Month: April 2017

WSBK – Rea wins Race One at Assen

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Jonathan Rea claimed the Race One win after a day of controversy at Assen.

The Ulsterman was caught up in a war of words with Ducati’s Chaz Davies in Parc Ferme, with the title rivals exchanging candid views about a coming together in qualifying – the Kawasaki rider was convinced he had left Davies enough room; Davies adamant that Rea had ruined his hot lap. Race Control sided with the Welshman, judging Rea had impeded the progress of a rival while he had been setting a fast lap, and thus imposed a penalty demoting him to fourth.

Tensions were still simmering on the grid for the start, with Davies still seething about Rea’s ‘lack of sportingness’.

As the lights dropped, Davies, Sykes and Rea made strong starts, with Davies doing most of the early front-running.

The pace was fast and Rea set a new lap record, over a second faster then the previous one, on lap three, with a 1’34.880 as he caught Davies, shadowing the Ducati rider for lap after lap.

Rea eventually pounced, only to be re-passed, and after a close battle, managed to edge back into front with two laps to go. However, the drama was not over as Davies was forced to stop trackside on Lap 20 with an electrical issue.

Rea crossed the line to take the win, his tenth at the Dutch track, with team-mate Tom Sykes claiming second and Ducati’s Marco Melandri taking over third spot.

Rea said: “That one was really nice because the more wins you get on a certain track the more pressure you feel to repeat it. I am not sure why I click so well with Assen but it seems to be working. It seems like our bike was working very well in the faster sections of the track, and Chaz was fast out of T5 in acceleration. I could maintain the lap time as we were to-ing and fro-ing at certain parts of the track, but I was strong in the back section, where it counts for passes. I had good pace at the end and I wanted to go through then and make a gap. But every time I put my nose in front there was a big block pass into the last corner. It was, honestly, very unfortunate for Chaz at the end and it is never a good way to lose points. But it was important for me that that bad luck happened to him when he was behind me because at that point of the race I was trying to make my rhythm and go away.”

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WSBK – Rea looking forward to more success at Assen

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This weekend sees WSBK visit one of the most iconic venues on the calendar – TT Assen Circuit in Netherlands, known to all as The Cathedral of Speed.

Reigning world champion, and current series leader, Jonathan Rea is hoping that he can continue the run of form that has given him a strong lead in the early part of this year’s campaign.

The Dutch track is the Ulsterman’s favourite circuit and he is hoping that he can continue the run of form he has enjoyed on Dutch soil over the years – since joining the WSBK class full time in 2009, Rea has had 12 podium finishes, with no fewer than nine race wins, including double wins in 2010 and in the last two years, 2015 and 2016 on the Kawasaki.

Rea also has another reason to look forward to the weekend – Race Two on Sunday will see him make his 200th race start.

Rea said: “I’m really excited to go to Assen as it’s a circuit that typically I’ve been very strong at in the past. I really enjoy the layout and nature of the track. Sunday at Assen will also mark my 200th career WSBK race start so that, in itself, is something I’m both proud and excited about.

“The Assen weekend always falls around this time of the year and history has shown that the weather can play a part, so it’s important to be fast in both the wet and the dry. I’m excited for whatever condition arrives. It’s always a great feeling riding in front of the passionate Dutch fans, who always turn out in force.”

Twenty years of Stalking

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Thousands of fans flocked to Grantham this weekend to take in 20 years of BSB history.

Chris Walker Kawasaki hosted its annual day, and as well as the usual array of Kawasaki bikes and demonstrators, this year saw a never-seen-before collection of Stalker’s trophies, leathers, helmets and race bikes.

As well as every set of leathers he’s worn since 1996, there was also the F1 sidecar he’s currently racing, as well as guest appearances by racing stars Peter Hickman, Richard Cooper, James Hillier, Luke Stapbleford and Tommy Bridewell.

Other highlights included a ‘Run what you brung’ dyno and the Arai race truck.

MotoGP – Marquez still unbeatable on US soil

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Marc Marquez took his first win of the season in sensational style, his stunning fifth win in a row in Austin and his 11th straight win on US soil, to get his title defence back on track.

The Repsol Honda rider was initially in an intense battle with team-mate Dani Pedrosa for victory in the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, before being able to break clear in the latter laps of the race to take the chequered flag.

