During a busy Saturday at circuit Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy, World Superbike series organizers Infront Motor Sports announced that Eni is the new title sponsor and official supplier for the FIM Superbike World Championship series. ISA, the International Sports Agency, brokered the new title sponsorship agreement.
Saturday, 31 March 2012 13:20
Saturday, 31 March 2012 07:54
The first ever World Championship Superbike race was much anticipated, but not well understood. A new series has new rules, and the format for the Superbike tour was tweaked regularly in the years leading up to its debut at Donington Park in April of 1988.
The series was imagined as a place for privateer and national-level teams to showcase their street bike-based building and riding abilities. The big Japanese manufacturers promised not to participate directly, although that didn’t last too long.
However it was also necessary to include “real” road racers as much as possible, since Superbike organizers were planning to draw from the similar TT-F1 class, a series based on mostly street venues with mostly UK-based (especially Irish) racers.
Another key element was to include as many European based manufacturers as possible, since they could no longer afford to compete with the never ending development cycle of the Japanese-dominated Grand Prix tour. Ducati, as usual in money trouble but recently purchased by Cagiva, were considered crucial to the success of the new street bike racing class.
Ducati had been busy developing their groundbreaking, fuel injected, belt drive cam version Desmo 851 twin, a bike that first appeared at Daytona as a prototype in Battle of the Twins action in the hands of former 500cc World Champion Marco Lucchinelli. World Superbike would be the perfect place to show off the bike that would turn out to be crucial in the turn-around of the famous marquee.
Of course, Ducati also got a displacement bump to equalize their twin-cylinder design against the four-cylinder opposition, a rule decision that continues, and remains controversial, to this day. While the bikes were theoretically permitted to go as big as 1000cc’s compared to the 750cc fours, Ducati’s initial homologation standard bore/stroke ratio allowed the 851 to go up to 888cc’s.
However, by the end of the first season of Superbike, the Ducati had reportedly grown to well over 900cc’s — apparently development briefly got in front of homologation!
Meanwhile, Italian custom constructor Bimota had gone from building one-offs for various Grand Prix classes to getting in bed with a Japanese Manufacturer (Yamaha) and producing some of the most desirable and exotic sports street machines available. The unique custom fuel injected, five-valve headed, Yamaha-powered YB4EI was perfect for the new Superbike class, and organizer Steve McLaughlin convinced the squad to abandon their 1987 title-winning TT-F1 effort.
The small specialist builders (like Bimota and Ducati) were only required to produce 200 of a given model for SBK race approval, compared to the 1000 unit build requirement to homologate the Japanese machinery. Officials visited Italy to account for the build, and a sufficient number of bikes were displayed – although no one believed Ducati had anywhere near 200 units of the 851 Superbike built at the time of the Donington opener.
Stories abounded of a leisurely accounting at Bimota base in Rimini, with 25 bikes checked in a storage room, next a trip to see the dyno; 30 units in the court yard, then a break for coffee; 15 bikes now parked near the dyno, then a long lunch. How long does it take to change to ID plates and push the bikes around the shop, anyway?
Most SBK category fans know of all the special homologation bikes built for the specific goal of providing a strong base for World Superbike class equipment. Honda’s now very collectible RC30 vee-four was the most famous, but two Suzuki GSX-R750 versions were also featured — the LTD and RR models — as well as the eventual production of Yamaha’s fearsome OW01 and various Kawasaki Ninja 750cc limited edition RR versions.
At Donington, only Honda fielded a strong group of their new machines: brand new distributor-prepped RC30s with the official race kit, built primarily for Endurance Racing. The top Honda was expected to come from the Brit squad of Joey Dunlop and Roger Marshal, although former factory favorite Fred Merkel, now based in Italy, also showed up with a Pirelli-shod RC30 (most of the front runners were Michelin-equipped).
Behind the scenes, the big story of the first SBK race involved the difference between AMA rules and FIM standards for the new World Series. While everyone involved believed that AMA bikes, on hand for the Trans Atlantic Trophy Match Races, would be legal “as is” for SBK, this was not the case.
