On-Track Off-Road issue 216

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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.



FROM YELLOW TO RED Fabio Quartararo went to the second visit at Misano needing just a few points to confirm Yamaha’s first MotoGP crown since 2015 and the first title for a Frenchman in the premier class of a world championship that started in 1949. Mission accomplished for the 22-year-old in just his third season Photo by Polarity Photo/Rob Gray


A LITTLE TURN DOWN MXGP is negotiating a triple header around the stony hardpack of Arco di Trento and where a few of the jumps and leaps allow some expressive playtime for the likes of Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer. The nowrecovered Swiss posted his best moto finish of the season in the first outing around Pietramurata. Photo by Ray Archer


A BIG TURN UP Holder of the most holeshots, leader of the most laps in all classes and equal-highest tally of moto victories in 2021: MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle could get close to countryman Maxime Renaux by the end of the championship campaign but regardless of the outcome in the standings the Red Bull KTM man’s response since recovering from a broken right hand has been immense Photo by Ray Archer


MISANO ‘2’ - SMR Round 16 of 18

MotoGP 1. Marc Marquez, Honda 2. Pol Espargaro, Honda 3. Enea Bastianini, Ducati

Moto2 1. Sam Lowes, Kalex 2. Augusto Fernandez, Kalex 3. Aron Canet, Boscoscuro

Moto3 1. Dennis Foggia, Honda 2. Jaume Masia, KTM 3. Pedro Acosta, KTM

STANDINGS 1. Fabio Quartararo, 267 points (C) 2. Pecco Bagnaia, 202 3. Joan Mir, 175 Blogs by David Emmett, Neil Morrison, Photos by CormacGP/Polarity Photo








DO DUCATISTI DREAM OF ELECTRIC B What is the future of motorcycle racing? It is inextricably linked with the future of motorcycling, and the future of mobility itself. We are headed for a carbon-neutral planet, and that means finding ways to travel around without adding carbon dioxide to an already overheating world. As a niche activity, motorcycling and motorcycle racing will follow the lead set by the behemoths of the transport industry: cars, commercial transport, aviation. That doesn’t mean that we can’t prepare for that future. And for the past three seasons, that is just what Dorna has been doing, with the MotoE series. The idea of MotoE was to introduce crowds to the idea of electric motorcycle racing, to get what is a conservative crowd (like most sporting audiences) used to the sight and (relative lack of) sound of electric bikes on track. Not necessarily because MotoGP will be going electric any time soon, but because in the long term, at least some part of racing is likely to be electric. The factories want to race what

they build; if they start to build electric motorcycles in the future, then they are going to want to race them. Electric motorcycles have mostly been a bit of a sideshow. A niche business largely outside of the motorcycling mainstream, with tiny, specialist manufacturers mostly based in Asia or Silicon Valley, rather than in the motorcycling heartlands of Japan, northern Italy, Germany and Austria, and the UK Midlands. That was evident in their products initially: more technology product than pure motorcycle. The tide has been shifting, however. Larger manufacturers have been getting involved, with KTM leading the way in offroad electric bikes, and Harley-Davidson’s eyebrow-raising Livewire. MotoE was a reflection of that change, with the small Italian manufacturer Energica leaning on established motorcycling expertise to build an electric sports bike, the EGO, and adapting it for MotoE. So, when we started hearing rumours that Energica would

withdraw and a large manufacturer would take over, MotoGP journalists pricked up our ears. But the announcement that it would be Ducati took everyone by surprise. The word bombshell is overused in news reporting, but in the case of Ducati taking over as official bike supplier for MotoE, it almost felt like an understatement. Nobody had seen this coming, and the impact of a brand like Ducati taking over felt pivotal, like a moment we will look back at and see as a turning point in the history of motorcycling. At the press conferences Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali gave an illuminating and fascinating lesson on why Ducati took on this challenge, without even having an existing electric bike. In doing so, he gave us a glimpse of the future of motorcycling as Ducati sees it, and of the future of MotoGP. “What we will discuss today will make a difference between what was before and what will be after for Ducati,” Domenicali said. “Because actually we are announcing today the entrance of Ducati into electrical mobility.


BIKES? This is a very important step for us because we are continuing to do what we did in the past but with the technology that for sure will come to two wheels in the future, even for production motorcycles.”

technology to flow electricity to and from the battery, while using what they know about electronics, vehicle dynamics, and aerodynamics to convert as much energy into motion as possible.

Racing was the best way to learn quickly, Domenicali explained, and the lessons learned would transfer into production bikes. “We want our engineers to become as good as they are at developing internal combustion engines and I think everyone can say our engine in MotoGP is probably the fastest. We want to get the same experience and technology in electrical propulsion.”

Make no mistake, this is Ducati staking a claim to the future of motorcycling. But it was also a way to hedge their bets: the future of MotoGP for the next ten years is in synthetic and sustainable fuels, so-called eFuels, as it is in F1. Ducati will be learning about the intricacies of combusting eFuels in the premier class, as MotoGP makes the tradition to alternative fuels, as well as learning all about electric bikes in MotoE.

Ducati are seizing this opportunity to learn how to build electric motorcycles that Ducati’s customers will want to buy. That means high performance bikes built with Italian style. To do that, Domenicali explained, they first need to tackle the weight of electric bikes, which meant investigating battery design, and maximizing efficiency and energy recovery. It was a two-way street between existing knowledge and new lessons, learning about inverter

Domenicali pointed to the example of Porsche, a stablemate in the Volkswagen AG group. “We don’t think that it’s clear now that the future for mobility of motorcycles will be electric. eFuels could also play an important role. For example Porsche already stated that in 2030, they will have 80% of their range electric, but the 911 will remain with an internal combustion engine and they are developing eFuel in South America,” he said.

Right now, the future is not decided, so Ducati are keeping their options open. “It’s difficult to predict exactly right now,” Domenicali said. “If eFuel becomes a reality, the current engine technology doesn’t have to change too much. But we want to develop the technology in e-mobility to be ready in the event that this is the direction to go. So we are thinking about the best ways to keep our company alive and better and more competitive in ten years, whatever the playing field will be.” This feels like a sea change in how MotoE specifically and electric bikes in general will be perceived. Ducati is entering MotoE to learn about electric motorcycles, and in doing so, they lend electric motorcycles their aura of performance, engineering excellence, and style. MotoE is no longer a niche series with a specialist manufacturer. It is the playground of Gigi Dall’Igna’s brilliant mind and of his team of engineering geniuses. At a stroke, MotoE and electric motorcycles have acquired the one thing they so struggled to obtain: credibility.



QUARTARARO ‘VERSION THREE’: THE In many respects, Sunday’s chaotic race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a snapshot of Fabio Quartararo’s season. There was adversity, in the form of the changeable weather and his worst qualifying performance in MotoGP of 15th. That was handled with a cool head, as he scythed through the field, overtaking ten riders and showcasing that now customary aggression. And there was a slice of fortune. Francesco Bagnaia, imperious in almost everything he did up until four laps remained, picked a bad time to crash out of the lead for the third time in his past four home races. At different moments in 2021 Bagnaia, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Joan Mir and Marc Marquez have offered up opposition. With the exception of the Italian, none have sustained it all year.

Not that this takes anything away from Quartararo. He has single handedly flown the flag for Yamaha all season, fighting his way through the hoard of Ducatis. He has been fast everywhere, with the exception of Aragon. The manner in which he bounced back from crushing disappointments – think the arm pump at Jerez, ‘zippergate’ at Montmeló – had the hallmarks of a champion. And on those days that Jack Miller spoke of – “he’s had difficult races, but he’s made them into not bad races” – he attacked the occasion. Watching him repeatedly lunge around the outside of his rivals into the Red Bull Ring’s turn three in the second Austrian bow is one memory that stands out. On the back of Sunday’s success, Quartararo not only has the distinction of becoming France’s first ever premier class champion in 72 years; he’s the sixth youngest of all time at just 22 years and 187 days (and just look at the names ahead of him on that list: Marquez, Spencer, Stoner, Hailwood, Surtees).

Almost to a man, the MotoGP field commended his campaign. “He was the one who deserved this title the most,” Bagnaia said. And one of the year’s great mysteries was how Quartararo went from an occasionally petulant, often erratic performer that scored 19 points from a possible 150 at the end of 2020 to the near finished article in the space of a single preseason. If you were to listen to the Frenchman, it all sounds so easy. The reason for this year’s success has simply been the improvements in Yamaha’s M1. No longer plagued by the unreliability issues which hampered its engines, or a temperamental nature of the machine that worked only in specific conditions, Quartararo could find confidence everywhere we went with the new bike. “With the ’21 spec, I felt much better,” he said. “The feeling on the front is what helped me win this year. We know that the power is something that we need to work, but the feeling I have on the braking to overtake has been much higher than ’19 and ’20.”

E NEW KING But how Fabio has carried himself in Yamaha’s factory surroundings has played as big a role in his success. Stepping up to replace Valentino Rossi, 15 years in that team, would be an occasion that could overawe many a 21-year old. But not here. Crew chief Diego Gubellini and data technician Pablo Guilliem joined Quartararo in making the transition from the Petronas SRT squad and undoubtedly helped him settle. And Managing Director Lin Jarvis was impressed by their capabilities. “They’re really good,” he said on Sunday evening. “It’s not just that they’re friends – they are really good.” And it wasn’t just his technicians; close friend Tom Maubant has been by his side since 2016 and is always there to offer perspective. Prior to Sunday’s outing was a case in point. “I was in the office, feeling stressed,” Quartararo admitted. “(Tom) said, ‘Just think about the last three races you had last year, a total disaster. Today I started the race that made me world champion.”

Having that close circle of confidants he fully trusts has been another key in the turnaround. At the beginning of the year, Maverick Viñales stated Yamaha had a chance to untie its factory team, after years of his and Rossi’s garage working almost as separate entities. “For the last 3 years the team has a bit like, everyone was going alone,” he said in March. But it was Quartararo, not him, that successfully merged them both. As Sunday’s celebrations were in full flow outside the Yamaha garage, one team member confirmed Quartararo’s exemplary attitude. On the four occasions he won this year and his team-mate was not on the podium, he asked for the other side of the garage to join in the celebrations. Looking at his effect on the factory squad as a whole, team manager Massimo Meregalli was struck by the ambience his rider has created in such a short time. “He brought some happiness in the garage,” said Meregalli.


“From the end of last year to now he didn’t change. He has always been humble, happy and polite. In my opinion he has the quality, in his own way, he created a group and he is able to get 100% from the people that are working from him. And I only saw this quality in Valentino before.” And there has been a maturity in how he dealt with difficulties and adversity, from losing the first race of the year to his team-mate to how he reacted to Bagnaia’s late rally. “He’s calmer now. He’s more rational,” Jarvis said. “He understands that getting emotional doesn’t bring you anything. It’s a release of frustration but you don’t gain anything. If I compare to Valentino and Maverick – Maverick was very emotional and would go from highs to lows. But look on the other side of the garage, no matter what happened to Valentino, he never really got angry in the box. He always analysed (and would say), ‘There were some good points, but the bad points were these.’ We could work on. That’s the kind of approach Fabio has taken this year.”

This takes self-awareness and intelligence. Quartararo saw a psychologist at the end of 2020, but recently told me that had no bearing on this season’s upturn. “Many people said about this psychologist,” he said. “The last time I saw him was 2020. He just gave me some good tips that I kept in mind. But it’s not because of that I’ve made a nice year, that wasn’t the key.” Instead, it appears a mix of maturity, social skills and a willingness to work has complimented the talent that was clear for all to see ever since he swept to his first Spanish Championship title at the age of 13. 2022 is guaranteed to pose an even greater challenge with Bagnaia now fully believing in his own ability, and Marquez surely closer to being physically restored. But, at 22, it’s fair to say Quartararo still has room to grow. And on this year’s evidence, he’ll attack his title defence with all he has, rather than rest on his laurels. Going off the past 16 races, it should be a joy to watch.


C a s u a l A p p a r e l C o l l e c t i o n

Photos: R. Schedl, H. Mitterbauer

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R e m o t e Te e G r e y





anilo Petrucci tops 180cm (almost 6ft). He struggles to meet the ‘magic’ 70kg weight mark that the majority of his diminutive rivals can dip under. The 30-year-old Grand Prix winner rides a factory version of the KTM RC16; a motorcycle that equalled the fastest speed ever recorded in MotoGP at Mugello this year with the 170cm and 62kg Brad Binder in control. “I still feel competitive, but my body is not anymore,” the Italian said on the eve of the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring this summer and around the time that KTM adventurously suggested he might switch from a MotoGP saddle to a roomier mount with one of their works Rally bikes. “This is the most difficult thing that my brain needs to understand. I always thought to stay in MotoGP for many years but yeah, let’s say, I’m too big. I weigh almost the double of [Dani] Pedrosa. I’m like the puppet master of Pedrosa…and most of the other riders! I already did a lot in MotoGP because a rider as big as me has not been competitive.” MotoGP has been partially levelled by a single tyre brand (since 2009) and a degree of spec electronics for seven years and a minimum weight limit of 157kg for the bike

alone. It means that technicians have had to get creative for marginal of gains, hence the wonderful aero packages, drag-reducing components, and elements such as holeshot devices and ride height manipulators. With this narrow window for innovation the onus falls heavily on the racer to play his part.

While often risky and controversial methods of weight loss have been evident in Moto3 and Moto2 as some athletes struggle to balance competitiveness and fitness, it’s never been burningly serious in the premier class until a figure like Petrucci started to cite the issue as part of the reason for his withdrawal from Grand Prix.



The subject of rider weight and bulk is by no means a new fad. The likes of Loris Baz, Tito Rabat and Scott Redding have felt the alternative physical ‘demands’ of MotoGP. Towards the other extreme names like Dani Pedrosa and Toni Elias were small and light enough to be inhibited in terms of building load and heat into the rubber.

