• The end of the 100bhp law in France and insurers profiteering

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    Since the advent of time, or in the context of this article, since the creation of the motorcycle, for every product invented, there have always been companies and individuals who have striven to improve upon the standard item. In the case of motorbikes this has generally been by way of performance in either handling, weight loss, or power output. The goal of making a good thing better isn’t unique to motorbikes of course, it’s a methodology applied to virtually everything you care to mention, and is the driver for the world and how its technology advances. Take an idea and improve it, and over time we get better and better machines (motorbikes in this case), and our life becomes easier and better as we take advantage of these advances, but in France, there has been a limit to how far that advancement has been allowed to progress. I’m talking here about how the French government has stifled the motorcycle industry for over three decades through the imposition and enforcement of its iniquitous 100bhp limit for motorcycles.

    For those of you who don’t live in La Belle France and have been riding for years on machines of ever increasing horsepower, you may not be aware that up until this year, those of us who do live in France, have been deprived of the “right” to ride a motorbike with a bhp figure greater than 100.  The H2 Kawasaki and it’s 220bhp has been but a dream for us. IF we could buy one here it would only have 100bhp. Imagine that if you can? Buying a rocketship but only being allowed to ride it with less than half its power. Take that back a step and it gets worse when you consider that we can’t even have a full power relatively small engined 600 like an R6, as its 120bhp has been verboten. We can buy one and will pay the full retail price for it (another bugbear as the French don’t seem to understand the concept of discounts), but it will have been restricted in performance by any number of mechanical or electrical means. “Why would you pay full price for a castrated bike you ask?”  Well simply put, there hasn’t been any option. Back in 1984 the French decided that speed was a major influence in accidents, deeming that the more powerful the bike and the faster it went, the more likely you would be to be involved in an accident, so they decided that if they restricted power to 100bhp, and consequently speed, this would help prevent accidents.

    In the UK if you’re old enough, you may remember MAG lobbying Brussels to ensure that the UK didn’t implement the same policy? They were successful in halting the implementation of this hated legislation and you should be grateful to them, as for the past 32 years the French have been forced to ride bikes that might on paper make 160bhp, will cost them the same as your identical bike with 160bhp, but are only allowed to have acceess to 62.5% of that power, because somebody decided long ago that it was good for you and the French accident statistics. The Swiss for a time also had restrictions on power but later revoked the limits, an action that unfortunately wasn’t replicated across the border here.

    Over the years French bikers protested against this restriction and had a strong legal case, as it was in effect a restriction on the passage and sale of goods within the EU, and contrary to one of the supposedly fundamental benefits of EU membership. The motorcycle manufacturers argued that there were additional costs incurred in restricting the power of bikes sold in France and that those bikes would be unable to be sold outside that country, as no-one would buy something inferior to the same item sold elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, such was the furore that Brussels told France to drop the restriction, but the French government  basically said screw you, and happily paid the fines Brussels subsequently imposed on them, in order to keep the law on their statutes. Despite countless studies done throughout the world showing that speed was NOT the main cause of accidents, and that there was no correlation in the power of a motorbike and speed related accident statistics, they buried their heads in the sand and ignored everyone and everything and continued paying the fines, whilst the public continued to lobby for equality and legality in application of a supposedly Europeanwide law,which would have rid them of the unjustified horsepower shackles.

    The whole situation is made even less understandable when you realise that in France it’s legal to ride a moped from the age of 14. This creates a youth who become mobile at an extremely early age, but whom also become accomplished riders very early in life compared to other nationalities. Ride or drive in France, and you will find car drivers move over to let bikers pass. This is something seen in very few countries as elsewhere bikers seem to have developed an unwarranted bad boy image, perhaps harking back to the bad press of  the mods and rockers days in the UK, and the gang activities of the Hells Angels. The likelihood in France though, is that this courtesy comes from drivers having started their own mobility as a youth on a moped and knowing what it takes to ride bikes and to stay alive, so they look after their own, and it’s something that ought to be recognised, applauded, and copied worldwide, in order to promote better understanding and safety on our roads.

    Back to restricted power outputs, and here’s a great example of how crazy things used to be. I worked in Germany for a couple of years and owned a ZX10R which I loved. Knowing I was returning to France and wanting to keep my prized low mileage bike, I went to the Kawasaki dealer and asked him to restrict it so it conformed to French law. He thought I was crazy but nevertheless purchased the relevant restriction kit, fitted it, charged me €300, and off I went back to France where I expected to be allowed to ride my restricted bike without any problems. In France I went to the sous prefecture, which is I guess the equivalent of the DVLA in the UK, and presented the paperwork from the German dealer which showed the cost of the kit, the invoice for fitting it, and a re-registration document from the German TUV confirming it was now a 100 bhp machine. After some head scratching the lady says “your frame and engine numbers aren’t on our database”, unsurprising since it was a German machine. After hunting round for 10 minutes she called someone higher up the ladder whom she passed to me and who informed me “you cannot register your bike in France.”  No I can I replied, the bike has a Kawasaki supplied and fitted restriction kit, has been re-registered in Germany as 100bhp, and I have all the documentation. “It doesn’t matter” the guy told me. “We don’t know what kit they fitted?. You have to take it to a French Kawasaki dealer, they will review the bike and fit their restriction kit ”. Knowing this is likely to mean the replacement of the ECU at a cost of several hundred euros, it’s difficult to comprehend that this guy expects that I will now pay several hundred euros more to basically do exactly the same job the German dealer did, but this time they will keep my parts and refuse to return them to me ” in case I refit them as soon as I have regisitered the bike” . Surely this is banditry under any other name and all done in the interests of safety, allegedly!