Marquez said: “This was a crucial race because after Argentina it was important to come back in the best way, so we are really happy with this result.

“Although I won, it was difficult, because the temperature was much higher than yesterday. Five minutes before the start, I said to my chief mechanic, ‘Okay, let’s use the hard tyre’ because I knew that I would push the medium front tyre a lot.

“In the beginning I was just trying to understand the limit because I hadn’t tried it a lot on Friday. I was behind Dani and when I saw that he was struggling a little bit and Valentino was challenging, I said, ‘Time to attack.’ I was able to win, and I’m happy to be back in the championship.”

It was a mixed day for the factory Yamaha squad – former championship leader Maverick Viñales crashed out early on, while Valentino Rossi put on a late charge to take second, despite being given a time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage.

The start of the race saw Pedrosa get a blistering launch from the second row of the grid to take the lead as the Spaniard overtook team-mate and polesitter Marquez to lead through Turn 1, with Rossi tucked in behind the two Repsol Honda machines.

Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo also got a great launch from P6 to overtake Maverick Viñales, and the two men duked it out until Tech 3’s Johann Zarco got into the action, following Viñales past the Mallorcan – before the drama struck.

After two wins from two in the first races of the season, Viñales then suddenly slid out of contention – lowsiding safely, but out of the fight for victory and taking home zero points  for the first time since Argentina 2016.

LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was also making progress, moving up from P9 on the grid to take the factory Ducati duo for fifth behind rookie sensation Johann Zarco, with Andrea Dovizioso getting the best of Lorenzo to move into sixth.

A moment between Zarco and Rossi then saw the ‘Doctor’ taking to the run off as the rookie attempted a move, punting the Italian off track. The nine-time champion was forced to straightline the corner, rejoining the track a little further ahead and subsequently receiving a 0.3 second penalty for time gained, to be applied at the end of the race. A strange, and harsh, decision by Race Control.

It was then the Repsol Hondas’ time to duel, as Marquez and Pedrosa diced for the lead, with the number 93 machine eventually pouncing with 13 laps to go.

As the last laps approached, Crutchlow battled with Zarco to take fourth as top independent team rider and Rossi striking against Pedrosa to take third, with Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone also making it past Lorenzo in some late battles to take his first points haul of the season in P7.

Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci also steered his satellite Ducati past a Lorenzo struggling with grip to take eighth, with the five-time champion crossing the line in P9. Marc VDS rider Jack Miller just beat rookie Jonas Folger on the other Tech 3 Yamaha to complete the top ten, as the Aussie fulfilled his goal for 2017 once again in the third race of the season.

 

BSB – Haslam under lap record to top test times at Oulton Park

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Leon Haslam heads into the third round of the BSB champonship at Oulton Park next weekend gunning to add to his winning tally after setting the pace in the official test at the Cheshire circuit.

The JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider saved his best until the final session of the day to dip under the lap record with his final run of the day, holding off defending champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne on the Be Wiser Ducati who leapt to second in the closing 15 minutes of the session.

There was an also last run improvement from the McAMS Yamaha team as James Ellison moved third fastest in the final five minutes of the day to become the top Yamaha by just 0.113s from Josh Brookes on the Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha.

New race winner Luke Mossey completed the top five at the end of the test as he remained ahead of Smiths Racing BMW’s Peter Hickman in sixth place and the leading Honda Racing Fireblade of Dan Linfoot.

Jake Dixon marked his return to Oulton Park with a strong eighth place on the timesheets for the RAF Reserves Kawasaki team with Tommy Bridewell and Jason O’Halloran completing the top ten ahead of next weekend’s third round of the season.

Haslam said: “For me this has been a really positive test. We had a real tough weekend at Brands Hatch and we felt that we didn’t have the right set-up and that compared to some of the other riders we were lacking in a few areas, but my base setting here has been working perfectly.

“We were under the lap record and I felt confident running over race distance. We have re-evaluated and now I feel that we go into the races next weekend positive that we can come out fighting again.”

