Month: May 2016

Road racing – Hutchy sets the pace


DAVE KNEEN/PACEMAKER PRESS, BELFAST: 30/05/2016: Ian Hutchinson (BMW – Tyco BMW) at Gorse Lea during qualifying for Monster Energy Isle of Man TT.


DAVE KNEEN/PACEMAKER PRESS, BELFAST: 30/05/2016: Bruce Anstey (Honda – Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motorcycles) at Gorse Lea during qualifying for Monster Energy Isle of Man TT.

Monday night’s evening session at the 2016 Isle of Man TT races got underway promptly at 6.20pm with dry, sunny conditions all round the Mountain Course and the Bingley Bullet Ian Hutchinson continued his excellent form by setting the fastest time of the night with a speed of 129.964mph on the Tyco BMW, two seconds quicker than Michael Dunlop although the latter posted three laps over129mph.

However, one of the most impressive feats of the night came from Bruce Anstey who, after one sighting lap on his Valvoline Racing/Padgetts Honda Fireblade, switched to the hugely anticipated RCV213-V Honda MotoGP replica and recorded a speed of 127.071mph.

The evening saw the 1000cc machines take to the course for the first time and all of the leading competitors took advantage of the excellent conditions.  Anstey and Michael Rutter lead the field away down Glencrutchery Road followed by Hutchinson and Peter Hickman, Gary Johnson and James Hillier, Lee Johnston and Martin Jessopp, Dan Stewart and David Johnson and Dean Harrison and Cameron Donald, the latter the only rider to go out on his 600cc mount on the opening lap although the Australian was reported as an early retiree at Quarter Bridge.

First to complete a lap was Rutter at 125.152mph swiftly followed by Hutchinson (124.914), Hickman (122.324), Hillier (123.490), and Johnson (123.272). Harrison then went quickest at 125.404 but only for a short while as both Dunlop (127.395) and John McGuinness (126.285) went faster. Steve Mercer (124.881) and Ivan Lintin (123.823) were also going well on their Superstock machines.

Hutchinson, Hickman, Johnson, Dunlop and Harrison all pulled in as did Anstey who had a relatively slow lap at 117.828 but the Kiwi was soon back out, this time on the RCV213-V Moto GP replica machine. Ian Lougher was an early retirement on the Suter at Glen Darragh although the Welsh rider later completed a lap of 115.248 (19:38.571) on the two stroke Suter Racing machine.

McGuinness, Rutter, Hillier and Mercer had continued straight through for their second lap and Rutter was first to complete the lap at 127.031mph but McGuinness was faster, his speed of 128.871mph sending him to the top of the leaderboard. Hutchinson quickened his pace second time around to 126.470mph with Conor Cummins not far behind at 125.905mph.

As the session wore on, the majority riders swapped between their Superbike and Superstock machines and Dunlop’s fourth lap on his Superbike saw him lap at 129.497mph but Hutchinson went quicker at 129.96mph. Harrison jumped to the top of the leaderboard in the Superstock class at 128.044mph but Anstey was quickest through the speedtrap at 193.4mph on the RCV. With his second lap being a hugely impressive 127.071mph, he went quicker still on his third lap with a speed of 127.071 (17:48.916).

Harrison topped the Superstock class with a speed of 128.044 mph, followed by Dunlop (126.726), Hickman (125.725), McGuinness (125.574), Steve Mercer (124.881) and Daniel Hegarty (124.104).

Having had a lengthy session on Saturday evening, not many riders opted to take out their Supersport machines and Harrison was again quickest, as he had been in Saturday’s opening session, with 124.461mph followed by Lee Johnston, who completed his first laps having broken down on Saturday, with 122.067mph and Mercer at 122.067mph.

Meanwhile, the newcomers were also increasing their speeds steadily, Jochem van den Hoek lapping at 108.85mph, Alessandro Polita 108.831mph, Forrest Dunn 106.464mph and Mike Booth 105.135mph.

