Month: March 2017

Road racing – double TT winner Gary Johnson to run own team for 2017

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Double Supersport TT race winner Gary Johnson will run his own team at this year’s TT.

The Lincolnshire lad, who is still searching for a title sponsor, will run the all-new GSX-R Suzuki in the Superbike, Senior and Superstock races, and will continue to campaign Triumphs in the two Supersport races having purchased the East Coast Construction bikes used by Lee Johnston in 2016.

Johnson said: “I’m feeling as strong as I’ve felt over the last few years and although it’s a massive undertaking to run my own team, I’m really focused on the job ahead and determined to make my mark this year. I’ve got a great bunch of lads supporting me and I’m looking forward to giving it a good go this year.”

A front-runner now for a decade, Johnson took victory in the opening Supersport race in 2014 for the Smiths Racing Triumph team, adding to his win in the second 600cc encounter in 2011.

The 36-year old, who made his Mountain Course debut in 2007, has four more podiums to his name, the most recent of which came in the first Supersport race in 2015 when riding for Mar-Train Racing Yamaha. He has also stood on the podium in the 2009 Senior TT, 2011 Superbike TT and the 2014 Superstock race.

Last year saw him enjoy another successful week on the Island, taking fourth in the Lightweight and fifth in the Superstock races, and he now has 30 silver and four bronze replicas in his collection.

Riding the Penz13.com BMW, 2016 saw Johnson set a new personal best lap of the 37.73-mile course with a speed of 130.945mph in the Senior, which currently makes him the 12thfastest rider of all time around the Mountain Course.

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WSBK – Haslam to wildcard at Donington Park

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BSB contender Leon Haslam will wildcard in WSBK at the Donington Park on 26-28 May.

No stranger to the World Superbike paddock, Haslam will ride for the Puccetti Racing Team at the sole-UK round, and has already tested the ZX-10RR at Portimao, Portugal, gelling with the bike and giving the team vital feedback ahead of their maiden season in the Superbike class.

Haslam said: “I’m so excited to be riding at my home round for the Puccetti Racing Team. I had a really good test in January in Portugal and was posting quick times from the first time on track. So to take that package to Donington Park and getting to work with the team again is so exciting.

“I just want to thank the Puccetti team and Kawasaki for the opportunity and hopefully I can give the home crowd something to shout about. It’s great that Mike and the guys at JG Speedfit are supporting our entry too, hopefully we can all enjoy some success together at the British round of the World Superbike Championship to complement our BSB exploits.”

Haslam raced in the WSBK Championship in 2003, 2004 and from 2009 to 2015. In 2015, he finished in fourth position with nine podium finishes and two race wins under his belt before returning to the BSB in 2016 for JG Speedfit Kawasaki.

Road racing – Cummins signs for Padgetts squad

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The Padgetts Honda Racing team will have a two-pronged attack for 2017, with Conor Cummins joining 11-times TT winner Bruce Anstey at the Batley-based squad.

The Manxman will ride the latest-spec Honda CBR1000RR and Honda CBR600RR for one of the most experienced, and most successful, teams on the grid.

Cummins said: “What Clive Padgett and the team don’t know about racing on the Isle of Man isn’t worth knowing.  He’s assembled a great group around him and I really enjoyed racing with the team last year – it just felt right.  I’m looking forward to representing the team in all of this year’s races and I’m looking forward to repaying Clive’s faith in me.”

The move comes on the back of Cummins having a successful outing for the team at last year’s TT after a last minute deal saw him contest the Superstock and two Supersport races. Riding the then Valvoline-liveried machines, he took an excellent fourth in the opening Supersport race and backed this up with seventh in the second, repeating the latter result in the Superstock race.

He also posted new personal best laps on those particular machines with 126.620mph and 129.739mph in the Supersport and Superstock classes respectively. Cummins, who has ridden for the official Honda Racing team for the last three years, also enjoyed successful meetings for the team at the Classic TT and Ulster Grand Prix.

2017 will be the Ramsey-based rider’s 12th year of competing in his home event and as well as a change in teams, there’s also a change in his starting position this year. After eight years with the number ten plate, the now 30-year old moves up the order in 2017, starting at number seven, ten seconds behind Michael Dunlop and ten ahead of the returning Guy Martin.

