Rossi Strikes Back

Last night I went round to a bike riding mate’s place and watched a GP race that totally restored my interest and faith in the vitality and health of the Grand Prix bike racing scene, much to my relief.

The season has been shaping up wickedly, the wins have been shared across a number of front runners, and now that we’re half way through its still a close thing between the top three bikes (Rossi, Stoner and Pedrosa)

So its not like we’ve got anything to complain about, the races have been entertaining, lots of thrills and spills, but it’s started to look suspiciously like team Ducati and their top rider Australian Casey Stoner might be getting their act together to the point where they would dominate the rest of the season just the way they did last year.

I’ve got nothing against Ducati winning, Honda and Yamaha have had their fair share of dominance, but noone wants to see a total walk-away season win, and Stoner being 20secs out the front just doesnt make for entertaining watching.

And to be honest I just can’t warm to Stoner, he doesnt have that crazy, cavalier, accessible persona other riders have, and he definately doesnt posses the charisma of the likes of Valentino Rossi.

Which brings me back to last nights race.

Stoner had qualified well and seemed a shoe-in to win if he got out in front early. Rossi was having none of that, he totally put it out there fully commiting to getting in front of the Ducati and staying there. He and Stoner duked it out for the first 10 laps, some awesome passing manouvers, we were roaring with vicariously adrenalised delight in Paul’s lounge as one crazy pass followed another.

Rossi the more aggressive passing and more defensive once he got in front, Stoner decided he’d sit in and watch from behind and bide his time, ran wide a few laps from the end and dumped the bike in the gravel, but remounted and amazingly still took 2nd place on the podium.

Rossi and Stoner were just in a different league out front, not to take anything away from the awesome performances from the likes of Vermuelen, Dovizioso and Spies, but the leading pair may as well have been in their own race. It was the greatest battle of this season, or last, and its been on my mind all day as a totally awesome racing hilight. Here’s hoping we get more of it.

Bike Test – Kawasaki ZX10r 2006

19062008352.jpgWhen I’d been shopping around for a bike 3 years ago I rode a few middle-weight machines of various makes that all really impressed me. But then I made the fatal mistake of letting Heath from Hamilton Motorcycles talk me into jumping on a ZX10R. Fatal because it made all the other bikes pale totally into insignificance. The relatively outrageous power, aggressive looks and edgyish handling of the ’05 ZX10 pretty much spoilt the whole testing exercise for the other bikes that had preceded it on the menu.

I ended up buying my 954 Blade and don’t regret it for a second. But now that I’m lookin for a change and after being tainted by a ZX10R experience in the past I had this lingering desire to throw a leg over the newer 06/07 shape as a comparison and realistic option.

I took out the ’06 one currently on the floor at Waikato Yamaha, after having just ridden an R6 they’d recently traded, knowing full well there would be that same overpowering effect of the Kwaka over the middleweight, but to be honest I had an inkling the R6 wasn’t gonna work out even though I really do love the things.

Dave fired up the Kwaka inside the shop much to my acoustic delight. The machine they have is fitted with a pair of Micron aftermarket cans and by Jesus it sounds like a substantial piece of kit. Not spinning up as quickly as a 600 but the initial bark and subsequent grumble as it idled coarsely out the door to the workshop for a fuel-up was bloody impressive to say the least.

Onto the bike and easing the clutch out gingerly for manoeuvres onto Te Rapa straight and north out of town I was kinda wary of the beast beneath to be honest. You hear lots of criticism from self-proclaimed hard bastards about how Kawasaki took all the character out of the 04/05 model when the 06 one came out, but lets face it, there’s really no room for complacency when your sitting on a 160 rear-wheel horsepower and a pair of cold tyres.

Out through Te Kowhai, south to Whatawhata, and down the Waipa a little towards Te Pahu and by now I’m starting to get my head around the 10. And by Christ I’m loving it. More urgency than my Blade of course but the same order of magnitude of behaviour really. On a couple of occasions the front lofted during 2nd gear roll-ons, probably a third-throttle if that, but they were at times when I knew I was squeezing on a little more than usual and if you’ve got any throttle control at all there’s really no problem keeping the front wheel on the ground.

The Ten has a beautiful smooth delivery of arse-shoving grunt, still has that incredible big-bore rush of the ’04 model, but its definately spread a little further out across the rev range. Tipping it into a corner was a cinch, I was kinda expecting it to not be as easy as the Blade but it turns in without effort, feels light to the touch as you alter angle and seems very easy to change the pitch mid-corner with a little more or less throttle or a bit of counter steer.