Thursday, 29 March 2012 16:17
LeoVince Teams up with M1 PowerSports as Presenting Sponsor of 2012 Triumph Big Kahuna Triple Crown AMA Pro Nationals
DENVER, Colorado- M1 PowerSports and long-time supporter LeoVince have reached an agreement naming the prestigious aftermarket performance part manufacturer as the Official Exhaust and Electronics Supplier of the 2012 Triumph Big Kahuna Triple Crown, three events on the 2012 AMA Pro Road Racing schedule. The first round of the Triumph Big Kahuna Triple Crown, the Triumph Big Kahuna Atlanta, kicks off April 20-22, 2012 at Braselton, Georgia’s Road Atlanta.
Thursday, 29 March 2012 15:42
Halifax, NS – Canadian motorcycle road racing team FOGI Racing is pleased to announce a partnership with Tommy Aquino as their primary rider in the Spanish CEV Championship. FOGI Racing continues to work towards providing young athletes a means to get to the world championship of motorcycle road racing. Canadian rider Ben Young will continue to be the primary rider in the AMA Daytona Sportbike class, while Tommy will pilot the program in the Spanish series.
Friday, 23 March 2012 00:42
In the March/April issue of Inside Motorcycles, I talk about the increasing availability of reasonably priced GPS-based data acquisition systems, and using data to improve your riding. GPS provides accurate position data, from which useful data such as segment times, ground speed, lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration and much more is derived - all of which can help you learn more about your riding.
I also used data to help coach students at Jason Pridmore's Star Motorcycle School, and lately I've been using my own G2X to help AMA Supersport racer Javelin Broderick, among others. Much of what I've learned came from working with Kaz Yoshima on a couple of magazine projects; Kaz and I put together the beginnings of a website with loads of information on data analysis at www.docmc.net
Currently, I have data for more than 25 riders at about that many racetracks, covering the range from first time track novice to AMA-level professional. At first blush, coaching a rider using data seems easy enough—overlay data from a faster rider, and point out the differences. But that approach falls apart quickly. Simply telling a rider "You can ride faster in turn three" does not help any. Most riders already know they will be faster if they could just, well… ride faster. Deciphering the data is more a matter of figuring out how the rider can go quicker and then accurately communicating that in a language he or she understands.
There are a few snags, of course. What if I don't have data for a faster rider at a particular track? It's almost frightful how analytical you can be about someone's riding based on data. Braking, accelerating, cornering… almost every aspect can be expressed as a numerical value, and those values are well known based on given parameters, either from physics or experience with other riders. For example, I know that Javelin, on the AMA-spec Dunlop tires in a level turn with no camber, can corner at 1.1 to 1.3 G of lateral acceleration. When we go to a new track, I should see the same; any deviation is cause for further examination of other data channels. Data from another rider definitely helps, but is not always necessary.
With a good software package as part of the data acquisition system, you can visualize almost any aspect you like. I worked with one rider that I thought could be more consistent in his lines from lap to lap. Using the GPS data, I generated some channels that showed exactly how far off-line he was each lap, in feet, and how much extra distance and time it was adding. Riders take a lot more notice when you tell them something specific that can save a precise amount of time, rather than giving them more generic suggestions or advice.
With GPS data and a handful of additional analog sensor inputs, I have about 50 channels of data to draw from. As you can imagine, it's almost impossible to look at everything in between practice sessions at the racetrack—there is simply an overwhelming amount of information. Typically, the rider and I will pick one or two things to work on each day, and I will have developed the necessary channels to easily and quickly check for improvement. Just as important, I try to have a way to graphically show that improvement as feedback.
It's definitely been a learning experience for me as well as (hopefully!) the riders I've helped. Ironically, as I work more with Javelin and he gets faster, I have to learn more to keep up by adding channels and sensors to look at increasingly specific aspects of his riding. As time goes on, it's getting more difficult and time-consuming to find things he can work on. Check the latest issue of Inside Motorcycles for more information about some of the actual data channels we use, and about GPS data acquisition in general. In my next blog, I'll go into some more detail about other channels we look at, and how they can be used to improve your riding.
Thursday, 22 March 2012 15:20
In 1959 Honda changed the way many people thought of motorcycles – and motorcycling – when it introduced its clean and quiet machines to North America.