The eighth fastest rider of all time with a lap of 131.767mph, Cummins has taken six podiums during his TT career, the last of which came in 2014 when he took second and third respectively in the Senior and Superbike races and he’ll be hoping a complete switch to Clive Padgett’s family orientated team will propel back onto the rostrum this time around.

MotoGP – Viñales shines, Lorenzo crumbles in season opener at Qatar

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Rain, delays and uncertainty all combined to create a spectacle at the opening race of the season, one which is easy to criticse but difficult to manage – unless you’re, Maverick Viñales, who kept his cool to deliver a riding masterclass on his competitive debut on the Factory Yamaha.

A stunning start from Ducati’s Andrea Iannone from P2 was soon overshadowed as rookie Johann Zarco slammed his Tech 3 Yamaha into the lead in the first laps, getting away and making a gap as Viñales found himself falling back into the clutches of teammate Valentino Rossi.

The Tech 3 rider looked comfortable at the front, pulling out a gap before sliding out of the lead soon after – leaving ‘DesmoDovi’ out front.

With the number 4 Ducati getting away in the lead, Iannone then crashed out of the fight for second – leaving reigning Champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda, Viñales and Rossi chasing the leading Desmosedici. After a dramatic scuffle between the #46 and 93, the ‘Doctor’ set off in pursuit of his teammate.

And then there were three: Viñales, Dovizioso, and Rossi.

It wasn’t long, however, before there was some fresh air between the leading two and The Doctor, a battle which saw Viñales’ corner speed pitched against the sheer might of the Ducati. After trading places for a few laps and the race impossible to call, the Spaniard was then able to hold off the Italian on the penultimate lap – and made it to the line to take his second MotoGP win; his first in Yamaha colours.

Viñales said: “I feel incredible and it shows in the results. We did a great job during the whole weekend and we started good in the test, then in FP1 we were already feeling really good.

“The race was difficult, it started to rain and there was a bit of confusion because we didn’t know what to do. The first laps were very challenging, the track was so slippery and I wanted to take it easy and stay calm. I knew I had a good pace, so I tried to push at the very end of the race.

“There were many crashes at the front, so I waited for the right moment and finally we took the victory. The feeling when I crossed the line was incredible. As the first victory with Yamaha, it was even more important than the first MotoGP victory, because there was so much pressure. We were leading all the test, “You can do it”, and finally we did, so I’m happy how I handled the pressure and also that the team worked really good. The electronics were ready and the grip of the tyres was really good on the last laps. The third sector was honestly so crucial, because Andrea [Dovizioso] used the soft tyres, so he collected the benefits and could accelerate better all the time and he didn’t waste the tyre, so it was hard to beat him, but in sector three I was really strong the whole weekend.

“I set my best sector three on the last lap and it was the minimum to take the victory, it’s really great, I’m so happy. I hope for a perfect start in Argentina. The start here was good, but I just went outside of the line and when Zarco came he crashed into me, so I had to pick up the bike and then Marquez and Dovi passed me so it was a bit chaotic on the early laps, but then I was able to concentrate. We have to continue like that and maintain this concentration.”

Reigning champion Marquez crossed the line fourth, just ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa by the flag – who took fifth after getting the better of Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia; Espargaro’s result was a historic first top six for Aprilia in the stunning first ride in Noale colours for the rider from Granollers.

Impressive performances from Scott Redding on the Pramac Ducati and Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda saw the two men come home in P7 and P8, with Suzuki’s Alex Rins top rookie in P9 – just ahead of YamahaTech 3 rider Jonas Folger, who completed the top ten.

It was a difficult ride for Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo, with the wet conditions once again messing with the Spaniard’s head. He went wide on the first lap after a solid start, down to near the back of the grid after carefully rejoining and then beginning a steady fight back through the field. Up into tenth with 12 laps to go, the ‘Spartan’ crossed the line in P11 by the end of play – a disappointing end to his debut. And one which must have Ducati wondering whether the money they’ve spent enticing Lorenzo into the red corner would have been better spent coaxing their test rider into coming out of retirement; Stoner would definitely not have folded in such a spectacular fashion.