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    A few years ago it was rumoured that the French would be forced to backtrack and allow the sale of full power machines. Originally slated for 2014 they managed to hold out until 2016, but as of Jan 1st 2016 it has been possible to buy a full power bike, if it were new. That of course is great news, but what about the millions of used bikes that are restricted? How can you have new bikes full power and not allow all bikes to be full power? So the next great idea was that if a used bike conformed to Euro 3 it would be allowed to be derestricted, but since a good part of the Euro ruling is pollution based, that got dropped in favour of a bike having ABS, good news you would think? Of course there was even more prevarication and the March deadline for the legislation to have been agreed soon passed with its eventual approveal coming in April 2016, and two weeks after that agreement I was at the BMW dealer having my K1300GT derestricted, so am I a happy bunny now? The answer is both yes and no.

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    Yes, the power increase from 100 to 160bhp is fantastic, the bike has come alive and I now see what all the fuss was about. My perception of my 285kg behemoth as a workhorse with its lowly 100bhp, has changed to a fun bike which elicits whoops and hollers as I have found new and powerful acceleration which has introduced the missing fun element I’ve not had for the past 7 years and 87,000kms, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s been worth it, BUT.

    There’s always a but. The process to have my 60bhp liberated is not without issue. I had to take the bike to the BMW dealer and then hand over €250 for them to spend 20 minutes, tops, loading a new engine map to the ECU, sending the details of my bike to BMW France, who will create a new European certificate of conformity, in order that I can go to the Sous Prefecture with this document and get the bike registered as a full power machine. This will entail an hour and a half round trip and circa €36 in their admin fees. OK, so at least it’s all legal and above board and there is no risk of the insurance company dobbing out of their liabilities because it’s all legit, BUT, and here we go again, they’re not so keen on the idea of us now having access to all this power and it seems they’re not going to make it easy for us.

    I had asked my insurers as far back as October last year (2015) what they would do when all their customers came to them advising them their bikes were now full power, and I was told there had been no word from the top as to their response, so clearly there was little advance planning being done here.

    I duly advised my insurers by mail once the work had been done, and that I would forward them the new certificate of conformity and registration when I have it. I told them the dealer had told me to expect a delay of up to 5 weeks for the paperwork as everyone is getting their bike derestricted and they’re swamped, in fact my BMW dealer had done 28 bikes in 2 weeks, not a bad little earner at €250 a pop!

    I hadn’t heard back from the insurers until this week when I spoke to them on another matter, and this time they demanded the paperwork. I told them it would be forwarded to them as soon as I had it, and I thought she was going to have a heart attack when I informed her that the power had increased from 100 to 160bhp. I was stunned when she told me that the company had no tariff for full power bikes, would likely decline to insure them, and even if they did the premium would likely increase. This was like a red rag to a bull, and I told her that since 1984 the insurers had based their tariffs on the full power output figure of non restricted bikes regardless of the fact French machines could never exceed 100bhp. The reality being that for 30+ years they had charged premiums assessed on the risk of theoretical outputs (160bhp on my bike as an example) and now that the bike is actually legally able to be ridden with that figure, they want to charge more??? Outrageous!

    The bike magazines had speculated that the insurers would wait a year to see if the accident rate increased dramatically before hiking their premiums. If the rate doesn’t go up in that first year  the government will have been proved wrong, but it seems the insurers aren’t prepared to take the risk and want to hike the prices immediately. I find this morally reprehensible. The motorcycle forums are awash with bikers claiming their premiums have increased by up to 40%, and my dealer says all the insurance companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are increasing prices, which just goes to show that insurers are the leeches we always knew they were, onto a good thing in the past 30 years and now a chance to increase profits even more. If the accident rates don’t increase you can bet they won’t drop their prices, they never do, instead French bikers find themselves royally screwed yet again.

    To those of you riding around on your full power bikes with half way decent insurance costs, I envy you, enjoy your bikes and the simplicity of doing so, over here it wasn’t simple before, and it seems it won’t be simple in the future, and we’re undoubtedly going to paying a lot more than you for the privilege of being on two wheels.

    C’est la vie!

     

    UPDATE 3/6/2016 – My insurers MAAF have now quoted a new premium 38.6% higher now the bike is derestricted so they’ve lost my custom and that of my car too when that comes up for renewal

     


  • Riding in the Dordogne and unleashing a derestricted GT

    Posted on by Paul

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    Living down in the Dordogne is a great pleasure in many ways. Beautiful scenery, good weather (although it’s been as wet down here as most places in Europe this year), cheap wine, and sparsely populated roads out of tourist season. We’d not had visitors for a while, so when Andy asked if we were free last week and did I fancy showing him some of the local roads, it was a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy the local area, especially given the weather forecast was promising sun and up to 27C.

    Andy has recently bought a new S1000XR, and after a six and a half hour ride down the mileage had doubled to the stage where the first service was now due. Realising that by the time we’d ridden for a week and he’d returned back home the bike would have more than doubled the miles on it again, we looked to try and get it in for a first service at the local dealer in Perigueux, and luckily they were able to squeeze not only his first service, but also the derestriction of my K1300GT, anyway, more on that later.

    During the week we visited the martyr village of Ouradour sur Glane, and after swapping bikes for a brief 15 minutes I was reminded how much “get up and go” the S1000XR has, with almost instant acceleration sweeping the rev counter swiftly round to the  7500rpm rev limit (imposed during the running in period), and it’s relatively high feeling seating position. My GT felt really low in comparison, but the biggest difference between the two clearly being the lines that can be chosen/taken in a bend. The XR being light and flickable affords the luxury of making changes mid bend, whilst the GT requires a considered entry, after which it holds it’s line well but moving off it is harder work.

    A couple of 300+ km days allowed us to explore the regions roads, passing by many chateaux and castles using the smaller side roads as links to the well surfaced and largely empty main roads and their well tarmaced surfaces which make the UK roads look shabby in comparison.

