28 March 2015

Moto3 and Moto2 – Qatar: Pole newcomers Masbou and Lowes - experience and dominance

The first MotoGP weekend is in full swing as the action gets under way on Thursday in Qatar and qualifying in the two classes couldn't have been more different -where the sudden revelation that a tow meant everything in Moto3 threw the form book out of the window, Moto2 was by contrast a one man show -Sam Lowes reigned supreme on his Speed Up.
Reigning Champ, Rabat, was superseded in Qualifying
Pic: MVDS Racing

The Brits had fared well over the course of practice with Danny Kent ahead in FP1 and fastest overall with his leading time from FP3, John McPhee had a bike to learn having only got his 2015 edition of the SaxoPrint bike at the wet Jerez test and immediately showed progress.

Now, however, it was time to make those times count.

Qualifying Reports:

Some precision timing and good fortune saw SaxoPrint RTG rider Alexis Masbou on pole for the first time at his 141st Grand Prix Weekend, the Frenchman, still learning his way around the SaxoPrint Honda, had the luck to discover at the right time that a great slipstream was the key to a quick time in the final sector, and the skill to pull it off from the back of a group of four.

MotoGP: Dovizioso secures opening pole of 2015

Andrea Dovizioso will start the opening race of 2015 from pole position as Ducati make their mark already this season. Repsol Honda team-mates Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez complete the front
Soft tyres helped Dovizioso at Losail
Photo: Ducati 
row under the floodlights in Qatar.

Ducati's dominated the opening MotoGP session of the day as the riders came out for the fourth free practise session of the weekend, allowing riders to get set-up's ready for qualifying. Andrea Iannone ended the session on top ahead of fellow Italian Dovizioso with reigning champion Marquez rounding out the top three, followed by the Movistar Yamaha's of Lorenzo and Rossi.

Heading into the first Q1 of the year were: Barbera, Redding, Vinales, Bradl, Di Meglio, Smith, Petrucci, Hayden, Laverty, Abraham, Miller, De Angelis, Baz, Bautista and Melandri.

With just 15 minutes to get a spot to fight for the top 12 positions on the grid, and it was Danilo Petrucci who was the first rider to sit at the top of the timing sheets. Nine minutes were remaining on the clock and rookie Jack Miller crashed out of the session at turn 10, making it a difficult debut MotoGP race for the LCR Honda rider.

16 March 2015

Nikki Coates talks European Moto2 deal to Paddock Chatter

Opportunities like this don’t come around every day. Like several Irish Championship names Nikki Coates was labouring to find a competitive ride in the British Championship when an offer to compete in the European Moto2 series presented itself.

Nikki Coates returns to race for Team Stratos in 2015
Photo: Team Stratos
Coates recently signed to race with former Spanish national champions Team Stratos in the rebranded European championship for 2015. The deal is a reunion of sorts as the Belfast rider formerly competed with the outfit in the 2011 CEV series.

Competing alongside former national Moto3 hotshot Alejandro Medina, Coates will race the Spanish Ariane chassis which took current World Superbike rider Roman Ramos to the national title in 2013.

The winner of the inaugural Davy Wood Memorial Trophy recently spoke to Paddock Chatter about his thoughts ahead of the upcoming season, transitioning to a Moto2 machine and his offseason training to date.

Paddock Chatter:
Was deal been in the pipeline for long?

Nikki Coates:
I’ve known about it for a while but wasn’t able to say anything. I’m over the moon. I was struggling to get anything over in England. To be fair if I could have got on this bike it would have been my first choice anyway. I had been speaking to them [the team] from November but we were too far apart moneywise to agree a deal. They were able to come back to me and work with me. I’ve ridden for this team before in 2011. Since then they’ve developed different chassis. They were developing this one when I was riding for them and then in 2012 they got runner up in the championship and in 2013 they won the championship with this chassis. The bike will be a lot more competitive. I’m really looking forward to having a go. We really struggled last time with the chassis. We seem to be pushing in the same direction with the chassis manufacturer and the team. 

