Ongoing hand injury benches Ward for Broadford MX Nationals
Davey Motorsports KTM contender hopeful of Murray Bridge return.
Image: Foremost Media.
An ongoing hand injury has ultimately forced Caleb Ward to withdraw from this weekend’s third round of the 2019 Pirelli MX Nationals at Broadford in Victoria.
The Davey Motorsports KTM rider initially suffered fractures to the fourth and fifth metacarpal in his left hand near the joint, requiring surgery that prompted a two-month recovery before he could return to off the bike training and riding.
While the fractures have healed, Ward has experienced continued pain, hindering his grip on the motorcycle and posing an increased risk to sustaining further injury.
“I knew my hand was going to be pretty sore, but I thought I’d tough it out through the first rounds and I was confident it would get better each week,” Ward explained to MotoOnline.com.au. “But since Appin it hasn’t gotten any better, it’s just stayed the same.
“I could ride on tracks that are smooth – it didn’t feel too bad – but any tracks that were rough, it would get really sore and worse and worse each time I rode. I’ve spoken to doctors and physios, but there’s not really a whole lot I can do other than resting it and doing as much physio as I can.
“Basically, I broke it really badly right near the joint, so it’s going to take a while to get back to 100 percent and not be painful. I’ve ridden through other injuries, and I have a pretty high pain threshold and can usually deal with it, but with this, I can’t really hold onto the bike, and I’m just putting myself at further risk.”
The Queenslander is hopeful of a return for Murray Bridge’s double-header in the first week of May, which will be followed by a lengthy break in the championship.
“I really want to be back for Murray Bridge – it’s two rounds and I really like the track and have had success there in the past. My goal is to be back by then, but we’ll just see how my hand goes.
“After Murray Bridge, there’s quite a decent break, so I expect to come into the second half of the season close to 100 percent. I want to be really strong in the second half, because at the moment things aren’t going too well.”
It’s been a bitter start to 2019 for Ward, who emerged as one of the top MX1 rookies last season, claiming multiple podiums in the closing rounds of the MX Nationals.
A race weekend doesn’t really get in gear before the traditional pre-event Press Conference, and ahead of the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, reigning Champion and undisputed King of the Circuit of the Americas Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined by Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati), Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and American Moto2 rider Joe Roberts (American Racing KTM) to talk about the weekend ahead.
First to speak was Marquez, who took his first win at the track in 2013 and has won every year since, although it’s far from a swagger for the seven-time World Champion on the way into the event – key words being “won’t be crazy”. The numbers don’t lie but Marquez refuses to get carried away.
“Yeah of course Austin has been a really good circuit for me since 2013 so let’s see. It is true that this year we arrive in very good shape, in Argentina we won and almost in Qatar, we have a solid base. It’s important and I feel comfortable but let’s see here. We will start from FP1 like always and won’t be crazy, try to ride like I know and then let’s see. Let’s see the opponents and also the weather, it looks like Saturday will be so so but apart from that try to enjoy this amazing circuit.”
Asked about his secrets to the venue, Marquez didn’t give anything away but did talk a little about the spectacular circuit: “It’s true that it’s a circuit where to have a perfect lap is impossible. Impossible because it’s a really long lap, many corners, many hard-braking points and easy to make a mistake. The most difficult thing is to be consistent over all the laps because it’s a two-minute lap, many hard braking points and it’s so difficult, really bumpy. It’s a track you sometimes have to change the lines each lap.”
Another topic Marquez – and Rossi – were asked about was the handshake seen between the two men after the Argentina GP.
“It was the moment. Like when you kiss a girl in the right moment, it’s the same! We were there in the right moment and we were alone, so we shook hands on the podium after a nice race. I never had a problem so it’s no problem to have a respectful relationship.”
Laughing at the chosen analogy, Rossi agreed if in slightly different words. “It was right, I congratulated him because he put together a very fast race, a very fast weekend so I think it’s normal.”
So, back on the main agenda, Dovizioso was second to speak. The Italian has been on the podium before at COTA but also seen some bad luck come his way. Pace in Argentina was encouraging, however, which could bode well.
“I´m really happy about the weekend in Argentina. Our speed was really good, we didn’t expect that so I’m happy because it confirms our good pace. It would be nice if it’s like this. For sure, Marc has shown in the past he is the king of this track so it will be very difficult for everybody to fight with him. But anyway, we have to bring the maximum points so we are focused on that and during the weekend anything can happen. We have to see the tyres, the weather, the conditions so I’m relaxed. We have to work like everybody. Our base is quite good, so I expect to be more competitive than last year.
“I think we are a bit more balanced than last year so I think we can be a little bit better everywhere. So that’s why in Argentina our speed in every practice was quite good and I think this is the reason why we can be competitive from the beginning here. I don’t think we have the perfect balance to be really competitive and fight for the victory here but you never know.”
