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FINE BEAUTY The new Red Bull GASGAS Factory racing livery in MXGP is quite something. Importantly the first images of the new line-up for the brand confirms the De Carli teams switch from orange to red and their move away from KTM for the first time since 2010. Jorge Prado, Mattia Guadagnini and Simon Langenfelder will be the blurs in rouge next season Photo by JP Acevedo
A NEW ALPHA IN THE PACK Over two years in development and still being put through its paces ahead of shipping in the summer of 2022, the electric Stark VARG caused quite a stir with its launch last week. More details are inside. If the bike does meet the high expectations created by those impressive technical specifications, then it won’t only be a formidable machine but also one of the prettiest models on the dirt Photo by JP Acevedo
FEATURE WorldSBK DAKAR
TITULAR 1st ON THE TITULAR 1st? TITULAR TITULAR
TheAlmost 44th Dakar Anaheim Rallytime opens andfirst Christmas day of January represents andthe ensures last few thatquiet racing days begins on most onlyAMA hoursSupercross into the newteams year. After schedules eighteen before straight the bevy victories of seventeen in the Rally, racesRed in eighteen Bull KTMweeks. had toThe watch excitement Monster and anEnergy ticipation Hondawill sweep peakthe forlast the two first editions. gatheringWho at the willAngel rule the Stadium Saudi on Arabian January desert 7th on this occasion? Photo Photo by Honda by Ray Archer
STILL A BLUR We asked our MotoGP photographer CormacGP for his favourite image from 2021. A hard assignment, but the Irishman was eventually able to select this shot of KTM’s Portuguese GP winner. The reason? “I love shooting through things,” he said. “I love slow shutter speed photography but MotoGP sessions tend to be very short. So, this one of Miguel Oliveira is shot through the glass of the Red Bull Ring media centre during morning warm up. 1/8th, f/11.” Just over six weeks until the first test of 2022… Photo by CormacGP
3 IS A MAGIC NUMBER
Cooper Webb takes a new training regime, new winter of prep and a new KTM 450 SX-F into the 2022 AMA Supercross season. Can the defending champ make it three titles from the last four years? Photo by Simon Cudby
TRANSFER! By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer
FITNESS? TECHNIQUE? OPPORTUNITY? RELOCATION? WHY DON’T MORE MXGP STARS MAKE THE TRANSITION TO AMA SUPERCROSS? WE ASKED AROUND THE PADDOCK FOR THE PERCEIVED DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GRAND PRIX AND THE INDOOR SERIES…
n the last decade only six Grand Prix winners have leapt to AMA Supercross. In that time the technical level, pace and demand of MXGP - with the European Championship support classes arguably pushing up the rate of development thanks to their presence at Grand Prix events – has multiplied.
The bright lights and buzz of a traditional Anaheim remains the dream for some young riders but MXGP is also creating a tantalising level of competition. Realistically, the two series involve dirtbikes and airtime but vary greatly in terms of their demands. There is undoubtedly a cultural divide as well between the U.S. and Europe with access to facilities and a clear career path. Emigration is also a factor that cannot be underestimated. The GP winners? Christophe Pourcel, Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, Arnaud Tonus, Dylan Ferrandis and Max Anstie; three Frenchman who tasted SX competition through the national ‘SX Tour’ series, Tonus and Roczen, who grew up with the good fortune of proximity to small supercross tracks and Anstie, who spent the formative years of his career in California and became Pro while racing the discipline. Arguably Zach Osborne could also be added to the list: winning his races and titles after MX2 success. We quizzed the last two MX2 World Champions, Tom Vialle and Maxime Renaux, both French, Britain’s top MXGP rider Ben Watson, 2022 MXGP runner-up and 2015 world champ Romain Febvre, MXGP legend Tony Cairoli (who raced in the defunct European Supercross contest and also appeared at the Paris Supercross twice) and Tonus himself who won in MX2, rode for Pro Circuit Kawasaki in the USA and then came back for a five-year stint in MXGP for their Supercross experiences and thoughts…
TONUS: “YOU HAVE ‘PRACTICE’ SUPERCROSS WHERE YOU FEEL GOOD AND THEN ‘RACING’ SUPERCROSS WITH A BUNCH OF GUYS AROUND YOU CHANGING LINES, RUTS AND SPACE SUPERCROSS IS ALREADY TOUGH BUT THROW BIG RUTS INTO IT AND IT’S ANOTHER STORY...”
too much for it. I feel really good where I am with all the guys in the team and the package I have training, with Joel and his set-up in Belgium. We’re doing well. My goal right now is to fight in MXGP soon with Jeffrey and riders like [Tim] Gajser and [Romain] Febvre. I want to beat them one day. Supercross is a total switch, mentally, and there are doubts: you don’t know if you will be as good as you are here. I think I could be good at it. I think my style would suit it.” Maxime Renaux: “I’ve never raced supercross. I’ve ridden some tracks, but they were very easy and I didn’t even need to change much in terms of the bike set-up. Paris SX in 2021 will be my first experience and I know it will be easier than usual because they won’t have any whoops or hard rhythm sections. I’m interested to find out how it will be.” Ben Watson: “There is definitely a cultural thing about it. American riders will be much more familiar and at home with a supercross track and then they come to a rough and choppy outdoor track and find it very brutal. It’s kinda the other way around for us. The intensity of supercross is much higher but then the races are much shorter.” Arnaud Tonus: “Using Dylan Ferrandis as an example, he didn’t race supercross at a high level before going to the U.S. full-time but he did grow up on a supercross track and that’s pretty different to most MXGP guys. Also, myself, I was very lucky that I grew riding supercross and it gave me that early feeling. If you have that then it affects how much of a transition it will be. Marvin, Dylan, Kenny; they were all doing it as kids and that helps a lot.” PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE Romain Febvre: “If you compare one good supercross rider and one good MXGP rider
MXGP TO SUPERCROSS
Tom Vialle: “I still think supercross is something that a lot of young riders dream about. Even now it is something that is ‘hanging’ there for me. I almost rode the Paris Supercross this year but it was a bit difficult logistically with the new bike and the work we need to do. I did supercross for a few years and before I came into the KTM factory team. I entered a few races in the French SX Tour and I am also lucky to have a supercross track close to my house. I rode there quite a lot. When I signed my KTM deal last winter there was some talk about it and I had some interest from some other teams but I didn’t push
TONUS: “IT TAKES SOME TIME TO GET USED TO. THE FIRST TIME I RODE THE PRO CIRCUIT KAWASAKI I THOUGHT SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH THE SUSPENSION! I WENT DOWN THE HILL AND I FELT EVERY SINGLE STONE IN THE PADDOCK. I WAS LIKE ‘F**K, THEY MUST HAVE LEFT SOMETHING OUT OF THE FORK’. I WENT BACK TO THE MECHANIC, JON, AND HE WAS LAUGHING...”
then I would say they are very similar in fitness. The same for heartrate, depending on the track for MXGP. When a motocross guy switches to supercross then he’s going to be tighter on the bike while trying to find his rhythm. I believe this changes when they get more relaxed and comfortable on the track. I know my heartrate shoots up; I’m just not used to things like rhythm sections.” Tony Cairoli: “I rode some European Championship events and then Bercy and I think the heartrate goes up but is not pushed to the lengths of a motocross race.
I mean, your heart is working at the maximum but for a shorter time. It’s a different intensity.” Arnaud Tonus: “I had to adapt the way I was breathing. The heartrate was a bit different to how I’d felt it in motocross. I felt like I was missing air at first.” Ben Watson: “I think, at this level, we all have that fitness. I mean your heartrate can go right up on a motocross bike. It’s hard to keep calm and lower it. For supercross it’s shorter, sharper and that does mean a different style of preparation. In motocross you tend to hit one
MXGP TO SUPERCROSS level then go along at that pace. In MXGP now, especially at the front, the intensity is high: I could feel it for the few laps I spent there this season. I think supercross is like that constantly. It’s such a short race that there is no choice but to be full-on, all the time. Also, all those jumps are physically demanding. On a motocross track you might have a have few straights or places where you can breathe. There is always something going on with supercross.” Tom Vialle: “After one lap in Supercross you are already at 180bpm if you really push. In
motocross you can also do that but it’s not quite the same. You cannot ride for 35 minutes on a supercross track; you will be completely done! I think 20 minutes for the top guys is already a lot. I wonder if they would be able to do two 20 minute Main Events at the same intensity? I doubt it. I won’t say supercross is harder because if you ride motocross for 35 minutes in the summer when it’s nearly 40 degrees then this is also very tough.” Maxime Renaux: “I think it is higher intensity… but it is also like a grand prix moto when you are pushing hard for the first five laps. Take a
FEATURE rider to Lommel for five laps full-gas - that’s ten minutes - and I think the intensity is the same. At Lommel there are waves everywhere and you have to push-release, push-release, push-release. The timing in supercross needs to be more precise but physically I think a motocross racer would be ready for supercross.” Arnaud Tonus: “It’s like another sport. Yes, there is that intensity and a shorter duration but the focus is a big thing as well. In Lommel you can make a small mistake and still recover but in Supercross you don’t have any time to recover mentally and that brings extra tension to the body. You cannot compare them.” TECHNIQUE & SET-UP Tony Cairoli: “The power of the bike is similar to motocross but the suspension set-up is completely different. Everything is much stiffer.” Arnaud Tonus: “It takes some time to get used to. The first time I rode the Pro Circuit Kawasaki I thought something was wrong with the suspension! I went down the hill and I felt
every single stone in the paddock. I was like ‘f**k, they must have left something out of the fork’. I went back to the mechanic, Jon, and he was laughing. The suspension is so stiff but you need it for the whoops. The speed of supercross in America is about flow and much faster to anything that we understand about it on tracks in Europe.” Ben Watson: “It’s really important. The suspension is almost solid, I guess it’s both for the whoops but also the impacts of landings and hitting jump take-offs, generally keeping the speed up. When it comes to the engine I think it more about gearing and having a lot of sharp power at the bottom of the range because the turns are so tight and you immediate have a jump, rhythm section or a set of whoops. You need the power to be right there and without any lag. A motocross set-up would be tamer and a bit more controllable and easier to ride for bumps.” Romain Febvre: “It’s mainly for the whoops, and if you happen to case a jump. I don’t have loads of experience with set-up for supercross but if you used motocross settings then it would be way-too soft and would pop you off the bike. Power-wise it’s more or less the same, especially on the 450.”