Karl Foster was reported to have sustained ankle and wrist injuries in an accident at the 32nd milestone and was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital.

Road racing – Anstey to race Honda’s RC213V-S


Clive Padgett continues to push the envelope at the TT, and to this end he has just dropped the bombshell that Bruce Anstey will be racing a Honda RC213V-S in this year’s Superbike and Senior races.

The bike, which Honda built as a road-legal version of Marc Marquez’s MotoGP bike, will be part of the Valvoline Racing by Padgett’s Motorcycles Team, and takes advantage of the Isle of Man TT’s looser homologation rules.

Straight out of the crate the Honda RC213V-S boasts 210bhp with the sport kit installed, and weighs just 177kg.

The Padgetts Honda squad has a wealth of experience on the roads, and even though the team has made some modifications for road racing, nobody is sure how the bike will hold up on the rugged mountain course. One thing is for sure though, if anyone can make the RC213V-S work, it is Padgetts.

Clive Padgett said: “It has been a very difficult project to pull together. We have had to beef the bike up for the TT course and we can’t get anything off the shelf so everything has had to be made bespoke. Things like the wheels, the K-Tech forks, the rear shocks, the brakes and the radiator guards have all had to be specially made.”

Pilot Bruce Anstey said: “The RCV should be an absolute weapon because it has loads of power but it feels as nimble as a 600. It should be stable too as it’s over two inches longer than a Fireblade but is still really small and compact. I am really looking forward to seeing how it handles through the quick corners because it will be able to turn so fast.

“It has always been a dream of mine to ride a MotoGP bike at the TT and this is as close as I will ever get. Clive is the only person in the world who could put something like this together and if he says it is OK I am with him 100%.  He hasn’t just pulled it out of the crate and said we are racing it. Clive and the team have done a lot of work to the bike to make it ready for the TT.”

So a RC213V-S and a Suter 500 two-stroke will be competing in the same race. It should be one to remember.

Tested – Suzuki SV650


Suzuki’s new SV650 is everything the original bike was, and then some. The king of the middleweight’s is back, and gives more bang per buck than ever.

Suzuki launched the original SV650 back in 1999, and the mercurial middleweight V-twin quickly won us over with its eclectic blend of agility, punchy performance and low price. It was a successful formula and more than 410,000 units were produced. It’s no understatement to say this was a bike that revolutionised the middleweight class, but then Suzuki took its eye off the ball – the Gladius lost the SV’s agility, and Yamaha introduced the class-leading MT-07. The writing was on the wall, and brand new bikes were heavily discounted. We know of some brand-new bikes that were being sold for as little as £3900.

But this year Suzuki has seen sense and given the SV a thorough going over, and the result is the bike you see here – the SV650.

This bike isn’t just some made over and reworked Gladius, it’s an all-new bike, and it’s one that’s to look at – classically modern without being too fussy or cool. It’s full of neat touches; the digital dash, which now includes a gear indicator, oozes quality, and the attention to detail ­– back bars, sporty stripe on the tank, new exhaust – is exquisite.

However, Suzuki’s venerable 645cc V-twin powerplant is the real star of the show. The engine has received 60 changes including new pistons, electro-chemically coated bores, ten-hole fuel injectors. It also boasts a few electronic tweaks such as a new low rpm assist function. All of these changes mean the engine pumps out 75bhp and 47lb.ft of torque, and because it’s a V-twin, it has plenty of punch available when you need it. This is something worth pointing out, as it’s pretty much unique in this class – Kawasaki and Yamaha use parallel twins while Honda uses an inline four – and this is the ace up Suzuki’s sleeve.

Thumb the starter (the SV has Suzuki’s new ‘easy start’ system, which means you don’t have to pull the clutch in; if the bike is in neutral, hit the starter button once and the bike will automatically turn over until it fires into life) and you’ll be greeted by a pleasant, burbling rumble. The Suzuki sounds good, potent even. Suzuki’s engineers have worked on the airbox, ensuring it contributes to more power higher up in the rev range, and that, when combined with the induction noise, giving the SV an addictive sound.

