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October 2012

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The Phillip Island was a high for Moto2’s Ant West, as the Australian rider put his QMMF Racing bike on the second podium spot after the well-fought race. With three Australians on the podium for each of the three GP classes, the Australian GP was highlighted with Casey Stoner’s last ride at Phillip Island, making the event a bittersweet moment for the local crowd.

For Ant West though, it will be his last memory for the 2012 Moto2 season, as the 31-year-old rider from Maryborough has been handed a 30-day ban from the sport, after failing a drug test at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. Found to have Methylhexaneamine (DMMA), a mild stimulant that is found in dietary supplements, in his system at the French round, West will miss Valencia, the last round of the Moto2 season.







Ahead of its debut in a couple week at the EICMA show in Milan, the MV Agusta Rivale has broken some of its cover, with the Italian “motorcycle art” manufacturer releasing an official sketch of the upcoming hypermotard-styled motorcycle. Obviously looking to drum-up some buzz about MV Agusta’s third addition to the company’s three-cylinder range, we think the sketch will have the desired effect.







At Phillip Island post-race press conference, I thought Jorge Lorenzo singing “We Are the Champions” with Wilco Zeelenberg would top my MotoGP audio/visual experience for the year (I’m still debating whether it is worth losing my MotoGP credentials to post-up that video).

However, I think this clip of the newly crowned World Champion doing a rendition of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” might just even surpass that special moment in my life. Just a warning, some things are burned into the back of your brain, and cannot be unseen. Happy Halloween after the jump.







News coming out of India and Southeast Asia (which Cycle World is bizarrely taking credit for starting, despite being months late to the party), is that Yamaha is set to debut a 250cc sport bike for the world market. Said to be visually similar to the Yamaha YZF-R6 (concept sketch above), the quarter-liter four-stroke machine is certainly a response to the recent offerings from Honda and Kawasaki.

Expected to be a 2013 or 2014 model, we will almost certainly get our first glimpse of the bike, or its concept, at the upcoming 2012 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan. With details about the “Yamaha YZF-R250” being scarce, we would wager a 2014 launch date, but as always, time will tell. Expect pricing to be sub-$5,000 though, with optional ABS.







This past weekend at Phillip Island was a memorable experience in two distinct but related ways. It was my first visit to this famous track, and I arrived with high expectations, but figured I’d be at least a little disappointed. For all the hyperbole heaped on Phillip Island’s GP course, how could it be that great?

But as I explored the track, which immediately reminded me of one of my favorite courses in the world, Donington Park, I found that once again, TV fails to deliver the full picture. Phillip Island not only has interesting and exciting turns and elevation changes, but is also set in a gorgeous landscape of green and blue.

It has few of the eyesores than usually adorn race tracks. There are no giant wire fences, very little Armco away from the pit lane, few trackside porta-potties or trailers, and from what I saw, no orange cones. Instead there are lush grasses and dense forests of trees, or blue ocean water with sea birds in the air.







Spectators are allowed close and unobstructed views of the track and we photographers are allowed even closer. If a TV stand or food vendor is spoiling your background, you can often move to a different position and make the distration disappear from the shot. When I first arrived I asked in the Media Center for a map of the Red Zones, places around the track they don’t want us to go.

I got a puzzled look and this reply: “Ummm, I don’t think there are any. Just go where you want unless a marshall objects.” There seems to be only one general rule: if you see a row of tires, don’t stand between the those tires and the track. If you can respect that amount of common sense, pretty much anywhere else is available.

So working there was a pleasure and I seemed to be in a land of nearly endless possibilities for images. I can imagine it would take years of shooting there regularly to be confident you’d found most of the really good perspectives.













It seems we won’t get through each day of the week without an update on Ducati Corse’s World Superbike plans. After first hearing that Ducati Corse and Althea Racing had parted ways, with Ducati then confirming the news, it seems now the Italian brand is being linked to the Belgian Alstare Team, previously of Suzuki fame.

Talks between Ducati Corse and Team Alstare have been confirmed by Team Principal Francis Batta, with the negotiations between the two parties set to conclude tomorrow. Interestingly enough, the conclusion of the Alstare deal is fresh on the news of Althea Racing’s split from Ducati, which only adds more fuel to the speculation about the two parties.







Two freshly anointed champions, three impressive winners, and a large crowd of ecstatic and yet wistful fans, come to say goodbye to a departing hero and hope to spot a new one arriving. Even the weather cooperated. That’s how good the Australian Grand Prix was at Phillip Island this year. All three races were a lot less intense than the previous two weekends, but even that didn’t matter, because of the manner in which the winners secured their victories, and because the Australian crowd had something to cheer about in all three categories.

It started in the Moto3 race, where Sandro Cortese rode one of his best races of the year, the title he clinched last weekend at Sepang clearly a weight off his mind, allowing the young German to ride freely. He had Miguel Oliveira to contend with for most of the race, but in the end, he would not be denied. The home crowd still had much to cheer about, as local boy Arthur Sissis, the 17-year-old former Red Bull Rookie, won an intense battle for third, putting an Australian on the podium for the first time on Sunday.

