Lawrence Launches from Fifth Heat in Vegas

Reigning Flat Track Canada National Champion Doug Lawrence will aim to qualify through the fifth of sixth Heat races tonight at the 13th and final round of the Harley-Davidson GNC1 Flat Track Grand Nationals, held at the Arena in the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.  The sole Canadian in the 36 rider entry ran as high as 16th aboard his Town Moto backed-Honda CRF450R in the early practice sessions, but a fall in the final Qualifying dropped him down the order to 23rd overall.

Fastest Qualifier for tonight’s racing is Mike Rush on a Honda, the veteran lapping the tight oval at 10.23 seconds.  Rush will start from pole in the first heat, while next best lapper Henry Wiles (10.27) gets the pole for race two with his Honda, race three will be headed by third best Q rider Briar Bauman on a Honda, Robert Pearson will start from the inside in Heat four on a Yamaha YZF450F, the Lawrence heat will be headed by Suzuki RMZ 450 of Kayl Kolkman, while pole for the final heat belongs to the sixth best qualifier, reigning Champ Jared Mees on another Honda.

Lawrence turned a best lap at 10.62 seconds before he got out of shape in the second and last Q session, eventually tumbling into the padded wall that lines the tight, hockey arena-sized track.  The top 12 riders from the HEat and Semi races will take part in the final 2015 Dirt Track National.

“The track was getting rough, there was prep work right before our session, and I figured it would help, but I was wrong,” explained the uninjured Lawrence prior to the opening ceremonies.  “Yeah, I hit the wall, but it was no big deal.  Maybe it’s time to put on the ol’ chest protector!”

“I need to get back to the way I was riding (in the earlier sessions),” considered 30 year old Lawrence.  “I need to be a little more calculated, that’s my normal mode.  I’ll be in the middle of the row, it will be crazy on the first laps, so I need to get my elbows out.”

“The race is fun, the whole weekend is great (including tomorrow night’s Superprestigio of the Americas), but I wish there was a little time to enjoy it.  We didn’t really know what to expect with the track, they maybe over watered it, and now they’re trying to smooth it out as best they can.”

“As far as the race strategy goes, It is what it is, what I expected – you really need a good start, and you need to take advantage of your chances if they come, especially in the early laps.  If you get a chance, you just have to do it.”

“The race format is pretty specialized, there are a few guys who know how to race these little tracks, and then there is everyone else.  You’re really going to need to work the inside, right around the ring.  You need full commitment, look well ahead, and just try and find your comfort level.”      

 Sponsorship for the Lawrence Racing 2015 AMA Pro effort comes from John Briggs Motorsports, Town Moto, Brooklin Cycle Racing, Jon Castin, Triple J Racing, American Harley-Davidson, Arai, Troy Lee Design, SIDI boots, Motion Pro, West Coast Hot Shoes, Works Connection, Klotz, Saddlemen and JS Marketing.  

Friday, 20 November 2015 21:56


Non Flat Trackers Test in Vegas

With the arena’s track preparation complete and the Airfence in place, non-Flat Track Superprestigio of the Americas competitors got a couple of hours of surface testing and practice on Thursday evening, November 19 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

On Friday evening, November 20, the 13th and deciding round of the 2015 American Flat Track Championship takes place at the same venue, while the next night features the inaugural Yamaha-sponsored Superprestigio of The Americas. 

Both events take place on a custom built, indoor hockey rink-sized (about .10 of a mile in length) track at the Orleans Hotel and Casino.

Non flat track racers taking part in the discipline-crossing first ever North American Superprestigio event will be at a disadvantage, partly because they do not regularly compete on dirt ovals and mostly because they are not part of the AMA Pro National wrap-up on Friday night.  So a little test and tune was a welcome and much appreciated surprise.

With most of the top flat trackers watching from the sidelines, the non-oval group showed well, and demonstrated that the surface should be good for competition.  Track designer and Flat Track legend Chris Carr made big efforts to ensure that passing was possible, and the initial, non-competition outing on the Orleans oval showed promise.

Maybe the fastest, unofficially, of the Pros to try the track was Larry Pegram on the Foremost Insurance Honda single.  Out of work since the works Buell team dropped out of World Superbike early in 2015 due to issues with the parent company, former flat track star Pegram was in confident form.

