So long Honda, and thanks for all the fish. Dani Pedrosa has inked a two-year deal with KTM to be the Austrian brand’s newest MotoGP test rider.
We knew it was going to rain at some point on Friday, the only question was when. Well, not quite the only question.
The other question was, if it did rain, would the MotoGP riders go out and ride in the rain? Or would they deem the Red Bull Ring to be too dangerous to ride in the wet, and sit out practice, as they had threatened when rain had caused Moto2 riders to fall like skittles last year?
It started to rain in the early afternoon, right at the end of Moto3 FP2.
Thankfully, not heavily enough to claim too many casualties, though Nicolo Bulega did suffer a massive highside after the checkered flag had fallen, his bike flying through the air and clouting Nakarin Atiratphuvapat around the head, the Thai rider trying to fend off the airborne KTM with one hand, while trying not to fall off with the other.
From that moment on, the rain started to pelt down. A rivulet started running across pit lane exit, and standing water formed on the steep downhill sections of Turns 1 through 4.
It rained so heavily that MotoGP FP2 was delayed for 20 minutes or so, as the safety car circulated testing conditions. But the session was eventually given the green light, and riders were free to enter the track. Would anyone attempt it?
Alex Rins was the first to test the waters, venturing out and then heading straight back in. Johann Zarco was the next, the Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider the first to put in consistent laps, though conditions were not really up to it.
“When I start, even if we have mapping for the rain, there is too much power and I was fifth gear and spinning in fifth gear all the time,” Zarco said. “Also I have to have half-throttle to go and to make the straight.”
All the old certainties about MotoGP are gone. A few short years ago, MotoGP had a consistent, simple internal logic that made it easy to explain. All that is now gone.
The things we believed were universal truths about racing have turned out to be mere mirages, disguising an ever-shifting reality. And that has made racing mind-bogglingly good.
A case in point. The Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria has a pretty simple layout. Straight, corner, straight, corner, straight, corner, long loop which comes back on itself, straight, corner, short straight, corner, and we’re back at the beginning.
The track is all about horsepower and the ability to accelerate hard, then brake hard. The racing here should be rubbish. The rider with the fastest bike should be able to escape and cruise to victory by tens rather than tenths of seconds.
Yet on Sunday, we saw three gripping races, where the results were long in doubt. The winner of the Moto3 race may have been well clear, but the freight train behind it scrapping over second made for compulsive watching.
Moto2 cooked up another cracker – the fourth in a row, a sign the class is changing – which only really settled in the last four laps. And the MotoGP race became an instant classic, one which make any collection of top ten races of any era.
It truly had everything: a large group battling for the lead, then a smaller group slugging it out, three abreast heading towards a corner. There were hard passes, missed passes, and a wild last-corner lunge to attempt to snatch victory.
The weather is looking up at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and that is a good thing. First of all, it provided a fascinating day of practice and qualifying, with more than a few surprises and plenty of data to chew over.
But secondly, and far more importantly, it meant that riders were out on track riding, and returning to the pits safely after doing so. If the weather had turned, and rain had fallen, that might not have been the case.
The reason for that is simple. The Red Bull Ring is not safe in the wet. That was the consensus of the riders at Friday night’s Safety Commission. It is not particularly safe in the dry either, but in the wet, it is so bad that everyone said they would not ride if it rained.
“Everybody yesterday in the Safety Commission said they would not ride in the wet,” Aleix Espargaro said. It was a point which Cal Crutchlow had made on Thursday, even before practice began. He reiterated it on Saturday. “If it rains I ain’t riding,” he told the media.
“I have no interest, because there are barriers everywhere. As you saw, everyone was crashing in a complete straight line and they were going to the left at a right hand corner. It was just ridiculous. Until they move the barriers back, I have no interest to ride here in the wet.”
Episode 46 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is another must-listen show, and it starts out with a talk about one of motorcycling’s forbidden subjects: motorcycle run-in/break-in procedures.
As former service area manager and professional race team mechanic, Quentin drops some knowledge on how to break-in that new motorcycle in your garage, and dispels some myths along the way. You will definitely want to have a listen…we even touch on which oil is best for your motorcycle.
The conversation then turns to Ducati’s new financing program, and how that is an insight into things to come from motorcycle OEMs for the future. The show finishes with a listener question, which gets us talking about racer sponsorship, brand messaging, energy drinks, and brand “ambassadors” in the industry.
We think you will find Episode 46 both entertaining and informative, as well as well-worth a listen.
