Editor's Blog

Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: New Lamps And Old Flames

Assuming we really do have a full 13 round WorldSBK Championship in 2021 (and we all know what assumption is the mother of, don’t we?) then we will be starting new racetrack romances and rekindling old paddock flames from now until we arrive in the tropical idyll of an Indonesian Island racetrack, just in time to get some global Christmas shopping in. Well, mid-November, in reality.

Maybe my memory is misfiring but that seems very late for WorldSBK to park the Covid testing bus for a well-earned rest. But if we get all 13 rounds in without any changes from now until then, we will not be doing just well, we will be doing better than MotoGP, as they are having to change as they go, it appears.

Our principal 2021 changes since the last WorldSBK calendar released on 29 April have been more related to new and returning circuits, when we compare 2021 to the weirdest season of all time last year.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Kevin Schwantz: How I Rode Part 2

Kevin Schwantz, the hugely popular 1993 500cc world champion tells us about some of his scariest moments, some of his nastiest crashes and his greatest victories

Kevin Schwantz won 25 500cc grands prix and one world title between March 1988 and July 1994 but his impact on the sport of motorcycle racing was much greater than that.

The American’s wild riding technique, his ability to magic victories apparently out of nowhere and his willingness to ride way beyond the limit – sometimes with painful consequences – made him a huge favourite with fans.

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Editor's Blog: Plans For The Summer Break

As some of you might have noticed, updates to the site have been less frequent over the past week. This is in part because, with MotoGP on a five-week hiatus, there is not much going on in the world of Grand Prix motorcycling, other than a lot of managers frantically texting Lin Jarvis and Johan Stigefelt about the vacant Yamahas for 2022. But it is too early for anything to come of that.

The other reason for posting to be a little slow on the site is also because I need a break too. It has been a very long, hard 12 months: first, the insanely compressed 2020 MotoGP season, with 13 races in 18 weeks, and barely a moment to catch your breath. Then I traveled to the UK to help my mother and brother care for my severely ill father. And after he died, I have had to balance the care for my grieving mother - nearly 57 years is a long time to spend together, and the loss of that love has left a gaping hole in her life - with covering the start of a fascinating 2021 MotoGP season.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Kevin Schwantz: How I Rode Part 1

Few grand prix stars are as revered as Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 500cc world champion, who rode with an ocean of natural riding talent and a tidal wave of aggression

Kevin Schwantz helped define an era of grand prix racing that’s rightly considered one of the sport’s golden ages. The American’s vicious battles with countrymen Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson and Australians Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner are the stuff of legend.

Who better to explain those days than Valentino Rossi, who grew up watching these races and idolising Schwantz?

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Inside Jobs

After the first few races of the 2021 WorldSBK championship some trends have already become apparent.

One, the usual one, is that nine races/nine podium man Jonathan Rea is leading the championship by a fair margin of 20 points. That’s equivalent to a second place in a full race. Four 2021 race wins under his awning already, he became the first rider to smash through the 100 race victory barrier in WorldSBK history at the opening round.

Two, Toprak Razgatlioglu is now turning into the more rounded, consistent force his talents have always pointed towards. Maybe his factory Yamaha too? Hence it is he and not two-time race winner Scott Redding who went from 35 points behind Jonathan Rea after Estoril to 20 points behind after the long-awaited return of Misano after two years. Redding is himself a full race win of 25 points behind Razgatlioglu. So that’s 45 points - yes, numerology is clearly not just for cranks and conspiracists - of deficit to the leader for the person many thought would challenge Rea most strongly after his great 2020 ‘rookie’ season. And he still might, of course. He’s still many people’s best bet, for obvious reasons.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Suzuki’s GSX-RR needs to shift its shape and fast!

Joan Mir’s MotoGP title defence has been distinctly underwhelming so far, largely thanks to Suzuki falling behind with its shapeshifter technology

Shock absorbers, low-drag bodywork, disc brakes, monoshock suspension, aluminium-alloy frames, reed-valve induction, upside-down forks, carbon brakes, big-bang firing configurations, traction control, engine-braking control, launch control, reactive electronics, seamless gearboxes and downforce aerodynamics.

These are all technologies introduced over the decades in grand prix racing by one factory or another and quickly copied by rivals because they gave such a vital advantage.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Carrasco’s remarkable comeback and the sad tale of grand prix racing’s female pioneer

On Sunday Ana Carrasco won a race just nine months after breaking her back. Hers is an amazing story but no more so than the shocking story of the first woman who tried to make it in motorcycle racing

Marc Márquez’s comeback from potentially career-ending injury is a work in progress, but today we can add the name Ana Carrasco to the list of superhumans – most notably Mick Doohan, Robert Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson – that overcame the most hideous odds to keep doing what they love and win again at a high level.

In 2018 Carrasco won the Supersport 300 World Championship and last September suffered serious injuries while testing her Kawasaki Ninja 400 at Estoril. She fractured two vertebrae, luckily without damage to her spine, her luck measured in mere millimetres.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Inside a MotoGP rider/crew chief marriage

Maverick Viñales has changed crew chiefs for the second time in less than three seasons. So what’s so important about a crew chief? We spoke to ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, Kel Carruthers and Jeremy Burgess to find out

Maverick Viñales recently got married and became a dad for the first time. Hearty congratulations to him, Raquel and baby Nina!

However, the 26-year-old Spaniard is already on his third pitlane marriage, because many riders and crew chiefs will tell you that their relationship is like a marriage.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why MotoGP riders use the rear brake 70% of every lap

The rear brake has become one of the most important tools on a MotoGP bike. Tech 3 KTM rider Danilo Petrucci explains why

Most road riders use a lot more front brake, while MotoGP riders use the rear brake much more. This is just one example of how the art and science of riding a MotoGP bike has very little to do with everyday motorcycling.

The rear brake is now one of the most important tools on a MotoGP machine, which is why riders use it through 70% of the lap, while they use the front brake half as much (but with a lot more braking force and stopping power).

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: And They’re Off…

Well, nearly. WorldSBK will start for real in 2021 not only with summer upon us as we kick off at Motorland in Spain, but so late in May there will be a 20-something in the dates of the races.

Covid is to blame, of course, but after MotoGP has ravaged a full five weekends of its schedule, WorldSBK is just about getting ready for round one to start. Normally it is the other way about.

WorldSBK seasons have started at the glorious Phillip Island circuit in Australia for years now. And at the end of February, ferrgoonessakes, which really means the middle of February because the official tests take place a few days before the opening round.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why Márquez is looking forward to the Sachsenring MotoGP round more than ever

Marc Marquez’s right arm is still weak, which is why the first anti-clockwise race of the season will be the first time we see him close to 100%

Yesterday’s French Grand Prix could’ve been a fairy-tale for Marc Márquez but it wasn’t.

That’s motorcycle racing – harsh reality nearly always wins. As Valentino Rossi said after his Valencia 2006 disaster, “Unbeatable superheroes only exist in movies, real life is different”.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The problem that could spoil Márquez’ MotoGP title hopes

The main reason KTM, Suzuki and Honda are struggling this season is Michelin’s 2021 front-tyre allocation

There’s no doubt Marc Márquez has a chance to win the 2021 MotoGP world championship. Last time out at Jerez, his second race in nine months, he finished ten seconds behind the winner, despite two huge confidence-eroding crashes during practice.

Race by race the 28-year-old will get faster and stronger, so there’s every chance he may overhaul his 50-point deficit to current leader Pecco Bagnaia. After all, he won the 2019 championship by 151 points.

However, there is something that could stop him.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Just A Technicality

In the greater Superbike firmament there has been an endless reduction in the kind of special parts and technologies that allow a flagship streetbike to become a true championship contender. And only if you get the right crew, set-up and riders on board of course.

Bike racing is truly a team game, as those few people who do most of the winning would recognise, publicly or privately. It escapes some others at times, especially those who think they should be doing more winning. There is no escaping the fact that WorldSBK being such an equipment sport means you have to have all the right tech stuff, fettled and then ridden by people who also have the right stuff.

In an effort to even things up, reduce tech costs and then cut costs some more, we have seen either an endless dumbing down of WorldSBK’s technical packages or a increasingly realistic approach in what is fundamentally a production derived category of racing. The net results has been more and more rules to level things up in terms of tuning and performance.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Dirty money in MotoGP? It’s nothing new

For many decades the wheels of motorcycle racing have been oiled by money emanating from unsavoury sources

Now that the initial hoo-ha over VR46’s alleged multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Aramco oil company has calmed down, perhaps this is a good time to take a long look at motorcycle racing’s historic relationship with dirty money.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How Brembo is dealing with a half tonne MotoGP bike + rider (under braking)

MotoGP braking g-forces have reached 2g, which makes bike (and rider) effectively weigh half a tonne on the brakes. Here’s what Brembo is doing about it…

How much does a MotoGP bike weigh? The rules state that a MotoGP machine must weigh no less than 157 kilos, including oil and water, timekeeping, camera and data-logging equipment.

Add a rider at around 67 kilos (the grid average), plus riding gear at 11 kilos and 22 litres of fuel at 17 kilos. That makes a grand total approaching 260 kilos.

Now accelerate that mass to around 350kph/210mph and then decelerate it as fast as you can into Turn One at Portimao, or anywhere else where riders apply absolute maximum braking force.

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