Thursday, April 12, 2007

I read all of this stuff about Ducati wanting an engine capacity increase for next year, and I wonder, if they feel like they are getting spanked and cannot compete, why not bring out the Desmosedici that they have been selling to the masses? I am sure that all of the other teams on the grid would crap themselves if they heard that thing screaming down the straight. Bayliss would be able to really play with the other riders if he had that thing...

And speaking of Bayliss, what an Iron-man! Immediately after the crash that smooshed (technical term) his pinkie finger, he's all, 'just cut the damn thing off, I dont need it anyway, and get away from me with that anesthetic, I don't need that either'. Ok, so the anesthetic thing was my exaggeration, but it sounds like him, no?

Seriously, I could see the Ducs asking for and getting a 100CC bump, but do they really need 200? With the way Bayliss is riding that thing, he is making it hard for them to justify. I know that none of the other Ducati riders are really doing anything special, with the exception of Mr Spider-man, Xaus himself. He managed to put the F06 in fourth at the last outing, which is pretty good, even though the 06 and 07 bikes are pretty similar.

I can honestly say that I am not really that surprised at how well Biaggi is riding, but what does surprise me is how good his attitude is, he used to be Mr. I Am A Racing God and Dont Care What You Think, or Mr IAARGDCWYT for short. He now seems to be loving every minute of the racing and smiles and jokes and such, maybe he had a 'moment of clarity' in his year off and realized that no one wants to work with an a$$hole. It is good to see that he had a change of attitude because he was always a good rider to watch and was always fast.

I guess that's all I have for now.

Keep the rubber side down

Monday, March 19, 2007

You know, I have recently moved up to Minnesota from St Louis, and have therefore been introduced to a whole new group of riders and have started going to forums and what-not to see who is in the area. What I have found is that people have some thought that you cant possibly go fast without the 'go fast' parts. Let me just say, I could take a decent AMA racer with his fully prepped bike, give him a stock one, and he would only be about a second off his normal pace.

While those parts are the necessary bits if you are a professional roadracer, such as an exhaust, aftermarket forks, braided brake lines, etc., you dont NEED them to run trackdays, or even to start racing. The whole purpose of braided lines is to cut down on the amount the lines expand when you hammer them at the end of the straightaway and to give you a consistent feel that you can count on. Can you race without them, yes, but you wont be able to run as deep consistently, and you may experience brake fade. Forks are needed to give you more feel, extended range of adjustment, and to make certain that the wheel keeps contact with the track as much as possible. Again, these are not absolutely necessary, we raced professionally for years with factory forks that have reworked internals, and this setup took one of our riders to a top 10 finish at Mid-Ohio. Would a set of unobtanium Ohlins forks have helped? Hell yes, but he would also have needed the Ohlins tech to go with them.

What I am getting at is this, buy a bike, take it to the track, ride it. Once you start finding that the brakes are not the same every time you get to the end of the straight, its time to get some lines. Are the lines going to make you faster? No. Are they going to allow you to ride better and faster, yes.

The point of this whole thing is to rebuff the myth that you have to have all of these goodies on your bike before you go to the track. Just get on it and ride. When you need those parts, you will know it, and by that time, you will also know what you are going to get by installing them. Its like going to the track the first time and using tire warmers, its overkill, and its not doing you any favors.

So, here's to saving your 'mods' money and spending it on the things that are important, like tires and entry fees!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wow. Qatar was a boring race. Unfortunately for Rossi, Ducati brought their A-game and Yamaha was outclassed. While it is evident that the Yamaha is, as always, the best handling bike on the grid, the Duc is just a beast on the straights. It looked like Casey was on a 990 and Rossi was on a factory 600 the way he would bast past him. From the coverage on, you could only really watch the Stoner/Rossi "battle" that never really was. Rossi didn't ever really have a chance because of the motor that Duc brought and the one Yamaha didn't. He would have had to pull out over .5 seconds on the twisty bits to even have a chance of staying in front of Stoner on the front straight. Luckily enough for Stoner he was sufficiently hast to keep that from happening.

Poor ol' Nicky still hasn't felt the love from the 800 that he wants, and so was never a factor over the course of the weekend. Pedrosa looked like he might have something to bring, but quickly faded back into mitts of the injured Hopper. Speaking of which, Hopper had an incredible race, I can't imagine the pain of riding one of those bike with the carbon brakes with a broken hand. When my hand was broken I shied away from shaking hands from anyone, I imagine that it felt like shaking hands with Mr Hand Crusher for about 45 minutes straight. A true demonstration of grit, Hopper has earned some serious points in my book. Too bad Vermuelen hasn't show the same kind of form as he did in the Superbikes, but hopefully we will get to see him really turn it on this year and win one. I would love to see the perennial backmarker that is Suzuki take the championship this year.

