Month: January 2015

WSBK – Team Green enjoys Jerez test

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Kawasaki Racing Team riders Jonny Rea and Tom Sykes made the very best use of two days of dry and sunny conditions to complete their final European pre-season preparations at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain this week.

With so many new technical regulations in the 2015 FIM Superbike World Championship, and previous winter tests having been affected by poor weather, the Jerez tests took on a special significance.

A welcome 25°C track temperature arrived in the afternoons at Jerez meaning both Rea and Sykes made real progress in the set-up of their Ninja ZX-10Rs. Each declared they were ready to head off to Australia for the final official tests in buoyant and confident mood.

Lap times at Jerez were fully competitive for each rider, in both race and qualifying set-ups, with Sykes posting a best of 1’39.694 and Rea a 1’39.745, each on a qualifying tyre. This is below the existing track best, despite more stringent technical rules that limit engine tuning in 2015.

Sykes posted 85 laps on day one and 86 on the final day, while Rea did more than 80 on day one and 70 on the final day.

The KRT riders and team will have their next track engagement during the first official test sessions at Phillip Island in Australia, on 16 and 17 February, before the opening round of the 14-round series on Sunday 22 February.

Team new boy Rea said: “It was a good test and more so because we got dry track time. We were able to evaluate lots of things. I tried quite a lot of geometries and changing the balance of the bike. We never found a big difference in lap time, even when we were radically changing the bike. That proves to us that the bike is working in quite a big window.

“We found a big step forward with the engine management and electronics on the afternoon of the second day and I was able to improve my lap time quite a bit. That filled me full of joy and confidence. I was able to do a race simulation at this test and I understood how the bike behaves when the tyre drops.

“I think we have the right tools in the garage to keep working and be in good shape when the lights go out at Phillip Island. At the end of the day we tried a qualifying tyre and it works well on this bike. It has been a busy and positive test.”

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MotoGP – Stoner talks about HRC test

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Two-time MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner, has completed a successful test in Sepang with Honda Racing Corporation.

Stoner began his test schedule at the 5.548km Sepang Circuit – 75km to the south of Kuala Lumpur – on Thursday mid-morning. Brief rain showers interrupted testing throughout the course of the three days, but nonetheless he was able to fulfil the plan set by HRC.

Stoner spent time on both the 2014 and 2015 RC213V machines, doing a chassis comparison and analysed new variations of the new spec brought to this test by HRC. He also tried new brakes from Brembo amongst various other testing components. The engineers also took advantage of having Stoner in Sepang to run a few laps on the Suzuka 8-Hour Honda CBR1000RR in the afternoon on the final day.

Stoner said: “Overall it’s been a good test, very positive and we got a lot done! On the first day we worked on the base setup and tested some small things before the rain arrived and we had to stop. Then on day two I spent a lot of time doing a back-to-back chassis comparison from last year’s bike to this year’s and I also tested different variations of the chassis. Brembo brought some new aluminium callipers for us to try and Honda had several other test items which we managed to get through before the rain came once again. On the final day we confirmed some feelings from yesterday and tried a few electronic packages as well as some different suspension. Riding the CBR was very different, I’ve never really ridden that kind of bike, the shifting, riding position, engine power, weight characteristic etc was quite difficult and took some getting used to. After a few exits I had more of an understanding and was able to give some feedback. In general it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being able to feel the rear of the bike step out!”

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Flashback – a legend is born

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A legend was born 35 years ago this month when BMW tested its first prototype production GS model in Ecuador in January 1980.

The German manufacturer chose Ecuador due to its huge diversity of terrains, road types, climates and altitudes in a relatively small geographical area.

The trip was inspired by the motto “from the rainforest to the endless ice” and the bikes had to prove their ability in extreme climate and road conditions – the route took the riders from the hot and humid Amazon basin up to 5000m above sea level to the glaciers of the Andes, with the icy, thin air. Both the men and their machines survived this massive tour with just minor bumps and bruises.