In Moto2, Pol Espargaro gave a display of dominance rarely seen in the intensively competitive class. It was hardly unexpected, Espargaro having stamped his authority on practice for the past two days, but the style in which the Spaniard won was very, very impressive. It took him a couple of laps to get past Marc Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami, but once he did, he put a second or more a lap on most of the field, before cruising home to a spectacular victory. Espargaro could do nothing to prevent Marquez becoming champion, concentrating solely on the task ahead, winning as many races as possible.







The home crowd had something to cheer for as well, Ant West riding an outstanding race to hold off a late charge from Marc Marquez to secure second place, making it two podiums in a row. West’s podium at Sepang last weekend took the weight of the Australian veteran’s shoulders and has given him the confidence boost he needed.

The team have been making slow progress, West had said earlier this weekend, and Sepang was the reward from that hard work. Most of all, though, it had helped him find his belief in himself again; that alone is worth half a second or more a lap. At this level, motorcycle racing is 90% mental.

Marquez finished third, but still took the 2012 Moto2 title with honor. He may not have been able to win – no one had the measure of Espargaro at Phillip Island – but he gave an impressive account of himself and secured the championship with a podium. Marquez is a deserved winner of the championship, despite the criticism sometimes aimed at the young Spaniard. The onboard video of the first lap at Motegi shows one of the most compelling displays of courage, skill and racing sense of recent years, and justifies on its own his ascension to the premier class next season.







There has been much made of Marquez’ backing and support, and of the special treatment he has received. It is true that he has had solid sponsorship and always been in a strong team, but the reason why he has had the backing is because of his extraordinary talent, rather than the other way around. A MotoGP team manager who was at the test where Marquez took his first laps on a Moto2 machine was in awe: “He is a very special talent.”

Winning the title on what is a very ordinary chassis – the massive success of the Kalex bikes compared to the mediocre results of the other Suters – speaks volumes about the ability of Marquez, and the Spaniard will be very fast from the very first MotoGP race at Qatar. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto has already said that he expects Marquez to be on the podium at that race; it would not surprise me in the slightest.

The main course, however, was the demonstration to be given by Casey Stoner in the MotoGP class. Stoner had almost humiliated the rest of the field during practice, consistently half a second or more quicker than anyone else, the gap often closer to a second. At a track where the lap is usually 90 seconds, that is a massive advantage.







After the shocking news this weekend that Ducati and Althea Racing would go their separate ways, the Bologna Brand has issued its own press statement about the break-up. Confirming that it has contracted former World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa to its payroll for next season, Ducati Corse also reaffirmed its commitment to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale in the series.

Ducati Corse has yet to release its official plans to race in the series, but the writing on the wall hints towards a factory team for 2013. Citing its strong ties and good relationship with the Althea Racing team, Ducati’s press release mentions the possibility of a “cooperation between Ducati and Team Althea” that could still be “found in the future,” which suggests that Althea could come on as a satellite team for 2013, or again takeover as the factory-backed effort at a later point in time.

While Ducati’s WSBK racing effort is still very much in the air, names like Liberty Racing and Davide Tardozzi are being banded about, and it is certain that Ducati Corse is exploring every option available. What is perhaps most intriguing in the news is Ducati Corse’s reconfirmation of its plan to race the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 next season.













Today is a surreal landmark, as it marks our fourth year of publishing Asphalt & Rubber. If you cannot already tell, I am having a hard time believing that four years have gone by since I started this humble motorcycle blog (in the middle of corporate finance class, no less), but A&R continues to thrive despite my best dyslexic efforts.

It astonishes me that our “little” site is visited throughout the world on a daily basis, and that each month more people read A&R than all three of the major US motorcycle print magazines…combined.

Things keep on growing here, and I am deeply grateful now to be publishing the work of David Emmett on A&R, as he continues to be one of the most insightful writers in motorcycle racing, in both the print and online mediums.







This year, I am also very honored to have had regular written and photo contributions from Scott Jones, Daniel Lo, and Jules Cisek this year — their work has helped Asphalt & Rubber earn a reputation for stunning photography, and I hear compliments about their photography virtually every time I meet a loyal A&R reader in person.







In a surprise move, Althea Racing and Ducati Corse have parted ways in their World Superbike collaboration. The news sees Carlos Checa remaining with Ducati Corse and on the Ducati 1199 Panigale, though the Spaniard has no team behind him. Meanwhile, Althea Racing will retain #2 man Davide Giugliano, but will have to begin a search for a new manufacturer.

The issue under contention is the level of support Ducati Corse was willing to give the team, as Team Principal Genesio Bevilacqua has said to several Italian publications that Ducati was willing to give about as much support in 2013 as it did in 2012, which wasn’t a lot.

Left to develop the Ducati 1199 Panigale on its own, a large feat given the rumors that the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 is not up to par for racing duty, Althea Racing is said to have balked at the idea of having to do all the heavy-lifting while Ducati reaps all the reward, and rightfully so.