FEATURE MotoGP certainly doesn’t appear to be ageist. With Valentino Rossi ending his career at 42, Andrea Dovizioso returning to the grid at 35 and both Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow (35) appearing to race once more in 2021.

limited choice of Michelin tyres have produced just three top ten finishes. In the last two years he had two wins and four podiums with the Ducati.

But is there sizism? Will manufacturers have to look away from a rider of Petrucci’s stature, especially if the rest

Sebastian Risse, KTM Technical Co-ordinator MotoGP: The rider is part of the aerodynamics and is a big part of the total weight of the package.

of their stable of racers are significantly smaller? Diversity might aid development but it could be at the cost of competitiveness. Compared to the podiums and wins achieved by Binder and Miguel Oliveira in 2021, Petrucci’s travails in trying to fit into the homologated aero of the KTM and deal with the

So, his size has a bigger impact. Don’t forget also that these guys are coming through Moto3 and Moto2 and that means the taller ones just wouldn’t make it, even if they had the talent. If you do arrive on the grid and 80% of your competitors are small and can bring an aerodynamic advantage, then development

somehow has to focus on the average measurement. Even if, as a manufacturer, you might have tall guys in your team, the tyre developer also must focus on the average dimensions and if you are too far out of that then for sure it is more difficult. Simon Crafar, former Grand Prix rider and TV broadcaster: There is no

getting away from the fact that for corner exit and acceleration for the first few hundred metres then bikes with a rider that weighs 10kg less see a massive difference. It’s beyond dispute. When there wasn’t many electronics and it was more up to the rider then there was less disadvantage: it was more about

But if you are heavy then you push the tyres more. It is a balance. [But] Danilo still won races in Mugello, a track where the weight is important to be fast on the straight and for the tyres.

Alex Marquez: I’m 180cm and normally I don’t like to say my weight but it is 65. You see tall guys in MotoGP, like Valentino is very thin but has less muscle so you need to work in another way. It’s true that the weight - if you are really light - is something you can take benefit when it is hot and difficult conditions.

see we lose so much on the straight and on full-throttle. In the past I had this problem with Dovi but it was a matter of one-two tenths. The most critical change between 2019 and now is the rear tyre. I’m still a very hard braker and with this tyre I cannot do it as much as I want because I don’t receive any help from

Danilo Petrucci: It is frustrating. We can see everything that is going on with the bikes and also those of our teammates and we can

the tyre. It’s made for corner speed but you cannot really push on it. If you load it with a lot of weight then it moves and you go wide or the bike is shaking. I feel all the weight on the front now and I cannot recover the space I lose on the straight. When the tyre is new and there is extra grip it is worse! I’m quite good when the tyres are used because I can manage the grip and the

acceleration, I can turn the bike more. I’ve struggled a lot to improve the lap-time these last two years. Sebastian Risse, KTM Technical Co-ordinator MotoGP: Danilo’s frustrations are basically related to the rear tyre. There was a new generation introduced in 2020


who could get the throttle open. Now with the electronics doing part of the job then it makes it more even, and rider weight makes a bigger difference. I’m not saying the guys have less skills now because that’s not true…but they have more help for the power and then their weight differentiation becomes more of an issue.

FEATURE and since then he was struggling, even on the Ducati. He’s convinced that the tyre cannot support his weight and whether that is the reality or not it is hard for us to judge because we haven’t seen him on another tyre that often. There was another time at Silverstone where there was still an old tyre – a back-up to the back-up so basically an old spec - and he was very keen to try it. He was then disappointed that it didn’t provide the big ‘wow’. Danilo Petrucci: Also, the rules say we cannot change the fairing. There must be two that are homologated. For my situation the other riders are smaller than me

and the homologation cannot be changed for just one rider. At the end of last year we went to the wind tunnel and we understood that, for me, being in the slipstream is like the other guys riding with nobody in front! It’s quite a lot unfortunately. Most of the long straights start with a slow corner and where carrying more weight is a disadvantage. Sometimes I was able to catch more traction. It is not a matter of a second, it’s only tenths but if you look at MotoGP then all the riders are within a second of each other. The average for me is always between three-fourth tenths and at Red Bull Ring it was much more, the long straight in Austin as well. Simon Crafar, former Grand Prix rider and TV broadcaster: MotoGP is so close now. Suzuki have gone from being on the podium at almost every race last year to struggling to do that in 2021 and I think it’s to do with the punch off the turn, the couple of tenths of a second through not having the ride-height device sorted – it’s not the only thing but is the most obvious – and something as small as that has made the difference in a class that is so tight. Everyone is on the limit, and you cannot afford to give away those tenths of a second on the straights. Danilo is doing this with his weight.

Simon Crafar, former Grand Prix rider and TV broadcaster: I rode the RC16 in Austria and I was pleasantly surprised. The KTM was quite comfy. I didn’t have any complaints and didn’t have to ask them to adjust anything. I know it wasn’t at the highest level but from my experience there was no difference climbing on the KTM to climbing on the 500, actually there was probably a bit more room. Brad Binder: I’ve always thought of myself as fortunate because I’m not the smallest guy but I’m also not that big! Compared to the others I’m not short but I was born with ‘chicken legs’ and it helps keep the weight down. This really helped me in Moto3 and Moto2 and I’ve always been on the borderline between too much and not enough. In MotoGP having those twothree extra kilos are not as critical but I could not imagine adding thirty kilos and trying to do the same laptime. It’s clear that it has an effect because I’ve seen

Danilo’s data and his drive from corner to corner is not the same. Once we are really starting to push to that 4th, 5th and 6th gears then he has a disadvantage. There are some things that he can do that are incredible, such as where he brakes, and personally I cannot do what he does because the rear wheel lifts and I cannot stop. With that extra weight he is able to keep that contact with the rear. If I had to choose then I’d always want to be lighter because you win time for free on the straights and every tenth counts in MotoGP. Luca Marini: It’s not frustrating but MotoGP is developing very quickly. It seems to change a lot every year and it looks like the level is so high that every small detail makes a difference. I’m working on these areas and my position on the bike. I don’t know if it will be possible to be perfect, like other riders that are shorter than me – I’m 184cm - but I don’t think it will be a strong penalisation because I don’t weigh that much. I’m tall and perhaps that will bring more problems because now it seems we have to be just right about weight, height and strength. You need to be a perfect fit on the bike. I think we can reach a good point that allows me to be as fast as the other riders.


Andrea Dovizioso: I don’t think there has been much of a change in MotoGP for the dimensions of the bikes. There has been a change for weight distribution, the placement of the fuel and the things around the riders but the bikes? Not really.

FEATURE Sebastian Risse, KTM Technical Co-ordinator MotoGP: We had a huge scatter among our test riders because when we first started developing the bike they were Alex Hofmann on one hand and Mika Kallio on the other. We thought ‘if we can make it work with both then it cannot be too bad’. Since then, I’d say we tried to make the bike more centralised but never touching the outer dimensions. Under the skin it is getting more and more compact but outside you could still match the ergonomic points of these two. Brad Binder: In the beginning, I just tried to ride the bike how it was. We sat down with Mike [Leitner, Race Manager] and looked at some photos and saw my knees were too high and my arms were too far back. So, we played with the ergonomics, put the footpegs a bit further back and made a longer reach for the bars. That was in Qatar at the start of last year. I run a small little pad on my seat to keep me a bit further forward on the bike especially on the straights but I’m sure if you are 10-15cm taller it does make a difference. Luca Marini: The MotoGP bike is not so big. The Ducati is very tight. I have enough space but not too much. The

the extra ‘newtons’ but we’ve reached the limit of the engine here a few times. It is a very reliable engine and very manageable. I struggled a bit this year because I was too soft with the throttle. Sebastian Risse, KTM Technical Co-ordinator MotoGP: A bigger rider will have to have more talent and put more skills in some area to compensate. In the case of Danilo it is like he is losing two-tenths on the straight and

CRAFAR: “WHEN THERE WASN’T MANY ELECTRONICS AND IT WAS MORE UP TO THE RIDER THEN THERE WAS LESS DISADVANTAGE: IT WAS MORE ABOUT WHO COULD GET THE THROTTLE OPEN...” last races sometimes I was fast, sometimes no. We are working now on details of the setting that can make me faster but also the ergonomics. Danilo Petrucci: We eventually worked out that the bike is just too small for me and we were losing a lot on the aerodynamics. Three-four tenths means three-four rows of the grid. Even if you are a bit faster then it is harder to make any pass. The Ducati was much bigger and more powerful and I was able to use

to get the same lap-time he needs to find those two-tenths in another place. Even then when you are in the fight then it’s hard again. It’s tricky and not impossible but an extra challenge. Luca Marini: Moto2 was very important for weight and my training was less focussed on strength. It was just enough to feel comfortable for a race distance. In MotoGP it looks like the strength is never enough because the bike is very stressful and it is very hard to do many qualifying


position is a little bit strange compared to what I know of bikes generally so far and in training. The position of the seat is very low while the handlebars are very high and this helps you a lot for braking. You can brake very hard with less impact on your physical strength during the whole race but for entering the corner and mid-corner I don’t feel so comfortable. We are working on that area especially and I think we did many steps forward. I’m not 100% happy though. In the

FEATURE laps in a row. To do a long run in practice also means you need to breathe for a few laps. Especially with the Ducati. I saw some other riders in FP4 can do eighteen laps in the afternoon, qualifying and then in the race they are fast without a problem. But if you look at Ducati then every rider making a long run will take some laps to relax a bit and then start to push. Maybe our bike is not very easy…but my work is to find the correct position and the correct setting that suits me perfectly because the top three-four riders have that sorted for the whole season and have that comfort. If you have that situation it is slightly easier to be stronger and faster every

weekend. I’m searching for a way to improve the bike every practice - and my riding style - but I think after this year I will have more knowledge and experience and it will be better. Danilo Petrucci: I could understand the situation quite a lot in Aragon. It felt like someone was pushing my shoulders. I made a test by myself to try and stay a bit more ‘up’ on the straight and I didn’t even reach full RPM in sixth gear. I put my chin on the ‘tank’ and stayed as close as possible, closed my shoulders but it felt like quite a lot like someone pulling me from the back.

Simon Crafar, former Grand Prix rider and TV broadcaster: I almost never had a problem physically because I was stronger than the guys I raced against. They might be able to beat me on a hill with a bicycle but they couldn’t push more than me. There was a strength advantage to being bigger, especially against the guys that were very slight. You still have to be strong to ride these bikes but then it also comes down to how you train. Sebastian Risse, KTM Technical Co-ordinator MotoGP: We’ve had big riders on our bike before. Loris Baz stepped-in and Bradley Smith was quite tall. I would not say

Luca Marini: Aerodynamics is not a big problem for me now and there are other areas to work on when thinking about top speed. The Ducati is not so bad. It’s enough. I’m not losing much time there. It depends on the track. Somewhere like Misano I don’t lose because the straights are short. I think aerodynamics is not easy to work with when you’re not in a

factory team. You cannot go to a wind tunnel and perfect the fairing to your body, so I just try to adapt to the best position on the straight. Brad Binder: It’s like horse racing. You don’t see huge jockeys. You want to maximise the power you have and being lighter gives you more advantage. Your height will have some effect on your comfort and how you fit on the bike but there are ways to make that fine. Luca Marini: We are still working on my position and I think my level will improve. I don’t want to think ‘if I’m tall I’m going to lose’…it’s impossible to think like this.

We’ll see how MotoGP develops. Alex Marquez: In my opinion it also depends on the mental side: if you are convinced that weight doesn’t matter you can win anywhere.


data from these guys is useless because it brings another perspective of a problem. But if you look for one particular solution for setup then you have to juggle two load cases, compared to just one when all the riders are quite similar in the size.




MXGP - TRENTINO Pietramurata, Italy

MXGP 1. Jeffrey Herlings, KTM 2. Glenn Coldenhoff, Yamaha 3. Tim Gajser, Honda

MX2 1. Tom Vialle, KTM 2. Jago Geerts, Yamaha 3. Ruben Fernandez, Honda

Blogs by Adam Wheeler & Lewis Phillips Photos by Ray Archer









The MX2 World Champion-elect, Maxime Renaux, has been publicly stalling over a move to MXGP for several months. Why is that? The 21-year-old has been brilliant in his first season as a Monster Energy Yamaha factory rider and has notched 11 podiums from 14 rounds so far to build a 92-point lead with four GPs left and a maximum of 200 to win. His technique, mindset and physique make him a natural fit for the YZ450F in MXGP but Renaux – while diplomatically stating his gratitude to Yamaha for the opportunity to make the step – has been coy about whether it’s the right direction or not. The deal could already be done for the Frenchman to join Jeremy Seewer and Glenn Coldenhoff in 2022 (and rumours indicate that it’s recently been signed) but he’s done a solid job of waving away the notion.

Renaux is smart enough to know that many big career choices are crucial, and the timing of ‘arrival at a crossroads’ is a huge factor. It’s still unusual to hear a rider talk about it though. Part of his procrastination is the knowledge that he’s safe in the confines of a Yamaha saddle – MXGP or MX2 - for 2022 regardless. He is also fiercely competitive on the YZ250F, which is now one of the best bikes of a category that has been dominated by KTM. Yamaha’s last MX2 world title was won with Tony Cairoli in 2007. Renaux is well-placed in the MX2 Kemea squad and knows that KTM will have to develop a brand-new 250 SX-F in 2022 that might take time to come up to the speed and level of the current machine that is now half a decade old.