It has the bite to match its bark too. That engine works well on UK roads, combining a useable linear spread of torque with a healthy dose of speed, and it’s just as happy crawling through town as it is hunting down corners on your favourite back roads.

Twist the throttle and the response is instant and smooth, lacking any the hesitation associated with twins of old. This is a bike that delivers and entertain, irrespective of your level of riding experience.

And that punchy performance is more than backed up by the SV’s handling. The chassis is excellent, and while the suspension may lack adjustment (only the dampers’ preload can be tweaked), it’s more than good enough most of the time. You can push it much further than you have any right to, and it will only start to complain when you start taking real liberties.

Its performance may be punching well above its weight, and price tag come to that, but Suzuki hasn’t forgot who this bike is aimed fat, and it retains a wealth of handy new-rider friendly features. The tank is narrow, for improved grip, and this narrowness also impacts on the eat height, which now sits at 785mm. Then there’s the low rpm assist, which has been designed to increase the revs slightly at the point the clutch starts to bite to help reduce the chances of a stall.

This is a bike that offers something to riders of all abilities, and it just as entertaining for new riders as it is for those with more miles under their belts, delivering more smiles per mile than its any of its competitors. And then there’s the price. The SV is back. With a bang, and may just be the biggest bargain in Britain at the moment.


MotoGP – Lorenzo snatches dramatic Mugello win


It was a day of mixed fortunes for the Yamaha MotoGP squad with reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo securing a brilliant victory in the Gran Premio d’Italia after snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

His achievement is the more remarkable after his engine let go in spectacular fashion during the warm-up, a fate which also struck team-mate Valentino Rossi, although the Italian’s failed in spectacular style during the race itself.

Jorge Lorenzo rode his signature race, fighting through the grid to take the holeshot going into the first corner. With his team-mate on his tail, he led across the line after the first lap, but it soon became clear his fellow Yamaha rider would not go down without a fight. The Doctor made a pass going into Turn One, but Lorenzo was not shaken and quickly regained the lead as the Italian ran wide.

With a clear track ahead the #99 rider tried to make a break, putting in metronomic lap after metronomic lap, but he was unable to shake Rossi who continued to pile on the pressure, ready to seize any opportunity to pass. However, the smooth Spaniard left no space for him to slip past and made sure to brake at the last possible moment every time going into turn one to keep the lead.

Lorenzo rode defensively until Rossi retired after his engine lunched itself in spectacular style. However, there was no rest for Lorenzo as Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez caught the Yamaha man with ten laps to go. With five points between them in the championship, the two Spaniards traded blows in some close racing, Marquez constantly probing and attacking, taking the lead diving into corners, but unable to get the Honda stopped on the brakes, allowing Lorenzo to slip inside.

The last lap saw a series of brutal moves, with Lorenzo making an unexpected overtaking manoeuvre in the Scarperia corner. It didn’t stick, but Lorenzo used his experience and launched his YZR-M1 out of the last corner to get the tow and steal the victory, his third of the season, as he crossed the line just 0.019s ahead of Marquez.

The win is Yamaha’s hundredth premier class win of the modern four-stroke era, and their third consecutive first place of the 2016 season.

Speaking after the race, Jorge Lorenzo said: “It was an unexpected race, because we thought that Iannone and Viñales, who had a very high pace, would be fighting until the end for the victory, but in the end it was Marquez. “He didn’t look like he had the pace in the practice sessions, but he was following me the whole race. I tried to escape, pushing so much on the changes in direction and I used a lot of energy.

