Month: August 2016

BSB – Haslam sets fastest ever lap of Cadwell Park to claim pole position

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Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam delivered an inch perfect lap to claim pole position in qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s at Cadwell Park, smashing his own lap record in the process.

An intense qualifying session first saw Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon crash out unhurt in Q2 at Mansfield to end his run prematurely, leaving him 13th on the grid for race one. He wasn’t the only rider to slide out of the action as Dan Linfoot was narrowly holding ninth before a crash at the Mountain. The Honda Racing rider was luckily able to still make the cut for Q3 and the team rapidly made the changes to get him back out in the final session to qualify ninth.

Buildbase BMW’s Lee Jackson was the first to complete a flying lap, putting the Buildbase BMW at the top of the times, but just a few minutes later his team-mate Richard Cooper forged ahead.

Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne was on a charge, but the Be Wiser Ducati rider couldn’t quite better Cooper’s time initially and moved into second place. It wasn’t long before Haslam moved ahead, pushing Byrne back to third with Cooper still holding the top spot.

There was just 0.003s between Cooper and Haslam, but the ‘Pocket Rocket’ was on his final run and in the last minute he set the fastest ever lap of the Lincolnshire circuit to go to the top of the times, breaking his record time which has stood since 2007.

Byrne’s final lap put him second, just ahead of Cooper who completes the front row. Jackson was pushed back onto row two in the final seconds ahead of Jason O’Halloran on the leading Honda Racing Fireblade and Luke Mossey on the Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki.

Tommy Bridewell’s last lap push saw him move up to seventh ahead of James Ellison and Linfoot, with the top nine covered by just 0.754s ahead of tomorrow’s opening race!

Cadwell Park qualifying:

  1.  Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 1m:25.923s
  2.  Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.236s
  3.  Richard Cooper (Buildbase BMW) +0.239s
  4.  Lee Jackson (Buildbase BMW) +0.286s
  5.  Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +0.450s
  6.  Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) +0.459s
  7.  Tommy Bridewell (Bennetts Suzuki) +0.494s
  8.  James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +0.710s
  9.  Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +0.754s
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tested – Continental Sport Attacks

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The Continental Sport Attacks you see here are shagged – they’re just on the right side of legal, but they’re fucked. And what am I replacing them with? Another set of Sport Attacks. Here’s why…

I got these fitted ahead of my annual pilgrimage to the TT, and on the ride over from Tamworth to Liverpool to catch the early morning boat they impressed straight from the off.

After the obligatory scrubbing in period it became clear they have impressive levels of grip, allowing you to carry some pretty big lean angles.

Their performance cannot be underestimated. During that week on the Isle of Man they dealt with the very best and worst conditions that the island could throw at us – rain, greasy damp conditions, gravel strewn roads and sticky, hot tarmac.

They’re really quick to warm up and give loads of feedback and feel, inspiring confidence and allowing me to ride hard in all weathers.

They’re pretty durable too. These have done 1800 hard miles, although when they did start to go they went after less than 200 miles. However, temperatures have been really high recently, and I put the tearing down in the carcass down to the heat, the huge amount grip the tarmac has been offering, the torque from my V-twin and my aggressive throttle inputs. This sounds like I’m moaning – I’m not. These tyres are stable, predictable and even now they feel good, allowing me to still lean the bike right over to the edge of the tyre.

If this comes across as some kind of love letter to the Continentals  then I make no apologies – they’re great. This isn’t some journo praising the latest company to give them a freebie. I’ve paid for these out of my own hard earned, and I like them so much I’m replacing like for like. Try some for yourself.

Used metal test – 2011 Triumph Street triple

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This is one of those bikes that manages to be all things to all people – it’s agile, punchy, entertaining and has character in spades. It’s British too, and it’s the best naked middleweight money can buy.

This is the ‘inbetween’ model, a final runout of the bike which featured the neat, twin, underseat silencers but ditched the trademark bug headlights for some equally distinctive Dame Edna-esque units, which were cracked. I’ve ridden four of these bikes now, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 (all press bikes admittedly) and they were all cracked. Not good enough.

The 675cc powerplant is the star here, its 105bhp more than powerful enough for the road, but it’s torque not power which is key here, offering a wide, silky smooth and elastic spread of drive out of corners in any gear.

It’s this performance, which combined with the rorty burble from the engine, that will have you smiling with every gear change and roll of the throttle. Marry this with a brilliantly agile chassis, and Triumph has created a real road rider’s bike, one which is sharper to ride and even better than before, with a plush feel from the rear end. Yet it will still feel edgy if you want it to, and when you start to throw the bike around it feels taut and controlled.

