Month: February 2018

WSBK – double joy for Melandri at season opener at Phillip Island

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The Ducati WSBK factory team enjoyed a memorable first round performance at Phillip Island as Marco Melandri took two extraordinary race victories.

Race One saw Melandri fight with the leading group of Rea and Sykes before the Italian closed the gap from Sykes at the top, eventually taking the lead with five laps to go and defending his position until the checkered flag.

His team-mate Chaz Davies also enjoyed a strong race, coming back from sixth to third position in the second half of the race to take a deserved podium.

Race Two was shaped by a mandatory tyre change, a decision taken by Race Direction for safety reasons, which prompted the riders to pit-in from lap 10 to 12.

At the end of lap 11, Melandri enjoyed a near perfect pit-stop and rejoined the race in second position, behind team-name Davies. While trying to build a gap at the front, however, the Welshman crashed out, leaving Melandri to fight it out with Rea for the win. The duel went down to the wire and was decided by just 0.021 seconds, with Melandri taking the photo finish.

The win was Melandri’s 22nd win in WSBK, making him the most successful Italian in the production-based series.

Melandri said: “Race One was fantastic. Sykes got off to a strong start and it wasn’t easy to follow him and Rea early on. As the race went on, I managed to cut the gap. Once in the lead, it wasn’t easy anyway because the wind gusts were even stronger. The last lap seemed to last forever, but we hung on and brought home the victory.

“Race Two was a crazy race. The tire change made it impossible to come up with a strategy, as many riders could be fast for 10 laps. It was a big fight, with many aggressive moves. We still tried to look after the tyres after the pit-stop, and in the last five laps we found our rhythm. Towards the end, it was difficult to pass Rea under braking so I decided to focus on the final sprint and catch the slipstream out of the last corner, in which we were particularly fast, and the plan worked.”

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MotoGP – Tech 3 to leave Yamaha in 2019

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The 2018 MotoGP season has not even started, yet news is starting to break that will play a crucial role in the 2019 season – the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team has announced that this will be the last season it competes as a satellite Yamaha team.

The decision to split its ties with the Japanese manufacturer brings to an end the French team’s near two-decade association with Yamaha.

The rumour mill has gone into overdrive speculating who will be supplying Tech3 with MotoGP bikes next year. Both Honda and Ducati are already supplying a lot of teams with bikes for 2019, and neither would want to add another satellite squad. Aprilia doesn’t have the budget to be able to support Tech3, so that only really two candidates: KTM and Suzuki.

KTM is backed by Red Bull and has one of the largest budgets in the paddock – the Austrian factory is investing €250 million over a five-year program and definitely has the resources to support a satellite team.Suzuki doesn’t. Team boss Davide Brivio has expressed a desire to have a satellite team, but has always said that the team would be comfortable managing a single satellite rider. This option wouldn’t appal to Tech 3.

One thing that is for certain is that the team will also bring an end to tits agreement with current title sponsor Monster.

Where does that leave Yamaha in 2019? The most likely answer is, without a satellite team.

Although Dorna is known to be keen to have the Sky VR46 team in MotoGP, the series organisers have guaranteed the grid slots to the current MotoGP teams for a five-year period ending in 2020, meaning that a vacancy for a new team would only open in 2021.

MotoGP: Marquez extends Honda contract

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The 2018 season may not even have kicked off, but Marc Marquez has become the third rider to secure his long-term future after signing a contract extension with Honda to stay with the Repsol team for two more years, for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Marquez said: “I’m excited to continue to race for Honda’s factory team in the MotoGP class. I’m proud to race as a member of the Honda family, and I appreciate how Honda and the team always do their best to provide me with everything I need. I would also like to thank everyone who has given me such warm support over the years. The first two official tests went well and, with my contract renewed, I can focus on racing in the new season. I will continue to enjoy racing, share my joy with everybody and do my best to reach our shared goals. Thank you!”

The news makes sense – Marquez is very happy with Honda, and at this point in his career, his main ambition is to keep winning races and championships.

He has proven that he is capable of doing that with Honda. And the bike looks to be better than last season’s machine; Marquez has been both very fast and very comfortable in winter testing, his long runs an indication of just how fast he is, even in race trim. With Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow also quick on the bike, the RC213V looks like being extremely competitive this year.

Marquez is the third rider to sign a new contract before the season has even begun.

Maverick Viñales announced that he would be back with Yamaha for two more years at the Movistar Yamaha team launch, before he had even swung a leg over the bike, and Ducati announced they had signed Pecco Bagnaia to the Pramac team for two years.

With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon all having contracts for 2019 with their current teams, that brings the total number of riders already signed for next year up to six.

MotoGP –Pedrosa sets the fastest time in Buriram, Marquez shows the best pace

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The Repsol Honda team has wrapped up a positive final day of testing in Thailand, which saw Dani Pedrosa setting the fastest time of the day and the best overall with a 1’29.781” on lap 77 of 78.

The Spaniard said: “We leave Thailand with positive feelings. The test was quite tough as the temperatures were high, and we worked really hard over the three days. In the end we didn’t have many tyres left, so we had to carefully manage the planning of our work.

