“My ass is on the line, but I’ll have no regrets.” Jake Gagne jumped in at the deep end, but the Californian has learned a lot about racing and himself during his rookie WorldSBK campaign.
Back in April, Kevin Dunworth of Loaded Gun Customs ran into Miguel Galluzzi at the Handbuilt Show in Austin and asked him to come to Los Angeles to serve as a judge for the inaugural Golden Bolt Motorcycle Show.
For those of you who don’t know who Miguel Galluzzi is, let me clue you in. He is the designer of the iconic Ducati Monster, the Moto Guzzi California 1400, and the Aprilia Dorsoduro, just to name a few.
Additionally, he is currently running Piaggio’s Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, California. Not only that, he is a lifelong motorcyclist and a heck of a nice guy.
I had a chance to sit down with Galluzzi for about 15 minutes during the Golden Bolt to talk about motorcycles and the industry in general. His insights were illuminating.
Yamaha have been at the center of the MotoGP news for a good part of this season. For good reasons and for bad reasons: the new Petronas SIC satellite team has been at the center of speculation over who would run the team, who would manage the team, and more importantly, who would ride for the team, with some top riders linked to the seats.
But Yamaha have also now gone for 19 races without a win, their longest streak without a victory since 1998. At the same time, Valentino Rossi is second in the championship, and Movistar Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales is third, and both riders have been podium regulars throughout the first part of 2018.
After the Sachsenring, Yamaha announced that Monster Energy would be taking over as title sponsor from the 2019 season, replacing the departing Movistar, who are expected to lose the MotoGP broadcasting contract for Spain and are stepping back from the series.
On Thursday at Brno, Yamaha held a press conference with Monster Energy, giving the media their first chance to question Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis and Monster Energy Vice President Mitch Covington about the deal.
Once the press conference was over, a small group of journalists got a chance to question Jarvis about the challenges the factory Yamaha team has faced over the course of this year.
He spoke about dealing with the pressure of going for such a long time without a win, of handling rumors about dissatisfaction within the team, and some of the more fanciful rumors of discord between Valentino Rossi and himself, and about needing to expand their testing strategy.
In the final part of our series on test riders, (see also Part 1, with Mike Leitner, Part 2, with Davide Brivio, and Part 3, with Davide Tardozzi) an interview with Michele Pirro, Ducati’s workhorse and arguably the rider responsible for taking the concept of a test rider to a higher level.
Pirro’s path to Ducati ran through the CRT bikes, spending a year on a Honda-powered FTR bike with the San Carlo Gresini team in 2012, after graduating from Moto2.
In 2013, he was hired by Ducati to work as a test rider under Bernhard Gobmeier, who was brought in as head of Ducati Corse, after the Italian factory had been bought by Audi.
A year later, when Gigi Dall’Igna took over as Ducati Corse boss, Pirro was given even more responsibility in helping to turn the program around, which had lost its way in the years after Casey Stoner left Borgo Panigale.
Since then, Pirro has been charged with pushing forward the development of the bike. Pirro’s speed has been key to helping the Desmosedici improve, the Italian consistently capable of running in or around the top ten.
His best finish last year came at Misano, where he crossed the line in fifth, equaling his best result in MotoGP. Wildcards are just one way in which Pirro remains fast, he also races in the Italian CIV championship, which he wins with relative ease.
But his dream remains to return to MotoGP, and to have a shot at proving he is not just a great test rider, but a great MotoGP racer.
Andrea Dovizioso, who came to Ducati at the same time as Pirro, is clear about his importance as a test rider. “His work about test the rider is amazing, because he’s able to make a similar lap time, so we are very lucky to be in this condition. He is testing a lot.”
I spoke to Pirro at the 2018 Sepang test, on a day he was not testing the GP18. Pirro was very open about his aims and goals, and also about the process that had brought him to where he is today, and about the development he has engaged in for Ducati.
Last weekend’s racing at Donington Park was exactly the shot in the arm that WorldSBK needed.
A new rider on the top step of the podium, a new bike as the center of attention in Parc Ferme, and most importantly: Jonathan Rea being beaten in a straight up fight by Michael van der Mark.
Rea and Kawasaki have dominated the championship over the last three years, and even for Yamaha’s Van der Mark, it was a surprise to finally break his duck in such style with a double.
“I was surprised by this weekend! Kawasaki and Johnny have been so dominant over the last few seasons and to beat them is very special.”
