Month: March 2016

Road racing – Cam Donald returns to Wilson Craig for TT assault

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Two time TT winner Cameron Donald has rejoined Wilson Craig Racing for the 2016 road racing season.

His move back to the team he competed for between 2011 and 2013 marks the end of his disappointing two-year campaign with Norton.

The hard charging Donald, who has ten TT podiums to his name, was delighted with the move. He said: “I’ve signed with Wilson again to race at the front of the Superbike field. He’s always prepared great bikes for me and I’m really comfortable with the team and see Wilson as a friend.

“I know that I can still win races on the Isle of Man and riding for Wilson Craig Racing will give me every chance to have a go for the top spot in the big bike class as well as the other races.”

Wilson Craig Racing team owner, Wilson Craig, was equally confident the move would see his team fighting for honours. He said: “It’s no secret that I’ve always wanted to win a Superbike Race at the Isle of Man TT and with Cameron Donald we’ve undoubtedly got a chance to win one.

“We’ve got a real affinity with Cameron and he’s always been consistently challenging in every class when he’s raced for us.”

The move will see Donald back on Honda machinery in the Superbike, Superstock, Supersport and Senior races.

Donald has languished in the midfield during his time at Norton, but there’s no mistaking he has the pace to run at the front, having won the 2008 Superbike and Superstock TT races, as well as being the first man to break the 131mph lap time, albeit unofficially, during practice week at the TT in 2009, he became the first rider to lap in excess of 131 mph.

Road racing – fastest ever line up for TT Superbike races

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PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 7/6/2015: John McGuinness leads the Superbike race off the line on the Glencrutchery Road today on his Honda Racing Fireblade. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

This year’s TT races promises to see some of the fastest racing in the competition’s history, with the top 20 seeded riders all having lapped comfortably over 127mph.

Honda Racing’s John McGuinness is again the man leading the field away with the number one plate. The 23-time TT race winner has re-established himself as the ‘King of the Mountain’ with last year’s stunning Senior TT victory and new outright lap record of 132.701mph (17:03.567).

He will be followed by the flying Kiwi Bruce Anstey, the rider who with the exception of 2010, when he started at number one, has had the number five plate every year since 2004.

James Hillier, one of last year’s stars, moves back a place to number three on the Quattro Plant Muc-Off Kawasaki, while there’s also change at four with last year’s triple race winner Ian Hutchinson moving up the order from his 2015 starting position. The Bingley Bullet has switched to the Tyco BMW for 2016 and takes over the number that he had in 2010 when he won five races from five starts.

Ten seconds behind him is another of last year’s revelations and another potential race winner in the shape of Peter Hickman. The eighth fastest rider of all time will line up on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki and has the ideal target in front of him in Hutchinson, although he could well be occupied with the rider starting behind him – Michael Dunlop.

After a problematical 2015 TT campaign, Dunlop is back at the start number that saw him claim a hat-trick of 1000cc wins in both 2013 and 2014 and he will be hoping that it proves to be a lucky six.

Previous two time Supersport TT Race winner Gary Johnson will again have the number seven plate, this time on the Penz13.com BMW, and will be followed down Glencrutchery Road by William Dunlop (CD Racing Yamaha) and the evergreen Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT Racing BMW). As in previous years, Manxman Conor Cummins completes the top ten on the second Honda Racing machine.

Just behind the popular Manxman will be Cameron Donald, who will be number 11 on the road. The Australian took second in the Superbike race for three successive years between 2011-2013 and the Adelaide based rider will again look to be back up at the front of the field on his return to Wilson Craig Racing.

Silicone Engineering is a new team among the seeded outfits in the number 12 spot but it’s familiar territory for rider Dean Harrison who starts one position ahead of Lee Johnston on board the East Coast Construction BMW. Dan Kneen on the Mar-Train Racing Yamaha starts ten seconds later with Australian ace David Johnson completing the top 15 on the factory Norton.

Going off at 16 will be Ryan Farquhar, who rides the second Tyco BMW. Dan Stewart (Wilcock Consulting Honda), Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW), Steve Mercer (Jackson Racing Honda) and last year’s Bennetts Lightweight TT winner Ivan Lintin who’s amongst the Superbike seeds for the first time on the Devitt RC Express Racing Kawasaki, complete the top twenty.

BSB – Haslam on top at Silverstone test

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BMW’s Michael Laverty looked set to end the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship official test at Silverstone on top, but in a dramatic final minute of the session Kawasaki pilot Leon Haslam edged marginally ahead with the fastest time of the day by 0.122s.

The final session of the day was a battle for honours at the top of the times and Christian Iddon, Haslam, Danny Buchan, John Hopkins and Dan Linfoot all had a spell at the top but Laverty held the leading position into the final five minutes.