Attracting the most attention was a charging Roger Lee Hayden aboard the Yoshimura Suzuki RMZ450, with most of the riders trying to follow every time Hayden took to the course for one of the many brief sessions.  Back in 2002, Hayden and his two brothers, Tommy and Nicky, swept the AMA Pro National Short Track podium in Springfield, Ill.

Top European was MotoGP ace and 2012 Moto2 World Champ Toni Elias of Spain, 32. A veteran of the Spanish Superprestigio that started the us vs them flat track spectacular craze, Elias looked quick and fairly consistent, shaking of a couple of minor tumbles on the stop-and-go layout.

Action for the Flat Track Experts starts on Friday at 3 PM local time, with two hours of timed practice.  After that, there will be Heat and Semi races for the GNC1 and GNC2 categories.  Canadian interest will focus on newly crowned Flat Track Canada Champ Doug Lawrence aboard the John Briggs Motorsports/Town Moto Honda. 

The Inside Motorcycles web site will feature coverage of the Lawrence effort both nights.

On hand to watch the test, Lawrence explained that he was “impressed with the track, they seem to have really done a good job preparing the surface – it has plenty of moisture, and that should help over a night.”

“They’re trying to make it so you can pass, race each other.  I don’t know if what we watched tonight will be what we see in the races tomorrow night, but right now those guys know more than we do.”     

Thursday, 19 November 2015 22:53


Lawrence Readies for Vegas

Newly-crowned Flat Track Canada overall national No. 1 Doug Lawrence is very busy these days, preparing for the season-ending dirt track doubleheader next weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. On Friday evening, November 20, the 13th and deciding round of the 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track Championship takes place, while the next night features the inaugural Yamaha-sponsored Superprestigio of the Americas.  Both events take place on a custom-built, indoor hockey rink-sized (listed at an optimistic .25 miles) track at the Orleans Hotel and Casino.

Inside Motorcycles will be on site in Vegas for Lawrence’s races, and provide exclusive web coverage focused on the Flat Track Canada champ.

Lawrence will compete aboard one of his Honda CRF450Rs, recently rebuilt by Doug Beattie.

“I’ve won a lot of Canadian nationals on this bike,” explained Lawrence shortly before leaving for Michigan and further testing and training on Sunday, November 15. “But now we’ve detuned it, trying to make it work for a tenth-of-a-mile track. Doug did a great job for me, he really knows these Hondas well now.”

Lawrence explained that everyone planning to compete in Las Vegas has been looking to ride at tracks small enough to simulate the Orleans set-up.

“Everyone has been building these little tracks, and I tested with (American champ) Jared Mees at a track he built on his property. Then I’m going to Scott Parker’s place in Michigan, Bryan Smith built a track there.  I think (retired multi-time national champ) Scott’s even going to ride with us!”

After his final test in Michigan, Lawrence will fly to California, before heading to Vegas for practice.

As far as the format for the event is concerned, with many short races close together leading to eliminations and the final, Lawrence says he is trying not to focus too much on the event’s structure.

“It doesn’t help to worry too much about the starts, but everyone knows how important that is on a short track.  The starts are huge,” laughs Lawrence.

“The trick is to ride assertive, not aggressive.  You really need to use your head, pick your battles, and don’t put yourself in a position where you are going to make a mistake. I guess you have to say that it comes down to luck.  The guys who get success in this type of event, they aren’t the fastest, but they really know how to position themselves.  It is important to qualify up front, the times will be really close, put yourself on pole, be in a position to control things from the front.

“The race formats are a little different from what we get usually, so it will shake down differently, but it will still be an issue if some guy kamikazes and takes down a bunch of people in his heat race.

“The racing will be way different from how things look in practice, we’ll be more upright, not so vulnerable, guarding our spot – maybe not as exciting (or sideways).  It really depends on the surface, can we ride it hard, but it will likely be inconsistent.  So protecting your spot, your position, will be a big factor.”

Lawrence places equal importance on the two events, but figures that Saturday’s Superprestigio will be the tougher event in terms of qualifying for the final race.

“Organizer Chris Carr has put me in with all the other flat trackers, and that class is full of heavy hitters – I’m really in the deep water, so in a way the math is worse on the second night. No one knows what will happen, and that should make it really entertaining.”            