Tom Vialle: “You can’t go full gas straight away. You need to have a good feeling with the track and on the bike and with your timing. It takes a period of getting-used-to. You cannot expect to win after just two months of preparation. I think Dylan [Ferrandis] is a good example. He went pretty ‘old’ to the U.S. and was 26 when he had his first title; which is a bit unusual. [Ken] Roczen was very young and Marvin [Musquin] also. Dylan is a great supercross rider and it took him almost two years to get close to the level he wanted and to be there at the front. He rode supercross since he was small, he comes from the same village as me, so I know how much he was riding. He wasn’t winning in the U.S. straightaway. So, you need time.” Arnaud Tonus: “At a Supercross race you have two eight-minute practice sessions. That’s not much time to learn a track. It’s a big change to
what Europeans know of a race event. By the second lap you pretty much need to jump everything and get a lap by the end of the session. You need to adapt quick. As many have said, the whoops is the main thing that Europeans have to adapt to. They are bigger, sharper and you have to come up with some speed.” Ben Watson: “You have to be very in-tune with what you are doing. If you slightly over-jump or come-up short then there is not much room for error. Timing and precision is essential, more so than motocross.” Arnaud Tonus: “The timing side, at least for me, came pretty quick. It varies for each rider but the jumps are always similar in terms of distance. The corner speed, the sharpness of the take-off and the dirt vary but you can blend with it quite fast. But you have ‘practice’ supercross where you feel good and then ‘racing’ supercross with a bunch of guys around you changing lines, ruts and space. This was really tough for me. I remember struggling so hard with the ruts in Toronto; I was a bit allover-the-place there. Supercross is already tough but throw big ruts into it and it’s another
MXGP TO SUPERCROSS
Tony Cairoli: “For technique it’s a different approach. You need to take it a bit easier, be a bit more precise than on a motocross track. You also need to keep calm and not get too out of breath for what is such a short and fast race.”
FEATURE story. I think that’s when the top guys make the biggest difference. When the track gets rough they are still able to keep the pace for the twenty-minute Main.”
make good supercross corner speed but when it comes to something like the whoops then there is a big difference between a guy who rides them a lot and someone who doesn’t. It’s also pretty dangerous!”
MXGP SUITABILITY? Romain Febvre: “It’s a totally different track for us and it’s just a question of getting used to it. I believe it might take a few years to get really good at it. Then it’s just about repetition.”
Tom Vialle: “If things are not going well for you in MXGP maybe you think more about the U.S. and what might be possible but if you are doing well in Europe – which is my case – then the choice gets more difficult.”
Tony Cairoli: “The measurements of the triples and jumps are normally standard, so you know the distances. I think it still takes a while to get used to it but it’s not a major deal. I don’t think it is so difficult for a motocross guy to
Maxime Renaux: “If you have good technique and you are at the front of Grand Prix then it means you are already pretty precise and you have good timing. I think with some time, some training and familiarisation with rhythm
Tom Vialle: “People say supercross is more dangerous but if you look at MXGP then it is already quite nice if you reach the end of the season healthy! And even then, there is no way that people are doing it 2, 3 or 4 years in a row…” Ben Watson: “I always did it as a kid. I rode the British Arenacross series and I enjoyed
it. I was naturally quite good at it. I think you need to transition when you are quite young though. The more you progress with a career in MXGP the less supercross you ride and the gap becomes wider. If I had one off-season of riding solely supercross I think I would really get into it but, right now, ‘rusty’ is the word. To go somewhere like the Paris Supercross immediately after a long MXGP season is tough. I’d want some time to ride, sort out the set-up and start to enjoy it, and then that’s when the speed comes. Culturally MXGP is the premier series for Europeans whereas Supercross is obviously the draw for Americans. I wouldn’t say the switch is impossible though. You just need to be organised, open-minded and get a good off-season done.” Arnaud Tonus: “I think it’s possible for an MXGP rider to go and have some success but the ones that end up doing it are those that feel they are made for supercross. Riders like Dylan and Kenny were already great technically. With some work it can be done, in the same way that a rider like Tom Vialle can move to Belgium, start training in the sand and then get to a point where he’s good enough and fast enough to win some GPs. It took some time but he made it.” ATMOSPHERE & DESIRE Tony Cairoli: “At the end of 2005, when I won my first world championship, I had a call and a chance to move to Yamaha of Troy. It was a difficult decision because I lacked real experience with supercross and from September to January it was such a small amount of time to try and learn it. In the end I stayed: that was perhaps the only good chance I had to go with a very good team. Afterwards I never really thought about it again.” Romain Febvre: “The year before I moved to MXGP I was thinking about the U.S. My career
MXGP TO SUPERCROSS
sections then we’d be able to go very quickly. I’m not saying we’d be able to race some Americans who have been doing it for years, but I do think it is a matter of time and culture. We don’t have the culture of supercross in Europe but after one-two years in the U.S. and we’d be ready.”
started quite late compared to the others and I had only three years in MX2 before I was close to the age limit. I felt I wasn’t quite ready for MXGP and I was starting to do very well on the 250. I was still ‘growing’ and at that moment we looked to the U.S. and Supercross. There was a chance to go but at the last minute we had a long think because it is not just about the riding and the career, it was also a life change. I decided to stay in MXGP. I focused on my mind on the 450 in 2015 and that’s when Supercross fell to the side a bit.” Tom Vialle: “Of course in motocross we have more variety and more conditions; sand, mud, hard-pack. The dirt can be different in supercross and the tracks can change but I think there is more regularity and that’s why the guys who have been doing it at that level for longer have such good timing; they can jump everything very quickly because of that. Their brains know how much gas they have to make to clear the obstacles. New guys need time to understand the distances.” Romain Febvre: “Supercross looks like it’s always the same but then you have varieties in the tracks, the dirt and the stadiums and sometimes the weather. So, it’s never repetitive. The obstacles might be standardised but then there can be a lot of differences. Maybe the test tracks can feel too much. I know if we ride 2-3 days on the same track then you can feel a bit tired of it. Mentally, it might be quite tough to regularly train and practice for supercross…but racing is racing. You don’t end up thinking about the track.”
Ben Watson: “Supercross racing can be very tight and close but this is also down to the circuit, and having a lot of 180 turns invites passing. The dirt is usually nice and sticky as well. You can turn sharp and cut-in. In motocross you are at the mercy of the natural surface.” Maxime Renaux: “Supercross is pretty special but I cannot talk about it too much because I’ve never raced in a stadium and under lights. From my experiences at places like LaCapelle Marival [2021 French Grand Prix] and where the crowd are so close to the track and you can hear them so loudly it means that kind of vibe inside a stadium must be special also.” Arnaud Tonus: “It’s very different…but as soon as you put on the helmet and get in the zone then it doesn’t matter where you are. I remember being in the gate in Texas and I looked around. It felt surreal because I thought at that moment ‘I always dreamt of doing this’. But then if you are racing at your home GP – like I did at Frauenfeld in 2017 – you can feel the crowd right next to you and that has its own, bigger sense of electricity. This is very special to experience.”
MXGP TO SUPERCROSS
SBK BLOG BLOG MXGP
CREATED THANKS TO
ONE WORLD After sneaking awareness into various training compounds in the United States, it has become clear that the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship left a lasting impression across the globe. Even those who are just a matter of weeks from the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross opener are full of intrigue about the phenomenal way in which the Grand Prix title fight concluded. The FIM Motocross World Championship is in such a strong place now because there is so much great racing and those at the centre of the action have personalities that attract attention. You have the perfect formula to grow a fanbase, particularly in the USA. Such respect goes both ways, of course, as every European rider is counting down the days until gates drop at Anaheim 1. The excitement that surrounds the first round of Monster Energy Supercross is only matched in September when the Motocross of Nations erupts into life.
Whilst discussions about what transpires on the other side of the Atlantic take place, there is no word on competition between North America and Europe. The question of where the best riders are based is no longer a topic of discussion, yet fans and desperate media cannot help but fall into the trap. There is a case that could be made for the fact that the debate is healthy – it is engaging and prompts discussion from an array of fans who would not connect otherwise. Such a debate could even cause fans to pay closer attention to a series than they did previously. Brilliant! It is counterproductive for media, who are desperately battling for clicks, to fuel the debate with clear bias towards their homeland though, especially when each
continent is unique. There is an obvious reason why those who are informed do not engage in that hysteria – it is truly a moot point. The fact that motocross is so healthy on a global scale is obviously worth celebrating. Why continue to implement a divide in the sport that unites us all? There are incredible riders in the United States, much like there is in Europe. That is truer now than ever before. “With this USA vs. Europe thing…they do not care about motocross,” Marc de Reuver of F&H Kawasaki Racing said when ranting about the topic that infuriates him. “They make millions in supercross! If you put our top six or seven guys into the outdoors in the USA, the rest of the American guys would go for eighth place.
BY ADAM WHEELER
BY LEWIS PHILLIPS We smoke them in outdoors. If you go to supercross and put our top six guys there, the European riders will go for tenth to sixteenth. People need to stop [making the comparison].” Now, there are a lot of acceptable opportunities to compare the two. The 2022 Monster Energy Supercross series is weeks away, of course, and social media is alight with team introductions that are done on such a grand scale. Husqvarna flew media over to the facility that Aldon Baker runs in Clermont, Florida, to engross them into the training programme (thus gaining a better understanding of what a rider goes through) and introduce them to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing squad for the new season (speaking of a divide, Rockstar Energy will not back the Husqvarna efforts in Europe from this point on).
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Honda HRC held their own introductions in the first week of December as well. Such grand unveilings have become the norm over in the United States and the professional execution is something that Europe must try to replicate, especially now that the two continents are considered equal when it comes to on-track action. European stars are desperate for that attention as well – there is a reason why they look on in awe as Monster Energy Supercross prepares to fire into action. Everything is done right and that is worthy of applause. For now, the entire community is waiting for the bright lights of Angel Stadium to fire into life and then the attention will turn to the Grand Prix of Great Britain soon after. The sport is in such an amazing spot, thanks to the incredible racing that is taking place in different pockets of the
globe, so take it all in. Why tear down something that is so brilliant?
STARK FUTURE More than two years in development, new Catalunya-based company Stark Future have been intensely motivated by both sustainability and the need to out-engineer conventional combustion-engined dirtbikes to create their first electric motorcycle: the Stark VARG (meaning ‘strong wolf’). The machine is loaded with patent-pending technology, particularly around the honeycomb battery construction, tony inverter and drive train. They claim the initial VARG will provide running time for a full moto at world championship level intensity or up to five hours of easy trail riding. Stark say the battery is ‘designed and optimized to use more than 95% efficiency over the majority of the power range and benefits from a water-cooled aluminum casing that works as a structural part of the chassis. The inverter is also integrated into the motor case in order to reduce mass and simplify the cooling process.’ The stats are brutal. The power has been capped at 80hp and with minimal weight (9hp per kilo) Stark are calling the VARG the most powerful and lightest dirtbike on the market with over 900 Nm of torque on the rear wheel and a motor that weighs just 9kg. A detachable smartphone doubles as an innovative dashboard where the rider can customise the VARG’s set-up and behaviour: fancy the character of a 125cc two-stroke or the output of a 650cc fourstroke? The bike has up to 100 programmable modes and the possibility to fine tune to the wishes of the rider or the conditions.
As well as KYB suspension and Pirelli tyres, there are some trick components on the bike such as the stainless steel footpegs that are lighter than titanium and 30% more durable than other OEM equivalents. A cool new chain adjustment system on the swingarm and a flux rear axle, Galfer/ Brembo brakes and a ‘floating’ skid plate concept are other reasons to get curious. Plus, it looks quite the part. Stark Future have a hand-picked development team from all corners of the bike industry for their new plant just outside of Barcelona and have carefully dissected their offroad competition as well as lessons from the previous motocross benchmark, the Alta. Check out the explanations around some of the other Stark VARG features. The bike is expected to retail for 11,900 euros.
