Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1999 03 10

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Buddy Antunez (Suz) swept both nights of racing at the PJl National Arenacross Series in Sacramento, California, February 26-27. Antunez won both the 125 and 250cc Pro classes over the course of the weekend·. Jeromy Buehl (Hon) took runner-up honors twice, while Greg Rand (Kaw) and Lance Smail (KTM) took second place in the other two races. Title contender Jeff Willoh (Hon) suffered a dislocated elbow and will be out of action for four to six weeks. Antunez now enjoys a 92-point lead over Buehl, 901-809. Scott Myers (Yam) won round seven of the Stadium Thunder Bikes Series in EI Paso, Texas, February 27. Chris Ridgeway (Yam) finished second, and Spud Walters (Yam) took third. Ty Davis (Yam) carded the overall win at round two of the AMA/ Acerbis National Enduro Series in Lake Pleasant, Arizona, February 28. The runnerup was Kelby Pepper (Yam), followed by defending champ Mike Lafferty (KTM), Destry Abbott (Kaw), and Nick Pearson (KTM). Following the three-day IRTA Grand Prix test in Jerez, Spain (see page 25), the Marlboro Yamaha team of Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa joined some of the other 500cc and 250cc GP tearns in completing two more days of testing at the Spanish circuit Montmelo, February 23-24. The main thrust of the test, according to Yamaha, was to work on chassis development and to try some new parts to help with the YZR5OO's aerodYJliUllics. By the end of the test, Biaggi turned times equal to those of Kanemoto Honda's John Kocinski - a 1:46.0. "I'm really happy with this test," Biaggi said. "We started yesterday with a few difficulties. It was cold and windy and the track was quite dirty and bumpy. We didn't really find a good balance for the bike. But today the bike f~t very good and I was able to set a good pace." Checa managed to lap at 1:46.9 prior to crashing on the final day. He escaped the tumble without injury. More recently, Biaggi and Checa lowered their previous career bests during a two-day test at Mugello, Italy, February . 27-28. Both Biaggi and Checa improved their qualifying and race times from last year's Italian Grand Prix despite lessthan-ideal weather conditions. It was a dose of optirriism after the pair had struggled a little bit during the previous week's test in Spain. ''I'm much, much happier now," said Biaggi, whose best of 1:53.7 was more than two-tenths of a second inside his qualifying time from the 1998 Italian GP. "I think we could have been another half-second faster if we'd managed to try another couple of ideas. Of course, we still have more work to do, but the main thing i~ that we've found the right direction on chassis setup." .The teammates tested three different chassis at Jerez but both have now gravitated to the same spec chassis, though with different personal settings. The Marlboro-Yamal,as featured small on the front of the YZR500's fairing - a concept designed by an aerodynamics expert from Yamaha-owned Activa Technology. The British-based company is headed by Formula One official Herbie Blash, who volunteered to study the aerodynamics of the YZRSOO. Activa will now test the concept of the wings further in its wind tunnel. Biaggi and Checa continued testing the wings at Mugello, where the wings contributed a useful improvement to high-speed performance. Checa closed to within one- wings ~- 2 tenth of a second of Biaggi's times and lapped one second faster than he managed during quaHfying at Mugello last year. The former Honda rider started his Yamaha test program one month after his teammate had been lagging behind as he accustomed himself to his YZR500s. ''I'm getting used to the bike now - I feel comiortable," said Checa. 'T m getting more feel from the chassis, and every time we make an improvement, I go faster. And I know there's more to come." The team will test twice more before the start of the season at new circuits in Sepang, Malaysia, and Twin Ring Motegi, outside of Tokyo. At the recent secret test of its new Vtwin superbike, Honda also scheduled both Colin Edwards II and Aaron Slight for test rides· on the NSR500, according to Cycle News contributor Paolo Gozzi. While Slight was sidelined with food poisoning, Edwards spent a day riding the two-stroke with a best time of 1:33.6. Mick Doohan's best time hom a January test session at the circuit was 1:32.197. There has been sOme speculation that Honda is in the middle of a process of analysis to determine the direction of its Grand Prix program in light of the fact that lOoocc four-strokes will be introduced to the World Championship Road Racing series in 2001. This test only fueled that speculation, as Honda's leading GP riders have each had the opportunity to ride four-stokes, and now Honda has had its top fourstroke riders ride two-strokes. At Phillip Island, Mick Doohan tested a new version of the NSRSOO, reportedly fitted with a re~ frame using a version of Honda's "pivotless" frame technology, one week prior to the rest of the official HRC rider squad, including his teammate Alex Criville. The five-time World Champion lapped.atl:32.6, nearly a half-second slower than his time of 1:32.197 set at the January test session. Tohru Ukawa tested the all-new NSR250 at Phillip Island, turning in a best time of 1:34.2 in the January IRTA test at the facility. Shinya Nakano's best time on the Yamaha 250 was 1:34.116. Insiders reported that the NSR suffered an engine failure at the test, though HRC has nearly two months to rectify any possible reliability problems prior to the start of the season in Sepang, Malaysia, on April 18. Ukawa's teammate Loris Capirossi did not attend the test, as he is recovering from a broken collarbone, though he was pleased to hear the news from the Australia test. ''I'm so happy," Capirossi said from his Monte Carlo home. "Now I