The brakes are good and progressive, but what else would you expect from any modern bike these days. The ergonomics felt comfortable for me, the engine note is glorious, the styling I like, and its GREEN which is a bonus (I’m a closet Kwaka fan having owned them in the past). It has to be said that overall its a bloody great piece of kit that has handling and responsive performance to boot in a package that doesn’t feel too intimidating to someone used to managing a few ponies.

Would I buy it. Definitely. But first I’ve got a couple of other machines to try to satisfy my curiosity.

Bike Test – Yamaha R6 ’07

For about 6 months now I’ve been gearing up for a bike replacement, buying magazines, reading website reviews and watching umpteen videos on YouTube. The domestic accountant finally authorised the spending and for the last few weeks now I’ve been waiting for the right day, conditions and opportunity to either sneak away from home for the day on the weekend or get some time off work to finally get out and test some bikes.

Today I took my chance. Beautiful clear blue winters day, a little on the cold side in the morning, warming up a bit by midday and the roads were dry. This was it. Took the afternoon off and went to three of the bike-shops in Hamilton to ride the machines I thought best suited my needs. Following is a review of the 1st bike I took out, the others to follow in coming days…

yamaha r6

Yamaha R6 ’07

Back in 2004 I took an as-new R6 out from Jason at Waikato Yamaha and absolutely loved the thing. I’d been riding a Kwaka ZX7R at the time and the nimble, free-revving, crazy little 600 was a real breath of fresh air for me at the time. Things have moved on a lot technologically since then with the R6, but the new model still shares that light handling rev-head character that rewards a rider happy to keep the engine above 10,000rpm.

Apart from the top-end fun, the thing I loved the most about the 04 R6 was the Superman like position of feeling like your looking over the nose of the bike. The 07 R6 seems much the same, it almost disappears beneath you which is weird at first but quickly you forget about the machine and occasionally you catch yourself thinking that your actually flying along the tarmac and not attached to a motorcycle at all. This is what riding a bike is all about to me, being in the moment like that, and it seems so easy on the R6.

For what looks like a wee bike there’s a ton of room on the seat, and it actually felt like it needed a Dani Pedrosa style rubber stopper on the arse end to stop me sliding about.

The engine spins up effortlessly (sometimes actually over-running on shifts with the clutch) but it suprisingly didnt take long to get into the habit of keeping it revving, however it really still is a little breathless when your not working it and would make for some sweaty passing manouvers for a lazy bugger like me who’s used to the beefy torque of a big-bore machine.

The only other gripe I had (which could have been to do with suspenstion setup I guess) was the front end got a little unstable on the gas in the rough stuff a few times when exiting corners. Would just feel like it was unsettled and not holding contact with the road, although to be fair its at times when you pretty much know you’re actively doing something which might cause it.

All up the R6 is still a wicked fun bike, would be a fantastic machine to step up to, and would clearly make a killer track-bike, but I’m not confident I could do without the midrange, and I’m really in the market for something that can also double as a commuter which it probably aint aimed at. Great bike, just still not for me.

Vee Eights!!! Vee Eights!!! Vee Eights!!!

V8 supercars

Well its all over, the V8 supercars event has been and gone from Hamilton, and thank God coz I really dont think all this drinking during the day for three days malarky is sustainable for old folks like me any more.

What a bloody awesome event!!!

I took Friday off, and being the late starter that I am made my way round to Vike’s by about 11am. He had a pre-poured Rum-n-coke waiting patiently for me, we gargled a couple of those and hit the pavement for the short walk across the bridge to Frankton. Friday was practice day, no racing, but you wouldnt have known it based on the noise on the track and the number of punters in the stands.

Saturday and Sunday were race days, and apart from the well advertised big boy V8 Supercars class there was also a bunch of other awesome support events. NZ V8s, Porsches, Minis, Toyota single seaters, and in between loads of petrol-head targetted entertainment like drag-cars, stunt motorbikes and of course lycra clad grid girls and dancers.

Kym was keen on the GT3 Porches (fast, sexy, expensive to crash) coz Mitre10 Mega sponsors young Daniel Gaunt who did well finishing in the top 10 in all three races over the weekend with a respectable 3rd-overall for the event.

I was keener on the Grid-girls. I forgot to take my binoculars on Saturday but put them to good use on Sunday as far as critiquing the outfits and haircuts the girls were presenting. Vike, Woodster and I took a number of glancing blows from Kym when caught out being less than subtle. Apparently grunting and poking each other in the ribs and pointing with one hand while holding binos with the other is not acceptable adult behavior.

When it was all over on Sunday night I actually felt kinda bummed out, like when you leave a multi-day music festival, or head home from a great holiday or someit. But the thing that picked me up again was planning how to tackle the event next year when it rolls back into town. One dilemma is deciding whether or not to tear yourself away from the track action to check out the stalls, demos and stuff outside the racing itself. No regrets how time was split this year, but may check out more of the off-track action next year.