 

MotoGP – rain plays havoc in qualifying at Qatar

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After overnight rain, a storm and too much standing water on track at Losail International Circuit, the qualifying session was cancelled by Race Direction – conditions were deemed too dangerous for riders to get out on track.

That means qualifying was decided by the combined times after the end of FP3, and Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales will start from pole, his first for the factory, with Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and reigning Champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda joining him on the front row.

The second row sees top rookie Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 in fourth, Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati Team in fifth and Scott Redding on the Pramac Ducati in sixth.

The third row is Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda, Jonas Folger on the Tech 3 and Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda.

Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi heads up Row 4 in tenth, ahead of Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Ducati. Jorge Lorenzo is in 12th on his debut with the Ducati team.

Maverick Viñales, said: “It’s been very strange, and strange that it rains in Qatar! From FP1 I’ve felt really good and I did a great laptime, riding much faster than qualifying from last year so we are happy we can ride like that and have a good pace for tomorrow.

“We want to try to make our own pace, make some last adjustments in the warm-up, it will be important to end that with a good feeling. Try to make the race and hope the weather can be good. It was difficult today, it wasn’t good for wet tyres or dry tyres – it was too risky to go out. For me it’s safety first and it’s tricky conditions. The plan to prepare the race – full tank, used tyres – was for FP4. So we’re disappointed we couldn’t do that and we’ll try tomorrow. For everyone who can’t do the work they want, it’s always a bit disappointing.”

Andrea Iannone, P2: “For us it’s important to start from the first row and it’s the best for tomorrow. But it’s difficult for us because we don’t know what will happen in the race. Maverick and Marc have good pace we saw from the test, and we have to recover. Tomorrow we’ll try our best in the first lap and in the race. But the practice before is also important because we need the information to improve. Today safety is more important and it’s too dangerous to go out on track. It’s the same for everyone and the most important thing now is tomorrow.”

Marc Marquez, P3: “Today it’s important because it’s time to prepare for the race. For us, yesterday we tried a lot of things. On the first day I felt good with one base, yesterday I tried a lot of things and today was the time to look at it all and prepare for the race. But it’s the weather and we can’t do anything. It’s too dangerous because it’s been heavy rain all night and this morning so we’ll see tomorrow. Starting on the front row for me is a good result – it’s not the best way to achieve it – but it’s a good result and tomorrow we’ll try to fight for the podium.

“Warm-up will be important – but here we’ve done more than 300 laps this weekend, and during the test. Everyone knows what the possibilities are for the race – and we know a podium would be a great result for us. I don’t know if the grip will change a lot for us tomorrow or not. I think for us in MotoGP the grip will be ok because before we have the Moto3 and Moto2 races. But I hope they can dry the track, and that the weather keeps stable until tomorrow – and we’ll see how the grip is. We can find the feeling again, and then start the season well.”

MotoGP – Viñales fastest during FP1 at season opener in Qatar

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Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso may have been quickest out the box at Qatar, yet the fastest man at the end of the first track action at Losail International Circuit was Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales, with the Spaniard continuing his blistering pace pre-season testing.

With 67% humidity and a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius greeting the grid on Day 1, the riders had just a single practice session on Thursday at the Grand Prix of Qatar due to the altered timetable, but this was enough for the Viñales to relegate Repsol Honda Team’s reigning Champion Marc Marquez to second, 0.596 off P1.

Viñales’ stunning chart topper of a lap was a 1:54.316 on a new tyre – only four tenths off the pole lap record set by then-rookie Jorge Lorenzo on his MotoGP debut in 2008, making a record-breaking weekend look even more likely.

Another scene pacesetter from pre-season testing was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, the only rider other than Viñales to feature in the top five at every test in 2017, who finished the session third fastest.

Rookie Jonas Folger had yet another impressive outing on the Tech 3 Yamaha, taking P4 on the timesheets on a final dash – with Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo completing the top five as the quickest Ducati on track in his GP weekend debut in red.

The ride of the day was from Avintia Racing rider Loris Baz, who shot up into the top six on his final lap, just ahead of LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, who recovered from an early mechanical problem to take seventh, ahead of the second fastest rookie Johann Zarco on the other Tech 3 Yamaha.

Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was ninth quickest after a late improvement – but still an incredible 1.483 off his new teammate – with Aprilia Racing’s  Aleix Espargaro completing the top ten.

Unsurprisingly, Sam Lowes was first crasher of the day, as he through his Aprilia through the gravel.

The MotoGP™ field are back out on Friday and open the night at 18:00 local time (GMT +3).

 

Tested – Arai RX-7V

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This is my second RX-7V and I have nothing but praise for it.

This is my sole lid, and it’s the exact same helmet that you see top racers such as Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Vinales and Rea wearing each weekend.

I love this helmet and with good reason too – it’s truly all-day comfortable, and the non-itch lining does a good job of keeping my scalp dry and sweat free. Its performed faultlessly on a recent three-day trackday at Jerez and the brilliant combination of powerful and effective visor vents and Pinlock means you’ll never suffer with misting, and the retractable chin spoiler is a neat, well-thought out touch.

This lid features Arai’s new visor change mechanism, which is far easier to master than the old system, and I know this lid will look after me in the worst case scenario – I threw my GP down the road when I came off at speed and slid some 110m down the road, smacking my head hard in three different places. The shell took a proper battering but everything worked as it should and I didn’t get so much as a headache. This new lid features a new, smoother outer shell, a longer diffuser, a new, bigger visor tab and a new interior.

The new outer shell is a result of Arai’s philosophy that a smoother shell offers the best protection through its enhanced ‘glancing off’ properties – the theory is that a smoother shape spreads the impact load across the whole helmet and thus helps reduce the amount of energy transferred to a rider’s brain in a spill. The shell itself is 30g lighter than the outgoing model, thanks a mainly to the new resins used, and there is now 3mm extra space around the rider’s mouth and chin.

This focus on ‘glancing off’ has seen the RX-7’s visor pivot lowered by 24mm to allow Arai to keep the shell of the RX-7V completely smooth above the test line of the Snell standard, further improving impact performance.

The new helmet also sports a prominent visor tab, which Arai has carried over from its F1 programme. The system is much chunkier than its predecessor, which makes it easier to use with gloved fingers.

Arai’s slogan is ‘there is a difference’ and they’re right. This is very much a top of the range lid, and it’s worth every penny of its hefty price tag.

BSB – Hodgson 2017 preview

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Neil Hodgson is a BSB and WSBK champion
 and a commentator
 for BT Sport. He’s got his finger on the pulse
 in the MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB paddocks and his encyclopedic knowledge of bike racing make him perfectly placed to preview the season ahead. 

“I love BSB for the sheer enjoyment of watching close racing. There are a handful of riders who are capable of fighting for a win, and there will be five or six riders who will win at least one race, but Shakey Byrne will start as the title favourite for many. He’s experienced, the bike is quick and the PBM team is experienced and proven. 

“However, Leon Haslam will also be there. He ran Shakey close last year, and may even have won the title if it wasn’t for the technical gremlins which plagued his season. He’s fit, he has a point to prove and he’s hungry for success. He’s never won a title, which for a rider with his talent is unbelievable, and I really feel this year will be his year.

On track – beating the winter blues in Spain

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It’s the first session of the fast group and the sky around Jerez deep in rural Spain is reverberating to the sound of bikes being ridden hard. We’re waiting in the paddock for the call to form up in the pitlane, a ragtag army of first timers, road riders, commuters, Sunday scratchers, hardened European veterans and trackday addicts.

The circuit is 2.75 miles of gloriously fast straights, late apex technical twists and turns, and its 13 corners demand respect. MotoGP and WSBK both race here, and this is the track of choice for teams from both series for pre-season testing.

Soon a deep feral roar enters the paddock and pulls up. It’s a brand new Yamaha R1 and its owner has run on in Turn One and binned it in the kitty litter. Pretty soon the fast group’s first session is over and the other riders pull in. They dismount, remove their lids and head over to the garage where the battle-scarred Yamaha is resting, eager to muck in and help it return to the track.