know that Honda will bring me a winning bike to challenge my former bike, the Aprilia. My fracture is already okay, and I'm under rehabilitation. I will be able to test the NSR250 for the first time March 11-14 at Se1Jang." Mike Brown won his first race iri England in the 125cc class at the Hawkstone Park International on February 28. The Cat Honda rider stormed to two comfortable wins in the 125cc races and also finished 10th in the final race of the day, a super-final featuring the top riders from the 125, 250 and 500cc classes. Brown, who opens his challenge for the British 12Scc title at Canada Heights, England, on March 7, is fast settling into his new team. "Everything's great with the team," Brown said. "Training's going great, and the bikes are good. I can't complain about anything. We have a little bit more suspension and tire testing to do before the first GP. The engine's real good." Brown is also feeling right at Speed 3: Keanu's Excellent Adventure A ctor Keanu Reeves attended the Freddie Spencer High-Performance Riding School at Las Vegas Motor Speedway recently. Here, the star of "Speed" listens intently to what three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer has to say. According to eyewitness reports, Reeves was fast and smooth, and proved to be a quick study. home in England. "It's better for me than the first time I was oil~r in Italy," Brown said. "I speak the language and have the same restaurants here as at home. I'm staying with an English family, and they take real good care of me." Former 250cc World Champion Stefan Everts could return from injury sooner than was first thought after successful surgery to repair ligament damage in his knee. The Belgian underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in his right knee, where it was discovered that the ligaments did not become detached from the. bone, as was first feared, bu t instead suffered a clean break. Everts suffered the injury at the Beaucaire Classic on February 21 when his right knee was twisted as he tried to stop hifnself from crashing on a downhill. Everts' manager, Dave Grant, confirmed that the rider has some movement in the leg and could return to racing by the fifth round of the 250cc World Championship Series in Venezuela in May. Joel Smets is still recovering from the broken arm he sustained prior to the MX des Nations, leaving his ability to defend his /lumber-one plate in the SOOcc class in question. "I cannot ride again until mid-March," Smets said while spectating at the Beaucaire Classic, a race he won last year. '1t all goes back to the arm injury I suffered the week before the Motocross des Nations in September. I was in pain while I was riding the ISDE (where he won his class), but it was not until the turn of the year, alter I had been to Finland to ride snowmobiles, that the reason was discovered. Although the break had been plated, there was no calcium growth on the fracture, and I have been in plaster for six weeks. It is fortunate for me that the series starts slowly, with the seventh of 13 GPs not until July. If I holeshot at the first round in France, I will be expecting otller riders to come past me." The new factory four-stroke KTMs made their race debut at Beaucaire, but they were still using Husaberg heads and cases. "This is a first-generation motor," explained team manager Kurt Nicoll. "We will have pure KTM engines within two weeks." A 35mmdiameter (instead of 22mm) front axle aids the stability of the 48mm WP forks used on the bike. In other world motocross news, Gert Jan Van Doorn, who retired from the sport alter 17 years of racing GPs, is on the comeback trail, lured into action to race the Vertemati, which will be rechristened the VOR next week. And Avo Leok, the Estonian privateer who won the first 500cc MX GP of 1997 on a Kawasaki, has signed te:> ride a 380cc KTM for a German KTM dealer. Longtime dirt tracker Mickey Fay suffered serious injury while racing in an indoor short track in Pasco, Washington, on February 19. Fay suffered a broken pelvis, a ruptured bladder, a broken collarbone and five broken ribs. He has also undergone several blood transfusions and has had problems with blood clotting. According to Fay's father-inlaw, Patrick Lyons, Fay was moved from Pasco to a hospital in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday, February 24, to be closer to his home. The FIM has issued a Wess release regarding the news stqry that broke in Cycle News two weeks ago regarding four-strokes taking over as the lead class in Grand Prix road racing in 2001 . The release states: "At the end of January, the FIM was approached by all the motorcycle manufacturer memb~rs of the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association in or.der to propose the introduction of racing machines equipped with fourstroke engines in the 50Dcc class of the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix as from year 2001. Following this meeting, the FIM asked its concerned commissions to evaluate the technical conditions of such a change. The FIM will then convene a consultation meeting with all its concerned commercial partners (Dorna, SKK International, Action Group International) in order to reach an adequate new rule. This meeting will take place in March. On the occasion of the Japanese Grand Prix, FIM president Francesco Zerbi will meet with the chief executives of all the manufacturers involved in ord~ to discuss this major technical change in the motorcycle competition. This change should receive a broad approval of all the parties concerned." According to informed sources in Europe, the most likely scenario for the change in the Grand Prix class is that some form of an equivalency formula will be introduced that would protect current two-stroke investments for some companies. It is most likely that a for-

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