On-Track Off-Road issue 215

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Photo: J. P. Acevedo – Adaptation: Kiska GmbH


Engineered on the racetrack, the 2022 KTM 450 SX-F is ready to stamp its authority on any track around the world. Closer than ever to the championship-winning machines of KTM’s elite pro racers, it is the purest definition of the READY TO RACE motto.

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.




1999. 2002 and now 2021. Team Italy defied Tony Cairoli’s rib injury, Mattia Guadagnini’s rookie status and Alessandro Lupino’s interpretation of track boundaries to clinch the Chamberlain trophy by just one point. The Motocross of Nations came back to life with a bang Photo by Ray Archer



Back-to-back wins for Pecco Bagnaia and a third success in Austin this weekend could give the championship chase a tense edge for Fabio Quartararo. The Italian will have to deal with another ‘Marc Marquez territory’ however; the Catalan has won all-but-one of the Grands Prix in Texas and Ducati have yet to conquer COTA. Photo by CormacGP


WORLD’S FASTEST Mantova may have been mined by the home nation but Jeffrey Herlings’ supremacy at the circuit where he obtained his first Grand Prix podium as a 15-year-old in 2010 in only his second world championship appearance was mesmerising and the definition of dominance. He won the first moto by almost 50 seconds and the second by 55. Special. Photo by Ray Archer


74th MXoN Mantova, Italy

TEAMS 1. Italy (Cairoli, Guadagnini, Lupino) 2. Netherlands (Herlings, Coldenhoff, VD Moosdijk) 3. Great Britain (Watson, Mewse, Simpson)

MXGP 1. Ben Watson, Yamaha 2. Vsevolod Brylyakov, Honda 3. Thomas Kjer Olsen, Husqvarna



1. Rene Hofer, KTM 2. Mattia Guadagnini, KTM 3. Isak Gifting, GASGAS


1. Jeffrey Herlings, KTM 2. Evgeny Bobryshev, Husqvarna 3. Shaun Simpson, KTM Blogs by Adam Wheeler & Lewis Phillips Photos by Ray Archer









Motocross eh?! For a long while the mere mention of the 2021 MXoN raised an eyebrow but in Italy the race enjoyed an endearing and welcome return after the pandemic forced the 74th edition to skip a year. Ever since the MXoN was dropped in the middle of the MXGP world championship instead of its traditional end of season berth (which routinely gives the annual meeting a partylike ‘send-off’ vibe) the gestation has been complicated. The date change solution was initially proffered in 2020 to try and save the spectacle as European territories bounced in and out of lockdowns. Come 2021 and MXGP wrestled with three versions of the eighteen-round agenda before it even started, and the promoters were insistent that the MXoN would go ahead in September – even if the location and strength of the entry list was far from settled.

The 25th-26th was marked as the cut-off point, partly because the European autumn provided more risk of an unstable climate and also because any hope of participation from U.S. based competitors had to happen before their contracts renewed on October 1st (the start of the pre-season to transition and train for supercross prep). Leaving aside the factors of tradition and popularity, the Nations has become quite a cash-cow for Infront Motor Racing over the years thanks to the increased interest from the industry and the size of the crowds that flock through the gates, prepared to pay a premium ticket price. For 2021 it was the sheer will and insistence by the promoters that the MXoN should emerge from the deep

rut of the pandemic that allowed Mantova to happen. As if marshalling MXGP across country borders willing to accept a travelling sport circus wasn’t a tricky enough job for them, Infront were now banking on federations, athletes, companies and - of course - fans to join them in their objective. At times it looked extremely improbable. The convenience of Mantova and its location in north-central Italy was confirmed at the eleventh hour as Matterley Basin was also considered as a venue for what would have been their third hosting since 2006. Infront also weighedup the implementation of FIM World Championship points for the motos to ensure MXGP teams and riders were not scared-off by

BY ADAM WHEELER the September programme. In the end the best efforts by eager federations and national teams, partners such as KTM and Monster Energy, some slices of good faith in the paddock in recognition of the fact that Infront took a hefty hit to realise a 2020 championship all contributed to something that looked and felt very much like a normal MXoN.

consecutive ‘mudder’.

Naturally it was more streamlined. The compact Mantova would not have been able to fit anything like the usual crowds that follow their flags. The poor luck with the weather made it hard to put too harsh a judgement on the final attendance, even though the site felt busy thanks to the youth support card races of the YZ125F Blu Cru Cup and the new European Junior E-Motocross series. And the weather was unfortunate. Sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20s on Saturday made a total flip for Sunday and created the fourth


What the MXoN did have was that usual third-moto unpredictability where the standings for podium places and the Chamberlain trophy itself were changing almost lap-by-lap. It was enjoyable tension followed by an outpouring of emotion and celebration as the home nation sent the partisan

supporters bananas. Since 2015 in France it was the third time a country had won on home soil and in front of appreciative followers.

Add the Lupino indiscretion, Tony Cairoli’s against-theodds performance and the fact that the recently-turned 36-year-old finally tasted MXoN glory, and 2021 felt quite romantic. It certainly delivered on the entertainment front. At no point did I think ‘what would Gajser, Prado, Ferrandis or Barcia done here?’ The waving of flags and the noise from the sodden spectator banking was suitably rowdy to cover the fact that the numbers were reduced. The din at the podium seemed as raucous as Ernee in ’15. “In a few years people will see the word ‘Italy’ on the trophy and they won’t remember who was here and who wasn’t,” said Cairoli in the reference to the absence of Teams USA and Australia as well as three of the top five riders in the current MXGP standings. “We are really proud of this.”


2021 was not 2002, where the Nations was hastily organised at Bellpuig in Catalunya and where most top riders and even some countries boycotted the fixture on account of Dorna’s ill-handling of an initial trip to the USA. That Sunday in Spain saw the Italians rule with a superior line-up of Alessio Chiodi, Andrea Bartolini and Alex Puzar and for what was their last victory in the contest until Mantova. 2002 saw the MXoN at its lowest point in terms of interest and collaboration for what is essentially an invitational where points are swapped for pride. Riders and fans

become united in a universal cause as the race turns one of the most selfcentred and individual sports into a shared ‘community affair’. I was working at the ’02 Nations and Cairoli is right; eventually only the winners survive the test of time. But I was then able to see its remarkable resurgence to the point where 2005 at Ernee, 2006 at Matterley, 2007 at Budds Creek and 2009 at Franciacorta cemented its vast and treasured status. The same ingredients and fabric that helped the MXoN become an annual highlight and an

essential draw for motorcycle racing fans was still very much evident at Mantova, I’m happy to say. With this in mind – and with fingers crossed for 2022 MXGP, the continued resilience of Infront and the containment of Covid-19 and its variants – I would encourage people to get some accommodation sorted for RedBud very soon.



www.ride100percent.com Followers of the close title dispute in 2021 MXGP will have noticed that one of the protagonists in the running for the crown, Tony Cairoli, has been sporting a new special edition of 100%’s impressive ARMEGA goggle with branding from the Italian’s lifestyle company RACR. The ARMEGA is the top-of-the-line goggle from 100% with HiPER® contrast-enhancing technology in the injection moulded

shatterproof lens, a 6-point lock system but also with a quick swap-out in several simple clicks. Contour compression seal helps keep the goggle in place while the frame is dual-injection for strength. Wide vision and triple-layer foam is a given. As Cairoli negotiates the final Grands Prix of an eighteen-year career then getting your hands on some ‘replica’ goggles would be a wise move before the collection finishes. Expect to pay around 120 dollars.



ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? The Motocross of Nations is a terrific competition that pits country against country, something that ignites a conversation amongst fans worldwide. There is so much to take from the event each term. The fact that it provides riders with a brilliant opportunity to prove themselves, in a weaker field than a Grand Prix, is often overlooked though. The MXoN is a chance for a guy to make a statement and gain momentum. Ben Watson is a great example of that. Watson has had a good season with Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP – there is no denying that – and shown top-three pace at races in The Netherlands and Czech Republic. The Grand Prix of Sardinia just last week was another example of what he can do; he ran second for a period of the first moto. Such highs seem to have been nullified by struggles in Russia and Turkey, unfortunately, and whispers in the paddock suggest that his time as a YZ450FM pilot could be ending. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP had an option on Watson for next

year – the decision is yet to be made and the third seat is all that they must consider. Glenn Coldenhoff has a deal that runs until the end of 2022 and Jeremy Seewer has just signed a contract that will not expire until the end of 2023. Those pilots are paid to win, make no mistake about that, but are not doing so. The pair have a podium finish apiece at this point in the season and have struggled to make an impact on the top five. It is thought that this is having an consequence on Watson’s status moving forward. If Coldenhoff and Seewer were performing as they have in seasons goneby, Yamaha would be

content and Watson would be able to ride slightly under the radar and to learn in the daunting division that is MXGP. Yamaha must win – they have built a terrific and costly infrastructure that warrants those high expectations and the lack of results from their stars has dropped a spotlight onto other areas of their programme, namely the YZ450FM that Watson pilots. A long-term strategy has suddenly fallen by the wayside in favour of a quick fix. There is no previous winner on the market, so the best that Yamaha can do is roll the dice with another guy and hope that their rate of


BY LEWIS PHILLIPS progression is faster than that of Watson. It is unlikely that will work and, bizarrely, the fact that Watson is going to inevitably improve next year has been forgotten. Logic does tend to go out the window when one is being reactive, rather than staying the course with a tried and tested plan. The fact that Watson has just given the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP team a significant class victory at the Motocross of Nations makes this situation more puzzling. Watson has beaten his experienced peers to the punch and put the YZ450FM on top, which is superb in just his thirteenth international appearance on the bike. Expectations have been exceeded. What more could one want from a rookie? If nothing else, this is a promising sign of what is to come in the not-so-distant future.

Perhaps the root of this issue includes Romain Febvre, who is actually quite close with Watson. Febvre had a single Grand Prix win in the MX2 division (one less than Watson) and was not expected to do much aboard the bigger bike. Incredibly, he became a world champion as a rookie in 2015. It was very impressive and has skewed expectations of rookies ever since – teams are eager to uncover another newbie who will transform into a champion with relative ease. Tim Gajser only increased the pressure in 2016. Steady progression is no longer acceptable in the competitive world of MXGP. Calvin Vlaanderen is another example as he is desperately trying to earn factory status and join one of the elite teams. The results that Vlaanderen has achieved with the Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha squad, a satellite effort with

minimal resources, warrant that, as he has proven that he has top-five speed on more than one occasion. Doors have been slammed in his face though – the unknown is so much more tempting. What if an MX2 graduate with lesser results shocks everyone? Unlikely, yes, but teams love the gamble. For now, things are in a state of flux. It is unknown what both Watson and Vlaanderen are going to do next year. Are those guys deserving of factory deals? Absolutely. There is simply no denying that. Is that actually going to happen? Time will tell.


GASGAS/TLD The Troy Lee Designs race team has long been a showcase for the company’s gear and product R&D and after a long association with KTM orange, switched to GASGAS red for 2021. Racers such as Justin Barcia gave the two brands supercross and motocross prominence and other offshoots of the new collaboration are starting to surface. TLD have now officially launched their GASGAS clothing lines with the team collection and causal gear inspired by the race squad. Designs range from overt to subtle and grace three t-shirts, two hoodies, caps beanies and a jacket. With the combo of GASGAS (and the group’s affiliations when it comes to accessories) and TLD’s peerless take on aesthetics then this is a new temptation for fans.



the ace in the pack By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer




efore he could legally buy a beer in the United States, Maxime Renaux - Monster Energy Yamaha rider, MX2 championship leader and one of the brightest talents in Europe - had already sampled the tantalising glory of motocross and the soul-withering depths. Renaux, from Sedan in the northeast of the country and close to the Belgian border, ventured into ‘new Pourcel/ Roczen/Herlings’ territory when he was fourteen and dominating 125cc competition on the European and World scene. Renaux was already aligned with the Kemea team – now the factory Yamaha crew – while he was progressing but would make a very difficult detour before he would re-join the Belgian set-up for 2021 and go on to reassert his status but in MX2. Renaux is now on the cusp of being France’s fifteenth FIM Motocross World Champion and the fifth in MX2, making the tricolour the most prominent flag by far in the division. From the ten rounds of the 2021 campaign he has eight podiums and two wins after finishing 3rd overall in 2020 and 7th in 2019 from the confines of the privately run SM Yamaha team (now GASGAS). Talking with Renaux is a revealing experience. He is multi-lingual, erudite, and brutally focussed. You’d think he was overly serious until he cracks a few selfeffacing gags. He’s a tall guy and wellbuilt. His style also seems an awkward fit on the 250. He can be aggressive but also smooth. He’s reactive and versatile. There are few other current racers in MX2 that look like they could make an effective transition to MXGP and the 450s.


