a TRIUMPHant british supersport debut – round 2 thruxton

April 23, 2008

the bsb and bss finally got underway this weekend at thruxton, a fast flowing circuit found in south central uk. it was a great weekend for the factory-backed map embassy racing team. glen richards piloted his 675 to a second place podium position while teammate paul young managed a top 10 finish (9th to be exact).

surprisingly, richards stunned the paddock claiming pole position on the first outing for the 675 in bss.

richards got a great start and lead the field for the first lap. however, steve brogan (hm plant honda) pried the lead from him coming into the chicane at the end of the second lap. throughout the race, the triumph looked unsettled braking into the double apex right-hander. richards then shadowed brogan for several laps until the safety car came out on lap 8 when james webb (padgetts honda) and dennis hobbs (centurion honda) clashed at the chicane. the safety car (a sweet audi r8) was out for a couple laps and then racing resumed with richards taking the lead. brogan answered back and stuck it out until the checkered flag. richards almost stole the win just missing the mark by 0.09 sec.

paul young also had a great start launching him from 12th to 6th on the first lap. he maintained his position until the safety car came out and then leaped into a rostrum position for a brief moment. however, his tires began to fade and young prudently decided to consolidate his 9th place. 

not a bad start for the fledgling team. battling with such a notable squad as hm plant honda (basically factory-backed by hrc) means that the 675 is a force to be reckoned with. this circuit probably favors the rev-happy i-4’s with the high speeds so expect the triumph to be even more competitive on the tight, twisty tracks where drive out of the corners (torque) is more important. 


beaverun bump

April 20, 2008

yesterday, my friend richard (on an r6) and i did the nesba beaverun trackday. it turned out to be a gorgeous day. you couldn’t have asked for better weather, esp for it being the middle of april. 75 and sunny with clouds rolling in at the end of the day.

we arrived early since we knew we had a lot of work to do on the bikes, esp mine, to make the first session. we unloaded the bikes, taped lights, and got the bikes to tech for inspection. we then quickly pulled my wheels and dropped them off at the tire vendor for new italian loafers (pirelli dcIII – fantastic tires). we had the obligatory riders meeting, picked up my freshly shod wheels and briskly fitted them just in time for the first beginners session.

the morning sessions were ugly. i was riding over my head. i was fast but i had no clue on how to get around the track. my competitiveness was also a problem. in fact, it lead me into the grass of turn 1 at 120 mph. luckly, instinct/guardian angel saved my ass and i managed to keep the bike up. the first three sessions were an absolute debacle and i was utterly lost.

during lunch richard and i discussed how the day was going. he gave me good advice: ditch the ego and run at my own pace.

after the break, i was pulled aside by pascal, a control rider (cr), and he inquired how i was doing.

“not so good,” i answered.

he saw me out on the track and read me like a book and it was titled riding over your head. he suggested that i’d benefit by slowing it down a bit and concentrating on my line.

the next session was no better. i felt like i was riding conservative and focused on consistency but i was still off line. another cr gave me a tow and i still didn’t get it. i was frustrated and upset with myself.

the 5th session of the day was a little better but i still had my doubts, esp cresting the hill at turn 7. the head cr of the beginner group, buck, noticed my performance and asked me to follow him the next session for an “evaluation.” i didn’t realize it was a test until afterward. i thought i was just going to learn the line.

buck gave me a tow for half the session and i followed him apprehensively, trying to learn and absorb as much as possible. that’s when it all clicked. everything seemed to fall into place. the corners now seemed linked and the track flowed. i wasn’t fighting the bike anymore, rather letting the bike do it’s thing. it was great seeing buck pump his fist as i correctly hussled around the once threatening track. he then let me take the lead while he followed in close proximity. in fact, i saw a wheel come up the inside a couple times, a test of things to come. i just kept my rhythm and followed the newfound line for 5 or 6 laps. the checkered flag ended and i was finally happy with myself. we pulled into the paddock and i asked buck how i did.