Haslam was on the attack in the closing seconds though and the ‘Pocket Rocket’ stole the leading position on his final lap, as he now looks ahead to his MCE BSB race return next weekend April 8/9/10.

Haslam said: “Today has gone really well; for me to come to Silverstone one week before the first race was a big test of where we are at, and how what we have tested in Spain works now we are back in the colder conditions. So far we have evaluated two more things that we needed to do and we have had a good race run. It seems to all be going to plan, we want to keep pushing and improving but I am leaving here really happy with how the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team have worked together here.”

Filip Backlund pushed for a flying lap on the Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki, forcing his way up the order to third just ahead of Iddon, who was pushed back to fourth place on the second of the Tyco BMWs.

Danny Buchan had sat out the first session, but the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati fought back with a vengeance to move fifth on the combined times ahead of Dan Linfoot who was the fastest of the Honda Racing trio.

Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne was seventh fastest on the Be Wiser Ducati ahead of ePayMe Yamaha’s John Hopkins with Richard Cooper and Jason O’Halloran completing the top ten, covered by just 0.844s.

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Silverstone, official test combined result:

1. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 2m:06.182s

2. Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) +0.122s

3. Filip Backlund (Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki) +0.223s

4. Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +0.233s

5. Danny Buchan (Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati) +0.392s

6. Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +0.481s

7. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.642s

8. John Hopkins (ePayMe Yamaha) +0.762s

9. Richard Cooper (Buildbase BMW) +0.790s

10. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +0.844s

Hey, leave our Guy alone

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So, last night Lincolnshire lad and motorcycling maverick Guy Martin added another accolade to sit on his already bulging trophy cabinet, setting a speed record for the fastest wall of death.

The Kirmington based rider broke the 60mph barrier on an Indian before smashing that and recording an impressive 78.15mph on his own prepared triple.

It was no mean feat – Martin was pulling more than 6G as he travelled around the wall – and in his own words he was starting to suffer with ‘grey / blurred’ vision.

And yet despite this achievement, and bringing motorcycling to the masses on primetime TV on a Bank Holiday, social media was awash with keyboard warriors belittling his efforts, and what he has achieved in his stellar career to date.

‘But he hasn’t won a TT’, ‘Ken Fox could’ve smashed that record’, were some of the nicer comments. Yes, he hasn’t won a TT, but he’s constantly been one of the fastest riders between the hedges and his bravery and commitment can’t be questioned – he had his fast crash at the UlsterGP because he wanted the win, because he wanted to beat Bruce Anstey.

Ken Fox could possibly have broke the record, but he didn’t. Guy did. Get over it and applaud the man for raising the profile of motorcycling immeasurably. He’s a national treasure and I’m lucky enough to have seen him race live more times than I care to remember. I hope the hatred of the minority doesn’t mean he’ll hang up his road racing leathers for good.

The good, the bad and the ugly – what paintjobs work?

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We love this Racing colour scheme on the Gen 2 Tuono. It’s not authentic to that model, having actually been the paintjob for the limited edition Racing version of the previous generation bike, but it looks cool, it’s recognisable as an Aprilia and it suits the bike’s lines.

Not all paintjobs do work though. I can remember riding to the British MotoGP at Silvestone on a Ducati 848 Evo SE in 2012 and overtaking a Yamaha painted in Rossi Ducati colours. The rider was obviously a massive Rossi fan, and had got PaintNation to spray the bike in the Ducati livery. The bike itself was immaculately finished, but it just looked wrong – a Yamaha masquerading as a Ducati. It drew a lot of attention in the car park, simply because it stuck out like a sore thumb, and almost universal ridicule. It must’ve cost a small fortune to do, but ultimately it was an epic fail.

But does it really matter? I’ve got a Ducati 749S that was originally yellow but is now satin black after running out of talent at Oulton Park. And I’ve lost count of the number of Gulf painted bikes I’ve seen – though oddly enough they all seem to be Italian machines – or the bikes sporting Red Bull or Monster colours.
All this talk about paint got me thinking about the best colour scheme I’ve seen, and I can’t make my mind up. I’m torn between Nicky Hayden’s 2010 Ducati (the bike and leathers were topped of by the Gerhard Berger inspired lid), Yamaha’s iconic yellow and black Speedblock or Guy Martin’s sliver, yellow and red Wilson Craig Honda.

What do you think? Best motorbike paintjob? 1,2,3…go!

Racing – Haslam to ride for ‘Team Green’ at Suzuka 8 Hour

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Two time Suzuka 8 Hour winner Leon Haslam will be spearheading Kawasaki’s assault on the prestigious title, joining Akira Yanagawa and Kazuki Watanabe to form a formidable line-up in Kawasaki’s Official ‘Team Green’ World Endurance line-up for the historic race.

Haslam will take a break from fighting for the BSB title to travel to Japan for the race in July (Friday 29th – Sunday 31st) and will take part in three official tests in Japan leading up to the race aboard the Ninja ZX-10R.