    On the final riding day we awoke to find damp roads after some unexpected overnight rain. The route to the BMW dealer for the service for Andys bike was drying out, but at that state of semi-dampness where you’re never sure how huch grip there is, so we had a slightly less spirited ride to Perigueuex than normal, but one that allowed us to enjoy the scenery more. Arriving just before our 10.00am appointments, the bikes were booked in and soon they were being ridden round to the garages at the rear of the premises, leaving us to have a look around the dealer showroom which they share with a Honda dealership, an open corridor allowing passage from one side to the other. 40 minutes later the GT was back in the car park and my carte grise was copied and will be sent to BMW for them to send documentation with the new COC (certificate of conformity) showing the bike is now 160bhp not 100. After 30 years of being forced to ride castrated power motorcycles in France there is now a mad rush as people seek to get them derestricted (legally). The dealer tells us that in the two weeks since the law was changed they have already derestricted 28 bikes, which at €250 a time is a nice little earner for them. The next stage is for the owners to take their new COC document to the equivalent of the DVLA to get a new carte grise (V5 equiv.), but it seems that BMW is overwhelmed with the work this is creating, because as yet none of the 28 bike owners have received their new documentation.

    Within the hour Andys bike reappears, he pays and we ride two minutes round the corner to visit Dafy Moto and the Yamaha dealer that it shares the premises with. Here are some pics from the Yamaha side, anniversary speed block yellow being a popular colour for the R1 and VMax, whilst the grey bike is from their Faster Sons Yard built range.

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    Once we’d wandered round the shop it was time to head off and for me to see how much difference having an extra 60bhp would make. Leaving Perigueux I opened it up climbing a hill only to hear Andy on the intercom telling me it was smoking. Ok, “stop winding me up” I said, but he assured me it had smoked a little, but as it didn’t do it again despite severe provocation during the rest of the day, we decided it was just evacuating a little surplus oil from the airbox.

    I have to say that the new engine map they loaded combined with removing some excess play in the throttle has turned the bike into a competely different animal. Gone was the utilitarian two up plus luggage bus, here was a highly responsive motor which literally had me hollering inside my helmet as I revelled in the instant acceleration and throttle response, no longer boring but a real smile inducer. We found some fantastic roads that morning and even managed to plan the ride so we were back in time to watch the MotoGP race.

    So the week ended having ridden 862kms in mostly glorious sunshine. Sharing riding experiences on great roads with your friends is a great combination and I had a great week, the only downside for Andy was that he then had that 6 1/2 hour ride home to do the next day in what turned out to be blustery conditions, and it turns out that despite removing the rev limiter being the second item on the service list for his bike, it hadn’t been done, which means he’ll have to drag to his home dealer and ask them to remove it.

    I’m really looking forward to riding the GT a lot more now that it’s character has changed, what a shame I’ve had to wait 7 years and 86,000kms before I can appreciate it fully!


  • BMW R1200RS

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    I have a confession to make, I don’t much like twin cylinder bikes!

    Although I’ve ridden some rather fine ones such as Ducati’s 851, 748, 916, 996, 998 and Multistrada, the BMW HP2, an Aprilia RSV Mille, and the Guzzi Stelvio and 1100 Sport, I have to confess I’m not a fan. Of the 65 bikes I’ve ridden only 17 have been twins, so what’s the problem? Well for some reason I don’t seem to have mastered downshifting on twins, and the resulting wheel locking didn’t do my confidence much good. Combine that with some Ducati rides where the bikes stood up on the brakes when I really wanted them to turn into the upcoming bend, has meant that my overriding impressions have been less than favourable, and so, like most things in life that haven’t proven enjoyable, I’ve chosen not to revist them, hence for the past 20 years I’ve owned and ridden 4 cylinder machines, with only a three month interlude on a Laverda 750 S (parallel twin) and a VFR800 and my beloved RC45 (both V4’s) breaking up my long term multi cylinder love affair.

    Other than the occasions where the BMW servicing dealer has offered a twin as a loan bike, and some very brief bike swops where I tried out Marks R1100RT and Andys GS, I’ve shied away from them, with one notable exception, the BMW HP2 which was available for a test ride on a BMW open day, and I just couldn’t turn down a chance to ride such an interesting bike.

    So given my stated inability to “get on” with twins, and knowing that the subject of this post is the BMW R1200RS, a bike with only two cylinders, you might be wondering what has changed? Well, an hour or so to occupy whilst my GT has a new wheel carrier fitted at the BMW dealer is what. I’ve ridden quite a few of BMW’s range, in fact 11 different models, the most recent having been the new S1000XR, and looking at the current range I’m strangely drawn to the R1200RS which looks rather fetching in blue and white, so with the GT booked in at 14.00 and having some time to kill, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to see what’s changed in the world of half my favoured number of cylinders, and booked a test ride for the afternoon, read on for what I thought……..

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    Arriving just before my 14.00 appointment I spot the RS outside and it’s in my favourite blue and white colourway. After booking the GT in, I then go through the formalities of signing the test ride forms before being given a demonstration of the controls which are pretty much the same as on my GT, and my Zumo 660 even fits into the fittted GPS cradle which is useful.

    With the engine running I mount the bike and immediately am struck by the fact I’m sitting in rather than perched on the seat. The cold engine  is lumpy but the gear snicks in like a knife through butter, first is engaged and I’m off. The first few kms pass gently as I acclimatise myself to the bikes idiosyncrasies. Firstly the gearbox is super smooth, unlike the cliunky affair on my GT. No major clunks or bangs, and the quickshifter pro assist means that upward shifts are really smooth, although I’ll add the caveat which seems to apply to any quickshifter, it works better the higher the revs and speed. Using the clutch a couple of times to upshift at speed only disrupted the gearchanges and upset the balance of the bike.

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    The motor got less lumpy once warmed up and it will pull comfortably from as low as 2000rpm in 5th which surprised me. Down changing wasn’t the unsettling affair I remembered of old, but it was a little strange to find the forks dive on the brakes, nothing too dramatic but there’s no duolever front suspension here, just good old telescopic forks.

    The brakes were very strong and although I adjusted the lever span all the way out I found the lever travel to still be more than I would have expected, and I’ve got small hands! Nevertheless, they worked well enough.