9 March 2015

Gareth Keys speaks to Paddock Chatter about upcoming TT debut

The majority of road racers that hail from Northern Ireland share one burning ambition – competing at the Isle of Man TT. Gareth Keys is no different. Having risen through the ranks on the Irish short circuits, the 24-year old turned to road racing full-time in 2013. Two years on and Keys is preparing for his first competitive visit to the Island.

Gareth with the Keys Racing set up in 2013
Photo: Raman Sharma
A winter’s worth of financial and logistical planning has gone into his TT debut and Keys is fully motivated for his appearances in the Supersport and Supertwin classes.

Speaking to Paddock Chatter, Gareth opens up about his busy offseason, the never-ending search for extra sponsorship and the preparation that goes into learning the 37.7-mile TT course.

Paddock Chatter:
What is your machine situation like at the moment?

Gareth Keys:
We’ve only got two bikes. We bought the Kawasaki 650 some weeks ago. We got the fairings painted so it’s sitting there all ready to go. We got the engine for the 600 coming back so we’ll get that built up. We’re just trying to get sponsors and a couple of pounds in now, which we’re struggling with.

23 February 2015

WSBK Phillip Island: Old Dogs, New Teams.

'Tis the season to be jolly. Winter is over, motorcycle racing season is upon us. The revs were up, riders in their new teams, new colours, and new leathers were ready for the lights to go out at Phillip Island, and World Superbike racing to get underway for the first time in 2015.
An action packed opening weekend for WSBK 2015.
Photo: KRT

With Brits on top throughout testing, along with young guns from far and wide popping up with some staggering pace, it was anyone's guess who would take the honours yesterday at the Australian circuit. Could Alex Lowes convert his testing success into racing glory? Would Troy Bayliss make a triumphant return to the series he dominated for so many years? Both Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam are on new machinery for 2015 - the final ingredient they need for WSBK stardom at long last?

Race Reports

Race One

As race one got going under the blazing Australian sun, Jonathan Rea in his new colours took the holeshot, closely followed in the opening laps by Aprilia duo Haslam and Torres, as well as Chaz Davies, team mate Sykes and reigning World Supersport Champion Michael van der Mark.

By half distance, Rea, Davies and Haslam had managed to drop Aprilia's Jordi Torres, but a substantial mistake from Haslam on lap 15 allowed Torres to catch Davies and Rea, creating a four way battle for the top spot.

The final few laps produced thrilling action (almost too much to cope with at 1am GMT). A last lap, last corner scrap left the winner to be decided on the home straight with Rea's Kawasaki just having the legs on Haslam's RSV4 Aprilia. Davies took his first Phillip Island podium for Ducati, and Jordi Torres produced a fantastic debut finishing in a solid fourth position.

Michael van der Mark held off last year's championship runner-up Tom Sykes for 5th place, and reigning SBK champion Guintoli, Moto2 exile Nico Terol, Alex Lowes and Leon Camier rounding out the top 10.

'Read More' for Race Two, Championship Standings, Rider Reactions, and Tweets of The Weekend!

18 February 2015

Bayliss in shock WSBK return as injured Giugliano side lined

Former three-time World Superbike Champion, Troy Bayliss is set to make a sensational return to motorcycle road racing this coming weekend in his home round at Phillip Island, replacing Ducati's Davide Giugliano who suffered small fractures to two of his vertebrae in a crash suffered on Monday at the Australian circuit. 

Bayliss retired from WSBK in 2008
Photo: Ducati
Bayliss was set to make the journey from his home on the Gold Coast to make an guest appearance at the opening round of the 2015 WSBK season regardless, participating in his very own Scrambling event held alongside the opening World Championship meeting. But following Giugliano's heavy crash on the second day of the two day pre-season test, it's been confirmed that the Italian will be out of action for the next 90 days to recover. 