On that topic, Dovizioso, Rins and Rossi were all asked about whether Marquez was unbeatable – but that’s not the way a racer approaches a weekend despite the stats.
“It would be very difficult but nothing is impossible,” was Dovi’s response – something echoed verbatim by Rins just after. Rossi adds, “the numbers say Marquez is unbeatable but you don’t set off from home saying someone is impossible to beat. You try to always improve.”
Rossi was the man who spoke about the weekend ahead next, too. Back on the podium last time out for the first time since Germany last season, that’s where he started.
“One of the best parts of getting a good podium result is the next week because you can be happy and more relaxed. I stayed at home and tried to prepare the maximum for this race. It’s one of the most particular, difficult, technical tracks of the season; up and down, 20 corners, so it’s a long way until the end of the lap.
“The first year I was very slow. I needed a bit more time to understand the track. From 2014 I had a problem with the tyre in the race but I was quite fast. I took some podiums. In 2017 I finished second. It’s a very tricky track, there are a lot of points where you can lose a lot but our bike isn’t too bad, so we’ll try to be strong.”
Next to debrief Argentina a little and gear up for Round 3 was the aforementioned Rins. The Suzuki rider took a top five from well back on the grid last time out and a Hamamatsu factory machine was on the podium in Austin in 2018.
“For sure in races we are very strong. We saw in Qatar, also in Argentina we recover a lot of positions. Btu I think we are going in a good way, we have good speed in practices, good speed in the races, I think we need to improve the speed in qualifying to be in the front positions in the first laps of the race. Overtaking riders destroys the tyres, so we need to think why we start at the back and we need to improve.
“Last year I remember we had some problems on the front of the bike. Race by race we improved the feeling. In Argentina and Qatar the front feeling was very nice, and as Marc says, I think this track is difficult to do all the laps on the same line. It’s very hard, a lot of lines but Andrea did a great race last season. If we qualify better we can be more at the front, but we will see.”
Miller – top Independent Team rider in Argentina – spoke after Rins, and echoed the sentiments of Rossi earlier after equally taking a positive result.
“It was great to be there in the top five. As Vale said, it’s nice to go away from a weekend with a decent result. You know in Qatar I went away almost depressed after the seat flew off so it was definitely good to get that one out of the way. It got difficult at the end of last year I think to do with being on the GP17 as the other bikes developed through the year we stayed where we were. It’s nice to know this year we should be able to fight throughout the whole season with them. We’ve shown in Qatar and Argentina we’ve got good pace. Austin’s normally a track I like. I struggled a little bit here last year, I had a small injury, so I’m looking forward to being 100% fit this year and see how many whoops are on the back straight.”
The Australian was also asked about the difference now he’s riding a GP19 Ducati as opposed to the GP17 last year.
“I know when I come onto the straight I’m not losing metres, I don’t have to brake like an idiot and cook the front tyre, so that helps. I think we’ve got really good pace. And I feel I’ve matured as a rider and in practices we’re doing a lot of work for the race simulation. We need to keep that mentality and keep on working.”
Finally, it was time for home hero Joe Roberts to take to the mic. Despite a difficult start to the season the American is optimistic ahead of his home round, and loves the track.
“It’s fantastic to be here, I always love coming to Austin. Before I was even racing at a world level, it was always a favourite city to visit. Just to be here with all the fans and everything, it’s always a nice feeling. In terms of how the year’s gone, to be honest, it’s been a bit of a difficult start; it’s not where I hoped to be in Qatar. We made a lot of progress in the last round, during the race I was on for my best gap to the front before I crashed. With the new team, everything’s new, sometimes it takes time and you’ve got to look at the positives and take that forward. I think this weekend, this track is quite a hard-braking track and something that I took from last weekend is that we’re really good on the brakes, so I’m hoping that’s going to work here. I’ve always love this track, so I’m excited. Every single one of these guys here has given me some sort of inspiration during my career and being here with them is definitely something special and it’s great.”
FP1 begins at 0055 Saturday morning (AEST) while the race will commence at 0500 Monday morning (AEST).
Mission Winnow Ducati rider targeting optimised approach in race management.
Danilo Petrucci is predicting increased potential at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend for round three of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, a venue that doesn’t typically play into the Ducati’s strengths.
Finishing sixth at Argentina, the Italian ace has declared he’s targeting a more optimised approach in his race management, acknowledging a strong starting position will be key to truly benefit this weekend.
