The dawn of aerodynamics is upon the motorcycle industry, because aftermarket winglets for superbikes are now a thing.
If we are surprised about anything, it is that it has taken this long for someone to come up with a winglet for modern superbikes.
Ever since the first MotoGP bike rolled out of the pit lane garage sporting aerodynamic aids, the clock has been ticking until someone made them for the general public. That time is today. That someone is the good folks at Puig.
Portimão is one of the most exciting laps of the year for a WorldSBK rider. The Portuguese circuit is used extensively for winter testing, and last month’s official test also offered the majority of the field a chance to fine tune their settings for their return to action.
The circuit, nestled in the hills of the Algarve, is challenging for riders. There’s a bit of everything here, and getting your eye in and getting the most from the circuit takes time.
“Portimao is my favourite track in the world,” said an enthusiastic Eugene Laverty. “It’s something unique! I’ve done so many laps around this place over the years that I know this place like the back of my hand. At some tracks, you need the bike to work in a certain way to be fast because the rider is limited in what they can do – this place is the opposite!”
On Saturday evening, Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuit, told a small group of journalists that the delays and problems caused by the wet track during FP4 were due to the unusually heavy rainfall, and not the resurfaced track.
“It was a Biblical downpour,” he told us. “It was more like a monsoon you’d see in Malaysia than heavy, normal rain. The drainage on the circuit is very good.” He was not worried about racing on Sunday, because although rain was forecast, it was not a deluge.
“It’s heavy rain, but it’s not the kind of cloud burst stuff we saw earlier. Is it going to be more of a challenge if it’s wet? All circuits are more challenging in the wet than the dry. So I think we’re set for a good race tomorrow.”
Sunday proved Stuart Pringle wrong.
It wasn’t the quantity of water which caused the problems. It was the fact that water simply wasn’t being drained fast enough to allow riders to ride safely, or as safely as can reasonably be expected of traveling at over 300km/h on a wet track, braking as late as possible in a close pack, as 23 riders battle for position in the opening laps.
There was standing water in just about every section of the track, causing the MotoGP bikes to aquaplane while on their sighting lap, a lap taken usually at nine tenths, rather than ten tenths. They were aquaplaning while accelerating, at speed, and while braking.
Bikes aquaplaning had caused Tito Rabat and Franco Morbidelli to crash while braking for Stowe.
But Morbidelli had crashed after Rabat, and the Italian’s Honda had flown across the gravel and struck Rabat as he sat in the gravel trap, breaking the femur, tibia and fibula in his right leg, and putting him out of action for months rather than weeks.
Nobody who saw that wanted to suffer the same fate. Or worse.
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.
It is a race unlike any other, and it has a circuit unlike any other to match. The Suzuka 8-Hours is the biggest race of the year for Japanese manufacturers, and it is held on one of the longest laps of the year.
With lap times of over two minutes, it is very easy for time to burn during a session, and it is very easy to left rueing any mistakes you make.
The Japanese venue is one of the most technical on the planet. It is a lap of contrasts, with the sweeping corners of the opening half, followed by a hairpin and chicanes in the second half of the lap.
Getting it right takes time and any mistake is heavily punished on the stop watch.
When I was a new rider, I cut my teeth on Pirelli Corsa tires (and later on the Pirelli Corsa III), and as I got into doing track days, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa became my tire of choice, both as a track tire and also as a street tire.
Almost as grippy as “the good stuff” and considerably cheaper than track-focused tires of the time, the Diablo Rosso Corsa hit that sweet spot of performance and price that my relatively unexperienced two-wheeled-self required.
Best of all, after a few track days, I could swap-out the rubber on my track bike for road duty, and thus had a nice supply of new rubber for my street biking needs.
As Asphalt & Rubber became a larger part of my life, this tire strategy had to give way to trying other brands and other tires, but I was recently intrigued when Pirelli told me that they were updating this stalwart in their sport bike tire lineup, as there isn’t a lineage of tire that I am more familiar with on the market.