And it was in 1961 with the CB72 Honda Hawk, a 250cc motorcycle, and its larger brother the CB77 Super Hawk at 305cc, that some rather unique features became available in mass-produced machines.
An inclined vertical twin engine that could be revved to 9,200 rpm powered both models. The bikes included 12-volt alternator electrics, electric start, chain-drive overhead cams and wet sump lubrication. The Super Hawk proved most popular of the two bikes, and thousands of first-time riders cut their teeth aboard the model.
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 16:49
It isn’t always easy to remember what you were doing twenty five years ago – it can be hard to recall details, and when you do remember (if you do) then it also reminds you of just how old you are!
Twenty five years ago, a number of Canadians were getting ready for the first ever Superbike World Championship event at Donington Park in the midlands of the UK. For most, their actual focus of attention was on the long-running British traditional Easter weekend Transatlantic Trophy events, or Match Races.
Started as a Triumph-backed works rider battle between their U.S. and British squads, the Match Races evolved into a big bike spring blowout. Eventually, the series provided a launching pad for late 70s/early 80s American F-750 stars such as Kenny Roberts, Mike Baldwin, Dale Singleton and especially, a teenage sensation named “Fast Freddie” Spencer.
However, as works Formula One machinery (750cc and later 500cc two-strokes) became harder to come by, the Trans Atlantic Trophy required an update. British race promoters still had a desire to start their busy season with an international series. The Match Race format was initially used to enhance (or Anglicize!) the traditional spring Champion Spark Plug-backed FIM F-750 Cup tour of the mid-1970s, centered on Daytona’s 200-mile race, the Imola 200 and Circuit Paul Ricard in France.
As four-stroke, street-based Formula grew in popularity in the mid-1980s, the British organizers reinvented the Match Races, initially as a continuation of the Brits vs Yanks format. In that 1986 re-launch, Michel Mercier (Suzuki Canada GSX-R750) and Rueben McMurter (Yamaha Motor Canada FZ750) were late additions to the “American” team, and showed very well in their British short circuit debut.
The Trans Atlantic format was expanded for 1987, with more teamsters to ensure solid grids over Easter. Recruiting was carried out at Daytona, meaning that not only did Mercier and McMurter return, but BC-based rising star Gary Goodfellow was added. The Canadians were almost a team of their own!
The 1987 Match Races featured dynamite fights at the front between American teammates Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey. Video of their fights at the front is well worth exploring on Youtube – at times it looks like a SuperMoto race, especially in the wet!
It would be fair to say that the Brits did not yet have competitive “works supported” machinery – their best bikes were built to a different spec, for the FIM’s TT-F1 (Tourist Trophy Formula One) “street circuit” world championship series.
Buddies Mercier and Goodfellow featured in 1987 for Suzuki Canada, taking full advantage of their experience with cold and wet conditions. When it comes to bad weather, Canucks (and Vancouver-based ex-Kiwis) had an edge over their American teammates.
For 1988, the Match Race format was expanded to allow for a total of four teams, representing various areas of the road racing world. As well, the final races at Donington were now in support of, or supported by, the inaugural round of the Superbike World Championship.
For the promoters, the new race allowed them to share the costs of getting all the best Superbike class riders to England, and guaranteed that at least the first round of the new series would be well supported. For the racers, this offered another payday, but meant even more work over the long weekend. While the Brit and Euro “locals” would be based out of their regular trucks and trailers, the visiting North Americans would have limited equipment and a packing crate as home base.
Canadians attending the Easter events included veterans Mercier, McMurter and Goodfellow, as well as young up-and-coming Montrealer Tom Douglas. Dicom Courier-backed Douglas made his continental debut aboard a Gord Hubbel-tuned Yamaha Canada entry. While Mercier and McMurter handled their regular Canadian equipment, Goodfellow had managed to arrange a semi-works Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R750 LTD, complete with Don Knit backing, direct from Japan.
The American portion of the Transatlantic Trophy team was strong, lead by the works HRC Honda VFR750 of Bubba Shobert. Yoshimura Suzuki sent a factory crew for the first time, with Doug Polen and Scott Gray ready to fly the AMA-Yoshimura USA flag.