Oulton Park, Official Test, combined times:

1. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 1m:34.134s

2. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.473s

3. James Ellison (McAMS Yamaha) +0.605s

4. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +0.718s

5. Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +0.845s

6. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +1.007s

7. Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +1.049s

8. Jake Dixon (RAF Reserves Kawasaki) +1.292s

9. Tommy Bridewell (Team WD-40 Kawasaki) +1.434s

10.Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +1.447s

New metal – BMW HP4 RACE

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Meet the BMW’s HP4 RACE carbon superbike – the first BMW motorcycle to feature a full carbon fibre frame.

The HP4 RACE will be strictly limited, and just 750 bikes will be produced.

BMW’s engineers have gone to town making the bike as light as possible, and to this end the bike uses a monocoque construction frame which weighs just 7.8kg and has carbon wheels, which BMW says are 30 per cent lighter than those made of conventional materials.

This weight saving programme means the bike weighs just 171kg fully-fuelled – about the same weight as a MotoGP bike – no mean feat for a bike making 212bhp.

This bike has been designed solely for the track and it shows in its impressive spec, much of which is the same spec as the BW WSBK machines: Öhlins FGR 300 upside-down forks and TTX 36 GP rear suspension, Brembo GP4 PR monoblock brake calipers, 320 T-type racing steel brake disks, Dynamic Traction Control DTC (programmable for selected gears at 15 levels), Engine Brake EBR (programmable for selected gears at 15 levels) and Wheelie Control (programmable for selected gears).

Then there’s the 2D dash complete with data logger, a weight-optimised electrical system featuring light lithium-ion battery with 5 Ah, and self-supporting carbon fibre rear frame with three-stage height adjustment function.

This is a very trick bike, essentially a customer version of the BMW WSBK machine, and this is reflected in the price tag; the HP4 RACE will cost £68,000 when it hits the market in September. Bikes will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and can be ordered at all BMW Motorrad Centres in the UK.

Road racing – Martin gels with new Honda CBR1000RR SP2

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Lincolnshire road racing maverick Guy Martin has had his first taste of the new CBR1000RR SP2 as he continues his preparations for his return to road racing with the factory backed Honda Racing outfit.

The Kirmington lad joined team-mate John McGuinness for the shakedown at Castle Combe, and while Martin seemed to gel with the new Fireblade, an impressive feat considering he has switched rubber from Metzeler to Dunlop, McGuinness suffered a broken thumb after crashing on the second day of testing.

Honda Racing boss Neil Tuxworth said: “The bikes arrived later than expected and good progress is being made getting them ready to race. Considering the mechanics were still working on them the night before the test we are very happy with where we are.

“With the road bikes running kit ignition they are easier to set up than the BSB racebikes which run on Motech systems. We will come back to Castle Combe for another test in a few weeks’ time and that will be important as both bikes will be running full spec.”

 

Riding – #ride5000miles initiative

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The average annual mileage for a British biker is just 3500 miles, with many riders struggling to even leave their own county.

That’s a real shame, and to this end our friends at MCN have launched their #ride5000miles initiative, a scheme aimed at encouraging riders to get out and enjoy their bikes.

It’s something we wholeheartedly support, so we took to Lincolnshire’s roads on an Aprilia V4 1100 Factory APRC to fly the flag and spread the word.

9:00am: It’s early, the sun is peeking through the clouds, and the silver and red paint on the Aprilia is burning through my eyes like a laser. It looks stunning, even when it’s not moving, and I’m genuinely looking forward to riding this bike. No map, no plan…just hit the road and head wherever takes my fancy. Lincolnshire is a big old county, and I’m eager to explore.

9:09am: The sensation of heading out with no plan, no fixed destination and no set return time is liberating. The bike is warmed up, and the bark from the Arrow can sounds purposeful. Let’s do this.

10:25am: The clouds have given way to brilliant sunshine, the tarmac is warming up nicely and the roads seem to be emptying. As I fill up with fuel in Sleaford, the Aprilia is already making an impression on me. The engine is phenomenal, with the ride-by-wire throttle meting out power predictably and smoothly with just a hint of snatch in first, although you’re always aware of the sheer brute force available on tap with a twist of your right hand. The steering feels light, and while the steering lock isn’t great, it’s not so bad as to be restrictive.

