March, 2006

March 28, 2006

WSBK Test with Ducati NCR in Valencia (couple weeks before the race)

I was here because World Superbike (SBK) was having their first official test of the season and I was slated to work for SC Caracchi Ducati, also known as Ducati NCR. I know - Weird that their official tests come after the first two races. The other tests before this were all unofficial. That meant everyone was here, SBK, World Supersport (which is like Formula Extreme, to the extreme), and World Superstock. I think I bumped into Chris Perris, formally tagged to ride for WCM in MotoGP, because not too many people are wearing leathers with Traxxion Dynamics on them! He was busy getting sorted, so I left him alone. Maybe I'll see him again and see if I can score an interview. This was another great opportunity for me to spend some time with the teams and get to know the scene. While there is a lot of glamour and money in MotoGP, there's a much different feel here in SBK. As Tomo-san (Nissin Racing brake guru, who I met in November and several times again, at just about every event I've been to!) pointed out to me, SBK feels like it's more about the racing, and there are several reason for this. Maybe the money changes things, but I feel that a lot of teams out here are running on passion. Some teams are fully funded (i.e. Xerox Ducati, Ten Kate Honda, etc) but the rest are coming out here because they love to race. They live for racing. Maybe they don't have all the unobtanium, but they're still putting a bike on the grid on the world scene, and that's doing something! I'm still coming up with the differences between the two World Championships, and I'm still having a good time.

On a sadder note, Karl Muggeridge, #31, crashed shortly after this photo and broke his back. It's a sobering moment whenever a rider has a big crash, but fortunately, he's expected to be up and riding again in roughly forty days. Godspeed #31.

I should also mention that there was no speed limit in pit lane, so people were ripping through the pits, popping long wheelies, and revving the crap out of their bikes. Brrappppp! It was great, though a little wild.

Andrew Pitt, raced in GP and now on the Yamaha factory bike with Haga.

Fonsi Nieto, formerly in 250ccGP, then with Caracchi Ducati last year, now with factory Kawasaki.

Troy Corser. Long time rider, and still fast!

James Toseland. Hoping that Honda gets the TC going . . .

Overall, testing was great. I working primarily with Josh Brookes in World Supersport wrenching on his Ducati 749R. I hung out with the team for four days, working sun-up til whenever, and slept in the team Semi truck. It was a little rough, because I was expecting to be in a hotel, but showering at the track wasn't too bad. Except I didn't have a towel, soap, or hot water. Next time someone tells you not to worry - there's a hotel - Verify that there's a hotel! I received a ton of help from these two amazing mechanics, Corrado

and Volta, ex Ducati factory racer from the eighties.

I can't say enough about the experience, except that I'm not supposed to talk too much about it.
But I was there, and I kicked ass.

March 27, 2006

The Trip to Valencia's SBK test!

Spent some time at the train station sorting things out, and I have to say. . . . . it was S.L.O.W. going. Right up there with the California DMV. If any of you guys work at the DMV, please commit hari-kiri now.

Man, I am pumped for the races this weekend! Next week we should have a lot more answers about the MotoGP season ahead, and personally, I can't wait!

P.S. I like how the clock looks angry, like it's laughing at me. Mierda!

Sunday's MotoGP races were great, and I had fun watching on Spanish TV (live) and also on, in English. It was fun bouncing back and forth, and what a crackin' race! I'm disappointed Rossi didn't have a chance to run up front, but stellar performances from all the rookies! Stoner, Elias? Wow, they were hauling, particularly Elias. Who's to say what would have happenned if Rossi was in it. His start was uncharacteristically awesome, and he was right up there before he got nudged off the track. Seeing as how this race was fifteen seconds slower than last year. . . I think he would have done just fine, "vibration" problems or not. I tried my best to get to the race itself, but the timing just wasn't right for me, and besides, I had just seen these guys. There's a delicate balance between being around, and being a nuisance. Also, I thought this was going to be one of the more packed races, and I'd rather have the time and ability to speak more, when it's quieter and when the teams aren't as stressed out. I'm sure to run into them again . Instead, I decided it would be better for me to seek out other avenues, so it was on this beautiful sunny day that I went to the train station. After I watched the race. Woo-hoo!

It was a nice train ride down the coastline, and I chose to upgrade to first class to rest my knee. I knew that they would also serve a snack/lunch, and I had always wanted to see what it was like to enjoy a nice meal and some vino on the train. The weather became gray the further south I went, but it was still nice.

I didn't realize the snack would be so small! This was my juice "shooter", and a pack of cigarettes as a size reference. The rice candy was a special treat, and came with a fake tattoo of a koala bear. The cracker-jack of asia!

I arrived at dusk, and took a cab to where I would be staying.

A friend of mine had invited me to come spend some time, and getting out of BCN was just what I needed. I woke up early the next day, around seven, to a beautiful sunrise. This is the view out my window when I awoke. "The next thing you know, you'll be sleeping in a van down by the river!" Actually, I was sleeping in a big truck.

There's something so magical about the skies above Valencia.

March 26, 2006

Desmo's Hidden Jewel

First off, about that thing on the shelf:
It is the super rare and extremely precious motore of the illustrious
Ducati Supermono! I think this motor came from one of the 94-96 versions, as the muffler that was also on the shelves was the single can, dual outlet type by Termignoni. Very nice jewel.