Saturday, 17 March 2012 10:33
When John McBride was growing up in the west Toronto neighbourhood of Etobicoke in the 1960s he had a bit of a problem with mothers in the area. It wasn’t that he was necessarily a bad kid. But he rode a motorcycle. And to make matters worse, his dad sold them.
“It was like a double negative,” McBride remembers. “Few people rode motorcycles at this time and I felt I stood out because of this and because my family was in the motorcycle business.
“Motorcycling was kind of an individual sport at that time. Looking back I guess I felt a bit like ‘The Fonz’ [motorcycle riding Arthur Fonzarelli from the Happy Days TV show.]”
Some good did come out of that motorcycle background, however. Eventually McBride would take over the reins of the family business, McBride Cycle and then form an entirely new business, Riders Choice, which is still going strong today.
The ride has been an interesting one with some surprising twists and turns along the way. But despite the challenges McBride has managed to keep things upright and stay on the road.
It would have been hard for McBride to avoid a life in the motorcycle business. His grandfather Percy A. McBride started McBride Cycle in 1909 and the business quickly set the benchmark for motorcycle distribution and retailing.
“My grandfather started the business as a distributor of almost everything to do with motorcycles and their accessories from his three retail outlets,” John McBride explains. “Percy A. was the first motorcycle entrepreneur who set up a network of dealers throughout Canada. Anything that came into the country, he touched it – that’s how influential he was. He also started the first catalogue that was sent to customers.”
John’s father Marty took over the business in the 1960s and John’s first experience of riding on a motorcycle was sitting on the back of his dad’s bike, travelling through the city to McBride Cycle’s location at 69 Queen Street East on Saturday mornings.
“My father started in the business in his early twenties with my grandfather and uncle,” John recalls. “My father was influential along with others like Trev Deeley in bringing Japanese motorcycles into Canada in the early 1960s.”
In the meantime John became an avid rider. For a long time he didn’t have his car driver’s licence, simply because he spent so much time riding a bike.
“It was my only form of transportation and I rode it until it snowed,” he says.
While John may have been expected to go into the family business, the decision was made for him quite suddenly under tragic circumstances. When Marty died in the summer of 1977 John found himself thrust into a position of responsibility.
“I had worked in the business on and off,” he says. “I took a business course at Humber College, went travelling afterward for over two years – went around the world twice. But after my father’s early death I started running the business at 24 with my mother. At this point I learned about the motorcycle business and what my father and grandfather’s roles were in it.”
John set to work trying to maintain the standards established by his grandfather and continued by his father. He travelled extensively to motorcycle shows seeking out world class products and he maintained a family connection to motorcycle racing.
“The McBride family has always been involved in motorcycle racing in Canada,” John says. “Some of my earliest memories were of being at the Harewood race track. Dad used to say it was a waste of money but he still stayed involved with it. Murray Brown was one of his riders and I remember he crashed two Ducatis in one day and dad said, ‘That just cost me $20,000,’ which was a lot of money in those days.
“So it was natural for me to use the racing aspect of the business as a promotional tool for McBride Cycle. Throughout the years I have helped many of the top Canadian racers and began importing the best products from racing around the world, such as Dainese, Spidi, Diadora and Daytona. All of these and countless others were sourced out and found at the world motorcycle shows I attended yearly. It was similar to the sort of thing that my grandfather had done.”
McBride says he even had a role in the design of some of Dainese’s racing suits.
“An early incident at the race track one season prompted me to take some hockey equipment to Italy and meet with Lino Dainese,” McBride remembers. “I asked Lino if he thought this hockey equipment could be integrated into a race suit. The meeting was interesting and a Dainese agent by the name of John Boni had to translate. I had a picture of a McBride Cycle employee with shoulder pads, elbow pads and shin pads taped to him. We can see now how this early idea has been integrated into the future Dainese race suits.”
While the family connection of the race track was strong John himself never explored a career as a competitor. His father never really supported the idea, John says, perhaps mindful of that day in which he lost two expensive Ducatis! John has made a point, however, of putting his backing behind his son Matt, who rose impressively up the Pro ranks in Canadian national road racing. John does admit one of his best days of riding was when he took one of Michel Mercier’s FAST Schools at Shannonville Motorsport Park.