Creating the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II tire for the 2018 model year, the Italian brand first invited A&R out to South Africa to see if this new incarnation of the Corsa lived up to the high-water mark its predecessor left behind. In short, it did.
But, only a couple days with a new tire can be tough to use to form an opinion. Not content to be so easily swayed, I have since spent a considerable amount of time on this new Pirelli.
Riding three more trackdays (on three different tracks), trying six bikes in total, and plowing down a thousand street miles later, I can honestly say that the Pirelli Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II might be the best sport bike tire on the market. Let me explain.
Leon Camier has plenty of experience at Misano. The Red Bull Honda WorldSBK star has ridden at the Italian circuit in Grand Prix and also on a Superbike.
He’s spent time learning the nuances of the Rimini venue, and over that time he’s found out one thing: patience is key.
“Misano is a tricky circuit, but it’s got some interesting quirks,” Leon Camier told us. “The opening sector of the lap is very challenging because if you make a mistake in Turn 1, it affects you for the whole sector.”
The tale of the TT Circuit at Assen is really the tale of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
That is hardly surprising, given that the race has featured on the calendar since Grand Prix racing was born, or rather, since the FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix Road Racing World Championship was established, back in 1949. And like Grand Prix racing, it has roots which go back a long way before that.
The first race took place in 1925, a year after the Dutch government passed a law permitting racing on public roads. It ran over cobbled roads and sand tracks between three villages to the east of Assen: Rolde, Borger, and Schoonlo.
The next year it moved south of Assen, again over public roads, between De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen, and Laaghalerveen. It stayed there until 1955, when the first sections of what would become the modern circuit were built.
The roads were closed and the circuit was separated from the world, an isolated loop of tarmac, where racing was safer, easier to organize, and, not coincidentally, easier to monetize.
The inaugural Grand Prix season in 1949 took place mainly on circuits set out using public roads, which made for long tracks taken at high speed (Bremgarten in Switzerland and Monza in Italy were the two purpose-built circuits on the calendar, but Bremgarten, in particular, was a spectacularly dangerous circuit which wound through a forest).
It’s always good to come home. That’s how I feel every time I return to Laguna Seca.
Driving off of Boundary Road, and onto the perimeter of the track, then cresting the big downhill that descends behind Turn 2, towards the green parking area, I always get a big smile knowing that a great weekend of racing is about to begin.
This weekend was no different, with bright, sunny skies, a good crowd, and lots of great racing in both the World Superbike and the MotoAmerica series.
The US Round of the World Superbike Championship sees the paddock decamp to the West Coast, and for the Superbike riders this is certainly a favorite round of the campaign.
The challenging Laguna Seca circuit is unique and rightfully regarded as one of the most action-packed and thrilling on the calendar. The laps might be short, but there’s no rest for the wicked in the Northern California hills.
In WorldSBK, gear ratios are fixed for the season, and with the deduction in revs for 2018, this will be even more crucial. We see a lot of variety at Laguna Seca with regards to gear patterns, and this will be even more exaggerated this season.
In the past, some riders were forced to use six gears whereas others were using only five around the 2.2-mile track, but ahead of the action you could expect to see all riders using six gears this weekend.
Laguna Seca snakes its way through the Monterey hills, around a lake, and offers as much of an engineering challenge as a riding challenge.
MotoGP could be headed back to Brazil. That is the news coming out of the Catalan GP, as Dorna and Rio Motorsports have inked a preliminary agreement to add the South American round to the MotoGP calendar.
If the deal is followed through, it could mean a MotoGP race in Rio de Janeiro as early as the 2021 season.
The big “if” in all this is the building of a new race track near Rio de Janeiro, which once it passes homologation, it could “potentially” be added to the MotoGP calendar as the Brazilian GP, according to a press release from Dorna.
“We would be thrilled to see MotoGP return to Brazil and this memorandum of understanding is fantastic news for the Championship and South American fans,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports.
“We have a truly global sport, paddock and grid and to add another country to our calendar – especially one such as Brazil – is always something to aspire to. It would be a pleasure for MotoGP to race in a country and continent known for its passion and incredible atmosphere.”