How did motocross begin for you? My Dad liked motocross but never really rode that much. He was from a big family. He had three brothers and one sister, so it was not possible. He got his first bike when he was 28, I think, and when I was a kid I would go to the track with him. From an early age I was fully ‘in’. I really, really wanted a dirtbike. I was three when the first one came.


Renaux still has to close the book on MX2 in 2021 as rumours swirl around a move to the premier class but his name is firmly in the ascendancy once more. Origins, his background and that punishing delay to reach this point; it all came out through an engaging 25-minute conversation…

FEATURE I had been told when I could cycle without small wheels then they’d get me a bike and I think I got rid of the wheels the next day! I was already pretty motivated back then. Motocross fascinated me. I was doing some other sports like Judo but never really got the same feeling as I did with riding. My parents had a group of friends that had similar interests and going to a track at the weekend was a way to unwind for them. My mum didn’t know so much about motocross but she ended-up coming to every race with my Dad. Any brothers or sisters? No, I’m an only child and that’s another way it was good for me. With brothers or sisters I don’t think this, as a career, would have been possible.

“I LIKE HAVING SOMEONE NEXT TO ME THAT CAN HELP OR GUIDE ME, WHETHER IT’S PHYSICAL OR RIDING SUBJECTS. MENTALLY ALSO. BUT FOR TRAINING I PREFER TO BE ALONE. I’M A BIT OF A LONER ANYWAY...” The first time I saw you race was 2015 when you were the up-and-coming star in France, for Yamaha and on the European scene. Then you broke your collarbone and then your arm and that chopped your momentum. It must have been hard to deal with at a young age… I passed from one of the best periods of my life to one of the worst in a really short time. Like you said, 2015 was the

year that I broke through in the MX world and I was starting to be known by people and having some nice opportunities. The collarbone was not a big injury but I stepped up to EMX250 the following season which was a really high level at the time with a large group of strong riders. I was going for the podium, so all was good. I think it was the third or second race – at Teutschenthal – I had a crash and broke my upper arm. That was hard but not the toughest period. I came back quite strong and was feeling ready to win the EMX title in 2017. I had the speed, the fitness and the mental belief…but then I found the biggest obstacle of my life. At the first round of the French championship my left shoulder was landed-on and the bone was completely destroyed. It eventually healed very well but the nerves were a huge problem. There was a big bunch of them, starting from the spine, that became stretched. They were almost broken. I had so many tests and scans to see how I could recover. I went to see four different doctors and the first three were like ‘we know racing is your passion and your life but you will have to stop because it won’t be possible to have a strong arm any more’. I was told that it was good that I could move it. As a seventeen-year-old your world falls in when you are told something like this. I had a period where I was really down. I then had a shift where I thought ‘I cannot stop now…’. I felt worse when I didn’t have MX. If I cannot ride then I am impossible to live with! I’m terrible when I’m injured. So, I decided to give everything to find a solution and to know that I wouldn’t have any regrets. I waited for my bone to heal and then went to a rehab centre in the north of France to work on the nerves

You must have been worried about the shoulder and the long-term effects but then you must have also been stressed about your career because you were very much Yamaha’s golden boy… That is also a hard point. When you are young and you are working your way up the ladder with some success, the first big slide down is tough to handle. You have to deal with the fact you are not


and to try and stimulate them. I was there for three months and for the first two there was no progress. Nothing. It was tough. I was in the swimming pool and doing other movements just to find or feel any kind of reaction. A small detail would have been a good thing. Then, after all that time, suddenly one day it started to come back and the bicep was starting to contract again. So, I kept workingI can imagine your reaction... I was like a kid in a candy store. I was so happy. I kept working and got back on the bike at the end of the 2017 season. I remember that the doctors didn’t think it was a good time to try because the arm still wasn’t strong enough but for my head I had to. I also think that the bike started to stimulate my arm because from the moment I got back it kept progressing. At first, I had to use all my fingers to squeeze the clutch and it was hard to even bring the lever back to the bar but at least it was working and I was enjoying it a bit. I was ready to come back in 2018. I was riding the European Championship again and my arm was evolving and getting stronger. Even now I have a few little problems: I don’t feel the first two fingers of my hand that well and the arm is definitely not as strong as the other one but I’m used to it and it’s not a problem to ride.




winning anymore and the interest in you starts to go away. Sometimes you can see which people really believe in you. I’m really thankful to have Yamaha at my back because they always believed in me. Today I have proved that they were right to believe in me and my potential. For sure it’s something I will never forget. The recovery and the progress you’ve made is a nice story…and you reached the red plate in MX2 by taking the long route back through being a supported rider and going through private teams. It must have been good for your character… So many lessons. Of course it is always easy to talk about it afterwards! At the time I probably wouldn’t have said that. As you mature you appreciate what you take out of these experiences. It changed me a lot and I grew up so much. I’m stronger than I ever would have been without that. They say that you learn the most from the toughest times and I have been very deep into the toughest! I wouldn’t say ‘nothing will stop me now’ but I will always keep believing. I don’t want to quit and will always try 100%. My life is just for motocross.

Every rider has a pivotal moment in their career where they make a big change…injury aside, what was that movement for you and your development? Hmm, I’ve been used to living away from home since I was quite young. It was clear to my parents that I was extremely motivated to be an MX rider and to earn a living from it. From sixteen I was training in the south with my ex-trainer and I was living in an apartment alone. So I was used to that lifestyle and I was still going to school when I was down there - which was next door - to keep some normality to life and to keep, let’s say, a ‘second door’ if motocross stops. I’m actually very grateful to my mother because she really pushed for it. My Dad was like a [typical] guy; he wanted me to do my sport and be the best. If we could have trained together every day then it would have been fine for him! But school is really important also and to learn a bit about what life is. During the injury period I was doing a lot of schoolwork and it helped to take my mind somewhere else. I lived in Italy with my previous team, and now I live in Belgium. It was the best. You can learn so much by experiencing different lifestyles and cultures.

I feel that life in Belgium is completely different to what it is in Italy. I like both styles actually. Learning a new language – Italian – was really niceAre you any good with it? Actually I’m better in Italian than English! I think because it’s a Latin language and it’s close to French. I liked Italy – I lived near Bologna - but I think moving around isn’t too much of a problem because I’m not really into partying. I’m just focussed on MX and being alone is not a problem for me. I don’t mind. I will do whatever I have to do for my job. Where are you in Belgium? Close to Genk. I’m near the team. What were you studying? Nothing super-special but I have my higher education diploma and then did the first two years of university, studying economics. I tried to push as much as I could for a long as I could. I didn’t feel it impacted my riding or training in a negative way. I could mix both together. When I stepped up to the MX2 world championship I had to make a choice and had to stop the school and focus on racing. You say you are focussed on motocross but is it mainly about chasing results or is it about personal improvement?

[pause] I try not to focus on just the win. I’m a very competitive person and I always want to be at the front of something. I’ll always look to the win and I want to be the best I can at anything. But when it comes to MX I changed my outlook a bit. Before I would have tried to win until I died. But I learned a lot and leant on the team this winter and really made the most of their experience. I am more calm, more mature and will take a 4th, 5th or even a 7th if it’s a bad race and I’m not feeling good. I’m trying to build. It’s a point I really improved from last year. To come back to your question: I do it for the win – I don’t want to be 2nd to 3rd – but I also do it for my personal goals. I’ve dreamt of racing since I was young and because I have so much fun. Do you like to work with people – trainers – or do you manage alone? You were quite tight with Thierry Van Den Bosch last year… I like having someone next to me that can help or guide me, whether it’s physical or riding subjects. Mentally also. But for training I prefer to be alone. Some people don’t like to go cycling for three hours by themselves but I prefer it like this because I can totally focus on what I need to do and there isn’t else that can



FEATURE disturb. If you go cycling with five guys and one gets a flat tyre then you need to wait; it’s kinda selfish, I know, but I’m a bit of a loner anyway. I like to be alone. The trend in motocross sees riders training or riding together, especially teammates or brandmates… I don’t mind that. This year I’m actually doing some work together with Thibault [Benistant, Monster Energy Yamaha MX2 teammate and 2020 EMX250 Champion] but if I have to do it alone then that’s not a problem and sometimes even better for me. If I’m with someone then it’s interesting because I guess we will push each other. However, I know I will always push myself and I don’t need any stimulation from the outside. What’s your opinion on EMX250 and MX2? Some people feel that in the last couple of years the series’ have become very close in terms of competitiveness. It doesn’t look that good for MX2… I believe it is evolving so much, and, it depends on the year. There are some years in EMX where there is a very high level and the guys stepping up can almost win in MX2 right away. They are fighting for podiums and winning motos but there are also some years in the Europeans when we see the champion stepping up and he struggles. There is not a ‘law’ when it comes to that and it can change so much. I’ve experienced some really strong years in EMX when you’ve had guys like [Jorge] Prado, [Jett] Lawrence, [Darian] Sanayei and [Bas] Vaessen. [Thomas Kjer] Olsen as well. All those names are -or have been - fighting at the front of GPs or elsewhere.

It’s interesting that you say you don’t want to move too fast because you have two more years in MX2 but it seems like MXGP could be a good fit for you… I have two more years…I don’t want to rush things but I also don’t want to lose any time! It’s a career choice and something that you never really know. It’s like a poker game. You have to make choices and then you have to see. Sometimes it’s like there are no bad decisions. Both directions look good and only time will tell you if it was good or not.

So, is it time for MXGP yet? I have it in my head. I still don’t know what to do. First of all, I want to be world champion. I will never step to MXGP without a title and if that means waiting until I’m 23 then fine. I know that I really like the 450 and I have the body for the bike. I’m a little too heavy for the 250. I’m looking forward to the step but we have to see how the rest of this year will be and how I feel about the move. I also have to discuss the strategy as well with Yamaha. If I get the MX2 title this year then I would love to go for a second but I also don’t want to lose time. If we see [Tom] Vialle with the injury then it’s not easy to win when you’re expected to. If you do take it this year then you’ll join a list of special French riders to be world champion, names like Vimond, Bayle, Tortelli, Pichon, Pourcel, Musquin to name a few. Is there anyone – any rider you look up to - that you’ll think ‘wow, I achieved the same as him’? I’m not going to lie: when I was young I never watched GPs. Up until the age of 14 I didn’t really know who were the top guys. I was not focussed on MXGP because I saw riding and racing like a game, something fun. I was not ‘into’ racing. When I was riding small bikes I don’t think I could have ever dreamt of being here today and in factory teams because we were just a few friends going to small tracks with normal bikes and normal parents. I never thought or saw myself as part of the MXGP paddock. When I stepped into EMX125 it was really late. I think my first European Championship race was when I was thirteen years old; it’s much later compared to guys that start on the 65s or 85s. But it was from this moment where I saw I could really do something.