Following the Vegas events, Lawrence will return to California for some bicycle training before heading to legendary MX venue Glen Helen Raceway for Red Bull’s 18th Day in the Dirt, with support from Troy Lee Designs Canada.

Sponsorship for the Lawrence Racing 2015 AMA Pro effort comes from John Briggs Motorsports, Town Moto, Brooklin Cycle Racing, Jon Castin, Triple J Racing, American Harley-Davidson, Arai, Troy Lee Design, SIDI boots, Motion Pro, West Coast Hot Shoes, Works Connection, Klotz, Saddlemen and JS Marketing.  

Saturday, 14 November 2015 14:21


Lorenzo Takes Win and Title in Valencia (Exclusive IM report)

Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo led from lights off to the checkered flag to win both the battle and the war, earning his third career MotoGP World Championship and his fifth career world crown with victory at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain today. Lorenzo experienced almost race-long pressure from the Repsol Honda of outgoing two-time world champ Marc Marquez, as well as a late race push from on-form Dani Pedrosa on the second Honda, to earn his crown.

Sunday, 08 November 2015 13:12


Warren Thaxter Joins Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Long-time Inside Motorcycles Senior Editor Warren Thaxter was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame during the 10th annual Banquet and Ceremony at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel on Saturday evening, November 7.  Thaxter was one of nine inductees honoured during the event, sponsored by Husqvarna Motorcycles and presented by the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada.

The presentation portion for Thaxter started with an introduction from emcee Pat Gonsalves, before a video covering some of the highlights of the career of a man who “influenced almost every aspect of off-road riding.”  The overview described Thaxter’s involvement as an event organizer, rally planner and trailblazing (and trail building!) pioneer.

Thaxter built the ground floor for organized trail riding, co-founding the Ontario Federation of Trail Riders.  Eventually the OFTR was able to hire a full-time staffer, allowing the group to greatly increase its influence from a government and structural point of view. In 1994, Thaxter and a group like-minded trail riders started an ambitious off-road and trail riding facility at the Ganaraska Forest called Blair Sharpless Trail Tours.  The school-oriented facility continues to this day, operated by Steve Weykamp.

In 2001 Thaxter got in on the ground floor with Rally Connex, working to build self-guided tours off-road with then-new GPS technology.  Connex continues to offer tours and events via GPS. Thaxter has established a culture of trail construction, support and event preparation that has fostered a strong spirit of club volunteerism, yielding a range of officially-chartered off-road clubs in Ontario.  Thaxter has served on a number of boards, including the CMA, MCC and CMHOF, and organized events as part of the Offroad Ontario series.

“That is kind of an impressive bio,” quipped Thaxter from the podium, after receiving his medal from Hall of Fame member and good friend Toni Sharpless.  “But I didn’t do any of that stuff – by myself. A friend of mind once told me about 'forest fairies' who must have fixed his bike when it broke down on the trails.  I love the term, I have used it ever since, and I guess I’ve had the help of a lot of great forest fairies over the years. Forest Fairies come early, sometimes months early, and then they do all their magic before most of the people show up to ride, and then they’re the last to leave,” explained Thaxter.  “They take down arrows that they maybe just put up, roll up ribbons, pack up the garbage and turn off the lights.”  Thaxter then went on to name just some of the forest fairies that he had appreciated over the past few decades.

Thaxter also thanked former Kawasaki staffers Andrew Knowles and Debbie Watson for their sponsorship of his trail programs, followed up by similar support from Tom Etherington at KTM. “I also want to thank Dave Weber and John Hopkins of Inside Motorcycles magazine,” said the newest Hall of Fame honouree.  “For 16 years, they seemed to think that I had something to say, and gave the place to say it.”

Thaxter then indicated that he might like to continue his many stories via a book, using his mother for inspiration.  Now 99 and on hand to watch the ceremonies featuring her son, Mrs. Thaxter competed her own book over a decade ago.       

Sunday, 08 November 2015 01:22


Uncle Colin's blog: Ready for Valencia? Rossi vs Lorenzo for all the marbles

Four days from now, we should know who has won the 2015 MotoGP World Championship. I say “should" since protests and ongoing legal wrangling might delay the official results.