Oh, and the old racebike? 1985 Ducati 750 F1 with swingarm upgrade to 1987-88 spec, IIRC. I love the way the tank sits down in the frame! Gorgeous! The Paso was sold later in the 750 and 907 guise and they both ran trellis frames, though the littler one had square tubes instead of round stock. I think I read once that the U.S. spec Paso's came with something other than the Weber carbs (which were on the intl. models) and this is why it was a common/necessary upgrade to the U.S. ones. I also believe the #88 bike started out as a Paso, but was altered so much it sports 851/888 race fairings - I could be wrong, as there was a language barrier and I'm not a Ducati history expert - yet!

Oh yes indeedy,
I love horizontal four stroke singles!

March 25, 2006

Desmo BCN

I have begun to make it a secondary mission of mine to find all the unique and cool moto shops here in BCN, and wherever I manage to be. Along the way, I have seen a couple of neat shops, but this one is by far my favorite. While I've never been a true Ducatisti, I have always respected their product, and moreso, the passion and style with which they were created. Truth is, I love everything on two wheels, but I had never really worked on Duc's, so I was always a little intimidated by them because the higher spec they were, the more "spaghetti" was strung along the frame! My personal tastes run towards the minimalist side, which is why I love super-motards, old-school chops, cafe-racers, and thoroughbred racebikes! Oh, and I have a huge soft spot for the MH900E. Desmo BCN is run by a single mechanic named Chencho, and although it's small, this shop is filled with all manner of goodies. The shop, and several of it's customers, have been racing for more than ten years, and they specialize in endurance races. I don't know about you, but anytime a high-strung Ducati makes it through a 24 hour race, I know the team behind it (i.e. the crew), is top notch. I caught a couple metros (subway trains) to get here, and then had to walk for another twenty minutes before I found it. I also managed to walk right past it, but I caught myself before I got too far, and only ended up going an extra two blocks.

With a nice clean shop floor, and three lifts, this is a great place to get service and custom work done. The tools are hung neatly on wall racks, and in general, I had a really good feeling hanging around - which is unusual for me. In fact, I started getting really pumped and excited, because I miss wrenching! One of the racer/customers, Alberto, was inside prepping his 998 racebike for an upcoming event. Between his English (which was better than my butchered Spanish) and some concentrated pointing, we were able to communicate quite well. We might not speak the same language, but we both speak Moto. I had fun examining his baby, and he guided me through a small tour of the store. Unlike many shops I've been to, this place didn't even sell a single t-shirt, much less any other apparel! It was strictly moto, which is fine by me!
I've started posting slightly larger pictures to see if I like it, and also because I want to make sure some of the things I capture in the pictures make it through to some of you. Who can tell me what's on the shelf on the right? Huge bonus points for anyone that gets it - and more photos, of course!

This girl had golden tresses, or should I say, this beauty had a magnesium valve cover on her race head. Look at the size of that lower triple clamp! Those Ohlins aren't going anywhere!

More fun stuff just "hanging out" at the shop :)

Little known fact: the Italian company Verlicchi makes the frames for both the Ducati Superbikes, and for Buell. Go figure, as both companies are teased by inline four lovers as having "tractor" motors. I have to disagree, as I prefer to call them "traction" motors. . . gimme that Torque, baby!

Yet another rarity! A late-eighties Ducati Paso racer (actually, I'm not sure if it's an 888, so for now, I'll guess it's a Paso, haha)! Wow! I hadn't seen one of these before, and it was fun for me to crawl around. From it's stubby pipe, to it's full bodywork (this is regarded to be the first sportbike to "sport" full bodywork), it was magnificent. Alberto tells me it handles like a dream, corners like it's on rails - very neutral steering and easy to ride. I wish I could take it out and see for myself. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get into the guts and see if it had the popular Weber Carb conversion, which the American versions needed to run well. If I remember correctly, you can still pick these up for a song (sub $3500) but you gotta make sure the bodywork is in good shape because it's getting scarce. . . .

Think Termignoni started making 'shorties' for the Yamaha M1? Think again!

My second favorite racebike in the shop. Suede seat, glass-fiber full cell, gorgeous machine full of heritage and history. Who can tell me what this is? Winners get a custom wallpaper emailed from me of something cool!

The goods. Watch out little birdy!

March 24, 2006

Liam testing with Ducati SC at Valencia!

That's Right Baby! I'm leaving Sunday, March 26th, to travel by train to Valencia, where I will work with the Ducati SC Caracchi team for a three day test at the circuit! This is a fantastic opportunity for me, and I will do my best to secure a postion within a World Championship caliber team. Under the guidance of their master mechanic, Franco Farne, I hope to learn as much as possible in three short days. Hopefully I've done my homework, and they choose to continue working with me. I will be working on bikes for Roberto Rolfo in Superbike, and Joshua Brookes and Luka Nedog in World Supersport. I'm scared, nervous, and most of all, excited. Ducati SC Caracchi is a very well respected team in the World Superbike Championship, and they are proven race winners, last year with Lorenzo Lanzi, and the previous year with Garry McCoy. They know how to win, and I hope to contribute to that tradition of winning success!

Cleaning up before the WSBK test at Valencia

It had been a couple of relatively busy weeks for me lately, so I decided it was time to continue cleaning up and reorganizing things. One of the things I did was reassess whether of not my Axio hardpack was up to snuff. I had been running these graphics for a while now, and it was time for a change. If you ever saw this rip past you on the 101 freeway, that was me. . . .

