19 August 2014

A Lap To Remember

By Terry Hibberd 

"If I didn't take the chance I would regret it for the rest of my life."

A quote from one of my heroes, Carl Fogarty.. And when I got a call from MCE Insurance last week it immediately sprung to mind. The Lancashire rider is known around the world when it comes to motorcycle racing, and I never will be but for two minutes at Oulton Park I lived my dream.
Getting on the pillion 

A couple of months ago I entered my details onto the insurance company’s website, putting myself into a draw to be within a chance of winning a lap in a safety car, a grid walk or even a pillion lap round the Cheshire circuit. In all honesty I’d forgot all about it; I was just looking forward to three days watching some top class racers blasting round the track and spending some quality time with my son and a friend.
There I was sat with the laptop out browsing Paddock Chatter and looking at the interviews leading up to the seventh round in the British Superbike Championship when the phone rang….

“Hello, you’ve been selected for a pillion lap around Oulton Park…. Is that something you’d still be interested in?” Said the voice down the phone.

Now for a split second I thought it was a joke, but then I recalled entering the draw for the ride….
“Yes, of course…”
After being instructed to bring my leathers, helmet, gloves and boots and being told I need to be under 15stone which I just managed and shorter than 6ft 7 and turn up to register for the lap at the MCE stand at 1pm on Saturday.. My mind went into overdrive. Now, I have done one track day in the past at Mallory Park, but as I had to ride my bike there and back in the same day AND I do like the skin in the state it’s in (after all I have grown into it considerably over the years) lets just say the laps were conservative in comparison to some.

I rode my trusty SV650S to Oulton on Friday, with my son on the back.. (He’d now racked up more pillion experience than me) And once there we watched Josh Brookes et al braking and accelerating harder than my mind would comprehend, backing it in and popping wheelies all over the place. The sun beamed down on us all day after a cracking day out and we went home around 4…

17 August 2014

Moto3 & Moto2 Brno round-up: Masbou takes electrifying career first win as Rabat dominates

Masbou takes Moto3 victory as Rins stopped racing a lap too soon, while Rabat dominated to win by a huge margin as showers arrived for Moto2

The Moto3 class had a thrilling Czech Republic Grand Prix around the Brno circuit with much of the field in contention for the entire race distance.
Rabat celebrates win number five                Photo:Marc VDS

The 25 strong pack eventually lessened to 17, with the top ten all in contention for the win when it came to the final lap.

Ongetta-Rivacold's Alexis Masbou made his final move at the right moment to power away on the straight after the final corner for his first win, also the first victory for a Frenchman since Zarco in 2011.

Enea Bastainini, racing with a cracked heel, was pushed into second for Junior Team Go&Fun, equalling the Italians best ever race finish in his rookie year.

British rider Danny Kent gave Husqvarna their first podium finish in Moto3 in third, his best finish of the season, illustrating perfectly the closeness of the race as he started the final lap from ninth after a wobble saw him lose pace.

Alex Marquez took fourth and moves into second in the championship standings, still led by Jack Miller who crossed the line next for fifth for Red Bull KTM Ajo.

Brad Binder had also led briefly in the rush for first but lost out after a hard move by Bastainini to finish top Mahindra rider in sixth for Ambrogio Racing. Miguel Oilvera was just behind, again for Mahindra in seventh.

SaxoPrint-RTG's Indy winner Efern Vazquez crossed the finish line eighth one place ahead of Alex Rins, who appeared to think the race had finished one lap earlier, punching the air as he crossed the line at the end of the penultimate lap to have to catch up and recover ninth.

Leader at the very first corner Isaac Vinales was tenth for Team Calvo, Romano Fenati eleventh for Sky Racing Team VR46 and Niklas Ajo 12th on the second of the Husqvarna entries.

Nico Antonelli failed to capitalise on his excellent qualifying in 13th for Junior Go & Fun. The final points went to the home riders – Calvo's Jakub Kornfeil in 14th and Karel Hanika 15th.

Moto2 was the opposite of the opening races frantic action with Tito Rabat easing away to dominate and win by an impressive margin of 3.274 seconds.

