Bike review

MotoGP: Marquez untouchable at Brno

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed his 50th victory in the premier class after a chaotic start to the Czech GP.

Saturday’s dreary conditions were initially nowhere to be seen as race day at the Czech GP began. But a brief rain shower half an hour before the start of the MotoGP race left the track with wet patches and led to a delayed start and a reduced race distance of 20 laps.

After securing pole by 2.524 seconds in thrilling style on Saturday, championship leader Marquez shot forward to lead the shortened race as the lights went out. With the likes of Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins and Jack Miller behind, Marquez settled into a consistent pace and steadily opened up a half second lead over his rivals by lap ten. Even with a moment at Turn 10, Marquez’s lead continued to grow as the race went on.

With an advantage of over two seconds, Marquez crossed the line to claim victory in Brno and his sixth win of 2019. He becomes just the fourth rider in Grand Prix history to take 50 wins in the premier class and equals Mike Hailwood’s 76 wins across all classes.

The Spaniard said: “I was really concentrated from the beginning as there were still some wet patches, especially at Turn 1. I knew I needed to keep my rhythm as the Yamaha riders were starting from behind and they were strong in Warm Up. Then I saw that Dovi was behind me so I had to keep pushing and pushing. I had a little warning on lap 10 because that is when I started to push more to try and open the gap. Delaying the race was the best decision that could have been made because the track was in a mixed condition and it could have been quite dangerous. A crazy weekend with the weather but the whole Repsol Honda Team were perfect and helped me a lot to achieve victory!”

Fourth on the all time winner list, Marquez heads to round 11 in Austria with 210 points – 63 points clear of second placed Dovizioso.

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New metal: Ducati Streetfighter V4

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Here it is, the Ducati Streetfighter V4, the bike racer Carlin Dunne will race at Pikes Peak.

The course is a challenge: there are 156 turns and thousands of feet in elevation, and is the perfect testing ground for the prototype machine ahead of the 2020 launch of the Ducati Streetfighter V4 production bike.

In keeping with tradition, the Streetfighter V4 derives directly from the sporty Panigale V4 stripped of its fairings, and fitted with high and wide handlebars, while the high performance of the 1100cc Desmosedici Stradale will be kept in by aerodynamic profiles specifically designed for this model.

The prototype will race with a “pixelated” livery, designed by the Centro Stile Ducati; unlike the normal practice with prototypes, the livery does not hide the lines, but accentuates them by deliberately revealing how the bike will finally look.

Tested: V4 1100 Factory APRC

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I’ve had this bike for a week now and put quite simply, this is the best bike I’ve ever ridden by a country mile…and I’m still grinning now. I make no apologies if this review comes across as a gushing love letter to this bike…the V4 1100 Factory APRC has moved me and got under my skin like no other bike has to date. It’s addictive, intoxicating and the way it mixes state-of-the-art technology derived from Aprilia’s participation in WSBK with blistering performance means it never fails to entertain.

So what’s the difference between the standard RR and the Factory? Well, this bike comes with fully-adjustable Öhlins rear shock, forks and steering damper and the simply stunning ‘Superpole’ paint scheme, which really suits the bike and is exquisitely finished in the metal.

Swing a leg over this narrow bundle of fun, turn the key, thumb the starter and the 1077cc V4 engine barks into life with a deep, throaty roar. The soundtrack delivered by the Arrow exhaust is ear bleedingly loud and each blip of the throttle is greeted with an aggressive snarl. It feels comfortable too – the riding position feels low and the reach to the flat, tapered bars is spot on, as are the pegs, and they easily accommodate my long limbs.

A quick glance towards the bike’s clock show a dash dominated by a sleek and easy-to-read rev counter that goes all the way to 15,000rpm. There’s no TFT display here, instead you get Aprilia’s traditional square unit showing speed, gear position, traction control setting and range.

On the move and the V4 1100 Factory APRC makes light work of town work. The engine feels civilised, 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.

Heading out of town and the first thing that becomes noticeable is just how effective the new 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.

As speed and revs rise, the second thing that grabs your attention is the engine – the V4 is a weapon and explodes into life with every twist of the throttle. It’s savage, and as the revs rise the surge is so ferocious that the front wheel will be pawing the air with every gear change. And get the engine howling above 7000rpm and the bike changes from a beauty into a beast as all that power propels the bike forward with a time warping urgency. 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.