Renaux might have also been watching the case of his predecessor, 2021 MXGP rookie and brandmate Ben Watson. The Brit earned the third saddle in the Monster Energy Yamaha MXGP roster in arguably the most resourceful of the Japanese factory teams, owned by Louis Vosters, thanks to his excellent form towards the end of 2020. Watson hit his 23rd birthday, aged out of MX2 and was given a chance by Yamaha with the YZ450F with a brief to learn the class. Watson has been a slow-burn GP talent since he entered the European Championship as a 15-year-old. In 2021 his form has been patchy and he’s clearly lacked confidence with the Yamaha on rough, hard-pack and rutty tracks but has posted top ten speed at other races. Watson’s efforts have crept further onto

BY ADAM WHEELER the radar of Yamaha’s management because expensive signing Coldenhoff has only able to grab two podiums in his first season with the team and Seewer has suffered with Epstein-Barr. Renaux’s incorporation into the MXGP trio will come at Watson’s expense as Yamaha get hasty and spin a U-turn with their strategy. Maxime probably won’t know but Watson has also been left in limbo by the brand; who were waiting for an answer from their MX2 star over 2022 and also hanging on the starter’s tape in case Jorge Prado took the far-fetched decision to buy his own way of his KTM contract. Watching from a distance and comfortable in the weighty distraction of his own sterling MX2 campaign, Renaux will surely have seen and learned that a bounce to MXGP has to be made at the right moment and with the right level of support, even if that does transpire to be short-lived.

Renaux has also told journalists that he has no qualms in staying another year in MX2 and an attempt at a title defence. The fact that Watson was obliged into MXGP and ended-up with a plum berth that quickly soured is endemic of the situation surrounding


professional riders at the moment, and must be another area of Renaux’s consciousness. There is no escaping the reality that MXGP is elitist.

Which is still a cultural shift for the sport of motocross and where a privateer used to be able to make a living from top-flight racing that justified the training, travelling, the operations and the risks. Athletes like Herlings, Gajser, Cairoli, Febvre all drink the cream at the top of the urn but near the bottom the reality seems quite diluted. Watson has touted his services for 2022 but was offered a deal with a satellite team that would barely cover his travel expenses: with full respect to GP mechanics and all the labour and effort they dedicate to their jobs, they still shouldn’t be earning more than the guy relied on to bring the results and the exposure and to justify the presence of the sponsors, no matter how few or how small. Aside from the supposition that everyone is there to make money, it’s hard to fathom why teams exist in the MXGP


paddock when their biggest outlay is not on riding talent. The squads that have been around long enough have maybe been bitten by investments on individuals that went wrong due to injury, a lack of professionalism or even homesickness. In contrast others might have enjoyed unexpected success by betting small on a youngster and hitting the jackpot: if a cheap gamble worked once then it might work again. A rider should be the largest and most exciting ‘bet’ a team can make. But it is also the most unpredictable as practically every other facet of their racing operation will stay the same: the staff, the bikes, the truck and the workshop won’t be landed on by another competitor and derailed. I do have some sympathy for crews that have the passion and the will to spend big and travel the world to compete in twenty rounds but it also seems self-defeatist if the rider is not the priority. Racers themselves are somewhat stuck. If they want to compete - and satisfy that inner drive that separates them from you and I – then they might have to compromise.

They have to accept chronic undervaluation in the temporary hope it will lead to something better…or they simply don’t enter the gate. If they turn down a contract then someone else will accept it. At a time when the level of the competition seems to be at an all-time high and every single detail of preparation and practice has to be turnedover and assessed, then any corner-cutting towards peak performance renders the whole point of being in MXGP even more futile. Riders will eventually be forced to adapt, and contracts will change. I’ve written about this before and all the marks indicate that MXGP will veer even more towards other motorsports where the best get paid while the rest have to bring their own ingredients to the pie. MXGP is the premier class and understandably the peak of the world championship. The whole structure of the sport filters talent to this place, as the distinction of MX2 has currently burred with the EMX250 feeder series with three new EMX faces to the championship – Thibault Benistant, Mattia Guadagnini and Kay De Wolf - all excelling

in 2021. Once out of the sanctuary of MX2 either because of age or opportunity the field for career progression looks tight, particularly with the effects of Covid-19 chewing on budgets. It says something when some riders are prepared to wait for ‘replacement’ gigs just to tap into the right set-up. Infront Motor Racing created the ‘MX Open’ European Championship last year to provide an opportunity for riders older than 23 to race on the MXGP stage. They believe this contest will gain credibility in the coming years, but it has a lot of ground to cover to gain prestige with only six rounds in 2021 and just eleven riders made the trip to the final date in Turkey. Modest beginnings, but it would be a much-needed alternative pathway if the series gains its own teams and scope. In the end what’s more significant? Time or Talent? Renaux stacks one side of the argument. In terms of the other then he might need as much wisdom and perception as he does speed and racecraft.



The Fuzion handlebar is an apt example of the thought and innovation that ProTaper bring to their products and also the market. Installing a new ‘bar on your bike allows full personalisation for the feel and handling of the bike but the Fuzion gives a range of variety in performance. How? Quite simply the flex locking design allows the rider to stiffen or soften the setting in a matter of seconds thanks to the handy dial component (which is then contained and protected by

the bar pad). The wall of the Fuzion is only 5mm thick but the strength of the ‘bar comes through the use of 2000 series T6 aluminium alloy. Durability is a ‘given’ through a hightech shot peened, stress-relieved, and anodized finish and the cut lines are scratch and peel resistant. It weighs only 0.9kg without the pad, which comes as part of the 136.50 dollar price. The Fuzion is sold in six different bends.




FAST AND FURIOUS The fight for the MXGP title has been lacklustre for so many seasons now, as a rider often sprints to a very comfortable advantage and there is only minor uncertainty. So many anti-climactic battles mean that the current landscape is much more enjoyable. The 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship has truly had it all. Breath-taking performances, nail-biting scenarios and explosive outcomes have become the norm. It is the latter that has added a special layer to the present campaign. Even the best ontrack duels can be brief and underwhelming at times, as motorsports is much more than just the results. Viewers crave an interesting personality, especially those who are looking for a reason to hitch their wagon to a new sport. It makes the action so much more interesting when there is a detailed subplot that adds an element to the action. Jeffrey Herlings was considered a villain because of his arrogance and ability when he first entered

the professional ranks, for instance, and that image dwarfed the thrilling title fight that he was engaged in at the time. Such a label can have negative connotations but that persona brought notoriety to the Grand Prix campaign and created an aurora that still surrounds Herlings now. There is a reason why so many fans squabble over a Herlings signature, outside of his homeland, and it is not just his prowess aboard the KTM 450 SX-F. Those invested in the FIM Motocross World Championship have a lot to thank him for, in all honesty, because his global image has dragged so many new people to the online streaming platform or an actual race and that is half the challenge.

The experience sells itself once that initial hurdle has been overcome. The point here is that it can be easy to discourage a guy from speaking his mind, as criticism can be daunting for those who sign the cheques. But it does more for the sport than most even realise and must continue to be present for the industry to continue to thrive. Look at Formula 1 as an example; the individual personalities make the sport intriguing and those being exposed on a mainstream platform has opened countless doors. It is arguably the biggest downfall of the FIM Motocross World Championship – there are only a select few who command attention from the track.


BY LEWIS PHILLIPS The clash between Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado in Germany has been covered to death at this point, of course, and the latter did receive criticism for his assessment of that incident. Prado publicly stated that he was not to blame, which angered fans and prompted countless debates on different platforms. Now, one would think that said criticism did not come as a surprise. There is no doubt that he knew that fans wanted him to hold his hands up and state that he was at fault. Prado strayed from the script and stayed true to himself though, which is an admirable quality that champions need. Even that statement may have angered naysayers, but that too is brilliant. The worst-case scenario is most followers being indifferent to a star of the sport. Romain Febvre has not been afraid to voice his opinion in weeks

gone by either. Who could forget the moment when he said that his sole goal heading into the fourth event, that being the Grand Prix of The Netherlands, was to finally best Herlings on sandy soil? It would have been a lot easier for him to state that he was aiming to do his best – a tired phrase in the paddock – and slip into the background. Instead, fans were given another reason to pay close attention. This is why the intense fight in 2021 should be cherished. It is very unlikely that a perfect storm similar to this, where we have multiple injury-free contenders with dynamic personalities, is going to materialise in the next decade. There are always going to be fast guys, but will there be engaging ones? There lies the issue going forward, especially if Grands Prix are going to continue to thrive in markets like the United States.





or many, the orange #84 is still the reference for outright speed in motocross, certainly outside the borders of the United States. Jeffrey Herlings’ decade-long thirst for victory is also the benchmark. Whether than means hounding rivals to the last metres of a moto, battering fastest laptimes (at the time of writing he has nine pole positions from fourteen rounds of MXGP) or apparently risking life-andlimb when only a win will do. Evidently the 27-year-old is one of the main protagonists and arguably the main favourite for the 2021 title – potentially his fifth – despite getting into scrapes that has added a cracked left shoulder blade to his hefty injury list (even though he still won that particular moto on home turf) and a scary nearmiss finish line collision with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Jorge Prado. Since he entered the world championship in 2010 as a very fresh-faced teenager (he was 4th in his first GP, finished on the podium in his second outing and banked both races for the first of 97 wins by his third meeting) interviews with Jeffrey have tended to revolve around two subjects: success and injury.

Herlings has calmed down both on and off the track though. If he attracts controversy, then its unwillingly. The days of clashing with MX2 rivals like Tommy Searle and Dylan Ferrandis passed long ago.

fresh threats and maintains his onslaught on the statistics and record books. Herlings’ existence and efforts represent a supreme effort from a supremely competitive animal. But it’s fascinating to know how or why that desire doesn’t dim or expire. I’m not sure if Herlings himself can ever really identify the reasons, beyond a conditioned mindset to ‘give his best’ since he was a kid. Perhaps also a hesitancy of changing a demanding way of life that has

“I THINK I’VE CHANGED A LOT OVER AND YEARS AND FROM WHEN I WAS AN ARROGANT LITTLE S**T. IT’S ALSO KINDA NORMAL TO HAVE AN ATTITUDE WHEN YOU ARE A CHILD AND YOU ENTER A POWERFUL TEAM LIKE RED BULL KTM, START WINNING AND BELIEVE THE HYPE...” The outspokenness still surfaces from time-to-time (thankfully) but his understated almost timid presence around the paddock at Grands Prix compliments a more considered attitude to his health. Despite the maturation, Jeffrey continues to endure as the embodiment of commitment to the sport and the craving to be at the top of the pile: he gets faster not slower, is erasing weak points like race starts, deals with

been in place since his early teens. It would take some skilled and curious psychology to dig into the subject, sadly not an exercise entirely possible in a twenty-minute chat inside the Red Bull Energy Station at a Grand Prix (and a rare occasion when the rider has arrived early on a Saturday) but we tried to pick at a seam of that distinctive Red Bull cap for some of the matter whirring underneath.


In 2021 and through a period with Red Bull KTM that means he is only second to Marvin Musquin as the brand’s most loyal racer (Tony Cairoli is another athlete with an eleven-year association) little has changed.


Even now is it more of a ‘release’ rather than happiness? Yeah, more of a relief rather than happiness. It’s strange to explain but if have an expectation of doing something then when it happens it’s like you can breathe. At the beginning – or maybe sometimes when you don’t expect to win – then that’s when you take happiness from it. It feels part of the job now. What about the side-effects of winning? The money, the profile, the attention, the girls…does any of it matter much anymore? Nowadays I don’t race for the money or for the fame. I race because I still love doing it.

Yeah, the pay checks are nice but it is not a motivation anymore. I’m out there because I like it and I still want to win. It’s nice. I also like doing unexpected things. I came back from injury in Lommel and I shouldn’t have because I wasn’t really ready. I’d broken a shoulder blade only eleven days beforehand, but we did it and got the result. I know something like that is also good for people around me like KTM and Red Bull. I mean, I hate injuries so the only reason to do it is because I love the sport. But there must have been times when you hated the sport? Yeah, but you forget-and-forgive very quickly! For the last three seasons I’ve had injuries that kept me out of racing for a while…although they were not really bad. The shoulder blade was completely fine after three-four weeks and the same with my neck [2020]. It was a minor crack and that healed 100%. I did have the hip – when [Jordi] Tixier hit me in 2015 – and the broken foot in Spain [2019]And the femur? Yeah, but the femur healed fully. The only things that are a bit sore in the mornings are the hip and the foot. When I’m riding the hip doesn’t bother me at all but the foot does. There have been quite a few injuries – I cannot deny that –

and there are moments when you do hate motocross. At Faenza last year when I was on the floor and could not move my legs I thought ‘what the hell am I doing here?!’ but then after two-weeks you are pain-free and doing everything that you want to and you think ‘hmm, let’s go riding again’. People might struggle to understand why you keep training and pushing so much. Is it just because it’s been your way of life for so long? If you quit tomorrow, would you know what to do? Yeah…especially with the training side of it. People say to me ‘you train so much, too much maybe’ but the main reason is that I kinda enjoy it. Maybe four-five years ago I’d wake-up, look outside and it’s raining, and I’d think ‘oh, man; do I have to?’ but now I don’t think that way. It’s been twenty years thinking about working for the sport and ten years at a high level, let’s say, so it becomes routine. It becomes normal. A normal life. You’re a bit of a loner with no real manager or agent. You work closely with Ruben [Tureluren] but have you ever felt tempted to have a more dedicated trainer or someone to push you further? To shake things up? Erm, I worked with Aldon


Is the satisfaction of winning races still as high as it was ten years ago? Less. When I was young it felt like such a relief. Now it’s normal. At Mantova and in Sardinia I had the feeling like ‘OK, we got another one’. At the beginning, the sensation was much bigger ‘wow, my first win! My second, my third…’ now we’re up to 94 [95, as he won the day after this interview and would go to 97 in Italy]. I still feel I haven’t won that much in the last couple of years because of injury and the delays made by Coronavirus. But the whole process does feel more normal.