MXGP SBK BLOG BLOG
PAINT IT RED: THE END OF AN ERA A significant MXGP chess piece was officially re-coloured last week. The GASGAS brand moved onto its second team and third different rider roster in the space of three years as the first step of the KTM group’s hefty re-organisation in MXGP was finally made public. For some time now there has been talk that Red Bull KTM would be ‘splintered’ and the Italian faction of the squad, run by Claudio De Carli, would morph from orange to red. Sporting a spectacular new livery, Jorge Prado, Mattia Guadagnini and fresh recruit Simon Langenfelder were unveiled for a three-man MXGP/MX2 assault. It was the first photoshoot for the De Carli operation without Tony Cairoli since 2003. The press release was not only newsworthy for the rebranding but how it has altered the fabric of Grand Prix. Red Bull KTM, a crew that have won eight of the last twelve titles in the
premier class and thirteen of the eighteen MX2 championships since the category was created from the ashes of the old 125cc division in 2004, now revert to being a unit run directly from Austria for the first time in twelve years. The reigning MXGP champions for 2022 will shrink from a two-truck and six rider effort to one semi and two riders (normally it would have been a three racer line-up although the cruel and tragic passing of 19-year-old Rene Hofer means KTM currently retain just Jeffrey Herlings and Tom Vialle on the new SX-Fs). KTM management needed to streamline their organisation, resources and budget and it meant some tricky conversations and ball-juggling in the paddock. The defection of IceOne to Kawasaki meant a Rockstar-less Husqvarna had to be re-homed after Kimi Raikkonen’s team had
been the main custodians of the brand since 2014. Standing Construct were able to step into the breach after being the man GASGAS proponents in 2020 and 2021. They swapped MC 450Fs for FC 450Fs and the transition gave room for De Carli to become a more independent ‘set-up’ for the first time since 2009. That fateful season Tony Cairoli, on De Carli’s Yamaha, won the MXGP championship as a rookie (a feat impressively subsequently achieved on another two occasions, by Romain Febvre in 2015 and Tim Gajser in 2016) as the shockwaves of the global economic crisis was reverberating in MXGP. De Carli, a Yamaha stalwart (Cairoli’s 2005 title-winning YZ250F took pride of place as one of the few dirtbikes in Yamaha’s Communication Plaza display/museum in Iwata), was a victim of the
CREATED THANKS TO
BY ADAM WHEELER company’s reduction in their racing efforts. Yamaha Motor Europe, understandably, maintained a high investment in Michele Rinaldi’s factory team – who were trying to get to grips with the new rear-slanting YZ-F engine technology – and their YRRD kit development programme, even if it meant having to cut free of De Carli and Cairoli who were leading MXGP at the time and were clearly the emerging dominant force in Grand Prix. KTM were able to swoop into negotiations with the Italians and kickstarted one of the most curious phases of modern MXGP as the Austrians paired the sport’s most exciting athlete with a brave engineering concept in the KTM 350 SX-F and the next half a decade of the world championship would be cast. De Carli would oversee Cairoli and a series of team-
mates as the principal premier class outfit for Red Bull KTM. Riders such as Max Nagl, Ken De Dycker, Tommy Searle and Glenn Coldenhoff centred on the Lommel/Rome-based troop. Jeffrey Herlings won his third MX2 title in 2016 for the Austrian element of Red Bull KTM and when he stepped onto the 450
“FOR RED BULL KTM 2022 IS A YEAR OF REINVENTION. OVERALL, THE TEAM WAS UNIQUE. IT BLENDED FORMIDABILITY WITH YOUTHFUL PROMISE AND BRILLIANT MACHINERY...” SX-F for 2017 the two sides locked together further. The large awning had the riders’ private, common area as its hinge and there was some confusion over who held the reigns: De Carli,
or previous MX2 boss and Technical Co-Ordinator of the whole scheme, Dirk Gruebel. Outwardly KTM liked to paint the whole thing as a cohesive team but there were two different workshops, sets of staff and even working cultures. The separation was not always evident but when Jorge Prado was placed from the Austrian wing to De Carli’s care in 2018 – even though he was still in MX2 – then this highlighted some of the differences. Overall, the team was unique. It blended formidability with youthful promise and brilliant machinery; combining powerful engine technology with the latest nuances of steel frame construction. Red Bull KTM have set the standard for holeshots for the better part of ten years. Cairoli, Herlings and Prado brought a total of fifteen world championships to the MXGP division in their 2020 and 2021 seasons.
This year the team was the only one in the series to see all their riders claim Grand Prix victory as Guadagnini excelled as a rookie and the late Rene Hofer also made the step up, both riders winning on Italian soil. Select riders of KTM, GASGAS and Husqvarna motorcycles will use the new 2023 production technical base for 2022 (some other teams will steer the 2021 spec) and the KTM Group’s footprint in the sport has slimmed slightly. Orange bikes will still be prevalent in force if not in number thanks to Herlings and Tom Vialle but support on SX-Fs should come through the DIGA Procross and Hitachi satellite teams. For GASGAS the mouthwatering prospect of Spain’s best ever motocrosser with a distinctive Spanish marque opens new marketing possibilities (particularly for Prado in his home territory) and the chance to chase more milestones after 2020 and 2021
brought their first wins in motocross (Coldenhoff in MXGP) and supercross (Justin Barcia in the U.S.). For De Carli it represents another new chapter and the first steps in the post-Cairoli era, even if the 36-year-old remains in the wings as the most desirable test rider and potential substitute racer across the brands. For Red Bull KTM 2022 is a year of reinvention. In Herlings they will have the defending #1 and with Vialle a 21-year-old that will be a favourite for a second MX2 crown in three years. If anything, though, 2021 showed they were the sum of their parts. In MXGP the triumvirate of Cairoli and Prado helped secure precious points from Honda and Kawasaki in the pursuit of the championship. Herlings won’t have those wingmen next term. It remains to be seen whether KTM – or any Grand Prix team for that matter – will be able to herd the kind of firepower
that Cairoli, Herlings, Prado, Vialle, Guadagnini and Hofer packed into the world championship. The Austrians provoked envy in MXGP, and Red Bull KTM are now even more of a dream destination for aspiring racers due to lesser saddles. Honda and Kawasaki might be more excitable over the scent of orange prey and Yamaha will gather their forces (the only three-rider works MXGP team in 2022) but there are also new hunters on the plain. MXGP will certainly look a little different by the time we come to the British Grand Prix next February.
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BAD TOYS? MXGP IS IN THE FIM’S LINE OF SIGHT FOR NOISE CONTROL BUT LOWERING THE CURRENT LIMITS COULD PROVE PROBLEMATIC FOR THE GRAND PRIX PADDOCK. HERE’S WHY…
By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer
oise: can you get a more polemic subject in motocross? There is little denying that the rasp of engines, whether two-stroke or four-stroke, is – and has always been – part of the scene and the attraction. Every petrolhead though recognises the fact that tracks are closing and few new facilities are appearing because of the issue.
In 2011 the governing body lobbied the MSMA – the group that represents the manufacturers – for a lower sound limit. From 2013 the standard dropped to the current mark of 112 decibels pre-race (114/115 depending on the sound metre, the same as a live rock concert) and 113 post-race and some teams are living on the very threshold of this count.
Realistically MXGP should be a contest that is exempt from any sound worries. In fact, most Grand Prix tracks host a world championship race under government event licences that permit manipulation of local law and amenities, such as traffic rules and other environmental parameters for a limited period, often only days and hours. Overall, the sport gets punished for having such a close connection with the machinery used by customers and hobbyists. The same persecution just doesn’t exist between the howl of MotoGP bikes and street sports motorcycles. Also, MXGP racers are training and riding with practice bikes which are virtually identical to their GP models and are clocking up motos and miles during the week throughout the year. Perhaps it is this rationale that pushes MXGP to the top of the FIM’s action list.
Recently the FIM have been pushing for another drop but, allegedly, with a faster turnaround, and the urgency has caused concern among the Grand Prix elite. Every mechanic or team manager we spoke to recognised that noise control is an issue for the health and future of motocross. But – perhaps rightly – some questioned why the premier class and the main promotional window for the sport should be a target. We also asked why GP bikes are making such a din, why they cannot be quietened in a short time frame and what a drastic lowering of the limit could mean for performance and even a change in riding styles. All the while the whiny hum of electric bike noise is beginning to get a little louder and louder in the background…
MAKE SOME NOISE Many would assume that exhausts and silencers are the root of the problem but the mix and the cause of noise is more complex… Wim van Hoof, Standing Construct GASGAS Factory Racing Team Manager: “It’s not just the bike’s exhaust system that makes the noise, it starts already in the airbox. Then the size of the exhaust muffler has a bearing: if you want the maximum performance then you go right to the limit. With HGS we had to work carefully with the mapping to make sure we were within the rules. I know everyone was struggling in the sand at Riola [Sardo, Sardinia] this year.” Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “It’s pretty much everything. If the exhaust supplier has done some good work in terms of absorption, it’s the intake and the whole combustion process. If you run super-high compression rates then you have a really aggressive soundwave. I think this is what is happening sometimes.” Jeffrey de Vries, Yamaha Motor Europe MX Technical Co-ordinator: “In Yamaha’s case we have a downdraft intake system on the front of the bike and it is almost as loud
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KTM: “IT’S PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. IF THE EXHAUST SUPPLIER HAS DONE SOME GOOD WORK IN TERMS OF ABSORPTION, IT’S THE INTAKE AND THE WHOLE COMBUSTION PROCESS. IF YOU RUN SUPER-HIGH COMPRESSION RATES THEN YOU HAVE A REALLY AGGRESSIVE SOUNDWAVE. I THINK THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING SOMETIMES...”
FEATURE as the exhaust noise. So, it’s even more difficult for us.”
three means a big loss. I think that is the case for all the manufacturers.”
Marcus Pereira de Freitas, HRC General Manager: “The bike needs to have a certain amount of noise. It’s generated in different ways by different bikes but you are mainly looking at the intake and airbox but the rate of vibration and the effect on other components has to be considered when you are analysing the noise around the bike.”
Marcus Pereira de Freitas, HRC General Manager: “The bike’s noise is not just about the muffler. You need to add other components to get that noise lower. Of course, here in MXGP we try to keep as low as we can but it is not an easy process. We want to reduce… but there is a lot of work to do that.”