This is a bike that’s mind numbingly fast, but it’s agile too and is just as happy on its ear. The RF 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.

But all this performance is easy to control, thanks to that throttle and the sophisticated WSBK-derived APRC electronics package which includes on-the-move traction control, launch control, wheelie control and Race ABS. There are also three riding modes – Track, Sport and Road – and although the power output always remains the same, the throttle response and delivery is adjusted depending on the mode.

And should things ever threaten to get out of control – which they won’t – the Brembo M432 monoblocs rapidly and effortlessly scrub speed with retina bleeding efficiency.

I’ve racked up 1750 miles in the seven days we’ve been together, and the only weakness in the Factory’s impressive armoury is the price – there’s no getting away from the fact that it comes with huge price tag. But for me personally, it’s worth every penny. I’ve tested some 300 bikes over the years and no bike has moved me like this. It’s by far the best road-going performance bike I’ve ever tested and the blend of WSBK-derived rider aids, the V4’s performance and the distinctive soundtrack delivered by that phenomenal engine mean I’m still grinning now. Everyone should ride one at least once in their lives…

WSBK: Rea dominates Superpole race at Imola

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The first and only race at at Imola on Sunday was the Tissot Superpole Race, which provided fireworks once more. On a damp but drying circuit, there was drama before the race even started, as BMW’s Tom Sykes  missed the warm up lap and was forced to start from pit lane.

At the front, Ducati’s Chaz Davies got the jump from pole, while Race One winner Jonathan Rea went side-by-side with the Welshman, but the Ducati held firm and maintained the lead.

With the race settling down, a mistake from Davies at the final chicane allowed Rea and Alvaro Bautista on the other factory Ducati to get ahead of him. Davies now had to put in the hard work all over again, as reigning champion Rea began to pull out an advantage.

Davies soon despatched his team-mate and the two dominant forces of WSBK in the past four seasons – Rea and Davies – went head-to-head in terms of lap times, both on lap record pace. The gap momentarily came down to below a second, but Davies was unable to get on terms with Jonathan Rea, while Bautista rode answerless in third position.

Rea’s victory never looked in doubt and he powered to his first Tissot Superpole Race win. Davies and Bautista came home behind him, while Michael van der Mark took his best Imola result with a strong fourth. Team-mate Alex Lowes finished fifth, with Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam placed in sixth.

MotoGP: Rins takes maiden premier class win in incident-packed race at COTA

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Suzuki’s Alex Rins secured his maiden win in an incident-packed race in Texas, thus giving Suzuki’s its first premier class victory since the 2016 British GP.

As the lights went out it was LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow who got the better launch out of the front three on the grid, with Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi also getting off the line well as the duo pulled alongside polesitter Marc Marquez up the hill, but it was Marquez who was bravest on the brakes to grab the holeshot.

Rossi and Crutchlow slotted into second and third as the duo tried to keep tabs on the leader, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso making a stellar start from P13 to move up to P6 on the opening lap.

Marquez didn’t get away from the clutches of Rossi straight away in the opening couple of laps, but the reigning World Champion then started to pull the pin and by lap five, the gap was 1.4 seconds.

Behind the Spaniard it was quickly becoming a battle for second, with Rossi and Crutchlow fighting with Pramac’s Jack Miller and Rins.

Crutchlow’s race then came to a premature end as he crashed out of contention at Turn 11 on Lap 6, which started a chain reaction of misery for Honda. With a three second lead on Lap 9, Marquez was clear of the rest and the magnificent seven was well in sight. But then the unthinkable happened. The King of COTA crashed, tucking the front at Turn 12, and through he remounted, he was unable to restart his RC213V.

Then, sensationally, he was quickly followed by teammate Jorge Lorenzo, with another chain issue forcing the Spaniard to retire.

Back at the front, Rins had got past Miller for third and it was soon Rossi vs Rins for the Americas GP win. With ten laps to go, Rossi was cracking the whip at the front with Rins less than half a second back, and Miller a furher two seconds adrift in a lonely third.

With four laps to go Rins made his move, with a clean and crisp pass up the inside. Rossi attempted to bite straight back at Turn 12, but ran in too hot and ran wide. This left Rins with a 0.7 advantage with three to go and then with two to go, with the gap still hovering at half a second, Rossi ran in deep at Turn 11.

Rins never looked back, crossing the line to take his maiden win in the class, thus becoming the first rider to win at the Circuit of the Americas in all the classes.