[Baker] a bit when I was in the U.S., but it was a short-term thing. I still learned a lot from him. I know my fitness is good and my speed is good and everything I ever needed was there to win. I know I don’t have more championships because of crashes. Some were bad luck, some were because I was dumb. I think the last few are more down to misfortune. It’s the nature of the sport that things like being landed-on in Oss and the incident in Germany can happen. [thinking of the question] I’m happy where I am. KTM give me the freedom to live in Holland. If you are from another country then you have to move to Belgium and it’s a big sacrifice. I’m at my home with my friends and my family. That base really helps me. What you’re doing clearly works but in terms of extra motivation or to invigorate the routine after twelve years...? Yes and no. ‘No’ because I’ve been beaten! It would be impossible to race for twelve

years and never be defeated but, apart from a few occasions, I’ve been good with my fitness and my racing. The only thing was my starts. There were – and still are – not the greatest but that has a bit to do with my size and weight. A kid like [Jorge] Prado or [Glenn] Coldenhoff are fifteen kilos less but there is not much I can do about that. I’ve never really had motivation issues or felt I needed to change things because of that freedom from KTM and I feel that can go on for a few more years. I don’t think I can be like Tony [Cairoli] and race on until I’m 36. I’ve huge respect for him to do that. What are your thoughts on his retirement? Is it good that he steps away while at the top? Or should be carry on because he’s clearly still competitive…? It’s hard. For the last five years Tony hasn’t been so

dominant as he used to, but he was always there, you know? Since 2014 he only won one championship and in 2017 I was hurt and Gajser was hurt but that doesn’t matter he has always been there: 2nd, 3rd, around the podium waiting for someone to make a mistake and then to hammer it home. I think in every season he has led the championship at some stage. It’s a shame he retires but he has been racing for almost twenty years and cannot go on forever. I don’t think I could last as long as he has. He loves racing, he loves his job and being at the GPs. He’s had one of the best careers and it’s a shame that he might not get that tenth championship but I think - for me – he is one of the most successful riders ever because of the competition he had compared to Stefan [Everts]. To me he’s the best ever in Europe. One of Cairoli’s biggest impacts has been raising the profile of the sport. You are one of the leading motorsport figures in the Netherlands, so does it ever get frustrating to see how crazy people get for the likes of Max Verstappen? Well, motorsports is really big in Italy. They have great MotoGP riders. Valentino Rossi might be more famous than the Pope. Tony is also famous in his country.

s**t to what I am today. It’s also kinda normal to have an attitude when you’re a child and you enter a powerful team like Red Bull KTM, start winning and believe the hype. Then you eventually get both feet back on the ground and start to act normal again. I’m pretty happy where I am right now. I have regrets about coming back from injury too quickly but that was all part of learning lessons.

What about your status inside the sport: happy with that? I think if you went to a National then there would be quite a fuss… It’s hard to say because I don’t quite know my reputation or what people say or think about me outside of MXGP. I don’t know how much respect I’ve built up over the years. I think I’ve changed a lot from when I was fifteensixteen and an arrogant little

You can get a gauge of perceptions from social media but it’s not an easy relationship for athletes. It was a sensitive subject in MotoGP earlier this year. You post on Instagram but that’s about it… I think some athletes are not good with handling negativity. I get a lot of positive replies, answers and comments but also negative ones, but I don’t pay any attention to them.

If you get a thousand comments then they will never be on the same line. I post what I want to post and if you are jealous of me or don’t like it then unfollow or don’t react and if you want to then don’t feel it has to be negative. I try to be the best role model that I can and try to be smart on social media but I don’t want to post fake stuff or material that’s not me. Talk more about dealing with the negativity. You seem like a sensitive guy so it must be hard to put the haters and all that to one side… Yeah, lately it does feel that you have more social media ‘keyboard warriors’. It’s easy when you weigh two-hundred kilos and sit with your iPhone in your hand to type ‘you are this-andthat’. If I think people like that have never achieved anything in their lives then it’s easy to ignore. Of course, it’s not nice but I also know you will never have everyone thinking the same. If it was someone close to me saying ‘Jeffrey, you’re doing a bad job because of this…’ then I’d listen but if someone from say, Taiwan, is sitting there with his phone wants to get aggressive tell me what to do then I don’t take it seriously. You made a nice personal post of your parents the other day. Your Mum has obviously been a strong force in your life and career. Do you feel like you have paid her back for all the time


If he was Dutch and had achieved the same then I still think he wouldn’t be as wellknown as he is in Italy. There is a lot of top sportsmen in Holland and F1 is massive now thanks to Verstappen. Motocross is still tiny, and in one way I like that because I can go to the local supermarket and only a handful of people will recognise me but Verstappen wouldn’t be able to move.


and investment when you were young? Yeah, she’s ‘employed’ by me but it’s just my way of paying her back. I mean, together with my Dad because it’s a two-man job to raise a child I think. If they hadn’t have given me a chance, bought a bike and put in the financial effort that was necessary then I wouldn’t be where I am today. Tony lost both his parents and I know people who have done the same, so when I saw them together and both healthy and were working a bit in the garden I just got emotional. I’m twenty-seven now and I realised I’m lucky to have them both and I’m proud of them. When I was sixteen then I would have been more like ‘move and get out of the way!’ but as you get older you respect them more and more. They care more about my health than anything now. For sure then enjoy it when I do well but if it was a choice between winning and breaking my hand at the end of the year, or racing a season without pain and finishing 15th then I know what they would choose for me. In the last few years you have shied-away a bit more. It’s rare to see you wandering around the paddock.

You will go down to the start gate fully ready with goggles on. Is it because you’re in ‘work mode’ from the moment you arrive to the circuit? I like to be alone at times. Also, when I’m home. I don’t have a girlfriend currently. I’m not really one of these guys who will arrive at a GP on Friday, walk around all weekend and fly home Monday lunchtime. I’m focussed on my work and I like to be as good as possible on the track. It’s why I show up pretty late, do the signings and see the fans – because we need the fans and we’ve missed them last season and times this year – and then just race. It’s important to be a good role model…but also to win races! Lastly, winning a championship this year would be special because it has been so close but you cannot ignore the fact that you are closing in on the record 101 GP wins. When – hopefully if – it happens then it will be very big moment… Obviously most of them came in the MX2 class. I need to check back in the books but I think it was 61 or something like that and then over 30 in MXGP. We are at 94 right now and I need seven to equal it. I feel it’s a realistic goal.

The ten championships? Forget about it but the total for motos wins is close with Tony and the main thing is the GP wins. I hopefully still have a couple of years to achieve that goal. It will be nice. It would be a big thing for a Dutch guy to get that record. I know we have a lot of GPs in the calendar these days but the competition is so high. Even if we just get near a hundred then it will still be a few years before some else can come up there. It means you were the fastest rider doesn’t it? A champion can win through consistency and that’s a very special skill in itself but the wins total is a different marker… I compare myself to James Stewart because we’ve both been so fast. He took so many wins and was so talented but how many championships did he get? To me he was maybe the best in terms of talent and what he could do on a bike. He’d quad and triple when nobody else would. I feel I am a little bit the same. I’m pretty talented, I won a lot of races, I was so dominant at times but I only have four championships. He had a few concussions, I broke bones!



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TROY LEE DESIGNS For many TLD is the definition of cool. So how about the limited edition ‘GP’ wares with the Evel collection? No explanation is needed for the look of the livery but Troy Lee have decided to splash it on their competitively priced SE4 Composite helmet (DOT, made from an aerospace fibreglass shell, weighing 1.4kg, with 20 exhaust ports, Dri-Lex liner and Mips, costing 495 dollars), the GP jersey (made from TLD Dura Knit and moisture-wicking material at 45 dollars) and the Air glove (single layer palm with micro mesh for ventilation, compression moulded cuff and Velcro top closure at 34 bucks). On the subject of helmets, TLD have ensured excellent safety specs across a wide range of their products and the new collection of SE4 Polyacrylite offers decent protective capability for the 260 dollar price point thanks to the Mips safety system inside, guarding against the worst of rotational motion. The lid weighs 1.5kg, is DOT and ECE certified and has 16 intake ports to help with airflow. The visor screws are plastic and the chinbar is forged from robust expanded polyPropylene. It comes in three different shell sizes. Count on some lively designs to help you stand out on the track or through the trails.








otorcyclists are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a new helmet, but do they choose to be spoiled? There are many factors in play for a fresh helmet purchase: the look, the price, the fit, the feel, the visor. Each rider has his own priority for walking out of the store with new headwear. How high on the list is improved safety? The effects of rotational motion on brain injury and concussion have been identified as a major issue in the space of the last decade, with helmet construction pivoting to limit the potential lethal or life-changing consequences, while official safety standards are slowly becoming aware of the added realm of danger beyond simple impact. The recently established European ECE 22.06 testing criteria involves more rigorous protocols that will affect every product by the summer of 2023. For road racing – and eventually all disciplines – the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) have marched ahead with their own renewed programme that will determine the type of helmets seen on world championship grids in the coming seasons. As a gauge for the seriousness of rotational motion then simply look at the proliferation of a company like Mips. The award-winning Swedish firm was founded on the Multi-directional Impact Protection System concept generated between Peter Halldin, a researcher at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, and Hans von Holst, a Neurosurgeon. The idea proposed that a low-friction layer (a composite sheath that typically fits between the padding and the EPS foam of a helmet) would help to generate 10-15mm of ‘slip’ on certain angular impacts. Al-


The principle was sound. A helmet equipped with Mips-technology was first sold in 2007 and inspired the off-road motorcycle sector. Variations on the theory saw companies like 6D, based in California, and Leatt, from South Africa, also seek their own technical interpretations. Bell Helmets and Giro were particularly keen with a view to their bike and bicycle wares and, after spending


most every motorcycle crash and helmet contact with a surface happens at some sort of ‘oblique’ angle. The Mips ‘slip’ would help redirect some of the forces leading to rotational motion which can cause trauma when the brain is being moved or stretched because of its liquid or gel-like properties.

FEATURE years and great scores of R&D resources to fashion their own resilience to rotational motion, saw Mips systems as the best compromise. Fast forward and Mips tech is now present in more than 120 brands throughout various industries, in more than 700 different models and have been inside more than 20 million ‘lids’ sold. Their lab - just outside of Stockholm - has conducted almost 50,000 different tests. In early 2021 the independent testing institute at Virginia Tech vetted over 100 helmets and found that 42 of around 50 that had received a five-star rating (Virginia Tech’s highest safety rating) were those with the Mips solution.

“THE KEY DIFFERENCE IS NOT THE PERCEPTION BUT MORE THE RIDER: A MOTOCROSSER WILL BE MORE KEEN OR AWARE TO USE PROTECTION BECAUSE THE RISK OF AN ACCIDENT IS PRETTY BIG...” But while the Swedes are widely present in offroad and several of the best-selling models on the motocross market – Bell’s Moto-9 (now new Moto-10), Fox’s V1 and the V range and Alpinestars’ Supertech M10 – there is scant presence on the street. A visit to any store or motorcycle fair shows the sheer quantity of product on display for the road rider. A 2017 industry survey predicted that global premium

motorcycle helmet sales would reach more than 670 million US dollars by 2022 and hit 1.4 million units. Five years ago, Shoei were the biggest selling brand with over 400,000 premium helmets sold globally (a 45% share), followed by Bell and then Nolan. North America accounted for more than 25% of the global market, even if China could be catching up fast with apparently 19 million motorcycles bought in 2019. Bell, Suomy, Kabuto, Lazer, Klim, and KYT are some of the best-known street marques to align with Mips so far. “We exist to provide top of the line protection across as many product segments as possible,” says Bell’s Global Marketing Manager Chris Killen. “We offer Mips system/Flex/Spherical from our entry helmets all the way to the top of our offerings in both street and dirt. It’s a great partnership between two brands to provide the best protection possible to our consumers.” But why aren’t others following? And why are some of the most recognised companies from Japan, Italy, Germany, France to the U.S. not taking their own technical steps? “It’s a good question and it is something we have thought about quite extensively because if you look at our presence in motocross then it is fantastic and if you look in the USA and Supercross then Mips-equipped helmets are being used by 31 of the top 40 Pro riders there,” says Mips CEO Max Strandwitz. “The key difference is not the perception but more the rider: a motocrosser will be more keen or aware to use protection because the risk of an accident is pretty big.” “We have done a lot of market surveys

“It depends on the demographic,” says Killen. “Touring/Adventure riders are highly interested in tech, features, etc while the ‘culture/custom’ crowd tend to be more drawn to helmet design/aesthetic, and graphics.” “When you talk to street bike riders then riding is very much about freedom, and liberty to go out to the countryside,” states Strandwitz. “They typically think about the one-person accident but when you look at a lot of statistics then most accidents are happening in an urban environment where the speed is normally quite low. I don’t think the consumer puts the pieces together…but we really feel that we need to start re-educating the industry because, at the moment, design, flair and other components are much more prominent when it comes to consumer buying decisions.”


because we want to see if there is interest from the street consumer to pay for safety features and they all show that these riders are prepared to pay, as long as they understand it,” he adds. “If you look at the average consumer in Europe then they will be aged in their late forties, riding for more than twenty years and will have never had an accident. They will be quite confident in their ability and will not put the risk of an accident as very big. In general, the consumer is not as safety conscious as an off-road rider: that’s the trivial explanation. When we talk to helmet brands they are pushing for technology created by themselves, developed in-house and by their own engineers. There is a lot of prestige and pride in that and if you are one of the top five brands then you should have that capacity.”