Jeffrey de Vries, Yamaha Motor Europe MX Technical Co-ordinator: “From the exhaust side we cannot do much more without losing power. We already managed to hold our levels with two but another
Vincent Bereni, Kawasaki Racing Team Technical Manager : “You can drop the power if you want but the chassis is such a big part of the motorcycle and so good technically that you can
put a lot of that power to the ground. I remember at KTM we were riding 520 motors and they were so powerful but coming into braking everything was twisting. You could not use that power. Now the chassis are so good. You can drop 5hp and the bike will still jump and go fast. But if you restrict it through a muffler or some other means and take away that power range of the bike then it becomes dangerous because people will not have that power, they hit rev limiter and create more noise! It won’t be better. They are many compromises.” Jeffrey de Vries, Yamaha Motor Europe MX Technical Co-ordinator: “It looks like
THE HARD ASK Slicing away another 2-3 decibels would mean a radical shake-up of the basic engineering of racebikes and presents a short-term impossibility for teams Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “If they want to
drop 3db then we are talking Enduro levels and we need to go back to compression ratios and bigger mufflers to kill the noise. We can maybe go away from absorption mufflers to deflection but they are heavier and need more space. They are out there; cars have them. You can do it but performance will be different. The explosive power we have now, and that everybody likes, will suffer.” Wim van Hoof, Standing Construct GASGAS Factory Racing Team Manager: “The changes to a lower limit are possible but it means cutting power and it depends on the bike. If you listen to the KTMs compared to the Yamahas then there is a noticeable dif-
ference but those engines are generating noise in a different way. What can you do? If you put a large muffler but the airbox stays the same there won’t be any result.” Marcus Pereira de Freitas, HRC General Manager: “We’ve had the same limit of 114 for a long time now. So, we have our mufflers set from the beginning of the year and we have the configuration confirmed to that limit. Of course, the exhaust has some degradation but if you go deeper into the numbers that need to be met then this means going deeper in the bike at the manufacturing base, which means Japan. When it comes to something like 1db over a
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we have to reduce by three decibels and we already went down by two from 2020 to ’21, which sounds like nothing but two was already a big thing. The 450 is OK because the bike is very powerful but we don’t want to lose anything from the 250. We need that power, in fact we prefer to increase it rather than lose it.”
race weekend then we can work around that. Any more requires a re-think.” Vincent Bereni, Kawasaki Racing Team Technical Manager : “What they need to understand is that it is not something we can do with the muffler. There is a lot of noise in the engine and if you drop it drastically then there could be consequences for reliability. I’ve been in some of those [MSMA] meetings and I have explained some of those effects, the back pressure you create in a motor and how that will increase the temperature. Factory teams will control this…but European Championship and national championship riders will blow up the bikes and the mufflers will need to be re-packed constantly. It is a hard medium to find. We need solutions, sure, but in the longer term. The manufacturers are aware of the request [lower noise] but they need time for those solutions and the complete package.” Wim van Hoof, Standing Construct GASGAS Factory Racing Team Manager: “If you want to reduce power like this then why not make a completely new engine?!
If you have enough lead-time then the manufacturers can make a smaller engine that sucks less air and makes less noise and less power. Everybody wanted bikes that were better and better. In the U.S. they are even more noisy. They are at maybe 116 or 117 but have faster tracks and different fuel. It’s noisier again.”
Jeffrey de Vries, Yamaha Motor Europe MX Technical Co-ordinator: “It’s a difficult scenario. To reduce sound on production bikes takes a long time. It cannot be done in one year, you need way-more lead time. It’s not just exhaust and muffler configuration but also combustion chambers, ports and so on.”
Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “Everybody wants to sell something that runs well and is nice to ride with the least amount of effort. To do the same product with 3db less will cost a lot of money. Costs and development will be higher in order to come up with better systems than we have now.”
Vincent Bereni, Kawasaki Racing Team Technical Manager : “Development cycles are far in advance for the manufacturers. If you come in a say ‘the standard has to be this way next year…’ then it is already too late. Development is already in the box. You have to be open to listen to the manufacturers and the adversity they will face to make it happen. Technically it is a lot of work.”
Marcus Pereira de Freitas, HRC General Manager: “It depends how quickly you want that quieter bike on the track. Long-term I think all the manufacturers want to help and want to head in that direction but I don’t think it can be a quick move. To drop 2-3dbs you need time to prepare the production bike. It’s a lot of work.”
BE GREEN Electric motorcycles are becoming more and more prevalent and the possibilities of sound-less, emission-less alternatives is applying even more pressure Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “There is an eco-wave going on. Europe
MXGP ENGINE NOISE
Vincent Bereni, Kawasaki Racing Team Technical Manager : “I live in the U.S. and it’s not a problem over there because people know that motorsport is loud, and they know when they buy a house near a track then it’s going to be loud. It comes down different countries and how they deal with those problems.” Marcus Pereira de Freitas, HRC General Manager: “As HRC we only really talk about noise when we have a new model coming because that’s when you have to consider the new exhaust system. Apart from this it’s not a big discussion point when it comes to MXGP racing.”
Jeffrey De Vries, Yamaha Motor Europe MX Technical Co-ordinator: “I think we are still years and years away from knowing about electric bikes and it’s too far ahead to give a clear answer. We have to deal with this situation now or the sport will die. To say, ‘electric or hydrogen cells is the answer’ is too far away.”
Vincent Bereni, Kawasaki Racing Team Technical Manager : “The smell of the race fuel, the sound, this is racing and it hits you in the gut. For me this has to stay.”
GENERAL RESPONSIBILITY & CHANGE Should MXGP teams and racers carry the can for noise complaints caused by Wim van Hoof, Standing motocross tracks around the Construct GASGAS Factory world? There has to be some Racing Team Manager: “Times collective self-analysis are changing. You can see this with the kids now riding Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM electric bikes and there are Factory Racing Team plenty of stories from the car Manager: “Our bikes are well industry. I still think people maintained and are almost don’t know where dirtbikes ‘new’ every weekend but a will go: electric, combustion, customer bike is used and new fuels? There is a lot of used, wears out and gets politics involved and we don’t louder. After two-three years know who will be correct. If they are even louder and it things had to change right places more importance on now then it will cost a lot of maintenance and track owners money for the manufacturers. have to be stricter on noise There is some thought that control to teach people that hydrogen could be the the sport cannot go that way. solution. Electric has been We have to respect limits.” pushed for some years now and initially satisfied the Jeffrey de Vries, Yamaha environmentalists but, I don’t Motor Europe MX know. Hydrogen is very clean, Technical Co-ordinator: low cost and still uses an “We’ve had many meetings engine. It is like a ‘cassette’ about this and we all which you install. understand why we have to do Transportation and containit because we are killing our ment could be an issue. I sport. We know that the know it is being tested.” general problem is not at Grand Prix but at the local tracks. We all agree that we have to do something but it
MXGP ENGINE NOISE
is over-populated and many housing sites are way-closer to tracks than before and these tracks have been in place for decades. It’s not that motocross is moving towards the houses, the houses are moving closer to the tracks! We are not a green sport. We burn fuel, we’re noisy and in this green wave we are not so appreciated. We love our sport but that’s how it is. It’s somehow different for MotoGP and road racing but even those permanent closed circuits are starting to have problems.”
shouldn’t just be about the manufacturers. The FIM also have to have some influence. In different countries there are different rules and different equipment to measure the noise. There has to be one line, and that has to come from the Federations. All we can do is inform the manufacturer that we have to reduce noise.”
Marcus Pereira de Freitas, HRC General Manager: “Every manufacturer wants to give the best of what they have or their best ideas. The more you close, the less you have. I couldn’t tell you how much horsepower you’d lose with a 2-3-4db cut. I think it’s possible that riders could end up changing their style…but they’ll get used to it.”
Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “It has to start from National Federations and the ground-up. The ball has been pushed to the manufacturers but when the bike leaves the factory it’s new and in a good state. It ‘passes’. After a lot of riding in something like sand, the muffler is empty and it doesn’t ‘pass’ anymore and it’s not up the manufacturer to run after a customer and send him a letter every three months asking if the muffler is still suitable.”
Vincent Bereni, Kawasaki Racing Team Technical Manager : “They need to listen to the manufacturers but also the riders because cutting power will mean a different riding style. Will you be able to ask the older guys to do that because the race bikes are suddenly different? That will be difficult for people. Electric bikes will come one day but you need to build that generation.”
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KTM A shout out for KTM’s innovative Terra Adventure jacket. The garment is a Red Dot design award winner for 2021 and was developed over a period of years with acute user feedback taken into consideration for the main priorities and purposes of the gear. An example comes through the chest, shoulder and back ventilation ports and panels that can be quickly opened through zips and tags. The jacket is moulded to respond to riding conditions on the go, so ease and practicality are paramount. The Terra Adventure has a standalone thermal layer and a 100% waterproof shell that can also be quickly folded and stored in the back pocket of the jacket. Count on SAS-TEC protectors for the shoulders and elbows and provisions for a hydration system, chest and back protection. There is a removable pocket on the front lower quarter and the jacket can be moulded to fit thanks to two sleeve adjusters. The black/orange scheme is quite subtle for KTM’s PowerWear, and the Adventure Pants are of the same ilk when it comes to the light material, quality of construction, placement of SAS-TEC, alterations and ventilation.
FROM THE SLICK
TO THE SAND
DANILO PETRUCCI TALKS ABOUT THE SWAP FROM VISOR TO GOGGLES By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Marcin Kin/Polarity Photo
here are a couple of elements of the 2022 Dakar that will feel vaguely familiar to 31-year-old Danilo Petrucci. He’ll still feel the stop of a motorcycle throttle grip and his heartrate and focus will surge to their limits. He’ll even attach and activate a compulsory airbag. Otherwise, the MotoGP race winner will be entering a whole new sphere of competition just 48 days after he last unzipped his leathers after a decade on the MotoGP grid. Petrucci’s Dakar adventure began as a half-joke. The keen off-road rider’s union with KTM was confirmed during 2020 and it looked like a shrewd move as the Austrian’s MotoGP effort clicked into another gear with their first wins on the asphalt. Petrucci, one of the most humble and humorous riders in MotoGP, had been harshly treated and effectively kicked out of the factory Ducati team before the delayed ’20 championship had begun in Jerez. Sadly, Petrucci was unable to maximise the 2021 Michelin tyre allocation and the inconsistencies of the KTM RC16’s performance potential with the rubber. He made the top ten only three times all season as part of the Tech3 crew and had the misfortune to be punted off track twice in his final three events. By the end of his MotoGP tenure, which had begun with modest CRT roots in 2011, he was convinced his size and physicality was an unsurmountable handicap. It was around the time of the double header Grand Prix in Austria, at the Red Bull Ring in August, that talk of Petrucci and Dakar gathered momentum. The Italian had always harboured a desire to attempt the historic and tough rally and KTM were keen to reward and retain what
they considered a fine ambassador for the brand. The company were already eying the Tech3 MotoGP berths for their young guns Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez in Moto2 and a solution was found for Petrucci to have a contract riding a 450 RALLY as opposed to an RC16. Despite some rumours that he could also accept the chance to return to Ducati and compete in MotoAmerica, ‘Petrux’ took
Earlier this year we spoke with former MXGP Grand Prix winner Rui Gonçalves on the Dakar. The Portuguese is a factory rider for Sherco and made his maiden
attempt in 2021. Listening to a skilled sand racer like Rui talk about the ardours of the race puts Petrucci’s bid even more into context for the difficulty of the task ahead. “Beforehand, you know you are preparing for a big event and everybody gives advice for how it will be, but there are many parts of it that you need to experience for yourself to have your own conclusions,” he told us.
PETRUCCI: MotoGP TO DAKAR
the plunge and soon found himself in Dubai, with the Red Bull KTM Rally team and staring at the bunch of symbols that constitute a roadbook even before the 2021 MotoGP season had finished.