Pedrosa halts Marquez charge with brilliant Brno victory

It may have taken 276 laps over eleven races but Marc Marquez’s record equalling run finally came to an end as Dani Pedrosa powered to his first win of the 2014, edging out Jorge Lorenzo in an absorbing Moto Grand Prix encounter at Brno.

Pedrosa leads Lorenzo and the fading Marquez through the stadium
Picture: Honda Racing Corporation
In a surprising race that saw Marquez finish a premier class race off the podium for the first time, Valentino Rossi completed the podium, a comfortable five seconds clear of the reigning world champion.

Marquez stated Pedrosa would be his strongest challenger after taking his ninth pole position of the season on Saturday and he was eventually proved right. But with Lorenzo, fastest in the cooler morning warm up by 0.47 seconds, looking much like his old self the Honda man would have two riders to contend with as they broke clear of the 21-year old in the early stages.

Pedrosa got off the line well, passing Marquez on the exit of the first corner to sit fourth before making his way past the Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Dovizioso, who led the first lap, with a minimum amount of fuss. Lorenzo’s strategy was to do the same. After starting well he ended lap one third and proceeded to pick the Ducatis off on lap two with a two-in-one move at turn three. By the time Pedrosa followed him through to second Lorenzo had established a 0.8 second lead.

For chunks of the race it seemed as though we were going to witness a repeat of Pedrosa and Lorenzo’s epic 2012 battle as the former reeled the latter in. But the number 26 was in no mood to scrap when he took the lead on lap six, and with Marquez rising to third after some early aggressive exchanges with Rossi and Iannone, he chose to build a gap up at the front.

Marquez was set to become the first rider in history to win the opening eleven races of the season, but this was one too far for the 21-year old whose challenge never materialised from third. By the tenth lap he was losing time on Lorenzo and Rossi was closing from fourth. Three laps later Rossi slashed Marquez’s advantage by a second and took the final podium spot at the downhill turn five, as Marquez out-braked himself, allowing the Italian through.

Lorenzo, emboldened by his warm-up pace, chose the softer option front tyre in a bid to tame the M1 over Brno’s bumps and it initially seemed grip was going away from him mid race, as Pedrosa held a commanding 1.7 second lead on lap 14.

But the Majorcan rallied. Five laps later it was down to 1.3 and with Pedrosa slowing the in the closing stages Lorenzo got the gap under one second with a lap to go. Had there been another circulation of the 3.3 mile circuit, the final result could have been different.

Marquez came home a full ten seconds behind his team-mate in fourth. Once Rossi came by he could be seen pushing to respond only for his front tyre to repeatedly skate across the surface. Andrea Iannone won out a tense battle with future team-mate Dovizioso to claim fifth, having re-taken the position on the last lap after the factory rider got by at turn three.

Stefan Bradl looked to have the pace to catch and pass the Ducati pair early on but he faded to a lonely seventh, ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith. The Englishman started brightly but was shuffled down the order on the first lap and was never able to gain on the Forward Yamaha ahead.

Team-mate Pol Espargaro crashed out of ninth position on lap seven, as did Michael Laverty. Cal Crutchlow’s wretched season continued when he came a cropper on the second lap, falling off his machine after running into the gravel trap.

There was positive news for Scott Redding, who emerged ahead of Ducati test rider Michele Pirro to finish eleventh and Leon Camier scored his first world championship point in the class with a fine 15th place finish.

But the race will be remembered for Pedrosa, who showed plenty of that old aggression that had been somewhat lacking from his riding this year. Just a week ago he finished a distant fourth at Indianapolis, unable to understand the lack of feeling he had with the RC213V. Here he scored his 26th MotoGP victory, taking him above Kevin Schwantz in the all-time premier class wins ranking.

"Overall I had a good experience at this track," he said. "When you are having run you get more motivation. Today I was very focussed, it didn't work out as I thought. I took my plan and I'm very happy. It's a little difficult when Marc is winning all the time so I'm very happy."

