Racing

Classic racing – Brittens to return for IOM Classic TT Races

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The iconic New Zealand-built Britten machine will make its return to the Isle of Man in August with not one but two of John Britten’s ground-breaking creations taking to the Mountain Course once more at the Classic TT Races.

The pink and blue Britten and CRS Britten, owned respectively by Kevin Grant and Bob Robbins, were both campaigned at the 1994 Isle of Man TT races and will be ridden this year by Bruce Anstey and fellow Kiwi Stephen Briggs in the Classic Racer Magazine Classic TT Retro Parade on Monday 28th August.

Grant’s machine won the BEARS World Championship in the 1990s and was ridden by Nick Jefferies at the 1994 Isle of Man TT Races with the 1993 Formula One TT winner lapping at more than 118mph from a standing start in the 1994 Senior Race before being side-lined with a gearbox issue.

The machine has continually been demonstrated around the world since and returned to the TT in 2004 with triple World Champion and double TT winner Hugh Anderson MBE on board. It was last seen on the island in 2014 when Anstey paraded the bike during the Classic TT festival and the 12-time TT Race winner will again put the bike through its paces.

The CRS Britten competed at the TT on more occasions than any of the other Britten machines with Shaun Harris’ ride in the 1996 Senior being one of the most popular finishes of recent times. The machine has only recently returned from being on museum display to being demonstrated at events internationally.

Briggs, who competed in the Supersport 600cc TT races in 1994 and 1996 will ride the equally striking black and yellow CRS Britten. Both bikes have been rebuilt completely to ensure there are no issues and are sure to be one of the most popular attractions at the 2017 Classic TT.

Tickets for Classic TT races and events are available to book now starting from as little at £5, see theClassic TTpage for details and a full schedule of events.

Classic racing – Lincolnshire legends to spearhead Suzuki assault at Spa

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Lincolnshire legends Guy Martin and Pete Boast will join Team Classic Suzuki for the Spa Bikers’ Classic on July 1, with the duo set to campaign the team’s Suzuki Vintage Parts-supported Katana in the four-hour race.

Martin returns to the brand after a disastrous stint at the NW2100 and the TT and NW200 for Martin who labelled the 2017 Honda Fireblade ‘a Jonah’ after suffering a big crash during practice, while Pete Boast – no stranger to endurance racing – claimed British and European Flat Track titles with the Suzuki.

Team Classic Suzuki principal, Steve Wheatman, said: “We’re really pleased to be welcoming Guy and Pete to the team for this round of the Classic Endurance series, both have strong links with Suzuki and both love their classic racing.

“The Spa Classic is an excellent event that is well-known across Europe. It’s always well-attended, with plenty going on alongside the four-hour race for fans to enjoy. But of course, the four-race is why we’re going, and after the disappointment of Donington we want a good result.”

The Katana debuted at the Donington Park 4 Hour round of the series but failed to make a single lap after Jamie Whitham lost control and wrecked the bike in the process.

The Spa Classic takes place from 1-2 July at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, with Team Classic Suzuki taking part in the four-hour race that starts at 20:00 on Saturday.

Road racing – Hutchinson and Anstey top of the pile in practice

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Conditions were finally perfect for qualifying at the 2017 Isle of Man races, fuelled by Monster Energy, and Ian Hutchinson and Bruce Anstey set the pace with both averaging laps of over 129mph.

Hutchinson’s lap of 129.535mph came on his Superstock BMW after stopping at Governor’s Bridge on his opening lap on the Superbike with Anstey posting a time of 129.212mph on the RC213-VS Padgetts Honda.

Hutchinson was first to leave the line at 6.23pm alongside Peter Hickman on the Smiths Racing Superstock BMW. Gary Johnson and James Hillier, Steve Mercer and Lee Johnston and Dan Kneen and Michael Dunlop quickly followed the opening pair down Glencrutchery Road.