FEATURE “It’s a race that I came to understand more and more and the wider implications of it. The Dakar is not only about racing but personal discovery.” “This rally thing is not just about twisting the throttle and going fast,” he added. “Your head is always connected to the roadbook to make sure you are going in the right direction and you are making the right choices. Your whole body is busy! When you finish a day or a stage you feel tired, even if the run wasn’t so physically tough. You are ‘working’ all the time to focus on the notes and the lines of the other guys. The roadbook is the base of everything. Before going fast you need to know where you are going.”
“I RODE FOR ABOUT 5-6KM INTO THE DUNES UNTIL I REACHED THE HIGHEST ONE. I STOPPED, SWITCHED OFF THE BIKE AND LOOKED AROUND ME. IT WAS LIKE A SEA OF DUNES. I ACTUALLY STARTED TO CRY BECAUSE I THOUGHT ‘LOOK WHERE MY LIFE HAS CARRIED ME’...” The Dakar is no breeze. The crashes and injury complications for Petrucci’s team and brandmates like Toby Price and Sam Sunderland are close quarter reminders. Over 30 competitors have died since 1979. The 44th Dakar Rally takes place for the third year in a row in Saudi Arabia and begins on January 1st with the short Prologue stage opening a trek that will finish on the 14th and involve loops that will mean almost 8000km in the saddle. Petrucci totalled 8500km for
the whole of 2021 MotoGP from March to November. Now he’ll do it in two weeks. It’s a sign of Petrucci’s perception and intelligence that he is fiercely respectful while being obviously excited about his forthcoming debut. To switch disciplines with so little preparation time is highly unusual (even Gonçalves had several months of testing and training as well as a warm-up Rally race experience) but Petrucci has greenlit his swan dive into the deep-end with the full knowledge that any kind of mileage in the Middle East will prepare him for a more serious push in 2023. As we speak in the Red Bull Hospitality unit in Valencia and ahead of his MotoGP final bow Petrucci looks emotionally conflicted. He will soon walk out of a paddock that has been home for many years (his father was a Grand Prix mechanic, so his family is firmly ensconced in the scene) for a fresh start and for what could be the ultimate definition of a new challenge. What are you most afraid of? I think of not having fun. For sure I know I will make mistakes with navigation but I am also scared of not having a competitive approach to the race. I don’t want to be getting angry because I lost half-andhour somewhere. I’m still ‘fresh’ from my MotoGP career and I don’t think I’ve had enough of it: pressure is something that you hate but it is also something that you cannot live without. Or, more so, the adrenaline that comes with being on a race bike is something you cannot create outside of a race. I want to understand how much you need to go over the limit to be competitive in an event like the Dakar. I think I need some years to be
And the prospect of doing something like 500km in one day? You will never reach the intensity or the effort you need to put for a MotoGP or a motocross race but riding all that way, constantly checking the equipment and the track, the road below the wheels is mentally very different. You can never really relax and have to remember a lot of things and, often, when you realise you are doing something wrong then it is already too late! You might be heading 300m in the wrong direction looking for a tree and a gravel road that doesn’t appear. It means turning around and going back. I have already had a bit of this feeling…but it was not in a race. I’m worried about this because I come from a world where we live in metres. I might be missing a tenth of a second on a lap because I am braking eight metres earlier. In Dakar you are talking about half a kilometre and maybe you lose two-three minutes. I hope I will enjoy it…but I also
PETRUCCI: MotoGP TO DAKAR
competitive there but I want to know how much I need to go ‘over’ that life instinct you face during races. Those situations when you are going for a podium or a win and you think ‘I know if I brake in this way I will crash…but if I don’t do it then I will lose’. So, I think there will be many scary moments but I’d like to know if I can be competitive while not going too far over the limit. I’m 31; I don’t want to risk my life or get badly injured after a MotoGP career. [Injury] Is on my mind. The last day of testing the rally bike and with the road book I was really disappointed because I realised the way ahead was so far! In terms of riding skills I don’t think I am that far away, I can follow the other riders and try to stay with them but knowing the course and opening the road is more difficult.
need to use my head and recognise this is my first Dakar. As I promised to the KTM bosses that let me go: it is just to watch, learn and not worry too much about the throttle. If you have to put your competitive instincts to one side, how do you think you will enjoy the race? Well…on the first day of testing the team was split. Some were doing photos, another was testing on a rocky section and another on the road book. On the second day the others went to do more photos and I had the full team just for me. They said: ‘where do you want to go to make the base set-up?’ I’d only been on the dunes for one day, so I suggested going back there. We were in Dubai, close to the border with Oman. We had to ride to the point where we enter the dunes. We arrived, parked, set-up and created a loop of 10-15 minutes where I’d ride, come back and check the fork and other settings. I rode for about 5-6 kilometres into the dunes until I reached the highest one. I stopped, switched off the bike and looked around me. It was like a sea. I took a moment, and actually began to cry because I thought ‘look where my life has carried me’. The previous week I
was in a MotoGP race with the best guys in the world and then I was with the best guys in something that was the complete opposite. I realised how lucky I was and how proud I was also. It was the best feeling in the world there in the dunes. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life riding there. It’s like skiing. You go for how long you want, and I had a lot of fun. It had been two years in MotoGP where I was not having so much fun. I thought last year it was because of the strange situation of losing my job before the season had begun and through making a lot of effort but the result was not coming. But this year was the same. It makes me very emotional to think I won’t be racing in MotoGP any more…but then when I am on the bike and trying my best and getting nothing back then it’s heavy. It is not just about the race; it is Monday, Tuesday, training, talking and always explaining why something is not working. I lose the strength for this. It’s tiring. I like riding bikes a lot but I’m tired of explaining and justifying myself. Even if my soul to race a bike here is still the same, I think my shape is no longer the best for MotoGP. I think I have already achieved quite a lot with the body I have and I haven’t seen anyone else
tyre because the Hard was unrideable; you needed ten laps to get a temperature. Now you can race with all the compounds. From the end of 2019 to now, the bikes have not really changed but I’m not really riding the bike what I want. with the same. I have been quite bad for a lot of engineers! There was a moment in 2018 but also other years where the rules have helped me a lot. For example, I remember Dani Pedrosa complaining a lot about the tyres because they were too hard, but for me they were perfect! I remember breaking lap records many times in FP3 in 2019. I put that Soft tyre in and ‘bam!’. In Jerez I had the lap record for the first time in my life and I remember thinking ‘my name is there!’ It was very satisfying. In Mugello and Assen as well. Since last year though it changed. The tyres changed. Dovi and I were very fast on the old construction and we always chose the softest option and just closed the throttle to save the
The reaction to your move has been universally good but did you find some scepticism from the rally guys? Ha! I had a really friendly reaction from them, and I really appreciated that. I apologised to my new teammates for bothering them with many questions but, in reality, they were also asking me a lot of questions about the MotoGP world and why I was making the switch. I think they also saw I had some skills because I ride motocross and Enduro but, of course, not at world championship level. I’m not ‘better’ than them in any way! But we were one week together during the test, eating and staying together and that never happened to me in MotoGP;
PETRUCCI: MotoGP TO DAKAR
“IT HAD BEEN TWO YEARS IN MotoGP WHERE I WAS NOT HAVING SO MUCH FUN. IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE RACE; IT IS MONDAY, TUESDAY, TRAINING, TALKING AND ALWAYS EXPLAINING WHY SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING. I LOSE THE STRENGTH FOR THIS. I LIKE RIDING BIKES A LOT BUT I’M TIRED OF EXPLAINING AND JUSTIFYING MYSELF...”
you never had dinner with your teammate. There was a friendly feeling, like we were all sharing an adventure and not something super-competitive. They have helped me a lot. I didn’t get the feeling that they thought I was there just because I’m a MotoGP name or for some marketing stunt. They just said: ‘big respect for what you are doing’. You get a second chance to race at the top level – many people are lucky just to be good at one thing! – so you must feel extremely privileged. Like you said earlier, very lucky… For sure this has been possible thanks to KTM. They saw I was really interested in doing it and, in fact, they offered me a deal without even seeing me clearly on the bike. I went riding with Tony [Cairoli] many times but there was nobody from KTM there saying: ‘he can ride the bike…’. Probably a good thing because I was six-eight seconds slower than him! If we had done this interview in November 2011 when I’d never been to Qatar, Jerez, Barcelona, never tried a Grand Prix bike or a Grand Prix tyre – I just knew Mugello, Misano, Brno and Valencia, four tracks! – and you would tell me that after ten years I would have won two races and stood on the podium ten times [amazed gesture]. I’m sure in 2011 people said ‘who is this Petrucci? And where does he hope to go weighing 82 kilos?!’ I’m also sure perhaps I was the only one who thought ‘maybe I can win a race…’ Here, I am old and heavy. In the Dakar I might be one of the youngest and the lightest! Maybe I would like to do this interview in another ten years and then I will have won a stage! This would be my dream.
PETRUCCI: MotoGP TO DAKAR
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P R O T A P E R . C O M
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Knowing that the AIS is also formed from Conehead EPS means the details of the Formula have been carefully thought through. It’s a great product promising great protection performance (which we fortunately haven’t had to test). The spacious face area will fit the Zone Pro goggles; an excellent option for decent field of vision and lens (polycarbonate anti-fog, scratchproof) strength and clarity for those that don’t need the absolute top-level precision of a product like Scott’s Prospect or Oakley’s Airbrake. The Zone Pro comes in eight different colourways and at 64.95 is nicely priced.
LIFE AFTER 46 A truly incredible career came to an end at Valencia. After 432 races, Valentino Rossi finally hung up his leathers. If you know anything at all about MotoGP, then I am sure I do not need to remind you just how remarkable Rossi’s career was. A total of 115 wins in all classes, and 89 in just the premier class, his place in history is assured. But for me, the most remarkable statistic of Rossi’s career is the number of races he missed. In the 26 years in which he competed, there were only three seasons where he didn’t line-up on the grid. Rossi missed just 7 out of the 439 Grands Prix held during his active years, four after breaking a leg at Mugello in
2010, his home race in Misano after a training accident in 2017, and two races in 2020 when he contracted Covid-19. To push so hard in so many practice and qualifying sessions, so many races, and walk away almost unscathed is truly amazing. He was injured so rarely because he crashed so rarely, because his talent allowed him to understand the limit more deeply, and get closer to it without overstepping the mark.
fans. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the press room during FP2 at Mugello in 2010, and watching the main grandstand slowly empty out as it became clear that Rossi had broken his leg when he fell at the fast Biondetti chicane. No Rossi, no party, as far as MotoGP fans were concerned.
That talent and his charisma allowed him to transcend the sport, to bring it to a massive audience in a period when its popularity had waned. For 17 or 18 of those 26 years, Valentino Rossi WAS MotoGP. He was the figure the crowds came to see, to cheer on, expecting victory, or at least to come close. Above all, the fans came expecting a show, and Rossi always did his best to deliver.
That was another reminder of just how dependent Dorna were on Rossi at that time. With a fulltime grid of 17, and the combination of unfettered electronics on the 800cc bikes and the demanding Bridgestone spec tyres producing processional racing, the series was dead without the colour Rossi brought to the sport. It came on top of Rossi’s brief flirtation with F1 during 2005, where it looked like he might swap bikes for cars, which had promised a mass desertion of fans had he made the move.