I think Rossi is an incredible racer, but I think the world has talked him up too much to be this unbeatable rider, which he isn't. He is REALLY good, but he can be beat, and I would love to see it happen in a season where the Yamaha is competitive the whole season through. All the naysayers would have to really start thinking then. Without Formula 1 to blame for his, 'lack of focus' I dont know what they would say.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Good lord.

Might I have to eat my words? Could Edwards be fast this year? Could this be the return to form all Edwards fans have eagerly awaited since that epic battle with Bayliss at the end of the 2002 season?

That's OK, I didn't think so either. While Colin is setting the testing world alight so far this year, once the season starts, he just doesn't seem to be able to keep it all together. He is a great teammate for a rider like Rossi who is nigh on infallible and can't be beat. Colin will do what is best for the team, even if it is not in his best interests. Kind of like Rubens Barrichello at Ferrari in the Schumacher days...

I must say that watching the pre-season this year has been great, the Suzukis are finally fast, the Kawasakis are fast, the Ducatis are really fast, basically, for the first time in a few years, it wont be a Honda vs. Yamaha series. I cant wait to see Hopper battling with Rossi for wins, and Vermuelen should be on pace this year too.

While I love that Nicky won the championship this past year, I think that Rossi is going to pull the pin in Qatar and never look back. I don't think that Nicky has the pace to run with him, and it surely doesn't help that Honda has picked Pedrosa as their great white hope. Hell the whole 800 bike has been built to fit a miniature person like Pedrosa, if you look at Hayden on it, he is bigger than the bike. It's funny that even after winning Honda the championship, they still aren't willing to support Nicky. Whatever, maybe Puig is a better negotiator than Nicky's manager, who knows how Honda got it in their heads that Pedrosa is the next best thing since sliced bread. All I do know is that they are basically putting all of their efforts into one rider when they could double their chances at the coveted manufacturers championship if they gave both of their riders bikes that were suited to them.

As for last year, I have been reading a lot of blogs and forums where people are voicing that Hayden didn't deserve the title last year. To these people, all I have to say is this: He earned it the same way Rossi earned it, by having the most points at the end of the year. Sure, it wasn't sexy, he didn't set the world on fire with wins at half the races, but who said a championship was supposed be to be won by the guy with the most wins? It almost always ends up that way, (because the points are geared that way) but not always. A championship is almost always won by the most consistent rider in the field, end of story. Look at Ben Spies in the states, he won the championship because he was the most consistent rider out there last year. Of course Mat Mladin had his number on a bunch of occasions, but not often enough to really win him the title. So, Nicky earned his title, and I am glad he did, but I do remember saying last year, "if he doesn't win it this year, he's never going to win it", and I consider myself a Hayden fan!

I don't want to count him out because he is an incredible rider, but he better be bringing his A-game from Qatar through the end of the season because you can bet that Rossi will be back on form following his loss. I would say that I would be happy if Nicky only beat Pedrosa and stuck it the face of Honda that he is a better rider, even when everything is against him. (Which it seems the world is) One thing you can say about Nicky is that he rides with heart, he is a person, rather than the automaton that is Pedrosa.

So, here is my prediction for the upcoming MotoGP season:
  1. Rossi
  2. Hopper
  3. Nicky
  4. Pedrosa
  5. Edwards

Sunday, February 4, 2007

I have to admit, I am a Ducati fan, I actually bought a 748 early 2005 and absolutely love it. I have not been able to ride it much because I wadded it up in April of '05 and have had to spend quite a while getting it back running. My brother has had it in his shop for over a year, mostly waiting on me to get to get him the parts he needs to make it work.

With this in mind, I have been super-excited to hear about the new 1098 that Ducati has released. The specs are unbelievable, and they finally went back to their roots in design and made it into a super-sexy machine. I dont think that they will ever get back to the beautiful design of the 916 series, but they have gotten close. It has hints of the CBR 1000RR, but then there are also some uniquely Ducati parts as well. They went back to the single-swingarm, and also made it stronger than the traditional swingarm. They kept the indertail exhaust, and of course, made it feel super-small to sit on.

I would say that if I had $15K to blow, I would definitely be picking it up. Of course, that would mean that i would have to get rid of the current Duck and the 900RR I have.

Looking at the current pre-season testing has been great this year, the 2007 season is going to be one to watch. I can't wait for the MotoGP, SBK and AMA season openers. Ben Spies is looking good in the Pre-season testing, so are his teammates. Hopefully Honda will be doing a better job of getting the CBR up to snuff for the Superbike season, and finally Eric B is back on a superbike, I can't wait to see him in action again.

