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Wed, 2018-03-28 16:25
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At the Qatar Grand Prix MotoMatters.com sat down with Jack Miller to talk about life lessons and how much his life has changed since claiming his first Grand Prix victory in the desert four years ago.

Jack Miller on the grid at Qatar

Jack Miller poses questions unlike any other racer in MotoGP. Over the last three years the Australian has seen every side of racing. He's gone from being the protégé of HRC fast tracked into MotoGP, to being discarded by them as quickly as he was chosen. Miller was a constant paradox for the paddock during the early steps of his MotoGP adventure.

He was Charlie Bucket handed the golden ticket to the HRC factory, but instead of it being the childhood dream it turned out to be a double-edged sword. In Wonka's World children faced morality tests, and in Miller's World he faced tests of his will. It took Miller time to learn the ways of the world in the premier class, but by the midpoint of his rookie campaign he was certainly showing his promise once again.

Ultimately Miller didn't end up with the keys of the Honda factory but he did end up with his future in his own hands and the opportunity to prove his worth to Ducati.

Jumping straight from Moto3 to MotoGP was a step that allowed Miller to emulate only a handful of riders. The likes of Garry McCoy and Leon Haslam both went from lightweight to premier class in an instant but not with the might of Honda behind them. It placed huge pressure on his shoulders but looking back Miller wouldn't have had it any other way.

School of hard knocks

“There's been a lot of lessons since 2014,” smiled Miller when asked about his whirlwind to the top. “I came into MotoGP as a guy that people talked about as being a risk, but it's been OK. When Honda called I knew that opportunities like these don't come around all the time. They're presented when you show your talent and your potential. You need to prove that you're worth it and I'm proud of the steps that we've made. Having a GP win is obviously nice, but being able to say that I'm an established MotoGP rider that had a three year contract and followed it up with another contract is nice.

“I think that I've proved everyone wrong now, but I knew at the time that having that target on my back was also a motivation. It is hard when you go home and read on the Internet people saying it was a career-ending move, but I've come out the other end of it. I'm still in MotoGP and fighting and getting stronger. I feel good at the moment and the next goal is to become a factory rider in the future. The only way to get that is to become the top satellite rider but I know that won't be easy. The field is so competitive now but I know that if I keep working harder and harder that I can make it happen.”


This is part of a semi-regular series of insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion pieces. Though the majority of content on MotoMatters.com remains free to read, a select amount of the more interesting content will be made available solely to those who have supported the website financially by taking out a subscription.

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Tue, 2018-02-20 22:59
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Master & Pupil - Jonathan Rea shows Toprak Razgatlioglu the way around Phillip Island


PJ Jacobsen moves up to WorldSBK, and is testing the Magneti Marelli electronics ahead of the Ten Kate team


Chaz Davies has some catching up to do


Anything PJ can do, Leon can do too


Xavi Fores puts the hammer down


Meet the wildcards. The name is on the backdrop


Kenan Sofuoglu has not made much of a mark yet at PI. But it isn't Sunday yet


And Troy Herfoss makes it three Fireblade wheelies


What Chaz Davies hopes Jonathan Rea will mainly be seeing this season.


Jake Gagne faces a steep learning curve


#1


The Man In Black


#2


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Mon, 2018-02-19 18:01
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Phillip Island feels like a Ducati track. Marco Melandri agreed on Monday


Leon Camier hopes to revive Honda's fortunes in WorldSBK. So far, so good


Not the best of starts to the test for Jonathan Rea. Still third fastest, despite the highside


The brains of the operation


Aussie veteran Wayne Maxwell is still posting respectable times among the WorldSBK crowd


Tom Sykes' first objective? To beat the other side of the garage


Back to WorldSBK for Loris Baz, after a solid few years in MotoGP


Hot headers


Lucas Mahias: looks like a boxer, rides like the wind, wears a pink helmet. Any questions?