Were you ever worried about your position at Yamaha? At one point it seemed you were marginalised by being pushed out to SM in Italy. You were part of the factory team as an EMX youngster and eventually found you way back there for 2021… Actually, it was a time when I was building back through injury and I knew I would have to go through a satellite or supported team. I had to go step-by-step to reach the top. When I was riding for the Italian team last year I was fighting for podiums and I made it to the final top three of the championship, so I felt like I deserved the factory place. But, in my ex-team I had really good material. The engine was strong and for suspension I was working with a guy who was also a sponsor and he was also working on my engines and suspension in EMX125, so we have a very strong relationship. I was feeling good and didn’t need anything else. I would have been ready for the factory team but it was also fine to move this year. It seems like things are changing fast but I don’t want to move too quicky. We are doing well and I want to keep it like this.

FRANCE’S MOTOCROSS WORLD CHAMPIONS Livia Lancelot (2008, 2016 WMX Kawasaki): The very first Women’s World Champion, Lancelot won two titles before moving into team management with the 114 Motorsports crew in MX2.

Jean-Michel Bayle (125cc 1988 Honda, 250cc 1989 Honda): 1988 was the first of five FIM and AMA titles in a period of just three years for this game-changing motorcycle racer.

Pierre Renet (2009 MX3 Suzuki): Renet is still officially Suzuki’s last world champion after his success in the 2009 MX2 campaign. The category was discontinued after 2013. Renet moved into Enduro.

Sebastien Tortelli (1996 125cc Kawasaki, 1998 250cc Kawasaki): Tortelli ended a seven-year dry spell for the French as he was coached by Vimond to title success and then followed Bayle’s example in the U.S. Frederic Bolley (1999, 2000 250cc Honda): France’s first back-to-back world champion in the same category but his career never reached the same heights after the millennial season. Mickael Pichon (2001, 2002 250cc Suzuki): Pichon made his name in the USA and Supercross before returning to give Suzuki two of their last three world championships. Mickael Maschio (2002 125cc Kawasaki): Maschio won his only world title at tense final round of the season in Russia. It was also Kawasaki’s last crown with a two-stroke. Yves Demaria (2004, 2006, 2007 MX3 KTM): Demaria won Grands Prix in each class but it was not until he moved to the maligned and now defunct MX3 division that he was able to take #1 plates.

Christophe Pourcel (2006 MX2 Kawasaki): Exceptionally talented racer that achieved success on both sides of the Atlantic despite serious injury in 2007. France’s first MX2 title holder. Marvin Musquin (2009, 2010 MX2 KTM): Musquin became Red Bull KTM’s first successive world champion before moving to the United States where he is the brand’s longest serving rider. Jordi Tixier (2014 MX2 KTM): Tixier’s sole world championship came after European success and an intense fight with teammate Jeffrey Herlings when he earned the 2014 title against the odds. Romain Febvre (2015 MXGP Yamaha): Febvre became MXGP’s second debutant winner in 2015 after finishing 3rd in 2014 MX2. His combination with the Yamaha YZ450FM blossomed to tremendous effect Tom Vialle (2020 MX2 KTM): Red Bull KTM’s third French champion, Vialle’s progression from top-ten EMX250 runner to Grand Prix leader in two years was staggering.


Jacky Vimond (250cc 1986, Yamaha): France’s first world champion, he was runner-up twice in the 250s before conquering the 250cc category and then became a successful and perceptive trainer.



ALPINESTARS There are few brands that meld quality, protection, innovation and enviable designs quite like Alpinestars. The 2022 motocross gear collection features more than 40 new sets and 12 fresh offerings for Youth. The company have options for Pros, all the way down to casual amateurs on a very tight budget. At the top of the spectrum is the ‘Supertech’ series which carries the highest price point but also the very best in racerinspired fit, lightweight construction and compression. ‘Techstar’ is a level down but does not compromise on comfort and fit; the open knee formation being a key example for improved flexibility. Techstar has strategically inserted mesh panels for the best airflow and ventilation. Performance of the pant/ shirt/glove combination has been a priority. ‘Racer’ aims for the optimum blend between comfort and durability, and has advanced materials to remain decent for weight, moisture-wicking and rugged architecture. Alpinestars have also launched ‘Fluid’, which they define as: ‘The Fluid line gives new riders access to high-quality MX technology that brings key construction and technical design aspects from the Supertech, Techstar, and Racer series.’ The new Venture XT line will satisfy the dual-sport and adventure touring riders with aspects of Techstar coming into play along with robust and dependable technology to combat the worst of the elements while in the saddle.




That’s a wrap on the 2021 Motocross of Nations and really, over here in the USA we’ve been in off-season mode for a couple of weeks now. The poor MXGP guys still have a bunch of races left and if that series is anything like the USA, the silly-season will be in full effect these last few races. We’re still waiting for some final shoes to drop and that will happen in a couple of days, specifically October 1st. Here’s what we’ve seen, what we’re going to see and some thoughts on that news.

that’s probably why this is a SX only deal. Got to think this is the veteran’s last year in the sport and what a great career he’s had, a few more wins would really add to his legacy.

NEWS: Marvin Musquin resigns with Red Bull KTM for SX-only in 2022.

NEWS: Erik Kehoe retires from manager role at HRC Honda.

Marv’s been in talks with the Austrians for a while but he was trying to ride either a GASGAS TLD bike or even a Rockstar Husqvarna machine. Not sure why Musquin was trying to get away from the Red Bull KTM squad but I know he was talking to those two teams. Also, the rumor is that he wasn’t stoked on the lower contract offer he was given and, in the end, I think

This was a bit of a shock and there’s plenty of scuttlebutt that it was suggested to the classy Kehoe that it might be the right time to retire as changes were coming. I mean, he did just help guide a brand new 250 effort at HRC to a 250MX title which is pretty damn cool. Ken Roczen won races indoors and out, Chase Sexton looked to take a small step up and

things at Big Red were rolling along. Anyways, Kehoe leaves Honda for a second time with a great record as a manager to go along with his terrific career as a long-time factory Suzuki rider. Always great to deal with, a smart, quiet reserved guy, Erik is a terrific ambassador for the sport. NEWS: Malcolm Stewart signs a two-year deal with Rockstar Husqvarna Stewart’s onto his fifth team in five years but this time, he’ll at least be there for two seasons after the news dropped that this contract was also for the outdoor series as well. Stewart’s not done the motocross series for a long time and it should be interesting to see what he’s


BY STEVE MATTHES capable of. Also he’s going to be training at the Baker Factory which is a signal, at least to me, that he’s all-in on this deal. Malcolm’s one of the more popular riders in the pits and it’s good for the team and brand to have him there. The fact he’s going to be in the Aldon Baker program is great as well. NEWS: Jason Anderson to Monster Kawasaki (Oct 1) Jason jumps from a long time association with the Rockstar Husky brand (he was there when the team rode Suzuki’s AND KTM’s!) to jump into Eli Tomac’s seat. Jason will do well on green, just like he would’ve done had he stayed on the white bike. There are plenty of questions about Jason’s desire to be all-in on what he has to do to win another championship but he’ll still make a ton of podiums and be one of the more entertaining riders on and off the

track. How he’ll adapt to the aluminum framed Japanese bike should be interesting. NEWS: Aaron Plessinger to Red Bull KTM (Oct 1) AP had a break-out year on the Yamaha 450 and it was odd that he left the team that he knows so well for the second spot at KTM but he’ll be alongside his old teammate Cooper Webb and from what I hear, at the Baker’s Factory as well. This deal was done early in the 2021 season and I wonder if Aaron had to do it over again, if he wouldn’t stayed with the Star Yamaha guys. I do wonder if the tighter ship that the KTM guys run over there takes some of the fun away from Aaron’s program but maybe there’s nothing out there that can stop this fun train. AP really turned his 450 prospects around this year after two down years and that’s cool to see.

Eli Tomac to Monster Star Yamaha (Oct 1) In perhaps the shocker of the silly season, Tomac has decided he’s taking his talents to the Star Yamaha team. After a long and illustrious career with the green guys, Eli is going to head over to a vastly different bike than what he’s been used to. The driving force of this switch was Eli wanting to work with his former KYB technician that now works with the Star Yamaha guys. More rider comfort is what he’s searching for and it’s one of those things where maybe both sides were looking for a switch. I don’t think it was a bad break up but one where both sides fell out of love with each other. Eli’s not the tour de force he once was but he still won races indoors and out this year and finished top three in the title hunts so I would think he’s capable of that again on BLU CRU.


Octopi Media

Octopi Media

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SCOTT SPORTS For first-class performance from off-road goggles then Scott Sports are the only brand you need. The company also produce a comprehensive and effective range of body armour and protection thanks to their alliance with D3O. The Softcon Air base layers are light, ventilated and well designed for flexibility and movement. But the focus in this issue falls on the new X-Plore Enduro gear where the company have shredded their previous wares and come up with something more modern, better built, more durable and more stylish. In their PR Scott X-Plore comes with ‘a focus on durability, functionality and comfort, this next generation enduro line is constructed with cutting-edge materials and all the features you need to conquer the trail.’ XPlore uses tough but flexible and light fabrics in their production of jersey, pants, gloves and vest. The pants have military-grade inner knee material and typical 900D nylon construction for the best resistance while not gaining weight. Looking at the gloves, Scott say they have a ‘Rib Span back of hand with Direct Inject TPR knuckles offering essential protection. A single piece Airprene cuff and closure provide superb comfort whilst the welded Clarino palm reinforcements ensure these gloves will stand the test of time.’ If the X-Plore can reach anything like the performance of the Dual Raid Adventure clothing that we tested then it will be a serious candidate for any general off-road riders.



SKEPTICS & TRUE BELIEVERS I had my doubts that the 2021 Motocross of Nations would happen as planned. Although Infront Moto Racing was determined for the MXoN to return to the calendar with a specially built course at the Imola road circuit, something first announced last November, one had to assume that variants or case surges would affect the international gathering that was slated for ten months later, and I didn’t rush look at the prices of plane tickets to Europe. Still, I held hope everyone would get together in 2021, mainly because the MXoN has served as a personal indicator of normalcy since the start of the pandemic. When the first wave rolled through Europe in 2020 and closed-borders brought the MXGP series to a standstill, I told my wife that there was no way we’d go to Ernee, Paris, Australia, or Geneva, and within weeks those events were canceled

entirely. I’ve used things like changes in races schedules/ number of spectators allowed on-site/ease of traveling/isolation protocols to determine how things are going on the other side of the Atlantic since then, and with those metrics, a return to Europe started to seem possible in June. That Team USA solidified their intentions to race and put together a three-rider effort in Justin Barcia, RJ Hampshire, and Chase Sexton seemed to ease some concerns about the MXoN in July. It was around then that Infront considered making it a points-paying part of the World Championship, an extreme scenario no one seemed okay with, and although a move to Mantova had already been announced, talk of taking the race to England rose in response to the capacity

crowds allowed at Silverstone F1. Given all that, I still held off on any type of travel planning. The closing weeks of the Pro Motocross championship took a toll on Team USA, physically and logistically. Justin Barcia’s practice crash and assorted injuries kept the official announcement from taking place at Unadilla, Budds Creek, or Ironman, while the respective race teams worked to have things ready for the pre-race photoshoots and final shipping date. Barcia’s uncertain riding status, RJ Hampshire’s late summer illness, and Chase Sexton’s enlarged spleen occurred just as Italy increased restrictions for incoming travelers, a policy that forced Team USA to consider mandatory vaccines for personnel and then ultimately opt-out in early September.


