The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season.
At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured.
How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes? Why are MotoGP manufacturers spending ten times as much to be shown up at a test by Jonathan Rea? And why, for the sake of all that is holy, does Jonathan Rea not have a MotoGP ride?
The answer to all but the last of those questions is buried away in the bigger picture of the laps posted throughout the week. When you examine the numbers, the picture is a lot more complex than the headline times seem to suggest.
Tires, temperature, and track all play a part. But all of that can’t disguise a rather outsize dose of talent.
In many ways, the MotoGP season is structured like a Hollywood action blockbuster. There is preseason testing, the opening sequence in which we are introduced to the main cast of characters.
After the opening credits, we start off by flying across continents to a range of exotic and colorful locations, where the first threads of plot are laid out, some of which will turn out to be red herrings later in the season.
There then follows a regular sequence of dramatic action sequences, the narrative of the season taking dramatic twists and turns along the way.
If MotoGP is a Hollywood blockbuster, then the Pacific triple-header of flyaway races is the frantic last 10 minutes, where the protagonists face off again and again leaving the audience barely a moment to catch their breath.
It is where the battle for MotoGP reaches its crescendo, the drama of the season raised to another level and compressed into the briefest of windows. The flyaways are intense.
If the fans feel the triple header takes its toll on them, just imagine what it’s like for the riders. Back-to-back races within Europe are usually manageable, as the riders are only a few hours away from their homes, and spend the weekends in their motorhomes, which are a home away from home.
For the flyaways, the riders spend four weeks on the road, moving from hotel to hotel. They kick off the trip with a 15-hour flight to Japan, follow it up with an 11-hour flight from Japan to Melbourne, then another 9-hour flight to Malaysia.
In a typically robust column written at the end of last week, David Miller, editor of Bikesportnews.com, suggested that the time that double World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea had set on Thursday at the combined WorldSBK and MotoGP test at Jerez had made the MotoGP bikes look a bit silly.
Rea had ended the day as the fastest rider on the day, setting a time of 1’38.721, nearly a quarter of a second faster than Alvaro Bautista, who was riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 at the track.
Rea had set the time on a modified version of a road bike, costing something in the region of €300,000, beating the satellite Ducatis (estimated lease price, just shy of €2 million), satellite Hondas (official lease price €2 million, actual cost to lease about 50% higher than that), and the factory Suzuki, KTM and Desmosedici GP17 (“I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to put your checkbook away, this one isn’t for sale”).
Miller draws a number of conclusions from this, some sound, some based more on hyperbole than reality.
For the first time in a long time, the MotoGP circus heads to the final race of the year at Valencia with not one, but two championships still undecided (and if there hadn’t been that first-lap incident in the Moto2 race at Motegi, it could even have been three).
The title is still to be decided in both the MotoGP and Moto3 championships, and the possible mathematical permutations are having race fans and followers racking their brains trying to work out who needs to finish where for either Marc Marquez or Jorge Lorenzo to win the MotoGP title — or Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales or Alex Rins to lift the Moto3 crown.
To assist with this computation, we have drawn up two tables with all of the possible permutations, one for the MotoGP class, and one for the Moto3 class. Using the tables below, you can see all of the possibilities the two MotoGP men and three Moto3 riders have to win the title in their respective classes.
It doesn’t really matter whether electric motorcycles are the next thing in two-wheeled transportation/recreation, because the door has been opened for an honest debate about the permanence of internal combustion engines (ICE) in our future motorcycles. One of the bi-products of this rare “think outside the box” moments in motorcycling is the idea that compressed air could be a viable energy source to replace gasoline. I have to admit as PADI certified diver, the idea has always seemed extremely far-fetched to me whenever I’ve heard it brought up.
I have played with small-scale compressed-air cars before, and even at a larger scale there would appear to be issues of energy density, efficiency, storage safety, and of course refueling that crop up as potential deal-breakers. That being said, the concept still has some legs as there are ways to work around these many of these constraints. It’s that potential that surely was propelling (oh, god) Dean Benstead, a design student at Australia’s venerable RMIT.
Given a DiPietro air engine by the folks at Engineair, Benstead was tasked with making a viable two-wheeler that would be use a standard scuba tank as an energy storage device. Getting some help from Yamaha Australia, who donated a Yamaha WR250R to the cause, the 02 Pursuit concept is very compelling with its 140 km/h top speed, though knowing the math involved, we’re not sure if it will replace your petrol bike anytime soon.
Math can be tough sometimes, especially when it comes to counting, so we can understand the confusion surrounding the news that Erik Buell has recently been awarded a patent for a design that incorporates a motorcycle exhaust system inside the swingarm of the bike (now that’s some engineering). However we have the unpleasant responsibility of saying that this patent is not in fact owned by Erik Buell and Erik Buell Racing, as the filing date and patent assignee information were clearly over-looked by early reports on Buell’s patent.
While the patent was published on October 28, 2010, its was filed by Buell last year (April 24, 2010), well before Harley-Davidson closed the company, and while Erik Buell still worked as a Harley-Davidson employee. As such, the patent is assigned to the Buell Motorcycle Company, whose intellectual property is still owned by Harley-Davidson.