“We worked on many aspects of the bike’s setup, and step-by-step we improved our speed and pace. Among other things, today we tested a carbon swing arm that’s a new area for us to work on, so we’re still in the process of learning and of finding the feeling. I’m very happy with the job my team is doing at the track, and with what the engineers are doing back in Japan. They’re really helping us to improve, and this is good and gives us confidence. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue this trend at the final test in Qatar, which will be very interesting as conditions will be different.”

The session saw both factory riders working on the general development of their RC213V, carrying out tests on the latest engine configuration, chassis, aerodynamics, and Michelin tyres.

Over the three days of testing, Marquez completed a total of 271 laps, Pedrosa  224, and while Pedrosa topped the timesheet, Marquez managed a very impressive 20-lap race simulation in the afternoon, featuring a long string of high-1’30” laps. His quickest time on the final day was a 1’30.143” on lap 27 of 96, the fourth-fastest among all riders (yesterday’s best of 1’29.969” places him third in the combined classification).

Moto GP – Crutchlow tops timesheet on day one of testing in Thailand

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Despite suffering an early crash, LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow got his Thai testing off to a flier as he topped the timesheets on Friday.

He said: “I had a not too bad day considering we’ve not been to the circuit before, I think only a couple of guys have, but I think we’ve continued to ride well after Malaysia.

“I didn’t have a good day this morning and I’ve had jet lag. I didn’t feel great. I didn’t feel psychically tired but I wanted to sleep! But maybe if I did that on a race weekend I could go a lot quicker…!”

Joking aside, the Brit did crash in the morning – a minor tip off at the last corner with no damage to man or machine. He said:  “I crashed this morning on the fifth lap or something but I wasn’t concentrating so well. There are a few bumps on the last corner and it’s a tricky corner. But that’s why we’re here to test.”

On the specifics of testing, Crutchlow was positive – especially about the engine.

“I felt good in Malaysia and the HRC engineers over the winter have done a good job,” affirms the two-time Grand Prix winner.

“Last year we were lacking something but this year we’ve found it. We still have some of the same problems, but we’ve found something this year that’s helped us to be more competitive. I’m pleased with how the team’s working. And they’ve definitely improved the engine. Acceleration I’m not sure, we have to look at the data from Sepang. I’m pleased with the engine, but we need to continue working on the rest of the bike.”

New kit – Proper Cleaner

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Everybody’s favourite truck mechanic, tea connoisseur and TV host, Guy Martin has just launched a new bike cleaner.

Nothing to revolutionary from the Lincolnshire maverick, though the big difference is in how the cleaner is packaged. Instead of shipping a big bottle of liquid around the place, which is mostly water, the Proper Cleaner comes in slug-form which is wrapped in a water soluble packet that dissolves on contact with water, rather like those washing machine globules.

It’s not the first time that a concentrate has been sold to save costs, shipping and the planet. Where Guy’s cleaner differs is that replacements are tiny dry packets, about the size of a pair of cheesy Wotsits. They come in a fairly sturdy resealable ziploc bag, so you shouldn’t have any worries about water getting to the slugs and dissolving them prematurely. The cleaner will keep for up to three years in its resealable pouch.

As Guy puts it: “I use loads of it, and apart from anything it takes up a right load of space in the shed when it’s mixed in bottles! Now then, 70% of the planet is covered in water and there’s a massive business in delivering it all over the world, that seems crackers! So, I had a yarn with a few folk about doing something soluble, add your own water whenever you need to.

“We found a man, who knew a girl, who knew a fella, who found some folks up North, who could make what we needed and after months of testing, it’s now in your bottle but with your own water! It uses less fuel to get it to you, the liquid is bio-degradable, it’s not tested on Nigel the dog or his mates and it won’t take up half your shed! It’s Proper Cleaner and it’s the future!”

Proper Cleaner is said to be safe on all parts and surfaces, including carbon fibre, anodised parts, rubber seals and it’s disc rotor and pad friendly too. The made-up liquid is biodegradable too. And it’s designed, tested and made in the UK.

It costs £6.50 for 1.5 litres-worth, including the spray bottle. Replacement packets are then a fiver for a double packet (which works out at £3.33 a litre) and will initially be available through Guy’s guymartinproper.com website, and then hopefully in shops around the county soon after that.

MotoGP – electric support class set to debut in 2019

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Motorcycle racing’s premier series is set to go electric for 2019 with the news that MotoGP is launching the world’s first electric racing championship – the MotoE World Cup.

There will be 18 bikes competing in the inaugural season, supplied by Italian company Energica, all filled by current grand prix teams, with each of the eight independent MotoGP teams provided with two bikes, with the four remaining machines to be slotted into Moto2 or Moto3 teams who chose to enter MotoE.

Practice sessions will take place on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and the 10-lap races will occur on Sunday – mimicking the current GP schedule. The first pre-season test is set to take place at Jerez, later this month.

Michelin will continue as a single-tire supplier in the GP paddock, providing rubber to the MotoE teams.