The Aruba.it Racing Ducati team have said they had not anticipated bringing in a replacement, but decided to accept the 45-year-old Veteran's request to ride on the 25th anniversary weekend of Phillip Island's first appearance on the World Superbike calendar. 

Bayliss has not raced a Superbike since his retirement from the sport in 2008; however, a thorough Dirt Track racing, Superbike 'experience', Scrambling, Cycling and Superbike development schedule has kept the Ducati icon in phenomenal shape. Bayliss was crowned the 2014 Australian Dirt Track champion and was a key component in the development of the Panigale concept, spending hours upon hours tearing up the asphalt at Mugello on practically the very machine that he will be wildcarding this weekend.

While acknowledging the enormity of the challenge ahead, given that he hasn't ridden a full-factory Ducati Superbike since his last test in May 2014, Bayliss admits that it was an opportunity too good to miss: “I want to start by saying that I really feel for Davide and that it’s a real shame for his season to be starting in this way. The desire to be able to return to the track and see the home crowd and the Ducatisti has always been strong, ever since I last raced and then also Phillip Island, one of my favourite tracks, is celebrating its 25th anniversary of World Superbikes. This gave me the idea to compete as a wildcard and work with the Ducati Superbike technicians once again. I know it’s going to be a very difficult weekend, also because it’s a while since I’ve ridden the Superbike but I do know the track well and so hope to get back into it after a few laps. I’ll try to enjoy myself and will of course be doing my best to score a good result and put on a good show for the public.”

Giugliano's injuries means he will miss at least the first 3 rounds of the 2015 season, seeing him most likely to return at Assen in late April, or possibly his home round at Imola in early May: “My aim now is to do all I can to recover as quickly as possible. I will return to Italy as soon as possible to start my rehabilitation. I’m proud to know that it will be Troy to substitute for me this weekend. He’s a great champion and I’ve always admired him. I hope he gets on well with the set-up that my team and I have worked on in recent months.”

9 January 2015

BSB: Waters and Iddon sign for Halsall Suzuki

Kicking off the 2015 with big news, Halsall Racing announced on Wednesday they have a new force to be reckoned with ahead of the new season with a new manufacturer as Josh Waters and Christian Iddon joining the team.
Waters and Iddon in their 2015 colours
Photo: Halsall Racing

Australian Waters is making the move from Tyco Suzuki for his third season in the British paddock, meaning he is brining his knowledge of the GSXR with him after securing a top nine finish in the championship standings in 2014, securing his first wins at Brands Hatch and Assen.
Joining him will be Christian Iddon following a tough season aboard the Bimota in the World Superbike championship, as well as making a wildcard appearance in the BSB class at Assen.

Josh Waters speaks ahead of his return to the team: “I’m excited to be back in British Superbikes for a third year in 2015. It’s great to be staying with Suzuki and I’m really looking forward to moving into the Halsall team. I really enjoyed riding a couple of rounds for Martin in 2013 and Jack Valentine has such great experience with Suzuki so I can’t wait to get working with him.

The team has a good plan to make the bike as strong as possible for 2015 and I can’t wait to ride it for the first time later this year. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to start this season where I left off at the end of 2014”.

Christian Iddon has similar feelings to his new team-mate and looks forward to working with the team: “I’m really excited about joining Halsall Suzuki for 2015. The bike has clearly got pedigree; two years ago it finished second in the championship and last year Josh won races on it. With the added experience of Jack Valentine, I’m really confident about this package.

It has to be said the Halsall team have had a meteoric rise in the championship, just a few years ago they were in in the Superstock 1000 class and now they are a factory supported British Superbike team. I originally stopped doing Supermoto with a view of winning a championship, so I expect to be running at the front!”

