One of the coolest things about racing motorcycles professionally is the anticipation of the year ahead. New bikes, teams, riders moving around etc, etc… its a new playing field. Everyone goes into that first event with positive vibes and hoping that any work they have done in the offseason will power them through the year.
Watching that first race from Philip Island last week proved one thing if we didn’t know it already, Jonathan Rea is still the measuring stick in WSBK. I think everyone will have their hands absolutely full with a team that is used to winning and makes it seem so easy. Ok, the races themselves are tough work but the preparation put in prior to the event seems so effortless for Jonathan’s side of the garage. Being lucky enough to ride his bike last year and interact with his team I don’t see that #1 plate going anywhere in 2016.
The races played out a lot like how I predicted they would with a couple surprises. Chaz Davies will be there all year long on the Ducati. The bike looked better to me then it did last year, easier to ride and not so much movement late in the races. This was also cemented by Giugliano’s 3rd place in race 2. My only concern for Chaz is that he doesn’t throw valuable points away late in races like he did at PI. It was small crashes last year that put him behind the 8 ball early and when you have a team like Rea’s you just can’t give them that advantage. Collecting podiums and running up your point total is so important in the first half of the year so you can make a solid run at the Championship towards the end of the season.
One of the big stories coming in was Nicky Hayden and how he would transition to WSBK. I still believe in Nicky wholeheartedly, maybe I am biased because of my friendship with him but I know how hard he works. I think if you were to ask him, he would say his performance was about a B. He was there in both races but I sure would have liked to see him finish race 2 with a podium. Tire issues in Race 1 held him back in the second half of the race, so to see that his team was able to make adjustments for race 2 and keep the tires under him a bit better was encouraging. For as uncompetitive as everyone thought the Honda would be, it showed strong at PI. This could be because of how much PI flows. Once they reach some tracks with Stop and Go types of corners we will see if the Honda is capable.
I’ve said for two years that Michael Van de Mark is the real deal and this could be his breakout season. HIs motivation has to be high with Nicky is the garage stall next to him and if they have updated the Honda at all this will only help his confidence. When I watch him, I can help but think that he truly isn’s scared of anything and will do what it takes to win. Winning Suzuka 2 times for Honda will keep him in there good graces for years to come so I feel he is riding stress free and not worried about his future, that goes a long way for a rider.
Yamaha’s debut was what I thought it would be. I think they will struggle all year if I am being honest. The bike handles well but struggles in a few areas compared to a couple of the other brands. Josh Brooks took the Yamaha to the BSB title last year and made it look easy. That said, the rules in BSB really cater to the Yamaha. The power delivery and nimbleness of that bike suited the tracks in England and having no traction control was an advantage for the Yam. I believe they lose their advantage once electronics start playing into the fray. Other manufactures can control their power and make there bikes more ridable once electronics are introduced. I think former World Champion Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes will show some good results here and there but they are another year away from getting that bike near its dominance it showed in BSB.
I enjoyed BEIN sports pre and post race coverage. I know some don’t have the network but if you can get it, do it. They do a great job of covering the events and having Moto GP, WSBK and MotoAmerica races all on the same network is a really good thing moving forward for race fans here in America.
I have been really busy as of late and things are still coming together for 2016. Our 1on1 programs have all been selling out and it is really fun being able to create a more intimate learning environment, so easy to get to the root of any problems people are having. In the past few weeks I have been joined by Corey Alexander, James Rispoli, Benny Solis, Wyatt Farris and Michael Gilbert – quite the crew. Also, we have a very special JP43 Training event on March 21-22. We are limiting these days to 15 people so that the quality track time can be high. I have been attending the CVMA club races the past few months and our March event leads right into that. It has been very rewarding seeing the success of so many of our students on those weekend.
Please go to starmotorcycle.com to see if there is an event coming up that fits into your schedule. Whether its a STAR school or JP43 Training Days we have something for everyone.