    The seat was comfy, the riding position very natural, and the handling quick and intuitive. The Pliot Road 4’s did an excellent job and enabled effortless and confident bend swinging on the unknown roads I was riding. I  do wonder though whether this was down to the tyres, the fact the bike weights a mere 231kg (which is a massive 54kgs less than my GT), because the roads were billiard table smooth with predictable bends, or because on this occasion I was riding without my better half, so the suspension was having an easier time? Normally Sue comes with me when I take test rides but today she had abstained, so if I want to try one again it’s important that she comes with me so I can get a better picture, and as I’ve ridden only and not on any height at all, I’ve got no idea how it would perform at the alpine altitudes I like to ride at.

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    The mirrors whilst small, are easily adjustable and give a good view of what’s behind, so can’t quibble too much on that score, and since I’m unable to recall any issues with the adjustable screen and wind noise or flow, I’m going to have to say that it worked well enough. I can’t recall too much about the exhaust noise, although it does increase nicely when the speeds increase, but it’s pretty quiet as per the euro norms these days, maybe a slightly louder pipe would add to the experience even more?

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    One thing I did notice was that there are a lot less revs to play with than I’m used to. It’s all too easy to hit the rev limiter if you’re not paying attention, and the clocks, whilst containing a lot of info tend to have you focusing on the massive sized gear indicator rather than the much smaller speedo which is actually slightly out of eye line and to the left of centre.

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    What didn’t I like? Well there is always something that doesn’t quite gell. In this case it was the quality of the plastics and the luggage which comes with it. Flicking the plastics reveals they are super light and although not flimsy, they aren’t a patch on the super quality items on my GT. The available luggage is the same quality as the fairing and appears to be much smaller in capacity than the GT  with the top box looking at least half the size. This is all well and good if you don’t tour much, but I’ve not yet hung up my touring spurs and I’m sure we’d never get a weeks worth of stuff in the RS luggage, two days would be about it!

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    After an all too brief test ride I returned the bike and on the way home started to garner my thoughts and then put them into the words you’re reading here.

    From my perspective I’ve done a massive about turn on my thoughts on twins, I loved the ride, the experience, and riding something different. The major thing here is that I’d like to ride one again as I actually had a blast riding this bike. I loved the drive out of the corners,  the consumate bend swinging ability, the gearbox that didn’t clunk, and the overall experience had me grinning and thinking that light bikes must be the way to gain maximum pleasure? I also like the looks and the colour scheme, understated but smart. My only hope is that the experience is equally enjoyable two up, we’ll have to wait and see!

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  • An oldie but goodie?

    Seen today in my local bike shop this highly polished GSXR1100 Slingshot .

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    Seems this model which was produced from 1986-1998 developed a reputation as a poor handler, and some internet research (Wikipedia) shows that it had a major claim to infamy, which is that after two crashes at the Isle of Man in 1989, one resulting in the death of Phil Mellor,  led to the banning of large capacity bikes racing at the TT for a number of years.

    No doubting though that the older bikes make an impression, especially with it’s trademark frame. Other than a faded top yoke, this particular example was a beauty.


  • Catalunya-March 2016

    The mandatory briefing was at 08.30, a time which always seems unnecessarily late given that the first group is due out at 09,00, and never leaves them much time to get ready, nevertheless. the days riders crowded into the pitlane to listen to the briefing notes which were given in 4 languages, French, English, German and Flemish, to accomodate the multi national riders.

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    The head honcho giving the briefing was known to Andy who warned me that it may be a protracted meeting, and we soon found out why. “Normally” the trackday organisers representative welcomes you to the track, gives you a pep talk on how we’re there to enjoy ourselves not race, and to take care as they’d like us all to go home in one piece. I say normally, because that didn’t happen today. As he talked, if he didn’t have 100% of the attendees attention and he heard anyone talking whilst he was, he would just stop talking. After a few stoppages he pointed to the watch on his wrist and told us he had plenty of time even if we didn’t!

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    Not a great way to endear yourself to people whose money you’ve taken and who want to hear the briefing and get on with it. When he stopped and directly addressed a guy on crutches who he claimed wasn’t listening, the guy had a great put down line, saying he wasn’t riding (check out the crutches) and that he should get on with it!

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    After the ultra officious briefing which probably alienated a great number of the riders and certainly didn’t win him any friends, finally it was over and the day was able to commence with the first group at 09.00.

    The format of the day was a bit different from that we’d expected. Originally when we’d signed up the schedule showed there would be four groups each with 6×20 minute sessions, but there turned out to be five groups, with the format being one initial 20 minute session followed by 4x 25 minute sessions. All were chrono laps so groups would be revised after the timings from the first two sessions, revised during the lunchtime break, with the final 3 sessions run in the newly revised groups. The groups would also be revised at the end of the day for the following, and we’d need to get a new group sticker regardless of whether we stayed in the same group or not.

    Andy was due out in the first session but decided not to ride as he felt the track would still be a bit cold and didn’t want to risk his R6 which he is hoping to sell shortly.

    Mark and I are in Group D which means we have over an hour to wait before going on track for the first time. With Mark not having ridden his new RR, and with only two sessions in which to put in a good time if we want to move up a group, we need to ride well from the off. When our turn came to go out, we quickly found the huge disparity in skill levels the beginners group always brings  ( we only booked in this group as it was the only one left with two spaces when we booked). There was such diversity of lines and variation in speeds we soon began worrying how safe it was. Panigale riders who rode like demons in a straight line and then literally parked it every time they came to a bend, riders who braked at the most inopportune time, 3 or 4 really very quick riders clearly in completely the wrong group, and young kids and women on smaller capacity bikes looked a recipe for disaster, especially given the chrono times were showing 30 seconds between the fastest and slowest, which on a 2 minute something lap is a a massive discrepancy.

    Checking the laptimer at the end of the first session revealed a not too impressive fastest lap of 2.26, but we were requainting ourselves with the track and I was having some small issues with the new quickshifter, I needed to adjust the kill times and readjust the rearset which seemed to be trying to dismantle itself!