BY MIKE ANTONOVICH As expected, public reaction was negative, but Team USA’s early commitment to the 2022 MXoN and the announced absence of World Championship front-runners like Prado, Febvre, Gajser, Renaux, and Geerts helped validate the call. My trip to Italy hinged on Team USA, but with no flights booked or paperwork sorted, I wasn’t ‘out’ anything other than the chance to watch Antonio Cairoli in a blue Italia jersey one last time and Jeffery Herlings on the sand. Instead, I tuned in from afar and as a fan, eager to see how many countries showed up, the sort of atmosphere the small track offered, and what riders would do during the weekend. KTM’s domination on Saturday was a nice reward for the Austrian brand’s support of the event. Cairoli, still sore from a hard crash

six days earlier, showed his character by catching, passing, and dropping Glenn Coldenhoff and Benoit Paturel to win in the MXGP Qualifying Moto. Tom Vialle was precise and quick on his way to the MX2 Qualifying Moto win, a reminder that he’s one of the best in the class despite a rough championship defense, while Herlings put in his typical come from behind charge to the checkered flag in the Open Qualifying Moto. Excellent starts by Team South Africa, this year’s benefactors of the random pill draw for Qualifying grid selection, revealed the importance of the inside gates and gave The Netherlands, France, Italy, Great Britain, and Germany an advantage for Sunday’s Motos. With no deadlines to meet or photos to edit, I instead watched with pizza and Peroni in each hand and thought about how a return to RedBud in 2022 makes sense for everyone

(a massive piece of property with limited restrictions that’ll be perfect for a large US fanbase/eager to travel Europeans and, most importantly, will be profitable after two tough years). Seeing Friday’s parade and Saturday’s races from the couch made me envious of every person in attendance at Mantova, but that feeling lessened when I saw how conditions went from warm and dry to cold and wet overnight, that there was no line to get cappuccinos from our kitchen, and that I could press play on the gate drop. Cairoli and Coldenhoff’s run-in in the first turn brought immediate suspense to the MXGP/ MX2 Moto, as it kept them from finishing in the top-10 (Cairoli took 21st after a trip through the Goggle Lane, Coldenhoff charged on to finish an important 15th) and gave Thomas Kjer Olsen


a chance to run at the front. TKO’s tall stature and upright riding style worked well in the mud, and after shaking off some mid-race arm pump, he outran Vialle and scored the win, a first for himself and Denmark at the MXoN. Herlings bypassed the optional sighting lap for the MX2/ Open Moto, a tactic to stay clean at the cost of his track knowledge, displayed excellent early pace in the actual race, and aided the Netherlands’ overall score with his win. Team France’s hopes were dashed by Vialle’s mechanical failure and Mathys Boisrame’s crash, incidents that occurred minutes apart, while Italy took the top overall spot after hard-fought sixth place-seventh place finishes by Mattia Guadagnini and Alessandro Lupino. Aimless scrolling while waiting for the MXGP/Open Moto replay to pop up on MXGP-TV. com revealed the final outcome of the MXoN, a modern lesson learned the hard way,

and I tuned in for the last race eager to see how Jeffrey went 1-1, and Italy won the overall. Lupino’s line after being bumped over the first turn necessitated a handful of replays, as did his body slam midway through the race, and a ten-place penalty seemed appropriate given the circumstances. Team Italy’s signals to pass Latvia’s Karlis Sabulis for seventh place/seventeenth place, set to the on-track announcer’s call of the situation, conveyed how important a result was for the overall, and Lupino stepped up to the challenge by riding out minor mistakes and finishing where he needed. The emotions at the MXoN podium are usually the same. The third-place team is often ecstatic, thrilled to be on the box because of their underdog status and whatever challenges they faced through the weekend. The runnerup team is usually somber, frustrated, reflective, and though able to pinpoint where the day went wrong, take no solace in the fact that it

finished second. The winners of the Chamberlain Trophy are unmatched in emotions, as they’ll go from stunned to celebratory at the first note of their national anthem. Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Italy went through it all when they took the stage in Mantova, and their celebrations brought an end to a much better-than-expected event. A thorough look at the seventy-four-year history of the Motocross of Nations reveals that the event hasn’t always been flawless. The 2001/2002/2004 versions are usually the first that comes to mind, mostly due to their modern problems, but the race has continued despite slight dips in participation and some industry pushback, and last weekend’s efforts by Infront to make 2021 feel like any other MXON shows how important it is to their brand. Here’s hoping everything is sorted out, once and for all, when we arrive at RedBud next year.


BELL HELMETS As one of the most popular off-road helmet brands in North America, Bell have set the standard with their recent unveiling of the Moto-10 and its Spherical protective technology that includes Mips. We’ve featured the Moto-10 in a previous issue and have wondered at the 3K carbon shell and the progressive ball-and-socket design. What’s curious about the Spherical is how the same construction and principles might soon carry over into the road race Race Star DLX lid. We use the Race Star and its one of the best helmets we’ve had the pleasure to wear: light, comfortable, quiet and reassuring thanks to the Flex protection within, which was a highlight feature of the Moto-9. What will come of the new model?




LEATT Leatt took their 2022 gear collection out of the closet this month. The new 5.5 and 4.5 jersey/pant sport fresh looks and a renewed design to optimise weight and fit even further. The 5.5 (above) has a 360 fit stretch fit and is the leading products in the range (the pants have the innovative inner knee brace system). Over 95% is ultra-light, durable Ripstop 360° stretch material. Leatt have also introduced two new additions to the range. Their work in both motocross and Enduro with the likes of Jonny Walker had led to the creation of the 4.5 Enduro pant and the 3.5 kit. The 4.5 Enduro (right) has an appealing list of specs, such as: a pre-curved classic in-boot fit, cargo storage in the thigh and unique yoke storage pocket, thigh zipper vents, ripstop stretch panels, multi-layer inner knee reinforcement with leather for bike grip, durable but lightweight ripstop seat, thigh and knees, material panels have multi-row reinforced stitching, the waist comes with micro adjuster and 360° heavy duty silicone grip, top Quality YKK Japan Zippers and an Anti-odor MoistureCool mesh lining. The 3.5 (left) features some of the virtues of the 4.5 but at a lower price point.


CHAMPION. RIDER. PERSONALITY. FAN. By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer


There are few better examples of a die-hard motocross fan who drank the sweetest elixir of his own passion and who also waded through the dirge and perils of what the sport had to offer. Gordon Crockard talks about the love and loathing of a pursuit that gave his everything and nearly took it all away… If there is an Irish/British rider that defines grass roots motocross then it’s Gordon Crockard. The 42-year-old from Newtownards (east of Belfast) raced everywhere and everything, spanning the end of the two-stroke era into the first generations of fourstrokes, British Championship heydays and Grand Prix as it transitioned from age-old accessibility to modern elitism. He beat both the best of the 250cc category as well as facets of his own health in a career that drew across almost fifteen years as a Pro and a time where he not only became one of the biggest motorcycling names in the UK but an outright star in Northern Ireland. In all that time there was a basic thirst conjured by boyish fanaticism that exists to this day with his Veterans Des Nations appearances and a comprehensive private collection of motocross mementos. “I was a boy who had heroes and I loved the sport,” says Crockard, a wonderful raconteur and beholder some strong and thoughtful opinions of how

motocross has evolved in his lifetime. He is now Honda Motor Europe’s Off-Road Manager and responsible for the non-HRC presence in MXGP. “The adults around me had so much admiration and respect for the men that were winning Grand Prix races so I looked at it like ‘if I did the same, then that would be a good person to be’. When I go to Farleigh Castle now then I am dropping back into that mode of trying to be like Dave Thorpe or Georges Jobe. During that time in my life motocross was the coolest thing! Talk about living the dream. I wanted to emulate and be like them and that’s what kids do. They dress up like they are superheroes, and they go out and play. That’s what Farleigh is now: grown men dressing up and going out to play! In these photos you are clearly fond of memorabilia: a student of the sport as much as a collector of items from your own career… I would say I was denied things that I wanted when I was younger, so now when I

have an opportunity to acquire or keep them then I go for it. It might be a box of goggles I used because when I was a kid my gear was donated from my Dad or his friends. I never had new goggles or new bikes. Until I was a professional and things were given to me it was always the cheapest stuff for the job. It was never what I wanted; it was what I was given. Subsequently I’ve become a bit of a collector of period things from the ‘80s and ‘90s motocross, and I’m a hoarder as well. I like to put it on display, more for myself than for general viewing. It’s not a shrine! I don’t need to walk in and see all my stuff and think ‘aren’t I brilliant?!’ It reminds me where I have come from and the inspirational influences I had when I was younger. I have my heroes’ shirts signed; those from Thorpe, Rick Johnson, Rob Herring, [Joel] Smets, [Stefan] Everts and [Mickael] Pichon’s. I’ve kept all my old shirts as well. It helps me function because the visual of all that reminds me how I arrived to where I am now. This all sounds quite deep but the truth is that I just like



FEATURE having that stuff. I’ve also recreated a lot of my heroes’ race bikes by buying material from E-Bay. I’ve restored them in a particular style or theme of the guys I looked up to. I’m making an asset that I just like to have around. So which thing would you run to first in a fire? I’d run straight towards the extinguisher and then straight to the telephone! I’ve got all my old race bikes as well and one of my Dad’s and they all have extreme value to me in their own way and some are irreplaceable. I would try to get those out. Did you have to re-find your own bikes over the years?

No, I always had that in my deal. I knew I wanted that contract clause because David Watson – who was a hero of mine – told me he always regrated not keeping anything. He contacted me once and said ‘do you remember in the summer of ’87 when you and your parents visited us in the summer and my mum gave you a load of my old gear? Can I have it back?!’! He didn’t have anything. So, I thought I had an opportunity to keep this stuff. It might not mean anything today but it might in the future. They are literally show-bikes that probably won’t run again but I got to a point a while ago where I thought ‘I wouldn’t

mind riding some of them…’ and would buzz around the driveway at home where the vibration, sitting position, the sound, the grips would bring it all back. I then went to buy some older models on E-bay and used some old race parts I had and asked sticker companies to make me some decals. I was able to make replicas of my bikes that I would take out and ride. I get energy from that. There is also the financial side because those old ‘Evo’ bikes are appreciating incredibly. It’s an investment as well. You surround yourself with history but there was a point near the start of the century where the likes of yourself

that it turned out to be me. It hadn’t really happened like that before: a local guy live on the TV that people could see. It wasn’t really the case for any of the past Irish riders. Jeremy had the same thing whether it was in the 250s or the 500s. He was probably having similar experiences to me. Jeremy’s a good friend of mine but we’ve never had a conversation about it. I came through the local racing scene and where I had been working in the Honda/Yamaha/ Suzuki dealership in Belfast and everyone who was in racing saw me during the week in the shop and then racing at the weekend! I was very connected to the scene and then when I started

racing internationally I kept those bonds and I felt linked to that community. When I was home – and there wasn’t a GP or British Championship – then I’d race in Ireland and see my mates. It was a social day for me as well as a bit of training. There would be people who’d chat to me and some who’d always been onat-me about the race and they couldn’t quite understand that a top five result in GPs was actually pretty good! Some riders would be a serial winner in local events and some public would be confused when they were ten seconds a lap slower when they were trying a GP…but that’s normal at world level!


and Jeremy McWilliams, the Dunlops were the epicentre of British racing. Do you have memories of the spotlight at the time? Yes, but of course I undervalued it because I thought ‘I’m only beating Mickael Pichon, Chad Reed and Frederic Bolley, I’m not beating Dave Thorpe or Rob Herring or Jean-Michel Bayle…’. I devalued what I did. I just rode my speed and happened to win. That’s how I felt, so it meant I never really put myself on top of the world. At that time the GPs had live Eurosport coverage and all the hungover Irish would sit at home on a Sunday and watch. They got behind the local hero and it just so happens


Can you remember a time when you were aware your profile had blown-up? There was a key moment. It was the first time they’d had the British Championship at Desertmartin. It was in 2000. I’d won Grands Prix that year and I was leading the British. I wasn’t aware that people would care much but I slept at home, arrived early at the track, went to truck and there were fans and flags everywhere. I hadn’t even ridden the bike yet and I was a bit overwhelmed. I thought ‘right, OK, I’ve got a few supporters here today…’ and I realised the enormity of the following. It was great to see that real interest. Did you want to shy away from that at all? No! I totally embraced it! I loved it and played the part. I’m not naïve enough to think that if it wasn’t me then it would be another guy. I knew it wasn’t about Gordon and the guy with the funny personality but more about a person who was from where they were, and who was beating everyone else. There was this allegiance. We suffer from being patriotic in Northern Ireland because of all the political and religious divide.

