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Motorcycle News

Issue 34, 17.3.00
Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin won the most prestigious road race in America last weekend, in the second closest finish ever in the history of the Daytona 200.

"It's good to win it", the 28-year-old Australian, and defending American Motorcyclist Champion, said. "I've got an AMA championship and now I've got Daytona. Although they're not calling me Mr Daytona yet, it's good to win it because it is America's biggest race. Hopefully we can win a few more before I retire."

Mladin had qualified a very close second for the 200-mile race, which he finished in second last year by a scant 0.014 seconds. During the race, the only one in America which features pit stops and tire changes, Mladin was always at or near the front, due in part to the quick work of the pit crew.

Like last year, the race came down to the final lap with Mladin emerging on top this year in a scintillating finish over 18-year-old Nicky Hayden (Hon). The final margin of victory was 0.011 seconds.

"I looked at that yellow line, and all I could see was Nicky's wheel and that yellow line and I knew we got it", said Mladin. The victory was the first for Suzuki since Kevin Schwantz, Suzuki's former 500cc World Champion, won it in 1988. Schwantz has returned to the team as an advisor this year and cheered on Mladin from the pit lane of Daytona International Speedway.

1. Mat Mladin (Suz) 2. Nicky Hayden (Hon) 3. Doug Chandler (Kaw) 4. Miguel DuHamel (Hon) 5. Aaron Yates (Suz) 6. Steve Rapp (Duc) 7. Tommy Hayden (Yam) 8. Eric Bostrom (Kaw) 9. Pascal Picotte (H-D) 10. Larry Pegram (Duc)

Cycle Tours USA, out of Australia, is running a trip to this year's Sturgis Rally in August which happens to be the event's 60th anniversary. The tour includes visits to both the Harley and Buell factories, take in the casinos and nightlife of Las Vegas, a stopover in Los Angeles and a visit to some of the world's most famous Harley shops in San Francisco. Call (03) 9770 9900 for an info pack.

Ducati has started road testing its replacement for the 916/996 series, called the 999. This time around the machine is styled by Pierre Terblanche, who was responsible for the MH900e. Expect to see the result at this September's Munich Show. Meanwhile the company had a record sales year in 1999, with 33,124 bikes finding new homes.

The Paul Feeney Group - which does Cagiva and MV in Australia - recently launched its internet effort, which can be found at www.cagiva.com.au.

Continuing with the web theme, Ducati has announced that it is increasing the finance and development of its web presence after the run-away success of the limited edition MH900e Hailwood, which sold 2000 bikes exclusively on the internet in a week.

A number of other manufacturers are now talking of web sales, once they work out how to sell direct and still maintain a profitable dealer support network. The practice is widespread in the car industry in the USA. Autobytel, which sells exclusively on the web, is America's second-largest car dealer.

Mike Hailwood's widow is reported to be unimpressed with Ducati's use of the Hailwood name on its recent model, warning that future use of the name will need to be licensed.

Several manufacturers worldwide are talking once again of a voluntary performance limit for motorcycles, following a ruckus in Europe over machines such as Honda's Blackbird, Suzuki's Hayabusa and Kawasaki's ZX-R12 with their attendant 300kmh headlines. Some Euro governments have made noises about legislated limits.

Bikes will be speed limited to 300kmh in 2001, according to UK MCN, with lower limits to follow. A similar voluntary limit - of 130hp  or 100kW - was tried with doubtful success over ten years ago.

Ducati's 996 replacement, the 999, is currently undergoing road tests in Europe. No pics are available yet, but we can expect to see a showing of the final thing at this September's Milan show.

Robbie Kneivel, son of accident-prone stunt man Evel, has recently managed to jump a moving train lengthways and land again in one piece. The stunt was performed in Texas.

Annie at Snow View Holiday units in Victoria's Mt Beauty has told us that she has a special deal for motorcyclists that includes good accommodation for $30 per head a night. A Triumph Thunderbird owner, she has plenty of advice to offer on the excellent riding in the area and can be reached at e-mail snowview@mtbeauty.albury.net.au.