Rossi rode to his second consecutive second of the season to claim his 198th premier class podium, with Miller holding off some late pressure from Dovizioso to take his first Ducati podium.

Dovizioso finished fourth, ahead of Petronas Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli in fifth, with  Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci in sixth. Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo finished in seventh, with KTM’s Pol Espargaro in eighth, Pramac’s Francesco Bagnaia in ninth and LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami rounding out the top ten.

It was a miserable race for Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales. Both he and compatriot Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) were handed ride through penalties after clear jump starts, although Viñales bizarrely penalised himself even further by also taking the long lap penalty before coming through pitlane for his penalty.

MotoGP: 2019 Factory and satellite KTM liveries break cover

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KTM has unveiled the 2019 liveries for its Factory and satellite teams at a special event at its Austrian HQ in Mattighofen, and while the 2019 Factory KTM MotoGP livery follows the colours of the previous two seasons, the new satellite Tech 3 team’s striking blue, silver and orange paint caught the eye.

The team had used a black-and-white test livery for the Valencia, Jerez and Sepang winter tests, but this has been ditched in favour of blue and silver, combined with KTM orange, similar to sponsor Red Bull’s paint for its Toro Rosso ‘Junior’ team in F1.

News: Alpinestars issues airbag statement

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In response to the news last week that a German court (the Higher Regional Court of Munich issued judgment) upheld the claim that Alpinestars had infringed upon patent EP 2 412 257 B1 held by Dainese S.p.A, relating to its D-air® system, Alpinestars has released the following statement: “As soon as the Court serves the written judgment, Alpinestars will study the details prior to taking any decision on its next steps.

“[We] want to clarify that this action never involved the core of Alpinestars Tech-Air® technology;  at no point, either past or present, has any action or patent infringement involved the electronic management, algorithm, or deployment mechanism, or any other part employed within Alpinestars entirely unique and advanced Tech-Air® technology.

“As consistently stated throughout this legal process, Alpinestars fully respects and honors third parties’ intellectual property rights and expects the same with respect to its own IP rights. Alpinestars’ highly innovative Tech-Air® products are based upon years of its in house research and development conducted by its own team of leading research and development staff.

“Since the very beginning of the Tech-Air® project, which commenced in 2001, the freedom to ride with the most advanced innovations of performance protection has been the objective relentlessly pursued by Alpinestars and the result is uniquely advanced and capable technology. Tech-Air® is the world’s first airbag providing full upper torso protection in a transferable vest which incorporates a completely independent electronic management system, with no reliance on any external devices (sensors or GPS), to give accident detection and full airbag inflation before the first impact, dual charge for the track and off-road capability as demonstrated in the 2019 Dakar Rally.”

MotoGP: Ducati tops the field on final day of testing in Sepang

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The final day of testing saw Ducati dominate the timesheets with factory rider Danilo Petrucci leading the charge with a jaw dropping time of 1:58.239 after 32 laps.

The Italian said: “Today we started off on the right foot: I was supposed to try two ‘time attacks’ but one attempt, done with a medium rear tyre, was enough. When I saw the lap time on the dashboard, I was really happy. After that, we resumed our work on some new items. Unfortunately, however, I crashed while I was trying a new fairing around midday. Given the fact that I was also experiencing some issues with blisters in my hands, we decided to stop a bit ahead of schedule to recover and make sure we’re at our best in the next tests in Qatar. Overall, it’s been a really positive test.”

Rookie Francesco Bagnaia was hot on his heels on the satellite Pramac bike and was just 0.063 in arrears after 21 laps. Next was his team-mate Jack Miller, only another small margin further back, with factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso completing the top four, three tenths off the top spot.

After the Ducati lock out at the top, it was Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales who remained close. The Spaniard put his newly-numbered number 12 into fifth on the timesheets, setting a 1:58.644 as his best of a huge 79 laps. Viñales’ long run pace was also electric – with the Yamaha rider putting in 20 laps in the 1:59 and 2:00 brackets. Team-mate Valentino Rossi was tenth on the timesheets after more than 60 laps.

Petronas Yamaha SRT, on their 2019 spec machines, also had another good showing on the timesheets. Franco Morbidelli was the second quickest Yamaha in P8 after 66 laps, with rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo in P16 after a mammoth 77 laps – just 0.011 behind rookie rival Joan Mir on the Suzuki.

