Month: March 2018

Road racing – Michael Dunlop signs for Tyco BMW

IMG_2390

Michael Dunlop has signed a deal with Tyco BMW to ride one of the team’s Superbikes at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix.

Dunlop’s decision means he will be a team-mate of fellow Northern Irishman Alastair Seeley at the North West 200 in May.

Confirming the news, Dunlop admitted his relationship with the Tyco team has not always been cordial.

“Everything has been hot headed and hasn’t been plain sailing,” he said.

“Local lads, local team and it’s very easy to be seen as feisty the last few years between me and the team.

“Tyco BMW and I have spoken many times but nothing ever came of it, but this year everything fell into place. At the end of the day I want to do a job, they want a job done so it’s very very simple. I think it’s a good time for us both to work together and I think both of us can bring something to the table. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome. We will make a package and make it right.“

Dunlop added that he has worked hard on his fitness in the off-season and “intends to break laps records” on the Tyco Superbike.

“I am more fired up that I ever was and make a point,” said the Ballymoney man, whose 15 Isle of Man TT victories have included five Superbike wins.

Tyco team manager Philip Neill said the partnership with Dunlop “simply had to happen at some point”.

“My father and I, together with all the guys at TAS Racing, are excited and looking forward to the challenge,” added Neill.

Earlier this month Dunlop announced he wouldn’t be racing a Suzuki for the Hawk Racing Team with whom he has enjoyed major Superbike success.

Dunlop will compete in this year’s international road races in the Superstock and Supersport classes on his own MD Racing team’s bikes.

The Northern Irishman holds the outright lap record at the Isle of Man TT and his success in the Senior race in 2017 took his tally of victories at the event to 15.

Dunlop is currently fourth on the all-time solo winners’ list around the 37.7-mile Mountain Course, 11 behind his late uncle, and record holder, Joey Dunlop.

On top of his Senior TT success in 2017, Dunlop also claimed a win in the Supersport class at the Isle of Man meeting, as well as taking the chequered flag at the North West 200 in the same class.

Isle of Man rider Dan Kneen will also ride a Tyco BMW Superbike in the three major international road races meetings.

Advertisements

WSBK – Laverty breaks pelvis in horror crash in Thailand

IMG_4135

Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty has had a lucky escape after being run over by Jordi Torres during Lap 5 of Race Two from Thailand.

The Irishman sustained a broken pubic ramus in the racing incident. He was taken to Buriram Hospital where scans have revealed a small pelvis fracture which is not weight-bearing when standing.The news means the rider does not require surgery.

Speaking about the incident, Mv Agusta’s Torres said: “On turn six, I saw Eugene crash and unfortunately, instead of sliding to the outside, the bike came back on the track and I found Laverty right on my line. I was unable to do anything to avoid him, since he was just a few centimetres away.”

Laverty is expected to return to action soon, but he is likely to miss the next WSBK round at Aragon on April 14-15.

WSBK – Davies takes first 2018 win at Thailand

IMG_2388

Welshman Chaz Davies took his first win of the season – his first victory at the Chang International Circuit – in Race Two from Thailand after charging through the field to take the lead on lap eight.

Davies said: ”It was a fantastic race, something special. To come away with a win here makes me so happy. At Buriram we’ve always struggled in the past, it’s been a long process to get into a race winning position. I want to thank the whole team because they’ve given me such a great bike today. The Panigale R was working really well, we found a little bit more consistency and I could be more adaptable with the bike. It was quite hectic out there but, if you can get through it OK, it’s so much fun. Our package is competitive and in Europe it will be like starting from zero. I’m looking forward to Aragon.”

Yamaha riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes finished second and third respectively, with reigning champion Jonathan Rea finishing outside the rostrum places in Thailand for the first time since the event was added to the calendar in 2015, coming home almost three seconds behind Lowes in fourth.

Rea, who claimed his maiden win of the season in Race One, has now taken over the lead of the championship by two points from Phillip Island double winner Marco Melandri, who followed up his eighth place on Saturday with a seventh place finish in race two. Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Ducati) and Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda) rounded out the top six.