The risks for Dorna were selfevident. For a long period, the crowds were there for Valentino Rossi, and when Valentino Rossi wasn’t there, neither were the
The fear of losing the goose which had laid so many golden eggs for Dorna added to the exponential rise in costs produced by the 800cc formula adopted
BY DAVID EMMETT
in 2007 and the global financial crisis in 2008 left Dorna with little choice. If they wanted to ensure a future for the sport, they had to make it entertaining enough to make people want to watch, even after Rossi’s departure. There was one major obstacle to their ambitions, however: the factories, led by Honda, had no interest in making the racing more exciting. What the factories wanted was to win, and to showcase their superior engineering skills. They didn’t believe they had much to gain by making the racing closer and more exciting. The story of MotoGP’s turnaround has been told many times. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta used the CRT teams – engines based on road bikes in a prototype chassis – as leverage to persuade factories to fill the grids. Ezpeleta, advised and helped by many inside Dorna and the FIM, and guided by the technical insight of MotoGP Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, created the conditions where the factories
were forced to adopt a single ECU, and the spec software to drive it. (The arrival of Gigi Dall’Igna at Ducati also played a significant role here, the Ducati Corse boss spotting the loophole offered by the so-called Open Class rules and driving additional concessions to unsuccessful factories.) The departure of Bridgestone, and the clear mandate given to Michelin to build tyres to produce tighter racing was the final piece of the puzzle needed to create a highly marketable product featuring thrilling contests and a wide field of potential winners. The absorbing contests which we have seen in the last three or four years, where you could often throw a blanket over the podium gaps, and the top 15 were separated by a handful of seconds, is the proof that Dorna have succeeded. So where does Rossi’s retirement leave MotoGP? Ironically, his early threats of departure have helped knock the
sport into excellent shape. With close races, and a cast of young riders vying for attention, and claiming races and championships (the last two were 23 and 22 when they took the title), with five of MotoGP’s six factories already having tasted victory, and the sixth (Aprilia) scoring its first podium in 2021, MotoGP has become a fearsome spectacle. It cannot be overstated just how much MotoGP will miss Valentino Rossi now that he is gone. But the days when Rossi’s departure also meant the death of the sport are far behind us. The GOAT may be gone, but the show will go on.
ALEX MARQUEZ IS HUNGRY FOR PRESSURE. AS HIS MotoGP CAREER CLICKS INTO A THIRD TERM WITH FACTORY HONDA BACKING, THE 25-YEAR-OLD MIGHT JUST GET HIS WISH. By Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP
SEARCHING FOR HEAT
ometimes, it can be easy to forget that Alex Marquez is a factory MotoGP rider on merit. There is only one other racer in MotoGP who has won both Moto3 and Moto2 world championships: his brother. 25 years of age means that Marquez has a quarter of a century of being compared to Marc, three years his senior, firstly because of his age, and secondly because of Marc’s indelible impact on the
sport of motorcycle racing. It reached a point long ago where it was a challenge for journalists to interview Alex without bringing Marc into the equation in some way. Alex has also long accepted this situation as part of his sporting career, even though it didn’t stop him getting narky with some media requests during 2020 over relentless enquiries about Marc’s well-being through his injury nightmare.
Alex has surfed in Marc’s wake, but he has had to deliver the points, and muscle his own corner. For that, the man earns respect, and he continues to endure. 2022 will be his eleventh season in Grand Prix and for five of those campaigns he has finished in the top five of a championship. It took him three years to conquer Moto3 and then five to become the first Moto2 title winner of the Triumph engine era.
2021 was challenging. The older Marquez saved Honda’s blushes of a winless season but the company gathered only one rostrum place from their three other riders. Alex posted seven top ten results, with 4th place at the second GP at Portimao the highlight. It was the classic ‘tricky second album’ where more frequent moments of promise where still tempered by getting the Honda to his liking and solving the puzzle of 2021 Michelin compatibility. In an age where MotoGP is becoming an increasingly
forthcoming from both the Catalan and the Japanese, we’re met by a jovial and chatty individual, brown eyes frequently widening as he expresses himself well in heavily accented English.
family affair, Alex is by far the most successful ‘younger sibling’ on the grid when compared with Pol Espargaro and Darryn Binder.
Marquez’s surname might mean that he gets more time with better support in MotoGP, but it also means he has higher targets to reach. The last eighteen months for his brother have been particularly arduous and as the pair live and train together their careers are inevitably intertwined at a time when a section of MotoGP’s fanbase might be curious over Marc’s future, his motivation and patience to keep dealing with physical setbacks. 2022 could be a crucial time for Alex to reach a higher plinth of performance. Luckily, from his first words of a fifteen-minute chat inside the bright LCR hospitality at the season-ending Grand Prix of Valencia, he’s firmly set.
Marquez and Nakagami mean that LCR have two of the most unaffecting riders on the grid, quite a shift from seven years of spiky popularity that Cal Crutchlow drew to the San Marino-based outfit. Heading to interview Alex to discern how he views his career at this precarious point where results have to be more
You were the team leader in Moto2 and did the job. You went into a strange situation with Repsol Honda that then became even more complicated in 2020. Now you are almost like a leader again at LCR but still in your second year. Have the last few seasons been a twist, mentally?
“YOU MIGHT THINK HE CAN BE DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH, BUT IT’S THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE. HE’S A NICE GUY. HE’S A GENTLEMAN WITH ME, THE CREW, WITH EVERYBODY.”
As Moto2 world #1 he deservingly earned his shot at MotoGP in 2020 but the circumstances of being his brother’s teammate, a rookie, a subsequent Repsol Honda team leader - as Marc crashed at round one in Jerez - and eventually being moved to the LCR Honda satellite set-up was a hurricane scenario in terms of orientation. Two podium finishes kept the critics at bay as the Honda RCV continues to be a fickle machine away from the clutches of #93.
FEATURE Yeah, I mean, it’s nice when you have the pressure to be a team leader and even to win a title. I love this. What is a bit strange is a situation where you start a year and you don’t really know the goal you should have. Last year was my first, then this year we had to see where we were after the first races and how we were managing the bike. Personally, I get more motivation from spending my wintertime thinking ‘how do we win a title this year?’ I live for that pressure. Isn’t that slightly unusual? Pressure can come from different quarters and can bring stress…but maybe you’ve already had experience of that through Moto3 and Moto2? There are different pressures, as you say, like from sponsors; although we can forget about that because it’s not ‘my’ pressure, it is more for the Team Principal or Team Manager and then they need to push the rider in a good way. Anyway, as a rider we know that sponsors need good results and minutes on TV. But the pressure I like comes from the reactions of the people: the press and the people around the sport. Maybe I have become used to it because I am ‘the brother of’. I’ve had it on my shoulders my whole career. I’ve learned how to prove people wrong and how to turn it
You must want to break away from that lifestyle occasionally also? It sounds intense… I’m 25 now and I know what I need to do for my job. I know when I need to train, when I need to focus and when I need to ‘stop’ a little bit. As an example, sometimes during the season and when
the races are coming quickly, I’ll say ‘OK, this week I don’t need to ride the bike’. I’ll do some gym work and cycling but I won’t get on a motocross bike or any other bike. My head needs to make a ‘refresh’. I already know when I need to do that. I train with Marc but sometimes he’ll want to ride motocross and I need a break from the throttle and work in another way. When I make this disconnection I feel that I come back and I’m ‘better’. It’s not the quantity of training, it’s the quality. I think that is something that not
everybody controls. Their mentality is ‘if the results aren’t coming then I need to train more, more and more’. Sometimes the opposite works and I learned this from having a few injuries! My first day back riding a bike was maybe hard physically but my speed was just as good if not better. When you are at home you might not be working but your head never stops. You might go to a motocross track just to watch, but you are always looking and searching for things to try or ways that might help you.
into motivation and concentration. I go into a different world. I enjoy that mode; a Zen mode where you don’t care what is going on outside but you are very clear in what you need to do.
ALEX MARQUEZ “DURING THE WINTER YOU ARE TRAINING FLAT TRACK, MOTOCROSS, GYM, CYCLING & YOU FEEL REALLY PREPARED BUT THEN YOU ARRIVE TO MALAYSIA AND AFTER THE FIRST DAY YOU ARE DESTROYED! IT’S ANOTHER BIKE AND ANOTHER EXPERIENCE. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO SIMULATE IN A GYM. EVERYTHING HURTS. THE FIRST DAY IS THE WORST. YOU RIDE A LITTLE BIT MORE RIGID BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T HAD THE FEELING OF THE BIKE...”
Can you transfer much information or feeling from other training methods to the Honda? For sure. The training that helps the most, in terms of technique, is Flat Track but motocross is the best for the physical side. You also need to make a few laps on a karting [circuit]. With so much offroad it’s good to have a CBR600 just so you don’t forget the asphalt feeling, which is normally so strange on the first day! I don’t focus on one thing, more a combination of everything. As a youngster were you quite individual in the way you trained and learned to prepare or did it just make sense to follow Marc’s lead? I followed him but only because he was following my personal trainer! The idea was to make a mix of everything. It was also easier as family to have us all together instead of splitting to do different things. It did get to a point where we made our own plans though and we would make the schedule for the week together to mix what we want to do and with our trainers. You mentioned that your head never stops. How is it living with the intensity of always wanting to be better or to seek improvement? That obsession. I guess it must be a normal way of life by now… Finding how and when – which
Does it help being in your hometown for this, compared to living elsewhere in Europe? For sure. It helps towards that lifestyle I mentioned. Having friends close, family, everything is very easy. If I want to ride motocross I have a 20 minute trip. You need to put everything in the balance. You seem like quite a sensitive guy. Your body language tends to reflect your results. Has it been hard dealing with the ups-anddowns in MotoGP so far? Yeah, I’m a guy that is always realistic. If I have a bad day then I have a bad day. I make jokes in the box but I am also serious. My approach is to learn something from bad results and then forget them. I’m a positive guy…but it’s obvious that life is easier when you get results! The motivation also. You see that the work and all the energy
you are making has a reward. This is the key. When you don’t get that reward life can be a bit difficult sometimes. But then you need the right guys around you that give good input to build something. Do you feel at home at LCR Honda? Is there less expectation, spotlight, politics perhaps? It depends on the situation. I also felt really good at Repsol Honda. In the end it’s a factory team and you have the expectation because of that but your team is your team and it becomes like a little family. Like I have here at LCR. I feel the same with both teams when I’m in the box, honestly. The external pressure is maybe different. With Repsol it is more from the factory and here it might be more from the sponsors. As I said before, you need to go through it and be aware of what is around you. From the first day I came to LCR I felt really good and had a really warm welcome. It was a tense first day because we were all new to each other and being in the box now is a relaxed place.
is important – to switch off is critical. You must try not to be obsessed by this as well. I think it’s matter of organisation. If you know your body and your mentality then you don’t sink into a hole or think that there is only one way you will improve, such as training a lot. Having a good relationship with friends helps with disconnection. I think a key part of training for MotoGP is knowing how to relax and rest.