he retorted, “do you want to bump up?”

i was shocked! i thought i heard him wrong. i then asked him if he thought i was ready.

he walked over to the registration tent and grabbed the yellow “Intermediate” sticker and asked me again if i wanted the bump.

i cautiously responded, “i think so. will we have another session?”

he said, “yeah! in fact, go ride in ‘I’ the next session.”

i whimpered, “will you be riding with me?”

he shook his head and he released me into the wilderness that is the Intermediate group.

when i made it back to our pit, i was ecstatic. i didn’t know what to do. richard and a couple guys around us congratulated me. i had 10 mins to regroup for the last session of the day.

our pit neighbor, ben, was riding Intermediate and i asked if he could show me the ropes. we gridded at the back of the group so we wouldn’t get in the way. we stayed together for the 1st lap and halfway around the second i got my first taste of Intermediate action. a gsx-r1000 passed me on the way out of turn 7. i took it in and assessed my riding so far. it was conservative to say the least. i had a lot of speed in reserve. at turn 8, i decided to go for it and got a great drive out of the corner, passed ben, and focused on the yellow gsx-r ahead.

he pulled on me on the back straight but i realized that i could hang with him, esp in the corners. i made up a lot of time in the carousel, turn 10. i felt good and didn’t loose ground on the front straight. i inched closer braking into turn 1. this battle progressed for 3 or 4 laps, constantly reeling him in. i pounced at the carousel riding around the outside as he was balked by a slower rider ahead. that was that. i got my first kill. several other riders succumbed to my superior cornering 675 and i made passes at turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, and 11 (as well as the straights). i was seriously hauling!!!

there were a couple moments, however. i had 2 bad tankslappers at 120 mph heading onto the back straight which were due to rippled asphalt. i had a millisecond of doubt that i was a goner but kept it together. richard said he could hear the front tire chirping as it violently oscillated from side to side. and he was on the opposite side of the track!!! wish i had video of it!!!

i was running consistently in the 1:09’s early and then dipped into the :07’s by the end of the session which was probably a little faster than average Intermediate pace.

i was exhausted and stoked as i entered the pits. i motored into our camp, cut the engine, and enjoyed the moment as i coasted to a stop. as i was dismounting, riders were stopping by giving me “mad props” on the riding, esp the gsx-r that i duked it out with.

i was happy. a day that started so grim ended well. it took a while to get back into the groove and iron out the kinks. i’m glad i didn’t give up. thanks to nesba for holding such a well organized and staffed event. and “big ups” to buck who showed me THE WAY.


bmw unveil superbike

April 17, 2008

well, bmw motorrad’s superbike is no longer a rumor. today, they took the wraps off their 2009 world superbike entry, the s1000rr.

details of the bike are sparse. here’s what we know:

  • engine is an 1000cc inline-4 allegedly with some special features, esp in the cylinder head (pneumatic valves?)
  • suspension is handled by a conventional inverted fork (for compact packaging – uhhh, britten and motoczysz?); no mention of rear suspension layout
  • expect a trick traction control system

sounds very japanese. as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

the styling of the bike is reminiscent of aprilia rsv 1000r with the gaping central intake up front. it looks good but nothing special. i’m kind of disappointed that the rear subframe isn’t supportless, which as everyone knows adds 5hp :D

the “s” designation, which stands for supersports, marks a new category in bmw motorrad’s model line (will we see a 600 next? i hope so!). the s1000rr will be competing in the 2009 season of wsbk with help from alpha-technik developing the bike. bmw motorrad’s goals are very ambitious; they’ll be looking for top 10 finishes in the first year and challenge for podiums the next.

with the capital and engineering backing of one of the largest automakers in the world, the wsbk paddock will have to take the s1000rr very serious. along with the german marque’s entry, aprilia will also be competing with their rsv4. the more the merrier!!!