Would I buy one? Yes. Purely for the way it handles. This is a bike that feels alive, one which puts the rider firmly on control and rewards confident, hard riding. It feels pinpoint accurate, allowing you to choose lines with the lightest flick on the bars. It’s a bike which is so engaging and so composed, inspiring confidence and encouraging you to carry more speed through the corners with each pass, pegs touching down as you begin to explore bigger angles of lean.

The brakes are good too. Granted, they’re not as ferocious as modern items, but they’re powerful and have loads of feel without ever being intimidating.

I spent a week on the bike, covering 1200 miles doing everything from the daily commute to stolen evening rides down my favourite back road, with a trip to the coast thrown in for good measure. And it excelled at every task. It’s very comfortable, with the tank offering plenty for you to grip on, and the bars and pegs feel ideally placed. It’s ridiculously easy to ride too, and is one of those rare bikes that is perfect for new and experienced riders alike – it has impeccable town manners, it’s agile and has enough performance to entertain when required, being more than capable of causing a few surprises on a track. It’s the consummate all-rounder. Chuck a flyscreen on, add a tailpack and it’ll even let you grind out some big miles.

The only downside is the toytown clocks, and, like the headlamps, they polarise opinion. It’s underwhelming. It’s the one area of the bike which looks unfinished, as if Triumph either gave up, or ran out of money. Yes, there’s a trip computer, lap timer, gear position indicator, clock and programmable LED shift lights, but it’s plasticky and the big expanse of white makes them look cheap. You pay your money, you make your choice.

MotoGP test – Lowes impressed by M1 on MotoGP debut

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Pata Yamaha WSBK rider Alex Lowes got the chance to ride a MotoGP bike yesterday as reward for winning the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.

Lowes joined Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider and fellow Suzuka team-mate Pol Espargaró at Brno to experience the YZR-M1 during the official one-day IRTA test.

The Lincolnshire lad had to wait until the last hour of the day before he could sweep his leg over the bike, but he soon got a feel for the power of the M1 and improved his first hot lap by over a second when he set a fastest time of 1’59.558s.

Clocking the twelfth fastest time and managing a 1.146s improvement in just fifteen laps, the test unfortunately ended a prematurely when Lowes suffered a small front end crash at the end of the session.

Lowes said: “Obviously this was one of the best days of my life! From when you’re a kid you dream about an opportunity to ride a MotoGP bike and it was fantastic. Obviously I didn’t do too many laps, but the feel of the bike was incredible. The power of the bike and the way that it turns was everything that I expected and even more than that, so it was an incredible experience.

“The brakes and the tyres are quite a lot different from a WSBK bike, but the biggest difference is the power. When I came from my first lap onto the straight I felt the engine’s full power and it was amazing, I couldn’t believe how fast it was, so I would say the biggest difference is the power.

“The crash was on my last couple of laps, nearly at the end of the day and obviously the reason was because I tried to push a bit too much without understanding everything. I braked a bit more and lifted the rear a bit, went a little wide and the track was a bit dirty and I lost he front. It was only a small crash but I’m feeling really sorry for that.

“Honestly, it was a fantastic experience and I really enjoyed it, even if I did only 15 laps, they were the best 15 laps I ever had. I have no experience of anything like this before and the way you go from one side to the other, it’s like you are on a bicycle, it is really easy. So many things felt a lot better for me but were also difficult to understand in the limited time available, but it’s been great.”

MotoGP – Crutchlow gambles and wins big in Brno

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CAL CRUTCHLOW GBR LCR HONDA HONDA MotoGP GP Czech Rep 2016 (Circuit Brno) 19-21/08.2016 photo: MICHELIN

Cal Crutchlow rode the race of his life in Brno to claim his maiden MotoGP win and end 35 years of hurt for Britain.

The LCR Honda rider gambled on a hard compound front and rear wet weather tyre for the race, and was one of only three riders to match front and rear hard rubber after torrential rain had soaked the 5.403km track.

The rain continued to fall during the Moto3 and Moto2 races but eased off as the MotoGP grid formed, and with the rain clouds clearing, the 22-lap race was declared wet.

Riders and teams frantically tried to come up with a strategy just minutes before the lights went out, and with previous race winner Iannone’s last-minute decision to run a soft front and rear, many riders were left fearing they may have made the wrong decision.