Ahhhhh, back to clean and simple. Still representin' the 50th state, since I'm probably the only Hawaiian that makes it to some of these events out here, and if there's one thing I have in excess, it's pride. Doh! Just kidding, I always strive my hardest to maintain a level of professionalism that exceeds those around me.

March 23, 2006

Euro Low-rider

Factory tuned suspension. I still notice oddball cars and bikes, but they are definitely becoming more commonplace to me and I don't whip the camera out as often as I should. I always thought this particular car was strange-looking (I've seen them before), and now that I have watched a documentary on Citroen, I kinda like them. Really goofy designs, headlights that turned when you did (forty years ago!), and it's French - what more can you say?!?

March 19, 2006

Fiesta Time, for no reason.

It's been a busy week as usual, and Saturday was, or should have been, strictly downtime for me. Instead, my household was busy preparing one thing and another. . . . because it's Fiesta Time, baby!

It might look like a burnt Custard Pie, but the Empanada cooked up by my roomate, Patricia, was awesome. I cannot stress this enough: If you are consuming large varieties of bebidas (drinks) you should have good fuel in the tank. Do not mix Rum, Whiskey, Wine, Beers, and Sake. Or, if you must, try to space your partying out to around twelve hours or so. Ahhh, the Spanish really know how to party. I mentioned months ago that Sunday is a waste of a day, and this is because it's simply the "slower time" of Saturday.

I thought this photo was funny because I caught everyone with their mouths open. In the background is Jines, the hospitality director for Repsol. He's responsible for everything relating to feeding and entertaining everyone at the racetrack, from the big details, like the semi-truck, to the smallest details. I'm not sure if I spelled his name right, but for an older guy he partied pretty hard and was still up drinking coffee at my apt. this morning at 7:30AM! Around 2-ish, we left the house to find a nice club to get our collective groove on. The Sutton! It's in the high area of Barcelona, and the music was spot on. Lots of fun people and a great atmosphere - I recommend it if you make it here.

At the club I bumped into Juan Martinez, chief mechanic for Sete Gibernau. I always take the time to say hello when I'm at the track and he's always very gracious. Juan and I discussed the GP06 Ducati, and it's amazing what they're able to do with the bike. Juan's confidence is high, and he has one of the more "fun" attitudes in the paddock. That is, he knows when it's time to concentrate, and when it's time to cut loose! I enjoy his perspectives on racing (sometimes they're downright wacky!), and who knows, maybe I'll end up working with him someday.

Here's a shot with our extended family in BCN, the 250cc Aoyama brothers, Hiro and Shuhei. They were exhausted from the training regime which continues through the weekends! I'm not sure, but if I had to point any fingers I'd say it was the sake that did me in! Love the stuff. At least I represented well -- I may not be able to take these guys on the track, but I dance better!

March 17, 2006

The Chopper

My last motorcycle. My first motorcycle. This is the bike I always wanted to build.
Lean. Fast. Powerful. Iconic. Mine.

The year was 1997 and I was living in Honolulu, Hawaii. I had been riding for a few short years on the street, first on a death-trap 1982 Suzuki GN 250 with no brakes, then on a 1987 Suzuki Savage 650, and at that time, a brand new 1997 Honda Magna 750 - which I had hacked up in my first attempts at making a stand-out, custom bike. I fantasized about making my own bikes, riding my thundering creations along the seaside cliffs, but I knew I didn't know enough to do it right. To do it "my way". I was reading every moto-publication avaiable, the standard US magazines, and several European ones as well. The British Streetfighter scene intrigued me greatly, and was to have a heavy influence on my sense of style later. It didn't matter what kind of motorcycle magazine or book it was, Sportbikes, Harley's, Classic and Vintage, I soaked everything in. There was no bias to my hunger for knowledge, no subject too hardcore or squidly. If it had Two Wheels, I wanted to know about it. I began to catalogue everything in my head, building up a vast foundation of moto-related facts, stats, make/model history, theories, and of course, product knowledge. Later in life, I have been referred to as "the Moto-Savant".
I started actively building this bike in late 2000. I bought the frame for myself as a Christmas present, and the next few months saw some frenzied activity in the second bedroom of my four story walk-up apartment in Torrance, California. I was working for a Harley dealership at the time and studying under a tuning master, Mr. Bob Pynn. Our days were spent in the Dyno room, or at the bench building motors. A fantastic time in my life, which saw the addition of my dog, Spike, the promise of a new bike, and my private relationship blooming. The following year I moved to Northern California, and the skeletal beginnings of my chopper sat under a tarp in my garage while I busied myself with other moto activities, like riding and wrenching on sportbikes, Buells, dirtbikes, and minibikes.
This bike wasn't up and running until April 5, 2005, 4:56 AM. Hell of a morning.

This Rocks! Welcome to the Next-Gen MotoLiam!

This is where things happen. This is going to revolutionize everything. This is where I'll be when I'm not out on a mission. This is the place to be . . . .


This website is the start of something big, and hopefully it takes off in the best possible direction! With my team of Web and Graphic Design personnel, we're preparing to take the next big step. . . . from Forum poster, to Multi-Media-Moto-Rockstar! Thanks for coming on board, I'm sure you'll have a great time here.

March 16, 2006

The King

SPIKE kicks ass!