We forgot to mention the fortunes of another Australian racer in the recent Daytona 200. Troy Bayliss, mounted on a Vance & Hines Ducati, crashed on lap 35 while dicing for the lead.

Kiwi world superbike championship rider Aaron Slight is on the mend after surgery to correct a brain injury. He says he now feels better than he has for two years and feels the problem effected his performance in 1999. Don't expect to see him back on a bike just yet, but he's home and definitely on the mend.

In Slight's absence, the ride on the Castrol Honda VTR has gone to fellow Kiwi and former GP rider Simon Crafar. We can't think of a more deserving person.

This weekend's world MX round at Broadford (Vic) has been boosted with the news that the venue will host the second round - and all three classes - on April 22, 2001.

Kevin Schwantz, the Texan who took out the 1993 world 500GP championship, is rounding out his NASCAR and truck-racing career with a ride in this August's Australian Safari on a Suzuki DR-Z400.

The Outsider
A new occasional column from a GP insider

The 500cc GP World Champ is ill. Or is he? According to the latest press releases World Champion Alex Criville is as fit as a fiddle, or is he?

Criville collapsed at the HRC test at Phillip Island at the end of the first of a three day test. Mind you the first day was pretty casual, it rained most of the morning and the track wasn't dry enough to use until about three o'clock. So Alex didn't actually do a lot of testing before collapsing.

What was not widely known is that he collapsed in Spain prior to the Valencia GP. And then he has apparently collapsed in Spain three weeks prior to the latest fall down at Phillip Island.

The press releases that followed the collapse at Phillip Island came from two sources, neither of which were at the track. Dorna Communications, the PR arm of the management company that run everything GP and Maria Vidal Quadras, the Honda-Repsol Team PR lady.

So these releases had Alex having a fainting fit caused by stomach problems or digestive problems or a virus.

Outsider knows a bit about stomach and digestive problems having digested quite a lot over the years, and I haven't fainted once, ever. Got the shits, thrown up and just generally felt like crap, sure, but fainted, not this little black duck.

So Alex shot through back to Spain, after a quick look at the inside of the Epworth Hospital in Melbourne. Once back in Spain Alex went to his own doctor, someone more likely to have a very unbiased view on the overall health of the current World Champ and hero of the moment in Spain.

The releases then said the same thing , kind of. His team release says "The World Champion went through an exhaustive medical examination, confirming that his fainting fit was only due to physical and mental stress and that this will not prevent him from carrying on with his racing career. The medicines prescribed together with some rest will let Criville soon be fully fit to race."

The Dorna release, "...500 World Champion Alex Criville's health is in perfect condition and will be able to be on the starting grid of the first GP of the 2000 season in South Africa" according to the official medical report released on Tuesday in Barcelona (Spain).

Criville's personal doctor, Josep A Gutierrez, explained that after intense medical examination and analysis he had found that the reason for Criville's sudden faint in Australia last week was stress.

"He has no organical or functional problems", Doctor Gutierrez concluded. "All checks have shown Alex Criville is ready for joining immediately to his sporting activities."

Physical and mental stress?! One at a time...

Physical stress: after flying in business or first class from Europe to Australia for a day and then going to sit around at some low rent hotel to get over jet lag for a day or two at Phillip Island before watching the rain come down and then dry out while at the track for six hours doesn't sound to stressful to me. Boring as shit, yes, but stressful ...

Mental stress: sure there are the pressures of being a world champ in a country that hasn't had a 500 Champ before - especially a country such as Spain. But mental stress - wouldn't you see a shrink and learn how to cope better?

Medicines for stress? Usually antidepressants - if you are stressed out, you need calming down, yes? Have a few downers before hopping on a 500? Talk about going from one extreme to the other...