We cannot really stand under our flag as a nation, but we can get behind the local man and if he is beating the others then you can ride on that. I recognised that. Was there a point in your career where you felt like a star? Maybe the attention at the Belfast SX? Or driving into Desertmartin and seeing that ‘Gordon Crockard’s Playground’ graffiti…? I think I was always feet-onthe-ground, and I saw that the popularity came just because I was the guy who won the race. Doing the local races and the supercross at the Odyssey reinforced that impression of ‘the local guy who beats the international field’. That’s how I grew that strong following. I had this conversation with Johnny Rea on the Isle of Man one night. He was saying – jokingly – “why are you more popular than me?! I’m World Superbike Champion”! He lived on the island and raced in WorldSBK, whereas I did GPs and then came home and was riding with a lot of the guys who’d watched me at some local event. It all grew from the connection, I think. It was almost like I was one of them, who was going off to win GPs.

What was the craziest moment of that spell? I was recognised by my town and county for my achievements. It was a surprise event and I was presented with a piece of crystal at the town hall by a professor from the local Queens University called Gordon Blair; a fantastic guy. I remember thinking it was quite a big fuss and something pretty removed from motocross. I had the council, the mayor, professors from Queens University applauding me for something I’d done and that carried much more weight than anything inside motocross where you were in this little world and everything revolves around winning the race. Motocross does not carry the weight of other sports because people cannot relate to it or they don’t know about it. People can kick a football and it goes into the neighbour’s hedge and when they watch Ronaldo curl a freekick into the goal they are amazed because they can relate. They can squeal their tyre wheels at 30mph and then go ‘wow’ when Max Verstappen does it at 200. Golf, darts, tennis: boring sports to watch but they get huge followings because people can easily



appreciate the talent and the skills that it takes. You don’t have that with motocross and that’s why it will never be mainstream. People don’t’ see the grind across those bumps. They don’t see or know how hard it is. So, to get any recognition from inside the sport I take it for what it is but something from the outside carries a lot of value to me. It puts it into context. Did you experience the classic scenario of being built up and knocked down? There were a few years of injury where people started saying you were over-the-hill but then you raced the Nations for Ireland aged 36 and were celebrated again… Yes. Absolutely. At the top there is only one place to go. On your way down you will achieve a 4th place or an 8th place and it prompts a very different reaction to when you are on your way up. You absorb a lot of energy when those results come on the way


up and after that brief time when you’re at the peak you either retire or you face the journey down, which is miserable and depressing! Even if you somehow quickly get back to the top then there aren’t any cheers but more like comments and reaction such as ‘it’s good to see you doing what you can do, why hasn’t it been happening all along?’. It’s not much fun. Do you wish someone had warned you about that as a youngster? Well, where it gets complicated is that the door to retire is always there.

It’s always an option but when it’s your livelihood and your income and you don’t have any other trade and you have zero value to any other occupation, you tend to say ‘alright, I’ll keep taking the 5th positions’ and ‘I’ll keep finishing 10th and taking the salary and get by’. You are able to keep racing for income and that’s it. You become a journeyman… Yeah. What’s that like? It’s horrible. I hated it. If you have any pride at all then getting beaten, beats you up. What drags you on is the

affliction of self-belief. Having the self-belief that you can ‘do it’ again, that you can turn it around if you didn’t have that injury or you just had a better bike or if you had your old mechanic back or if you stopped living in England and just went home. Whatever it might be, you try to revert back to what worked before. Get off the KTM and get on a Honda. The self-belief makes you continue to try but when the results don’t come then the self-belief drops because reality hits. The facts are on the page. At some point you just have to say ‘that’s it’, and it usually comes through bad

FEATURE injury or an alternative for making money. Is it amazing to look back at certain moments of delusion then? I wouldn’t say I have regrets but I do look back and think I might have had better results if I had made different decisions. At the time with the knowledge and the information I had then I made those decisions. Riding beyond my best years was a business choice. I ended up in a scenario where I had financial problems because of property investments when the economic downturn happened in ’07. I’d made money in my career and had invested it all into a property portfolio. I did not want to keep racing but the property deals all went sour and I had a huge loan against the bank. I had to generate money and keep the portfolio from going into liquidation. I needed cashflow and having to race was not fun. It was negative on so many levels. Were you flogging your name rather than your potential? I think my potential was over! I was putting myself through the pain of training, racing and travelling and at risk of injury because I needed the money. I was not chasing the achievements.

You must have hated motocross at some point… I hated life. For high reward there is high risk sometimes and I ended up getting totally stung by the property crash. Of course, I could have stayed away from racing and gone bankrupt instead but – with self-belief – you believe you can keep going and turn it around. I even changed disciplines and went to America to race the GNCC to try and extend my career. Unfortunately that was a disaster. Why? Well, I was signed up with factory BMW on a two-year contract and the factory was brilliant, the money was brilliant and the machinery was all prototype stuff and they moved it out of Europe and asked about the GNCC. They contracted Scott Summers and he ran the team. BMW were not happy with the prototype bikes that they were supposed to supply, so they didn’t, and Scott had to issue a lawsuit against them. BMW owned Husqvarna at the time and we ended-up riding Huskys. It was total and utter disorganisation. It was a mess on so many levels. I left, came back and raced motocross in the UK at the back-end of ’08. I’d stopped the world championship in ’07 and there was nothing for me so I took a

British-only deal. At Hawkstone Park on the 1st March 2009, ten seconds into the first race of the year, there was start-straight incident, I crashed and nearly died. I lost my spleen, I broke four vertebrae, five ribs and my collarbone. I was basically dead-on-arrival at the hospital in Shrewsbury. I was in intensive care for ten days, I lost two stone in weight when I didn’t have that to lose! At the time the bank situation was getting worse and my girlfriend left me. Everything went wrong. It was a major turning point in life. I felt that the accident was something that happened outside of my control. I didn’t want motocross to decide that I had to stop. So, I was determined to come back, race again and enjoy riding bikes again. I came back and rode quite well. You must have had some resistance to that from people around you… My mum and dad wouldn’t hear a word of it. If I brought up the subject of bikes at the house then both of them would get up and walk out of the room. They never attended another race and to this day they still haven’t. Now I have a young son and I don’t know what they are going to say about him riding a bike! They came to see me in intensive care and my mum said to me

Isn’t it ‘self-belief’ on another level to race again afterwards? I gave myself all sorts of ridiculous analogies like ‘lighting doesn’t strike twice’ or whatever I was putting in my head. I came back and rode British Championships. I still needed the money! No ego involved? Yeah, probably. I didn’t want the injury to beat me. I didn’t want the selection of my riding to have been made for me. In a way it probably took a lot of pressure off me to perform. It was OK to finish 9th. I had a terrible fear then

– call it subconscious if you want – of entering first turns. In the end that’s what stopped me racing. I was never any good at starts but it was nothing to do with fear of going into the corner. I found that if anything changed in my peripheral vision then I’d freeze and that was awful. I never admitted I was afraid of it, but I started to notice a pattern. A flash when something would move next to me. That’s what happened at Hawkstone. I bombed up the straight, minding my own business when a yellow tornado came across and took me down. I raced on. In 2010 and 2011 I did some UK stuff and won a couple of Red Bull Pro Nationals.

I got myself back into a position so I could prove to myself that I wasn’t scared. I satisfied myself and I was making a few quid. I rode for Suzuki and liked the team but couldn’t gel with the bike and at the end of ’11 went to Australia to try and establish myself. Australia was a hot territory then. There were people over there doing well but I ended up pricing myself out of the market and at the end of all that I started working for Honda in ’13. That’s pretty much the demise! A quick word on the infamous KTM move in 2002. It was pure-factory in one way. Also, an example of the right move at the wrong time.


that she was really sorry that they’d even given me a bike.

FEATURE Kurt Nicoll was behind it… The bottom line is that as a racer I was trying to defeat the likes of Pichon and Bolley who were on factory bikes in factory teams with direct manufacturer with technical support. As much fun as I was having with my standard CR250 modified by Nick Moores we still felt like the small man taking on the big boys and when we were winning it was wonderful but the days I was off the pace or having bad starts or missing the results the idea of competing for the world championship seemed more like a fantasy than a reality. To go a factory was attractive. I had offers from Sylvain Geboers for Suzuki and an

offer from Jan de Groot at Kawasaki which in hindsight I regret not taking one of those two. They would have been the better choice. At the time KTM were really growing and they had Red Bull money, they had hired all the best technicians and managers. They’d showed in the big bore class that they could build a championship winning bike. They did the same in the 125s. Their case was put to me in a positive way and a lot of encouragement as well. There were a lot of Brits in the setup and on paper it seemed the best thing to do. In the end the bike just wasn’t any good and it was the only element that didn’t work

from the whole package. The team was good, the management was good, the testing programme, the attitude, the strategy, the commercial approach. All of it. Kurt had a lot of empathy for most of the situations. The technicians at the factory didn’t have an understanding of what is a good 250 two-stroke. The feeling of the bike I wanted and what they understood wasn’t aligned. At the same time there was a pull in the other direction from Jamie [Dobb]. He wanted a lot more rev and top-end. He was coming from a 125 background with a lot of success. It’s possible they listened to him more than meUltimately though, was it a big education for you going

the rear, the handlebars a bit further forward. I knew what I wanted. I liked an open trail with a lot of offset on the clamps. I wasn’t overwhelmed or daunted and had no issues moving from a garden shed team to full factory because I knew what I wanted. The Project Leader just didn’t know what a good 250 needed to feel like, and when I was telling him that I didn’t need 56hp – 50 was fine otherwise it was wheelspinning or wheelying – he couldn’t grasp that. I’d do my best to explain and ended-up leaning towards Kurt but politics also came into it. It got complicated. I felt a bit like a victim of an engineer generational shift.

You dipped out of the sport then came back. What was that about and what’s the challenge with the Honda role? When my racing career ended, I didn’t have much to offer the world or a trade. Staying in motocross was the big draw and using knowledge, passion and experience. I ran a few coaching and training camps and grew a business for almost nine years. It was OK but it was a small window of the year. I had time and looked at other options. I found work as a stagehand in the film industry. I got the training and the qualification and worked for Warner Brothers for five years. I was able to do the film work and


from minimal resources to suddenly a lot of factory or prototype options? It’s a good point. As an example, the first test I went to was in Beaucaire [France] and the presented me with ten frames. I went ‘what?! Ten frames! Why don’t you already know which one is good?’ They wanted me to test them to see which one I wanted. In fairness Kurt shared the testing with me. It was quite a challenge in one day and considering the circuit changes over the course of a day. I was a bit concerned that they weren’t saying ‘this should be the best option’. I always changed a few things to a standard frame, like I moved the footpegs more to

FEATURE my camps in Spain and that’s when I was approached by Honda to be the coach for the European 150 Championship. The work overlapped, and the Honda work grew to the point where I was quite busy and I wanted a bigger role in motocross. There were a few changes at Honda Motor Europe and I felt quite positive about the future even if I was quite young for that management and commercial role. In 2016 the opportunity came up to replace Davy Dousselaere and Honda offered me the job. Everything about being in the paddock, the gate and trying to win races and championships is something where I feel I’m in a good position and with something to offer. It gives me some self-worth. There are challenges when it comes to how we race, our budget timing and even the model range because we don’t really get young riders coming through the youth championships on Hondas. We have a 150 but we don’t have twostrokes and there are political reasons in the governing body and national federations that prevent kids from racing that bike. I just have to remember my position and that I’m delivering a racing service for Honda with project objectives. Sometimes it works out and we over-perform and times when it doesn’t go that way… but that’s racing across the board.