I first met 'The King' on a busy freeway in San Pedro, Los Angeles, CA in January, 2000. He was running around the side of the road just past the St. Vincent bridges just outside of Long Beach. I pulled over, ran back to where he was, and we've been best friends ever since. He's now retired and living out his days in sunny Honolulu. I don't know when I'll get the chance to see him again, but hopefully it's soon. Miss you, buddy.

Switching rooms - Details, details

Today was great! I switched rooms in my apartment, and while the square footage is roughly the same, I now have more closet space. Someone once said that everyone has 'baggage'. I've got a whole airport hangar full of it! It's a lot to fit in such a small space. Anyway, now my living space is a lot less clutterred and I feel much more at ease. There's something really healthy about going through and reorganizing your life. My little desk is well set-up, and I can't wait to start getting some more work done. I wish I could give you guys a better picture, but I was as jammed up in the corner as I could be just to get this picture! Sometimes I really can't believe that I'm out here doing this. I had a solid job, a good life, and Great Bikes! I guess I felt I needed to try something a little outrageous, to test myself, to expand upon what I thought were the possibilities in my life. That said, I have learned a lot more about myself by spending time alone, thinking about the my past, and clawing my way forward. You don't have to travel halfway around the world to experience the same stuff as me. You only have to look inside.

But what the hell. If you're going to go for it, you might as well Really go for it! Thanks for sticking around everyone.

Walking around today I caught this picture of a guy in a green shirt. I have the same one! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Or should I say, Tortugas Adolescentes De Ninja Del Mutante. Doesn't have the same ring to it :bummer.

Taking pictures is getting to be more fun for me. It used to be I took photos of everything because I have such a goofy memory. I can remember minute details about the most obscure stuff (like comic book crap from the eighties!) but sometimes the big stuff just falls right out of my head. I hope you had fun looking at the photos from the IRTA test I posted a while back.

March 13, 2006

Losail Nationals, Rd. 4

I'm back from sunny Qatar! Sorry if you guys felt like I was M.I.A., but I never know where I'm going to be staying when I go to Qatar, and internet access is never a given.

Round four of the Losail National Cup was great, with off and on sunshine, and a more relaxed feel to it due to the lack of SBK or MotoGP being in attendence. Our riders were eager to ride hard, and there were some decent laptimes. . . that is, until the actual race. Raceday was cold and windy, and it made for treacherous conditions. Four bikes went down hard, and we had a busy evening repairing the bikes before going back to the hotel to pack for our 1AM flight to Madrid. My rider only managed tenth place, but considering he kept it on two wheels, I was happy.

I left Barcelona on Thursday afternoon last week, ready and anxious to get to work. We flew directly to Munich, instead of Heathrow, and then had to spend a couple hours waiting for our connecting flight. I checked out some electronics and decided to get something small for my iPod, seeing as how my expenditure would eventually make it to Makoto Tamada's team! What have you done lately to support your favorite teams? I also had a beer (it is Germany, after all!) and it was surprisingly sweet and nice. I was hoping it would take the edge off and let me get some rest on the flight to Doha. Not!

This time I stayed at the Ramada hotel in Doha, and it was luxurious! I couldn't believe it. Not only were the rooms large, the bathrooms well-equipped, the beds comfy, but there were more restaurants than I could count, and the food was great! The Ramada also has two liquor serving extablishments, one called the Library on the top floor (where I heard a genuine country western singer), and another on the first floor, which is more of a dance club and pick-up joint. I never got the name of the club so the only word I have to describe it is . . . . . "Dirty". When I say they had restaurants, we're talking about a Beni-hana's clone, a scrumtuous buffet with steaks and seafood, middle-eastern food, and Italian place, a Chinese place, and more. To make it easier on the team accountant, we all ate at the buffet, but it was awesome. They even had a full Ha'agen Daz (spelling?) bar in the midst of the dessert area, which offerred fresh fruits, muslim treats, cakes, and more. I snuck away to a little lounge for some peace and quiet, because 20 Spaniards away from home can be quite trying. This picture doesn't do the place justice. The walls were lit up and the hotel is really nice all around. I spent some time horsing-around in the pool (which has a poolside bar) and realized my lower back has gotten weak!

This was a relatively short trip for me, two full days working, three days travelling! I made it back to BCN yesterday, but needed to put in some serious time sleeping (15 hours!).

This next month is going to be a difficult one for me, because I'm trying to line up some travel plans and also keep chugging away at getting a job. Money is always short, but I am getting more creative and whatever, I'm sure everyone else would have a good time in my shoes, so all I need to do is keep kicking ass and learning as much as I can. In the months I've been out here my knowledge of racing, team structures, motorcycles, and what it really takes, has gone through the roof. I'm proud to say that I've been doing everything I can, and now is not the time to ease off. My goals haven't changed a bit and I'm very excited about the upcoming seasons in both SBK and MotoGP!
Although two mechanics were injured in last week's Kawasaki truck accident, Nakano and De Puniet were able to lap really well at the Jerez IRTA test. Unfortunately, the truck accident didn't help me (no, I didn't sabotage it) . From Team Kawasaki:

"Hello Liam,

Thanks for keeping contact with us.
At this stage we have no vacancy in our team but it is always good to keep in touch.

Best regards
Harald Eckl"

As always, it's chin up and chest out. I hope to have a couple more endeavors up my sleeve, and the future will be fun, regardless. I wish I could say that the possibilities are endless, but at this moment in the season I know that a lot of doors are closed. I'm just going to have to keep knocking and hopefully someone takes advantage of my skills, passion, and enthusiasm.