motogp.com refreshed

April 16, 2008

after a lengthy beta, motogp.com finally let loose its new version of the website today. thank you, carmelo!

the previous iteration of motogp.com was a monstrosity. it was built entirely on flash, a big no-no. it had gobs of information but was a pain to use.

dorna’s web designers dramatically improved the site in several ways, especially in compatibility, functionality, and speed. in order to do this, they ditched the drab flash interface and went with a fresh web 2.0 look based on css. 

the new layout looks great! it’s a very minimalistic design which makes it easy to navigate and find information quickly. in particular, the top header centralizes the different areas of the site. news stories are also now tagged so searching is effortless. i’m relieved to see that you can now copy and paste text from the site making plagiarizing much easier ;D

i’m also stoked that i can finally access the site using my iphone. it looks exactly as it does on my desktop computer. the previous version was inaccessible due to its flash underpinnings.

however, there are a several issues that still have with the site. video is still requires windows media player or realplayer. these are both antiquated solutions to video. instead, they should use quicktime h.264, which is much higher quality, to stream content. in addition, subscriptions are also ridiculously priced costing at least $95 to watch the races and interviews. no thanks…

motogp.com has come a long way but there’s still room for improvement. it’s THE site to go to for stats and news but i’ll pass when it comes to video.


jerez “analysis”

April 7, 2008

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nothing can really rival the the spectacle that is motogp… except the women of andalusia. jorge must’ve found it very difficult to focus with that chica guapa at his side. i know i would!!! i’ll (gladly) have to do a post on all the team’s grid girls one of these days.

see what i mean??? on to my assessment of jerez…

repsol honda 

despite competing with the 2007 engine, the repsol hondas looked comfortable at the tight and twisty jerez circuit. priority numero uno for honda was handling. in fact, they flew in new frames (developed with data from the qatar race) just for this race. power was an afterthought as they continued to run with the conventional, underpowered spring-valve engine. honda look to have perfected the rc212v’s electronics and chassis as dani handily won while nicky came in a respectable fourth position (10th in qatar).

pedrosa is technically one of the best riders in the paddock and this race was proof of his skill. in essence, he was at one with the bike and he made it look easy from start to finish. like qatar, he got a fantastic start, took the lead going into the first corner, and never looked back. that’s his style.

his teammate is quite the opposite. hayden is a scrapper. he prefers minimal traction control and instead wrings the bike, exiting corners sideways with wisps of smoke coming from the rear tire. that’s his style – loose and on the knife edge. in fact, he pulled an “edwards” almost tucking the front end at turn 1 but using his elbow to right himself.

honda must have it’s hands full having two riders with opposite riding styles. 

pedrosa will be a title contender this year. he’s currently leading the championship and looks consistent. he also looks like he’s enjoying himself which is surprising.

expect to see a see a big jump in the rc212v’s performance once the pneumatic-valve engine is unleashed allegedly for the chinese gp.

fiat yamaha

2008 is a year of learning for both fiat yamaha riders. it’s the first year valentino is riding on bridgestones and jorge on an 800cc machine and they’re both getting on with it pretty well.

rossi is considered to be a few races behind the paddock due to his switch to japanese rubber but his performance hasn’t been hindered. he’s third in the championship at the moment but, more importantly, the yamaha appears more competitive. rossi on bridgestone is one less variable that separates his bike from stoner’s. furthermore, the m1’s pneumatic-valve engine looks to be on equal ground with the gp8’s desmo system even though it wasn’t all too necessary at jerez. though, it never hurts to be fastest down the chute as they were last weekend.

to the paddock’s suprise (as well as mine), jorge lorenzo has quickly adapted to the m1 finishing on the podium in both races. i knew he was going to be fast but i didn’t think he was going to be THIS fast. the yamaha/michelin package looks like an “easy” package to ride as fellow rookie james toseland is riding well with a similar bike.