Haslam, who won the iconic race in both 2013 and 2014, is delighted to be competing again this year, and said: “I’m very pleased to have been selected to race in the three-man Kawasaki team and I’m really looking forward to the race and going back to Suzuka.

“I’ve been comfortable on the ZX-10R since I started testing for the BSB season on it and I will have raced on it at six British Superbike rounds by the time Suzuka arrives so I’ll have had plenty of time aboard the machine.”

After seven consecutive years in WSBK for Honda, BMW and Aprilia, Haslam has returned to the British Superbike Championship to ride for Kawasaki UK’s Official British Superbike team, JG Speedfit Kawasaki.

Ross Burridge, Kawasaki UK senior racing and marketing co-ordinator, said: “It is great to see a call up from the Official Kawasaki Suzuka team for one of our British Superbike riders, it shows the pedigree of racing we currently have in the UK domestic series. After the recent success for Leon at this race, it makes perfect sense for him to try and achieve a hat-trick of wins. I, along with everyone else at Kawasaki Motors UK, wish him the best of luck.”

The first Suzuka 8 Hour race ran in July 1978; this year celebrates the 39th 8 Hour event.

Tested – Ducati Multistrada 1200S

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Ducati’s Multistrada 1200S isn’t just a tweak of an already great bike, this is a comprehensive overhaul of the old bike.

The new model receives extensive new bodywork, but the big news here is the upgrades to the 1198cc, Desmodromic V-twin engine. The main development is the introduction of DVT, or Desmodromic Variable Timing – the first time variable valve technology has debuted on a V-twin powerplant.

The system changes the intake and exhaust timing independently, and across the whole of the rev range, optimising engine performance to guarantee the highest power, smooth delivery and low down grunt. An added benefit of all of this is that the engine passes strict Euro 4 noise and emission regulations. Other changes include Ducati targeting the fuel injectors to spray directly onto the rear of the hot intake valve, instead of the colder surface of the intake port wall.

All this means that the Multistrada’s 1198cc Testastretta lump now produces 160hp and 100 lb.ft of torque, up from the old model’s 150bhp and 91.8lb.ft of torque, all while reducing fuel consumption by eight per cent.

As before there are four riding modes, each with its own distinct feel. Enduro and Urban limit power to 100bhp, while Sport sees the aggressive engine mapping unleash the full 160bhp. Touring also gives you access to the full power and torque of the engine, but it is delivered in a more controlled, refined way for grinding out the big miles with ease.

On the move the new DVT system means that the Multistrada is a lot easier to ride, and it’s lost a lot of the low rev shudder that plagues big capacity V-twins, even in the sportiest of the four riding modes. What this means is that you can potter along at 20mph in third or fourth without suffering any vibrations, lumpiness or manual clutch slip.

But it’s the increase in mid-range torque and top end explosiveness that you’ll notice most, and unlike Honda’s VTEC system the delivery is smooth and progressive. It’s brilliant and the experience is sensual, especially when combined with the new exhaust, which sounds edgier and more raucous, giving the bike the soundtrack it deserves. Twist the throttle and the bike explodes into life like a raging bull. Scream if you want to go faster.

Handing has also improved. The original Multistrada was a joy to ride, tipping in predictably and easily with sportsbike precision, and Ducati has improved this even further with upgrades to its Skyhook semi-active suspension system, which is linked to the lean-angle sensor. This sensor essentially talks to the Skyhook system and calculates the amount of lean, how much throttle you’re asking for, and how bumpy the road before deciding to stiffen or soften the suspension accordingly. It’s different to conventional suspension, and you’ll notice the difference immediately. It’s a strange sensation at first, really strange, but once you’ve readjusted your brain to the new inputs you’ll be feeling you’ll find it enhances your riding experience enormously, and you’ll soon be carving your way through the twisties on your favourite back road with complete confidence.

Other rider aids include Ducati Wheelie Control, Ducati Traction Control and Cornering ABS, a key safety feature appearing on more and more bikes.

Pulling into a lay-by and casting an eye over the bike it’s clear that the work done on the bike’s aesthetics is just as comprehensive as that done to its engine. The Multistrada retains its signature beaky styling and upright riding position, which has been altered slightly for improved comfort, but the plastics are all-new – the new half-fairing is significantly wider and the new LED headlights help give the bike a more aggressive, purposeful appearance. One key aspect of the new headlight is that one of the beams on each side now features a cornering light, which is triggered by the new lean angle sensor and illuminates through the approaching bends. This sees the headlight move as the bike corners, projecting the light exactly where you need it and allowing you to see through corners. Admittedly, I didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature in the dark, but the advantages are obvious.

The screen is slightly taller too, and as before it’s height-adjustable on the move. It’s perfect for my 6ft 2in frame and does an effective job of keeping the wind off my gangly frame.