Part of the re-education can come from endorsement through racing; something that brings a tight correlation for offroaders through motocross, enduro, trails and supercross. On the asphalt it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand many riders will not feel a connection with the extreme speed and physics of MotoGP, WorldSBK and events like the Isle of Man TT (and therefore would question why they need a similarly robust product for their weekly outing) but then helmets that are proven in some of the most ferocious of crashes on the track boast a decent seal of approval. MotoGP apparently uses a SCAT 3 concussion test protocol but there has been public criticism of the process this year with Red Bull KTM Tech3 Moto3 rider Deniz Öncü falling and losing consciousness during qualification for the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini at Misano and then being allowed to race to 21st position the following day. The Turk had been on the podium twice from the previous three rounds before his prang. It’s just one polemic example in what has been a rough and tragic year for road racing. Rider safety has improved markedly with better

circuits and implementation of mandatory airbags since 2018 and helmet tech is next in-line for upgrades as the FIM’s Racing Homologation Programme for helmets (FRHPhe) continues to morph and will publish results on their phase 2 segment that should determine the performance of every lid in competition by 2025. “There are many things to consider from your helmet aside from safety but for sure it is the part we are most worried about,” commented Repsol Honda rider Pol Espargaro. “There are many different tests and manufacturers that test in a different way. The helmets we use are also the ones they sell on the street. I’ve tested quite a lot of them, and I’ve had some hard crashes this year. We need to trust the professionalism of the manufacturers.” “I feel that brands like Shoei and Arai were pinnacle helmets a few years ago and they are still top-of-the-line products but I think a lot of companies have a different view on how to make a safe helmet,” opines American Racing Team Moto2 racer and multi MotoAmerica Champion Cameron Beaubier, one of the

only Bell riders in MotoGP and therefore using a Flex/Mips safety system. “There are a lot of very capable helmets on the market now. I’ve had my fair share of head-hits and that’s why I trust Bell: it has been put to the test. As a rider it’s tough because you don’t necessarily think that way [of injury and concussion]. Obviously, you want the latest-and-greatest and the best protection possible and I feel I have that.” “It’s funny the way it works because this new technology comes along and you hear about it but don’t necessarily know what to think until you actually learn or hear some stories of how it helped people,” the Californian adds. “It gives you

more confidence when you know you are using a quality product, and that’s across the board whether it’s road racing, cycling or motocross.” Even though there are a thousand different ways to crash from a motorcycle the types of ‘dismounts’ in off-road tend to be different to the road. They are slower and happen from a greater height. Perhaps Mips’ safety system - and any other ideas that will change manufacturing process and costs – is simply not as relevant for the street? “It’s a valid point,” Strandwitz outlines. “We have simulated the Mips technology in a lot of high-speed accidents and



FEATURE we bought a new test rig to get to much higher speed than with a traditional rig. We have one in the test lab that is 7m and where you can accelerate the speed in a very different way. We still see Mips’ hardware as relevant, and we don’t see a correlation between higher speed and less relevance. Of course, when you get to an extreme speed then the significance of any helmet at all deteriorates because you get many different types of force where the rider will have to count on some good luck anyway.” “Something like MotoGP is very much about speed, coolness and the show, whereas motocross is an extremely cool sport but not with the same values or the same type of risk, let’s say. Rotational motion is however as important in MotoGP as it is in MX.”

The large wheel of a near billion-dollar industry vessel is slowly being turned. Some of the rougher waves going against the change of direction might be caused by conservatism from mainly street/road brands that face greater risk and cost implications compared to off-road companies who are flogging far less units. “That is probably the perception but if you look at Fox then they are selling quite a lot of helmets,” says Strandwitz. “The V1 version is doing well. They are doing a substantial amount of volume and are growing extremely fast.” Fox shift almost 100,000 V helmets a year while Alpinestars’ – quite new to the helmet game – are allegedly already outselling Shoei in off-road. “We are doing a lot of computer-modelling to really make sure we can test helmets before they exist and to optimise

“We need to continue pushing the message and start re-communicating accident stats because, I think, there is a

perception out there that is not linked to reality,” he adds. “We need to go back to the science of what is going on and try to increase awareness.” Rotational motion is a buzz phrase in dirtbike safety where helmets are lot more generic and purposeful and tend to vary mostly in graphics and colours. It needs to be thrusted harder into the street and track lexicon, so one singular moment will not change a life irreparably.


them for performance,” Strandwitz continues. “When I talk to brands about that they say ‘Yeah, we are doing the same’ which I think is fantastic but when I ask how they take rotational motion into play - and they say they don’t - it makes me wonder how exactly they are doing the computer-modelling if they are not focussing on the effects of accidents. There is a lot of prestige in helmet manufacture, but we are starting to see some of that changing with the implementation of ECE 22.06 and where rotational motion is also coming into play for the new FIM standard. The awareness is increasing but a lot of brands are also realising that they are not experts in this. They need a bit of help and then we become the natural partner.”



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otoGP gained a Spaniard in Jorge Martin this year and the rookie made an immediate impact. The premier class will lose Iker Lecuona for 2022 but his saddle is taken by countryman Raul Fernandez. MotoGP therefore keeps a nine-rider Spanish quota. Who will be next to join? You’d have to imagine that Augusto, who will fill the vaunted Moto2 Red Bull KTM

Ajo berth vacated by his namesake, is near the front of the line for graduation in less than twelve months. Looking further afield, perhaps Aron Canet, Ai Ogura, Celestino Vietti, Jake Dixon or the incoming Pedro Acosta will also capture the eye of MotoGP team bosses but Fernandez is in a prime position to make the ultimate stake. #37 gathered attention with his first full season in Moto2

in 2019 where he posted three wins; one of those being the sensational last lap duel with Fabio Di Giannantonio in Misano. A promising transfer to the conquering Marc VDS team looked like the best possible move but Fernandez shrank out of sight and contention in 2020 through a confidencebashing lack of competitiveness, compounded by armpump issues. He responded in 2021 with four podiums, harrying teammate Sam

Articulate, with an excellent level of English, Fernandez is accessible off track and exciting to watch while on it. If any of the ‘Ajo Effect’ rubs off for 2022 then he’s going to be the next athlete vaulting into the elite after what has been an unconventional route to Grand Prix prominence where he bypassed Moto3 and came through European Stock 600 competition and the CEV Moto2 series. Fernandez is the same age as 2020 MotoGP World Champion Joan Mir and grew up in Mallorca also. His beginnings in motorcycle racing came through Jorge Lorenzo’s father’s academy site on the island but it seems his outlook on his career and his lifestyle is far from insular. We stand chatting in the back of the Marc VDS truck, mechanics pop in and out but the conversation rarely feels rushed or uncomfortable. It’s partially helped by the fact that he can express himself quite eloquently. “I don’t know!” he smiles, when quizzed about his bilingual skill.

“Paddock life? I’ve always been very curious about language and pronunciation and improving it. I like to learn different languages. In the end it’s just through practice in the paddock and the fact that my Crew Chief might speak English. It was important to be well understood so the relationship improves and increases. It’s not just Netflix…” “WE HAVE TO WIN THE CLASSES, WIN THE RACES AND BE BETTER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE JUST TO STAY IN MOTO2 NEVER MIND ABOUT MOTOGP. YOU HAVE TO BE RIGHT AT THE VERY TOP HERE TO CREATE THE OPPORTUNITY OR THE POSSIBILITY TO MOVE...”

You’re at the top of Moto2 but the pathway here was varied. You rode a lot of bikes in different series to find your way to Grand Prix. Did you benefit from that diversity? Or did it delay some learning and arrival? Yeah, it’s been a long time, a long journey and also a difficult one with a lot of hard moments. Moments when we thought ‘it’s over’. In another way it feels like a long path but it was only just three or four years ago! There have been hard times – I count 2020 as one because we expected a lot more when we

moved into this team – but perhaps the toughest was in the first seasons of my career where I was just trying to find a ride, any ride. I had to fight to stay in the world championship or go home. You mentioned 2020. What happened there? You had issues with arm-pump but ultimately was it the pressure to perform again that stopped the results? I don’t think it was pressure. I mean, real pressure is finishing your contract and making s**t results. They really were s**t, to be honest. Coming into the last races needing a result: this was pressure. I didn’t see the fight for a championship as ‘real’ pressure. 2020 was a misunderstanding with my team and for 2021 I changed my Crew Chief. The team was good. They had won a championship with Alex Marquez but there was a misunderstanding between us, somehow. We didn’t gel. But from the beginning of 2021 I was able to get my feeling back on the bike and that’s something I really missed in 2020. I never felt like it was ‘mine’. I wasn’t comfortable in any session, or throughout the whole year. Plus, there was the arm-pump and a lot of crashes. 2021 was an improvement and the speed was there and my confidence was coming back step-by-step.


Lowes for a top four slot in the championship, and has sought a space in the burgeoning KTM GP Academy for ’22 and what might the last phase towards Moto2 glory.

FEATURE In Moto2 it seems like you are either a success right away or you struggle. It’s a confusing class where riders – world champions – just fade into the pack… I think it is one of the toughest classes in the world. It the step before MotoGP and joining the best riders. Man, the top ten or the top fifteen here is so competitive. You can have everything set-up well but still have a bad day. If you don’t want to take risks in Moto2 then you lose fivetenths a lap, and that means you’re not even in the top twenty. Being half a second slower than the best rider in Moto2 might not seem that much but in the end it’s a lot! So being in your situation in 2020 means you were ‘gone’… That’s right. I struggled to get my confidence back and my riding style back. I was trying everything I could to fit with the bike I was being given. That’s why I was talking and working a lot with my new Crew Chief to understand what we want and how we want it. I think we are doing a good job now but it comes from a difficult start and the bond between Crew Chief and rider. It must be a relief that the form and the feeling returned… Yeah because you have all these thoughts like ‘I’m slow, I can’t ride fast, I can’t race any more, I don’t have the level’. In the end when the good moments come and you are competitive again it’s really, really nice. You always struggle less when you are fast compared to when you’re slow; physically and mentally. What kind of person are you? Can you go home and switch off or are you quite wrapped-up in it all and obsessed? Hmm, I don’t really switch off. When it’s

Did that approach come from Mallorca and your upbringing? It seems like a similar journey to Joan Mir… Maybe the way I arrived to the world championship was slightly different. I went into

the European Junior Cup, Superbikes, 600s. It was not the normal path of CEV, Moto3 and so on. I had to win every class I was in to move up because of the money and the profile of those series’. Teams and people in the world championship were not looking at them. I had to win all the races to get some attention and it seemed like it was never enough. I would win, but then had to win again and preferably by pulling away from the others. I think that mentality had something to do with it…and also what helped me after a difficult 2020. Do your family provide a good support structure? Yeah, my Dad is my manager. That can also be a negative thing. You sometimes see some detrimental cases… Yeah, for sure…but in my case he helped me a lot, especially

in the bad moments because only the family know what you have really been through. When I train at home I always go with my Dad so we’re together quite a lot. He has been an important part of my career. Where is home during the season? In Mallorca. I try to go back every Sunday after the race. Lots of Vueling and Ryanair flights! In Moto2 this year the Ajo bikes have been the ones to catch. In your view what’s the reason for them being so fast? I’ll tell you next year! Haha. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I’m moving. They seem to be a step ahead in every condition, in every session, in every situation. They have been so consistently fast and even on the tougher days they have still been on


off-season then I like to get away but during the year I will be thinking about improvements for the next race, whether that’s a part of the track coming up, a session, qualifying laps or things from a previous race. I’m training pretty much every day either physically or riding. I train a lot at a kart track with an R6. What I find difficult here in Moto2 I try to fix and improve when I’m at the kart track by doing some similar things and putting my mind on the job. There is not so much time between races so there’s not much point in switching off, doing a holiday for a week and coming back into it.





the podium. I think this way of approaching a championship is what I am missing or I have still to learn. Where I am now is a good team with a strong history of championships but we did not fit together and I feel like I need a change. It’s been two years here without the results we both wanted. It’s time to move and the opportunity came from KTM and I think it’s a good one with a view to the future.

What about the next few years of your career and MotoGP? On one hand there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of Spanish riders still – so how do you stand out? – and the case of Iker Lecuona shows that you might not have much time. If you don’t have the results or the personality then you’re out… We have to win the classes, win the races and be better than everybody else just to stay [in Moto2] never mind

about MotoGP. You have to be right at the very top here to create the opportunity or the possibility to move to MotoGP and then also try to get the maximum time possible to show your speed or potency

once I forgot about MotoGP – it was clear I would not step-up because you want to perform well at the beginning to be in with a chance – from around Sachsenring-time I just started to ride.

there are a lot of people behind us. There is a lot of support and resources. We even had another data guy this season, so the team really look into the details and that helped us in a lot of moments.

Raul Fernandez’s situation shows how short-term racing can be. 2021 should have been his rookie year but he made some results and moved up the ladder fast. Your prospects and your contracts can expand or shrink so quicky as someone else is waiting in the wings… I thought about this a lot in the past. Like I said, I had to perform just to have a contract or to be able to stepup or to have options. But

It must be hard to forget that side of the job though… Yeah, really hard. But in the end it worked because I was riding mentally-free and then I got the podium in Assen. This one helped a lot. Since then confidence came back and the chats with KTM started. It was like fresh air. It came from that reset and the attitude to get the maximum of what I have now. I said to myself ‘for sure I will have a ride, I cannot be sat at home next year, enjoy it now and the results will come’.

even this year I was making so many silly mistakes and picking up too many ‘0’s. That was pressure. Sam [Lowes] was winning but – more than that – I was doing s*t and after a s**t year. It all escalated. However,

What did you appreciate most about being with Marc VDS? We’re talking about another powerhouse team in the category… Wow, there are a lot of things, but I would say the fact that

The move to KTM also means going into the KTM GP Academy. Is that a smart route to MotoGP? It was an opportunity I had to take. More than the chance for MotoGP or the value of the contract it was about fulfilling my first goal which was to fight for the championship. I had that fixed from my first year in the class in 2019 and with Pons. I moved to this team now for that reason at a time when people were saying to me ‘what about MotoGP?!’ and I was replying ‘I’ve only just arrived! I want a world title!’ and I felt like I had to have a title [first]. I was not rushing to get to MotoGP. Last year was a story of pressure but now I am feeling good again and more clear in terms of what I need on the bike, what I need to explain about the bike to go fast for the whole championship. I chose KTM because of this and I believe I know the way to be quick and competitive all the way through the year.


there. Iker moved up without many good results in Moto2. Experience counts and I think just fighting for a championship counts for a lot. I think we need to be a title contender until the last race next year just to think about that.