MAKING THEIR MARK Another wonderful year of action has concluded, meaning it’s time to assess the big winners and losers from 2021. Man of the year: Aki Ajo. It’s quite the feat to manage two world champions in the same year. And quite another to have team-mates fighting for Moto2 gong, as Aki Ajo did with Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez. But it wasn’t just about the Finn’s eye for rider selection. Up to the final round, the battling team-mates remained respectful without tensions ever bubbling over. Even after the season finished, Ajo was keen to play down his own role in this. “I was afraid of it but it was actually much easier than I expected. No problems at all, nothing. Both [Remy and Raul] respected themselves in an incredible way.” Now that’s good management. Race of the year: The Austrian Grand Prix. This was shaping up to be a classic even before a rain shower arrived with six laps
to go and unleashed all kinds of madness. Bagnaia, Marquez and Quartararo were locked together all race long in a duel that would likely have gone all the way. But the rain – threatening from the morning – started peppering the track at first, bringing Joan Mir, Jorge Martin and Brad Binder into the mix. As the showers intensified all pitted except Binder, leaving the South African to tiptoe his way to the most unlikely of victories after a hair-raising finale. He rode the final two laps with no front brake (his carbon discs cooled to the extent they no longer functioned). How do you even begin to explain that? Pass of the year: Fabio Quartararo, Austrian Grand Prix. This was supposed to be the circuit when Ducatis piled the pressure on the long-time championship leader. But the 22-year-old was stunning in this contest, repeatedly taking the fight to the faster Ducatis and Marquez’s faster Honda. His two-in-one move on Marquez and Martin into turn three around the outside, something reminiscent of Jorge Lorenzo in his ‘Por Fuera’ days.
This is where he nailed his title credentials to the mast. From here, he never looked back. The ‘Grit your teeth, go again’ award: Jorge Martin. It’s likely we’ll only hear of the true extent of Marc Marquez’s struggles this year after returning from a serious arm injury. But in some respects, the recovery of Martin after a chilling get-off during practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix was just as eye-catching. The rookie sustained eight fractures and a bump on the head as he crashed in sickening style at over 100mph, getting caught up in the bike while thrown around like a ragdoll. The 23-year-old openly admitted he thought his career was over. But his comeback – three podiums, including a debut win and three pole positions – was deeply impressive. The ‘Yeah, that was a bit stupid’ award: Maverick Viñales. When you spell out the details, it’s still difficult to believe this actually happened. Who could have foresaw the winner of the season’s curtain raiser not only demand to leave his team, cutting short a
two-year deal a season early, but then get suspended by that same team for over-revving his machine during the Styrian GP. “The rider‘s actions could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine of his YZRM1,” concluded the factory, only too happy to let him leave midseason for Aprilia. Now Viñales finds himself aboard a bike that was much improved in 2021, but off the pace come autumn. The mystery of Maverick continues year after year. And after this one, it’s tempting to conclude we’ll never see him fulfil his talent. The Stop Walking Under Ladders award: Marc Marquez. The past 18 months have shown the eight-time champ has lost his midas touch. He was exceptional in parts this year, winning three races with essentially one working arm. But there was a series of mistakes, as he crashed out of podiums (or even victories) at Le Mans, Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. And his gift of getting up and walking away from crashes that would keep most riders hospitalised also eluded him. As well as struggling with pain and
discomfort in the upper right arm and shoulder he damaged so badly in 2020, he missed the final two races after damaging the same eye nerve that kept him out of action for five months in 2011-’12. It remains unknown if we’ll see him racing again. Pep Talk of the year: Lucy Crutchlow, Jerez. The wife of multiple MotoGP race winner Cal isn’t known for mincing her words. When she saw friend of the family Jack Miller struggling for confidence pre-Jerez, she gave it to the Australian straight. “Lucy Crutchlow called me up out of the blue throughout the week and was telling me, ‘You are f**king good. You can do it.’ (She was) Quite aggressive. You need it. We’re all human. We all have doubts. That did the trick.” Miller was transformed for a fortnight, winning the Spanish GP brilliantly before backing it up with another measured victory in France. The ‘Did that really happen?’ award: Pedro Acosta, Doha GP. The season was just one race old when GP’s new superstar
BY NEIL MORRISON
produced a ride that was truly out of the ordinary. Penalised with a pitlane start, Acosta made up a 9s deficit to claim a barely-believable debut win. It was a performance that showcased so many attributes. Self-belief. Fighting spirit. Raw speed. Maturity. Nerve. Acosta’s riding to bridge the gap to the leading group was exceptional. But the manner in which he sliced through the pack of experienced names before holding off Darryn Binder’s late response was another level altogether. And all the tender age of 16. It still beggars belief seven months later. The ‘He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’ award: Jeremy Alcoba. Strong opposition from Deniz Oncu for this one, but the Spaniard was repeatedly guilty of causing danger to other riders. Always loose, always on the limit, and quite often riding over it in those scary multi-rider Moto3 battles, Alcoba made few friends across the year. He was lucky in the extreme not to be disqualified for
holding a 15-rider group up in the Barcelona GP. Likewise, his repeated swerving on the straights failed to result in a strong penalty. Even the fairly laconic Scot John McPhee was moved to kick him in the knackers after the pair clashed at the second race of the year. And that says a lot.
Husqvarna Motorcycles have some tempting options in their men’s and women’s casualwear and perhaps at the top of the list is the ‘capsule collection’ made with Italian highstreet jean fashion label Replay (based in the same town, Asolo, as Alpinestars oddly enough). A small range of t-shirts, hoodies and jeans see the Replay goods stamped with the distinctive and historic Swedish logo or embracing some of the bike brand’s clean, exclusive design leads.
We’ve seen some of the garments in the large Replay store in the centre of Barcelona and the clothing is decent stuff and looks cool. The combination of two strong premium brands means the gear is not especially cheap but that’s also part of the attraction. Expect to pay around 50 pounds for a t-shirt and double for a hoodie or sweatshirt. There is also plenty of regular choice in the full Husqvarna catalogue. Have a click to see more.
CREATED THANKS TO
When Adam asked me for some 2022 Monster Energy SX series predictions, he rightfully used the word “pointless” and I agree with him on that. It’s a tough sport this supercross stuff and trying to figure out who’s gonna do what most of the time is pretty fruitless. I will say that since 2018, Honda’s Ken Roczen, Monster Yamaha’s Eli Tomac and Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb have won most of the SX races that have taken place. In fact, only Blake Baggett (1), Marvin Musquin (7) and Justin Barcia (3) have won races outside of the big three. So logically, one would think that the championship will come from one of those three riders. There will be a changing of the guard coming here soon but I don’t think just yet. Nope, the next gen will have to hold off for a bit. The big three do have plenty of questions lingering around about them though. Cooper Webb broke away from his long-time trainer Aldon Baker, went to a
different riding compound and has an all-new bike to figure out. The 2021 champion isn’t exactly showing up with everything rolling right? He’s working with Michael Byrne now who’s certainly a smart, analytical guy and will collaborate with Coop on many things. ‘Exhibit A’ will be whoop speed, but it’s hard to look at Baker’s program, which emphasizes day-in and day-out competitiveness, and not think it’s a huge help for a rider. So, yeah I have questions about Webb. Eli Tomac switched from Kawasaki to Yamaha in the off-season, he’s 29 years old now and last season, in his defense of the title, won three races and had way more times where he looked a bit listless than he was superman.
Also, he’ll be getting used to a new bike, one that’s radically different from his trusty Kawasaki. Lots of questions when it comes to ET3. Roczen’s got the same bike, same program and somehow is looking for his first ever 450SX title to go along with his two 450MX titles. Roczen’s issue has been that his bad races, the ones where things don’t go right, are bad enough that he can’t regain those lost points down the road. Some of those inside Honda wonder if Roczen’s ‘all-in’ enough to win one of these things and sometimes, some of his rides were a bit perplexing. When he’s on, he’s untouchable, when he’s off- well we’ve seen what happens. It would be a great story for Roczen to capture
BY ADAM WHEELER
BY STEVE MATTHES this title but again, I have questions. Monster Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo is going into his third season and has yet to win a 450SX race. There’s been so much speed and lots of laps led but AC’s been unable to keep it on two wheels long enough to stay in the series, never mind win the thing. But this is the third season for the kid and if it’s going to come together, well it’s got to come together this year. Battling with Adam for the ‘balls out, blazing speed’ award each week is Honda’s Chase Sexton. Sexton’s going into his second season and will presumably be, along with Cianciarulo, a title threat for many years but first, like AC, he’s got to get a win. Watch out in 2022. Last season a veteran rider broke through for his first 450MX championship after capturing three 250SX and
MX titles. I was in the group thinking that the outdoor success would translate to confidence and speed going into 450SX. Alas, that did not happen for Zach Osborne but Dylan Ferrandis is in the same predicament going into his second 450SX year. I think he’s in a better spot than Zacho in that he doesn’t, as far as I know, have any lingering injuries. There’s been low-key Ferrandis hype but I don’t see it yet. He’s got to work on his starts and also, I’m not sure he’s a technical enough rider to be a 450SX champion as of now. Jason Anderson (Kawasaki), Aaron Plessinger (KTM), Malcolm Stewart (Husqvarna) I think could all win races but of course, despite every year when we declare the field will have 8-10 winners, there only ends up with four and the cream rises to the top. All three of the riders above are on new
teams so it will be interesting to see which bike will suit which rider. There’s been some hype around how fit and fast Mookie is but there’s always off-season hype about how fast Mookie is! That’s what he does! The only question I have for Gas Gas TLD rider Justin Barcia is does he win the opener for the ridiculous fourth year in a row? That would surely be something amazing. Marvin Musquin is racing his final year of 450SX and I’m sure he’ll want to get a win or two before he hangs it up, Joey Savatgy has come close before as has Dean Wilson. All three of these vets will be factors in different races but in the end, I think one of the big three will win the title and we’ll see a changing of the guard in 2023. For now, the big dogs are still in charge of this thing. Pointless predictions? We’ll see I suppose.
THE NEW WINDOW?
CREATED THANKS TO
Everyone is a Formula One fan these days. Sure, the series has been the undisputed premier motorsport for decades, with one-of-a-kind cars, highly skilled drivers, and sponsorship from companies of all industries, but its history has largely been overshadowed by the “Drive To Survive” docu-series on Netflix and final races of 2021. Led by Liberty Media, an American company that took controlling interest of the Formula One Group through a $4.4 billion/£3.3 billion deal in 2017, F1 is the latest case study on how the right strategy, funding, mediasavvy, and luck can make motorsports appeal to the masses. Launching a video series was always part of Liberty Media’s initiative to lure in new fans, and they found ideal partners for production and streaming. Box to Box Films, a group with a proven record in sports documentaries, was given virtually unrestricted access to a few legacy teams and upstart drivers in the 2018 season. Their finished product, a spotless, if not sometimes over-sensational-
ized look into the racing life, was added to the Netflix catalog in 2019. Although it did not bring immediate mainstream acclaim, the reaction from F1’s core audience and interest from high-level teams got ‘Drive To Survive’ renewed for two additional seasons. Liberty’s persistence with the program in 2020 paid off tremendously. The film crew, by that point ingrained with the teams and part of the paddock, captured every moment of the tumultuous year, packaged it into ten episodes, and released it to viewers who had found the series during the pandemic. Reports for the recently completed 2021 race season noted growth in key categories, particularly with women, and the new
fans were responsible for record-setting in-person attendance figures, television audience numbers, and social media interactions. Could a similar show elevate Supercross? It wouldn’t hurt. Feld Entertainment’s control of Supercross is comparable to what Liberty has over Formula One, so a commissioned crew could readily turn footage of racers and decision-makers at teams into episodic content. A project of this sort would cater to the public’s insatiable demand for video and help Feld expand their online and social media presence.