The Orange Menace: Luke Stapleford caused a bit of a stir on the Triumph 675 on Monday, finishing 3rd in WorldSSP


An American back in WorldSBK: Jake Gagne has big shoes to fill in the Red Bull Honda team


Peekaboo, Mr West


High hopes for the Pata Yamaha team, though Alex Lowes finished just 8th on Monday


Tom Toparis, wildcarding at his home round, on the Kawasaki ZX-6RR


Two-time ASBK champ Troy Herfoss demonstrating the Universal Racer Sign Language for "the front keeps wanting to wash out"


Daniel Falzon, teammate to Wayne Maxwell, and another Australian at the test


Built for speed, not for comfort


One of Xavi Fores' mechanics demonstrates the artisanal craft of tie-wrapping


Kenan Sofuoglu lost his WorldSSP title last year. Can he get it back in 2018?


Behold the steed of His Chazness


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Fri, 2018-02-09 10:01
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For most riders age is just a number, but for Loris Baz it's also a virtue. Despite already having six years' experience in world championship racing, the Frenchman returns to WorldSBK as one of the youngest riders in the field

Loris Baz on the Althea Ducati at the Portimao January test in 2018

When Loris Baz first raced in WorldSBK he was one of the rawest prospects on the grid. For Pere Riba, his former crew chief, he was a rough diamond that could be molded into a star. Three years working with the Spaniard turned Baz into a race winner. Three years in MotoGP turned him into a much more complete package, and returning to WorldSBK for 2018 Baz feels primed to show his true potential.

“When you ride with the best guys in the world in MotoGP on a bike that's a bit older you improve a lot,” reflected Baz. “You are always trying to find solutions and find some extra speed. That experience from MotoGP has definitely made me a much better rider and if I had this experience when I was racing in WorldSBK I would have been winning races.

“When I left WorldSBK in 2014 I was already fighting at the front in every race and I've only gotten better since then. Obviously the class has also changed since I was last racing in WorldSBK and it's clear that Johnny and Chaz are riding really well but they were already great riders in 2014. I definitely think that I can fight with them in the future.”

Baz Battles Beemers

Fighting for wins and podiums won't come easy for Baz in 2018. With the Althea continuing to use the BMW S1000RR Baz will face the unenviable task of trying to get the most out of a notoriously difficult package. The German marque hasn't had a podium finish since 2013, but Baz feels that it has some potential.

“The base of the BMW is actually quite good. I think that everyone wants the Kawasaki or Ducati because they're in front, but the BMW can definitely get closer to them. We know that we've got a lot of work to do and we could do with some help from BMW to do this. The front end of this bike feels good though and straight away in November it gave me confidence. The electronics are the biggest area that we can improve on.”

Loris Baz pulling a wheelie on the Althea BMW at the January Jerez WorldSBK test in 2018

Electronics have always been the bugbear of this machine. The operating window is very narrow but when it finds the sweet spot the bike can certainly surprise. One of the biggest surprises for the Althea team came early in the negotiation period when the team realized that despite his experience, Baz has only just turned 25 years old.

“It was funny when I started talking to Genesio Bevilacqua and Althea because he was surprised that I wasn't 27 or 28! I'm still young and to have three years' experience in both Superbike and MotoGP is really important, and the experience that comes from racing at that level is important for this year. I always said when I went to MotoGP that there'd be time for me to come back to WorldSBK and still be able to win.

“Winning is the ultimate target but for this year though is just to close the gap to the front. Last year the gap from Kawasaki to BMW was too big. As the only BMW rider on the grid my feedback will be even more important that usual for improving the bike. I want us to get on the podium this year and to be in the top five in Australia. Winning races is the goal but you need to take things step by step throughout the season.”


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Wed, 2018-02-07 13:58
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No team has undergone more change than Ten Kate Honda this winter. With a new team manager and rider line-up will they have a change of fortunes?