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24 OR 48?


Well, it looks like after a year of following the USA lead of one day formats, the MXGP series will indeed be going back to its usual format of one day for motos and the other for practice and qualifying. I’ll take it from a USA perspective, we’ve had twoday formats here for a long time. In fact, when I first started being a mechanic it was open practice on a Friday, then a day off for tech inspection, prep the bikes and the national was on the Sunday. After that it became a Saturday format of practice and qualifying races and the national on Sunday. Then it was no qualifying racing on Saturday, and just timed qualifying practice and the national on Sunday. Nowadays, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships have gone to a one-day format (and away from Sunday, the long held ‘traditional’ day for motocross!) with two practices Saturday morning which include just the first 5 minutes of the first practice that isn’t timed and it’s on

from there. The racers push for qualifying times and the top 36 riders are set in each class after those two practices. Then it’s one LCQ race for each category with the top four going through to the motos and we’re set. It’s a very hurried program with live TV needs to fit in and there’s generally no intermission. The racers have just one hour between motos and it’s a big change for amateurs and the foreign riders that come here to race. I can think of talking to Ken Roczen and Tyla Rattray in particular and them telling me the struggles of learning a track for the first time (against many of their competitors who have raced that track for years) in just five minutes before trying to go as fast as they can before the track gets worse and the

times get slower. Thankfully here in the USA, unlike many tracks I see on the MXGP circuit, a good start can be gotten from many gates and whether you’re fourth overall after two sessions or tenth, you aren’t really penalized. “For our outdoor series, one day is fine. It’s a big cost savings for the team, we race a lot and I think we have our races further than the MXGP guys outside of their flyaways,” says TLD GasGas team manager Tyler Keefe. “I’m a one-day guy for here, it’s not too rushed. For supercross, getting there at 9AM when we don’t practice until noon is a bit much so I would tighten that up also. The only thing is I do think our tracks would be better if we went to two days, they flood them so much and they don’t have time to develop because we’re all in a


BY STEVE MATTHES rush to qualify. If we went to two days and we had open practice, we could get more lines formed.” The man that ultimately made the decision over here to break tradition and go to one-day. Davey Coombs from Racer X/MX Sports who promote the outdoor nationals here in the USA, explains the decisions behind the shift. “The one-day format came along during the recession of a few years ago now, the teams asked us to do it. We had lots of SX only deals then and the cost of having everyone on the road was a lot,” Coombs says. “I don’t foresee us going back to it [two days] anytime soon, what hasn’t changed is we have thirty races on the schedule and there’s a burnout involved for the riders, the teams and everyone in the series. Moving to Saturday was not tied-in with

the one-day format but if we were going to a one day, it worked better for live tv. Roger DeCoster and Mitch Payton thought Saturday would be better so they could be back in the office on Monday.” Asked what he misses about the old two-day format, DC says “I miss the pace of the two-day format, I enjoyed how it wasn’t so rushed but you’ve got to make up your mind, we have no real SXonly deals for our top riders now. So, I think this has worked.” He goes on: “Finally, I think it’s different here. SX and MX all kind of jumble together and do a nine-month slog, there’s really only a month off for everyone. That kind of thing came into the thinking, we’re asking every team for two extra weeks with that one day added in. It’s expensive for everyone involved.”

The MXGP series looks, to me anyways, to base its two day format at the European races around the many support series involved and while that has been good for preparing the kids of tomorrow at the highest level, Coombs makes the point that there is already a high level amateur ‘series’ going on in the USA and none of the races revolve around the nationals so to do that doesn’t make sense. I would back Coombs’ assessment of the one-day format here, it is rushed for sure and the new riders are at a disadvantageous with figuring out the track but overall it’s been a positive change for teams expenses and less time away from family, business, etc. Some GP riders might not be happy next year in reverting back to two-days but tradition is sometimes paramount over procedure.


THREE OUT, TWO IN AT THE BAKER’S F “Can Cooper Webb, Zach Osborne, and Marvin Musquin replicate the race-winning intensity and edge on their own?” “Will Aaron Plessinger and Malcolm Stewart follow the strict regimen and become Main Event winners?” These questions will be on the minds of executives at various levels of the KTM Group next year, as the departure of three longtime followers and the arrival of two new riders turned the 2022 race season into a review of the Baker’s Factory program. Although this isn’t the first time the trainer has endured a public split from the top riders in the sport, the timing of the independent decisions and individuals involved make it complicated and compelling. Aldon Baker’s background has become popular bench racing fodder over the last two decades, mostly due to his lack of personal experience racing motocross. The son of an endurance athlete, the South African followed his compulsory stint in the

country’s military by working at a London gym and was qualified to compete at the 2000 Olympics in cycling until the SA sporting committee shifted their attention to other athletes. The frustration of the Olympic situation was short-lived, though, as a contact at Oakley put Baker in touch with Johnny O’Mara; the MX racer-turned-trainer was coaching Ricky Carmichael to the 2000 250 MX National championship but needed someone to be with him in Tallahassee daily. Carmichael and Baker were together until the RC’s retirement in 2007, an era that defined the duo as two of the fittest individuals in motorcycling and ended the “train sometimes, party all the time” lifestyle of professional motocross.

Baker doesn’t attempt to hide that hard work and accountability are the ethos of his efforts. Every rider that’s followed the program over the past 20 years has mentioned how the strict diet (no red meat or dairy, emphasis on portion control and caloric intake), the seven days a week workload, and mental tactics pushed them to the edge and made them reconsider their careers. Those that get into the details entirely, ala Ryan Dungey, thrive following the program, while free spirits or strongminded riders, such as Jason Anderson and Ken Roczen, could only take so much. But even Baker’s biggest clients turned critics can’t deny its effectiveness. From 2000 to now, he has had a hand in 29 of the 44 AMA 450 SXMX championships, various




BY MIKE ANTONOVICH 250 titles, Kaliub Russell’s record-breaking run in GNCC, and had an immeasurable influence on motorcycle racing. He also makes it very clear that the Baker’s Factory is a business. The property, located outside of Clermont, Florida, looks more like a golf course than a dirt bike track. Full-time employees prep the practice tracks (built to spec Supercross courses, multiple outdoor layouts, off-road loops through the trees) and cut the grass, mechanics maintain their bikes in immaculate work bays, and riders put in gym sessions in a fully furnished on-site gym. An endorsement deal with JCB provided the site millions of dollars worth of heavy equipment; Baker charts his rider’s physical fitness using heart monitors and watches from Polar. But no deals are as important as the exclusivity contract with the KTM Group and the fees riders are charged to practice there.

In 2016, Baker and OEM entered a five-year agreement to make him the favored physical instructor and the land their go-to for international bike launches, product shoots, and private tests (while there is has been no official statement from KTM, signs point to a recent multi-year extension). Although KTM’s preference for Baker is evident, as it was a key detail in the Aaron Plessinger and Malcolm Stewart signing announcements, his services are not covered by the company. Instead, riders must pay the Baker’s Factory for a place in the workshop, a full-time mechanic, practice laps on the track, time in the gym, and his advice out of pocket. High-level riders in the 450 Class expect to pay a six-figure bill yearly, and a championship-winning season merits a bonus payout to Baker, while 250 Class riders have lower tuition but might not necessarily work directly with the elite talent.

Baker has essentially put a value on confidence, and yes, the market is willing to pay whenever a spot opens up. Riders on his program go into every race knowing they are at their peak, physically and mentally, and that a few Main Event wins can cover the cost of the entire year. For example, Ryan Dungey passed up an opportunity to work with Baker in 2010 due to the price, a decision that allowed Ryan Villopoto to go on a run, but received a second chance in 2015. Dungey’s time with Baker helped him realize weaknesses to his ways, including a frustrating pursuit of the perfect setup for the 450 SX-F and even some overtraining, and helped Dungey go on to become a multi-time champion.There are takeaways from Baker’s “failures,” too. Broc Tickle moved to Florida almost as soon as the ink was dry on his Red Bull KTM contract in late 2017, and despite the fact he watched former RCH teammate Ken Roczen experience physical


exhaustion and a somewhat messy split from the trainer two years early, his excitement to work with Baker was apparent. Unfortunately, the pairing did not produce the expected results, and Tickle was rundown by the workload and struggling on the track when WADA suspended him for an anti-doping infraction; Tickle cited contaminated supplements as the cause for the failed test, and despite being dropped by KTM and distanced by Baker, he did not blame either group. James Stewart, Ken Roczen, Adam Cianciarulo, and Jason Anderson all decided to end their time with Baker, and while those breakups sent waves through the pit area, they pale in comparison to the recent separation initiated by Cooper Webb, Zach Osborne, and Marvin Musquin because the trio is among Baker’s best work. Where would Webb be had he not joined the group in 2018? Could Osborne have put the pieces together on his own? Would Musquin have been as strong as he was for years? It seems like these three reached their breaking point

simultaneously. Baker encouraged them to push each other harder over the last few years, something we can see in Red Bull’s Moto Spy video series, and this dynamic is said to have soured the mood among the group. Webb and Osborne started to separate from Baker early in the 2021 Supercross season; Osborne hired an independent riding coach from CLUBMX, while Webb was said to have battled internally within the team for the chance to ride at different tracks. Baker wasn’t around much when Webb’s title fight with Roczen intensified late in the SX season, and as the Red Bull KTM team took to the stage in Salt Lake City, the trainer was missing for the celebratory photos. Webb’s separation was sorted out during the Pro Motocross season, and by the middle of the summer, he was already saying that the decision was made to prolong his career. Webb and Osborne have moved over to the 83 Compound in nearby Dade City, where the Lawrence brothers, Max Anstie, Joey Savatgy, and Justin Bogle, are expected to ride each day. Musquin’s tepid negotiation period for a contract extension with

Red Bull KTM and the resulting Supercross-only deal is said to be a reason for his late-career change, and he will spend the coming months working in Southern California with David Vuillemin. Baker’s strategy for racing is simple: work as hard as you can and pack as much success into a short period as possible, then retire with a list of titles to your credit. If it causes a rider to experience “burnout,” so be it. This is a radical approach, and over the next two years, we will see if these methods apply to Aaron Plessinger and Malcolm Stewart. Both riders are known for relying on their natural talent and breaking the tensest situations with their personalities, attributes that will come in handy during the road bike rides and sprint laps of boot camp. Plessinger or Stewart have never won a 450 SX Main Event, 450 MX Moto, or 450 MX Overall. Can Baker turn either, or both, into consistent frontrunners in 2022? KTM is betting on it, and if this play works out, it will bring an entirely new level of respect to the program.


SCOTT SPORTS Scott continue to get creative with their two premium goggle products: the Prospect and the Fury. The two models (the Prospect being more top of the range while the Fury guarantees even wider compatibility with all helmets on the market) are now available in a throwback ‘90s Edition’. As with every era, there is a debate to be had on the stylistic merits of the 1990s, especially the early years, but Scott had some high profile associations on the track and in the last days of the two-strokes thanks to racers in the U.S. like Mike LaRocco, Larry Ward, Brian Swink and Damon Bradshaw. The liveries paint the Prospect (90 pounds) in white, pink and purple with the distinctive Scott logotype. The Fury (70 pounds) is a slightly more restrained blue, white and orange. Count on the class-leading quality of the lens lock system, lens clarity and strength, foam and fit and ventilation.



MXGP ‘21 Oooooh, the latest version of official MXGP video game gets so close to coinciding with the timing of the same season. The new title for PlayStation5, PlayStation4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC Steam comes out at the end of November which means it misses a tight and cracking term of action by only a few weeks. The full licence is here so take on the challenge of being your favourite rider on a preferred track (could you find an extra line to pass at Lacapelle Marival?) or enter the enhanced career mode with transfer windows, contract negotiations and challenges in store. The option to personalise the bike, rider and create a track is still very much part of the game package and developers Milestone have suped-up the multiplayer mode such as qualification in online lobbies. The title features four ‘legacy’ tracks: the sand of Ottobiano (Italy) the valley-side hard-pack of Ernee (France), the cactus-lined flat course of Leon (Mexico), and the rough, red dirt of Agueda (Portugal).





