April, 2006

April 27, 2006

To and From Valencia WSBK round

Travelling to the races can be stressful, particularly when it's last minute and things aren't lined up properly. In order for me to get to the Valencia round, I needed to rent a car. The problem was, the website of the car rental company I wanted to use wasn't working properly and despite going there in person, I wasn't able to get the car situation sorted until the day before I was to leave. That meant I lost a day, and I wasn't happy about it! What's the best way for me to feel better about something? SNACKS! This is my latest and greatest snack addiction. Soooo crunchy!

It has a fairly racist mascot/logo, so I don't know if I should be buying it or not. There are a lot of things in Europe that are just way too sensitive to ever make it in the States.

Step two was getting ahold of the car. Cue Pepecar. I picked up this sweet little beauty - a Hyundai Matrix, diesel. Naturally, it was on empty so I had to fill'er up in the city, which was more expensive than in the boonies. If you have any idea how outrageously expensive gas is in Europe, you'll feel me on this one.

A nice scenic drive down to Valencia, which included some cool tunnels and ocean views next to the highway. I was lucky because I had a companion along for the ride, Kenny Noyes' cool girlfriend, Iana. She's originally from Bulgaria, doesn't like to take pictures, and funny, too. Fortunately, she speaks English, so it was a pleasant trip.

Not only was the gas pricey, but the tolls were killer! It added up to roughly 35 Euros each way to travel 3.5 hours on the highways to Valencia. Higway Robbery?!?

Passed a nice Repsol racing Fuel Tanker along the way.

Speaking of Big Rigs, check out the nice Mercedes towing the camper!

Made it! Stopped to hit the can at the Agip station just outside the racetrack. Car was running decently, but the clutch was a little weak (i.e. no burnouts!). You may notice the large rental car graphics. . . . this would pose a problem later. A big problem.

At the circuit I noticed this cool streetfighter parked next to the front gate. Man, I miss riding custom bikes. Not exactly my style, but really nice to see someone put all the time and effort into their ride.

Another shot of the "bat-bike", haha.

They might not be setting the tracks on fire, but the fit and finish on the Petronas 3-cyl is outstanding!

Nice tank cut-away . . . . and no shortage of carbon fiber on this baby, either!

Every other time I've travelled to Valencia, I've always used the train system. That's because I always knew where I was going to be sleeping. Renting a car enabled me to get there, and have a place to crash! Since I was familiar with the circuit's shower facilities, I knew the score and how to take advantage of it. Here's a view of my palatial sleeping acommodations, including the portable home theatre system!

What kind of movie does Liam watch at the track? This caused problems later, too . . . .

Most people don't realize that it rained the morning of the race. When I woke up (hearing the first bikes running around the track), I was shocked to see how much dirt had fallen out of the sky. This really made the track slippery for the first sessions and race. Tricky conditions, for sure!

Fast forward, past the parties, the media/press events, and a fabulous weekend of racing, and I was headed back to Barcelona on Monday morning. It was a wild weekend for me, not really suitable for print, and I really enjoyed myself. I met some great people, heard some very personal and revealing interviews with some of my favorite pilots, and breathed deeply of the race gas. On my way home I passed more cool vehicles, the first being the Semi for Ruben Xaus' privateer effort. From what I understand, Ruben is riding for "free" this year, meaning he's not making any money, he's spending his own to keep racing! Good for you big guy!

All I could think about on the drive back was, "That Damn Beer!". I don't usually drink beer. . . so you get the idea.

My kick-ass weekend came to a rude end. While I was moving along with the flow of traffic on the freeway, I noticed some cars coming up behind me at a rather high rate of speed. I moved over into the slow lane, like a good little motorist, and let them whiz by. Zoom, went the BMW! Zoom, went the Mercedes! I started to move back into the fast lane to make a pass on a truck but saw a third car coming up quick, so I stayed put. As the third car went by (some no-name hatchback) I started to duck behind them so I wouldn't get all up on the truck in front of me. The passenger in the hatchback turned to check me out, seemed to notice it was a rental (remember the stickers on the door?) and then they hit the brakes. I was thinking, mighty strange behavior, but then I realized they were an un-marked Policia vehicle, and rather than work hard to bag the Beemer and Mercedes, they were going to go for the easy money. Mierda! Even the truck in front of me was speeding! I pulled over, got the whole spiel, and had to drive twenty minutes off the freeway to some middle-of-nowhere town to get to an ATM to pay my fine in cash. Immediately. I'm still not sure it wasn't just a shakedown for some pocket money for the two cops. . . . . but whatever. I had to follow them to the town, and they sped the whole way! I thought they were going to try to get me for two tickets, so I took this photo to back myself up (as if I could do anything in the Spanish judicial system!). Here we are going 60 in a 40 zone, but later we would go as high as 85 in the 40. (Sigh) Karma will take care of everything, and I'll be off to another race soon enough!