    Session two and it’s Andy’s turn to go out first, and despite “only” being on a 600 he quickly made us look stupid by turning in a rapid 2.05 lap.

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    Next up we’re out again, here are some shots of Mark from session 2.

    Leaving the paddock

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    Pitlane

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    Passing me towards the end of the straight

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    Being chased by one of the faster guys in our group

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    Laptimes came down to 2.20, so a 6 second improvement, but still a long way to go to the 2.14 I’d done back in 2014 and Marks previous best of 2.04.

    During the 3rd session the organisers were changing the groups, so at 13.00 we checked to see if we’d done enough to improve but no joy, we hadn’t been quick enough, but were holding 22nd and 23rd positions of the 43 in our group, with the quickest having gone 2.08 and the slowest around 2.52!

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    With the lunchbreak groups sorted and Andy (below) still having only done one session, we decided to go and watch him in action.

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    I was still sorting my rearset when Mark set off for the grandstand nearby, so Sue and I told him we’d be along shortly but we didn’t find him up there! Seems he’d found a good spot to take these photos from track level whilst we watched Andy hassling the bigger bikes from above in the grandstand. Clearly quicker in the bends it must have been frustrating for him watching the 1000’s clear off as soon as the track straightened out, but nevertheless he was riding fast and well and keeping them honest.

     

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    Here are some pics of other riders in Andys group

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    Session 3 and I managed to knock my time down to 2.18, so another two seconds off, but I was still being hampered by a finicky gear change caused by the self destructing rearset which seemed determined to dismantle itself.

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    Session 4 and another drop in times down to my best of the day, a 2.17.95, whilst Mark was now at 2.16.13. They say Lorenzo is metronomic, but I was amazed to find on the fourth and fifth laps I’d put in two consecutive times of 2.21.84 and 2.21.85, how’s that for consistency?!

    One of the things we all enjoy at these events is the chill out time afterwards. It’s traditional for us to all chip in and buy ham, cheese, meat, crisps, beer and wine, and sit around together and tell tall tales and recount the events of the days riding. Sue and Sev decided to go and do the supermarket run for the food but seemed to be gone ages. I joked that they could have gone to Andorra the amount of time that had passed before eventually they returned, but it seemed there had been a lot of one way streets they couldn’t enter and they’d ended up doing detours. Still, mission accomplished, we’d now got tonights repas..

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    mark cat1

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    fotomoo (10)

    I almost didn’t make the last session as the damn rearset had decided to pull a bearing through one of the moving arms and I was struggling to find a way to keep it in place. Eventually after dismantling most of the rearset and finding a big enough washer, I was able to bodge a repair which held, allowing me to get back out for the last 25 minutes, and I’m glad I did, as no-one overtook me and I was able to ride my own rhythm and pace. I didn’t improve my times but posted two very close laps at 2.19.72 and 2.19.75, split by a 2.20.30. The lap charts posted at the end of the day showed we had now moved up to 6th and 8th overall, which looked to be enough to have us moved a group for tomorrow.

    With the day over after 36 laps, 218kms, and with the benefit of sun all day, we were tired but very happy to have had some great riding, next we looked forward to  enjoying our evening supper.

    You’ll have seen in the pictures from our arrival day that there was a lovely sunset over the paddock. I’d asked Mark to take some pictures but he’d decided to hold off until tonight to take them, so later on he disappeared off to take these pictures of the track.

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    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-39

    After a few beers and finishing off a couple of bottles of wine it was time to turn in for the night, but we were all a bit worried that Sues online forecast of rain for the whole of the following day starting at 04.00 might be correct, hopefully not!

    Day 2 –

    The rain had started at around 05.00 and kept going and going and going. We got up at around 06.35 and in between the downpours started to unpack the stuff we’d been smart enough to put in the car overnight to keep dry, to repack it again for the return home. There looked to be little hope of the rain abating as the weather window my forecast had given of being clear from 09.00 to 11.00 never happened. Realising we were going to wet at some time, there was little option other than to continue packing and take down the tents in the rain. Getting wet doesn’t cover it, we were sodden, shoes swimming in water, my showerproof jacket gave up the ghost and turned into a damp sack, and hair and body got colder as we hurried to pack.

    Mark and Sev were first to finish packing and leave after returning his transponder. Saying their farewells and leaving me to get his photos, they departed leaving Sue and I under the cover of Andy’s tent attached to his van, staying as dry as we could. Eventually he too had to capitulate, and after helping him pack and getting even wetter (if that were possible) we eventually left at 11.55 for the return journey.

    Twenty minutes away from the circuit it was a bit galling to find that the weather was not only sunny but that it was dry, and there didn’t seem to have been any rain at all! Andy passed us after 35 minutes, and two hours into the journey we stopped to change into some drier clothes. The towels on the seats were now extremely damp, and I resorted to driving in socks as my shoes were so cold and wet.

    At one of the peage toll stations, two cars and a van rushed through the telepeage automated barrier in quick succession, but the van hadn’t waited quite long enough for the car in front to pass, and we watched in amazement as the barrier lowered and then bounced back up off it’s roof! Later on we got stuck in a toll lane when the payment machine gave up working, as did another car and hapless motorist in the adjacent lane.

    Snow on the mountains

    P1050946

    Tired after a poor nights sleep in the tent again, I stopped for an hours power nap, and later on for this picture of Carcassone

    P1050948

    An early evening petrol and snack stop plus a final comfort break completed our stop start journey, and saw us finally back home at 21.30. Only 7 hours 5 minutes of actual driving time, but a lot of stops.

     

    Back at home and waiting to be unloaded the following day

    P1050954

     

    SUMMARY

    It’s a shame we didn’t get the second day, as having identified where I could gain time, I’m sure I could have gone much quicker, but it had been safe and the most fun and satisfaction I’ve had on track for some considerable time. The change of gearing to 16/45 worked a treat and the bike had handled like a dream, so all in all a great result.