And then he has collapsed before. Twice. Honda, as is its way, had no one to handle any spin control at the track, after all it was a private test. Apparently Alex has to have a letter from his doctor saying that he is okay before they will let him back on a bike, which is fair enough. You can't go hurtling towards turn one at any GP track and collapse in the saddle. It's not a good look.

So why did he collapse, three times? I don't know and if anyone does they aren't saying, and you definetly won't hear about it from the Spanish PR machine.

Let's all just hope that it is nothing and that it doesn't happen again, especially while hurtling towards turn one, anywhere.

The Outsider



Issue 33, 10.3.00

MOBIL HAS come forward with confirmation of problems with premium unleaded petrol from its Altona (Vic) plant, shortly after an extended drama with its avgas. The fuel "may cause a deterioration in the effectiveness of engine lubrication in certain cars", according to a company statement. There have been no reported incidents with motorcycles, so far.

  The problems came to light recently when a small number of Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars suffered uncharacteristic engine problems that were eventually traced back to the fuel. Mobil says the culprit is a high level of diolefin -- a compound used to boost octane levels. The fuel affected was distributed for up to two years among Mobil, Caltex, BP and independant outlets in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria up until last February 15.

  The cars concerned were all very late models (up to 18 months old) and so far number 43. All had travelled in excess of 10,000km since their last oil change, and most had done 20,000-30,000km. It is suggested by the company that motorcycles are unlikely to be victims, given their generally lower fuel consumption and shorter oil change intervals.

  Mobil spokesperson Samantha Potts explained to us that the fuel could contaminate the lubricating oil of an engine, changing it to a thick sludge. "It's easy to detect...you just need to look at the oil," she advised, "It looks broken down, or thickened in some way."

  BMW cars and Mercedes are writing to several thousand of their customers, asking them to take their vehicles in for a check and oil change. Mobil is paying the costs for that exercise and the repairs to the 43 damaged cars.

  Calls to three major Australian motorcycle distributors to day reveealed that none had reports of any problems.

  The company has a news release published on the web, at www.mobil.com.au and asks people with any questions to call its customer line on tel 1800 557 654. We suggest an immediate oil change if you happen to be running PULP.

AUSTRALIA'S MOST successful motorcycle club, assuming voluntary membership numbers is the criteria, is the Ulysses Club for the over-40s. Member number one Stephen Dearnley has published a very readable history of the organisation, which can be had for $14 including postage from The Ulysses Club, PO Box 122 Bargo, 2574. Proceeds go to the Arthritis Foundation.

THE WORLD MX GP at Broadford (Vic, Australia) on March 18-19 is looking for officials/marshals. Call (03) 5192 4311. That's also the number to dial for tickets.

Sydneysiders should remember to listen to the Ride Rage radio show, 2.00-4.00pm, Mondays, Radio 2RRR, 88.5mhz.

FROM THE Formula Xtreme promoters: two 214hp (167kW) missiles head the Formula Xtreme Tri-State entry list at Eastern Creek Raceway on April 1-2.

  The two Suzuki New Zealand Hayabusas, racing under the Action Motorcycles banner, are in the hands of seasoned New Zealand championship chargers Brian Bernard and John Hepburn. Reigning Formula Xtreme champion, R1-mounted Kevin Curtain, reckons, "Just because they've got heaps of horsepower doesn't mean they're going to walk away with the Formula Xtreme crown. We'll just wait and see what happens." .

DUCATI IN Oz has gained a good response to its down-spec 748 which retails for $19,995 -- $3000 less than the Strada. The machine runs basically the same chassis and powerplant as the more expensive version, but drops the adjustable steering head and gets by with less exotic suspension. The company reckons it now has a modest waiting time on its hands.