Crutchlow started from tenth on the grid and fell down to 15th by the end of lap-one as he struggled for grip while trying to get his tyres up to optimum working temperature.

The factory Ducati’s made a lightning start and were joined by Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi before the factory Yamahas began to tumble down the order.

Crutchlow bided his time, carefully warming his tyres up before making a determined charge through the field, finding grip where no one else could. It was a riding masterclass in skill, bravery and confidence, carving his way through the pack before taking the lead from last week’s winner Iannone on Lap 16.

Crutchlow continued to pull away, riding the wheels of his Honda RC213V to cross the line 7.2 seconds ahead of second-placed Rossi.

It was a deserved victory, made even more special as Crutchlow became the first British winner of a premier class motorcycle race since Barry Sheene in 1981.

Crutchlow said: “I’m very, very pleased to get this win today as it’s something very special for my career.

“We took the gamble and I knew that after three or four laps I would be competitive, but it was quite difficult to manage the tyres at the start of the race, because I needed to get the heat in them.

“I knew once I got going it was the right choice of tyres and I’m really happy with this result for me and my team.

“Winning doesn’t feel like I expected it to. I last won six years ago and the emotion then was different to how it is now. I feel that the biggest emotion I had was three weeks ago when Willow was born, so I don’t think it compares in that sense but that being said, it’s the best day of my racing career and the best emotion of my racing career. Hopefully it can happen again.”

The battle for the remaining podium places was an enthralling encounter which saw many riders change places throughout the race. Valentino Rossi eventually took second place with the final podium position going to championship leader Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda.

The next race on the MotoGP calendar sees the paddock heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix on Sunday, September.

MotoGP – bravery, audacity and talent see Marquez land pole in Brno

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Honda’s Marc Marquez dug deep in Brno today, earning pole with an audacious last lap during an intense qualifying session.

Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo looked set to have put his recent crisis of confidence behind him with an imperious riding display, posting a blistering lap time to lead the field. However, Marquez had other ideas, and on the last lap of the session he posted the fastest time in the second and third sectors, quickly closing in on the Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Pol Espargaro. It looked like he was about to get held up by the duo ahead of him, but in an outrageous display of bravery, accuracy and skill, the Spaniard pounced, diving under Rossi to place his bike just inches behind Espargaro, gaining a handy tow from his compatriot on the drag to the line. It was enough to land him his 63rd pole position, a result which sees him equal Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in career poles.

Marquez said: “I honestly didn’t expect to get this pole position. I saw myself fighting for second place or to be on the front row, which was our main objective. Lorenzo had a great lap this morning that I believed would be difficult to match, but I was able to find a good reference that helped me during the qualifying session.

“Espargaro and Rossi were in front, and I was able to take advantage of their slipstream and overtake them in the final corner without losing time. In the end we did a very good time and I’m especially happy with how FP4 went, as we took a step forward in terms of our pace. “We’ve completely changed the set-up and things have gone much better. If the race is dry tomorrow it gives me hope, because I was finding things tough. If it rains then it will be more difficult, but I’m happy because we’re competitive.”

New metal – BMW R nineT tested

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BMW’s funky R nineT was launched by the Bavarians in 2014 as gift to themselves to celebrate 90 years of building motorcycles, and the result is a good looking bike with retro styling which is bang on for the hipster trend which was, and still is, sweeping the country.

The bike is powered by the German’s venerable 1,170cc air-cooled Boxer engine, which used to power the mighty GS. It’s a perfectly capable motor, and its 110bhp feels spot on for UK roads. It’s a proven unit, and the smooth spread of power and torque will keep you entertained for mile after intoxicating mile.

It’s not just the engine that delivers a lot of smiles per mile, the noise it makes is just as entertaining, the bark from the twin Akrapovic megaphone silencers creating an addictive, deep bark with booming pops and bangs on the overrun.

On the move the fuelling feels crisp and accurate, and there’s a pleasant dollop of grunt when you hit the middle of the rev range, which is perfect for motorway overtakes. This isn’t a speed machine by any means, this is a machine which is more suited to enjoying the ride and the scenery, but it still has plenty of top end grunt which will propel it to a datalogged 132mh, on private roads obviously.

The handling also reflects this more relaxed take on life. It struggles with the tight and really twisty stuff, initially feeling reluctant to turn in, but it’s perfectly happy on the slower, more sweeping bends, feeling stable and predictable. I guess that’s down to the front forks, which is taken from the company’s mighty S1000RR.
It’s a very pure experience – there is no sophisticated suite of electronic riders aids here, just ABS, and this a bike which rewards smooth, accurate riders.