Other neat touches include extra steering lock for improved urban manoeuvrability, increased ground clearance for improved off-road capability, and a narrower fuel tank for improved rider comfort.

Ducati’s tall-rounder is the best of both worlds – a sportsbike engine housed in an adventure bike complete with sophisticated electronics. Take one for a test ride and discover its brilliance for yourself…

Better riding – how to ride in the wet

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Wet weather riding tips – the basics of riding in the wet are the same as riding in the dry. The secret is in staying smooth…

RELAX – Many riders don’t enjoy riding in the wet and most actually avoid it where possible. It’s completely the wrong approach. The reality is that the skills you need in the wet are exactly the same as those you need when you’re riding in the dry, namely you need to be smooth with your inputs and you need to be relaxed on the bike.

The biggest secret to good bike control is to ensure you’re in the right riding position. You need to be comfortable and leant forward slightly, with your arms bent – they need to be parallel to the road, and this allows you to steer the bike with the lightest of touches. This is important. If you’re holding too tight and the bike slides in the wet, this movement will be amplified and you’ll actually stop the bike from correcting itself.

CORNERING – Another mistake many riders make in the wet is that they corner too gingerly. I’m not talking about really attacking bends, but riding confidently and making progress. If you tip-toe through the corners, virtually upright, on a closed throttle, you’re not generating any cornering force and your tyres will be generating very little grip. It’s a viscous circle – the bike’s feels nervous and twitchy, you back off, the bike feels even worse, so you back off more.

It sounds crazy, but by riding more confidently and smoothly, you’ll actually be generating some cornering and braking forces, which in turn allows the tyres to grip. Still not convinced? Then try this – gently side your fingers across glass and they will simply glide across. Now try it again but this time push down with increasing force and they will begin to dig into the surface. Again the secret is smoothness.

ACCELERATING – Good throttle control is the key to wet weather riding, and I’m amazed at how few rides are able to demonstrate this basic, but essential, skill. Again, it’s all about smoothness – any big input will break traction and light the rear up, whereas smoothly winding the throttle provides drive and traction.

BRAKING – The best way to brake in the wet is to brake exactly the same as you would in the dry – squeeze the lever and apply it progressively. Never, ever grab, as any sudden input will break traction.

You won’t be able to brake as hard as you would in the dry, and this needs to be reflect in your riding, but you can still brake surprisingly hard.

The rear brake comes into its own in the wet, and by trying to provoke a rear-wheel lock up I can use it as a gauge for assessing how much grip is available – a vital tool for helping you to ride to the conditions.

ROAD POSITIONING – Wet weather means you’ll have to compromise your road position. Road markings, cat’s eyes, manhole covers and overbanding will all be very, very slippery and all should be avoided where possible.

You may also have to adjust your position on corners as gravel could be sitting on your ideal line, so keep your vision up, look as far forward as possible and try and anticipate any hazards.

Tested – BMW G650GS

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BMW’s smallest adventure-styled bike is powered by a single cylinder, 47bhp, 652cc engine, and while it isn’t the most powerful unit out there, it’s plenty for everyday road riding.

It will easily handle the commute to work, and the willing engine makes overtaking a doddle. However, push on above 70mph and you’ll start to experience the trademark vibrations associated with big single engines. It is frugal though, and if you resist the urge to thrash it you’ll be seeing very healthy fuel returns – average fuel consumption is an impressive 62mpg.

The GS’s combination of skinny tyres and wide handlebars mean it’s very agile, and it turns in easily and predictably with the slightest nudge of the bars – perfect for green laning and attacking your favourite set of bends.

It’s well designed too – the upright seating position is relaxed yet gives a commanding view of the road ahead, the screen is effective, and the seat, while low, is all-day comfortable.

Options worth considering include ABS brakes, which will inspire even more confidence, and heated grips.

This is a great, no frills, honest first bike, and is the perfect machine for allowing new riders to hone their skills.

MotoGP –Crutchlow crashes out in Qatar

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It was a disappointing night for Cal Crutchlow as the LCR Honda pilot crashed out on lap seven of the season opener at Qatar.

Crutchlow had struggled with his Honda all weekend, which now features a reverse crank in an effort to help it turn, and was unable to find a decent base setting which allowed him to ride through the bike’s electronics problems.

Speaking after the race he said: “I’m extremely disappointed, but that’s an understatement to be honest. We had some electronic problems during the weekend and again in the race. The bike didn’t have a clue where we were on the circuit. It seemed to be reading the wrong sectors, so in the last sector it thought I was in the first sector and so on. This was why I crashed”.

“I’m disappointed for my team because we all worked hard all weekend and I felt we could have got in among the front five that got away, but I just couldn’t accelerate onto the straight. I don’t know why it was, but we will investigate later and hope to be back fast in Argentina.”