    I’m looking forward to the next track outing with Andy and Mark which is likely to be at Aragon, probably my favourite track. We’ve had some fantastic rides there before and I’m sure we’ll have some great ones next time.

     

    THE END


  • Catalunya March 2016- The prologue

    catalunya circuit sign

    It’s been like the countdown to having a baby, except the period was only 5 months not 9. I’m talking of course about the time elapsed since I was last on track. The winter break had given me time to fettle the R1, and now all I wanted to do was to get out on it again, brush off the cobwebs, and get back to thrashing around a track, and it’s a good one to start the season with, the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

    As per usual there are three of us going. Me and my R1 which has been updated with an HM Quickshifter and Zero Gravity Corsa screen, Mark, who has bought Andy’s S1000RR and will be riding it for the first time, and Andy, who is bringing his R6 Cup race bike, as his brand new purchase of an RSV4 Factory has not yet had sufficient running in miles put on it.

    The phone lines had been buzzing in the days before the off, with the main concern being the weather. It seems we each have a forecast that differs from the others.Mine shows a little rain on day one and all day on day two, whilst Mark and Andys reference sites don’t show rain. Regardless of what the forecasts say, the weather will sort itself out, but of immediate annoyance is the fact that as per usual, the day before an event when the car/trailer needs to be loaded, it’s raining again, meaning quick dashes outside to load the car in between showers, whilst I’ll need to get up early on departure day to load the bike.

    After an early rise the next morning the bike is loaded and Sue and I set off at 9.20, some 20 minutes later than planned. The circuit is circa 800kms and an 8 hour drive for Mark and Andy, and 700kms and 7 ½ hours for me. We’ve planned to meet at the La  Palme Ouest services near Perpignan at around 15.00, which would allow us some time for  catching up and to fill the cars and petrol cans. With the track only being an hour and a half from the services we would hopefully arrive bang on time for the entry time to the circuit which the organisers had advised as being open from 18.00.

    The journey down was largely uneventful, and passing the giant windmills near Carcassone I know we’re nearing the coast and my least favourite bit of motorway in France around Perpignan, The winds down here can be horrendous, and I have vivid memories of riding my CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird down here and being blown from one lane to another as the winds had been so strong!

    Our planning turned out to be close to perfection as first we rolled into the services at 15.07, and just 7 minutes later Mark and Sev arrived. An sms to Andy telling him we were here led to him calling us saying he thinks he’s just passed the services as he was looking for La PalmeOuest, and he only saw La Palme on the services sign, later realising that our side of the autoroute was the west side and the opposite the east. Confirming he has gone past we agreed that he should stop at the next petrol service station and wait for us to join him..

    At this point our well oiled plan started to go off the rails a little. Mark notes he only has 7 litres of petrol left, and after a quick check it seems we can’t get back round to the petrol station from where we’re parked. I suggested he take a petrol can round and get 5 or 10 litres and just top up a bit, but he decided that there should be enough to push on, or so he thought!

    Heading back onto the motorway and driving at the speed limit rather than taking it slowly to preserve petrol, I wondered whether driving so quickly was smart given the lack of petrol he had? Sure enough after 10 minutes he started to slow, another few minutes later and he called asking how far it was to the services? I didn’t know, and passing two pull -offs without petrol, and having to pass a service station on the other side without an exit ramp on ours to get to it, I sensed it must be getting a bit touch and go if he’d make it. Our speed dropped and dropped as we ran shotgun behind before eventually a services 2km ahead sign hove into view, walkable if necessary. Painfully slowly we got closer to the services, only to find 300metres from the exit ramp the traffic had backed up and lorries seemed to have turned the autoroute into a car park. With an engine gasping on fumes and with them sat motionless drinking the last dregs, I sounded the horn and motioned at him to follow me down the hard shoulder to the services.

    Andy had been waiting for quite some time as we had been going so slowly, so after Mark had put some much needed fuel back in the tank and we’d had a quick catch up chat, we decided to head off immediately and have a major fill up at La Jonqueras services, which is the first service station over the border in Spain and where the petrol would be cheaper to fill up the jerry cans. The lorries were still parked up and seemingly going nowhere, blocking the entry to the motorway, but we managed to slip in between the gaps and get into the outside line which was moving slowly, but at least it was moving!

    The cause of the long tailbacks became evident when we arrived at the peage ahead and found not only multiple lines of traffic being filtered into just a few lines, but then into an effective slalom of cones and jeeps created by the Spanish Gaurdia Civil, who were there with their machine guns and dark glasses checking out each vehicle as it passed. Clearly they were looking for someone but their search was causing motorway misery for miles.

    Deciding that La Jonqueras would be busy we decided to continue to the next services, where a quick fill of cars and cans soon had us on the way, although Andy soon left us, as following trailers when you have a bike inside your van means you’re not limited to the lower speeds we were. Arriving at the circuit we were amazed to see it so busy given the entry time was supposedly only 25 minutes before we arrived, but it looked as if people had been there all afternoon there were so many people there!

    Eventually finding our way to where Andy had very kindly blocked off enough space for the three tents and cars, we started to unpack and set up the tents and living space for the next couple of days.

    paddock city

    P1050944

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-9

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-8

    With the tents erected and bikes on the stands we went and registered, and chose to take this rather fetching and top quality cap rather than a t-shirt, as our souvenir of the event.

    catalunya cap

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Next came fitting of race numbers and transponder. Me applying my number, 107

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-5

    Marks S1000RR

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-2

    Andys R6 Cup race bike

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-3

    As you can see there was a great sunset over the paddock that night

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16

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    Full of expectation for the next days riding and a forecast that looked rain free, we turned in for the night. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!


  • All change!

    A couple of years ago I played a trick on my two riding buddies, Mark and Andy. I came back from Bordeaux and sent them a picture of a VFR1200 I told them I’d bought to replace my BMW K1300GT. Not an entirely implausible action, given I’d often talked of what I’d replace it with. I kept the deception going for a couple of days before cracking and admitting it was a hoax. Since then they’ve tried the odd stunt to catch me out, but these have been easily rumbled by me asking to see their new bikes registration document or a picture of the bike in their garage, and of course these don’t materialise.