“I thought I maybe I didn’t have enough to fight with Marc for the victory, because with him riding behind me he maybe saved more energy and was more powerful at the end, but my luck was the engine this time. When I stayed behind him I thought I was losing the race and tried a bit of a crazy move that I pulled on De Angelis in 250cc in the race in 2005. This memory was in my head, so I said to myself “Why not try the same?” and did it.

“I passed him but went wide and he overtook me again. In the last corner I tried again under braking, but he closed the door so much that if I had released the brake maybe we could have touched and crashed together, so I decided to stay in second place and make a lot of speed in the last corner and exit with the slipstream and try. When I exited the corner I thought I was losing the race, but my bike caught up with him so much, it was a surprising win.

“In Moto3 we often see races like this, but in MotoGP this kind of finish doesn’t happen often. Today, if I had been fighting with Rossi or Iannone, I wouldn’t have won, it was a crazy battle.”

Team-mate Rossi was not so fortunate – starting from pole position, the Italian made a strong start and slotted in behind Lorenzo going into turn one. Determined not to let the Spaniard get away, Rossi briefly took the lead in the second lap of the race going into turn one, but had to hand it back when he ran wide. With the massive support from his fans cheering him on, the Doctor kept as close to Lorenzo as possible while keeping Marquez at a distance, but his race ended prematurely with 15 laps to go when his engine let go.

Lorenzo’s 25 point haul from Mugello keeps him in first position in the championship standings, with 115 points. He has a ten-point lead over Marquez and is 37 points ahead of Rossi in third place.

MotoGP – Rossi claims sensational pole at Mugello, Lorenzo reignites fued


Valentino Rossi claimed a sensational pole at Mugello yesterday, using a tow off next year’s team-mate Maveric Viñales to devastating effect.

The move reignited the bad blood between the Doctor and current team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, with the Spaniard accusing Rossi and Viñales of working together to improve the veteran’s starting position.

The reigning world champion, who struggled to match his pre-qualifying form, said: “Was it a coincidence that Rossi and Viñales just happened to find each other on track? Well if it’s a coincidence, it’s a coincidence which has been repeated five or six times. So to have so many repeated coincidences… But it could be. Who knows?”

Marc Marquez, the two-time world champion who had a spectacular falling out with Rossi last season, was less cryptic. He said: “I was watching the practice and I saw that Viñales did the time behind Valentino and then the opposite. It looks like they speak and they organize.”

Rossi responded with his trademark humour, dismissing the accusations by saying that he was very scared they would send a note home to his mother for copying from another student.

However, he was clearly irked at the suggestions, and told the Italian media that Lorenzo should have the decency not to talk about riders conspiring together, once again fanning the fire of his own conspiracy that Lorenzo and Márquez had worked together to prevent Rossi from winning the 2015 championship.

Sunday’s race just got a whole load more interesting…

MotoGP – Viñales to Yamaha, Iannone to Suzuki


MotoGP’s rising star Maverick Viñales has made his much anticipated move to the Factory Yamaha team, penning a two-year deal to partner Valentino Rossi for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

He will be replaced in the Suzuki team by Ducati’s Andrea Iannone, a move which guarantees the fast but erratic Italian a factory ride for the next two seasons.

It’s still not clear who will partner Iannone – Aleix Espargaro has yet to be offered a new deal, although the smart money is on the Spaniard retaining his seat.

What all this means is that the top seats are effectively locked out, but there are still tantalising moves on the cards, with rides available at Tech 3, KTM and Aprilia. Silly season isn’t over just yet…

MotoGP – two more seats taken in MotoGP musical chairs


Two more places of MotoGP musical chairs have fallen into place with the news that Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso have extended their factory deals.

The move means the Spaniard and the Italian will ride for the Honda and Ducati teams for the next two seasons, quashing rumours that they were both set to be replaced.

The paddock expected Pedrosa to jump ship to Yamaha, but instead he has opted to remain with Honda, and just as importantly, his main sponsor, Red Bull – a rare case of loyalty working both ways. Pedrosa is the ideal number two rider for Honda – fast, consistent and capable of fighting for the win.