Endurance racing – Rea to spearhead Kawasaki’s Suzuka8hr assault

hi_02_Buriram_WSBK_2018_FP3_Rea_C87Q0012

Reigning WSBK Champion Jonathan Rea will be one of three riders in the official Kawasaki factory squad that will line up at the Suzuka 8HR Race later this year.

Keen to capture success in one of the world’s most prestigious races, Kawasaki Team Green has unveiled a formidable rider line up for the motorcycle endurance event that takes place at the famous 5.8km long Suzuka circuit in Japan across the weekend of July 28 and 29.

Rea will line up alongside current British Superbike championship star, Leon Haslam with rising Asian star Kazuma Watanabe as the final squad member.

As official Kawasaki Team Green entry, the riders have an enviable track-record in this and other racing classes including three world superbike titles and one Suzuka 8hr win for Rea, two Suzuka 8hr wins and world superbike race wins for Haslam and the Japanese JSB1000 experience for Watanabe.

Rea said: “I’m really excited and honoured to be involved with Team Green for this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours. It’s a race very close to my heart and after winning in 2012 it was always my intention to return to this race. It’s one of the toughest races in the world and a true test of man and machine. I will also do some testing before the race to ensure we arrived prepared. Together with the whole Team Green Kawasaki team we will do our best to achieve a result that we can all be proud of.”

WSBK – Rea takes first race win of the season in Thailand

hi_02_Buriram_WSBK_2018_FP1_Rea_C87Q8097

Jonathan Rea has slashed Marco Melandri’s advantage in the World Superbike Championship to two points after claiming his maiden victory of 2018 in race one in Thailand on Saturday.

Rea controlled the race after securing pole position ahead of his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes, and while Sykes was first over the line in the first two laps, Rea quickly took the lead.

Controlling the race from the front, Rea won by 1.550 seconds – his 40th race win in WSBK for Kawasaki, and the first since new regulations came in to limit Kawasaki to a lower maximum rev ceiling than any of their four-cylinder rivals. The win cements his unprecedented record at the Chang International Circuit, where he has won six of the seven races held since 2015.

The Ulsterman said: “I tried to manage the gap and I didn’t want to make any mistakes because the pace was really hot.

“It feels amazing to win and we have worked really hard with the bike all weekend towards the end goal and we did, so I’m happy.”

Xavi Fores finished as the runner-up on satellite Barni Ducati, 1.5 seconds behind Rea, while Ducati factory rider Chaz Davies edged out Red Bull Honda’s Leon Camier in a scintillating scrap to snatch the final place on the rostrum.

Alex Lowes on the Yamaha and Sykes completed the top six.

MotoGP – Dovizioso takes first blood at season opener in Qatar

IMG_2325

Andrea Dovizioso took top honours at the opening round of the 2018 season, holding off a determined challenge by Marc Marquez to cement his place as the second most successful racer in Ducati’s history.

The Italian rider, who started from Row 2, was unable to get a good start when the lights went out and he crossed the line at the end of the opening lap in seventh place.

However, Dovizioso dug deep, consolidated his position and then began moving up into the leading group, battling with Marquez, Rossi and Zarco before taking over at the front on lap 18.

Dovizioso was unable to shake off Marquez on the Repsol Honda, the Spaniard shadowing the Italian before launching an attack at the final curve. However, Dovizioso held his nerve and was able to get through on the inside and profit from the acceleration of his Desmosedici GP18 to cross the line just 0.027s ahead of his Honda rival.

Dovizioso said: “I’m really happy with this win because we have confirmed the improvements made over the winter and I was able to manage the race well, even though I made a really bad start.

“On the first lap I had to come off the gas, otherwise I would have crashed into Rins I think, but then I began to make up places, trying not to ruin the tyres.. Towards the end, after passing Zarco, I tried to pull out a gap on Marquez and Rossi but I didn’t have any more grip and was unable to increase my lead.

“At the last curve I had to be very careful because I knew that Marquez would try and pass me, and that’s how it went. He closed the door on me even more than in Austria and Japan, but I passed him on the inside of the kerb and then took advantage of the power of my Desmosedici to stay ahead.”

The win means Dovizioso has overtaken Loris Capirossi in the list of most victorious Ducati riders in MotoGP with eight wins to his name, and is now in second place in this particular ranking behind Casey Stoner.

