Come to Carmel, they said. It’ll be warm, they said. Well, maybe not so much. Last weekend’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering was a chilly affair with cloudy skies, blustery winds, and temperatures in the 50s.
The lines for ice cream were non-existent, while the line for the Espresso cart was 50 people deep. Though the weather wasn’t perfect, the event itself was awfully close.
As always, the Quail offered a great collection of vintage and custom motorcycles. This year’s show celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Norton Commando.
The marque was well represented with a large variety of Nortons on hand and also included a replica of the Norton display at the 1967 Earls Court Motorcycle Show in London.
Aside from on-track action that comes during your typical Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS), it might be worth stopping by the world’s most famous driveway to see Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi on the same piece of tarmac once again. That’s right, Lord March has invited both Rossi and Stoner to his mansion to ride a few bikes and to drive a few cars. Rossi will be participating on behalf of Yamaha Motor, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary of business; meanwhile Casey Stoner will ride a prototype Honda MotoGP bike, likely the Honda RC213V-S consumer halo bike. The MotoGP rivals are part of a larger group of GP Champions who will be attending the FoS, the list including John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, and Freddie Spencer.
The 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 LE livery, which was a yellow, black, and white homage to Kenny Roberts Sr., is perhaps the greatest livery ever to adorn an R1, straight from the Yamaha factory. Whether you are a loyal subject of King Kenny, or you just enjoy the fetching, yet simple, racing design, the Roberts livery is a treasure to see in any form — but especially so at speed. Giving us a glimpse as to what the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 would look like with such a limited edition paint scheme, Oberdan Bezzi has once again whet our appetite ahead of a weekend full of riding. And for you Giacomo Agostini fans, there is something special waiting for you after the jump as well. Enjoy!
When AMA dirt tracker Kenny Roberts arrived on the European 500 Grand Prix scene in 1978, road racing would never be the same. Not only did Roberts win the 500 GP title in his rookie year, as Marc Marquez did in 2013, but he also brought with him a radically new style derived from dirt track in the USA.
Robert’s style was of course, immediately copied by his rivals, much like Marquez’s dynamic style is being imitated today. KR, and the Americans that followed him, embraced dirt track lines, sacrificing entry speed, picking the bike up early and launching out of the corner, rear wheel spinning and handlebars crossed up.
Putting the bike sideways with the rear wheel 100mm out of line, steering with the rear wheel was the new way to ride. Dirt trackers then pretty much dominated 500 Grand Prix for nearly two decades between Americans: Roberts, Spencer, Lawson, Rainey, Schwantz and the Aussies: Gardner and Doohan.
Talking to MotoGP.com this weekend at the Indianapolis GP, Kenny Roberts Sr. admitted to the website that he is working on putting together a new GP program for the 2014 or 2015 season — though was quick to caution against the project’s full-fruition. “We’re working on it. And we’re working on something quite big – it’s going to happen or it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to be almost there. When we come back we’ll come back in a big way! And if you don’t see me, you’ll know we didn’t get it done,” said King Kenny. What the GP legend means from his words, we can only infer, though the prospect of the Godfather of American road racing returning to the premier series of motorcycle racing bodes well for the wealth of racing talent that we have domestically.
There’s something about America. Especially if you’re name is Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda Rookie led both sessions on the opening day of the Indianapolis Grand Prix (the last one? Too early to say) going quickest both in the tricky morning, when there was very little grip, and in the afternoon, once the bikes had laid down some rubber. Marquez has won both US rounds so far, dominating at Austin and winning comfortably at Laguna Seca, and he has picked up at Indy where he left off before the summer break.
Unsurprisingly, the parallels with Kenny Roberts are starting to be made, the only other rider to become world champion as a rookie. Those parallels are unfair yet perfectly valid: both men exceeded expectations and raised the bar, shaking up the established order with a radical new riding style. Yet Roberts and Marquez also came from totally different backgrounds: Kenny Roberts had grown up racing dirt track, switched to road racing and then came to Europe to win his the championship at the first attempt, on tracks he had never seen before.
It’s hard to out-do King Kenny, the godfather of Ameircan road racing, but Valentino Rossi is certainly making a go at it. For those that haven’t been to Roberts’ ranch out in Modesto, California, the three-time GP Champion and AMA Grand Slam winner has a very lovely flat-track course in his backyard, where he teaches the rich, and coaches the fast. Well, the idea must have struck a chord with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, as The Doctor has built his own race course outside of his home town of Tavullia, Italy. Rossi’s proving ground isn’t just some ordinary oval though, and instead is an undulating circuit that can be configured a multitude of ways.
Cycle News is reporting that Kenny Roberts Sr., the Godfather of American Road Racing, is leaving the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, after getting wind that Dave Despain and Dick Mann had made similar gestures regarding their status with the Hall of Fame. The blowout comes after Derek “Nobby” Clark was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, only to have his name withdrawn from the organization’s list of distinguished members. The reason given by the AMA was that there was an error in the balloting process for submitting Clark’s name to the voting ballot, though some outside the AMA say the reason Clark was removed was because of his criminal record, or for other reasons.
Never say never, but few are expecting Valentino Rossi to hang up his spurs at the end of the 2012 MotoGP Championship. Going out on a career low-point is certainly not the Italian’s style, especially as it casts a particularly dark shadow on a career that has enjoyed the bright-light superlative of “Greatest of All Time” from some of motorcycling’s most knowledgeable sources. Hoping to cast that phrase with an underlined typeface, and not with an interrogatory question mark, there is sufficient evidence to believe that Rossi will want to end his career in a way that will leave no doubt about the nine-time World Champion’s abilities. The question of course is how those final seasons will play out, and who they will be with.
Making some space in his collection, Kenny Roberts Sr. has put four race bikes from the Team KR racing heritage up on the auction block, two of which are KR Proton GP machines. The first bike up for grabs is a KR Proton KR3 (above) that was ridden by Nobuatsu Aoki, which raced in the 2001 500GP Championship and features a two-stroke V3 motor. Also offering a MotoGP-era four-stroke machine, King Kenny has added his KR Proton KRV5 XM2 (below), which was ridden by his youngest son, Kurtis Roberts, in the 2004 MotoGP Championship, and features a proprietary five-cylinder motor.
A&R got to eavesdrop in on a conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance. Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Transcript of his thoughts after the jump.