    Mark tried to kid me he was buying a Panigale when in fact all he’d bought was a model, then tried again saying he’d bought a Harley, showing me a picture of one in his garage, which later turned out to be a bike he was looking after for someone else.

    This year the stakes were upped. Mark and I have the same R1 track bikes, bought within a few weeks of each other, and we frequently compare notes as to what gearing to use, which parts to buy, how to fix something on the bike, and which parts we want to buy. We’ve both crashed them and done some damage, although Mark did a better job than me and broke his collarbone, so with our first trackday of 2016 booked, and Marks first since his crash in late 2014, we were comparing notes again, with major topics being gearing, quickshifters and quick action throttles. Neither of us had yet fitted or bought the parts but they were on the cards. I thought this time I’d get the jump on Mark as I got a quickshifter, fitted it and didn’t tell him, thinking it would be one up to me when we got to Catalunya, and that he’d be miffed I’d bought something he hadn’t got, which just might give me an advantage, or so I thought!

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    SUB PLOT 1 – Andy had been asking me for ages which bike I’d favour or recommend for a new track bike? I like the ZX-10R, but know Andy has had a hankering to own an RSV4 since he rode one a few years ago, but he didn’t follow it through and buy one, instead going for the more clinical and track biased BMW S1000RR. Whilst the RR is a great bike it’s never really stirred his soul, and I could tell he was really wanting someone to tell him to buy the Aprilia. Despite my extolling the Kwaks virtues he wasn’t having any of it, but it was clear that he wanted a change, so what would he get?

    One day he asked me if either Mark or I would be interested in buying his RR. I don’t have the money and am more than happy with my R1, and as Mark had told me hundreds of times how he liked riding an old school bike with no electronics, I told him I thought it unlikely he’d be interested either, and thought no more of it, as with Catalunya being only two weeks away, he’d surely wait until after then before doing anything?.

    SUB PLOT 2- Next day Mark asked me what I thought of Andys bike? I opined it was a good bike, well cared for, but in my view had had a hard life on track requiring a small gearbox repair, had a lot of intelligent extras on it, but was an early model and that if I were to buy I’d steer towards a 2012 model, but that it would be a good buy for someone. After this relatively brief discussion we switched back to the forthcoming Catalunya trip and gearing, stomp grips, and R1 stuff. Hardly conversations you’d spend so long on if you were thinking of buying a new bike?

    A couple of days passed and then suddenly Mark sent me a message saying

    “I’ve bought an HP4”.

    Here we go again I thought, another stupid story, he must be bored and got nothing to do so I replied,

    “Yeah, and I’m the Pope and flying to the moon this afternoon”

    “ No really” he said.

    “ OK, copy of the carte grise and pics of bike in the garage then please”

    “ Haven’t got it yet”.

    “ So where did you buy it and how much”.

    “ Grand Prix Motos and 10k” came the answer

    “OK, Can I have your Akra pipes then please?”

    “They’ve gone with the bike.”

    “When did you sell it? “

    “Just”.

    Now I’m starting to wonder what the hell’s going on. He’s never once mentioned the R1 was even for sale, and has spent forever discussing stuff about it with me, let alone the hundreds he’s just spent rebuilding it, so how come it’s sold so quickly? Who to? Nothing was making sense so I said

    “OK course you’ve bought one, I look forward to seeing it at Catalunya” I said, and  discounted the story as the latest in a line of wind ups, and when I discussed it with Andy, he poured scorn on the idea as it wouldn’t be possible to buy an HP4 for such a low price! Conversation forgotten, especially given the next day he sent me a picture of himself in his Yamaha fleece with an admission he’d lied, and that he still had the R1. End of?

    Next day and a really big shock came when Andy told me he’s sold his RR and asks again what would I recommend he buys? I’d been a bit surprised to find he’d moved so quickly and sold the RR without telling me, especially as he’d said it had gone by word of mouth and not been advertised, but hey, sometimes things fall into place! Ramifications? Well clearly the test ride he’d promised Mark and me at Catalunya wasn’t going to happen, but at least he has an R6 race bike as a back up so he can still ride at Catalunya.

    Trying to answer his question I went back to trying to extoll the virtues of the ZX-10R but could tell it wasn’t going to wash, so in the end I suggested he buy with the heart this time and buy the Aprilia. “Don’t worry it’s Italian and will break and cost lots, you’ll have the time of your life riding it”. He complained that the nearest dealer is over two hours away from him, but so what I replied, I’d once flown from Geneva to Nice to buy a Lexus! so it was a very poor excuse not to go. Anyway,  after thinking about it some more, he drove across to Bern to have a look.

    THEN, a couple of days pass and Mark called and said:

    “What’s this about you getting a quickshifter without telling me?”

    “Well we all have secrets I replied”.

    “‘I’ve got one too comes the response, I’ve bought an RR”

    Here we go again I thought, but this time he sends me a picture from his garage of an RR rear end with it’s exhaust sticking out from under a blanket.

    IMG_0806

    “I see Andy has brought his bike round for new tyres to be fitted before Catalunya “ I said

    “No, it’s my bike comes the reply, Andy is taking the R6 to Catalunya.”

    “So wheres the R1?”

    “Sold”

    “So three days ago you had an R1, sold it overnight and bought an RR? Hardly a credible story?”

    “No really, I had no intention of selling it, but put it up for sale at 12.30 one day and it went the next.”

    “Really, and an RR just happened to be available?”

    “I hope you like it then” I said. I told him that when I’d ridden Andys RR at Dijon I’d  found it to be rock hard, handled very fast, and was nothing like as comfortable as the R1

    “It is Andys came the reply”

    So having been told Andy had sold his bike to a French guy, and Mark outright denying it was him as he’s English, now it transpires that he’s bought Andys bike after all!