I've also been doing more research into the current crop of riders and their histories. I was not aware how connected Tony Elias, Dani Pedrosa, and Casey Stoner were, as all off them were under the wing of Alberto Puig at one point. For various reasons, some left to seek their fortunes with other sponsors, some competed in different classes so as not to upset the cart, and some ended up triple World Champion.
Politics played a large role in their careers thus far, but this season they'll all be competing on Hondas, and it should be very interesting how they all do.

Here's some thoughts concerning Steel and Ceramic Bearings:
While it is possible to acheive higher RPM's with ceramic bearings, they're also quite delicate with regards to their ability to handle side loads. That said, it would be great to use them *if money were no object*, but for practical purposes, it's not feasible. For instance, a good place to use them would be in the wheels, but because the bearings are expensive and delicate, you have to be very careful not to damage them installing the axles. And because all tires are changed by different people and tire companies, you can't keep an eye on the wheels during the balancing procedures and it's a risk some teams can't afford to take. Also, bearings in areas that see frequent servicing are subject to forces that they aren't designed to handle, so steel is the answer there. Unless you can replace them every single time. . .

And on tires:
While it's very exciting to see three tire companies running up front in the IRTA tests, time will tell how good the endurance of the tires really is. The Superbike times have come down this year, but they run much shorter race distances (about 2/3 of a GP race). And although Checa has lapped impressively on the Dunlops, he's stated that they aren't performing very well after 6 or 7 laps. Bridgestone is looking very strong at the moment, and I hope they keep this momentum and continue to work hard because Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Ducati are all counting on them.

Anyway, testing is just that. Testing. I can't wait for the racing to start in two weeks, and then we'll see what's really going on!

How strange is my life? Here's the guy sitting in front of me on the last trip from Doha to Rome. Yes, he's strapped to the chair, and how I wish it was duct tape!

March 06, 2006

IRTA Test, Catalunya 06

I guess I didn't make it to the Chess Tournament in Linares this weekend after all! This week the Catalonia/Catalunya circuit of Montmelo has hosted the first official IRTA test for MotoGP, and it concludes tomorrow with a timed event where the riders go all out to win a new M class Z4 Coupe! Both the smaller classes have participated and now the big boys are up and running! I'm glad everyone is enjoying the thread and the photos, and speaking of photos, I'm going to ask that you let me post the next bunch without interjecting until I say the last one has gone up for the day. It's kind of an, "I go, then you go", thing and it's easier for me to keep track of things that way.

Oftentimes I pose questions or observations about the bikes, the riders, the teams, or even different series', but now I've seen enough and had enough contact to know that there are some things that should never make it onto the board, in public. Not that I've let secret information out already, but I have my "private" full of sensitive material, as I'm sure you all have realized. Otei mentioned earlier that I'm not an oracle all of a sudden, but truthfully, I know more than the average bear. It's because of this that I need to compromise a little, because my ultimate goal is working, and I don't want to be seen as a someone who abuses the situations or conversations I find myself in. That said, I'm still going to have a great time taking and posting pictures and I hope you continue to get as big a kick out of them as I do!

I arrived at the circuit a little later than I had hoped to this morning, and it was a cold and blustery day. Dust clouds whipped up from the parking lots and throughout the day there was a steady influx of both cars and (lots of) motorcycles. All breeds! I managed to see my latest infatuation roll by, the Yamaha MT-03. Sweet!

It's not all fun and games. I managed to wrangle a ride with two kids that I know who live an hour away from BCN. They drove out of their way to pick me up and I covered our lunch expenses. We made it to the track with no passes, and just the hint, the promise that something would turn up. The two guys, Nachito and Rafa, knew a guy with Kawasaki who could probably scrounge up one or two paddock passes, but I was going to have to fend for myself. We waited patiently at the front gate of the track after texting the Kawi guy and I hung out and went through my own rolodex. The last thing you want to do is cold call people, begging for a pass because you're trapped outside. Fortunately, one of the Dorna crew, Alexander, zipped by, recognized me, and asked me if I was having some trouble. Thanks Alexander, you stepped up and came through without even being asked, and it's moments like that when you realize there are a lot of good people in the motorcycle industry. Passion recognizes and respects Passion. If you ever make it to this historic circuit, take a moment to drive the vintage stone Mercedes!

I made my way through the throngs of people in the paddock and said hello to some peeps at Repsol. Lots of fun talking with various Media people, and Mac, in particular, from HRC was great to talk to. His take on Alberto Puig's style and Horiike's style was spot on, in that they both know when to listen, and when to let the rider stop speaking. Sometimes a rider will speak for thirty minutes and end up talking himself into a circle. It's important to know when to say: hold it, fix this, tweak that, try again. They are definitely leaders.

Boy, the Rizla Suzuki camp looks the dogs bollocks! The uniforms, the transporters, the scooters, Everything is spot on. Naturally, there were more than a few "rolling paper" jokes floating around, but when the bikes fired up everyone's heads snapped to attention and look at where John Hopkins is now. . . . leading the pack of non-Yamaha's!

As much as I would have liked to stay in the Paddock and talk with everyone, I had other things on my mind. Like finding a spot to watch the action! I know this was only supposed to be a test, but the atmosphere, the ambiance, was decidedly race-like. There was a lot of tension in the air. There's only so much bad news a guy like me can hear, so I took my leave and made my way up and over the "bowl" of the central paddock area to a large grandstand. The clouds circling above were ominous, and although small streaks of sunlight shone through occasionally, it was dark skies a loomin'.