Favourite track? Roggenburg, Switzerland. Starting on fresh grass and uphillsand-downhills where you are in fourth and fifth gear, fast and flowing turns and where you

You are a two-stroke fan, so are you open-minded to an electric future? I welcome electric. I see it as the future and a solution to a lot of problems that are growing at the moment because of combustion. I feel blessed that I have lived in the hundred-year existence of combustion engines. I feel lucky, and that I could race two-strokes as well. I cannot see electric bikes racing against combustion engines and that being a real sport. I think they will have their own series. It will be an evolution

“THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT AS A RACER I WAS TRYING TO DEFEAT THE LIKES OF PICHON AND BOLLEY WHO WERE ON FACTORY BIKES IN FACTORY TEAMS WITH DIRECT MANUFACTURER WITH TECHNICAL SUPPORT...” could use the bike to its full potential. Beautiful arable soil that turned into these luscious big berms. It was a thrill to ride around it. Worst track? Let’s go for Spa, when we went there in 2000. It rained and we got our skin chemically burnt from the concrete they’d used to make the jumps! Favourite bike? I like my ’01 250 Honda. It handled, won me a lot of races and it was easy to ride fast.

of what motocross is. Combustion makes noise and burns a hole in the ozone layer and more and more people don’t want that.


Best/toughest rival? Mickael Pichon. He denied me more Grand Prix wins! He had blistering speed. If he made the start ahead of me and pulled the gap then I couldn’t do much about it. If I started ahead of him? I don’t believe he ever passed and beat me.


KTM KTM have been on the MotoGP grid for five years now and without a discernible product link, even if some of their work and learnings with electronics have fed into other disciplines and other developments such as the factory’s link with Bosch and the evolution of the 6D lean angle sensor that informs much of the tech within models such as the SUPER DUKEs and the SUPER ADVENTURES. Now, with the new 2022 RC 390 and RC125, there is – at least visually – a direct correlation of sorts. The design is racier, bigger, making use of aerodynamics for stability, performance (directing airflow away from the rider) and ergonomics. Thanks to improvements in manufacturing with the wheels, chassis and ByBre (Brembo) brakes almost 6kg has been shaved away compared to the previous RCs. The Euro5 single cylinder with twin overhead camshafts, four valves, and electronic fuel injection pumps out more torque thanks to a new airbox and engine mapping settings. Most significantly the RC 390 and RC 125 have advanced rider aids with Cornering and Supermoto ABS and Cornering Motorcycle Traction Control. You can also fit a Quickshifter+ as an optional extra. The KTM RCs can be ordered now but don’t expect them to arrive in dealers until next March.




Tried and tested race fit. The 2022 Moto 5.5 Jersey and Pants is our top line riding gear. The Jersey is ultra-light, has welded seems for comfort, and offers ample ventilation while the stretch mesh ensures a race fit no matter what protection you choose. Full grain leather knees, engineered durability, and lightweight design make the 5.5 pants unbeatable. They also feature our Internal Knee brace System, that keeps knee brace wear and tear to a minimum.




MISANO - SMR Round 14 of 18

MotoGP 1. Pecco Bagnaia, Ducati 2. Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha 3. Enea Bastianini, Ducati

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

Moto3 1. Dennis Foggia, Honda 2. Niccolo Antonelli, KTM 3. Andrea Migno, Honda

STANDINGS 1. Fabio Quartararo, 234 points 2. Pecco Bagnaia, 187 3. Joan Mir, 167 Blogs by David Emmett, Neil Morrison, Photos by CormacGP/Polarity Photo








IS THE YAMAHA A ONE-RIDER BIKE? In 2019, Marc Márquez dominated MotoGP, winning or finishing second in every race bar Austin, where he crashed out of the lead. He took the title with an advantage of 151 points over Andrea Dovizioso. It was a display of sheer brilliance, but what made it all the more remarkable was that Márquez was one of only two Honda riders in the top ten. Separating Márquez and Cal Crutchlow were three Ducatis, three Yamahas, a Suzuki, and 287 points. Even after 14 races – the equivalent of where we are now in 2021 – Crutchlow trailed Márquez by 202 points, and was ninth, with the same group of bikes between them. The Honda, everyone said, was clearly a bike built to suit just one rider, and if you can’t do what Marc Márquez can do, you stood very little chance of success. The difference was so stark that Márquez won the team championship pretty much on his

own, racking up 420 of the 458 total points scored by the Repsol Honda team. Fast forward to 2021, and there is an eerie similarity to the series. Fabio Quartararo has the championship firmly under control. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider has a lead of 48 points over Pecco Bagnaia, and the next Yamaha is nowhere to be seen. Almost literally: the second Yamaha in the standings is Franco Morbidelli, currently 17th, 194 points behind his (now) teammate. That is not entirely correct, however. Although Maverick Viñales is listed as riding for Aprilia, the Spaniard scored 95 of the 98 points which put him 8th ‘on a Yamaha’, before he was summarily ejected from the factory team. But that still leaves him 139 (Yamaha) points behind Quartararo. Viñales is relevant here in more ways than one. Firstly, he is partly responsible for the chaos which has so distorted the view of the Yamaha.

His shock announcement after Assen that he would be leaving, then overrevving the bike at Austria 1, getting suspended and then effectively sacked, left Yamaha scrabbling for riders to replace him. Viñales’ enforced absence came in addition to Franco Morbidelli taking time off to get surgery on his right knee after the Sachsenring. That has led to a parade of substitute riders, as well as a GP with only three racers. At Assen, Garrett Gerloff replaced Franco Morbidelli in the Petronas Yamaha team, a role which Cal Crutchlow took over for both Austria races. At Silverstone and Aragon, Cal Crutchlow was moved into the factory squad, and Petronas Sprinta Moto2 rider Jake Dixon took over Morbidelli’s seat. At Misano, the Yamaha teams took on their final, post-Viñales forms. Franco Morbidelli returned to racing, and promotion to the factory Monster Energy squad. Andrea Dovizioso moved into the Petronas Yamaha team, taking the seat vacated by Morbidelli,


? and preparing for the 2022 season. Still with me? Throughout this chaos, Yamaha have had a total of eight riders on their four bikes this year. I cannot remember a season where a factory has run through quite so many names in only 14 races. What’s more, it would be unreasonable to expect miracles of most of those riders. Garrett Gerloff and Jake Dixon were rookies, drafted in from other series with no experience and no time to test the bike. Cal Crutchlow is now a test rider, and has changed gears mentally. Andrea Dovizioso hasn’t raced since November last year, and when he did, it was on a Ducati. Even the permanent riders have reason to struggle. Valentino Rossi has never made friends with the Michelin rear tire introduced in the 2020 season, and is one reason for his retirement at the end of this season. Morbidelli damaged his knee in a training crash, then exacerbated it at Le Mans, and has been riding with one leg.

Despite his precipitate departure, Maverick Viñales provides reason for optimism about the Yamaha M1. Viñales scored a win, a second, and two fifth places in his 11 outings on the bike, as well as a pole and three front row starts. Unlike Repsol Honda in 2019, other Monster Energy Yamaha riders have contributed 95 points to the team’s total of 329 points. That’s 29% of team points, as opposed to just 8% of Marc Márquez’ teammates in 2019. Though the results may show that the Yamaha can be successful for multiple riders, it needs the right approach and the right setup. Get it spot-on and it’s outstanding, as Quartararo is proving. The key question is more why none of the other Yamaha riders have been able to do the same. “Only Fabio is doing something crazy,” Andrea Dovizioso said after Misano. “This is something too far for me to understand and analyse, but the bike is particular. Has a lot of good things, but you have to ride in a special way.” The key to riding the Yamaha fast? “You have to brake really deep, in

a good way, and you have to carry a lot of speed in the middle of the corners. It’s the only way to use the potential of the bike, because the bike requests this,” Dovizioso explained. That is also what makes it unique. “So this is particular, because not many bikes in the MotoGP class you have to ride like this. Maybe Suzuki, but all the others, no.” Is the Yamaha M1 MotoGP bike a one-rider bike? The data says no. Others can and have ridden the machine to success. The hard part is doing it consistently. But if you can do it once...


MotoE: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE Even the most ardent opponent of electric mobility would need a heart of stone to remain unmoved by the finale of the 2021 MotoE World Cup. The double-header at Misano had everything you’d want from a championship showdown: three of the four title contenders challenging for victory in race one before two of them faced off in race two. It also included that crucial ingredient which is so crucial in gaining wider recognition: controversy. There was plenty of that in the climax, as Dominque Aegerter’s last lap move on Jordi Torres took the Catalan down and, for a few minutes at least, handed the Swiss rider the title. The FIM Stewards swiftly slapped Aegerter with a 38-second penalty – the equivalent of a ridethrough – for the move, demoting him to twelfth, handing Torres the crown by seven points.

It was high drama, among the most provocative conclusions to a series in recent history. And this was no one off. All in all, the racing served up by MotoE this year was pretty good, with last lap battles deciding the victor in four of the seven races. So why did it feel like the 2021 series was caught in a period of drift? From where I was sat, the third edition of MotoE seemed to pass without a great deal of outside interest. Perhaps it was the fact it was missing from BT Sport’s coverage. Or perhaps it was because the entry list featured as many unknown names as it did known ones. And with no fans at the tracks around Europe there to see the racing, it felt as though it was falling victim to an already crammed schedule, competing for attention with the likes of Moto2 and Moto3, races that have a known fanbase, feature full grids and full-length distances. Considering certain teams are struggling to find the budget to run MotoGP teams, there was a question as to whether MotoE

would survive in the years to come. But a revised format for 2022 – the World Cup will expand significantly, the number of races rising from seven to 14 – indicates it remains very much part of Dorna’s long-term thinking. One reality is the series was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. “The situation hurt the whole world, but I think it’s been hurting MotoE more than any other class,” said Tech3 Team Manager Hervé Poncharal, who runs two riders. Nicholas Goubert, director of the championship, agreed. “For sure it (the pandemic) had an effect on the development speed of the bike. At the beginning Energica had different plans. They had to shut down their factories and are still suffering a lot from a lack of spare parts. It’s very difficult to get some electric components.” With bike development slowed dramatically due to the pandemic, it was left to the riders to keep up interest. And while this year’s grid featured former grand prix winners in the form

E? of Torres and Aegerter, it also lost the likes of Mike Di Meglio, Xavier Simeon and Randy De Puniet, who opted instead to compete in the Endurance World Championship. There was a slight imbalance. In part, the increase in races for next year should make it easier for teams to attract a higher level of rider. “All the races next year will be televised,” said Poncharal of further changes for 2022. “If we have more television, we should be able to attract more sponsorship. And if we have more races, we should be able to attract some more famous riders. At the moment to do seven races is a difficult programme. If you have a programme that will be the main activity for a rider, that will help us to sign someone that doesn’t have something else on the side.” Sure, the alterations in bike development are minimal. But the same can be currently said of Moto3 and, to a lesser extent, Moto2. In this time of great economic uncertainty, the plan is to hold station until the global situation looks clearer.

Some time is also required before other manufacturers can be attracted to compete when their own electric mobility technologies are limited. But that looks set to change. Established manufacturers have recognised electric vehicles aren’t going away. Earlier this month, an agreement between Honda, Yamaha, KTM and the Piaggio Group, which runs Aprilia, established the Swappable Batteries Motorcycle Consortium (SBMC) – essentially all will design small electric motorcycles in the near future in which the same batteries can be used in each model. A good sign, according to Goubert. “Harley Davidson was the first big brand, famous bike brand to launch an electric bike,” he said. “We’ve seen the news Triumph is developing a bike as well. BMW has an electric scooter. Then that agreement between Honda, Y amaha, KTM and Piaggio about having a common battery for small bikes is a step. It means they believe in it as the prices are dropping, battery performance is


increasing. Bike manufacturers will take advantage of that. It will take longer than the car industry but it will happen. I’m personally convinced.” As long as the racing is good, the series is competitive, and the product is broadcast to as wide an audience as possible, interest should gradually grow. “All I can tell you is we already have the plan for 2022. There will be some changes from 2023 with MotoE. I can’t see any reason to not have MotoE with us for a long time. It’s a class that will grow and will be a proper class of our grand prix championship.”