Lorenzo was content with second, notching up his third consecutive podium. "Normally we don't have problems with the front,” he said in parc fermé. “Here was bumpy, we didn't have the perfect set up to absorb them. We chose the soft one and it was ok. We finished the race good. No excuses though, I wasn't able to stay with Dani but that was a mistake as I just needed one more lap to catch him."

Rossi showed plenty of grit to take his seventh podium of the year, just a day after mangling his little finger in a practice fall. "I have the injury and I start from the 3rd row, which was my fault. But I'm very happy because this morning was very bad. I tried to ride but I had too much pain. The Clinica Mobile made a good setting with the finger! I'm happy, I finally get to beat Marquez for the first time and I want to be fast in Silverstone."

 Full results can be seen here.

16 August 2014

Dovizioso happy with front row start: "I did the lap time on my own"

Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso will start from the first row for the second race in row, qualifying in second position just 0.129s behind Marquez on pole position.
Dovizioso knows he didn't use a tow this time
Photo: Ducati Team

Putting in consistent times across the weekend, the Italian found himself comfortably in Q2 at the Automotodrom Brno this afternoon. Working on his pace with the GP14, Dovizioso was able to build up a more comfortable feeling on the bike.

He waited until the end of the qualifying session to put in his best lap time, pushing fellow Ducati rider Andrea Iannone down a position on the grid, taking second position at the flag. However, this second position meant more to the Italian as he didn't use any other riders help to get to the line.

Setting a lap time of 1.55.714, Dovizoso was understandably satisfied with his pace.“I am very happy with this weekend because we got off to a good start right from the first Friday session. We have worked a lot with the medium tyre, which I think almost everyone will use tomorrow in the race, and we are competitive and much closer to the front guys. This second place is much better than the one at Indianapolis, because I did the lap time on my own. We have worked really well, I’ve got a good feeling with my GP14, and above all it was important to reduce the gap to the front. My qualifying was perfect and the lap time I did was really over the top! Tomorrow for sure it’ll be important to start up front, but I’m confident I can do a good race.”

Iannone aiming for top six from front row spot

Andrea Iannone rode to his second MotoGP front row start of 2014 with the third fastest time at Brno thanks to a tow from pole-sitter Marc Marquez.

The Italian was fifth fastest after the first set of laps in the 15-minute Q2 session but he cleverly tagged onto the back of Marquez’s RC213V when the pair exited the pits.

Iannone celebrates with the Pramac Ducati squad
Photo: Pramac Ducati
While Marquez improved on his best time, Iannone went even faster, posting a 1min 55.72secs time lap with two minutes remaining. The Pramac Ducati man was then determined to go even faster but ultimately ran wide on his final run and could only watch on as Marquez went faster.

Third place still represents his best qualifying performance since Mugello and Iannone goes into tomorrow’s race aiming for a top six result. Such was the competitiveness at the top, just 0.185 seconds separated Andrea Dovizioso’s second fastest time and Pol Espargaro in ninth.

Smith starts from “perfect platform” after fourth fastest time

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith built on his fine form this weekend by qualifying fourth for the Czech Republic MotoGP at Brno, his best qualifying performance since the season opener at Qatar.

Having signed a year extension during the week to stay with the French outfit for 2015, Smith posted a time of 1min 55.73secs – just four thousandths of a second from Andrea Iannone and a front row spot.

Smith left it late to post the fourth fastest time
Photo: Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
Speaking after qualifying Smith said, “I am very pleased with the qualifying result as it gives me the perfect platform for a strong result tomorrow. It’s the first time since the start of the season that we have been back to the level of performance that we had at Qatar and today I was able to score a positive grid position. The team did an excellent job and I must thank my technicians and Guy Coulon for their brilliant technical knowledge plus guidance.”

Smith left his best for last, posting his fastest time with a matter of seconds remaining in the 15-minute Q2 shoot-out. The 23-year old had impressed with his times on Saturday morning by finishing third in FP3.

Moto3 & Moto2 Brno Qualifying round-up : Marquez sneaks in late, Rabat wins battle for pole

The weather was a mixed bag of clear skies and showers at the windy Brno circuit for qualifying for Round eleven of the championship as the paddock arrived in the Czech Republic.

