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 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
When you can't get Troy Bayliss, who's next in line? Brett McCormick, of course.
As we alluded to yesterday, the Effenbert Liberty Racing Team officially announced that the Saskatchewan native would become the fourth member of the Czech-based team to enter battle in the 2012 SBK World Championship. In what might be the shortest Superstock career ever, McCormick spent a weekend testing at Phillip Island in Australia last month, and didn't even get to his first official race before being promoted to the flagship Superbike squad.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 10:31
The 2012 International road racing circus opened at Phillip Island in south eastern Australia last weekend, and veteran front runners controlled the action. Reigning champ Carlos Checa was leading race one on his 2011 title-winning Althea Ducati 1098R when he high sided exiting the second last turn. This violent moment handed the race lead to 2010 champ Max Biaggi on the works Aprilia RSV4, and “Mad Max” duly pulled clear to take the opening race win—his first at the famous venue since his 500cc Grand Prix days way back when.
Race two, run in even hotter conditions, offered the same dynamic duo in control of the show. Checa moved forward from a cautious start to take a solid win, but the man to watch was Biaggi. After almost running into the back of the pole sitting works Kawasaki ZX-10R of Tom Sykes in turn one off the start, Biaggi was lucky to survive a very high speed off-track trip.
From there, the Aprilia team leader charged back through the tightly knit pack, eventually making his way all the way to second, not far from Checa, by the chequered. Of particular interest is the fact that long time hero Biaggi is almost 41 years of age, while Checa will turn 40 this season.
Phillip Island is one of the few newish circuits with lots of high speed turns, and that layout, combined with high temps, means the track is a tough one for spec supplier Pirelli. While many of the top runners suffered a variety of traction issues, primarily with the rear Pirelli slick, Biaggi and Checa seemed able to run consistently good lap times without cooking their rubber.
As usual, Biaggi’s potent exits were a thing of beauty, the “Roman Emperor” seemingly able to play “point and shoot” when others were trying a different game, “aim and pray.”
Of course, electronics no doubt play a big part in this, and having the confidence to make the right set- up choices (traction control, etc.) and handle the bike accordingly is key. The Aprilia certainly seems to have a very stable platform, although traditionalists will point to the fundamental benefit of their vee-four engine configuration.
Not so long ago, Phillip Island races for big bikes features lots of sideways action, but TC has calmed that show. However the big high side performed by Checa looked like a throwback (throw up?) from a different era; in fact all the way back to the famous 500cc two-stroke vee-fours of the Grand Prix elite of twenty years ago.
Insiders couldn’t help but wonder if the Checa tumble was in fact caused by an electronic glitch, such was the unusual nature of the location and violence of the fall. Checa was certainly lucky not to get hurt, and his immediate response was to dominate the second race – this is definitely a champ who is not resting on his laurels, let alone crutches.
It was great to see Tom Sykes snatch a podium for team Ninja in race two, after showing so well in pre-race testing and starting the opening races from pole. Sykes’ battle with Biaggi, although unlikely to produce a success for Kawasaki, proved that the Brit is no quitter—it took Biaggi four attempts to actually make a pass stick. However Sykes made his eventual move onto the box at the expense of Ten Kate Honda’s Jonathan Rea.
Rea definitely gets that sideways award from race two, since it was clear that his CBR1000RR wasn’t putting much of the power down late in the race. Last year, Honda made electronics breakthroughs late in the season, but superior traction control wasn’t evident on the works Honda in Australia.
Another strong storyline at the SBK opener was the relative success of the BMW works squad. Entering their fourth season with the S100RR, Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam showed well. New recruit Melandri was a fighting second in the opener, while in race two Haslam was fifth just ahead of his team-mate. Given that Haslam had recently had surgery on his crushed ankle, BMW certainly appears on the upswing heading back to Europe and event two in Imola, Italy at the end of March.
Thursday, 01 March 2012 14:41
This is just a teaser!
Please be patient as you anxiously await the arrival of your next copy of Inside Motorcycles, in which veteran road test editor Colin Fraser reports back from the Ducati Panigale worldwide press launch at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. IM was one of just two Canadian publications invited to the highly anticipated launch of this eagerly awaited model. And we can honestly say that it didn't disappoint.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 15:41