17 December 2014

End Of Season Debrief: Old Dogs And New Tricks

What a year 2014 was for motorcycle racing. It had all the cliches, there were enormous highs, unfortunately, coupled with tremendous lows; as well as records being smashed to pieces. But most notable of all, for us anyway, it was the year of the old dogs showing the young bucks that they can still give as hard as they get.
It was a year to remember for this man.
Photo: YamahaMotoGP

At the domestic level, a year later than intended, the War for Four between Shane Byrne and a resurgent Ryuichi Kiyonari raged throughout the season. The pair saw off any challenge from the young(er) guns of the series with Byrne reigning supreme in the finale at Brands Hatch back in October, becoming the first ever 4-time British Superbike Champion.

Sylvain Guintoli, Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes were the main contenders for the 2014 World Superbike title. Some will say the outcome was spoiled through team orders coming into play from both factory Aprilia and Kawasaki teams. However, fierce racing all the way until the chequered flag dropped under the lights in Qatar left 32 year old Sylvain Guintoli top of the pile and 2013 Champion, Sykes, having to play second fiddle.

Although ye old geezers of MotoGP couldn't overcome the youthful exuberance and sensational speed of Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi showed that you can never be too old to adapt your riding style on a motorcycle to remain one of the very best. After Marquez's devastating run of 10 wins in a row from the green light at round one in Qatar, 'The Doctor' tallied up two wins and a further eleven podiums throughout the year, finishing second overall ahead of struggling team mate Jorge Lorenzo.

This special edition of Midweek Debrief will take a look back at the season gone by with our topical sections of Five Riders Worthy of A Mention, Hang Your Head, Medal of Valour, One To Watch, as well as some of our top tweets from the season gone by.

That's not all. Tis the season to be jolly, and thus to give you a biking fix throughout these dark winter days to keep the mood lifted until we all stuff our faces with turkey next week, we've rounded up some light reading and scoured the web for some cracking videos for you all to watch and to whet your two-wheeled appetite 'til we see in the new year. Don't forget to check out the bottom section and ear mark the dates for when action recommences!

This, is End-Of-Season Debrief. See you in 2015!

10 December 2014

GBmoto to enter road racing campaign with Gary Johnson

2015 will see MCE British Superbike team GBmoto embark on a new venture as they expand over to road racing with Kawasaki with Gary Johnson.
Johnson returns to his old team
Photo: GBmoto

The former TT winner will bring experience and knowledge to the team as they move into the road racing world as they enter the Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix and North West 200. The Lincolnshire rider will be riding the new high spec ZX-10R Superbike as well as the Superstock bike.

Johnson will first test the Kawasaki in the pre-season test with the teams BSB riders James Ellison and James Westmoreland on the 5th March:“This is a fantastic opportunity to be working with such a great team and so closely with a major manufacturer, I’m really happy. I rode for GBmoto in 2011, they were one of the most professional teams I’ve ever worked with and they’ve obviously stepped up again since then. To see what they did this year in BSB by changing manufacturers and immediately getting podiums was incredible. Their infrastructure, bikes and kit is all mega and although this is their first time at the TT I know they will put all the right pieces in the right places, to be successful. 

Hopefully I can bring my own experience to the team from both the events side and with a good reference point from riding a Kawasaki. I have to thank the guys who have worked so hard to help me in the last few years, it’s because of them that I’ve been put in the shop window for this opportunity. With the support of GBmoto and Kawasaki and their testing schedule I’m the most confident I’ve ever been going into the TT and the other events, so bring it on!”

9 November 2014

Crutchlow: A fitting end to the year

Cal Crutchlow ended his brief stint in the factory Ducati team with a strong fifth placed finish in the 2014 MotoGP finale at Valencia.

Crutchlow was content with his send off for the Italian factory
Photo: Steve English
The 28-year old was embroiled in a race long battle with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso throughout the 30-lap race. As they disposed first with early leader Andrea Iannone and then Jorge Lorenzo when the rain began to fall, the official Ducati pairing found themselves battling for fourth place.