Yamaha love to celebrate their racing heritage and their very first Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand, France in 1961 means a 60-year anniversary and another celebration. The collection of 2022 supersport ‘R’ models get a special paint-job with the distinctive

white and red corporate lines and those famous ‘speed blocks’. The livery can be found on R1, R7, R3 and R125 models and are available from November/December this year. The bikes are also complimented by a small line of casual clothing with the same scheme.





OMENTS By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Polarity Photo



from the 23 fulltime MotoGP riders on the grid come from Spain and Italy, where the profile and the popularity of road racing provide clear routes for aspiring racers to follow. Different countries around the world have their own p rogrammes and structures but rarely is MotoGP, and motorcycle racing in general, more prominent than in southern Europe. To gain a different perspective we spoke to two athletes that are alone in terms of their nationality. Both Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Miguel Oliveira are part of the group of eight to have won a Grand Prix from fourteen rounds so far in 2021. They both came through a similar trajectory of CEV Spanish Championship appearances on equipment vaguely similar to Grand Prix - and then worked their way through Moto3 and Moto2 after beginning their riding days with relatively modest means.

Miller, now 26, has been in Grand Prix for a decade. He’s won MotoGP races for both Honda and Ducati and almost clinched the 2014 Moto3 crown for Aki Ajo’s Red Bull KTM team before his leap from the category to MotoGP. His by-pass of Moto2 on a three-year HRC deal was polemic and it took time for the Australian from Townsville,

Queensland near the east coast to establish himself in the class. Before he and his family briefly emigrated from Australia to Europe to support his career at the beginning of the last decade Miller was very much the youngster to catch on Australian dirt…



Jack, what was the pivotal time when you knew riding and racing could be something more? Riding and racing was always fun, perhaps until my first year of road racing. We only changed from dirt to the road because they had lowered the age limit to allow fourteen-year-olds to ride 125s. I fancied having a crack at


it and to see where it would go. I’d always wanted to be a professional I think, but in the early days I wanted to be Crusty Demon or a Supercross rider. You quickly learn where you sit and it feels far-fetched but then I did road racing and we made the big decision to go to Europe. Even at fourteen-fifteen and that first year I’d do a tiny bit of training on an exercise bike but it was nothing really. I wouldn’t class it as training but at the time you think you are! When I came to Europe,

the first two Spanish Championship races we did were a big eye-opener. I was able to qualify but our bikes - that we’d packed-up and brought from Australia - were really slow. I was honestly doing well to qualify. I can remember my Dad – I think it was at Jerez – asking me if I was going to go out and cycle the track like the other kids were doing and I said I couldn’t be stuffed. He kinda got a bit angry with me and asked why we were making all this effort. At that point I realised, ’OK, now it’s

Going back, was there a moment or a time when you knew racing and riding was the path? You must have been doing other sports and activities as a kid… Not really! I’d go to school, come home and ride! That’s all I ever did. I always was on the bike. I lived on a farm, so all I had to do was go to the shed and wheel it out. Mum and dad never said: “you can’t ride today”. I never saw anyone around me being able to make a job out of it though. Nobody was earning money riding. It was a pipe-dream. I honestly thought I would be going to work and riding when I could, in fact I never understood why people went to work and stopped riding! Once I started road racing it was more regimented. First of all, you cannot ride a road bike every single day of the week, so you only have certain days with it and you had to be more strict to get better.

Did you have a competitive nature as a kid? Definitely. As a kid I was super-competitive and I hated losing but at the same time I’d want to go to a race to hang out with my friends. I wasn’t happy if I wasn’t winning, especially with dirt-track because that was my ‘thing’ and I became known as one of the best in Australia as a kid. You like to rock-up with that feeling of ‘I’m the man’ but you still couldn’t really make a living out of it, especially in Australia. You had to leave the country. I didn’t ever really picture myself leaving…but then suddenly it was happening and I thought ‘wow, I’m going overseas to ride a motorbike, this is really cool’. What was the ‘wake-up’ moment for you? The time when you had to take racing much more seriously…? When we rocked-up to England we had to spend nearly a month there getting organised with a motorhome, a car and all the admin before going to Europe. It was like a holiday. I was just about to turn 15 and, as we know, with Moto3 you need to be light. I remember my Japanese mechanic coming over, looking at me and having an expression like ‘who’s this little fat kid?’. I’d been having a full English breakfast every day at the hotel every morning and living it up like I was on


serious’. Once I accepted that then it was OK and I started having a real crack at it. As soon as I signed for a team – even though mum and dad were paying the first year – it was like ‘now you have a chance, you’re not far off the world championship’ and I knew I had to start focussing on it like it was a job.

FEATURE holiday. He kinda pointed out to me that I was too big for a 125 and I couldn’t be that size and weight. So, he got me into running and more. That’s when I understood that each kilo I carried was almost equal to a horsepower. As a kid you aren’t really aware of this stuff. The bike was also slow, so I needed to be as light as I could, and it got more and more strict.

good ‘off-and-on’ lifestyle but even in the off-season you are still thinking about racing. It’s something you have to try and manage. There is not one moment when it’s not on your mind. It might be Christmas, and you might be trying to unwind but then you somehow are always counting down the days until you are next on the racebike and the point when you need to be physically and

dream job and the best job in the world hands-down but it is also stressful and you are always worrying about what everyone else is doing and what you need to do better and what you can be doing more of. It is stressful.

When did the constant pressure to always be better first appear? It seems to be the principal drive for Pro athletes… I’ve had that a lot throughout my whole career because I was not one of the guys that came in and was gifted things. I had to work my ass-off for everything. I try to have a

mentally sharp. Then there is that little worry: ‘jeez, I hope I can still do it’. Compared to motocross we can’t ride our bikes from November to February so, somehow, you have those doubts where you think ‘I hope I haven’t lost it over the break’. You think about it, play-it-off as nothing but for sure they are concerns. It is a

you’re aware that there is a group of guys lining-up to take your chair. There is no job security here, at all. Not one bit. You are always worried if the team is happy or a certain group of people are happy. You are always doing whatever you can to make sure you have a job for next year because this doesn’t go on

Then there’s the non-sporting side of things like contracts and opportunities… Yeah. In the back of your mind

family, and all the normal s**t like having a girlfriend, putting down roots and thinking about a family is kinda on-hold for this. I have no interest in that at the moment because I just want to focus on what I am doing here and making the best go of this as I can to have the best possible outcome. The goal would be to retire as a world champion.

it’s what we know. You come here and it’s like a massive family because it is more or less the same people and the same faces. You know what it’s like ‘in here’, and ‘out there’ is something else. It is a weird sort of sensation, and it can be hard for people to leave it because, what do you do? If you’re here from 15 and leave past 30 then you’re out with no real-world experience.

something else as well: you want to do the maximum you can so hopefully you won’t have to go to work when this is all over. You put your mind and your body through so much during these years that you also hope you can try to enjoy some of it as well. I mean, I’m on the other side of the world away from friends,

Is it tough to get out of the MotoGP bubble of the cameras, the adulation, the recognition? I don’t think of myself too much as that ‘star’ guy but, sure, it’s tough to get out of the bubble and I think a lot of us would feel lost without this [MotoGP/racing]. It’s what we have been doing for so long,

I’ve been here since I was sixteen and the last ten years of my life. Hopefully I’ve got a few more under my belt. How do you deal with the anxiety of always performing to the maximum because – unlike motocross – MotoGP can be so dependent on tyres, set-up and external factors…?


forever. At the end of the day – especially as you get older – you realise you are 26 years old with a ninth grade education and no job prospects. Sure, I can use my hands and go and work on a machine but it’s a drastic lifestyle change from what I’m doing and where I am now. And I’m definitely not in the position yet where I can set myself up for the rest of my life. That’s

FEATURE It is a hard thing with this. There are many small details and if one thing is off then it can throw-off the whole weekend. Sometimes you bulls**t yourself and you say ‘I could have run at the front’ but you know about the issues you had on the day and whether you felt good on the bike. The pressure is definitely there to do that but there are also a lot of variables and you have to get everything in a row. You can only look at your pace and your fitness. It’s not like back in the day when you could piss-around during the week and bring it only on the weekend. You have to be strong and fit to produce the goods in this world nowadays. You made it to the top of the tree. Do you ever think about all the kids and the people you raced with as a junior who didn’t get this far?

Yeah, because there were some extremely talented kids that didn’t make it for one reason or another. Maybe it was because the family couldn’t support them, or their own discipline let them down or some people didn’t want to make that sacrifice of not having a normal life. I know a lot of people who are as happy-as-Larry to go to work and be the 9-5 guy. They didn’t want to make the sacrifice and take the risk. To do this is a massive risk. All I wanted to do was ride motorbikes. There were a lot of others the same and they tried but then it becomes a ‘timing’ thing, you gotta be in the right place at the right time, do the right things and say the right words. If you think about the variables on a race weekend then there are thousands that need to go right for you generally. I don’t think I took the best way to get here, let’s say, because when I was younger I just didn’t give a s**t and I probable hindered myself but I was still able to make it to a factory team in MotoGP. Everybody’s journey is different but maybe the similarities come with the frame of mind and the mentality. Most of all the right motivation.



The fact that Portugal’s first and sole Grand Prix winner set up his own junior race series at home – the Oliveira Cup – shows how the KTM star wanted to give promising kids more of a stage to shine. The 26-year-old won the formative competitions in his native country before needing to cross the border into Spain for more doors. He then ventured into Red Bull MotoGP Rookie Cup territory (claiming two of the three rounds he raced) and began his education in 125s/ Moto3 with Aprilia, Honda and Mahindra until he entered KTM’s sphere... Miguel, can you remember a time when outside influences – family, contracts, opportunities – took riding away from fun and towards something more serious? I don’t think there was a moment of a clear transition from amateur to professional or from not taking it seriously to suddenly taking it seriously. Over the years we learned that I could really get somewhere. My father has always been very good as a filter to make me understand ‘the way’ and how to reach something I wanted. But he never forced me to do anything or showed

me the side of ‘we are spending money so you must do this or we go home’. It is an expensive sport, and my father didn’t have any money so we had to rely on sponsors and friends to help me get somewhere. I never had the impression that I was under pressure. I wanted to do it. I was having fun if I was winning races or I was fast! It’s still like this today despite having more responsibilities. I don’t believe we live in a world with ‘true’ responsibilities because I don’t have to answer to anyone. I am still my own biggest critic and I am the guy who really wants the best out of myself. As long as it remains like this then I won’t have the feeling of pressure. It is a highly competitive environment and if you don’t want the best for yourself then you’d better do something else. But you must have decided as a kid to dedicate yourself to this, particularly when there are other distractions and even sports… There was never actually anything else. My interest was motorbikes. I only saw bikes… or quads or karts. I never asked to play football and my dream was to be a motocross-

er. I asked my Dad if I could be a motocross rider since I was four years old. I was riding quads at that time and he never gave me a motocross bike. I later tried karting and I didn’t like it. Looking back the environment felt too elite. I did one race – a night race – and stopped. I remember it well. I stopped in the zone where they weigh the kart and the driver and I told him “I quit” and he said “why?! What’s wrong?!” and I just replied that I didn’t want to do it. So, we packed up and went home. I was eight. That Christmas he bought me a bike. I tried it and learnt to ride it and that was it. So, you never had a ‘I quit’ moment with the bikes? No, but when I was ten I had two big crashes. I saw my father’s concern and we spoke. If he wanted me to quit then he had to let me know. I saw how affected he was. He said that as long as I was having fun then he would keep doing his best to provide me with bikes until my limit! If we couldn’t go any further then that was it. So, it was based on fun.