By Adam Wheeler Photos by CormacGP





otoGP race suits are incredible pieces of technology. Not only do they house the airbag hardware that has been mandatory in the sport since 2018 but they are soft, light, flexible and engineered for premier abrasion resistance to nasty things like tyre rubber, asphalt and gravel. They are built from materials to help with cooling, insulation and waterproofing and, for the athletes at the top of the sport, they are carefully personalised for prime fit and maximum practicality. But, what’s next? When can suits start to provide even more function? Purposes such as biometrics (as F1 have in the drivers’ gloves to detect blood oxygen levels) or be able to help with things like compression? Although – like most things in the paddock – there is a veil of secrecy around new developments (and especially with brands like Alpinestars, Dainese, Ixon and Rev’it! all routinely parked next to each other) we were able to ask Alpinestars’ Media Manager Chris Hillard for his time to try and unzip some of the details and unseen specs that go into the garments worn by the likes of Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo, Jorge Martin and even more through the classes.

ways of looking at it. There are the specific needs each rider has – so requested modifications and adjustments that someone like Pecco Bagnaia, Dani Pedrosa or Marc Marquez has to have and because we like to make sure every rider is personally comfortable. Then there have been riders that have especially requested things that have led to us being able to develop generally. For example, Dani was really focused on the knee area of the suit because that’s where he’d

“OUR STANDARD PRODUCT IS THE RACING ABSOLUTE SUIT. IT’S MADE OF FULL KANGAROO LEATHER, PRINTED TECH & RETAILS AT 2800 EUROS. WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE BESPOKE FITTING & THE PRINTING THEN YOU CAN GET AN IDEA OF THE PRICE FOR MotoGP. ADD MANPOWER, LABOUR, TIME, MATERIAL THEN IT’S HARD TO PUT AN EXACT FIGURE...” knowing what has gone into the next steps: a lot of that is the airbag integration. They are now mandatory and that’s probably the most significant difference. Just how important were the racers in changing the product? Working with a multitude of riders there is probably two

had an injury. He was instrumental – and the catalyst - to the development of the knee ‘cup’, which is now a standard, universal component on the suit. Casey Stoner too, for example, the way he rode the bike meant he was very aggressive with the side of the boot so we ended up evolving a progression of the sole that came up and protected the


You worked with Alpinestars for some time then recently returned to the brand last year. Were you surprised with how the race suits have evolved in that time and what most impressed you? I’ve genuinely been quite wowed by developments in the last five years, and a lot of them quite subtle. There is continuous work and it’s the commitment to that which I’m most impressed with. Maybe there isn’t something that is really visible on the suit that I knew from before but


In terms of process does Fabio Quartararo have to come to the factory to get fitted or does someone from

Alpinestars go along and make the measurements and get feedback? Fabio’s measurements will have been on file for quite some time as he’s been with us many years so his chart continues to evolve. For changes generally maybe a rider has switched-up their training and has more or less upper body bulk, for example. We have a consistent presence of technical staff at races and tests that are always aware and in constant communication with riders, such as Fabio,

It does seem complex, like a patchwork quilt… A very bespoke patchwork quilt. Every component on the suit serves a different function. Part of the knee protection will be dual composite PU material, the idea being that this material will slide, won’t catch anything


side and the zipper which is now on the standard boot in the shop. It worked for him, so why not apply it as extra protection for everybody? We really mean what we say when we do our development at the track and there is a passage of technology to the consumer. The top spec off-the-peg suit and the riders’ versions are really similar.

for their particular needs. Also, in the off-season riders can either come and visit us or we have been known to meet them at events like EICMA, practice tracks or team launches for example. We like to be at the first test of the season pretty set; but it is also the time where testing of both the bike and the equipment takes place, and we might need to tweak and develop the pattern. I mean, we take 36 different measurements of the body for a suit. They then get transferred into a ‘paper pattern’ of 81 pieces of paper that form the construction that the leather is cut around. The measurements are crucial and the guys at the factory are able to de-code them into flat pieces of leather that come together like a puzzle. It still impresses me to this day that there can be over 150 components that go into it. With all of this margin for difference, the fact we can consistently make something that feels like a second skin is something to be proud of.


Fabrics that moisture-wick and keep the body core cool. So, there is complexity with the layers and riders will get picky with the undersuit. We have been working with compression to a degree.

and will be long-lasting. Sliding is what we want the most in a crash. The part of the body that grip the floor most like the forearms or the backs of the thighs will have thicker material than say the chest or the upper arms. Every section has been carefully considered. We’ve talked about the leather and benefits of bovine and kangaroo before…but what about other uses? Like biometric readings and muscle compression? Is this coming? It’s a good question and we’re constantly working and also talking with Dorna and the FIM to utilise technology that they

are pushing. We work towards fleshing out ideas, maximising the airbag technology and the data collection. Leaving motorcycle racing for a moment, we worked with the FIA in Auto to get standardised gloves that contain biometric sensors so they can take data from drivers. That was a close collaboration and when technology like that comes along we are always looking to maximise it in the best way possible. The motorcycle suit has progressed and continues to do so. The undersuits also.

Is there also increasing pressure for aerodynamics? The ‘hump’ looks like a random shape for storage but it must be carefully considered… Correct. The electronics for the airbag are housed inside the hump and this is part of the suit where we will go into the wind tunnel to make sure we have the optimum form. We actually did testing recently with helmets from all manufacturers to understand any differences. Aerodynamics are becoming such a critical thing as the bikes are getting closer. Everyone is looking for that edge. You can see from the construction of the suit that everything is built very ergonomically. That’s why when you see these riders walking around or standing on the podium they look a bit awkward. On the bike you want the least amount of drag and that means a hunched position. Aero is an important part of development.

section of his suit was a lot stiffer and featured more protection because of his injuries around those areas. Weight was fortunately never an issue with Dani, which meant we could taiTalking about the protection: lor a solution for him. For Marc is the application of these and his recent injury we have components highly personal been offering bespoke solufor the rider? tions. It’s up the rider ultimately To a degree. There are some and where they want to feel areas that are non-negotiable more free and more protected. for protection and we wouldn’t It is our job to provide options recommend taking any out. and the best form of coverage Using Dani as an example based on all the information again the wrist and forearm that we have.

Can the Tech-Air airbag coverage be customised? It seems some of the MotoGP guys have bigger areas… Hmm, our MotoGP guys are generally the development riders for new Tech-Air systems. Probably the most visual prototype development we have been working on in the last year is where the coverage of the airbag also reaches the hips covering the upper body with the ribs and shoulders and some of the arm. It’s going into a product – the TechAir 10 – that will go to market next year. Where would you say Alpinestars sit in terms of competition with other brands when it comes to suits? Just ahead? I believe we are a leader in the industry, purely from our commitment to racing and what we have introduced over the years but in terms of competition then our common goal is better protection for riders and excellent products. It is positive competition towards that end goal. We just try to use all of our resources to be the best we can be.


Just look at the current bikes, and it’s only natural that we have to follow and use the wind tunnel for various projects.








merican hero Kevin Schwantz admits he leads a mostly quiet life. “We worked a bit on the track here,” he told television cameras at the Grand Prix of the Americas in early October. “But fishing, my dog, my girlfriend – that’s about it. Just enjoying life,” came his response when asked by pitlane reporter Simon Crafar how he currently passes his days. One thing Schwantz neglected to add was watch racing – and plenty of it. The 1993 500cc World Champion keeps a keen eye on MotoGP, the series he once lit up over a seven-year stint that resulted in 25 victories against arguably the strongest field of riders that ever lined up on the same grid. And even if the Texan has been retired for 26 years, he still has an eye for the details. Sitting down with On Track Off Road just after MotoGP qualifying had finished at the Circuit of the Americas, he could see what was incoming the following day. Marc Marquez had just finished Saturday third – his first front row start of the year. “Does he still have the speed to win here?” Schwantz asked somewhat rhetorically. “Absolutely.” 24 hours later he was proved right.

He is engaging and animated when the recorder is switched on, his opinions strong and well put across, his recollections clear and rich on detail. The ability to recall the minutiae of certain races, battles and experiences is as clear as if Schwantz experienced them yesterday. First of all, the Texan gives his opinion on the man currently leading the championship: Fabio Quartararo. Back in his day, Schwantz regularly fronted up to the might of Honda and Yamaha, even if the capabilities of his Suzuki RGV500 were some way off those of his rivals. Several of his most memorable victories – think that epic four-way slug at Suzuki at the start of 1991 or the late-braking duel with Wayne Rainey at Hockenheim the same year – came when his bike wasn’t necessarily the strongest. Those feats were what first attracted me to the sport when I was nothing more than a snotty kid in preschool. And while Yamaha’s 2021 M1 is undoubtedly a fine motorcycle in the right hands, there has been something reminiscent of Schwantz in how Quartararo has single-handedly taken the fight to a hoard of Ducatis and, occasionally, Joan Mir’s Suzuki.

An intelligent, mature ride to second place in Austin meant the Frenchman held a 52-point advantage heading into the final three races. Would Quartararo be a deserving champion in Schwantz’s eyes? “I think he’s earned it. I think he deserves it,” he said. “In the first year he was fast and we were like, ‘Wow, that was amazing!’ Then last year he was like, boom, boom, boom at the start of the season, but then couldn’t finish in the points. I thought, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’ Then this year, that eighth place at Aragon has been one of his worst races all season. “It used to be you had to be top three every weekend. But this sport has gotten so competitive that I think if you can keep yourself within the top five, or occasionally, top ten every weekend, and avoid those races where you DNF to a minimum you’ll be in contention to win. I think Fabio’s done a great job. I love the pressure Pecco’s applying right now. But I think it could be just too little, too late.” Talk turns to the manufacturer Schwantz used to call home. Suzuki came into the 2021 season as defending champions for the first time in 20 years. And despite a host of spirited performances, Mir’s title defense came to an end



FEATURE in Texas with a muted eighth place. A lack of development has led to the GSX-RR to drop from the grid’s best bike to one that has struggled to keep up with the Ducatis and Quartararo’s Yamaha. Yet maintaining that edge as a manufacturer is never easy, with Suzuki one of the lesser resourced factories on the grid. As Schwantz – one of only six men to have won a premier class crown with the marque – explained, the factory’s size must always be taken into account. “[Joan] needs to realise he’s been there three years now. He’s had a decent bike [in 2019] and a great bike [in

2020]. Now he’s seeing what it’s like the rest of the time when it’s not one of those few [best bikes that Suzuki produces] every six, seven or eight years.

again. If you continue to race at the front and get close, they’ll eventually put something underneath you that will put you where you want to be.”

“It’s such a hard thing at Suzuki with the manufacturer being such so much smaller, with the race shop being that much smaller, the development team being that much smaller. There are no satellite teams to help you with input, to give you data. It’s a really, really hard job. It’s so easy to get frustrated. But what you’ve got to remember is the guys at the shop are the guys that gave you the bike that you won on last year. They’re eventually going to get it right

Does the former #34 consider Mir, the current #36, to be riding on the same level as the men ahead of him in the championship? “I don’t think he’s there right now,” Schwantz opined. “I think he’s working to get back to that championship calibre guy that we had last season. There have been a couple of times Rins has got in front and ridden away from him. And more often than not Rins has ended up on the ground. [Joan] is there 100%.

Another stand out feature from his own career was Schwantz’s near miraculous recoveries from injury. Some of the more memorable examples include finishing fourth in the 1992 Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks on from breaking his left arm and dislocating his left hip. Two years later he cracked the scaphoid in his left wrist on the Thursday of the Dutch TT only to finish fifth 48 hours later.

And the final of his 25 premier class wins was one of his finest: his ’94 British GP success came in spite of complications to that same wrist injury, as well as bruises suffered in a monumental qualifying crash. His fighting spirits brought at least one team member to tears that day. How has Schwantz assessed Marquez’s comeback from his career threatening injury? “You know, with the exception of some of those big Friday crashes he had, I didn’t think he was being quite cautious enough,” Schwantz said. “You get back and you think you feel 100%. But you haven’t been on the bike, and you

haven’t been racing at the front. You really try and push the envelope and it’s so easy for it to sneak up and bit you. I mean, not just some little low sides; some real big, nasty looking crashes. “Knock on wood, I’m glad he hasn’t reinjured himself. I think that’s been a bit of a punch in the gut and think, ‘I need to back off’. I heard him say in the press conference the other day [Thursday at COTA], which I was really impressed with, ‘I need to get back here 100% [points to shoulder], I need to get back here 100% [points to head], but then I need to find that extra special thing I had before I got hurt.


I think maybe the bike’s not there 100%. And because [together] they’re both not 100%, he hasn’t got that extra Joan Mir that we saw some of the time last year late in the races, going to the front.”


Being 100 and 100 isn’t enough. You’ve got to be better than that to be at the front of this class. That made a lot of sense.” So how do you do it as a racer, coming back from something so jarring? “You’ve got to remember you’re not at 100%;” he said. “If I got a wrist that’s just on the mend, I’ve got to maybe not be as aggressive on the brakes. I have to be more subtle, get my body in position earlier and use the back of the tank to keep the pressure off [my wrist], and I’ve got to realize in the center of the corner, if it starts to push then I’m probably not going to be able to react. So, I need to make sure I do everything perfect. I work even harder to get the bike set up. “I used to try and come back as quick as I could because I knew two weeks off, my mind had lost that functionality at 180mph. I needed to get my head back there also [even if] I needed to get back physically. I felt like a race weekend or two [away] and my train of thought was, ‘If I was off with an injury for two or three weeks, it was at least that length of time, if not

double, to get back to where I was when I hurt myself’. “With Marquez being off for a full season, he’s made an incredible comeback. A lot of people say he’s still struggling physically and say, ‘I can tell he’s not at 100%’. Well, I can’t tell that. But it’s that extra little bit he talked about in the press conference that he’s still missing. That’s just going to come with time and confidence. “I really thought when he did what he did at the Sachsenring that the entire paddock was in trouble. [It looked like] He was getting ready to just punch them out one after one after one. Bagnaia and him in Aragon, then Bagnaia and Quartararo in Misano were just off in the distance, and he should have been able to catch them but couldn’t do anything with it. It’s kind of settled in. He seemed like a different person in the press conference on Thursday to me.” Schwantz certainly knows talent when he sees it. A revelation of the recent Americas Grand Prix was the regard which he holds for current Moto3 title leader Acosta.

The Circuit of the Americas was a chance for the Texan to meet the 17-year-old rookie for the first time, whereupon Acosta revealed his father – Pedro Senior – was a huge fan of the #34. And the Texan was certainly impressed by the manner in which Acosta carries himself. “How about this quote from Pedro: I’d much rather have champagne than gravel. And he says, ‘I don’t really like what’s in the middle! I don’t like anything except the champagne…’ “I mean, oh my gosh! He’s just a kid where you walk in the garage and he pukes confidence. He was like, ‘Oh hey! Nice to meet you, my dad used to call me Kevin! My name was Pedro but I raced the number 34.’ What a great kid. Well spoken. Just seems to love what he’s doing. I think he’s got a brilliant future in the sport for sure, and probably a Moto3 championship under his belt this year.” Moving to the end of our conversation, talk turns to where MotoGP is currently at. Come the end of November, the paddock will find itself in a


FEATURE position compared to the last 22 years: Valentino Rossi will not be among the names on track when preseason officially commences. There was a time when this would have spelled disaster for the sport. But Schwantz, one of Rossi’s childhood heroes, believes the MotoGP is well now equipped to deal with his absence. “I’ve said this several times now: the impact he’s had on the sport, we’re still going to feel through the teams and the riders he runs through the Academy,” Schwantz said. “He’s not going to be out there racing number 46 in yellow on Sunday. But his guys are going to be out there – Pecco [Bagnaia], [Luca] Marini, all those guys will still be in the championship and flying the ‘46’ colors. I can’t imagine that Valentino is not going to be there to enjoy their spoils of victory.” With a brisk ‘Thank you, sir,’ the interview ends and the man formerly known as the Tall Texan is up and off. After all, Moto2 qualifying has already started. For a man with a keen eye for the details, Schwantz wouldn’t want to be missing that.