It's hard to imagine a more tumultuous season than the one Ten Kate went through in 2017. On and off the track the team faced incredible challenges. The death of Nicky Hayden robbed the team of their leader and hindered the developed of a troubled bike. They had a season unlike any other and the winter has seen them make drastic changes for the 2018 WorldSBK season.

The introduction of the new Fireblade was supposed to be a game changer rather than a headache. A season that saw a best finish of seventh illustrated the task ahead of the team and wholesale changes have been made for 2018. Kervin Bos has been promoted to team manager, and Leon Camier has been brought in to lead the team as a rider.

For Bos, a long-time Ten Kate employee and former rider, the challenge is huge. The 30 year old replaces Ronald ten Kate, and inevitably with any change of management, the vision and direction of the team also changes.

“I'm really excited to get started,” said Bos. “It's going to be difficult because we've had a big change to the structure in Ten Kate. Ronald ten Kate will look after the 'big picture' of the company. In terms of the race team we will change the structure. The technical side of the team will be split into three departments. We will have the tuning department, chassis department and R&D all working together instead of one person giving them direction.

“I will be working with the technical areas to help organize the race team. It's very different to the past because in the past Pieter Breddels decided on everything on his own. Now we have three people working with me to organize everything. Our goal is to get back on the podium this year and over the next few years is to get back into the top three and to fight for the championship again.”

The weight of expectation

To aid that fight for podiums the team hired Camier. The Englishman has rebuilt his reputation in recent years. Having been left high and dry in 2014 he turned a variety of substitute appearances into an MV Agusta ride. Despite not registering a podium finish for the Italian marque the progress the team made was due to Camier's ability to lead their development. That will be key for Honda and something that he is excited about.

“It's not easy to win in WorldSBK but even after just six days on the bike we've already making progress,” said Camier. “It's still a very new bike whereas with the MV it's an older bike. I'm hopeful that the Honda can be a more consistent package and can help me to deliver podiums and hopefully a win. It's difficult to know the potential of the Honda because of everything that happened last year.

“It was still early in the development when Nicky had his accident, and it was hard to judge with Stefan because, from the outside, it seemed that Nicky was leading the development. Once you lose that leadership, the program seemed to lose it's way. We'll see in Australia and then Thailand and then the rest of the season what our development is like. It's difficult to know what to expect just yet.”

Red leader

While Camier may not be sure when fortunes will improve his team manager is convinced that he's seen enough this winter to know that he is the man to lead the team.

“Leon is already fast,” smiled Bos. “His pace is consistent and he's been fast on the qualifying tire too. He's been able to join the team and fit in well. His approach is actually very similar to Nicky's approach. He's hard working and honest. He has a clear opinion about what he wants and works hard to get what he feels he needs. It's great to work with riders that know what they want but also know how to get the team to that point it's always good. If you look at the progress made this winter it's already been huge. There'll be pressure next year on all of us but I think that we can surprise some people.”

Having been able to fly under the radar in recent years Camier knows that he now needs to deliver. Riding for big name brands brings with it big-time responsibility.

“There's more pressure on my shoulders this year because the expectation changes when you go to Honda and have support from Red Bull. That being said, nothing changes for me because I'll be doing everything I can to help drive this project forward. Hopefully that'll be enough to get some decent results but all I can do is give it everything I have.

“We've still got work to do learn this bike because with this bike it's very different to the MV. I still need to understand how to find the right balance. If you have too much weight on the rear the front is good but it doesn't turn. If you overload the front you can start to get some bouncing from the front. When the weight is on the rear you've got grip, when it's on the front you've got none. It's difficult to find the way to balance the bike but we're getting better.”

One of the keys for further improvement should be the electronics package. While Cosworth has been used throughout winter testing, due to a shortage of parts, it is expected that the team will make a switch to Magneti Marelli. In a winter of huge upheaval that could be the most significant change the team make.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

Wed, 2018-01-24 17:25
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Biggest change this year is from fluorescent green to white for the Movistar logo. Monster will be happy. Movistar too.