It’s our turn next, and we nervously head to the track. It’s going to be a challenge – the Ducati 749S and me shouldn’t get too much of a beating from the litre bikes here in the corners, but we’ll get mullered on the long straights. It should make things interesting.

Rewind a week and I’m just leaving Stamford on my way to drop the bike off in Bedford. That’s the joy with events like this – you turn up at the designated collection point, pack your bike and kit securely in its stillage, wrap it in clingfilm and then it gets loaded on a truck and makes its way to Spain.

It’s 21º on this first day at the Tracksense event at Jerez – the sun is shining, the track’s warming up nicely and there’s not a single cloud in the blue sky.

The first session passes in a blur. The Continental Race Attacks were quick to warming up, offering loads of grip, and the 749S was gloriously powering its way through the corners.

It’s handling brilliantly, and sending it away to have its suspension set-up by Griff Woolley at Aprilia Performance has paid dividends. It’s beautifully composed, even when I’m being brutal on the brakes, and it holds a line as well as any modern machine I’ve ridden. Not bad for a 13-year-old Italian.

There are a lot of quick boys on track, including some very fast BSB race machines, but the good thing about trips like this is that everyone’s here for the same reason – to spend as much time as possible riding their bike round the track, over and over again. Nobody pressures anybody, nobody’s interested in claiming scalps or showing you how quick they are, they all just want to enjoy as much tracktime as possible.

After using the morning to learn the track, by mid-afternoon I’ve been downgraded from the intermediate group and am kneedown at almost every right-hand corner.

But after six brilliant sessions the day’s over and we make our way to our digs for the night – the four star hotel just a stone’s throw from the circuit.

Day Two sees the pace pick up and following a quicker rider for a few laps lets me try their lines. They’re tipping in much later, so I take their lead and before I know it I’m getting quicker and more confident. Before I know it my knee’s gracefully kissing the floor for the entirety of the lairy Turn Five, which I’ve just started to do in fourth. It feels quick, really quick, but I reckon I could even snick another gear through there.

I carry on lapping until the fuel light comes on and then head into the paddock. I grab a drink and a snack, refuel the bike and give my visor a clean. Back in the UK it’s raining and yet here I am in vented leathers and boots having the time of my life.

The day finishes with a talk by riding god Simon Crafar, who shows us some on board footage from his GSX-R10000. He’s a talented rider, but a genuinely enthusiastic and likeable bloke to boot, and gives us way more time than he should, answering our questions about lines, gearing and braking markers. His motto is ‘the only limit is you’…listening to him, I suspect he’s right.

Day Three sees more of the same, and I’m laying dark lines out of every corner, smearing rubber into the grippy Spanish asphalt as I open the Ducati’s throttle. I’m hitting my apexes with accuracy, reveling in my on-track battles with the bigger capacity bikes. There’s nothing as stable as my bike mid lean, and I’m able to claw back a lot of time in the corners, before losing it all again on the straights. It’s a never ending tussle, which ebbs and flows as we make our way around this glorious track.

As I finish loading up my bike and kit for the return leg, I take time to reflect on the past three days. Yes, the track is great, and yes, I’ve well and truly bonded with my bike, but it’s the friendships and banter that will stick in my mind. Sharing a garage with nine other riders, nine other like-minded souls has been great, but it’s the nights that make trips like this really memorable. Sharing a room with someone for four nights is a great way to ensuring you’ll make friends, and sharing a track with a group of strangers for three days is a great way of making great friends for life. This is the by far the best thing I’ve done on a bike and is far better than a UK trackday – it’s more relaxed, the vibe is better and the riders are more disciplined. Try one, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Hope to see you there…

Racer’s Kit – double TT winner Ivan Lintin shares his kit wisdom

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Roads ace Ivan Lintin, 31, from Bardney in Lincolnshire, has bikes running through his blood.

He cut his teeth competing in speedway and sand racing before switching to the British Supermoto Championship at 19. It was a baptism of fire, and in his first season the young Lintin broke his collarbone three times.

After a period of recovery, 2006 saw Lintin turn his attention to circuit racing, and he won his first race after just two races, eventually finishing second in one championship, and third in another.