West's Way
Anthony West interview
Australian teenager Anthony West is about to commence his second year of racing in the 250cc motorcycle world championship, starting with the South African Grand Prix at Welkom on March 19.
The 18-year-old from Queensland's Gold Coast finished a creditable 12th in his debut year of 250cc grand prix racing in 1999 riding a production-based Shell Advance Honda TSR250 fitted with factory kit-parts. He finished in the top 10 on eight occasions and his best result was sixth in the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring.
This year West will again ride for the Shell Advance Honda team, but moves up to a NSR250 with a similar level of performance as the machines raced by frontrunners in the class. His team-mate will again be Japan's Tohru Ukawa, who was second in the 1999 championship, riding another NSR250.

Q: What are your aims for 2000?
AW: To win my first grand prix, and be competitive and consistent in every race. This year Honda is giving me the chance to ride a NSR250 so I'm in a position to move closer to the front than last season. I'm fortunate because not many my riders my age get to ride an NSR250, but I'm not taking anything for granted - just because I've got an NSR250 doesn't guarantee anything. On paper it's a better motorcycle than what I've had before, but there are more things to learn with bike set-up. I'll have to work hard to get the most out of the equipment.

Q: Who do you expect the frontrunners will be in this year's 250cc world championship?
AW: It's going to be different to '99 because (Valentino) Rossi, (Loris) Capirossi, and Jeremy McWilliams have gone to 500s. My team-mate (Tohru) Ukawa is one of the favourties for the championship, (Marco) Melandri should go well on the Aprilia, along with (Shinya) Nakano on the Yamaha if he's consistent. (Daijiro) Katoh has won 250 races for Honda before so he's fast. I respect all the top riders, but no one is unbeatable.

Q: Are there any changes in the Shell Advance Honda team this year?
AW: There are three new mechanics, and they all have a lot of experience. Jeff Hardwick is back as team manager and Clyde Wolfenden is my crew chief again. Clyde and I work well together. He understands how I like to set up the bike so everything should come together okay. The biggest change for me is I'm racing a different bike (NSR250). Ukawa will be my yardstick because he's also on a NSR250. If I can work my way up to his lap times I should be competitive because he's one of the guys you expect to see at the front. The team has moved its base from Belgium to Spain this year.

Q: Outline what are you doing in the off-season to prepare for the 2000 season?
AW: I'm doing fitness six days a week under a professional trainer (Miles Browning) at the Institute of Sport in Brisbane. I get up at 4.00am, drive to Brisbane, and we do two-and-a-half hours of supervised work. It's a combination of weights and running about 80 km a week. Some days we run 28 km non-stop, with 400-metre sprints every 10 minutes, and other times we mix it up with swimming. There is a group of about 25 of us training together. I'm the only motorcycle rider ­ the others are footballers and triathletes. The weight training is good for my upper-body strength, and other aspects of the program improve my endurance. Honda Australia has given me a CR250 motocross bike for training, and that's also good for fitness.

Q: Why do you rate fitness as such an important aspect if your preparation for racing?
AW: I saw how Mick Doohan prepared himself, and how he trained every day. I realised I'd have to do that if I wanted to be where he was. Mick's fitness meant he could put in quick laps at the end of a race and that makes a difference. My pre-season training is different to last year when I boxed and rode a bicycle. At the time I couldn't run because I'd broken my leg and it had a metal rod in it. My father (Tony West) was a boxer. I still box, because it's good for your reflexes, but not as much as before.

Q: Do you have any special diet?
AW: Nothing really specific. I eat mostly fresh fruit, vegetables, and pasta, and drink heaps of water. I never eat takeaway food or deserts, or drink soft-drinks.

Q: The first grand prix of 2000 is at Welkom in South Africa ­ what do you think of the track?
AW: It was new for last season's grand prix. There was dust on the surface and it was slippery if you got off the racing line. This year there should be more rubber, better grip, and more (racing) lines.