They say white is slimming. Works on the M1


For ducking and diving


The advantage of the I4 engine in the M1 is compactness


Rossi's yellow no longer clashes with the green


Viñales is all red white and blue


The affair continues


Viñales was happy enough with Yamaha to sign on for two more years


Rossi's new Mexican-inspired helmet design for 2018


Even the rear stand is color matched


Beast mode


Compare this photo with the one above, and Rossi's bike is lower. Whether that means anything on a show bike is questionable


Handsome


Hello 2018


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Fri, 2017-10-20 16:31
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Not a happy Doctor at the Island


KTM bullish on prospects in Moto2


Jack is back, after just 20 days


Maverick Viñales, happier than his teammate on Friday


Ducati's winglets helped turn Jorge Lorenzo's season around, but they haven't worked so far at Phillip Island


Upmarket workplace for lease, seven figure annual rent


Nick Harris, the voice of MotoGP for a generation or more


Romano Fenati nearly highsided himself to the moon this morning. Fortunately, he is made of rubber


What Andrea Dovizioso doesn't want to be looking at on Sunday


Coming off the back of a good result at Motegi, Andrea Iannone is of to a flying start in Australia


Watching in the pits can be more painful than actually riding the bike


Mirko and Freddie, snappers to the MotoGP stars, and stars in their own right


Honda, producer of fine-looking rear ends for 71 years


Food for thought


Cal Crutchlow won here last year. This year? It's going to be tough


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Wed, 2017-08-30 16:05
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The Misano test made a big difference to Valentino Rossi. Suddenly, he was competitive


All well for Jonas Folger on Saturday. His luck would not last through Sunday


Dani Pedrosa has more reason than most to hate F1. Their bumps gave him a hard time


Machine defeats man by breaking down on him. Jorge Lorenzo sprints back to the pits during qualifying


Maverick's seat sticker is safe until Duke Nukem lays eyes on it


From Aprilia to KTM: Sam Lowes heads back to Moto2 for 2018, aboard a KTM


Johann Zarco changed tack, went for the hard tires at Silverstone


The Tech 3 team is a family affair. Brother Jérôme prepares Zarco's bike


One day, the gremlins will leave Aleix Espargaro alone


Silverstone, flattish

 

 


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Sat, 2017-08-26 10:27
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The old man is quick when the sun is out at Silverstone


The winglet replacement aero package is the magic wand Jorge Lorenzo had been looking for


Home boy fastest at home


KTM showing real signs of progress. Pol Espargaro was 7th fastest on Friday


Marc Marquez brings the hustle


Communication is a vital part of the rider-crew chief relationship


Though sometimes messages take a while to sink in


Future? Unknown. But Sam Lowes has offers from several top Moto2 teams


Scott Redding slides his way through Northamptonshire


The Misano test brought more power off the bottom end for Aleix Espargaro


The disadvantages of being light: being tossed around over the bumps like a boat in a storm


The past, present, and future of the sport


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Mon, 2017-07-31 19:58
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The day is done and the battle is won. Yamaha claimed their third consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours on Sunday. The victory put a stamp on their dominance of the one race each year that the Japanese manufacturers place more emphasis on than any other. We take a look at the Yamaha Factory Racing Team's YZF-R1.

It's often said that endurance racing is the last bastion of design and technological freedom in motor sport. Whether it was Audi's decision to use a diesel engine on four wheels or the current breed of two-wheeled endurance bike, it's clear that there is plenty of innovation on the grid.

At this weekend's Suzuka 8 Hours, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team fielded arguably the most advanced YZF-R1 on the planet. With open regulations for electronics, a tire war and plenty of scope for innovation in the rulebook, the machine raced by Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark is very different to their regular WorldSBK mount.