Kneen was reported to have stopped at Quarter Bridge but he was soon back out on his Superstock mount while the Norton pairing of David Johnson and Josh Brookes were out of luck, retiring at the Bottom of Barregarrow and Ballaugh respectively.

Hickman was first to complete a lap with 128.028mph but Hutchinson had stopped at Governor’s. Johnson and Hillier had no such problems, and both were above the 127mph mark. Dunlop was quickest on the lap though with an opening lap of 128.576mph with Hillier, Conor Cummins, Michael Rutter, Dean Harrison and Bruce Anstey also over 127mph.

On the second lap Hickman was slightly slower at 127.63mph but Anstey had upped the pace considerably to 129.212mph, which made him the evening’s quickest Superbike. Mercer and Rutter were over 125mph but further back on the road, Hutchinson was getting back in the groove and sure enough a lap of 129.535mph not only made him the fastest Superstock machine but also the fastest on the night.

Kneen’s good week in the Superstock class continued with a lap of 127.23mph but this was upstaged on the third lap by Rutter and Harrison who lapped at 128.588mph and 128.477mph respectively to go second and third in the Superstock class behind Hutchinson.

Meanwhile, the newcomers were also making good progress with Adam McLean putting in a superb lap at 119.06mph. Paul Jordan jumped up to 114.88mph with Joey Thompson on 112.91mph.

Just after 7.10pm, the 1000cc machines were short lapped and the course became the sole domain of the Supersport and Lightweight machines. Hutchinson set the initial pace on the McAMS Yamaha at 123.19mph but this was bettered by Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki with a speed of 123.323mph.

However, towards the end of the session, Michael Dunlop just edged out Harrison with a speed of 123.325mph but the Bradford rider wasn’t to be outdone and a 124.35mph lap sent him to the top of the leaderboard. Hillier slotted into fourth at 122.93 with Hickman, Cummins, Jamie Coward, William Dunlop, Anstey and Kneen also above 121mph.

In the Lightweight class, Italian Stefano Bonetti set the fastest lap of the week to date with a speed of 115.69mph on the Paton with Rutter, also on a Paton, on 114.28mph. Hickman on the KMR/IEG Kawasaki, was second with a lap of 114.86mph from Dan Cooper (114.79) and Lee Johnston (114.73).

Steve Mercer was reported to have had an accident at the 11th milestone and was taken by airmed to Nobles with what were initially described as minor injuries while Frank Gallagher suffered broken teeth at the Gooseneck and was taken back to the paddock in a course car.

After a short delay due to the incidents in the solo’s session, the Formula Two Sidecars were back out on the Mountain Course at 8.10pm with Ben and Tom Birchall leading the field away only to retire at Crosby.

That gave Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle a clear road and their opening lap of 113.001mph was just over 1mph quicker than Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes on 111.999mph. Karl Bennett/Maxime Vasseur (109.51), Alan Founds/Jake Lowther (109.04), Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney (107.95) and Estelle Leblond/Melanie Farnier (106.59).

Second time around and the leading duo both upped their pace but Molyneux/Sayle held onto the top spot with the fastest lap of the week at 114.74mph. Reeves/Wilkes weren’t too far behind though and improved to 114.35mph, the fastest ever lap by a newcomer passenger albeit unofficially. John Holden/Lee Cain got a clear run on their second lap with a speed of 112.085mph putting them third quickest.

Some of the TT Zero machines opted for an early look at the track at the end of the evening and the Mugen pair of Anstey (109.520) and Martin (108.413) were predictably quickest.

WSBK – Hayden in ‘serious’ condition after training crash

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Nicky Hayden remains in a very serious condition in hospital after a bicycle accident while training in Italy.

The 2006 MotoGP world champion was reportedly hit by a car between Tavoleto and Riccione, south of the seaside resort of Rimini and rushed to a local hospital with severe head and chest injuries. However, the severity of his injuries led to the medical team deciding to fly him to the Bufalini hospital in nearby Cesena, one better equipped to cater to serious head injuries.

Hospital staff describe Hayden’s condition as ‘very serious’ and he has now been moved to intensive care.