You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!
If you couldn’t get enough moody goodness from KTM’s photoshoot with their MotoGP race bike, the KTM RC16, here is a look at the Austrian brand’s Moto2 machine that Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira will race in the 2017 season.
KTM will continue to use its steel-tube chassis design in Moto2, with of course a mildly tuned Honda CBR600RR engine powering the race bike, per class rules.
KTM CEO Stefan Pierer had some choice words for Honda at the bike’s debut, chastising the Japanese brand for its time penalties in the Dakar Rally (for an illegal fuel stop) and for the manufacturer’s alleged cheating in the Moto3 race class, where its competes heavily with KTM’s own offerings.
Pierer is said to be much happier with Moto2’s switch to a Triumph supplied power plant, which will begin with the 2019 season and be based off the three-cylinder engine found in the new Triumph Street Triple 765.
With a Moto2 now in place, KTM has a pathway for GP talent, all the way from Moto3 to Moto2 and into MotoGP. With a strong partnership in place with Red Bull as well, KTM is well-positioned to take on HRC’s racing dominance, and the powerhouse that is Repsol Honda. We smell a good rivalry heating up.
In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.
When asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, George Mallory uttered the three most famous words in mountainering, “because it’s there.” Marc Marquez’s assent of the Kitzbühel ski slope might not be as profound, but in typical Red Bull style, it was certainly lurid.
Armed with a Honda RC213V race bike – shod in spiked tires made by ice speedway racer Franky Zorn’s crew (another Red Bull sponsored outfit) – Marquez climbed to the top of the Austrian peak, roosting ice shards and popping snow wheelies along the way.
The spectacle must surely have been an interesting one for the unassuming snow-goers of the area. Of course, we are just surprised to see Marquez go to such great lengths to avoid the lines at the ski lift; but then again, being the 2016 MotoGP World Champion has its privileges.
And so the 2016 MotoGP season is nearly at an end. Though the major honors have been awarded, there are still the final few t’s to cross and i’s to dot. We have our three champions – Johann Zarco the last to wrap up the title in Moto2 at Sepang.
Honda are hot favorites to win the constructors’ championship, while Movistar Yamaha hold a narrow lead in the team championship. Cal Crutchlow has a commanding 17-point lead in the battle for top independent rider. Second place in both Moto2 and Moto3 is still up for grabs.
In reality, these don’t matter all that much. Once the championship is settled, the riders on the grid race for pride. And given that we are talking about the best professional motorcycle racers in the world, there is an awful lot of pride at stake.
So the battle at Valencia will be just as fierce as anything that has come before. If anything, it will be even more fierce, given that nobody has very much to lose.
They will need an extra dash of abandon at Valencia. The circuit is pushed up against a hillside, and encircled by grandstands, cramming a serpentine four kilometer track into a very tight space. Reaching the required Grand Prix length requires a lot of corners, and that drops the average speed.
Valencia is the slowest circuit on the calendar, and with so many tight corners, passing spots are few and far between.
Turn 1 is an obvious candidate, a hard-braking left turn at the end of a long straight. Turn 6, another sharp left hander after a short straight. And a final dive up the inside into Turn 14, after the long and glorious left at Turn 13.
A bit of history was made this past weekend, at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event in Pomona, California. Amongst the star-studded lineup of riders who competed head-to-head in the straight-line supercross races, we were also treated to the return of Josh Hill, who pulled himself out of retirement to ride the electric-powered Alta Motors Redshift MX. Winning his quarter-final heat, Hill gave Alta Motors its first national-level supercross win, the first for an electric motorcycle. However, succumbing to Mitchell Oldenburg in the semi-finals, Hill finished the day fourth overall, meaning Alta Motors narrowly missed out on a podium debut. Still, the weekend must surely be counted as a success for Hill and Alta, putting electrics squarely on the map as machines that can best the best gas bikes in the industry.
The concept behind the Red Bull Straight Rhythm event is pretty easy to explain: take your typical supercross track, remove all the turns, thus making the course one big straight line, and unleash the riders in a head-to-head battle.
The Red Bull Straight Rhythm is a pretty intriguing and approachable event, and with the backing of Red Bull, it’s gaining steam and popularity.
The 2016 Red Bull Straight Rhythm will be even more interesting though, as we get word that electric motorcycle startup Alta Motors will compete in the 250cc lites class, with Josh Hill riding the Redshift MX electric dirt bike.