The race was less enjoyable for team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who crashed out with a front brake problem on Lap 12.

The Spaniard said: “It wasn’t one of the best weekends for me. I had a lot of problems and my crash was the result of a problem with the front brakes. Already on Lap 2 I realised that something wasn’t right and I tried to manage the situation, but the problem was getting worse. I thought it was an overheating problem, but when I was about to catch Iannone I wasn’t able to stop the bike and I tipped myself off to avoid worse damage. Now we have to understand what exactly happened to prevent the same problem from repeating itself in the future. It’s a pity because I was lapping with good times and I think I could have got closer to the leading group.”

MotoGP – Zarco smashes track record to take pole at session opener in Qatar

IMG_2305

 

Tech 3 pilot Johann Zarco phenomenally sealed the first pole position of the 2018 season by posting the fastest ever lap on two wheels at the Losail International Circuit.

With his remarkable time of 1’53.680 minutes, the satellite Yamaha rider smashed the 10-year-old track record at the venue in Qatar, after going straight through to Q2.

The Frenchman said: “I’m really happy, it’s truly the best way to start the season. I had a crash in FP4 and while I came away with no harm, it’s not funny to be down before the qualifying.

“Beating the lap record makes me really proud. Tomorrow is the main day. I want to try to win, try to be on the podium. It looks like my pace over the distance is not the best one, but at least starting from pole is the best chance to catch a good result.”

MotoGP – The Doctor signs two-year extension to Yamaha contract

IMG_2299

Valentino Rossi will race for two more years with the Yamaha factory outfit in MotoGP after announcing he had signed a new deal which will see him racing through 2020.

The move is hardly a shock – Rossi has always said he’ll race for as long as he feels competitive, and the only surprise about the announcement is that it took so long to announce.

Rossi said: “When I signed my last contract with Yamaha, in March 2016, I wondered if that would have been the last contract as a MotoGP rider. At that time, I decided that I‘d take that decision during the following two years.

“During the last two years I came to the conclusion that I want to continue because racing, being a MotoGP rider, but especially riding my M1, is the thing that makes me feel good.

“Having the opportunity to work with my team, with Silvano, Matteo and all my mechanics, and working with all Japanese engineers, Tsuji-san, and above all Tsuya-san, is a pleasure – I‘m happy.

“I want to thank Yamaha – Lin Jarvis and Maio Meregalli in particular – for their trust in me, because the challenge is difficult: being competitive until I‘m 40 years old!

“I know it‘s going to be difficult and it requires a lot of effort from my side and a lot of training but I‘m ready, I am not lacking in motivation, that‘s why I‘m signing for two more years.”

Rossi’s new contract brings the total of signed riders to 7 for the 2019 season – Rossi and Maverick Viñales will stay on the Yamahas, Marc Marquez will stay at Repsol Honda, Cal Crutchlow still has a contract with LCR Honda, as does Xavier Simeon at Avintia and Franco Morbidelli at Marc VDS, while Pecco Bagnaia will be making the move up to MotoGP in 2019 with Pramac Ducati.

Tested – Ducati Panigale V4S

Main image (CUT OUT)

Ducati’s breathtaking Panigale V4S redefines the sportsbike market. But what makes it so special? And why is it such a gamechanger? We got our hands on one to find out…

Ducati’s Panigale V4S is a real game changer for Ducati – it’s the Italian marque’s first mainstream four-cylinder machine to enter production. Yes, the Desmosedici RR was a V4, but that was a strictly-limited production bike and only 1,500 were ever made. It as much a marketing exercise in profiting from the company’s participation in MotoGP as it was an exercise in engineering excellence.

So how did we get here? What has made Ducati turn its back on the booming V-twins that have defined the brand? The answer is that Ducati had simply reached the limits of technology needed to build a twin that is both dynamic and useable.