The office, rider's view

“It's been really good to be able to compare the Suzuka bike to our WorldSBK bike back to back,” commented Van der Mark on the eve of the race. “When you race one and then jump on the other to go testing it really shows what each bike does well and where we maybe need to develop the WorldSBK bike.

“The engines are different between the bikes because the Suzuka machine has to last eight hours but the electronics are very different. On the Suzuka bike they are so smooth. There are some small differences which make the bike feel easier to ride. It still has the same character as the WorldSBK bike but it's so much easier to control the power with the electronics on the Suzuka bike. I'd love to have that on my bike!”



Simple switchgear belies complex electronics

Everything on any racing machine is built with speed in mind but in endurance racing it is also built with speed of maintenance in mind. Being able to change wheels quickly and to save time while repairing crash damage is crucial. Any seconds gained in the pits are as precious as gold dust and being able to work efficiently is a prized asset for any team.

Everything is designed with a tolerance for working with the minimum of intrusion. Compared to a WorldSBK or MotoGP bike, this machine is designed with quick release mechanisms and ease of work at the forefront. Being able to replace a chain, top up fluid and even how fast you can hoist the bike on a paddock stand are all leading priorities rather than an afterthought – the focus remains on speed, but with more than a single eye on the stamina required to go racing over eight uninterrupted hours.

Tires were an integral part of Yamaha's third consecutive victory inthe blue ribbon race. While the Endurance World Championship Yamahas are shod with Dunlop tires, the Factory Racing Team were once again using Bridgestones. This is a key advantage, with the Japanese rubber having been the tire to beat in the heat for years, and another insight into the challenge of endurance racing.

While we have grown accustomed to seeing control tires in MotoGP and Superbike racing around the world, it’s refreshing to see tire competition still play a part in racing. For the riders, the tires provide a very different feel to their WorldSBK Pirellis - but performance is key and the Bridgestones certainly prove their worth.

Kayaba rear shock on Suzuka 8H Yamaha R1
Tires aren't the only difference - Suzuka R1 uses Kayaba suspension

The feedback from the Suzuka races played a role in the development of the MotoGP tires used up until 2015 and the feeling is very similar. The tires give a strong front-end feel and plenty of confidence once they are into their operating window, but if they should fall out of that window there can be a high price to pay – and that’s when the ability to quickly repair damage returns to the fore.

With three riders on the bike, it will never be perfect for any one rider. The challenge is making sure it’s a bike that all three riders are happy with. For this year, that meant Yamaha adapting rider positioning to suit Van der Mark's tall frame, compared to the smaller Lowes and Nakasuga - they had to change their requirements on setup to find the best compromise for all of them.

Footpeg of R1 placed for best compromise
One size fits all: footpeg, seat, and handlebar placement has to suit all three riders

In 2015, Yamaha's first win of their recent successes, Bradley Smith was the “third rider” paired with Nakasuga and Pol Espargaro. It's not a diminished role and is just as important as the other two but as the Englishman explained, it did mean that he had a different task to undertake:

“There are three riders and you don't really ride that much,” said Smith. “I missed out on doing a lap in Superpole which is hard to accept for any rider, but I was the third rider on the list all through the weekend. Those types of things you have to take with a pinch of salt and not take it too personally. We’re there for our team result not for our personal result.

“During testing and the race weekend I spent a lot of time working on the tire and trying to understand which one was better. Some were going to be better for 20 or 30 minutes but not for the whole hour. That meant that I would tell the team the direction we should go with the tire and then we'd change the setting to that direction because I was confident that that’s the right one and it paid off. Consistency is the most important thing.”

Endurance racing is a cycle; a study in risk assessment and stamina more than sheer speed. Go too slowly or too carefully and you'll be off the pace and not able to get close to the podium - but risk too much and you could be relying on your pit crew being able to work efficiently in getting the bike repaired. It's all about compromise and these bikes are the epitome of that compromise; built to be the best over 220 laps and thousands of kilometers – for the whole team.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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