Moto3 got the worst of the weather as the showers affected the progress of the session repeatedly, though a crash for Philipp Oettl leaving the safety barrier in need of repair gave everyone a chance to regroup for a final assault on pole.

Alex Marquez took advantage and pole for the second time this season, but only after the weather had seen him seem momentarily lose concentration, leaving John McPhee in his path leading to a trip into the gravel for the Estrella Galicia rider.
        Rabat in Action                                    Photo:Marc VDS

Joining him on the front row are Isaac Vinales; a best for the Calvo rider; and unusually given his crash record this season Niccolo Antonelli, who's solid lapping was helped by being in the same group as Vinales and Marquez who timed their laps perfectly dragging each other around.

A solo run moved Alex Rins' Estrella Galicia bike into fourth. He is joined on row two by the Mahindra of Miguel Oliveira and a frustrated Jack Miller in sixth, who at one point lashed out hitting Francesco Bagnaia as he struggled with slow bikes sitting on the track.

Row three is filled by early qualifying leader Alexis Masbou for Ongetta-Rivacold, who looked set for pole when the rain was in control, and Efren Vazquez, winner last weekend in Indianapolis,who held eighth despite a late spill.

Enea Bastianini took ninth for Junior Team Go&Fun while Romano Fenati, who worked hard to improve position in the wet completes the grid top ten for Sky Racing Team VR46.

British riders John McPhee and Danny Kent both just missed out on the top ten in eleventh and twelfth respectively.

Jakub Kornfeil was the best of the home riders 13th, Karel Hanika starts 17th.

Moto2 was a hotly contested affair in the dry with Marc VDS rider Tito Rabat out at the close despite leading to maintain a lead as he pushed home for pole in Moto2.

Rossi: "It's very important for tomorrow that there is no fracture."

Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi was able to bounce back from a terrifyingly quick FP4 crash to secure a third row start at the Autodromo Brno.
Rossi will start from the third row at Brno
Photo: Yamaha MotoGP

After getting off to a slow start this weekend, the Italian set the fastest lap of the weekend in the fourth practise session of the day in the Czech Republic and was sitting comfortably at the top of the timing screens.

However during the session, Rossi lost the front end of his YZR-M1 at turn 11. Carrying what looked like could have been a serious injury to his left hand, he went straight to the Clinica Mobile and was declared fit to ride with no fractures sustained, ending the session on top.

Heading out in Q2, Rossi sat down in 12th for the majority of the session before shooting up into fifth position. However he was soon to be pushed down by riders on flying laps behind the 35 year old, meaning he eventually ended in seventh position on the grid, 0.236s behind Marquez on pole.

Rossi explains his crash: “I was pushing a lot and my pace was fast but unfortunately when entering turn eleven I was a little bit too wide. I was braking hard, trying to enter the corner anyway but I lost the front and damaged my little finger. It’s very important for tomorrow that there is no fracture. It seems like there won’t be any problem. My finger is not broken; it’s just a little bit damaged. I think and hope that it won’t give me problems during the race. Using the soft front tyre for tomorrow is not an option for me. I think using the hard tyre on the front is better.”

MotoGP: Marquez starts from pole but expects 'tough race' at Brno

Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez has secured his ninth pole position of the season at the Czech circuit of Brno, ahead of the two Ducati's of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone.
Marquez dominates yet again...
Photo: Repsol Honda

In the usually 'quiet' FP4 session a few headlines were created following a crash from Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi, followed shortly by Alvaro Bautista on the Go&Fun Gresini. After 'The Doctor' walked off clutching his hand, his legion of Yellow fans held their breath but were releaved to find out his left hand wasn't fractured and he just suffered a cut to his little finger. Unable to get back out on track fro the remainer of the session, Rossi still finished the session on top, 0.045s ahead of Dani Pedrosa.

Unsurprisingly Marquez wasn't far behind in third, one tenth of a second behind. Pol Espargaro finished in fourth position on the Tech 3 Yamaha racing, as Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the top five half a second behind Rossi. Scott Redding was another rider to crash in the session, towards the end meaning he ended the session in 16th.

LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl finished qualifying one in first, as Yonny Hernandez on his Energy T.I. Pramac Racing machine finished the session in second which secured their places in qualifying two, the shootout for the top 12 positions on the grid. Once Bradl secured the top spot he was seemingly unchallenged to make it through into Q2, as Ducati team's wildcard Michele Pirro missed out on the top two spots, 0.371s off Bradl's time.

15 August 2014

Marquez tops day one at Brno but 'not entirely satisfied'

Championship leader Marc Marquez topped the opening day at the Autodromo Brno in mixed weather conditions as he could win a record breaking 11 races in a row.
Marquez takes on the Czech rain
Photo: Repsol Honda

In a sunny morning free practise session, times were close as seven riders set competitive lap times to put them at the top of the table, however it was Spaniard Marquez who ended the session on top with a lap time of 1.56.803s putting him 0.037 ahead of Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. Repsol Honda team-mate to Marquez, Dani Pedrosa secured third position ahead of Aleix Espargaro on the NGM Forward racing open class machine, two hundredth's of a second behind.

Rain hit the Czech track in the afternoon, meaning times couldn't be improved on and it was Andrea Iannone who sat at the top with a lap time of 2.03.179 in damp conditions. Hector Barbera was just 1.283s behind Iannone on the Avinita Racing machine, being only the second rider to set a time in difficult comditions, before the heavy rain fell in Europe. Marquez finished in third, the first rider to set a 'wet' time of 2.07.846 ahead of Pedrosa. Seven time winner at the track Valentino Rossi finished fifth in the conditions, one second behind Marquez as Cal Crutchlow and Lorenzo rounded out the top seven.

Marquez explained: "I am happy with how the practices went today as the track has changed substantially compared with how it was when we tested here. I expected this, and we adapted our setup accordingly in the sessions - although I am still not entirely satisfied. In the afternoon when the track was wet - especially at the start of FP2 - I was able to lap consistently and I felt good which is important. We will see what the weather is like tomorrow and if we can have a good qualifying session”

14 August 2014

Estment backed by popular South African Chain The Savanna Shop

Motorpoint British Supersport rider Bjorn Estment has secured a new sponsor deal with The Savanna Shop, a fast growing chain of ever popular South African food and drink product stores.
Bjorn lines up on the grid
Photo: Freezeframe Photography

The South African rider is currently lying in 13th position in the championship standings after seven rounds with Team Appleyard/Macadam Yamaha. With a series of top 12 results so far this season, reguarly breaking into the top seven, Estment looks forward to a strong end to the BSS season with his new sponsor.

The popular store is packed with all the favourite/best “local is lekker” (local is great) products in each of the 7 stores located at stations around London. It also provides all customers the very best high quality Biltong and meat products.

Bjorn Estment said of his new deal: “I am absolutely thrilled to secure the backing of a really proudly South African company. Firstly I can not say enough about how good the products are and would definitely advise getting yourself down to your nearest store and if that’s not possible get ordering online… you will not be disappointed. Secondly the input from Lisa and her team helps to make my dream a reality and allows me to chase success whilst representing The Savanna in the best way I know how. I only wish we had met earlier but now look to build a great relationship into the future. Hell yeah!”

Midweek Debrief - Llongyfarchiadau Ebbw Vale…now, where are the diggers?

The release that came on Wednesday afternoon announcing a change in the British Grand Prix’s location for the 2016 British Grand Prix came as a surprise to many. Not only did it go to the yet-to-be-constructed Circuit of Wales project in Ebbw Vale, but the announcement states the circuit won’t be ready until 2016, leaving Dorna searching for a viable venue for next year.

With work yet to start on the project, and a succession of delays holding up its development to date, circuit organisers are hopeful that public funding in the region of 50 million pounds will accelerate the project. The total cost of the 830 acre development is estimated at £280 million, with organisers unwilling to speak of potential investors.

Could we see a MotoGP return to sunny Donington in '15?
Photo: world.honda.com
A succession of transparency requests have been denied by the circuit and the heads at Silverstone have already written to the Prime Minister, declaring that any government assistance towards the CoW could “amount to illegal state aid.”

