Every day that sees MotoGP motorcycles circulating in earnest is an interesting day, but some are more interesting than others. Friday at Misano was one of those days which last, throwing up surprises and shattering preconceptions.
We found out that we need to throw overboard a lot of the things we thought about the current state of the MotoGP championship.
First, to the things that were not a surprise. That Yamahas should top both sessions of free practice, and establish themselves as favorites for the race was entirely to be expected.
That Valentino Rossi should impress is no surprise either: Misano is his home race, and a win here is his best chance of getting back into the championship. Jorge Lorenzo finding his feet again, and laying down a withering pace raised one or two eyebrows among those who had written him off.
But the real shocker was Pol Espargaro topping the second session of free practice, and ending the day faster.
Has Yamaha smuggled a few go-faster bits into the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha garage? The answer to that question is quite simply no. Espargaro’s pace has a very simple explanation: the Spaniard has been strong throughout this season, the switch to the Michelins playing to his strengths.
“This is a track where I am fast,” Espargaro told us. “If we add here the new tires which are really grippy on the rear and quite good performance on the front, I feel like I can ride in my style, aggressive and opening the throttle really early with full lean angle. I feel really comfortable riding the bike.”
Plus, of course, the small matter of time gained by using another fast rider as a target. “For sure, I was behind Márquez, and it helped me two tenths more or less.” Taking away two tenths of a second would put him third rather than first, but as he was second fastest in the morning, Espargaro’s time in FP2 was no fluke.
From Silverstone to Misano: it is hard to think of a starker contrast in circuits. Silverstone sits atop a windswept hilltop in the center of England, surrounded by verdant valleys and ancient villages. Misano nestles just above the vast string of late 20th Century hotel blocks, which form Italy’s Adriatic Riviera.
Silverstone is often wet, and usually cold, no matter what time of year we go there. Misano swelters in the heat of a late Italian summer.
The tracks are very different too. Silverstone is a vast, sweeping expanse of fast and challenging tarmac. Misano is a tightly compressed complex of loops demanding more of fuel management, than of the rider.
Silverstone has old, worn, slippery tarmac with huge bumps rippled in by F1 and other car racing. Up until 2015, Misano was much the same. But it was resurfaced last year, and has fresh, dark, smooth asphalt that has a lot more grip than the old surface.
So the MotoGP riders face a very different kettle of fish a week after Silverstone. The layout of the track is likely to have the biggest impact.
Where Silverstone is full of fast third and fourth gear corners which riders enter carrying a lot of speed, most of the turns at Misano are all first and second gear. Drive and traction are the watchwords, though there are three or four corners where braking is at a premium as well.
Of course, this weekend’s stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar actually takes place at the Misano World Circuit, which changed its official name to the the “Misano World Circuit – Marco Simoncelli” in order to honor the fallen racer.
This makes the San Marino GP a fitting venue for Simoncelli’s number to be retired, and of course the weekend’s events take place in front of a home crowd, with Simoncelli born just a few miles away on the coast, in Cattolica.
AGV is at the San Marino GP this week, showing off its latest racing helmet design. As you can tell from the photo above, the AGV Pista GP R is an evolution on the AGV Pista GP, with AGV claiming that “R” has better aerodynamics, venting, and field of view over its predecessor.
More significant changes come in the form of a Pinlock that comes as standard, along with revised spoiler and visor locking system designs.
The reason though we are bringing you this story today though is that the AGV Pista GP R has the first integrated hydration channel, straight from the factory.
“It’s like drinking from a firehose” is the phrase I would use over and over while telling people about my recent trip to this year’s World Ducati Week.
The three-day event attracted 81,000 rabid Ducati fans through the gates of the Misano race track, which is just a stone’s throw from Italy’s Adriatic Coast. One of the best race tracks in the world, along one of Italy’s best beaches…the recipe for success here might seem obvious.
Beyond these factors though, World Ducati Week itself is a magnet event that attracts Ducatisti from the world over by offering them the ultimate Ducati experience.
Strangely enough though, you don’t even have to be a Ducati fan to attend – though it helps – as WDW2016 is something that any motorcyclist can enjoy.
For my part in this, I will admit to having more than one Ducati in my garage (none on press loan, mind you), so consider my glass of Kool-aid aptly filled, but truthful Ducati has put together a motorcycle enthusiast agenda that other brands and venues should take note of .
As such, World Ducati Week is a great example of how to get motorcyclists excited about being…well, motorcyclists.
Ducati does this by having no shortage of events and spectacles for fans to enjoy, and while the venue is a race track, most of what makes World Ducati Week special doesn’t take place on the Misano Circuit itself.
Instead, the key to World Ducati Week’s success is the carnival atmosphere, that immerses attendees in the very best that the Ducati brand has to offer.
The story of Italian motorcycle companies falling into bankruptcy is not a new one, but Benelli’s version of the narrative is a strangely interesting departure from the norm. Let us explain.
Things apparently kicked off when Benelli failed to pay WP Suspension roughly €120,000 for suspension pieces. WP eventually took Benelli to court, despite the Italian company’s commitment to repay its debt.
An Italian court in Pesaro then declared Benelli bankrupt, and ordered the sum owed to be paid. Somewhere in this process, some of Benelli’s completed motorcycles were seized by a trustee, as collateral for payment.
This spurred Benelli’s Chinese owners, the Qianjiang Group, to release a statement after the court’s ruling, saying that the Italian brand is strong, and has ample cash on-hand to repay its debts (rumored to be in the €1 million range), and has already begun doing so.
If you’re like us, the debut of the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike cannot come soon enough. The machine will officially be unveiled at the Austrian MotoGP round, which is the first race after MotoGP’s summer break, on August 14th.
We can expect to see the KTM RC16 take its first public hot laps at Valencia later this year (Austria should see some parade laps on the course), the post-season test also being Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro’s first chance to ride the new race bike.
Until all that happens though, we will have to suffice with the testing photos we get from KTM, as test riders Mika Kallio and Tom Luthi continue to hone the V4-powered machine.
If you believe the hype from KTM, the RC16 is a beast – making in the neighborhood of 270hp already.
Making the horsepower might be the easiest part of the project though, as KTM will not only have to ensure that reliability exists in its engine design, but also make sure all that the RC16 can get all that power down to the tarmac.
As such, the KTM RC16 was out spinning laps at Mugello last month. We don’t need much of an excuse to bring you massive high-resolution photos of this machine, so we won’t make you wait any longer.
Enjoy them after the jump, there is a new computer desktop background or two for you in the collection, for sure.