marlboro ducati

ducati stuggled this weekend. like the year before, jerez, for some reason, is their “bogey track.” stoner finished in a dismal 11th after running off the track two times while teammate melandri floundered at the back of the grid. the gp8 is one mean machine and it reminds me of aprilia’s failed rs^3. let’s see, both are: 

  • italian 
  • extremely difficult to ride (colin edwards said that the rs^3 was “born bad”) 
  • implemented a lot of electronics/traction control to manage the engine 
  • considered most powerful bike in paddock

with the gp8, when it’s “on” it’s (qatar) it’s on. when it’s “off” or even not fully “on,” it’s a more than handful (no, not that kind…).

melandri is catching a lot of heat from the factory and there are rumors that he may be sacked if he doesn’t pick up the pace. the question is, who in their right mind would want to ride this beast?

tech 3 yamaha

herve poncharal, team boss of the satellite yamaha team, must be ecstatic with the start of the season. it’s been a long time since they’ve been competitive. the past two years, they were experimenting with dunlop and they were way off the pace. this year, they made the switch to michelin and picked up two very competent riders on the team. the only thing missing is the more powerful pneumatic-valve engine which they expect to run next race in estoril.

toseland looks confident on the m1. like lorenzo, he’s adapting well and his results are proof. he rides with chip on his shoulder and is willing to mix it up with the veterans.

edwards, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have the drive that he used to have. having qualified on the front row in both races, he knows how to set up the bike. but when it comes to the race, he just can’t keep up and gets dropped to midpack or crashes out.

satellite hondas

ironic, that jir/scot aka konica-minolta is doing so well this year. the past two years were atrocious. new management and new rider have revitalized this team and they are currently the best satellite honda on the grid. dovi’s all-or-nothing attitude is apparent and like, hayden, he rides his 2007 rc211v past its limit. get him on factory equipment, and he’ll be challenging for podiums if not wins.

i don’t want to even get into san marco-gresini or lcr…

alice ducati

all that can be said is that the alice gp8’s are “off.” elias and guintoli are riding raging bulls rather than thoroughbred race horses.

next weekend is estoril which should either provide answers or generate more questions (call me capt obvious). i just hope racing is a little closer.


european homecoming – motogp jerez report

April 1, 2008

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after a three week break (which felt like six), the circus that is motogp arived in southern spain for the second round of the champioship and first round on european soil. this was a race for spanish supremacy with no quarter given. the outcome was surprising in more ways than one.

i consider this race to be the proper first round of the season since conditions in qatar were so unfamiliar. world champ casey stoner (marlboro ducati) dominated the historic night race and must’ve had the paddock scratching their heads in disbelief.

jerez is quite the opposite to qatar. first, the race run during the day and, second, the track layout is much tighter with only a 600 m back straight (400 m less than losail). 

circuitjerez.jpg 

the atmosphere is also totally different. the spanish are notorious for their exuberance and fanaticism when it comes to motorsport whereas the arabic culture is subdued and austere.

but i digress… let’s get on with the racing!!!

free practice

the weekend got going with no real surprises in fp1. however, things started getting interesting in the afternoon session. riders began pushing and the top 12 were within a second of each other with spanish rookie jorge lorenzo (fiat yamaha) leading. several riders went down, in particular pre-event favorite stoner who suffered a heavy fall when he tucked the front in turn 7, a fast left-hander that leads into the stadium section. this incident was, unfortunatly, a sign of things to come. ultimately, he ended the day on the backfoot only 6th fastest. the resilient valentino rossi (fiat yamaha) looked to be back in good form just 0.04 sec behind his teammate.

sat morning began well for another spanish rider. dani pedrosa (repsol honda) bounced back from a dismal fri to lead the morning session with americans colin edwards (tech 3 yamaha) and nicky hayden (repsol honda) nipping at his heels. stoner couldn’t overcome his woes with his gp8 suffering handling problems throughout the weekend.