Behind Viñales, Cal Crutchlow took P6 overall and was fastest Honda once again on his LCR bike, despite returning from injury. The three-time Grand Prix winner crashed on Day 3 once again but managed an increased 61 laps – a positive showing after so much time away – and did a best of a 1:58.780. His team-mate Takaaki Nakagami also impressed as he finished Day 3 in P9.

Reigning Marc Marquez managed 39 laps as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery and piloted his Repsol Honda to a best of a 1:59.170 and ended the day in P11 – just 0.015 off Rossi. Honda Test Team rider Stefan Bradl also added more than 50 laps to the count for the Japanese manufacturer, ending the day in P13, and tested a new aero fairing, as did Marquez.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was another rider who was quick on on Day 3, ending the session in seventh after 52 laps. Espargaro’s team-mate Andrea Iannone, meanwhile, sat out the action due to illness, although paddock chatter seems to suggest he has an infection after a botched plastic surgery procedure on his face.

Suzuki’s Alex Rins posted the 12th fastest time, 0.010 off Marquez but putting in 75 laps. Rookie Joan Mir made a big move up the rankings on Day 3 though, ending the session in P15 and only three tenths off his teammate.

KTM continues to struggle, with factory rider Johann Zarco once again taking the accolade of fastest Austrian machine in P17 with a 1:59.640 after 44 laps – enough to pip his team-mate Pol Espargaro by just over a tenth. The Spaniard was P18, with Miguel Oliveira putting his KTM Tech 3 machine just behind the two factory bikes.

MotoGP: #69 to be retired at the Circuit of the Americas

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In tribute to the late, great Nicky Hayden, who passed away in 2017, the number 69 will be retired from Grand Prix racing at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The “Kentucky Kid” rode 69 to the crown and MotoGP Legend status during an impressive career that saw him leave an indelible mark on the sport and the paddock.

Hayden’s first successes came in 2003 when he took podiums as a rookie and he went on to win his first Grand Prix in 2005. That created a perfect springboard for the following season and he put together an impressive campaign to become 2006 MotoGP World Champion, wrapping up the crown in the season finale.

Hayden rose from dirt track beginnings to the absolute pinnacle of his sport, taking his unique blend of work ethic, humility and talent from the domestic scene to the world stage and putting his name to an astounding number achievements both within racing and beyond its limits – key amongst which was his moniker as ‘the nicest man in Grand Prix racing’.

Hayden remained a cornerstone of the paddock until his departure at the end of 2015, upon which he was named a MotoGP Legend. The number 69 will now forever remain the number of the “Kentucky Kid”; the man who rode it into the Hall of Fame.

“What a great honor it will be for Nicky’s #69 to be retired at Austin,” says Hayden’s father, Earl. “It is very fitting that it will be done at the US race as these races meant so much to Nicky and he looked forward to them so much every year. For myself in particular this will be very special event because the #69 was my number when I raced and I was very proud to see Nicky run the #69 on his bikes for his entire career. On behalf of my entire family I would like to say a special thanks to Dorna for honoring Nicky in this special way along with the many other gestures they have done to support us through the difficult times.”

MotoGP: Ducati unveils 2019 livery

Ducati has unveiled its 2019 team colours at the Phillip Morris R&D Cube in Neuchatel, Switzerland.

Sporting a very, very red livery, the design harks backs to the liveries of yore for the Italian brand, complete with Audi Sport logo and a barcode-esque Ducati Winnow logo on the side.

As usual, Ducati remains tightlipped when it comes to actual details and figures about its race bikes, and instead quotes a ballpark peak power figure ‘in excess of 250hp’ for its Desmodromic V4 powerplant.

The Audi Sport logo is big news; Audi was rumoured to have put Ducati up for sale at the table end of 2018, and the inclusion of the Audi Sport branding seems to imply that this is no longer the case.

The ‘Mission Winnow’ has generated even more interest as Ducati continues to flout the sport’s anti-tobacco advertising legislation. Philip Morris has remained Ducati’s main MotoGP sponsor ever since the Italian factory entered the sport in 2003, despite no longer being allowed to run any Marlboro cigarette branding, and the Mission Winnow logo first appeared on the Ferrari F1 cars at last season’s Japanese Grand Prix. and is a slogan used by Philip Morris to ‘discard old approaches, learn from past mistakes and use them to shape our future’.

The company is now pushing for a smoke-free future through its IQOS tobacco heating system, but Philip Morris emphasised that ‘Mission Winnow’ does not advertise or promote any PMI-branded products: “This is about passion.”