I was looking for a specific bike out on the track. A bike that has brought a tremendous amount of excitement back to the series. A bike that wasn't up and running yesterday, and one that wasn't on the track until this afternoon. A bike that goes against the odds. A real David and Goliath bike. This bike.

My favorite photo from today. Streaking through the leaves blocking my view, this bike roared out of the final corner and prepared to unleash itself on the main straight. I was panning the camera hoping for a shot, and this is what I got through the leaves. Awesome!

Team KR. Back in action, back on track. Two generations of World Champions. Speaking of generations, I caught Graziano Rossi checking out the BMW prize car quite closely. Maybe he's thinking about an upgrade?
Also had a chance to spend a couple minutes with Chuck Aksland, race director for the Robert's team and we joked about a couple of things. He said I gotta keep chipping away . . . . . . . . and I will! I think he'll do another MotoGPOD podcast interview in the future, and I was surprised to hear that he just got his first iPod for Christmas and found the GP podcast as a result. About the bike, the swingarm is a custom Roberts' unit (they're also providing swingarms for Erion in AMA. Pay attention to the photos, you can learn a lot, hint hint), and that is a one-off Akrapovic system you're seeing here. Longer pipes for more usuable torque . . . .
I asked King Kenny to call me if he needs a chopper, and he said ok, so that's good (could you actually see him on one?!?). He also told me I'm too big for an XR100, and that I must like people, since I've lived in Sunnyvale and BCN. Little does he know . . . . . Oh, and he wants his original TZ 750 flat tracker back, if anyone knows where it is. "Hell of a bike"
When we parted he asked if I would be back tomorrow.
--Hell yeah! I didn't move to Spain to not go to motorcycle races!

*edit* it was cold! Note the front brake shroud. Track temps ranged from 14C to 31C! You do the math.

Here's another surprise. Carlos Checa is kicking butt! Armed with an M1, and Dunlop tires, he's been railing and taking top times consistently. I mentioned months ago that Dunlop was heavily responsible for bringing him back to GP and that they were a big reason Tech 3 Yamaha was staying in the series. . . and Checa is repaying them with a preseason to be proud of.

Food? French
Mechanics? German
Police? British
Fashion? Italian
Party Organizers? Spanish

Food? your answer here
Mechanics? and here
Police? and here
Fashion? here, too
Party Organizers? and here

you guys can figure out the rest. Bwahahaha

And another thing about Checa. . . . I noticed him doing something strange out of the corner of my eye. I managed to get it with the camera and closer inspection reveals it is a "Rossi-esque" manuever! This happenned more than once. . . . . . something about the Yamaha? As for the Michelins? I hear the new tire profiles are sharper and provide more rear grip, which causes the front to push . . . .and other things . . . . .

Dani Pedrosa has added himself to the list of Red Bull riders. I had thought his helmet was going to be offered by Arai to the public, but the inclusion of the Red Bull graphics means that's a "no go". Remember E Boz's lid? The Shoei replica doesn't include the RB logo's, and Arai doesn't offer John Jopkin's helmet, either. Maybe now is not the time to be buying a new helmet in the US, and I'll tell you why, later . . . . .

Colin Edwards has modified his riding style this season, and he's running way up front right now! Here he is looking out across a sea of red.

Alex Hofmann is riding the D'antin Pramac Ducati on Dunlops. I can't say why the Dunlops are showing such different performances between the bike brands, but I can say the answer lies within the movie Faster. Listen to Peter Clifford. This shot turned out crystal clear (by my amateur standards) so I was stoked. Just wish it wasn't flat black!

I said the new Rizla's were awesome, and I received confirmation today that the Suzuki is using pneumatic valves (just like I thought!). It has the most incredible sound to me. Whereas the Honda and Yamaha have a loud, droning blare, the Kawasaki shrieks, the Ducati booms, and the Suziki just plain tears the air - it rips right through it! F'n Phenomenal (who wants to host a 20 sec. mpeg at speed?)!!! Which guy put the sticker on backwards on the belly pan?!?

Here's another shot of the "the Riz". It's the Biz. Goooooo Hopper!

Naturally, the Doctor made a brief appearance, lighting up the time sheets within a few minutes and taking command of the afternoon. I like this shot because it looks like Rossi is using his heat/laser vision on the track. I don't know if it's the yellow, Camel paint scheme, but for some reason I think the tail section looks narrower to me this year. Burgess and crew were working into the evening tonight, but everything looked calm and tranquil in their garage. Does anyone like this current helmet with the four bullet marks on the top?

I know they've started selling the Nicky Hayden Laguna Seca limited edition helmet. . . . .but have you seen what he's wearing this year?

Hayden made an incredible 107 laps today, testing new equipment and trying to mail down the RC's development direction. 107 laps! Multiplied by his best lap time of 1.44s you get just over three hours of full tilt boogie! Amazing!

Couple things about this bike. . . . remember the Sesame Street song? Three of these Hondas are doing the same thing, one of them isn't the same. . . . . .