10:40am: I decide to head north along the A15 towards Lincoln, enjoying this undulating rollercoaster before turning right and taking a B road towards Digby, savouring the empty tarmac. I’m the only vehicle on this ribbon of asphalt and as the speed increases it becomes noticeable just how effective the Tuono’s nose fairing and cowl is at cosseting the rider from the wind. It’s really efficient and provides much more protection than a naked bike has any right to offer.

11:15am: I carry on until I get to Woodhall Spa, then chuck a left at the crossroads and let the Bucknall bends take me to Bardney. This really is biking heaven. The Tuono is built for roads like this, and the modifications on this bike let it really shine – the Dymag carbon wheels allow it to turn in quickly and accurately with the lightest of touches, and the Swedish suspension offers loads of feedback, taking the Tuono’s cornering brilliance to another level, inspiring huge levels of confidence and urging you to brake later and get on the throttle earlier in every corner.

12:00am: After another fuel stop in Horncastle I continue to head north and make a beeline for Cadwell Park, the spectacular 2.2-mile circuit carved into the sides of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The ‘Mini-Nürburgring’ may well be the narrowest track on the BSB calendar, but it’s also the most memorable – it has a striking mix of slow and fast corners, cambers, bumps and elevation changes, and every rider should experience it at least once in their lives.

1:08pm: After enjoying a snack at Cadwell’s café, I get suited and booted and hit the road again, taking a left followed by a quick right, to take a back road which will take me to one of the best road’s in the country – the rip roaring Caistor High Road.

This old Roman Road is technical, challenging and a joy to ride. It demands your total concentration and its flowing nature showcases just how good the V4 engine is. The acceleration is savage, the quick-revving engine delivering huge amounts of rapid grunt, giving the bike superbike levels of performance with every touch of the quickshifter. And that quickshifter is good, really good, seamlessly building speed and adding a satisfying pop to the V4’s booming feral soundtrack with every upshift.

1:55pm: I carry on heading north, the air starting to feel cooler as I get closer to the coast. We’re close to Humberside airport now, so I peel right and pull in to Kirmington and pull over outside Guy Martin’s pub. The road racing maverick isn’t around – must be busy with the day job – so I stick my lid back on, and retrace my route back to Horncastle, which is no bad thing.

3:04pm: I fill up again, brimming the Tuono’s tank before deciding to head to Willingham Woods to see if anyone’s around.

3:37pm: It may be a Friday, but there’s a fair few who have decided to do the same as me, fly splattered helmet and leathers testimony to the miles we’ve all covered. There’s a healthy selection of bikes from all manufacturers, and after a blather about the merits of V-twins versus V4s it’s time to hit the road again.

4:08pm: I suit up and head back towards Bardney, taking in an eclectic 12-mile triangle of twisting tarmac around the village before heading south west via Potterhanworth to pick up the A15 near Waddington.

4:33pm: A quick splash and dash in Sleaford before heading south and throwing a right in Bourne and hooking up with the fast and flowing A151 to Corby Glen. Left at the crossroads then it’s a back road blast all the way back to Stamford, complete with hump back bridges, blind corners and a couple of viaducts for the bark from the Arrow to bounce off.

5:48pm: I pull up outside my house, take off my lid and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I’ve done some 330 miles, and as the bike pinks in the early evening air, I look at its headlights, which are caked in the remains of a thousand flies.

Today has reminded me about what I love about bikes – the thrill, the freedom, the connection between man and machine.

What a ride.

Endurance racing – 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

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This weekend saw the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans take place, an iconic event which is one of the most demanding races in the world.

It’s a fascinating spectacle, as the FIM Endurance World Championship series is a proper battle between the different tyre brands.

The bike manufacturers take it seriously too, with many top riders from series across the world finding themselves on a factory and satellite team.

It’s an eclectic mix, and throw the darkness of night into the pot and you have an event which is like no other in the world.

This year’s race proved to be the closest yet, with just 19.8 seconds separating the top two teams after more than 800 laps of racing, with the French GMT94 Yamaha Factory Team edging out its Austrian sister squad, the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), in the closing hours of the race.

The racing was intense – there was never more than a lap separating the two teams throughout the 24-hour race. Fast, furious and close. What more could you want?

BSB – double delight for Mossey at Brands

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Luke Mossey has claimed his debut BSB win after taking a dream double at Brands Hatch.