April 25, 2006

Alex Barros has some nice rides

Barros has some nice vehicles! This Honda CBR100RR is tricked to the gills, and his German team, Klaffi Honda, is meticulous in their preparation of it. Not only is the bike well-sorted, HRC has been assisting with the motore, so it's only a matter of time until we see the former MotoGP rider up front.

Barros' other ride.

Valencia WSBK Round 3!

I made it to Valencia for the third round of WSBK, April 23rd, 2006. I wasn't sure I was going to make it, as a couple things had to fall in place to make this happen. Step one was renting a car and establishing a place to sleep. Pepecar made it possible to do both. The racing was great and I had the opportunity to shake hands and meet some great people in the paddock. Full report with photos to follow, but for now I'm off to Albacete, where I'm to spend the next week helping Spanish/American rider, Kenny Noyes, with his Yamaha effort. See you guys in a week!

Most of the racing action centered between the battle of the Troys. Reigning World Champion, Troy Corser, on the #1 Corona Alstare Suzuki, and former World Champ, Troy Bayliss, on the #21 Xerox Ducati.

April 11, 2006

More Pics from Qatar GP 06

Wow, what a weekend, and what a race! I was quite impressed with everyone, and Nicky Hayden didn't disappoint, either! The new '06 RC211V, or should I say, the '06.5, is quite different than the other Hondas, as the fairings have distinct differences, and there are other more important changes as well. If you look carefully in this photo, you can see the brake lever sparking! I just arrived back to BCN a few minutes ago, and now it's time for a shower and some lunch. I'll be back later to answer questions and post more photos.

The Hopper.

Here's a shot of Shinya Nakano. Rough weekend for Kawasaki, and Shinya got passed by KRJR in the race, but they still showed some promise for the rest of the season. I think it was incredible how many teams/people were able to improve on Friday's times on Saturday. . . and had Stoner not brought a flu bug with him from Australia, I think he would have been right up there in the mix.

Say, now that I think about it, anyone remember seeing a giant US Flag mounted near the final corner on the race footage? If you have a screenshot, post it up! This is the first time I'd jumped the track after a race (try that in the states!), and it was as far from a free for all as you could get. I think the riders were just plain exhausted from the race and the heat, but Nicky pulled over to shake hands. Sweet!

Here's a photo grouping I put together after a cool Barfer hooked me up with some screenshots!

Ominous, huh? The foulish weather continued through raceday, with 40MPH winds gusting over the track spreading sand. It was surprising sunny during the race, though, and I even got a little bit burned after the weekend.

Here's a nice example of some different body positions. The smaller guys definitely have to hang themselves out there to get the bike around the corners quickly, and the larger guys don't get so "head down". Note the Ducati, which as later photos will show, has a decidedly different handling characteristic to it.

Here's a few more shots. How do you guys like this style of photo montage? I would've just posted all of these separately, but that's a lot of pics! Since they are all relatively the same, I thought this might be an interesting way to show how the boys go round.

Looking at the pics, you can see that some guys lead with their rear, like Bayliss or Doohan did (is it an Aussie thing?), while others lead with their elbow. Some guys use both. . . and some guys win all the races.

I've heard a bunch of opinions concerning John Hopkin's reaction when his motor failed during the race (i.e. kicking the fairing a couple times out of frustration). As a mechanic, I've often wanted to throw a wrench when things didn't go right, so I know how he felt at the time. Personally, I think John is a really nice guy, and he's been riding the wheels off the Suzuki's for years now. Does one incident make him crazy, ungrateful, brash, and a poor sport? I don't know. I do know that he wants to win badly. See for yourself.

A nice example of contrasting styles.