    AND, there’s more! Andy has just taken delivery of a brand new RSV4 Factory

    IMG_2098

    So, everythings changed quite dramatically in the course of a week. How will our two days on track go after all these changes and subterfuge?

    Read the coming post !


  • Non starting GT- UPDATE

    After the frustration of the GT not starting I put pen to paper and wrote the previous blog post. 15 minutes later I thought I’d see if the bike would start, not really expecting it would after such a short time, but guess what?, the damn thing fired up immediately!!

    Dashing outside to tell Sue to get ready again, I found her relaxing in a chair taking advantage of the sunny weather, adamant she was going to spend the rest of the afternoon chilling in the sun, and it was clear she wasn’t going to go through the hassle of changing again or to come for a ride with me.

    OK, I’ll go on my own then, and I did. It’s always slightly odd on the first ride if you’ve not been out for a while, but I quickly got back into the swing of things, and despite the French doing their usual trick of blocking roads and sending you miles out of your way on their non direct deviations, I quickly found an alternative route and quite enjoyed the new roads and scenery I was experiencing. Two and a half hours and 175kms later I was back at home, having thoroughly enjoyed the 18/19C temperatures and riding. Interestingly the fuel gauge started working again, although I’ve yet to try and access the menu to adjust the instrument backlighting, but at least it’s been ridden and seems to be ok now.

     

    Hopefully this was a one off, but I’ll be very wary of leaving it out in the sun for a while.

     

    Cheers

     

    Paul


  • First ride of 2016? GT thinks otherwise!

    It’s been coming for a while now, that combination of good weather, free time, and a desire to get back on two wheels and ride again. I’d been watching the forecast for days. Fridays 17C and sun had turned into somewhat less than expected, but Saturday was looking good, and after completing some gardening tasks in the morning I thought I deserved a run out.

    The first inkling things might not be quite right came when I decided to top up the tank from the spare can I had in the garage. Despite putting 5 litres in the tank, the fuel gauge stayed resolutely locked at the same level and showing the same distance to empty as it had done before being topped up. Thoughts started to cross my mind of the known BMW fuel strip issues, and how problems seem to surface when these BM’s aren’t ridden for a while, and how after 3 months of sitting on its stand in the garage maybe I was going to start to find problems surfacing?

    Next I adjusted the clock, but it wouldn’t let me change the intensity of the dashboard lighting nor let me even access the screen to do so. I wasn’t too concerned as at least the bike had started several times and run ok, so chivvying the wife along to get ready, we put our bike gear on for our first run out of 2016.

    Next came the realisation that despite us having fully charged the Sena intercoms after our last ride they weren’t charged now. Never mind, just have to have a quiet ride, not a problem. So there we are, dressed and ready to go and then, nothing! As in push the start button and nothing. Sue’s stood there looking at me with inquisitive eyes, and I’m cursing 285kg of Germanys finest, that for some reason known best to itself no longer wants to fire up and be ridden.  I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the switchgear which has got hot, as I’d had that problem before, albeit in much much warmer temperatures, todays 16C shouldn’t be causing problems.

    I checked the battery and all was fine, but it was clear that we weren’t going anywhere. I wheeled the bike back into the garage in the hope that putting it back in the shade might somehow allow the switchgear to cool down (if that was even the problem), and if that doesn’t cure it, it will be on a trailer and into the dealer, who will doubtless charge an arm and a leg to fix it. What a crap way to start the year on two wheels!


  • A biking CV

    self

    In the dating world everyone posts up their profiles and looks for a match. I’m not doing that here, but as bikers we all do lots of interesting stuff; ride great roads, visit great places, have on circuit experience or attend race meetings, so I thought it might be interesting to list up what I’ve done over the years in the form of a CV so others can benchmark their biking experiences, it was fun listing it!. How does yours compare?

    AlpineBiker CV

     

    Age-                                 Heading towards 60

    Current bikes-                   BMW K1300GT (road) , Yamaha R1 (track)

    Riding since–                     1976

    Number of miles ridden-    287,000kms / 179,000 miles

    Countries ridden in-         England, Scotland, Wales, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, Luxembourg, Monaco, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia& Herzegovenia, Isle of Man, South Africa.

    Circuits ridden- Donington Park, Oulton Park, Silverstone, Catalunya, Aragon, Parc Motor Castelolli, Anneau du Rhin, Bresse, Dijon, Magny Cours GP & Club, Ledenon, Paul Ricard, Hockenheim

    Qualification-                  IAM test pass

    Circuit training-             Ron Haslam School x6 plus coaching with

                                           Simon Crafar (Motovudu)

    Number of different bikes ridden- 67

    Aprilia*1, Benelli*1, BMW*11, Ducati* 6, Honda* 20, Kawasaki* 5, Laverda* 1, Moto Guzzi* 2, MV Agusta* 1, Suzuki* 6 Triumph* 3, Yamaha* 10

    Number of bikes owned- 15

    HONDA LOGO

    CB125T, Superdream 250N, Superdream CB400N                VFR800, CBR1100XX Super Blackbird (2), RVF750 RC45

    Suzuki_logo

    GSXR1000K2

     

    YAMAHA TUNING FORK LOGO

    RD250, R1

     

    LAVERDA LOGO

    750S

     

    bmw-logo

     K1200GT, K1300GT

     

    Kawasaki LOGO ZZR600, ZX-10R

    Furthest miles in one day –  847kms / 529 miles 11hours 40 mins

    Longest tour-                      15 days, 4269kms / 2668 miles

    Highest pass ridden-        Col de Bonette 2702m or Iseran 2770 (if extra loop on  Bonette discounted)

    Total passes ridden over 2000m-        26

    Height ascended (of above) –       155,287m

    Fastest speed-                      285mph Honda SuperBlackbird (German autobahn)

    MotoGP’s attended-              Silverstone, Mugello

    WSBK   attended-                 Kyalami (S.Africa), Monza, San Marino     

    BSB attended –                    Mallory Park, Donington Park, Silverstone, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch