It was just a few weeks ago that we told you how Pirelli was making purpose-built tires for the 300cc racing category, and now we get word that Dunlop is doing the same.
Creating the all-new KR448 front tire, and KR451 rear tire in sizes and compounds for bikes in the 300cc to 400cc range, Dunlop its making sure that it has a firm grip on the small-displacement categories that are filling grids on race tracks around the world, but especially in the United States.
It seemed like it would be only a matter of time before we saw a tire manufacturer catering to the rise of small-displacement racing machines.
So, it doesn’t surprise us too much to see Pirelli is leading the charge, and releasing a set of superbike slicks that are designed for the new 300cc class of sport bikes.
We heard rumors of this tire at the beginning of the year, and finally we can talk about the new Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tire. A knobby dual-sport tire made for adventure-touring machines, the AX41 means that Bridgestone finally has an offering for ADV riders.
It is surprising to think that the Japanese brand has been without a tire for such an important market segment for so long, but that is water under the bridge now, with the Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tire debuting at INTERMOT and coming to American dealers at the start of next year.
What would life be without another “limited edition” model from MV Agusta? This installment sees another collaboration between two Italian motorcycle stalwarts, as MV Agusta has partnered with Pirelli to create the MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR Pirelli.
At the core of the project is the MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR, with its three-cylinder engine that makes 140hp in stock trim, and was recently updated for the 2018 model year because of Euro4 homologation.
From there, the Pirelli machine is a cosmetic exercise, taking the freshly updated Dragster 800 RR streetfighter model, and adding design elements created by the Pirelli Design team.
These highlights include two models, one done in yellow and black, while the other is in a white and blue livery.
The weather usually plays a role when racing in the UK, in any discipline, but Saturday at Silverstone, the rain took center stage.
Not just because of the way it forced the MotoGP riders to pick their strategy very carefully, making timing and tire management absolutely crucial. But also because a heavy downpour at the southern end of the track created massive problems, and kicked off a serious debate.
More than that, it caused a bunch of riders to crash during FP4, starting with Alex Rins at Stowe, or Turn 7 as the riders tend to call it, to avoid confusion during debriefs. Then Tito Rabat crashed in the same place.
Then Franco Morbidelli, whose bike hit Rabat who was sitting in the gravel, smashing into the Reale Avintia rider’s right leg, breaking his tibia, fibula, and femur, requiring surgery and putting him out of the running for a long time, if not for the remainder of the season.
Having been the first to fall, Alex Rins did his best to emulate Kevin Schwantz at Donington in 1992, running out into the gravel to warn other riders to take care, while all around him, riders headed into the gravel, unable to brake on the water-soaked surface.
Jorge Lorenzo came flying by, as did others, until eventually the session was red flagged.
Those crashes triggered a chain of events which saw the MotoGP race start moved forward to 11:30am local time, to avoid the expected heavy rain on Sunday afternoon, which could have made it difficult to run the race.
It caused delays as the riders were forced to wait for the return of the medical helicopter, which had flown Tito Rabat to hospital in Coventry. And it created a fascinating spectacle during qualifying, where timing ended up being everything.
For the past couple of months, the UK, along with the rest of Northern Europe, has been sweltering under one of the hottest summers in recent memory. That, of course, was before MotoGP arrived.
The arrival of Grand Prix racing brought an abrupt end to the British summer, with temperatures struggling to get anywhere near the 20°C mark.
Add in a strong and blustery wind, and a late shower in the afternoon, and the MotoGP paddock faces a very different prospect to recent weeks. And let’s not talk about the heavy rain which is forecast for Sunday.
Before the bikes took to the track, there had been much talk of just how bumpy the new surface would be. On Thursday, the riders were wary, wanting to ride the track at speed before making a judgment. After Friday, the verdict was pretty devastating. For the majority of the riders, the bumps are worse, if anything.
You would think that after a tough weekend of racing in punishing conditions, the riders would find it very hard to spend eight hours on a MotoGP bike, pushing as close to race pace as possible, testing new parts and setup.
Not according to Andrea Dovizioso. “No, for me it’s very easy, and it’s the easiest way to do that. If there is a break, it’s worse,” he told us at the end of Monday’s test at Brno.
There was a pretty full cast of MotoGP characters present, with one or two notable exceptions. The Reale Avintia and Angel Nieto Team Ducati teams were both absent, because they had nothing to test except setup, and testing is expensive.
Pol Espargaro was in the hospital waiting for scans on his broken collarbone and his back, which confirmed that luckily only his collarbone was fractured, and it won’t need to be plated (though he will definitely miss KTM’s home race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria).
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl was also absent, after stretching ligaments in his right shoulder in a crash he caused on the first lap. A crash in which he also took out Maverick Viñales, who also suffered a minor shoulder injury, and decided not to test.
Given the massive tension in Viñales’ garage at the moment between him and his crew, skipping the test may have been the best option anyway.
Compromise has little place in most forms of racing. Speed is of the essence and everything else is secondary to it. In Endurance, the same principle guides the way, but there are compromises to be made. Speed is as necessary in the pit lane as it on the race track.
Being able to repair any damage quickly and easily is crucial. At this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours, we will see the fruit of that work once again, but ahead of this year’s edition, we take another look at the YZF-R1 that took the victory. It deserves one last moment in the spotlight.
With fewer restrictions in place on manufacturers, the return of “Suzuka Specials” in recent years has allowed the Japanese manufacturers to flex their creative muscles.
At the Suzuka 8-Hours, brain power is more important than horsepower, and finding a way to get the power to ground, by electronics, suspension or tires, is crucial.
Innovation is everywhere on the Suzuka grid, and last year’s winner was no exception..
The Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race kicks off this week, with the racing action coming to us this weekend. The final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, Suzuka also happens to be the endurance race that all the Japanese manufacturers want to win.
To put Suzuka into perspective, this race means more to Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha than the Motegi round of MotoGP.
It means more than any domestic championship, the World Superbike Championship, and possibly even the MotoGP Championship as well. For the Big Four, this is big business.
It is no surprise then that we are seeing three official one-off factory teams entering this year’s Suzuka race, on top of the bevy of factory supported squads already in the FIM EWC paddock.
With so much on the line this year, Asphalt & Rubber will have boots on the ground for the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours, bringing you content every day from this truly unique race in Japan.