This is a bike which demands to be ridden, and if you can tear yourself away from the saddle for any length of time, you’ll be greeted by a machine which has been beautifully finished. Everywhere you look you’ll notice the attention to detail and quality materials – the tank and accessory seat hump are fashioned from hand-brushed aluminium, and this finish is also applied to the fork yokes, handlebar clamp and intake ducts. Then there’s the small BMW roundel at the centre of the headlight lens, the way the clocks have been taken from the R1200R but reworked to give them a classic, timeless feel while still being contemporary. It’s a hard trick to pull off, but BMW has got it just right with this bike. It passes the garage test with ease, and you could while away many an hour simply bathing in its beauty.

But the really clever thing about the R nineT is that BMW have recognised that owners will want to add their own touches to the bike, and to this end the headlight, exhaust and pillion seat can all be unbolted and replaced with other parts, allowing quick and easy customisation.

The R nineT is a bike which combines the looks and ethos of yesteryear with the reliability of today, and it’s well-built, it’s a joy to ride and it’s easy to add your personal touch to get the bike ‘just so’. BMW may well have crated the ultimate retro-stylesd riding machine.

MotoGP – Bautista to race for Aspar in 2017

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Alvaro Bautista has announced he will be riding a Ducati in 2017 after penning a one-year deal to ride for the Pull&Bear Aspar squad.

The hugely experienced Spaniard, who was without a ride after losing his place in the Aprilia factory team, will be campaigning a Ducati Desmosedici GP16 for the season, while the team’s other rider, who is still to be confirmed, will be racing on a Desmosedici GP15.

The smart money is on Eugene Laverty retaining his seat, although the Irishman is through to have an offer on the cards to ride a factory-backed Aprilia in WSBK. If Laverty does switch series, team-mate Yonny Hernandez will stay with Aspar.

New metal – Yamaha MT-10 tested

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This is the eagerly-awaited MT-10 – Yamaha’s take on a naked R1, and the first Japanese supernaked to offer any serious competition to the Europeans in years.

However, this bike is far more than just an R1 with the plastics removed and straight bars fitted, it’s a fully reworked bike, one that’s been built for the roads.

There are no two ways about it, this bike’s looks are going to polarise opinion. Edgy, angular and very plasticky. At the NEC show last November, when the bike made its UK debut, it was its styling that sparked lively debate – that and the gaffer-taped indicators at the rear – and you’ll either love or hate the ‘Transformer’ aesthetics.

But look beyond the bike’s questionable lines and you’ll discover a machine that is defined by its engine. In this case the R1’s 998cc, 200bhp inline four powerplant has been reworked and features a new cylinder design, new pistons and a new combustion chamber. Essentially detuned to make 160bhp, a figure more appropriate for an unfaired machine, the redline now sits at 12,000rpm instead of the R1’s 14,000rpm, and the net result is a better spread of torque in the middle of the rev range which is more accessible to the rider more of the time.

The MT10 retains the R1’s aluminium Deltabox main frame, swingarm and fully-adjustable KYB front and rear suspension, but it feels a lot smaller than its faired sibling. It looks tiny and compact, much smaller than the already tiny R1, and even when sat on the bike it belies its 210kg wet weight.
But small can be beautiful, and the MT10 proves this is true with every blip of the throttle. It doesn’t have the edgy, rorty boom of the R1, but the rumble from the cross-plane crank engine is still pleasant enough, though it has a rougher, coarser tone.

First gear is still tall ­– 70mph – but the rear sprocket now has 43 teeth instead of the 41 as found on the R1, and that makes this a far more usable tool on real roads. Power delivery is silky smooth, and while it lacks the rapid acceleration low down of its rivals, that works in the bike’s favour as this lack of arm-snapping allows you to exploit its potential higher up in the range. Keep the throttle open and you’ll see the white light flash of the gear shift indicator at 10,000rpm, a useful addition to the full-colour dash.

This real-world performance is backed up by a suite of rider aids including traction control, cruise control and three riding modes – A, B and Standard. The reality here is that there is little difference between the modes, apart from the initial response in the first degrees of the throttle twist, and B mode, the most aggressive, is probably the one that most riders will use, and it’s a delight – punchy and responsive, giving the bike a more dynamic, edgier ride.

This is a bike which enjoys being hustled through the corners, those wide bars making countersteering fingertip easy, encouraging the bike into the turn with the lightest of pressure. It’s stable, predicable and accurate too, allowing to carve corners with pinpoint accuracy.