“I think our potential in Texas is higher than in the past, even though COTA is still a difficult track for us theoretically, as it features many tight, Formula 1 style corners and bumps that make it trickier to find the right setup,” Petrucci explained. ”
“However, in Argentina, another tough circuit for us, we reacted well despite the fact that our weekend didn’t begin in the most ideal way. In general, we struggle more than others under acceleration at high lean angles because of my weight, but we’re improving in terms of tyre consumption.
“I want to further optimise how I manage the race as well, and to this end it’ll be crucial to start further ahead on the grid. We’ll need to work hard to fight for the top five once again, but I’m confident.”
Petrucci is ranked fifth in the points standings as reigning champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) sits atop the classification.
Long fill-in returns to Empire Kawasaki for round three.
Image: Foremost Media.
Lawson Bopping is confident this weekend’s Sprint format in the Pirelli MX Nationals at Broadford will fall into his favour as he returns to Empire Kawasaki as Dylan Long’s replacement
The popular New South Welshman was called into the Kawasaki squad at the last minute for Wonthaggi’s second round two weeks ago, where he led majority of the opening moto before winding up fifth overall in his first motocross race in three years.
The Sprint format, which consists of two back-to-back eight-lap motos, will be experienced by the premier class for the first time this season on Sunday, offering a promising chance for Bopping to capitalise on the shorter distance outings as he continues the climb to full race fitness.
“I think it will play in my favour – I wish had an eight-lapper at Wonthaggi, I would’ve won that first moto [laughs],” Bopping declared to MotoOnline.com.au. “I’m actually excited for that format, but it’s going to be tough – the first one will be good, but the second one you don’t have much time in between, so it’s still very high intensity.
“I think it’s good for the crowd – it’s short and sharp, and it’s going to be close racing. Back in the day when we did that format, I didn’t like it so much, but as a fan, I think it’s a good format. It can go either way – you’ve got to get a good start and stay clean.”
Bopping’s last minute appointment saw him contest Wonthaggi aboard a KX450 that was very much in specification of Long’s desired set-up, however he’s spent the last two weeks increasing his preparation, travelling to Melbourne early this week to test with the team and adjust the bike to his liking.
“I wouldn’t say my expectations have changed much, but we’ve had two weeks, so I went home and rode my bike for a week, then I came back down to Melbourne on Monday and did some testing with the team – we got the bike a little better and changed the suspension settings.
“Hopefully I should be more comfortable for the race this time, where at Wonthaggi I just hopped on the bike and it was pretty much Dylan’s set-up. We tweaked it a bit, and I feel much better on the practice track. Whether that changes on the race track, I don’t know.”
Long suffered an elbow injury at Appin’s season-opener, which could see him benched indefinitely as he allows it to adequately heal.
The RAM-X is a new premium open-face touring helmet from Arai, which means no corners were cut and protection is number one. Under the composite shell is a one-piece, multi-density EPS liner that is designed to best absorb and distribute the force of an impact. Arai’s testing has shown that the smaller the impact area, the firmer the liner needs to be in order to absorb that impact. Therefore it used firm foam around the smallest impact areas of the forehead and the base of the head, the softest foam at the large crown area and medium density in between.
Inside is a removable/washable/sizeable liner and the RAM-X features the same free-flowing ventilation as the top-of-the-line Corsair-X race helmet. With all three top vents open, plus the two forehead vents, the RAM-X flows tons of air, thanks partly to the seven exhaust vents. The included Pinlock-ready face shield gives excellent coverage, with improved, easier-to-use shutter forehead vents, and the Pro Shade sun visor system is a clever alternative to an integrated drop-down sun shield. Put the Pro Shade in its fully upright position and it functions like the peak of an ADV helmet, partly closed it’s perfect for late afternoon sun and fully closed it covers almost as much of the clear shield as a regular full-face helmet visor. The RAM-X is available in several colors in sizes XS-2XL spread over three shell sizes, starting at $679.95.
“Yeah, of course, Austin has been a really good circuit for me since 2013 so let’s see,” began the reigning World Champion, who comes into the Americas GP four points clear of Dovizioso. “It is true that this year we arrive in very good shape, in Argentina and in Qatar also, we have a solid base. It’s important I feel comfortable but let’s see here. We will start from FP1 like always and not be crazy, not to do something that isn’t in our hands, try to ride like I know and then let’s see. Let’s see the opponents and also the weather, it looks like Saturday will be so so but apart from that try to enjoy this amazing circuit.
In the episode you’ll also hear quotes such as this from Nicky Hayden, talking about his 2006 MotoGP™ title winning season: “Well, for sure, in Portugal, that moment in the gravel trap, that thought of being World Champion just slipped through my hands. You never know how many times you’re going to be in that opportunity in life, but I gathered myself up, and after the race, maybe one hour after, I started to think of only Valencia. I looked at the points and realised I still had a chance.