The following season saw him win his first pure road race championship – the Irish 250cc – 400cc support class – and that led to him signing for a factory supported team, RC Express Racing, where he competes on the national and international road racing circuit.

He won his first TT in 2015, the lightweight race, and won the same race a year later. He also won the NW200 Supertwins race, setting a new lap record for the class at 109.304mph in the process.

He suffered a brutal off at Oliver’s Mount last July, losing part of his ring finger in the process, so he knows what works, and just as importantly, what doesn’t. Here he shares his kit wisdom, to ensure you get the best you can afford.

HELMET: “For the coming season I will be using the new AGV Carbon Pista – it is the flagship model of AGV (see New Kit section) and comes with a built-in hydration system.

“During the 2016 season I used two different helmets during different parts of the season – the AGV Corsa and the AGV Pista. The difference is basically the venting and the weight, with the Pista being the lighter of the two thanks to its carbon shell. Racing in any TT race takes it out of you, but your neck takes a right buffeting with you head basically being ripped off your shoulders at 190mph all the time. Them few grams of weight helps combat that a little.

“If you buy a new helmet from an official dealer they will normally offer you a fitting service where you try on different sizes, and they’ll adjust the internal padding to get the perfect fit – this will make the whole experience of riding your road bike or race bike that much better, allowing you to focus on the road.”

LEATHERS: “Until the 2015 season I used off-the-peg RST suits, all of which were crashed in and survived the season racing without any repairs or issues – it just proves how good their base level race suits are.

“I now wear made-to-measure factory suits and my suits for next season are the RST kangaroo – they’re lighter than cow hide and more supple. They fit like a glove and once you have them bedded in they’re all-day comfy.

“Last season I had a massive crash at the end of the back straight at Oliver’s Mount at 160mph, sliding more than 250 yards on the tarmac. The leathers stayed intact, and the only injury I suffered was a graze on my hip and elbow which was more heat burn than anything else.

“Leathers are something that you don’t always see people wearing on the road, and I know if the worst was to happen I would want to be wearing a set. Try different sizes and models on and find something that fits nicely both on and off the bike. Don’t be afraid if they’re a little tight when you buy them new –leathers bed in a lot, sometimes up to 10%. A little trick I have used to expand a specific part of the suit (mine was an issue around my knees at the TT) is to put a motorcycle inner tube into the problem area, blow it up and leave overnight. You will be surprised how much space can be made doing that.”

GLOVES: “Safety is paramount, but comfort is important too. In pure road racing good knuckle protection is vital. When you’re in the pack at the NW200 or Ulster GP, you’re basically getting shot blasted with stones. If one of them hits your knuckle without carbon or metal protection you certainly know about it.

“I have worn RST Track Tech Evo and Pro series gloves for longer than I can remember, they offer everything I require. They’re comfy when there bedded in and offer that vital knuckle protection. They also have the little finger sewn to the ring finger so in the event of a crash your little finger doesn’t get torn about as much.

“Going into the 2017 season I will have a special glove made with a shortened ring finger following the off at Scarborough, which resulted in it being amputated.”

BOOTS: “Boots are another piece of safety equipment some road riders overlook – your ankles won’t last long sliding along the tarmac at 60mph, so boots are as important for road riders as they are for racers.

“In the racing world I always look for a very rigid boot to stop the twisting that would brake your ankle in a crash. When I started out I wore Daytona boots as they were the most rigid, but now the other manufactures have caught up and I use the RST Pro Series boot. It allows free movement for gear changes and rear braking but limited twisting, so if you have a nasty off with your legs flying about you’re not going to break your ankle.”

BACK AND CHEST PROTECTOR: “I only used to wear a back protector as chest protectors are not the most comfy thing in the world. The say you learn from your mistakes and I had a crash in 2014 at the Southern 100, a first corner pile-up. I ran into the rear of another bike at about 30mph with my chest. I badly bruised my sternum and felt like I was winded for about three weeks.

“I was not wearing one that day – whether or not it would have saved me from the injury I don’t know, but now I wear one without fail and haven’t had a chest injury since.

“I would recommend one to any road rider because it could save you a lot of pain. When choosing either try them on to check how comfy they are and try get a longer back protector as it will offer the most protection.”