The beautiful corner where I managed to spend some time today. The F1 cars don't take the longer route through here, the cut through the coned off area. The bikes, oh man, the bikes come through and sing their glorious music through a decent sized left-hander with their exhausts pointed straight at the grandstands. You can't help but get excited listening to them shift through the gears and accelerate out of these corners at warp speed. *Pure Magic*

This is the last thing you want to see when you're on the track. If you do manage to catch Valentino from this angle, you have screwed up! Big Time.

SBK Phillip Island Race 1 was Off-The-Hook! I'm so energized right now I think I'll just roll the clock around and see Race 2 at 5.30AM before heading back to the Circuit de Catalunya!

It's difficult to be objective and fair, particularly when you look for different meanings behind things, as I do. I've now been privy to more of the inner workings in GP, and while most (if not all) of the things I've seen have impressed me, a few left me surprised and shocked. I think I love the bikes too much, and I don't have a similar fascination with the pilots. I respect their abilities, but moreso, their competitive spirit. It's not all about the Bike, or all about the Rider. For me, the beauty of GP revolves around the symbiosis of man and machine at it's highest level. Where else does something as simple as adjusting your seating position have such drastic consequences? What about turning your head at speed? Where else does an 1/8 turn of the throttle mean the difference between accelerating hard, pulling a 12 o'clock down the straight, or flying off into oblivion? Sometimes I think it's like riding a bucking bronco, othertimes like straddling the Space Shuttle. Are there any other motorsports where the human is as connected to the machine? I'm sure there are people who would argue with me all day, and maybe they'd be right. All I need to know is that I'm here and I'm trying to make it work. For me, this is where it's at! I'm proud of what I've managed to do and see so far, but I'm not finished yet, not by a long shot. I've been so fortunate already, and I've seen things that would make Everyone's jaws drop. I'm only getting hungrier. . . .

Today was even colder and more forboding than before, full of clouds and a dull, white light that made taking photos very difficult. With my limited experience behind the lense (settings - what're those?), lack of proper equipment (we're talking a $100 dollar Craigslist lense - yeehah!), and not much cover to duck under in case of showers, it made for a fun, if frustrating day. I couldn't seem to get my circular polarizer to do what I wanted and it really felt like I was just spinning my wheels out there. On the up side, I walked around the entire circuit and it's an amazing place. Underground tunnels to connect different areas, HUGE grandstands set up throughout the course, it's an enthusiasts kind of place. Later this year if I manage to make it back here for the GP race in June I'll be sure to take more comprehensive pictures of the circuit. It's *very* nice.

I walked about a half hour from the paddock, ducking through two tunnels along the way, and made it to this nice grassy hill near the Pelouse corner. The grandstands here are towards the end of the main straight.

Because of the cold track tempuratures, most of the teams waited until after 11AM before taking to the track. First rider out was Vitto from Ducati Corse (riding Capirossi's bike), followed quickly by KRJR. Kenny put in quite a few laps by himself out there, and due to the track's lay-out, elevation changes, and grand stands, the sound of the bike was reflected constantly, providing me with the ultimate wake-up call. A little wheelie to shake the cobwebs out?

One of the bike's I missed yesterday came out hard and fast today. Shinya Nakano didn't waste much time scrubbing the tires in and getting serious.

Thas' Right, Baby! My big, bad flag made it all the way here from last year's Shanghai's GP (it's even in the race video for a split second). This flag has also seen the Dakar, and whenever I get the chance, I like to let it wave hello to any American rider competing on foreign soil.

This flag came from a barfer named Eden, who now lives in China for work. He procured it for me at last year's GP after I got jealous of some Spaniards, and their flag. After seeing them I immediately threatened to find the U.S. Embassy in Shanghai and cut one down because I wanted the biggest one I could find (which in hindsight would probably have been a very bad idea). Fortunately, Eden came through, and this big mamma-jamma has been with me ever since. Oddly enough, Eden put together a replica bike for himself a few years back, a hot pink GSXR with full Rizla graphics. Coincidence? I'm sure someone here has a pic they can post . . .
Another strange thing is that wherever I put this flag, people stop and take photos of it. In the pouring rain in Portugal I wore it like a toga, and people got photos of that, too. With the decidedly anti-American sentiments in Europe and around the world, I like to think that seeing it sends a positive message to our riders. That we're here, and we're here supporting them!

Definitely the sleekest bike in the garage, the ZX-RR is beautiful in person. I love the lines, and the howl emitted by the big bang four isn't bad, either.
Notice how Shinya seems to be sitting "in" the bike, as opposed to sitting "on" it.

Everything about this bike seems so right to me, from the leaness, the pointed shapes, the exhaust. How I wish they'd put the 250KXF motor in a 125 chassis with this bodywork and make it streetable. Hmmmmm. I think KHI is working on something like this already, as evidenced by the GP-Mono class in Japan. Nakano's new helmet features Shurikens on the sides, less colorful and more deadly than the old design.

Dani Pedrosa spun some laps, and while Hayden wore his new helmet in morning warm-up, Pedrosa wore his older, non RB sponsored, one. Both riders wore their normal helmets for the BMW contest, so I wonder if Red Bull's contract doesn't start until later in the year, or has some clause for practices but not races. Who knows? Watching Pedrosa gives a clear idea of what it takes to make the bike go around quickly. His body positioning is usually indicative of what the bike wants to do, and what he has to do to overcome that. He wasn't too fast in the rain today, but for a new guy without a lot of rain-time on the bike, he probably didn't want to risk an injury at the start of the season for a car. In real life I've seen him driving a Honda Civic hatchback in BCN, and his mom was driving a Civic today, too, now that I think about it. Here he is noticing Old Glory.

