure we’re not there yet, but at least the first few days on the bike were really good and I enjoyed it. “I always enjoyed racing at the Suzuka 8 Hours but it’s good to have joined BMW

where WorldSBK is their main target. We have a clear target here to win in WorldSBK and they’re trying to do everything to achieve that. Every manufacturer has its pluses and minuses. I hope we can really get the bike sorted and be able to fight for the victory.” The ability to solve problems with the bike are aided by BMW’s new entries on the grid. Paired with Tom Sykes means that the ultimate pace of the machinery will be easily established. ‘Mr Superpole’ can always find a time with a Qualifying tyre so the potential of the ultimate bike will be clear to gauge. Satellite teams for Eugene Laverty and Jonas Folger being supported by BMW means there are experienced riders for BMW to use to develop the bike. “Tom is something special in qualifying but at the end it’s all about the race, race pace and the full race distance. Our main target is to have a better pace than last year and to be closer to the front. Having Eugene and Jonas on the bike will help us too. It’s good to have two more bikes on the grid but it’s even more important that they are two really experienced riders. This will help our project. BMW wants as much data as possible with different riders.” It’s an exciting time for van der Mark. It’s an prosperous time for BMW. It’s also a time for patience and realistic expectations. BMW has a lot of ground to make up but the decision to prise van der Mark away from Yamaha shows that they’re willing to put their money on the table and show their commitment. When the green light goes out at Aragon for Round 1 we’ll start to see the extent of the task ahead for the Dutchman.

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By Roland Brown Photos by Kingdom Creative




t’s no surprise that many publications around the world voted Triumph’s Tiger 900 the best new bike of last year. The road-biased 900 GT Pro is just one of five models, for one thing – more if you include lower-seat options plus the recently released Tiger 850 Sport, which has a detuned version of the same 888cc three-cylinder engine. More to the point, the topspec triples – the GT Pro and more dirt-friendly Rally Pro, which took most of the awards – epitomise the appeal of the latest middleweight adventure bikes.

Both combine the advantage of ample performance and reasonably light weight with features that until recently were seen only on large-capacity machines. Simply listing the stuff that comes standard with the GT Pro emphasises the point. You get multiple riding modes, a quick-shifter, LED fog lights, heated seats for rider and pillion, engine bars and bashplate, electronic rear shock adjustment, tyre pressure monitoring and a connectivity system.

Plus an equally long list of goodies shared with the other Tiger 900 models, including full-colour TFT display, handguards, heated grips, cruise control and cornering ABS. All of which would be of little use if the core package of powerplant and chassis was not up to the job. Triumph was hardly likely to drop the ball on that, given that the previous Tiger 900 had been a long-standing success, but this current family of triples incorporates a key difference: the irregular firing order that gives a subtly altered sound and character to the old 799cc models.

The bigger-bore engine’s extra midrange delivery is welcome, which ever of the easily-changed riding modes the GT Pro is in. (Along with the standard Road and Rain, it also has Sport, Off-road and a customisable Rider mode.) It’s a delightfully flexible powerplant, delivering useable shove from below 3000rpm, and making the Tiger effortlessly able to cruise at 80mph or more, and to accelerate from there towards a top speed of about 125mph.

Other attributes include respectably good wind protection. The Tiger’s screen gives 50mm of easily used manual adjustment, via spring-loaded bar, and did a good job of diverting the wind even though I’m very tall. The hand-guards, heated grips and seat – a pillion even gets their own switch – contribute to a comfortable ride. The chassis, which combines a tubular steel main frame with a tubular aluminium rear subframe, plays its part too. The Marzocchi suspension is fairly long-travel, with 180mm up front and 170mm at the rear. Inevitably the Tiger is quite tall but the GT Pro’s seat height of 810 or 830mm means most riders will find its weight of just under 200kg dry manageable.

Low-speed manoeuvrability is very good, helped by the fairly wide handlebar and 19in front wheel (the Rally models have That uneven firing order helps a more dirt-friendly 21-incher). the Tiger find traction on loose There’s enough suspension surfaces, too, not that most GT travel to deal with most road Pro owners are likely to take surfaces, and the Marzocchi it off-road (especially with the forks can quickly be manumore suitable Rally variants ally fine-tuned for compresavailable). The sole drawback sion and rebound damping is arguably a touch of vibration via plastic knobs at the top of above about 5000rpm, which each leg. equates to about 80mph in top gear. Better still is the shock’s electronic adjustability of preload and rebound damping, which can be done while


Midrange output was increased at the same time, with torque was up by roughly ten per cent through the midrange, to a near-unchanged maximum power output of 94bhp at 8750rpm. The irregular firing order gives the GT Pro and its siblings a pleasingly throaty exhaust note, and a low-rev response that makes it feel almost more like a twin than a triple.





riding, using the joystick on the left handlebar. The range of adjustment isn’t huge, and although this set-up isn’t as good as a semi-active system it’s impressive for a middleweight and especially useful for riders who frequently carry a pillion. Other chassis aspects are equally rider-friendly. Steering is precise, suspension control excellent, and the Metzeler Tourance Next tyres give sufficient grip to encourage use of the adequate ground clearance. The Brembo Stylema front brake set-up, in conjunction with cornering ABS, makes for powerful and reliable stopping. The GT Pro is practical in other ways too. Most riders will generally manage 50mpg or better, which combines with the fuel tank’s capacity of 20 litres to give a realistic range of over 200 miles. Details of remaining fuel and much more are clearly outlined on the 7in TFT instrument panel, which can also display basic navigation info via the My Triumph smartphone app. Those features and the others on the long list of standard equipment make the GT Pro good value despite a price (£13,100 in the UK) that initially looks a bit steep. And if you can live without the fancy options, the standard 900 GT or more basic 850 Sport offer plenty of threepot versatility for considerably less expense. The Tigers are fierce competitors in what is arguably motorcycling’s hardest fought class.



By CormacGP


‘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 www.ontrackoffroad.com 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 Mike Antonovich AMA SX Blogger Cormac Ryan-Meenan MotoGP Photographer www.cormacgp.com Rob Gray MotoGP Photographer David Emmett MotoGP Blogger Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer Steve English WSB Blogger & Feature writer Lewis Phillips MXGP Blogger Roland Brown Tester/Columnist Núria Garcia Cover Design Gabi Álvarez Web developer Hosting FireThumb7 - www.firethumb7.co.uk Thanks to www.mototribu.com for the share PHOTO CREDITS Ray Archer, CormacGP, Mike Emery/Align Media, HRC, JP Acevedo, ShotbyBavo, Kingdom Creative, Steve English Cover shot: Cooper Webb by Align Media This publication took a lot of time and effort to put together so please respect it! Nothing in this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the editorial team. For more information please visit www.ontrackoffroad.com and click ‘Contact us’.