The centrepiece of the new bike is undoubtedly the Desmosedici Stradale engine, complete with its ‘twin pulse’ crankshaft and firing order. The twin pulse firing order (1 – 0 degrees, 2 – 90 degrees, 3 – 290 degrees, 4 – 380 degrees) resembles the working cycle of a twin cylinder engine and provides the rider-friendly torque delivery which is at its peak from 9000 – 11,750rpm. This give the Desmosedici Stradale engine a really linear feeling with its power, and it’s a motor that revs. Ducati quotes peak power is at 13,000 rpm, but the bike goes well up to 14,500 redline. It’s sublime, and has the perfect balance between peak power and mid-range torque, between raw delivery and smooth operation.

It’s brutal, but so easy to use. It’s intimidating but still holds your hand when you want it to. The power is tractable and smooth, it can be brutally violent when you want it to be, but can also be quite docile too, if you choose. It just depends how brave or committed you are in twisting the throttle. As the revs rise, the engine spins freer and delivers a truly astonishing punch of acceleration. It’s addictive.

It’s very agile too, and this is down to another trick up the Ducati’s sleeve – its counter rotating crank, which is a direct result of the company’s years of campaigning in MotoGP. The theory is that by having the shaft rotating in the opposite direction to the wheels, the gyroscopic effect of the wheels is partially compensated by the crank. This in turn gives the bike more agility and makes it feel more nimble. The theory works. And then some. It tips in like a 600 and requires very little muscling, a feeling totally different to the Panigale 1199m and 1299, which were bikes which were very physical to ride.

It’s next trick is the Öhlins electronic suspension, which rips up the rulebook in an attempt to make the dark art of suspension tuning more accessible to mere mortal riders like me. Instead of having to get your head around suspension settings in terms of rebound, compression, and preload, Ducati has adopted a new approach which breaks the suspension first down into duties – e.g. braking, mid-corner, acceleration, etc – and then offers adjustments on a scale that describes riding behaviour and goals – e.g. more grip vs. more stability. The whole process is very intuitive, which makes it very quick, and easy, to get the bike handling exactly as you want it to. It’s the way all electronic suspension interfaces should operate.

Then there are the rider aids, including slide control, which allows you to drift through corners like a MotoGP god, ABS cornering for the front wheel, traction control, power launch and engine brake control. There are also three riding modes – Race, Sport and Track, and these are all adjustable by the stunning 5in TFT display.

All of this means the Panigale V4S has all the attributes to excel on track, but what’s it like on the road?

Admittedly, the potholed roads are covered in salt and grime, but it’s immediately clear that the bike is good. The temperatures may barely be hovering above freezing, but the bike is shining, and one of the first things you notice is that the front feels good. It feels very ‘weighty’ and provides a lot feedback, and this in turn inspires a lot of confidence.

The engine is phenomenal. Even on a constant throttle when drudging slowly through towns, the throttle feels smooth. Yes, it’s a bit lumpy really low down, a bit fluffy, but that’s as much down to the new Euro 4 emissions as anything, and it disappears quickly as the revs rise. It’s definitely not as noticeable as big Ducati V-Twins of old, but manages to feel very much like a twin. On the move the engine springs into life with explosive power. The 1103cc engine produces 198bhp at the back wheel, but it’s so useable, pulling cleanly from as low down the rev range as 4,000rpm. Acceleration is effortless, but brutal, and you can’t feed it the gears quickly enough. Yet despite this fierce shove forward there’s absolutely no hint of weave, and it feels very stable. And the noise from the exhaust is intoxicating.

It’s also very agile. The bike narrowness lets you feel in control, and this, when combined with the counter rotating crank really lets you tip into corners with ease. It feels proper fluid and is a lot more forgiving, and this makes it a lot easier to ride than the old Panigale too.

The ride feels less harsh than the outgoing model and the suspension feels very plush. The whole bike feels more cushioned without losing any off its edge, and it deals with the bumps and ruts with ease.

And it’s remarkably comfortable. Yes the pegs may be higher, but after a couple of hours riding I have no aches and pains. The tank feels grippy, the bars aren’t too low and the seat is comfortable, but that soon gets hot thanks to the sheer amount of heat the exhaust generates. This is a godsend today, but I can imagine it would get really hot in summer. Could I live with this fact? Good yeah…

The only thing I’m not sold on is the styling. It looks too much like the bike it replaces, and the front, complete with that funny snub nose, looks like an afterthought.