BY ADAM WHEELER
BY MIKE ANTONOVICH Getting the industry on board would be the first hurdle. Teams and racers are very accommodating when it comes to media requests but letting a camera crew in on their most vulnerable moments would take some convincing. Would riders open-up about their success, struggles, doubts, and determination? Can team personnel talk about taboo matters like budgetary concerns and contract negotiations with sponsors? Without these topics, a hypothetical show would not merit much attention from the mainstream. The best way for ‘the world’ to see this presentation would be through a streaming service, preferably one owned by an experienced media partner and that’s easy to access through smartphones and televisions. Although the Supercross Live YouTube channel has just under a half-million subscribers, the general reach of that account is minimal.
Another challenge might come from the established fanbase. While this group of people says they’d love to see anything motocross-related, a look at message boards or social media comments reveals that they are very particular about how their sport is showcased. The vocal minority would be impossible to silence, but most would change their opinion if growth through new supporters or increased television play were traced back to the show. Liberty Media’s conversion of casual Netflix viewers into engaged race fans proves that ambitious projects can be worth the effort. Formula One’s gain in young/affluent/ active viewers is something Feld Entertainment wishes they could copy, especially as their reliance on live television broadcasts hits the ceiling and streaming services take hold. Of course, any attempt of this sort by Supercross and its potential impact would be much smaller than Drive to Survive,
but it’d be a much-needed step in the right direction.
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THE SCIENCE OF THRILL
ST ILL ON CH AR GE By Roland Brown, Photos by Roland Brown & respective brands
sense of anti-climax followed the recent motorcycle shows at EICMA in Milan and Motorcycle Live in Birmingham, despite relief at the successful return of events that were cancelled last year. Sure, there were plenty of new models, even though not all the manufacturers attended the shows. But innovation, inspiration or futuristic design? All seemed in short supply from the big factories, especially when compared with the current explosion of all those things in the car world, where dazzling machines are being unveiled almost every week. The main four-wheeled trigger is of course the move to electric. Global government deadlines mean the car manufacturers have no choice, and many have embraced the challenge with a stunning array of new models, from 1500bhpplus hypercars to innovative family saloons and futuristic pickup trucks. By contrast the motorcycle firms aren’t yet being driven by legislation in the same way, and the carrot of becoming a leading battery-bike player is not sufficiently tempting. Rather than embracing an electric future with bold new products, the motorcycle manufacturers seem to be going back in time.
“LOW-PRODUCTION MODELS LIKE THE V4 SP AND RC 8C ARE ONE WAY FOR MANUFACTURERS TO GENERATE PUBLICITY AND EVEN INCOME WITH MINIMAL RISK, BUT THE BIGGER PICTURE IS LESS VIBRANT...”
TEST Of the bikes that caught the eye, all were petrol powered and many were retro, from Kawasaki’s Seventies-styled Z650RS to BMW’s giant R18 Transcontinental boxer twin. Others included the Gold Star single from BSA, reborn under the ownership of Indian giant Mahindra.
Several newcomers could even form their own “retro middleweight adventure” class, with Eighties-era ParisDakar inspiration. Aprilia’s Tuareg 660 and Husqvarna’s Norden 901 offer stylish dualpurpose options. Ducati’s DesertX V-twin and MV Agusta’s Lucky Explorer concept both owe much to Cagiva’s old Elefant, with which both marques have historical links.
Okay, so not every 2022 new model is playing the nostalgia card. Moto Guzzi’s V100 Mandello is named after the old factory site at Mandello del Lario in northern Italy, but it’s powered by a new 1042cc, dohc liquid-cooled engine in the familiar transverse V-twin layout. Harley’s Sportster S also has a famous name, but the squat, liquid-cooled S owes much more to the VRod than to the simple, aircooled Sportsters of old.
Triumph’s Speed Triple 1200RR roadster and newgeneration Tiger 1200 adventure triples are unashamedly modern. So are the Honda NT1100 and Suzuki GSXS1000GT that hint at a revival of traditional sports-tourers. Ducati’s Streetfighter V2 brings a middleweight V-twin back into the naked Streetfighter family, accompanied by a higher-spec V4 SP model. KTM teased show visitors with the track-only RC 8C, although all 100 units sold out in minutes, months ago.
Low-production models like the V4 SP and RC 8C are one way for manufacturers to generate publicity and even income with minimal risk, but the bigger picture is less vibrant. Perhaps we were due a dip, after the gains of recent years. While power outputs have risen to unimagined levels, safely has also increased due to traction control, cornering ABS and other systems. Semi-active suspension, cornering headlights and lately radar-controlled cruise control have arrived.
There has also been some bold and innovative design, from Kawasaki’s supercharged H2 models to Yamaha’s Niken and Tricity threewheelers. But like previous bikes with turbos, forkless front ends or fully-enclosed cockpits, they didn’t sell well enough to start a trend or justify more innovation. So, who can blame the manufacturers for playing it safe?
Two of the most interesting bikes in Birmingham were from tiny manufacturers. Wigan-based Langen aims to build 100 of its Two Stroke track bike, featuring 250cc Vtwin engine, tubular aluminium frame and much gorgeous craftsmanship. The Crighton CR700W is a more serious track-day toy, powered by a 220bhp rotary engine and developed by Brian Crighton, famed creator of the rotary racebikes that took Norton to glory three decades ago.
But as for motorcycle manufacturers matching their four-wheeled equivalents with a flurry of electric models… forget it, for a while at least. The two-wheeled world has stalled and now seems at least five years behind. While battery technology can give high-performance cars respectable range, that is not yet true of motorbikes.
Norton itself turned heads at the NEC, with a naked V4 prototype called the V4CR, displayed alongside the V4SV sports bike with which the revitalised, now Indian-owned firm is returning to production at a new factory in the West Midlands. Striking models from CCM and reborn DOT provided more evidence of bold design from small British firms.
The growing ranks of electric scooters will soon include BMW’s giant CE 04, which might be more successful than its rarely seen C-evolution forebear. But despite Ducati’s decision to get involved in MotoE racing, and brave promises from Kawasaki, no large firm seems willing to follow the slow-selling LiveWire in challenging Zero and the other specialist
manufacturers with an electric roadster.
All of which means that the gap between two- and fourwheeled worlds has never been larger. And is only likely to grow further, as the new wave of electric cars reaches showrooms in the next year or two. Meanwhile batterypowered bikes remain in the shadows, waiting for a leap in technology that finally allows them to compete.
MORE REASONS TO BE EXCITED FOR The biggest question over the festive period is whether or not Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jonathan Rea and Scott Redding are still on each other’s Christmas card lists. During the season the battle on track got heated and at times that spilled off the track. Redding in particular struggled to adapt to the rough and tumble of production racing and has been very vocal in his critique of what it’s like to fight with Toprak on track. The Big Three of 2021 had their clashes. Each left the other occasionally licking their wounds. They also left us wanting more of the same. It was too easy to focus on the leading trio and forget about the field this year. I’ve been guilty of it this year by blogging almost exclusively about the title protagonists so in my final On Track Off Road entry I wanted to shine a light on some of the other stars of WorldSBK 2021.
Andrea Locatelli and Axel Bassani came in with very little expectation on their shoulders. Locatelli was the reigning Supersport World Champion but was he actually good enough? With Yamaha having placed the Italian in the full-factory squad alongside Toprak was this a mistake? Last winter that was the overriding thought of the paddock as Yamaha decided to overlook Garrett Gerloff. Do many think the same heading into his sophomore season? With four podiums and 12 top-five finishes in a row, Locatelli more than repaid Yamaha’s faith in him en route to fourth in the standings. Bassani was an even bigger surprise. The 22-year-old jumped on a WorldSBK bike for the first time and progressed strongly through the
campaign. His podium in Catalunya surprised everyone but was incredibly well deserved. When the Ducati was strong, so was he and in the second half of the season when he was a constant top ten runner. Some riders have taken a step back in 2021. The most glaring of these was Gerloff. The season started strongly but clashes with Rea at the opening round in Aragon, Michael Ruben Rinaldi at the second round and collecting Razgatlioglu at Turn 1 in Assen showed that he was still a rough diamond with edges. The aftermath of Assen saw the season tumble downhill. The Texan was clearly read the riot act by Yamaha and very aware that another mistake could be terminal for his campaign. For Gerloff the biggest ques-
BY ADAM WHEELER
BY STEVE ENGLISH tion heading into the winter will be whether he can recover mentally and get back to being the rider everyone knows he can be. Injuries riddled the campaign for Alex Lowes. A pre-season flat track accident left him with a shoulder issue while he later sustained fractures in his feet and wrist in other crashes. It seemed that every time the Kawasaki rider hit the deck he was left nursing more problems. It was a shame for Kawasaki because in Year Two with the team Lowes looked a lot stronger. His end of season was strong with top five qualifying at the final five rounds boding well after some midseason improvements. For the 31-year-old the target now is to get fit and get back on track. Kawasaki and Rea certainly could do with an extra front runner. In the middle ground for 2021 were Rinaldi and Alvaro Bautista.
They’ll form a potent line-up at Ducati in 2022 but will they be consistent? That’s been their biggest issue in recent years and Rinaldi proved so once again this year. Seven podiums and three wins was a good return for the season on his way to fifth in the standings but the inconsistency meant that there was a general feeling that maybe he could have done better. The 26-year-old from Rimini is a hard working rider and his determination will stand him in good stead for next year but he’ll be aiming for a big more consistency. Bautista signed off from Honda with a much healthier bank balance but only three podiums added to his resume. This year he rode well but it always seemed that he couldn’t get the most out of his bike over a single lap. It was his ability to utilise the Super-soft SCX tyre better than anyone else that was his calling card and something that will make the paddock stand up and be wor-
ried about his prospects on the Ducati. He’ll start 2022 as a title favourite but one with question marks hanging over his head after his capitulation in 2019. 2021 also marked the end of an era for WorldSBK. The British legion is shrinking and some of the best riders of all-time in WorldSBK have retired or look to be racing elsewhere next year. Tom Sykes, the 2013 World Champion, should be in Britain next year while Chaz Davies retires following a tough campaign. Both riders are in the top ten list of race winners and will leave a legacy behind them. Sykes is the greatest qualifier ever seen in production racing and Davies reignited Ducati as a contender. They’ll be missed but the field is deeper now than ever, so we’ll have new stars coming through. WorldSBK surprised everyone in 2021 but now it faces an even bigger challenge: delivering even more in 2022!
ENJOY YOUR RIDE
By Ray Archer
ON TRACK OFF ROAD
‘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, KTM, Simon Cudby, JP Acevedo, Marcin Kin, Roland Brown Cover shot: 2021 World Champions: CormacGP/Archer/Align 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’.