“It shows that we’re getting closer, and most importantly, it shows that we can beat them. It’s easy to accept that Kawasaki will be in front and winning, and that’s why it’s important to prove to yourself that you can win races.”
To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Going up against Kenan Sofuo?lu was no easy matter for the top riders in World Supersport, but it was necessary if you were going to move on from the feeder class.
Kenan Sofuo?lu was the benchmark upon which every WorldSSP rider was judged. If you wanted to move from the class to race a superbike or a grand prix machine, you needed to prove you could beat Sofuo?lu.
As the dominant force of the class his rivals never underestimated the challenge they faced. To mark Kenan’s retirement from motorcycle racing, we reached out to his fiercest competitors to see what they had to say about competing against the Turkish rider.
Having equalled Carl Fogarty’s WorldSBK win-record at Imola, Jonathan Rea’s legacy is now firmly in his own hands. The Northern Irishman said afterwards that while he is the equal of Foggy in terms of victories, he still has some way to go before being his equal; it will take winning a fourth title to do so.
The Kawasaki rider sat down in Italy to talk about his place in racing history, and about the luck of the draw in Irish racing.
“My dad raced, and I always respected what he did,” said Rea. “I really understand that now because Jake looks up to me so much, and I was the same when I was his age.”
“My dad was my hero, he always made me feel a part of it, and I could see how winning made him feel. I was too young to remember his racing, but recently Duke sent me footage of his 1989 250 TT win, and he flat-out beat Hizzy and Foggy in that race.”
They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Chaz Davies will certainly be hoping that this isn’t the case.
The Welshman has had a turbulent start to the 2018 World Superbike season, but after four rounds he finds himself closer to Jonathan Rea in the standings than any recent season.
Davies has been able to win twice already this season, in Buriram and Aragon, and sits 30 points behind Rea. After four rounds he’ll have every reason to feel that this year he could finally be in a position to mount a season long title assault.
A tire issue at Assen robbed him of pace in Race 2, but he has proven again that he, and Ducati, are the only realistic opposition to Rea’s quest for a fourth title.
That the world keeps spinning and the clock never stops is one of the few constants in life. For a MotoGP rider, that is even more true. For one in a contract year, it always seems to speed the process up throughout a campaign.
Bradley Smith had to deal with the pressures of expectation last year, and he knows that teething issues will be no excuse in 2018.
The British rider also knows that the KTM will be a sought after seat throughout the silly season, and with Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa having been heavily linked with a move to the Austrian manufacturer, it is clear that Smith needs to exceed expectations.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” wrote the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Little minds or no, consistency is the one complaint that many riders still level at Michelin, the official tire supplier of MotoGP.
When it comes to grip, feedback, and chatter, complaints are few and far between. But consistency of feel between one tire and another remains a problem, at least in the minds of the riders.
The 2018 season opener at Qatar threw up several more examples of this lack of consistency. Ahead of the weekend, Cal Crutchlow had expressed concerns about the variation between what are supposed to be identical tires.
“You can show them the data, and if you have 20% throttle here, and this tire’s got this much more spin than the tire that you’ve got 50% throttle, and that’s got less spin. It doesn’t work. Apparently, they’ve come off the same batch.”
During the race, both Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa believed that a lack of consistency had hampered their performance. Zarco had led for the first 17 laps, before fading with what he believed was a faulty front tire.
“I got the best I could, I did what I could do, I did the job, and when I have a technician from Michelin and also on my team saying that something has been wrong, it means that OK, the rider’s job is done, then when you are doing this kind of sport, this can happen.”
In Episode 3 of the MOTR Podcast, I sit down with MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni, for a one-on-one talk about his iconic motorcycle company.
As you can imagine from the events over the past few years, our conversation focused on where MV Agusta has been, where it sits now, and where it is heading for the future.
During the interview, Castiglioni explains the issues MV Agusta has faced, and outlines the firms new, new business plan going forward. The conversation is an interesting insight into MV Agusta’s business workings, and the young CEO is more than candid.
You may have already seen the news regarding MV Agusta’s superbike future, the firm’s plans for Cagiva and electric motorcycles, and that we will see that start of the new four-cylinder lineup late this year.
We broke the news on those stories, and now you can hear in full detail the audio behind those headlines. We think you will find it a very interesting conversation.