The BMW engineers’ development work had paid off. By that autumn, just 21 months after the initial approval of the concept, BMW’s first production enduro was ready to be released to the public. The bike combined parts from the R80 road bike with a lighter rear end and larger front wheel for off-road performance.

TT – Team Mugen unchanged for 2015

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Team Mugen will field an unchanged rider line-up for its assault on the electric TT races.

The team, which is returning to the island for the fourth time, has announced it has retained the services of 21-time winner John McGuinness and outright lap holder Bruce Anstey for its 2015 campaign.

Last year McGuinness secured the team’s maiden TT victory, with team-mate Anstey coming home in second in a time that beat the previous record lap record in the TT Zero Challenge class by more than one minute (00:19:17.3 lap).

The new bike, “SHINDEN SAN”, has been heavily developed and the team is confident it will offer big improvements over last year’s “SHINDEN YON” bike.

MotoGP – Stoner rides again

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Former double world MotoGP champion Casey Stoner returned to the track today at Sepang as part of a three-day test.

The Australian, who has recently extended his test riding commitment with Honda, is assessing the 2015 RC213V ahead of next week’s first official test.

Pedrosa and Marquez will get their hands on the bike when testing gets underway at Sepang on February 4. Stoner will return to testing duties later in the year when he assess the 2016 Michelin tyres.

WSBK – Guintoli update

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Following his crash at turn one at Jerez in Spain on Monday at the start of a pre-season test, Pata Honda rider Sylvain Guintoli chose to return to the UK for complete assessment of his injuries.

Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 28 January) the reigning World Superbike champion underwent an MRI scan on his neck and back and had a further X-ray on his right ankle.

Despite severe bruising and some discomfort, it was confirmed that Pata Honda pilot Guintoli sustained no fractures and the 32-year-old has begun his rehabilitation with physiotherapy and the use of a hyperbaric chamber.

“The back is still quite painful,” said Guintoli, “but I can put some pressure on the ankle and I’m happy that there are no breaks. The treatment has started and although it will take a while to settle down, I’m confident about being fit and ready to start the season at Phillip Island next month.”

He added: “In the end, it was frustrating to miss the test at Jerez, especially because the weather conditions were so good. But we have another two-day test in Australia before the first round and I’ve already had a chance to see the work that has been done to the CBR over the winter, so I’m excited and looking forward to the first race.”

BSB – Tinmouth joins Factory Honda BSB team

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Jenny Tinmouth has been given the biggest opportunity of her career after signing for the Honda Racing team. The Ellesmere Port rider will contest the premier class aboard the Superbike-spec Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, with team-mates Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran.

Tinmouth has been a ground-breaker in the championship since first joining the series in 2011and became the first female rider to score a point in MCE BSB. The Ellesmere Exocet has also experienced success at the Isle of Man TT races, where she currently holds the record as the fastest female around the Mountain course with an average lap speed of 119.9455mph.

Tinmouth will become a full-time member of Louth-based Honda Racing, competing alongside O’Halloran and Linfoot for the entire 12-round championship as they make their return to the series after spending 2014 working on the development of the CBR1000RR Fireblade. Honda won the championship in 2013 with Alex Lowes.

Tinmouth said: “I’m absolutely over the moon and cannot believe I’m riding for Honda Racing. The offer was totally unexpected. I went for a meeting with Nick [Campolucci] to discuss the season and had a few cheeky questions I wanted to ask about Honda helping me out with bikes, and when the offer came I couldn’t believe what I was being asked. I went into the meeting thinking it would just be some help and came out as a full-time Honda rider. It’s always been my ultimate dream to ride for the team and to have the opportunity this year is just amazing. I’m riding the Honda BSB bike for the first time during a team test in March and I can’t wait.”