TARDOZZI: “TOPRAK WOULD SUIT MOTOGP” By Adam Wheeler Photos by Ducati, CormacGP, Steve English


s the Rea-era coming to an end in WorldSBK? A certain Northern-Irishman and his Kawasaki team still have a strong say on the matter but observers who have enjoyed the close action in Superbike this year will have also appreciated the flowering talent of Toprak Razgatlıoglu and his combination with Yamaha in 2021. Razgatlıoglu decision to remain in WorldSBK rather than consider a switch to MotoGP is based more on solely others’ perceptions of his ability. There were all sorts of rumours around the potential contract chance with the current Petronas SRT team and the chance to extend and twist his association with Yamaha. The 25-year-old Turk is by no means the first to turn away from MotoGP, or to find the door partially closed. Jonathan Rea is the record-busting best Superbike racer of all time but even the six-times #1 may eventually look back and be puzzled by the lack of solid paths to attempt Grand Prix. Riders and champions such as Colin Edwards, Troy Bayliss, Cal Crutchlow, Eugene Laverty and Ben Spies found a way to make the transition. Before Rea, the benchmark in WorldSBK was set by Carl Fogarty; a man who single-handedly ramped the profile of the

FEATURE series in the UK and swelled the Ducati name even further in world championship racing and before the brand re-entered Grand Prix in 2003. His team manager for two of the four crowns was Italian and former SBK rider Davide Tardozzi, perhaps better known to current MotoGP audiences as the chief of Ducati Lenovo that likes to celebrate a win like he’s won the lottery. The 62-year-old seemed well placed, both in his appreciation of Ducati Corse’s activities and philosophy across both series’, as well as his knowledge of elite level racing to talk about the change and whether riders like Rea and Fogarty would have prospered. Apart from Cal Crutchlow, the last Superbike rider to come to MotoGP with any success was Ben Spies in 2011. The question around Jonathan Rea has existed for several years now.


Why is MotoGP evading SBK options? Is there a perceived difference of mentality? I don’t think it is a matter of mentality it is more opportunity. Carl did one race once he was in Superbike, I think it was with the Cagiva and it was not the best bike but he was very, very fast. He had fuel problems if I remember well. Regarding Johnny, I think he just missed the right opportunity. He is a very good rider but maybe stayed with Honda for too many years. If he had changed earlier then he would have had more chances. Johnny can be a top guy in MotoGP and that means regularly in the top ten, without any problem. Obviously now it is too late. Honda gave him an opportunity once and it was a perfect outing; good results and no crashes. But in the end, he missed the chance. Yamaha gave Dovi a new contract at 35 years of age and Toprak Razgatlıoğlu elects to stay in WorldSBK. Is the transition harder than ever? Yes. I don’t want to comment on Yamaha’s decision because they have their reasons but Toprak is another guy – well, the only guy in SBK now – who I feel could come here and do a good job. He has some aspects to his riding style that I think would suit MotoGP. Go back in time: did Carl Fogarty also miss the opportunity to go into Grand Prix? I think Carl loves Superbike. There were riders that wanted to get to MotoGP – or the 500s, as they were at the time – but Carl, while he loved making the wild-card at Donington, I never heard him thinking of [moving to] the 500s. He loved Superbike! That time was something special, especially for him. The bike, the public, the fights for the races and the championship. I don’t think he was able to really consider the switch. We never had a discussion about it. We spoke with each other pretty straight and he never had the thought to come to the 500s. He only

thought about winning races and championships. Would he have done well in the 500s? I think Carl would have always been in the top five. He had the talent and the mental attitude. Whatever he couldn’t do with the talent he did with the mentality. He is a winner. A champion. He wants results and he loves results. How will the MotoGP/WorldSBK divide be in the future? Will it get bigger? I think the championships are more divided than before. We are seeing riders that grow-up in each series and they tend to stay. But if you don’t have a ride here then for sure you look to the other side. What I would really like is a scheme in Superbike to let young riders grow better; something that improves on what we have seen for the last few years. In the end I don’t think it is good that 35-year old ex-MotoGP riders go there. I still love Superbike – it is a big part of my story – but I want to see young riders progressing in that series. It would be great if we could even get one of them to come over here.



IS THIS THE END? It’s trite to say “we’re witnessing history” but sometimes it’s the truth. In WorldSBK we’re on the verge of the Jonathan Rea-era ending but the greatest Superbike rider of all time is going down with a fight. After six years of Jonathan Rea domination and being the butt of jokes, WorldSBK in 2021 has delivered the best racing anywhere and a title battle unlike any in memory. This season has been about Razgatlioglu and Rea but it’s been about so much more too. Three different manufacturers have been consistently at the front of the field and battling it out for race wins and while the points battle has been close it’s been the bar to bar style of racing that has really captured the attention. If Toprak Razgatlioglu is to wrap up the title in Indonesia it will have been incredibly hard fought and almost the perfect way to end the Rea era of WorldSBK. The Northern Irishman has won more titles and races than anyone in the history of the series.

He is undeniably the greatest Superbike rider ever. He’s ridden like that all year and been at his absolute peak in 2021. He’s just been up against a rider that is fast, consistent and care-free. Toprak is the perfect foil to Rea. There’s reasons behind Rea’s campaign and the mistakes that have blighted his attempt at a seventh crown. He’ll look back at the costly crashes from leading positions at Donington Park, Most and Portimao and think that there were so many points that went begging. He’ll rue the missed opportunities but it’s worth remembering why he crashed in these races; he had to ride right to the limit at all times. Rea has been pushed.

He’s had to maximise everything by pushing incredibly hard on corner entry to combat Toprak’s ability on the brakes. He’s had to pick the bike up early and get on the gas aggressively to try and take the fight to Toprak on the straights because the Kawasaki doesn’t quite have the top speed. That speed was one of the biggest talking points of the season. Pre-season Kawasaki tested their ZX10-RR with an upgraded motor that featured new internals to increase their engine speed by 500rpm. This is not an inconsiderable increase and in testing Rea and Alex Lowes both commented about how much better the bike felt. It was easier for them to set fast times because they could change their gear shift


BY STEVE ENGLISH pattern to minimise changes and use the engine better. The winter had gone well and Rea went to Round one very confident.

Kawasaki and Ducati always had the ability to fight with Yamaha and were stronger at some tracks but no bike has been more consistent.

That confidence was hit by the regulations that saw Kawasaki forced to use last year’s engine revs because the FIM concluded that it wasn’t a significant upgrade. The oversight cost them dearly and at certain tracks the team were forced to compensate their bike settings because in WorldSBK the rules mean that the gear ratio is fixed for the campaign. At some tracks it worked perfectly but at other Rea was at a disadvantage.

This has allowed Toprak to have a superb campaign. If he wins the title he will be an incredibly well deserved champion. His ability is sensational and he has shown himself to be far more than a glorified stunt rider as some ridiculed his stoppie antics.

As the year progressed this disadvantage became more pronounced. Yamaha were flying with Toprak on great form. Their strength was also seen by the performances of Garrett Gerloff and Andrea Locatelli. The R1 was the most complete package on the grid and this became clearer and clearer.

The Turkish star has a single exceptional forte; heavy braking. It overshadows everything else about his performance but for a rider that’s had to work to do to make himself a complete package he has delivered in spades. Three years ago his fitness was a concern. Two years ago it was about his technical ability to work with a team. A year ago it was his qualifying performance that was a worry. This year his wet weather performance was the last area he needed to

improve on. He’s filled in all of the gaps and is now a complete rider. Indonesia is Toprak’s time to shine and time to be crowned but Rea won’t give up without a fight. That’s what has made this season so compelling. Rea has fought like a champion and given it all he has. If this is the end of his run then contrast it to some of the others we’ve seen. Mick Doohan and Marc Marquez both finished their years of domination in a Jerez gravel trap. Carl Fogarty’s time as the benchmark in WorldSBK ended in an instant at Phillip Island where he tangled with a slower rider. Since Valentino Rossi’s broken leg at Mugello he has won 11 times in 200 starts. For all of these great champions the end of their tenure came almost overnight due to injuries. For Rea we’ve seen him go down swinging.. It’s been a remarkable year and one where many within the paddock have said, “this is historic.”


By Roland Brown, Photos by Roland Brown & Kawasaki





his looks like being the year in which Kawasaki finally relinquishes its grip on the World Superbike championship, with Jonathan Rea needing a last-round miracle if he’s going to overhaul Toprak Razgatlioglu and claim a seventh straight title. It’s situation normal, though, with Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R streetbike, which is updated for 2021 but is every bit as lean, mean and aggressive as it has always been. The ZX-10R’s character was set by the original model – a memorably fast, light and compact machine that snarled out 181bhp of ram-air assisted horsepower back in 2004, and did much to restore Kawasaki’s reputation for high performance. More recent ZX-10Rs earned their Ninja name but drew criticism for peaky power delivery; criticism that its makers dismissed while developing an even racier RR variant (for track use only) that has been hugely successful. Kawasaki’s uncompromising approach continues with this latest ZX-10R, which features flatter, more forward-set handlebars and higher footrests, both changes aimed at improving lap times rather than comfort. But the 998cc four-cylinder warrior does gain a few civilising features too, including a slightly taller

The most obvious change is fresh styling, notably in the angular fairing nose that is claimed to reduce drag slightly while adding significant downforce. This comes via winglets that are located inside the fairing, on either side of the headlights. The design is notably clean, and the Ninja looks especially sharp in its ZX10R Performance variant, with tinted screen, pillion seat cover and carbon-fibre Akrapovic silencer. Inevitably there’s plenty of lime green in the paint scheme, along with an all-black option. The basic spec of 16-valve inline four in a twin-spar aluminium frame dates back to that first model, and the current ZX-10R architecture was set with a major revamp five years ago, using feedback from factory riders Rea and Tom Sykes. This bike’s engine is updated to get through Euro5 regulations, its output to the 200bhp maximum unchanged. The main mod is to the gearbox, whose first three ratios are lower. The electronic systems are also updated, with the selected rider mode and other settings shown on a neat new TFT display.


screen and uprated instrumentation. It even gets cruise control and the option of heated grips.





So the rider’s view is modern but the Ninja felt much as before: small, light and built for speed, ideally on a racetrack but if not then anywhere you can find space to give the throttle a tweak. By big-bike standards the low-rev response was flat, but by 7000rpm the bike was shooting forward, and by 10,000rpm it was hammering towards the horizon with three grand to go before the redline, while I crouched down, glad of the taller screen, barely daring to glance at a speedo that gets very illegal very quickly.

I’m still undecided whether the relative lack of midrange is a major drawback on the street. More overtaking punch would occasionally have been nice, but fuelling was clean and at traffic speeds the Ninja still pulled seriously hard. The rev-happy, super-smooth acceleration, combined with the slick quick-shifter and tuneful if not-too-loud note from the exhaust, helped give a raw, exhilarating character straight out of the ZX-10R archive. The chassis worked well, too; probably slightly better than the previous Ninja’s although the updates are relatively minor (slightly softer forks

and stiffer rear shock; less trail and an 8mm longer wheelbase) and you’d need a back-to-back comparison to be sure. On a racetrack you might notice that the front brake hose is still rubber rather than braided steel, if not that the Brembo monobloc calipers are M50s rather than the latest Stylemas. The Kawasaki still slowed mighty hard when I squeezed the lever. My venue for testing chassis performance was a little-used figure-of-eight roundabout where I once rode the Ninja’s 1983-model forebear the Z1000R, a naked four also known as the Eddie Lawson


Replica and inspired by the Californian ace’s AMA Superbike winning racebike. Unfortunately the roadster was a feeble copy of Eddie’s bike and I crashed it after running out of ground clearance. By contrast the unofficial Jonathan Rea Replica had no such issues as it howled round at a doubtless much quicker rate. My knee-slider occasionally scraped but the Kawasaki remained well within its own limits and those of the well-damped Showa suspension and sticky Bridgestone tyres, without needing its modern safety nets of traction control or cornering ABS.

A few things still let the Kawasaki down slightly, even if you accept its track-focused approach. The lack of basic features such as a fuel gauge or self-cancelling indicators is disappointing. Semi-active suspension would make it more gentle on wrists that suffer with that racy riding position, but then again the Ninja is considerably less expensive than many rivals (at £15,799 in the UK, or a grand more for the Performance edition). This lime-green machine wouldn’t be a ZX-10R if it didn’t have some rough edges to confirm its commitment to performance.

Even if this World Superbike season ends in unaccustomed disappointment for Kawasaki, the roadgoing Ninja’s reputation as a take-no-prisoners weapon for track days and sunny Sunday morning blasts won’t be changing any time soon.


Jeffrey Herlings by Ray Archer


‘On-track Off-road’ is a free, monthly publication for the screen focussed on bringing the latest perspectives on events, blogs and some of the very finest photography from the three worlds of MXGP, the AMA Motocross and Supercross series’, MotoGP, WorldSBK as well as the latest bike tests. ‘On-track Off-road’ will be published online at 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/Kawasaki Mips, Suzuki, Henk Keulemans Cover shot: 2021 MotoGP World Champion by CormacGP 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’.

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