Dorna head Carmelo Ezpeleta doesn't seem flustered by all of this though, telling Bennets Bike Social, "We have been in this situation many times since 1992, sometimes the circuits get finished and sometimes they don’t." Err, good to see you so relaxed about the whole thing, Carmelo. From releases it is clear Silverstone and the CoW are not on the best terms at the moment and, as the former reached an "impasse" over the cost of running the MotoGP event, the only other viable option is Donington Park for 2015. Just how long we will be left to wait for the CoW's completion is another matter too.

All of this leads us to several questions. What convinced Dorna to go ahead with the project? Could this be a re-run of the redevelopment of Donington Park in 2008, as Silverstone have pointed out? Are public funds really best utilised on a race circuit during these economic times? 

13 August 2014

Dorna signs deal to hold British MotoGP at Circuit of Wales

It has been announced today that from 2015 the British round of the MotoGP will no longer be held at Silverstone, after the Circuit of Wales signed a deal with DORNA to host the round from 2015.
An ariel shot of the proposed circuit once finished
Photo: CoW

With the circuit not built just yet, plans are already in place for another track to host the round next season - Silverstone and Donington being the obvious choices confirmed by Carmelo Ezpeleta at the press conference this afternoon. The deal is set for five years, with five more years on the table, but all could depend on the speed at which the Welsh can build this 'world-class automotive cluster', north of Ebbw Vale in the South of the country.

But so far not one piece of soil has been moved on the proposed site, with a lack of money seeming to be halting the circuits development - a pretty big factor! Another (fairly large) reason for a lack of any work being started is the planning enquiry currently ongoing, involving several hundred acres of land. But there isn't just the actual circuit to think about, there also needs to be improvements to access to the circuit as well as infrastructure around the site - hotels, restaurants and public transport will need to improve in order to house the crowds expected, not to mention the teams.

When Donington lost the MotoGP in 2009, fans were looking forward to the prospect of a circuit which has hard-standing car parks leading straight onto a motorway. Silverstone is built for big crowds and access to the circuit is fantastic, however even the Northamptonshire track experiences traffic problems and big queues to leave, so the Welsh are going to have to build some impressive roads to get fans in and out, we can't see the 'Head of the Valleys road' and A465 working out.

12 August 2014

Pedrosa: "At no point did I feel good on the bike"

Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa had a tough weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, unable to match the pace of his team-mate as well as failing to make the podium for the third time this season.

The Spaniard had a tough start to the weekend, finishing the opening free practise session in 16th position. At a track that has treated Pedrosa well in the past, he gradually improved his pace however he never managed to break into the top three in the practise sessions.

Qualifying in eighth on the grid, the 29 year old made a strong start and was able to get up into the top five by the end of the first lap. Although he was never able to make the gap up to the leaders, and he spent a lonely race, eventually crossing the line in fourth.

Pedrosa was over four seconds behind third position man Rossi and a full ten seconds behind his team-mate Marc Marquez:“Overall it has been a difficult weekend in which at no point did I feel good on the bike. We couldn't find a good setup in practice. Then in the race, although I was able to move up a few places, I was always off the pace if I was going to fight for the podium”

Linfoot secures debut BSB podium: "was all about carrying the confidence"

Quattro Plant Kawasaki's Dan Linfoot secured his first MCE British Superbike podium in the third race at Oulton Park, but he isn't getting carried away.

Since the championship last visited the Cheshire track in May Linfoot has consistently finished in the top seven, improving his pace as the season went on and has been on the cusp of finishing on the podium in recent races. The Yorkshire rider got his weekend off to a strong start, qualifying in third position for the first race of the weekend however as his softer rear tyre lost grip, meaning he lost touch with the fight for the podium however he did secure a solid fifth position.

Cheshire was hit by heavy rain on Sunday, meaning conditions were difficult for the riders as the warm August air dried the track out between downpours. Choosing a slick rear and intermediate front tyre for race two, Linfoot was able to equal his best result of the season as the track conditions dried and he came out of a battle for fourth on top, making the move on the final lap of 18.