Hayden was in the region training following last weekend’s fifth round of the WSBK series at nearby Imola.

The Kentucky Kid raced for the factory Honda and Honda  MotoGP teams before switching to WSBK in 2016, finishing the season in place.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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?

MotoGP – Viñales wins incident-packed Argentina race

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Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales gave another riding masterclass in an incident-packed MotoGP race at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, taking the win to become the first Yamaha rider since Wayne Rainey in 1990 to win the first two races of the year.

It was reigning Champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda who leapt into the lead from pole, with Rossi another electric starter from seventh on the grid. In the rush for Turn 1, Marquez led Crutchlow as the pack shuffled behind, with the reigning champion pulling out a significant leand as the Brit backed up the chasing factory Yamaha pairing of Viñales and Rossi.

Viñales soon attacked Crutchlow to take P2, before Marquez suddenly hit the floor at Turn 2 – having been almost two seconds clear.

That mistake gifted Viñales the lead with Crutchlow and Rossi on the chase, the gap holding steady just above half a second – before the man of the moment began to pull away. That left the ‘Doctor’ to hunt down Crutchlow, with the two holding station until Rossi struck with 7 laps to go, getting past the Brit in style at Turn 5 and pulling away for a second consecutive podium in his 350th World Championship start. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow completed the podium in style as top Independent Team rider.

Viñales said: “We did a great job. We made the tyre decision already this morning. I feel really great! The tyre’s grip level was really good the entire time. I feel pretty strong and Michelin is doing a great job, I feel really happy and confident. It’s like we are in a dream.”

The racing behind the top three was intense, and there was all-out war for P4 as Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda battled to get past Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac GP17 Ducatti, with Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha), Alvaro Bautista on the Aspar Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati also in the mix.

After a short and spectacular duel between Pedrosa and Zarco, the Spaniard broke free to set the fastest lap before crashing out of the race in the same place as teammate Marquez had done a handful of laps earlier.

Even then, the drama wasn’t done as Dovizioso went wide at Turn 5 soon after, allowing Aleix Espargaro to fire his Aprilia on the inside line before spectacularly losing the front – sliding helplessly into the Italian and taking both riders out the race.

Behind Crutchlow, it was another fantastic day for the independent teams as the dust settled, with Bautista taking fourth and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookies Zarco and Jonas Folger taking fifth and sixth. Petrucci, after running out of rear grip, crossed the line in a solid P7 – ahead of a good ride from his teammate Scott Redding at the head of the next group.

Jack Miller piloted his Marc VDS Honda to another top ten result in ninth behind Redding, with front row start Karel Abraham taking his Aspar Ducati to tenth, just fractions of a second ahead of Loris Baz, who had been forced wide on the opening lap by a falling Lorenzo on the factory Ducati, the five-time world champion riding into the back of Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone.

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.

 

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.

WSBK – Neil Hodgson’s 2017 season preview

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“This season promises to be a classic. Last year, the class was dominated by the best rider on the best bike. Johnny Rea was a class above his rivals, and he had a bike under him that matched his talent, even if there were a few issues with the gearbox.

“This year the already-strong Kawasaki has been upgraded, and I expect
it to be leading from the front again. He’s fast, consistent and doesn’t make many mistakes.

“But he won’t have it all own way, and Chaz Davies finished the second half of last season in the form of his life. He’s kept the momentum going into testing and the Ducati Panigale R is a just gets better and better. His new team-mate Marco Melandri has also looked fast in testing, and I can’t wait to see how Chaz deals with the threat.”

“There’s also the news Honda Fireblade, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. Hayden and Bradl are both fast, but the bike is unproven. Expect a few podium finishes.

“And the Yamaha R1 is now in its second year of development, which means the team should kick on. Guintoli has gone, and been replaced by Van Der Mark, who is talented, and hungry. His team-mate Alex Lowes has been instrumental in developing the bike, and his sheer raw talent and speed mean he’s bound to be in the mix too.”