Crutchlow headed the pair as they began the penultimate lap but was unable to resist Dovizioso’s advances, the Italian getting past at Doohan Corner two laps from the end. Still, he was happy to put an end to his unfortunate run of three consecutive DNFs.

“I think it’s been a fitting end to the year to finish, with Andrea and me together in fourth and fifth, we did a good job,” Crutchlow said after the race. “I believe I should have pushed a little bit more in the tricky conditions created by the rain, but we could also have been strong for this result in the full dry conditions. I was pleased for the weekend, I felt my race pace was good and we made a good race with Andrea so I’m happy with the final race of the season.”

Rossi happy with season showing, already looking ahead to 2015

Valentino Rossi declared himself happy with his 2014 showing and believes he can use it as a platform to achieve more next year after securing the runner up spot in the MotoGP world championship at Valencia.

Rossi savours his 13th podium of 2014
Photo: Movistar Yamaha
The nine-time world champion’s second place finish in Sunday's 30-lap race was good enough to ward off team-mate Jorge Lorenzo for his best championship finish since 2009, the year of his last world title.

Starting from pole position for the first time in four and a half years, Rossi was the man most likely to prevent Marc Marquez from winning his 13th race of the year. In changeable conditions Rossi ran the Spaniard close until two-thirds distance before settling for a comfortable podium finish.

“I’m happy, because I finished this very positive season for me and my team with a great race and a good result here in Valencia,” said Rossi. “For me it’s a great achievement to take the pole position and to finish in second place, especially because this race was very difficult and the conditions were very dangerous. I tried to stay concentrated and not to make a mistake. It’s a bit of a shame that I started to suffer a little bit on the right side of the tyre, because I wasn’t so far from Marc, but it still has been a good season.

Marquez overcomes the elements for 13th win

It was going to take a great deal more than some inclement weather to halt the Marquez family party as Marc ended the season in record breaking fashion with a convincing MotoGP win at Valencia.

Marquez shows off the style that brought him a record 13 wins in 2014
Photo: Repsol Honda
On the day in which his younger brother secured the Moto3 World Championship – making them the first siblings to win grand prix world championships in the same year – Marc surpassed Mick Doohan’s 18-year old record number of wins in a single season to claim his 13th victory of 2014.

In a race that was peppered with light showers of rain, pole-sitter Valentino Rossi was the only rider able to keep Marquez honest. The Italian confirmed his runner-up spot in the championship with his 13th podium finish of the year, a place ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who finished a distant third.

In stark contrast, Jorge Lorenzo pitted from sixth place for a change of tyres during a second shower that allowed the Ducati pairing of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow though to fight for fourth. Lorenzo rejoined the track in 18th and after a few laps spent lapping ten seconds slower than the leaders, retired from the race.

Moto3 and Moto2 Valencia round-up: Marquez champion despite Miller victory, shock win for Luthi.

The final race weekend of 2014 opened up with the only title battle left to be decided as Moto3 got the action under way at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste.

Jack Miller did all he could, giving everything to pull back a 1.5 second lead as the field splintered with five laps to go, reeling in Isaac Vinales' Calvo bike to leave the Spaniard second.

Behind them Alex Marquez ran a considered race, doing just what he needed, sealing the World Championship title from third despite the best efforts of Danny Kent to push for the final podium spot.
On his way to the world title, Alex Marquez Photo:Honda Racing

The British riders last move for the position left him adrift of Marquez in fourth, with Alex Rins riding his own race in fifth for Estrella Galicia.

Sixth went to Efren Vazquez who briefly led when the lead group swelled to eleven, Pole man Nico Antonelli finished seventh with the Mahindra riding pair of Miguel Oliveira and Ambrogio's Brad Binder next across the stripe in eighth and ninth respectively.

Karel Hanika took tenth, Enea Bastianini eleventh with the remaining points scrapped out between Alexis Masbou in 12th, Jakub Kornfeil in 13th for Calvo Team, Romano Fenati making no progress in 14th with Aspar's Juanfran Guevara taking the final point on offer in 15th.