Dovizioso had been favourite to be be ditched by Ducati, with Iannone to partner Jorge Lorenzo for next season, but the team had a change of heart following Iannone’s spectacular last lap collision with team-mate Dovizioso in Argentia, a banzai move which effectively cost him his Ducati career.

The news means that the Honda and Ducati Factory teams are both locked out, and with Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales expected to announce tomorrow that he’s signed for the Yamaha Factory team to partner Valentino Rossi, the three best teams are now full.

MotoGP – double reason for Pedrosa to celebrate at Mugello


Dani Pedrosa arrives in Mugello with two reasons to celebrate – he’s just renewed his contract with the Honda Factory team for an additional two years and also celebrates a personal milestone achievement this weekend as he makes his 250th Grand Prix appearance.

Over the 15 years following his debut race in 2001 at Suzuka aboard an Honda RS125R, Pedrosa won three world titles (1 x 125cc – 2003, 2 x 250cc – 2004, 2005) and has achieved more podiums for the Honda Factory than any other rider, with a total of 142 including 51 victories (8 x 125cc, 15 x 250cc, 28 x MotoGP).

The Spaniard said: “I’m very happy to arrive at the Italian GP having already renewed with Honda and aware I will be able to keep working with a team I know and trust. With our future well lined up we’ll be totally free to just focus on the work to do on track.

“Mugello has a very fast and flowing layout with many long corners so finding a good setup and a good grip will be crucial. So far my overall pace in races has been better than it could be expected from practices, in Le Mans at least it was so in the second part of the race, so I’m hoping to start strong from Friday and to keep improving over the weekend. I’ll try to do better Saturday in qualifying and to get a better grid position so be closer to the front and not remaining stuck in the first part of the race”.

WSBK – Rea extends Kawasaki deal


Reigning WSBK champion and current series leader Jonny Rea has signed a two-year extension with his Kawasaki Racing Team outfit.

The move means Rea will race for the Japanese factory until the end of the 2018 season, and is likely to trigger a round of WSBK musical chairs. Rea and team-mate Tom Sykes enjoy an icy relationship at best, and the friction between the pair has mounted this season with both calling for the factory to publically develop the bike to suit them. Rea is outperforming Sykes on a bike he doesn’t particularly like, and Sykes is looking to land a factory seat elsewhere – paddock insiders have him down as replacing the fast, yet erratic, Davide Giugliano on the Ducati Panigale R.

The other exciting news is that Suzuki are set to return to WSBK, with a groundbreaking new GSX-R1000. The Milwaukee SMR team is favourite to run the bikes, as indicated by Josh Brookes riding for the Japanese manufacturer at this year’s Suzuka 8-hr race. The other seat remains open, and with Honda also bringing a much-needed new bike to the series in 2017, WSBK promises to deliver even more thrills and spills.

Tested – Knox Meta-Sys back protector

MetaSys (needs cutting out)

This back protector is CE Level 2 certified, which means it’s at the top of its game when it comes to offering protection. This is largely down to the tough properties of the hard polypropylene external shell.

Another key feature is Knox’s trademark hinged panels, which allow maximum rider movement without compromising protection. The four panels span the length of your spine, and the lower back section even extends to protect the coccyx area.

The Meta-Sys feels reassuringly protective on, mainly due to the sheer amount of your back that it covers – the upper plates even offer a decent level of protection for the shoulder area – but it’s comfy too, thanks largely to the soft, foam-like nitrex insides, which have a sweat-wicking liner to keep you dry. There’s a decent amount of adjustability at the the shoulder and waist straps too, allowing you to get the Meta-Sys to sit just so, and the clever design means air is channelled away from top to bottom to stop your back from getting too sweaty.

The only downside is that there’s no getting away from its sheer bulk. I simply couldn’t get it to fit into my snug one-piece leathers, and had to go up a size to accommodate it.

4 stars