qualifying

qp was fantastic!!! lots of action. bikes looked like unbroken horses, bucking and sliding under their courageous riders. a wily edwards showed everyone why he’s still on a motogp bike by saving an inevitable low-side in turn 1 with sheer grit and determination. genius!!!

lorenzo proved to be too much and set a blistering couple of laps that broke the lap record by almost a second (and they thought the 800’s would slow things down). pedrosa fueled by hate for his compatriot was second fastest. edwards on a severely underpowered bike rounded out the front row. rossi suffered an “electrical” problem on his final qualifier and could only muster a 2nd row start. and stoner continued to struggle with setup leading the 3rd row of the grid.

race

i hate to say it, but the beginning and end were the only real moments to watch in this race. the rest was just filler. jerez was like a bottlerocket – sparks and anticipation while the fuse burns, lift off, nothing…, nothing…, then a raucous BANG!!! at the end. u’ll see what i mean if u check the lap chart.

dani blitzed the field taking the holeshot with teammate hayden in tow. in addition, stoner got a great start rocketing up to 3rd by turn 2. hayden dropped back to 4th after almost missing turn 2 while lorenzo took advantage of it passing the stoner and hayden in one fell swoop snatching 2nd. hayden regained his composure and was putting the heat back on stoner. rossi dropped a position to 6th on the start (he’s never been great out of the blocks) but eventually recovered and slipped past ex-teammate edwards in turn 1 on the 2nd lap. stoner still lacking front end confidence had a moment at curva dry sac and ran it wide and hayden then subsequently hung him out to dry (har! har! har!). at the next corner, rossi, smelling blood, dive-bombed past the out of shape ducati relegating stoner to 5th (it gets worse…). meanwhile, pedrosa is pulling out at gap on lorenzo. rossi then outbrakes hayden into turn 8 while stoner, pushing way too hard, can’t make the corner and runs it into the gravel (same place where he lost the front on the previous lap). stoner rejoined but at the tail end of the pack. edwards again couldn’t hang and was getting passed left-and-right until he ultimately crashed out on the 5th lap. rossi was then on a mission to catch lorenzo who pulled out a lead of 0.4 sec (pedrosa was a further 1 sec ahead). curva sito pons (turn 5) must be a favorite of rossi’s because he again put the pass on lorenzo there on the 3rd lap. phew!

so by the 6th lap, the race settles with only andrea dovisioso (jir/scot honda) moving up the field and a sick james toseland (tech 3 yamaha) literally roughing up chris vermeulen (rizla suzuki). we haven’t mentioned loris capirossi (rizla suzuki) yet and he’s been traipsing around in 5th since the 3rd lap when casey ran off. speaking of which, stoner had another moment in, u guessed it, curva dry sac. he didn’t lose a spot and eventually ended the day in a paltry 11th place.

basically, the top 4 didn’t change for the the last 24 laps. not much happened behind them, either, until the last couple laps. rossi almost made a rookie mistake and thought that the penultimate lap was actually the final lap. luckily, he kept his head down and didn’t lose a position as lorezo was not too far behind. his crew was probably having a heart attack.

capirossi lost a few places and was down to 6th as he passed the white flag. toseland and dovi, respectively, got past him while john hopkins (kawasaki) was gaining on the group. it all went down at the hairpin that leads to the finish on the last lap. as toseland and dovi were having at it running wide and opening the door, a wily capirossi squeezed by to take 5th demonstrating to the rookies how it’s done! respect ur elders, young-uns. surprisingly, hopkins also capitalized on the mistake and pipped dovi at the line for 6th. fantastic stuff!!!

pedrosa won by a comfortable margin (he had a lead of over 4 sec on rossi) with rossi and lorenzo comprising the podium. unbelievably, dani aka pedrobot showed some emotion as he crossed the finish line. he is human!!!

…and breath.

it’s getting late so i’ll have my “analysis” of the race tomorrow…