He chokes way up on the front end when he's on the gas.

Chris Vermeulen put in a solid effort today, and was fifth in the wet today, ahead of a lot of good riders.

Toni Elias looks great in the corners. It will be interesting to see how his career develops under the watchful eye of former World Champ, Alex Criville.

Speaking of looking good in the corners! I wonder if we could arrange a contest in the off season to see who could scrape elbow more, Hopkins or Spies? Everytime I get a shot like this I'm reminded of Hopper's motocross background, and I always think to myself, "Elbows out! Elbows Out!"

Nicky looks composed and relaxed.

More Hayden.

It's probably the era that I grew up in, but seeing the flash of Orange always makes me think of speed. I like this shot because of the streaks - there's a real element of movement here.

Eventually, the clouds started dumping, so we went back to the Paddock and had a fantastic lunch in the circuit restaurant. I had roast chicken with plums and some kind of Risotto, along with salads, fruits, and more. It was a catered buffet, very elegant and chic. Best of all? It was affordable, healthy, and delicious, and sure beats the over-priced fastfood you find at the concession stands in the US. The timing couldn't have been any more perfect, as it was pouring outside while we were inside having a hot meal. Lots of envious looks from the passerby's, but hey, they should have made reservations, As we were finishing up the timed contest started and the crowd in the stands was roaring! Such gusto, and every time a bike fired up, or left the paddock, the crowd erupted into cheers and whistling.

Did I mention there was a crowd? For a test?!?

I had a great time talking with industry people, reporters, racing greats, and just good people involved in the sport. Spent some time talking with Chris Jonnum from Road Racer X, and I expect some cool articles from him in the future. Also, bumped into Gary McCoy in the paddock; always a pleasure to meet the King of Slide! Discussed the factories and their futures with Michael Scott, Julian Ryder and Burgess, and just generally did my thing, bumming around and enjoying myself. Pretty soon people will think I work here! At least, that's the plan!

Until next time my friends, I'm going to take a nap!

March 04, 2006

The one everyone is talking about.

What's up with the rear brake?

I clicked this shot from turn 10 at the IRTA test at Montmelo, BCN, on Saturday, March 4th. I didn't have media access, so I was forced to shoot from the grandstands. . . . which wasn't that bad!

What makes this shot interesting is the size of the Rear Brake Rotor. It's huge! The unofficial reason is that Nicky needs to use the rear brake more to keep the front end down, because the '06 RC211V is smaller and more compact. The swingarm is also unique, as I haven't seen it on any other Honda's at this point.

March 01, 2006

Flashback Time, the White Brother's Four Stroke World Championship, Glen Helen

This race was at Glen Helen, on the big track! This was a two day competition, the White Brother's Four Stroke National, and I (obviously!) bogged the bike at the start. Not that it would have made a difference, as I was thoroughly trounced. Sleeping in the front seat of a '97 GMC Jimmy in a church parking lot overnight, with the tail end backed up against a wall to inhibit theft, didn't make me especially chipper the following days, . Not to mention the ruts, which in some areas where much deeper than the 10" wheels I was running! Overall, it was a blast, and if you haven't tried wringing a small bore bike to it's limits, give it a shot. You'd be surprised how much translates to the bigger bikes. Since then, I've improved a lot on the little bikes and if you're curious about racing, this is a great way to get involved with a fun, happy group of people. You don't need big money, a big truck (one guy carries his bike around in the backseat of his civic!), or a big ego. It's backyard racing at it's best and I highly suggest looking into it. Not to mention how cheap it is to swtich tires and go Mini-Supermoto racing! Fast50's was the first company to give me a shot (and some backing!) and if you're interested in learning more then check them out here!
The "roots" page definitely hits the nail on the head!

Check out this sweet video!

go for it!

Special Dinner? Chess Tournament?

My household held a special dinner the other night. One hand were both my roomates, Patricia and Daniel, and their respective mothers, #1 (visiting from Madrid)and #2 (visiting from Argentina). Also on hand were Shuhei and Hiro Aoyama, both 250cc GP pilots this year. Naturally, I kept the conversation steered toward the bike end of the spectrum, and it's going to be a tough season for these two!

Hiro's KTM 250 is still being refined, and although KTM gained a ton of knowledge and experience racing in the 125 category the last two years, the 250 is still an all new bike. Build quality is excellent. Power-delivery is very good, though different from the RSW Honda mill, and it plants itself differently. Mainly, the chassis is undergoing revisions at the moment. It's a little stiff, but there are new parts arriving all the time to rectify any niggles before the season really starts. Last year Hiro tried a new kind of food before he won the 250 GP race in Japan, courtesy of Patricia. It's now customary for him to have it before any big event, and I'm talking about Spanish Tortilla! We now refer to Hiro's luck on the bike as Tortilla Power, as in, did you have any Tortilla Power?!? Today, Hiro's Tortilla power consisted of keeping his bike in front of his teamate, Manuel Poggiali!

What's the big event I'm talking about? Well, this weekend is very, very special. Just south of Madrid one of the most prestigious Chess tournaments in the world will be taking place in Linares. Eight of the greatest players of the game will be on hand, including the current FIDE World Champion, competing for 380,000 Euros!! Millions will watch and games will be shown on the internet, LIVE. It's going to be a riot, and I can't wait! Read more about it here:

go for it