This type of behavior is rare in bike racing, more likely in automotive competition. However the days following October 25 and the penultimate 2015 season round in Malaysia have confirmed that we live in interesting times.

Thursday, 05 November 2015 11:57


Rossi, Marquez and Pedrosa Talk Malaysia

A controversial bumping incident during lap seven of the Malaysian Grand Prix on October 25 caused Repsol Honda’s World Champ Marc Marquez to fall from third, while Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi continued on to net that spot at the finish, holding his points lead in the MotoGP World Championship.

Dani Pedrosa won the race for Honda, while Rossi’s arch-rival and teammate Jorge Lorenzo netted second.

Following the event, race control reviewed multiple-camera video footage of the incident and spoke to both racers, and then Race Director Mike Webb gave Rossi three penalty points against his licence due to his actions. 

This decision gave 36-year-old Rossi a total of four of a possible seven per-season penalty points against his status, and means he will start the final event of the season at Valencia from the back of the MotoGP feature race grid.  His initial point was awarded due to a qualifying incident earlier in the season at Misano involving Jorge Lorenzo.

This decision means that Rossi, although seven points ahead of teammate Lorenzo in the 2015 championship standings, is unlikely to hang on to his championship lead.  Rossi has 312 points while Lorenzo trails at 305, Marquez out of contention with a total of 222 points in third spot.

“I don’t know if I have lost the championship,” stated Rossi after the race direction ruling.  “This will be very difficult now.  I am very disappointed in the three points.  He (Marquez) won.  He decided the championship and he made me lose the championship.  I think that he will be very happy.”

“I don’t want to make Marquez crash and I didn’t kick him,” continued Rossi, still very aggressive while on defence.  “From the helicopter shot, you see, in slow motion, it is quite clear that I go wide. I don’t want to say I do the normal corner – I want to go to him, slow down and make him loose time.”

“When I go to slow down, slow down, slow down, and I go to cut his line, and we touch.  He touched me with his handlebar on my left leg and it is for that reason he crash.  If you kick a MotoGP rider he don’t crash, because the bike is heavy, it has a lot of grip.”

Following the post-race review and penalty, 22-year-old double MotoGP Champ Marquez spoke out regarding his crash, saying:  “I didn’t expect that he (Rossi) would take off the leg and push my handlebars and my front brake.  Then I lost my front and when I was on the floor I saw him (Rossi) look behind again.

“For me, it does not matter if you are Valentino or another racer, in this type of incident you are out of control.  When you are a rider you know what is going on – to take a leg off and push another rider out, it is difficult to see how you can think this on your bike.”

Meanwhile, forgotten victor Dani Pedrosa, age 30, spoke about the incident at the delayed post-race press conference, an event Rossi opted not to attend.

“I had the chance to watch this incident just now, and this is not good,” said the Repsol Honda rider.  “It is not good for the championship, it is not good for Rossi, and for Marc, Jorge and me – even though I was not involved.”

“This is not a good thing, happening so late in the fight for our championship.  The manoeuvres were okay, for sure Valentino wanted to have a more calm race, to try and catch Jorge for second. But in their last manoeuvre, yes you can go as wide as you want if you are on the inside (Rossi), you have the line for that corner.  The guy on the inside has the preference always, so normally the guy on the outside would shut the throttle.

“But the speed was very, very slow, and Marquez understood this and close the throttle completely, waiting for Valentino to turn. Then there is the moment when I can see Valentino’s leg moving and we see Marquez crash.  Unfortunately, not a good thing, and I am really disappointed about this.  I started out front from the beginning and stayed in front, and I am really happy to escape out front and be unaware of all the problems behind,” stated the Malaysian victor.                

Sunday, 25 October 2015 14:39


Pedrosa Wins; Rossi in Trouble in Malaysia

The penultimate round of the 2015 MotoGP Championship might not have had a dramatic last lap in the fashion of the previous event in Australia, but it was an equally big deal.  Unfortunately, the 17th Grand Prix of the season on October 25th at in Kuala Lumpur will not be remembered as a feel-good story, unlike Philip Island down under last weekend.

Polesitter Dani Pedrosa was in near-perfect form on the second works Repsol Honda RC213V, leading from the start to take his third career MotoGP win at Sepang international in hot, humid and overcast conditions. 

Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, doing his best to make up points in the battle for the 2015 MotoGP title against his Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi, was second, just over three seconds back.  Rossi netted a distant third, and is now under real pressure from Lorenzo with the final round slated for Valencia, Spain in two weeks’ time.

Huge controversy erupted on lap seven of 22, after Rossi and Honda team leader Marc Marquez had traded third spot often, in increasingly aggressive and risky fashion.  After an incredible number of overtaking maneuvers, including a bump or two, sideways moments and some Rossi gestures, the two interacted in turn 14 with Marquez crashing out of contention.

Video reviews did not make the circumstances of the incident clear, although Rossi certainly ran way wide in the tightening right hander and looked over at Marquez on his outside, away from the line, as the two were inches apart.  Rossi seemed to bobble and then Marquez tucked the front end, seemingly on the brakes, and fell.

Earlier in the weekend, Rossi had lashed out at Marquez through the media, claiming that the reigning and two-time World Champ was trying to help fellow Spaniard Lorenzo in the title battle.  Formerly friendly, Rossi and Marquez have been on the outs since incidents while battling for first in Argentina and Holland earlier in the season.  Malaysia was apparently strike three.

A beyond-angry Marquez refused to comment, although his team was outspoken in their criticism, waiting for race control to review the incident, post-race, and make an official ruling.

The stewards decided to penalize Rossi at the upcoming final event, where he will be required to start from the back of the grid regardless of his qualifying performance.  Rossi was allowed to keep his third place on the day, but this F1 style judgement will put Rossi in a tough spot in terms of the title battle.

With 25 points available in Valencia, Rossi heads the standings with 312 points, Lorenzo second with a total of 305.  Lorenzo seems to have the best chance given recent performances and the Rossi grid penalty.  Marquez keeps third overall, but is not in contention for the title after two straight World crowns.

Rossi did not directly comment on the Marquez crash, saying post-race that “I lost a lot of time with Marc, then in turn 14 I tried to go a bit wide to get a better line and make him slow, because he was riding to cause me problems.  Unfortunately, I don’t know, he come up to me and crash at that moment.”

Some Rossi supporters claimed that Marquez tried to head but Rossi’s left knee as they leaned into the turn, side by side.

Amazingly, Lorenzo opted not to take the high road concerning events involving his teammate, even though he was in front of the action and didn’t know about the accident until after the race.

“It was huge, I don’t know what to say,” commented new championship favorite Lorenzo.  “It is clear that he (Rossi) took Marquez off and the regulation is fair.

“This time they need to give him a big penalty,” continued the two-time MotoGP champ. “For example with Danny Kent in (support class) qualifying, they demote him many positions on the grid.  So for this action the penalty should be much harsher.”

Behind the controversy, Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha) had a strong run, earning his best dry track result while out-duelling Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) for fourth and best satellite team result.  Crutchlow was fifth, but might be in trouble with the stewards after an early race incident that caused Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to fall.

Top Ducati was the Pramac entry of Danilo Petrucci, earning sixth after pulling away from the battling works Ecstar Suzukis of Aleix Espargaro (seventh) and Maverick Vinales (eighth).  Pol Espargaro netted ninth on the second Tech 3 Yamaha, while Gresini Aprilia finally had a solid result, Stefan Bradl placing a close tenth, right behind the GSX-RRs.

Top privateer was the Forward Yamaha of Toni Elias in 14th, while American Nicky Hayden, in his penultimate career GP, wound up just out of the points in 16th aboard the Aspar Honda RC213V-RS.     

- By Colin Fraser

Sunday, 25 October 2015 06:15


MotoGP at Phillip Island: One for the ages

Repsol Honda’s current MotoGP World Champ Marc Marquez came out on top of a wild four-bike fight for first to win the MotoGP round at Phillip Island, Australia on Sunday, October 18. With one lap of the 28 left to run at the daunting down under venue, Jorge Lorenzo held a miniscule edge with the works Movistar Yamaha from a wheel-to-wheel trio: early leader Andrea Iannone’s factory Ducati, Marquez and the other “A” Yamaha of World Championship series points leader Valentino Rossi.

Monday, 19 October 2015 12:08


First Ride: MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso

MV Agusta has an enviable reputation for building bikes that are true to the company’s hardcore, pure sport bike roots. 

Monday, 12 October 2015 22:47


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