John left McBride Cycle in early 2005 after what he describes as, “a parting of the ways with other family members.” A year and a half later he opened Riders Choice in Mississauga, just west of Toronto.
In September, 2006 McBride Cycle closed its doors. Around the same time another long established Toronto dealership, Cycle World also shut down. Although John doesn’t make a strong connection between the two departures, he does acknowledge the business has changed in a crucial respect these days.
“It used to be that the customer was embarrassed to ask for a discount,” he explains. “But today they consider it a right. I guys it’s all part of a new generation of rider. There’s a lot less loyalty and it seems to have dwindled over the years. I don’t know why, but it just seems like people are after the best deal above everything else.”
The change in the business has not dampened McBride’s enthusiasm for the motorcycle industry. With Riders Choice he is determined to keep the family name going strong, and Matt is already working in the business, a fourth generation of McBride working in the Canadian motorcycling industry.
“Riders Choice continues my passion of motorcycling, sport riding, track riding and racing,” he explains. “I think it maintains the McBride family themes of products and passion. What sets it apart from other stores is my experience and dedication to bring customers the finest products in the world.”
It has been an interesting and sometimes challenging trip for McBride, but he considers it a worthwhile journey.
“I feel privileged to be a part of the motorcycle industry,” he says. “I’ve had a blessed life, through all the good and the bad. My life on two wheels has been exciting. I have met some of the most incredible customers and dealers who have enriched my life. I can’t believe how many people I’ve met in this business, people right from the bottom to the very top. I consider myself a real people person and I’ve enjoyed meeting so many people in this business.”
Heck, even those mothers in Etobicoke may finally warm up to him.
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 15:33
Mainland China has quite a few race tracks, with new ones opening each year. They are scattered throughout this huge country; one even opened up in Inner Mongolia this past year!
The most popular circuits are the Zhuhai International Circuit and the Shanghai F1 Track (former home of a Moto GP round). Zhuhai is by far the most active course, with the famous Le Mans car series, Pan Delta Series, and numerous other events including the FIM Asia GP round. It is an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong and a 20-minute taxi ride from Macau. It draws thousands of spectators for every event and its title sponsors are Audi and Red Bull.
Riders from around the world participate in the Pan Delta Series. It consists of six races – three rounds, two races per round. It is a real show. Countries including Spain, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, India, Macau, China and, of course, Canada are represented. I am the only North American that has raced the Pan Delta Series in the last four years. There are former World 250 GP riders in the field, and some pretty fast company all round. Riders also use this series as a stepping stone to World Supersport, like Gino Rhea, and also Moto2. In between races, the spectators enjoy drift car shows and world class motorbike stunt riders that sometimes take their show to the street – which is a whole different story, and perhaps a future blog!
You want to be in Zhuhai during one of the Pan Delta events. The city is alive and aching to party. The events are heavily promoted and entire streets are dedicated to the race, with celebrations taking place nightly. The riders join the spectators come Sunday night… assuming, of course, they made it through the weekend unscathed and with results that made their teams proud.
The Pan Delta was originally based on the Porsche Cup and Ferrari Challenge, but the spectators are on their feet when the Superbikes are on the grid. We have become the fan favourites. The autograph sessions will have hundreds waiting in line at all times, with security stepping in when a session is over – locals often refuse to leave without a signed poster. The adrenalin and excitement is something I wish the rest of the world could see.
I have been fortunate enough to have tremendous support racing in China. Kawasaki is my backbone, and they are the reason that all of this has happened to me. We have a direct line to Japan and get all the cool kit parts, which makes our team bikes very competitive. With China being an emerging market, bike manufactures, tire manufactures, aftermarket parts makers and everyone associated with motorbikes is trying to penetrate the Chinese market. It will become the number one market at some point. The government will decide when this will happen, but believe me, it will happen.
Too bad hiding four sets of tires each flight is virtually impossible. For 2012, we have decided to send over a container of tires from Pirelli and reduce our stress level by a lot!
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 13:47