Honda Racing team manager, Havier Beltran, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Jenny being part of the Honda Racing team, alongside Dan and Jason. She’s been on Hondas for a couple of years now running her own team. This year will be a huge learning curve, getting used to the team and the bike, but will also really push her in the series and hopefully generate some good results. It will also be a learning curve for us, but we’re excited for the challenge. We’ve been aware of Jenny for a while now, not only being the only female in the BSB series but also her successes at the Isle of Man, and can’t wait to see her on the bike at the first test in March.”

Nick Campolucci, Head of Motorcycles at Honda (UK) commented: “There’ll be a focus on Jenny because she’s a female racer, of course. After all, she’s the first and only woman rider to compete in British Superbikes. But she’s a proven competitor and current Isle of Man TT lap record holder. Jenny joins the team on merit and we are very pleased that we have the opportunity to work with her.

“Honda has served up a number of firsts when it comes to broadening the representation of women in motorsport and Jenny is the latest female member of the Honda Racing family. She joins British motocross sensation Natalie Kane, and Laia Sanz, who achieved the highest ever placing in this year’s Dakar Rally, by a female rider, finishing ninth overall in this year’s race.”

WSBK – Guintoli ruled out of testing by crash

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Reigning WSBK Champion has suffered a pre-season setback after crashing during the first day of testing in Jerez.

The PATA Honda rider hurt his neck and ankle after an electronics issue highsided him off the bike, with Guintoli landing on his head and left shoulder. The spill took place at turn one on his fourth lap, and he will miss the rest of the test so he can fly to the UK for treatment. Guintoli was taken to hospital for tests and posted pictures of himself wearing a neck brace and his battered Shark helmet.

The news will come as a blow for Guintoli, who moved to PATA from Aprilia in the close season. Bad weather has hampered his attempts to acclimatise himself to the Fireblade, and the new season sees its first races taking place in Australia in just there weeks time.

WSBK – Guintoli and van der Mark unveil new colours

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The Pata Honda squad has unveiled its new colour scheme for the 2015 season.

Reigning WSBK champion Sylvain Guintoli and WSS champion Michael van der Mark, both new to the team, presented the new race bikes at the Motor Bike Expo in Verona.

Guintoli, 32, and his 22-year-old Pata Honda team-mate, van der Mark, will return to Spain tomorrow for a two-day test at Jerez on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Sylvain Guintoli said: “Bringing the number one plate to a new manufacturer is a big deal, really, because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s symbolic for me, too, because I’ll be going for the title again on a different bike, the Honda CBR. I’ll definitely be wearing the number one with pride this year. But I’m motivated by the challenge and I’ve found a team that also wants it really badly. The bike has changed quite a bit over the winter and we have new regulations. The 2015 engine is quite close to last year’s specification and, if anything, is a bit smoother, which is good news for us because, built as standard, it suits the new rules. We’re still working on a few things like weight distribution and geometry but the bike is already quite different to last year. There is still more work to be done, but the team is a big asset; you can feel the power of Honda, and it feels good.

Michael van der Mark was equally bullish about the season ahead. He said: “I’m in the same team as last year but, after winning the World Supersport title, I had to make another step and, for me, that was World Superbike. It’s maybe a little easier for me because I have the same team, but I still have to get used to the bigger CBR and its more sophisticated electronics and find a good set-up. I think the biggest challenge for me and everyone is the new regulations. At the moment the bike feels really good but we’ll have to see where it is after the first few races. I have to learn a lot, of course, but I don’t put any pressure on myself – I just want to do my best, make forward steps and see where we can get to.”

Caught by the fuzz

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It’s 4.30pm in the afternoon, I’ve been riding for some nine hours already, and I’ve wasted the best part of 90 minutes getting lost on the outskirts of Prague. I’d lost the signs for Brno as soon as I entered Prague and quickly found myself snared in its ring road system – pulling over to ask for directions didn’t help either; the further east you go, the greater the language barrier. And the problem with riding with no maps or sat nav and relying on a crude set of directions stuck to the tank is that once you deviate from said route you’re screwed.