John McPhee was just raced out of the points in 17th position at the flag.

Moto2 had a strange and unexpected ending as a race long competition for the win between Tito Rabat and Tom Luthi ended abruptly as Rabat's Marc VDS bike seemed to struggle over the line, his wheel lifting and slowing the champion, leaving Luthi clear to surge forward for the win on his Suter powered Interwetten Sitag bike.

8 November 2014

Moto2 and Moto3 qualifying round-up -Valencia: Maiden pole for Antonelli, more records for Rabat

A windy Valencia saw Moto3 get qualifying under way for the final time this season, and in a session which often felt like a race it was to be a final charge from Junior Go & Fun rider Niccolo Antonelli which would see the Italian take pole, the first of his career despite suffering an early crash.

The rest of the front row is where the championship title battle rivals sit – Jack Miller did his best to move the KTM riders up through the order, though Antonelli's lap was his own work, with the Red Bull KTM man knocked out of the top spot in the final moments, second by just a difference of 0.068.
More Records For Rabat                Photo: Marc VDS

Alex Marquez crashed on the way to a nervous third. Mind games were key between the Estrella Galicia rider and the Australian from the off with Miller staring down Marquez into the pits. The Spaniard crashed at turn two with seventeen minutes to go when leading the way and never recovered or improved from there on.

Row two features the KTM of Calvo's Isaac Vinales, Marquez team-mate Rins who mainly ran alone, with Karel Hanika moving up to sixth behind his fell Red Bull rider Miller before a late crash.

Their Ajo team-mate Niklas Ajo sits in seventh ahead of the Hondas of SaxoPrint-RTG team-mates of John McPhee in eighth and Efren Vazquez in ninth.

Juanfran Guevara, continued to improve as the season draws to an end and seemed to be propelled up the order after a promise of a small MotoGP test if he hits the podium to complete the top ten for Mapfre Aspar.

A race winner this season, Romano Fenati returned to his troubled qualifying form in 14th.

Already a champion, Tito Rabat seems focused on setting new records as after already taking the most Moto2 poles ever he now moves into the lead for the record for the whole intermediate class securing his eleventh pole this season at the Cheste circuit at the close of qualifying.

50th career pole for Rossi at Valencia: "It was a bit of a surprise"

To top off his resurgence to form in 2014, Valentino Rossi clinched his 50th premier class pole position this afternoon at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo Circuit in the dying moments of the Q2 session by little over a tenth of a second ahead of friend and compatriot Andrea Iannone.
Pole number 60 across all classes
Photo: YamahaMotoGP

There was little to celebrate from qualifying for Repsol Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa as Pedrosa lapped a further 2 hundredths of a second slower than Iannone to claim 3rd spot on the grid, while Marquez could only manage 5th place due to a minor crash in the session.

Former double World Champion Jorge Lorenzo will head the second row for tomorrow's final Grand Prix of 2014 with Pol Espargaro on the outside in 6th.

Bradley Smith will start from 7th on the grid as he looks to overtake team mate Espargaro for 6th in the overall championship standings. Ducati pairing Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso will start their final Grand Prix as team mates from 8th and 9th on the grid.

The 9 time World Champion Valentino Rossi opted for a different qualifying strategy to normal by waiting patiently at the start of the Qualifying 2 session before bursting out on circuit while his rivals made changes to their machines in the pits. Rossi secured his first pole since Le Mans in 2010 on his final circulation after chequered flag came out. The Italian said: "Getting my 50th pole position in my MotoGP career is a great achievement. It was a bit of a surprise, I didn’t expect it. I knew that I could do a good lap time because I felt really good with the bike. When I pushed the times were already not so bad, but on the last lap I was able to give a little bit extra. To get another pole position after four years is quite emotional. I like it a lot and I’m very happy, especially because it will be very important for tomorrow’s race.”

A full list of results from Q1 can be found here and Q2 here.