Enel, the title sponsor for the series, will also be on-hand to help with charging the electric motorcycles – recharging time is said to be less than 30 minutes. The partnership with Enel is actually quite extensive, with the Italian electric company providing fast-charging stations to the MotoE paddock, as well as green energy supply/storage on-site at the five MotoE venues.

Road racing – McPint signs for Norton for 2018 TT assault

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23-time TT winner John McGuinness has signed to ride for the Norton factory team in the Superbike and Senior TT Races at the 2018 Isle of Man TT.
McGuinness joins 2015 British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes in a two-man team using the latest specification Norton ‘SG7’ machines, derived from the firm’s flagship V4 RR road bike.

McGuinness last won a Superbike class race in 2015, winning the Senior, which also saw him breaking the outright lap record with a lap of 132.701, which remains his fastest lap around the Mountain Course. He achieved podiums in both the 2016 Superbike and Senior TT but missed last year’s TT races meeting due to serious injuries sustained in the North West 200, which he is still recovering from. However, he expects to be back to full fitness in time for his TT debut with Norton this June.

McGuinness has enjoyed a remarkable TT career and is second only to Joey Dunlop in outright TT victories and is rightly considered as one of the all-time TT greats. In a career that has now stretched over twenty years, he has stood on the Isle of Man TT podium a record 46 times from 78 race finishes and is confident that more success is just around the corner now he has teamed up with this iconic British brand.

Talking about the news of his Norton signing, McGuinness said: “I didn’t want to end my career due to an injury, but the truth is I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back as I didn’t know how fit I was going to be. Right now, things are going well. I feel a lot sharper and my head is in gear and ready to go. The plan is to get the external fixator cage off my leg by the end of this month and after that we can start working towards getting bike fit and testing.”

“I’m definitely ready for a change of manufacturer. I needed an injection of enthusiasm and I’ve found it with Norton. From the first time I met with Stuart Garner the vibe was there and the passion. I watched Steve Hislop win the TT on the Norton in 1992 and it was massive. Everyone remembers that! We can’t get carried away, it’s going to be a big job but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of the bike in action, I watched the bike out on track last year and it’s clearly very fast and capable, and I can tell you there are worse handling bikes out there too, so there’s no reason we can’t do the business if the stars line up right.”

Norton Motorcycles CEO Stuart Garner was equally bullish. He said: “We’ve been talking to John for a year or more, he’s the talent. He’s the man at the TT with the total experience, the results and the pedigree. We have the ambition to win the TT and to go on to develop a really strong team in years to come. We’d got John in our sights for a long time.”

“To get John in the Norton team with his experience and knowledge available is fabulous.  Norton will seize the opportunity to get John involved in all aspects of the bike – he’s a huge asset to Norton. Everyone in the factory has got a huge buzz. It’s pretty special.  We’re all looking forward to the TT but we’ve not set any targets and take nothing for granted. Putting John McGuiness and Norton together is a dream team, but we know all results at the TT are hard earned whatever your name.”

New metal – 2018 Triumph Speed Triple

Speed-Triple-RS-Front-3-4-Crystal-WhiteThe 2018 Triumph Speed Triple S and 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS represent Triumph’s ongoing evolution to its modern motorcycle lineup.

This latest iteration of the Speed Triple includes IMU-powered electronics (RS model) and a modest 13hp power increase.

The bike boasts more than 100 new parts in the engine alone, with the Speed Triple RS now claiming 148hp at the crank, with 86 lb.ft of peak torque also on tap.

This power is controlled by five riding modes (four riding modes for the S model, which doesn’t have a Track mode), and a safety net is created by an IMU-powered traction control system.

That IMU also powers the cornering ABS, which means that the new Speed Triple is finally in line with its rival machines, in terms of rider aids.

The new Speed Triple gets an all-new 5in TFT dash and new hand controls.

The RS comes with Brembo brakes, Öhlins suspension, and dual Arrow exhausts.

Road racing – plug pulled on 2018 Welsh Road Races

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This year’s much-lauded inaugural Welsh Road Races at Eppynt will not go ahead due to a change in the traffic laws, say organisers.

The move comes after a hearing on January 9 with regard to the repeal of the Road Traffic Act. The repeal was to allow the use of closed Public Roads for Motorsport events. This repeal came into effect yesterday, on the 2nd February.

The Welsh Road Race had gained permissions previously, but the current change in legislation, has put the the timescale of the event into jeopardy, as there will not be enough time to obtain the correct permissions now to permit the event.

“We are working closely with the ACU, Crown Properties and Powys County Council to organise the Welsh Road Race, and under the new changes in legislation, the new deadlines that have been imposed, will make it very difficult to carry out a safe and successful event’, said Derek Smith, Managing Director of the Welsh Road Race.

“The Board of Directors are absolutely devastated, for all the supporters and all concerned with the event. We have began steps to contact all our supporters and sponsors who are involved in the event.”

Quite what the repeal is, and why it has forced the cancellation of the racing, is unclear, but it begs the question as to why organisers weren’t aware of the consequences of the change in legislation prior to launching the races to great fanfare. Thousands of race goers have already booked accommodation for the event, which had failed to attract any of the stars of the road racing world…

First MotoGP, now the road races – seems Wales has much to learn when out comes to staging a world class racing event.