After finally extracting the CBR 600-RR from any one of the featureless roads feeding Prague’s endless industrial estates I picked up the E65 and saws signs for Brno, still some 130 miles away.

The traffic thinned out after twenty or so miles and the CBR’s tank had just been brimmed, so I decided to gun it and cover as much ground as possible in as short time as possible. The next hour or so disappeared in blur as I cut my way through traffic, comfortably cursing around the 120mph mark, happily minding my own business and dreaming of a cold pint and a hearty steak.

After draining another tank I stopped to refuel. I was now only 30 miles from Brno. And then it happened. As I overtook the clapped out red Skoda on my right, I glanced over and saw a video camera gaffer taped to the dash pointing forwards. It looked odd but as I checked out the driver and passenger, a couple of weary middle-aged men, I didn’t think any more of it and as I left them behind and they got smaller and smaller in my mirrors I forgot about them completely. Soon they had disappeared from sight altogether and my mind started drifting to getting out of my leathers and enjoying a hot shower.

Five minutes later I saw a some blue lights in the distance. I looked down at my clocks, eased off the gas and cruised to the inside lane. They couldn’t be for me – I pretty much had the road to myself. Must be an accident somewhere. I glanced in the mirrors again and they were much closer; they were clearly shifting. And then they were alongside me, a red police stop matrix sign flashing angrily in the brand new VW Passat’s rear windscreen.

I pulled over and was instructed to follow them. After some five minutes’ riding we pulled into a lay-by and were greeted by three riot vans and two marked squad cars. I removed my helmet and was surrounded by police. They spoke no English, I spoke no Czech. There’s an uneasy stand-off until I started talking German to one of the female cops. ‘This your bike?’ Well, no actually it wasn’t. It’s a Honda press bike. ‘Does Mr Honda know you have his bike?’ Yes, I guess so. After handing over my passport, driving licence and the bike’s V5 and certificate of insurance, the battered red Skoda pulls up. “You were speeding. We have film of you doing 140kph in a 80kph limit.” I ask to see the film. They decline…the camera’s not working. They’re going to impound the bike or I can pay a €350 fine. I hunt through my wallet – I’ve got €25 in shrapnel. The cops in the unmarked Passat offer to take me to a cashpoint, but I’ll have to leave the bike, the key, my Arai, my Kriega rucksack, my passport and my driving licence with their mates in the lay-by. It doesn’t feel right, but I’ve got no choice.

After some 20-minutes in the car the road we’re on is getting narrower and narrower as we head further into the wilderness. It’s getting darker too. The silence isn’t helping the mood, and I realise I’ve no idea if these are real police or not – I haven’t seen a single piece of ID yet, and the Skoda was clearly fucked. I’m trying to exude calmness on the outside but inside my stomach’s doing cartwheels and my mind’s racing away from me, my thoughts bouncing off the rev limiter– they’ve got guns, nobody knows where I am or what’s going on. It reminded me very much of when I had got carjacked in a new TT at a petrol station in Latvia when I was working for Audi…I could just sense something was going to happen.

And then in the middle of nowhere we pulled up, and there on the corner was a cashpoint. I withdrew the cash, handed it over and the mood changed instantly. The policemen’s grimaces were replaced with smiles, they started laughing and joking, and even put some music on the radio. I started to relax.

We eventually double backed on ourselves, rejoined the motorway and arrived back at the lay-by, bike and luggage exactly where I’d left it. I got out the car, asked for a receipt and they just smiled and drove off. And the others did the same. I’d clearly just been robbed, in broad daylight by the police, and there was fuck all I could do about it. Their beers were very much on me tonight.

I suited up, fired up the bike and cautiously made my way to Brno, still seething inside my lid.

When I look back on it, it’s things like this that make trips abroad. I loved that bike, proper loved it and can remember pretty much every one of the 24,000 miles we covered in the six months I had it in 2010. Yes, I’d been royally shafted by the people who were supposed to protect me, but it could’ve been worse…they could have recorded my real speed.

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