Q: What were the main things you learned in your debut grand prix year in 1999?
AW: It was good to get experience on tracks that were new to me. In '99 season the only grand prix tracks I'd raced on were Phillip Island (Australia) and Twin-Ring Motegi (Japan). This year I'm in a better position because I've raced everywhere except Le Mans (France) and Estoril (Portugal). The data and bike set-up information from '99 won't be any use because I'm on a different machine this year, but at least I'll know which way the track goes. Last season I used to go for a run around each circuit before practice started so I knew what to expect when I got on the bike.

Q: Were you satisfied with your performances in 1999?
AW: Last year was a fantastic opportunity for me to get into grand prix racing which is an important step forward. I'm thankful to Shell Australia and Jeff Hardwick for giving me the chance to be part of a successful team and the support I had from Honda. At my age, and with no previous grand prix experience, you couldn't have expected any more so I was grateful for everything that came my way. My aim in '99 was to try and finish in the top 10, and I was able to do that in more than half the races. We didn't have qualifying speed, so I concentrated on getting the best possible race set-up and learning as much as I could. The things I learnt in '99 will help me this year.

Q: How did you adapt to the different languages, lifestyle, and cultures in Europe in 1999?
AW: It's a big change from Australia when you go to Europe. My mother (Pam West) travelled with me. We lived in our motorhome and drove to the races. I think we got lost in every country we went to. The roads are different and sometimes we would end up in streets you couldn't even turn around in. This year will be easier because we will know what to expect. In many countries you can only drink bottled water and you have to watch what you eat. We will live in the motorhome again this year.

Q: What are your favourite grand prix tracks?
AW: I liked Assen (Netherlands) the best of the tracks in Europe. It's got long straights with kinks, rather than bends, and when you ride through them you've got the bike banked over and you're tucked under the screen. Suzuka (Japan) is also a good track, and I've been there a few times. Phillip Island (Australia) is another place I enjoy racing at.

Q: How do you relax in the off-season?
AW: I don't go out much late at night because I have to get up early most days for training. I like to ride my (Honda CR250) motocross bike or go jet-skiing. I've also got a HSV Holden Commodore with a 5.7-litre V8 engine with a ëtrick' stereo system. Heavy metal is my favourite music.

Q: Are you interested in other forms of motorsport?
AW: I like to watch dirt-track and motocross when I'm home. This month I went for a ride (as a passenger) in a Holden Commodore V8 touring car with Paul Morris ­ that was a lot of fun. It's got 600-horsepower and you can feel the power. I'd like to race one of those cars one day.

Q: When did you start riding motorcycles?
AW: My father bought me a Suzuki JR50 when I was five years old. We lived in Hervey Bay (north of Brisbane) and I rode it around the backyard and in a vacant block across the road. I rode that bike until it was too small for me. Then we moved to the Gold Coast and I got a Suzuki RM80 motocross bike. My parents wouldn't let me race it because they thought motocross was too dangerous!

Q: How did your racing career begin?
AW: In '93 I started racing dirt-track around the Gold Coast, and then we travelled all over Queensland and New South Wales. I won two Australian dirt-track titles in '96 ­ we raced 44 weekends that year. Dirt track is good preparation for road racing because you learn throttle control. You're always going sideways and getting out of control in dirt-track, so you're used to it when you go road racing.

Q: What prompted you to get into road racing?
AW: My coach for many years, Bernie Hatton, was into road racing and one day he gave me a ride on a Yamaha TZR250 at Lakeside (Raceway north of Brisbane). I liked the extra speed straight away. I wanted to do something after dirt-track and road racing seemed the thing to do. Soon after I bought a Honda RS125 and practised on it at Lakeside ­ I wasn't allowed to race it because I was too young.

Q: Have you set any long-term goals?
AW: I've always wanted to race 500s, and that's something I'm planning for. However, right now I'm just thinking about doing the best job I can this year, and to make the most of the chance I've got on the NSR250. The most important thing is to get the most out of myself and the motorcycle, and hopefully win some races.
Mike Porter

Issues 31 & 32

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Article by Guy Allen

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