My friend, Pedro Calvert, says that they're working on "Hip-Sliders". He speaks English very well, lives in the Tarragona vineyard area outside of BCN, and is dating an American girl who hails from the Sonoma vineyards outside of San Francisco.

Man-o-man, lots of right hand shots! Might as well post a few others I have.
Here's a shot of the focus KRJR exibits before a race. Wish I had the same focus, but my hand isn't that steady, har har.

Earl Hayden really wanted to hear the National Anthem after the race. The American one. I told him he just wanted another ride on the Honda. . .

Despite his illness, Stoner had a strong showing. Seems like he's priming himself for the season of his life. I can't wait to see how he does later this season, particularly at his home race in Australia. Years ago, Casey's father sold everything they owned, came to Europe with his son, and bought a motorhome which they lived out of. The mobile was parked at Alberto Puig's training ranch (which includes a full size motocross track with sixth gear WFO corners) where Casey began his career in the Movistar Cup and the Spanish 125 Nationals. Fast forward to now, where he's finally shaking it up with the big boys after going to 250 GP, back to 125 GP, back to 250, then to MotoGP! And he's only 20. I haven't put my finger on it yet, but when Aussies go racing, they really GO!!!!!!!

Compared to Casey's awesome weekend, Makoto Tamada and the Konica Minolta crew did not have much fun. James Ellison was happy to have beaten a Honda in the race (a first), and he hopes that it's the sign of things to come. I'm hoping the Tamada finds his "touch" and gets back in the thick of things. How special was it for him to win his home GP two years ago?

Here's a good profile view of the 06.5 RC211V, the "snub-nose", or "Brno-type".

Here's a fun photo grouping I put together to emphasize how exact these guys are, even when trying slightly different lines. I now have more Rossi pics than I know what to do with! The body positioning is always the same, lap after lap, session after session. I know I could probably put my logo right across the image (like Crash.net), but I feel that if someone is going to "appropriate" one of my pictures, it'll come back to them in the form of a flat tire one day, or some other random and unhappy circumstance. Life is a Cycle, it goes round and round.

Jose Luis Cardoso is having a rough time of it on the Pramac D'Antin Ducati this year, but he took a moment to give a little wave. He might not have scored any points yet in the championship, but he gets major points for bringing his girlfriend to all the rounds. Not sure about that helmet design, though.

I had thought I was done shooting at the time, but heard a noise, whipped the camera up, and managed to catch the tail end of what was a long and proud wheelie into pit lane. I was very lucky in Qatar, and it was also nice because most of the riders took the time to give me a wave or a look when their practice/qualifying was over. Very gracious.

Last shot of the weekend for me was of the garages closing up after the post race press interviews. Many of the teams were packing up, but several stayed for additional testing. Colin Edwards was hard at work with his technicians trying to get his bike dialed in, and I expect some better results from him later this season.

One of the final birds to go to roost.

I like this one.

My current wallpaper (full size, of course).

Will Dani shine again in Turkey?

April 07, 2006

Qatar GP 06, with the Losail Nat'l Cup, Rd. 5

Wassup from cloudy Doha, Qatar!

I'm back in town for round five of the Losail National Cup races, which happens to be the one of the support races for MotoGP!

I had my usual travel from Barcelona to London to Doha, but this time it was slightly more interesting. I was scheduled to leave on Tuesday, instead of my normal Wednesday rountine, and this is because the ultimate race of our series will take place on Friday instead of Saturday. I met up with my Barcelona crew and we had some pasta before heading to our gate. That's when I found this!

If I were in the market for a current Scrambler, this Derbi Mulhacen is right up there with the MT-03 and Aprilia Pegaso Motard. I love the simple clean lines and the purr of a single. Not to mention this display is super cool!

Sure seemed like there were a ton of people at the airport. Two of the kids I was with were in the magazine store making wisecracks about the covers of some moto-mags and when they spun around they ran into this guy. We chatted for a couple minutes and I immediately picked up the need for discretion, hence the long shot afterwards. Say what you will about him, but there hasn't been anyone who has run wheel to wheel with the Doctor more. Hopefully we'll see some more of that this year.

Finally we boarded our flight to London, and were joined by Hector Barbera and Jorge Lorenzo (Fortune Aprilia 250). It was a fun hop over to the land of the limeys and then it got even better.