And thanks to the riding position, this is a bike you’ll enjoy for mile after mile. The riding position itself feels natural and comfortable, with the bars falling easily to hand and the pegs sitting directly below the seats. It’s a position which reminds me of a naked Ducati – you’re very much over the front wheel, and as well as making you feel really connected with every movement the bike makes, this natural crouch also allows you to better exploit the bike’s acceleration. There’s no wrist ache, no knee ache, and the small plastic cowl actually does a good job of keeping the worst of the wind at bay.

This cowl is worthy of praise, as naked bikes normally result in a lot of buffeting and neck strain. Not so here. And it’s this well-designed, well-crafted feature which turns the MT10 into a bike you could ride all weekend. And it still works, even when speeds rise, and by tucking into a racing crouch as you would on a sportsbike you’ll lower the noise considerably.

The more time I spend with the bike, the more I begin to notice the less obvious things, like the slipper-clutch which is effective at keeping the bike settled on downshifts by reducing back-torque, the beautiful colour dash, and the brakes, which are powerful without being ferocious. The only thing it’s really missing is a quickshifter, which is a noticeable omission.

This is a great all-rounder. It’s fun, agile and entertaining and it will wheelie for England. This is the machine that finally sees the Japanese create a bike to threaten the European stranglehold on this sector of the market – it’s definitely on a par with the BMW S1000R, if lacking the sheer performance of the Aprilia Tuono V4. Try one…

MotoGP – Iannone claims maiden GP win in Austria

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The stunning Red Bull Ring in Austria produced a thrilling race for the  95,000 fans who flocked to witness the Grand Prix von Österreich, with Ducati’s Andrea Iannone taking his first premier class win at the Spielberg track.

Starting from pole position, Iannone was the only rider to choose the new medium compound rear tyre, a move which initially looked a gamble, but ultimately turned out to be a masterstroke – the tyre had been especially developed for the Austrian circuit following a recent test there.

The Italian, who will be departing the factory team after a season marred by controversy, including wiping out his team-mate earlier in the season, got the holeshot and led for most of the first-lap until Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi passed him just before they crossed the stripe for the first time.

An incredible battle then ensued at the front, as those two were joined by four more riders in the shape of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo, championship leader Marc Marquez on the Honda, still hurting after a brutal off in FP3, and Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales.

With all the riders battling for positions it wasn’t long before the lead changed hands as Dovizioso reeled in his team-mate on Lap 10. The Italian – who became the youngest rider to make 250 Grand Prix starts – held the lead for 10 more laps, with Iannone holding station in second, though riding dangerously close to his team-mate.

Iannone clearly had the better pace and pounced on Lap 21, increasing speed and pulling out a gap, firing in the race’s fastest lap just three laps later before crossing the line to claim his maiden GP win.

It was a day of many firsts – the win gave the factory its first victory since 2010, team-mate Dovizioso crossed the line in second place and to give Ducati its first one-two since 2007, and Iannone became the fifth different MotoGP winner this season; a feat that hasn’t happened since 2009.

Lorenzo finished third, Rossi fourth and Marquez took fifth, with both Yamaha pilots failing to make significant inroads into Marquez’s championship lead.

Andrea Iannone said: “I am really very happy, because in my opinion we did an incredible race. I started off quite slowly and tried to stay up front without ever pushing too hard, because I knew that in the final stages I could have had a bit less pace than everyone else, having opted to start with the soft rear tyre, while all the others made a different choice.

“I ran the whole race keeping a bit of margin and my bike was really perfect. I think that we did a great job over the entire weekend and I’d like to thank my team, all of Ducati and my crew chief Marco Rigamonti who have helped me improve so much in these last four years.”

Andrea Dovizioso said: “It’s a very important day for Ducati because we managed to obtain the win, a one-two even, that we have been chasing for such a long time. We’ve been working hard for four years and I am very happy to be a part of this project. I’m disappointed that I was unable to win however, because today I had a really good feeling with the bike and I was really good under braking.

“We didn’t take the risk of opting for the soft rear tyre, which in the end proved to be the winning move. Iannone on the other hand decided to use it and as he was the only one to do so, towards the end of the race he was at an advantage. In the last few laps, especially in the right-hand corners, I was losing too much time and I wasn’t able to stay close enough to make an attack on him. It’s a pity, but we must look at the positive side of the race because today we obtained a great team result”.