The Royston rocket had the pace all weekend, winning both races comfortably. He said: “I was over the moon with the first win and then I was going to be happy coming away with a top five in the second race and keep racking up the points, but to have my first two wins of my Superbike career come at once, I’m so happy.

“I can’t thank the team enough as we really did our homework this weekend, I hope now that we can build on this. I’ve never had such a strong start to a season, so I’m looking forward to Oulton Park now. We finished second there last time behind Leon, so the Kawasaki works really well there and hopefully we can maintain this speed.

The opening race of the day saw Leon Haslam lead the pack on the opening lap ahead of his JG Speedfit Kawasaki team-mate Mossey and pole-sitter James Ellison, but two laps later the McAMS Yamaha rider had hit the front as Haslam ran wide at Druids. The leading trio were closely followed by Christian Iddon, but Ellison was trying to break the pack.

Ellison had eked out a small advantage, however his hard work ended with a crash at Druids as he slid out of contention on the twelfth lap. That left Mossey leading Haslam and Iddon with the scrap for second place intensifying before Iddon made a move at Paddock Hill Bend.

Reigning champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne was closing in on Iddon and Haslam and with four laps to go he was within striking distance. Haslam knew the Ducati was gaining and was desperate to pass Iddon, making a move at Paddock Hill Bend to take second.

It was short lived when the Tyco BMW rider returned the move at Druids, but as they exited Graham Hill Bend, Haslam was back ahead.

At the front Mossey went on to claim the victory with Haslam just having the edge over Iddon and Byrne at the line. The Be Wiser Ducati rider had broken through the pack behind him that featured Dan Linfoot in fifth as the Honda Racing team made big steps forward with Glenn Irwin separating him from the second Fireblade of Jason O’Halloran.

Michael Laverty, Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes completed the top ten with Sylvain Guintoli retiring from the race with a technical problem.

There was more drama for Ellison in race two as the pole sitter didn’t take the start of the race after his race one crash. He had headed out onto the grid, but retired after the warm up lap with a ‘vague feeling’ from the front. No wonder really – the front of his bike had been destroyed in the race one crash and the team had worked miracles to rebuild his machine for race two.

JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s Haslam had again taken the lead on the opening lap, but Mossey, Iddon and O’Halloran were ready to try and make a move. Mossey didn’t wait long and a lap later made a dive down the inside at Paddock Hill Bend, however Haslam instantly fought back to regain the position into Druids.

Three laps later and Mossey went for a repeat move on the brakes into Paddock Hill Bend with Haslam again forcing his way back into the lead as the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team-mates approached Druids for the fifth time.

A lap later and Mossey made the move and defended hard, with a struggling Haslam then coming under attack from Iddon onboard the Tyco BMW, who made a move into Paddock Hill Bend a few laps later and was keeping Haslam at bay.

The leading four were soon being closed again by Byrne and he made a move on Haslam to move into third, however it was a double disappointment for the Be Wiser Ducati team as both the defending champion and Irwin crashed out unhurt at Clearways within just laps of each other, both losing the front.

Mossey had more in the final laps and he began easing ahead of Iddon with Haslam taking evasive action when Byrne had crashed ahead of him to drop off the leading pair, but a double podium means he retained his position at the top of the standings.

Josh Brookes won the battle of the Australians by mugging O’Halloran for fourth place at the line as the Honda Racing rider achieved their best position of the season so far in fifth ahead of his team-mate Dan Linfoot who emerged ahead after an epic scrap with Smiths Racing BMW’s Peter Hickman.
Rookie Bradley Ray claimed his first top ten finish of the season in eighth place with John Hopkins and Sylvain Guintoli in ninth and tenth respectively.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, race one result:

Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)

Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +3.529s

Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +3.802s

Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +3.920s

Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +6.352s

Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) +7.544s

Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +7.588s

Michael Laverty (McAMS Yamaha) +8.775s

Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +8.775s

Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +10.853s

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, race two result:

Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)

Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +0.758s

Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +1.851s

Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +4.032s

Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +4.188s

Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +8.205s

Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +8.735s

Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) +8.982s

John Hopkins (Moto Rapido Ducati) +9.234s

Sylvain Guintoli (Bennetts Suzuki) +10.249s

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings after Brands Hatch:

Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 86

Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 81

Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) 65

Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) 48

Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) 37

Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) 36