FEATURE You didn’t come from a big racing family, and you continued studying while you were coming up the ladder. It must have been tricky to make your way and progress… Yes, it was hard and it’s not something that is ‘black and white’. It’s not like you are in a sport where you have your next steps mapped-out like, say, in football where you have the next age group. You need to look and see what championship you need to try, what bike you can have, what options there to train, the material to upgrade. It is another dimension of investment and if you don’t have it then you have to make a lot of effort to try and find it. In the end it’s about the parents acknowledging that the kid can have fun by themselves and not because they want them to do it. That’s a big step. You can either force kids to like something that you like or you can see they like it and they push along almost by themselves. It’s an unusual mentality. Not many kids are still doing what they loved when they were 8, 9 or 10 years old and have converted it into a high-profile profession… It’s different. And I know I am super-privileged because I knew what I wanted to do since I was nine years old. Some guys my age still don’t

You work hard and you achieve. Is there ever a point where the fun starts to slip away? I think if you get lost in analysing your racing, then yes. The fundamental thing is that you never lose the target or the big picture. Especially in a high-level motorsport world like MotoGP or a high-level sport generally, if you are too analytical you start performing in a mechanical way and you’ll get lost.

“‘IMPROVEMENT’ IS A NEVER-ENDING JOB. THE IDEA OF RETIREMENT SCARES ME BECAUSE I HAVE TO SET GOALS ALMOST EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE. EVERY TIME I GET ON THE BIKE I HAVE TO SEARCH FOR SOMETHING OTHERWISE WHAT’S THE POINT? “ When it comes to preparation for this sport did you ever have any time when your eyes were opened? Ha! I think there are many times when that happens. Whenever you are a new rider in a class you can have some very eye-opening moments. I had a few, yeah. I cannot remember any specifically but it is more like feelings, such as ‘oh f**k, how will I reach this level? How is it possible we ride this quick?’ I had one when I jumped to MotoGP. I had no idea how I’d be able to ride like those other guys but in the end you get used to it.

You lose the instinct? Yes. The instinct, the feeling of riding the bike. It is a thin line sometimes for some riders. Each one of us has to find their own area where they are comfortable. You have to be professional and still want to improve but at the same time try to keep it simplistic. Still today, many successful athletes that I know – especially in athletics – their training is pretty simple. They don’t need special exercises or elite trainers to tell them what to do. It’s hard work, repetition and keeping to the base of what led them there.


know what they want to do with their future. They have degrees or diplomas for whatever they study but they still don’t know. Education doesn’t give you a passion. It is about theoretical foundations to widen your bases to go somewhere and to get a job. But when you do something you love, something you know and you know where you going then it is a privilege that not many can find.


How about living with the ever-present pressure of both results and personal improvement? I like that pressure. If you don’t like it then you shouldn’t be doing this jobIsn’t that tiring after quite a few years and from a young age? I mean ‘improvement’ is a never-ending job. The idea of retirement really scares me because I have to set goals almost every day of my life. Every year I have to be better. Each week. Every time I get on the bike I have to search for something to improve otherwise what’s the point? I don’t take it in a heavy way. I take it as something natural. If you are not here to get better – like everyone else – then why are you here? Just to take part? That’s not my mentality. Do you ever get a moment or time to appreciate that long journey from childhood to this point? Yeah, sometimes. You must appreciate what you are living, and I’ve been lucky to live a very full career at the moment. Not as full as I wanted…but enough to make me appreciate what I have gone through. I’ve lived a lot and I cannot complain.





HARSH REMINDERS OF RACING REAL Legacies matter in motorcycle racing. No matter what a rider achieves there is always a question of whether it was enough. At the Spanish Round of WorldSBK we saw the contrasting natures of legacies. Before a wheel had turned Chaz Davies announced his retirement from the World Championship. The Welshman was walking away with a Supersport World title, 32 WorldSBK victories and 99 podiums: he was rightly hailed as ‘all-timer’. Within 48 hours of Davies’ announcement we were given a reminder of the knife edge on which riders exist. Dean Vinales was struck by other riders in a five bike crash and the 15 year old Spaniard’s injuries were such that he quickly succumbed. It was a sobering reminder of the dangers that every rider knows exists in racing but that they push to the deepest recesses of their minds. The shadow of loss that hung in the air as WorldSBK

prepared for Sunday at Jerez was all encompassing. For the Supersport 300 paddock the emotion came to the fore after the race for so many of Vinales’ rivals paying tribute at the scene of the accident. As it says on the ticket, motorsport is dangerous yet, we are conditioned to think that riders will walk away from accidents. Some crashes and their repercrussions are unfortuantely too extensive for that. The loss of Vinales was felt by many within the paddock. It was hard to keep a lid on the emotions. For teams and rivals they know that it could easily have been their rider. With big fields, close packs and so many good racers, the SSP300 class has changed in recent years.

The difference between success and failure is measured in inches in the SSP300 class now, which is what it’s kinda designed to do. The professionalism of the class has taken steps forward and now riders are in the shop window. They need results, so the goal is to win at almost any cost and we have seen so many near misses over the last two years. This same mentality brought an inevitability to Sunday. Was going back on the track the right thing? Was it the wrong thing? There’s a debate for either side but riders will always disconnect themselves from the emotion when they click a visor into place. It’s only afterwards that they come to the surface and no-one was more elegant than Inigo Iglesias when the Basque spoke for



BY STEVE ENGLISH the entire grid by admitting how difficult it had been for him to keep his feelings in check after losing a friend and competitor. It was an draining weekend for the WorldSBK paddock where the harsh realities of racing came to the fore. It felt trivial after the weekend to think about the Chaz Davies retirement announcement. The Welshman has had a long career and had such success that the contrast with Vinales couldn’t have been more stark. Davies career though deserves to be remembered. In another era he would have won Superbike titles. His ability to find the absolute limit in race conditions was astounding. He was the archetypal “Sunday Man.” The bike could be struggling, he might have qualified down the order but when those red lights went out so did the Davies form book. His heavy braking style placed

a huge reliance on the front tyre and front end of the bike but when he had the right feeling he was unlike any other rider out there. It was a scary prospect for a rival to have Davies behind them because they knew what was coming... yet they still couldn’t defend against it. Race wins were racked up but titles in the top class were missing. Inconsistency and mistakes have been punished heavily in the Jonathan Rea era and for three years Davies was right in the scrap but for some costly mistakes. Winning races to take care of the title was his mentality and it meant that he was all-in for every outing. Davies’ approach was forged in the Grand Prix classes when his talent went unrewarded due to poor machinery and suddenly the next British Grand Prix star was on the sidelines with a career in tatters when at 18 years old

he washed out of 250GP and headed to the United States. That was ultimately the life line he needed. Racing Stateside he rebuilt his career and his reputation. When he returned to Europe in 2009 it was as a Triumph rider in Supersport and ultimately he would win the title in 2011 before moving to Superbike the following year. Davies’ career proved the importance of the people around you. Talent isn’t a question for any top tier rider. They can all ride, but to be able to win takes more than that. You need the team to work together and maximise the package. WorldSBK has become more and more competitive and there are so many factors that go into having a successful career. You need the talent, the bike and the crew to win. You also need a little bit of luck. Jerez gave us a brutal reminder that sometimes luck can run out.




By Roland Brown, Photos by Roland Brown, Shaun Merrick & Suzuki Racing




t just gone 9pm on Saturday night the redand-black GSX-R1000 sweeps into the Circuit Paul Ricard pit lane and brakes to a halt before the big S-for-Suzuki board held up by a mechanic in a pool of light outside the Yoshimura SERT Motul garage. Rider Gregg Black steps off, and a team of helmeted, masked and overalled technicians swarms over the bike. Air-guns clack as both wheels are changed in seconds, almost 24 litres of fuel are dumped into the bike’s tank, new rider Xavier Simeon climbs aboard, the engine fires and the No.1-plated, world championship-defending Suzuki accelerates smoothly back out onto the track and into the lead of the 84th Bol d’Or – all in not much longer than it took to read this sentence. Six pit garages and less than 30 metres away, it’s a very different story for the GSXR1000 that is motionless with its similarly red-and-black tank and fairing removed. Its British Endurance Racing Team crew, led by veteran former rider Dave Railton, are working to repair the damage caused when rider Kurt Wigley crashed at Signes, the superfast right-hander at the end of the Mistral straight.

Endurance racing is a mass of contrasts, and nowhere more so than at the Bol. The legendary 24-hour marathon returned to its spiritual home in the south of France in 2015, after a 15year break at Magny-Cours. There was no race last year but this September the Bol was back, with a crowd of almost 50,000, and with some of the late-summer party atmosphere that made it an iconic destination over the years. For a while it was a cracking race, too. Suzuki have dominated endurance racing in recent decades, winning 11 of the last 16 championships, but the last four years have seen the four Japanese manufacturers each taking the title. And although Black on the SERT’s GSX-R charged into the lead from pole position following


Many minutes have passed already, and it’s another ten before the crew start have finished repairs and start replacing bodywork. Rider Jonathon Railton, Dave’s son, appears in leathers and helmet to await his next stint. Finally, the bike is wheeled out and refuelled, Railton climbs aboard and heads back out, to enthusiastic applause from adjoining teams. After barely a quarter of the Bol d’Or they’re more than 70 laps down on the leaders, but they’re back in the race.





the traditional run across the track at the start, he was hotly pursued and the race developed into a fierce battle. Until the first fuel stop, Black diced with the lime-green Kawasaki France ZX-10RR ridden by Jérémy Guarnoni; Mike di Meglio on the FCC Honda France Fireblade; and Marvin Fritz on Yamaha Austria Racing Team’s YZF-R1, in its white-and-red anniversary colours. The ERC Endurance Ducati Panigale was with the leaders too, but the rapid factory BMW S1000RR dropped back when vibration forced rider Kenny Foray to pit for a fresh tyre. The Honda lost time in the second hour after a crash by Yuki Takahashi.

The mix of Provencal heat and Ricard’s mile-long Mistral straight make the Bol d’Or a cruelly attritional race, compounded this year with the added hazard of night-time rain.

YART’s Niccolò Canepa was aboard the R1 when the rain arrived, and inherited the lead when SERT’s Simeon lost time with a crash on the slippery track. But the Yamaha Austria team’s dream of victory ended before half distance with engine failure on the Mistral. By the time the sun came up on Ricard, the Suzuki was the only one of the factory contenders still circulating. Conditions were dry and gusty, with a strong tail-wind on the aptly named Mistral. By midmorning the British Endurance Racing Team were packing up their garage, Railton having opted against spending thousands more euros on fuel and tyres just to try and finish. The end of the race was anticlimactic for most. By 11am the SERT GSX-R was a comfortable 14 laps ahead of the second-placed Moto AIM Yamaha of Randy de Puniet, Robin Mulhauser and Roberto Rolfo. All the others were a further 20-plus laps behind, notably the Kawasaki of the BMRT 3D team, ridden by Anthony Loiseau, Jonathan Hardt and Julien Pilot. They would finish third overall and win the Superstock class to take that championship.

The SERT riders could afford to back off the pace slightly but were still lapping fast towards the end, as the big clock on the gantry over the track clicked down the remaining minutes and seconds. And at 3pm, finally, the Bol d’Or was over. Simeon cruised over the finish line, shaking his fist in delight, as his weary but ecstatic crew lined the trackside fence.

Suzuki’s Bol victory put them into the world championship lead with just October’s six-hour race at Most in the Czech Republic to come. The GSX-R had covered a record 704 laps, leading for 615 of them, but the more telling statistic was that just 20 of the 41 starters had finished. This most brutal of endurance races had lived up to its reputation.



By Polarity Photo


‘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/Polarity Photo 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 CormacGP, Ray Archer, Polarity Photo, Roland Brown/Shaun Merrick Cover shot: Tony Cairoli by Ray Archer This publication took a lot of time and effort to put together so please respect it! Nothing in this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the editorial team. For more information please visit www.ontrackoffroad.com and click ‘Contact us’.