Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But, who was the best rider of 2016? This is the our Top 10 riders of the 2016 World Superbike season.
Christmas is in the air (regardless of David Emmett’s protestations) and that means one unfortunate fact; the racing season is almost finished. We’re drawing towards the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, but thankfully there is a bright light in the sky to guide us.
It’s not a star leading to a manger, where a new born baby lies in wait to save us all, but rather one last event of the racing calendar. Flat Track takes center stage this weekend and the Superprestigio in Barcelona has quickly become one of the most anticipated events of the year.
Rebirthed in 2014, the event has grown in popularity, and on Saturday night we will once again see Brad Baker take on the best that Europe has to offer. The American is a former AMA Pro Flat Track champion, and generally regarded as one of the biggest talents to come out of the US series in years.
Baker and Marc Marquez were born a day apart in February 1993, and both have captivated their relative championships in recent years and gained reputations for their bravery and spectacular styles. This is the one weekend a year where they battle for supremacy on track together.
The Honda WorldSBK team has put together an intriguing video, where they interview Earl Hayden, father to Nicky Hayden. In the video, Earl talks about how Nicky grew up wanting to be a world champion, and the great lengths he would go through in order to achieve that goal one day.
He also talks about how becoming the MotoGP World Champion in 2006 didn’t really change the person that his son was, and how Nicky has always remained down-to-earth around his friends and family.
Of course, anyone who has spent some time with the Kentucky Kid would know this to be true already. Still, it is a neat video, with some touching words from a proud father. We highly recommend watching it, and then calling your folks. They miss you.
If ever there was a time to be disabused of any notions of the glamorous life a professional motorcycle racer leads, the weeks immediately following the end of the racing season, after testing has been completed, is surely it.
Riders around the world head into operating theaters and physical rehabilitation facilities to have more permanent fixes applied to the temporary patch-up jobs done to allow them to keep racing during the season.
There has been a long list of riders having surgery or treatment of one sort or another over the past week or so.
Come to Spain they said, the weather will be great they said…There are typically only a handful of valuable winter testing venues. Jerez in the south of Spain is one of the most popular.
Usually the winter sun provides almost perfect conditions for World Superbike teams to undertake their off-season programs. The weather was not co-operating today, and there was limited mileage for all of the runners.
The test did however offer the first glimpses of the Milwaukee Aprilia. Their partnership has been one of the biggest off-season talking points, and while Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty were unable to complete a lot of miles, they were at least able to start their tenure with the team.
With just ten days to go until the winter test ban comes in to force, on December 1st, teams in both world championships are busy doing their last tests and collecting as much data as possible to take into the winter break.
Testing is already happening on Monday, with some of the World Superbike teams gathering in Jerez. Kawasaki, the SMR Aprilia squad, Althea BMW, and Ten Kate (soon to be Red Bull) Honda are at the Jerez circuit, though the wet weather means there is little going on on track.
Ten Kate are without Nicky Hayden, who has twisted his knee while practice dirt track. The WorldSBK teams are due to stay for a couple more days, and will hope that the better weather forecast for later in the week arrives sooner rather than later.
If you needed to find a time and place to organize a MotoGP race, then Phillip Island in October is among the worst combinations in the world.
A track located on the edge of the freezing Southern Ocean, with nothing between it and the South Pole but the brief blip of Tasmania.
Held while the southern winter still has a firm grip on the track, wracking it with blasts of icy wind and soaking it in freezing rain. And yet it is the best race on the calendar.
The answer is simple. Phillip Island is arguably the purest motorcycle racing circuit in the world. Like all great circuits, it follows the lines dictated to it by the landscape. The track ebbs, flows, dips, and rises its way around the rolling hills which sit atop the cliffs overlooking the Bass Strait.
It is fast, the second fastest track on the calendar, but unlike the Red Bull Ring, which knocked it off top spot, its speed is all in the corners, brutally fast turns which require courage, balance, and bike feel in equal measure. It is above all a test of the rider, rather than machinery.
That makes Phillip Island beloved of every rider on the grid. The love of the place is nigh on unanimous, up there with Mugello, and the uncastrated part of Assen. It encapsulates the reason motorcycle racers ride: a chance to surf the wave of inner terror, face it down, and overcome it.
The flood of adrenaline that engulfs the senses, knowing that you are teetering on the brink of disaster, and if you step over, it is going to hurt. Controlling the bike, sensing its movement, riding the edge of the tires and the limits of adhesion. This is what it means to feel alive.
American MotoGP fans, along with MotoGP fans in general, will be pleased to hear that Nicky Hayden will swing a leg over a MotoGP bike once again. Replacing the injured Dani Pedrosa, Hayden will race at Australian GP with the Repsol Honda team.
Pedrosa is expected to miss the rest of the flyaway races, after breaking his collarbone during the Japanese GP. With Hiroshi Aoyama replacing the HRC rider at Motegi, Hayden will now fill in at Phillip Island.
Fans will remember that the Kentucky Kid has already had some seat time on the 2016-spec Honda RC213V race bike, substituting for Jack Miller during the Aragon GP.
Now with more experience with the Michelin tires, we expect Hayden to improve upon his 15th place finish in Spain.
Some illness amongst our crew is the reason this show is getting to you a bit late, but never fear, Episode 39 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is here.
Re-capping the Aragon GP, David Emmett, Neil Morrison, and Steve English talk about the racing events in Spain, and place a friendly wager about how the rest of the season is going to shape up in the MotoGP paddock.
Turning to more serious discussion though, the guys also examine the FIM’s concussion protocol, as it was center stage in Aragon after Danilo Petrucci’s heavy crash, and perhaps hasty return to riding a motorcycle.
The attention then turns to the World Superbike paddock, with a talk about the recent round at Magny-Cours, and how the production-class racers are faring so far this season, and what is in store for next year. We also have a short interview with rider Chaz Davies about the progress of the Ducati squad.
We think this show is well worth the wait, so we hope you like it.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
Honda is putting its best foot forward, when it comes to its superbike offering for the 2017 model year. As such, the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP shows a number of strong updates to the aged liter bike.
A 10hp increase, a 33 lbs weight reduction, and features like traction control, semi-active suspension, and cornering ABS all do well to make the Honda CBR1000RR relevant again in superbike discussions. For the race track, the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 should aid race teams under the tightening homologation rules.
One such rider to benefit from Honda’s hard work is Nicky Hayden – the American rider signing a two-year agreement with Honda on the promise of an updated Fireblade at his disposal for the 2017 model year.
In the video after the jump, we get out first preview of Hayden flogging the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP around the Valencia circuit. We think you’ll enjoy it.