The MotoGP testing has shown that Ducati is going to be a force to be reckoned with this year, and Honda has some work to do on their motor to get it back to the envy of the paddock. Nicky has been able to keep the 800 rolling pretty fast, but it seems that his pace is a little bit off in his race simulations. Suzuki has shown something good in the testing at Sepang, but didnt seem to go as well in testing at Philip Island, so I will wait and see how that bike will perform. No one is questioning the drive that Jon Hopkins has for hiw first win in the series, hopefully this will be his year and we will have more Americans fighting for the championship. I dont think that Colin is going to do much more than play second fiddle to Rossi again. I would love to see he and Bayliss going head to head in the World Superbike series again, they had some truly epic battles and I dont think that Troy Corser has what it takes to challenge Bayliss. Corser is an unblievable rider, but Bayliss just takes it to another level.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Heading to the track?

There are some things that you will want to bring with you. I am assuming that at this point you have a bike, all your gear, and a way to get your bike to the track.
  1. Some method of getting you and your bike out of the sun.
  2. A friend - You will need help, no doubt about it. Preferably someone who likes bikes and can move one around on their own.
  3. Sunscreen. Leathers are not even remotely comfortable if you have a sunburn. Not even a little bit. I'm serious, you have NO idea.
  4. LOTS of water. Leathers are not known for being cool to wear on warm days.
  5. Enough tools to completely tear your bike apart. In most cases this is only a few different sizes of wrench, but DO NOT show up with just the tool kit from under the seat. You WILL hate yourself for it later, trust me, I have seen it happen. Not to mention that people will point and laugh.
  6. Tire pressure gauge. When you get to the track, talk to the tire vendor, if there is one, and find out what pressures he recommends for the track and air temps.
  7. Chairs. Unless you want to spend a small fortune, and you run triathlons in your spare time, you will a. need a rest and b. will have plenty of time to wait around.
  8. Clothes to wear at the track when you are not in your leathers.
  9. Food. There is not always a place to get food at or near the track. Some tracks don't even have bathrooms.
  10. Something to do while waiting, that is, if you can pull yourself from action on the track.
  11. Some means to get around the outside of the track. A mountain bike, BMX bike, 50cc dirtbike, scooter, we don't ride motorcycles because we like to walk. Check with the racing organization to see requirements for pit bikes.
  12. Gas can - Fill this up before you get to the track, get at least 5 gallons. If you are riding a lot, get 2 of these. You would be surprised at how many times people don't have gas at the track. Some tracks sell 'race gas' which is over 100 octane and usually costs something like $5 a gallon (or more), you REALLY DO NOT need that gas.
  13. Don't forget your rear stand!! Its a real bummer having to lean your bike up against a fence all day.
  14. Stopwatch. Even if your bike comes with a lap timer, or you bought one to mount on it, it is nice to be able to tell who is really getting it out there. You can watch that person and see what lines they take to get around so quickly.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

So, now you have your gear, you have your bike, and you are itching to go. I am sure that there is some sort of track near where you live, even if the AMA doesnt go there. I have been to some great tracks around the country, and some not so great ones too, but some of the best were the ones that were not on the AMA calendar. For example, Putnam Park roadcourse is one of the best tracks I have ever had the great fortune to be on, but Mid-Ohio was one of the worst I have ever ridden on (this was pre-repave). Google racetrack and your nearest big city, and you bound to come up with something. You could also try going to the local sportbike shop and asking them if they know of any local tracks. Odds are pretty good that if it is a big shop, and a track is really close, they will be sposoring an event.

The local track is bound to have some sort of open track day in some variety or other, and most have some affiliation with a sanctioning body for racing and you can find out what is in your area. most likely, it is going to be CCS or WERA. Both organizations have the tracks that they go to often, and both are pretty well run, you will always find someone who will gripe about the way it is run, but if you want to race, you have to put up with it or start your own club.

Each organization is going to have its own quirks in the rule book, but for the most part, they are very similar, white number plate for expert, yellow for novice, and a T-shirt over your leathers for riders school, stuff like that. They really only vary when it comes to defining their classes, and this is one area you want to look at.

When talking about the bike selection, I noted that you wanted a bike as close to stock as possible, with the factory muffler if at all possible and that you wanted something small, like a 600. The reason for this is that most organizations have a production class in which you can replace the shock, tweak the fork internals, change bodywork, but you have to keep the motor from intake to exhaust bone stock. This is always the best class around because you know that if you can go fast on a prod bike, then you are going to go really fast once you upgrade to something like superstock or superbike. The other benefit is that you can always race up a class, but you can't race down. What I mean by this is that you can race a 600 in a 750 class, or a production bike in a superbike class. This just means that there will be more of an opportunity for you get your butt on track and get the seat time you so desperately need to go faster. The other huge benefit of starting on a 600 is that you dont learn by relying on the power of the bike to make you faster. I can't tell you how frustrating it is for a fast rider on a small bike to get behind some guy on a 1000, who parks it going into the corner and then hammers the throttle on the way out and drives away from you. It is, however, immensely satisfying to blast past that same guy on the 1000 in turn two and disappear into the distance on your 600.