Oh, almost forgot, the guy next to him is the former physical trainer for Dani Pedrosa and the rest of Puig's riders, but now he's working exclusively with you-know-who. A certain model girlfriend showed up in London.

Ahhh, just stretching out on the bus from the plane to the airport, Spanish style 6:30AM in Doha.

So wandering around during my lunchbreak, I managed to spend some time with Kenny Roberts Jr. while he was busy programming his VCR to record the practice sessions (without reading the instructions first). We talked a bit the KR Honda, his last lap pass on Hopper two weeks ago, "He gave me the opportunity and I took it", and his new leathers. Then I chatted for a while with Chuck Aksland, the race director for Team KR. While we were talking about HRC and their involvement (or lack thereof, who can say, haha) concerning the KR chassis developments, a strange Time/Space Americano thing happened and we were joined by Randy Mamola, then Henny Ray Abrams, then KRJR, then John Hopkins rolled up, then some english speaking media types. Hopper had just rolled up from playing in the dunes on a quad. We were all just joking around, speculating about various things (so nothing with proof and I can't talk about any of it), and it was all good. I may not have made it to Jerez two weeks ago, but judging from Budman's daughter's pictures, it was super crowded, and it's just way easier to navigate the paddock when it's mellow. Note to you guys - go to "empty" races! I bumped into the usual suspects; Pedrosa was surprised to see me here, the engine guys from Fortuna Honda and Repsol's squad were busy showing me a "Hero Honda" CB100SS, Juan Martinez in little red socks and shoes, Harold Eckl from Kawasaki, Davide Brivio, the ringleaders. It's going to be a fun weekend for me, and the racing should be great. Did I mention I loves the racing?!?

So anyway, I was given a special task at the end of the day - swapping tires on this Honda CBR600RR. Word was that KRJR was going to ride this tonight to see if holding nightraces is viable. Strange seeing the elder Roberts' on Hondas, and seeing Kurtis riding something else! Life works in strange ways. . . . .

P.S., forgot to add that the internet costs about 30 USD for one day! Or 15 bucks for an hour. How crazy is that when gas, oil, and tobacco are cheaper than water out here?!?

I hung out with Hiro in the KTM box this afternoon and I gotta admit, it was really snazzy. Refined, high tech, and bright orange! He and his brother, Shuhei, went to a quiet Japanese dinner tonight with the two Shoei attendants and Makoto Tamada. I got the nod to go, but work prevented me. I had other mischief to get in to. Give me some time to chop/edit some pictures. Good stuff to come, although it's 5AM and I have to work in the morning. . . I'll see what I can do.

Wow, what a great day! I managed to keep my rider on the up and up throughout his practice and qualifying, and also snagged some shots during the MotoGP practices. First off, "The Doctor" is definitely back, and the "Rossi" logo from Jerez has been replaced by the standard issue label.

A big congratulations goes out to Team KR, because in Free Practice #2 KRJR recorded the fastest lap. The man wasn't on track a whole bunch, but when he was he was lapping at a good racepace, and when it was time to drop the hammer, he delivered! Now go drink some Phantom, and support the beverage that supports the American effort in GP!

I took a lot of photos today, nearly two gigs worth, so I don't have time to go through them all at the moment. I want to point out some things I noticed from studying them, but that will have to come later. Here's KRJR headed out onto the main straight, 1.1 KM in length.

Two different photos, but almost exactly the same! The man is cool as a cucumber, and consistent.

I was wrong about last night's alledged night ride, but I was right about it being on the CBR I worked on! Around seven this evening, Loris, Vale, and KRJR took to the track on various machinery and spun some laps. A short debriefing for the safety commitee and it was just about time to call it a night. I caught up with KRJR and grabed a photo of his new suit. Phantom. . . . anybody know what it's like? We spoke later in the office about racing at night, and just plain riding. I mentioned that my night vision suffered as I got older, and when I asked about whether Kenny rides at night on the street (in real life), he said no. If the track was better lit, it's quite possible they might race, but it's up to the Safety Commission. Despite my misgivings that the youngsters might have an advantage due to their age, we agreed it all equals out in the end because everyone would be racing in the same dark on the same track. Plus, if they lit the track up really well, can you imagine what the satellite shots would look like? I can see it now, the track outlined in white, surrounded by a black desert. Maybe then we'd have another man made structure visible from outer space - cause the racing is definitely outta this world!

