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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.


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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.

Wed, 2017-04-26 22:21
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Marc Marquez. Always riveting in Austin


Over the hill? I don't think so


Bad starts are a thing of the past for Dani Pedrosa


Maverick's magic streak came to an end in Austin


Miller and Rabat play follow my leader


Plenty to think about for Johann Zarco


Eyes on the prize for Lorenzo. But the prize is still a little way ahead


Romano Fenati gets a sense of perspective


"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven;"


How Jonas Folger deals with the stress before the start


Technically, that is know as running wide


It all goes pear shaped at the start of the Moto2 race...


Stefano Manzi's enthusiasm got the better of him, taking Julian Simon out in the process


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Sat, 2017-04-22 17:15
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This is what total control looks like


Hustle by Petrucci


HRC are experimenting with a different exhaust, to modify the engine character. Results so far not promising


Dani Pedrosa, about to crest T1


The changed seat position is working out for Lorenzo. But it's not a magic wand


One end of the KTM


The other end of the KTM with legal winglets/aero fairing


The mystery continues at the back of the Ducati GP17


One of Tech 3's rocketship rookies: Jonas Folger


Cal Crutchlow holding his own after Argentina


A dry clutch, or spinny roundy bit, to give it its technical name


Tech 3's other rocketship rookie: Johann Zarco


Scott Redding is outshining his teammate so far. Not being given the 2017 lab bike turns out to be a good thing


Still crazy after all these years


One way of fighting wheelies: get as far forward as possible


Andrea Dovizioso is a big fan of motocross. Not so much of race tracks which have MXGP style bumps


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Sat, 2017-02-25 14:58
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Melandri's back, and as fast as if he had never been away


That's one thing the new Honda Fireblade does well. Saves on tire wear too


Which is a serious concern, especially on the left side


Thousand yard stare


Sure, the same three riders were on the podium, but this really didn't feel like 2016 all over again


Alex Lowes gets ready


A familiar look


Technique


All Italian


Nicky Hayden's "I'm not entirely convinced" look


Josh Brookes has a point to prove. Didn't manage to make it in race 1


Baptism of fire for Stefan Bradl. The Honda CBR1000RR still needs a lot more development before it's truly competitive


Take me to your leader


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Wed, 2017-02-22 13:16
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"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."


Throne


Josh Brookes is on a mission to prove a point, on a privately funded Yamaha YZF-R1M


Warning from the Surgeon General...


Lorenzo Savadori is looking a good deal more dangerous this year after switching to the SMR Milwaukee team


Stefan Bradl on a Red Bull Honda. Still a lot of work to do for the boys at Ten Kate


The real energy drink


The biggest obstacle between Jonathan Rea and a third WSBK title. Insurmountable?


Time to relax with a quick Sodoku before the next session


High hopes for Alex Lowes in 2017


The business end of an MV


Tuning forks


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