I thought my day was done (why am I always wrong about this kind of thing?!?), and I waited for my teamates to get their gear together so we could leave the circuit and get some dinner. One of the guys started playing around with my camera, hence this sterling shot.

I bumped into this guy while I was chatting with Davide Brivio about the difficulties of learning Italian, and other things. Rossi had just finished the night riding, and after a full day of practices, he looked as tired as I felt! Naturally, the Spaniards wanted to go to some GP parties tonight, and I can totally recommend the Paloma bar in the Intercontinental Hotel. Do not waste your time at the Rydges Hotel. I'm bushed, see you guys later. If I have a connection, maybe I'll post live from the track, schedule permitting.

Fantastic day, filled with twists and turns. I'm so impressed with Casey Stoner, having missed several of the preseason tests due to a shoulder injury and surgery, but right back on track in Jerez!

Loris Capirossi didn't seem tired, despite riding around the circuit last night!

Another super impressive youngster, Tony Elias. His crew is the same bunch of guys who used to work on Gibernau's bike. Anyone else think he might make the same "jump" that Sete made when he joined the Gresini Team?

Elias qualified on the front row in third position. Not bad at all!

Quite possibly one of my favorite photos. Capirossi kept the momentum going by taking the center position on the front line! 2nd place at the start - could we see a podium progression?

And in Pole Postion, we have MotoGP class rookie, Casey Stoner!!! I can't wait for the race tomorrow, and I'm up in the air if I'm going to hide out in the shade and watch it on the tele-screens, or camp out in the sun and do it like I normally do - dancing and jumping for joy! Let's Get It On!!!!!

April 05, 2006

Slightly different Exhausts, barely.

How about this, which I found while walking around a couple days ago?

The new Guzzi is fun-kay! Too bad it's not a V8 superbike though.

And this gorgeous, red, Italian Stallion!

Lots of Leo Vince products out there, even for this old girl.

April 03, 2006

Why isn't MV in WSBK?

The last few days I've been spending time walking around. The weather is turning, leaves are sprouting from the trees lining the streets, and the sun is shining. On Saturday I had a nice time walking through the Passeig de Gracia area, which is filled with expensive boutiques and high-profile brand stores (think Rodeo drive type stuff), and also some cheaper places, like H&M. I guess it's a social shopping area, with lots of outdoor cafes and bars/restaurants interspersed throughout the hotels lining the street. As the day turned to evening, I thought I saw someone I recognized, but I wasn't sure. However, the person recognized me! Turns out it was Oliver Jacque, former World 250cc Champ and Kawasaki test-rider (hopefully a wildcard rider later this year - Le Mans anyone?). He was strolling through the area with two kids, and also his parents. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, which was cool, and he was here because he was getting married this weekend. Congratulations Oliver - I hope that ring doesn't slow you down!

This makes the second weekend in a row I have randomly run into somone from the MotoGP World Championship, and both times no one else recognized them. I wonder how many people involved in the AMA scene are recognized when they're in town for a race? The last time I was around an AMA race, I had a great time talking with Merlyn Plumlee, and to my surprise, no one else was bothering us! This guy has got a lot of history and good stories, but people didn't seem to recognize him. Oh well, their loss. Speaking of history, this Marque has quite a bit as well, and this is how I prefer to see them. . . . . . .

If MV can race in the European Superstock category, why aren't they racing in WSBK?

So while I was at Valencia, I had a chance to spend time with an old guru from Ducati. We spent some time checking out this other Italian Stallion together, and he concluded that it is a nice bike. His appreciation for the design of the bike can be summed up when he went back to his garage and sent out one of his mechanics to look at something on the MV. What could be that interesting? The handlebar clamps. I don't have a good picture of them, but the next time you see one of these, take a look under the top triple clamp at the "Rocketman" design of the bar clamps.

Now I know this is an expensive bike to race, but Union Bike had three of them! All different paint schemes, and all appearing to run strong. MSRP in the states? Expensive. MSRP in Europe? More Expensive! I salute MV Agusta for going racing, which is the heritage of this brand. There are so many rumours flying around about Superbike right now, that it's hard to keep track. Who wants to get in with another Twin Cylinder, who wants a 1200cc, who is building a V4, and how many other manufacturers are considering getting in to the WSBK championship next year? I think this tail is damnright sexy - right up there with the R1, if not better.