MotoGP News - MotoGP News: Rossi says races without fans are "a big shame"
Valentino Rossi admits MotoGP races behind closed doors in 2020 would be a "big shame", but accepts that this a better alternative to having no events at all.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation or postponement of the opening 11 races of the 2020 season, with an end-of-July start the aim for MotoGP, with a campaign of around 10-12 events centred in Europe.
Due to social distancing measures worldwide, races will almost certainly have to be run without fans in attendance.
As well as closed door races, multiple races at one track have been mooted by MotoGP organisers Dorna Sports.
Rossi says he is not keen on the idea when asked in an interview organised by Yamaha for his thoughts on the suggestions being made to host the 2020 campaign.
"For me, the best way is to start in August or September and try to make 10 or 12 races in the best circuits around the world, so where have the best conditions," the seven-time MotoGP world champion said.
"So, we can start in September and maybe also finish in December in maybe Australia or Thailand, where it's hot also in December.
"I hope there's no multiple race in the same track, and also I don't like double race in the same weekend like in Superbikes (this idea has been ruled out by Dorna).
"For me it's better to maybe make eight real weekends, or 10 or 12 if it's in the best race tracks.
"And also, if it's [run behind] closed doors, it's a big shame for everybody because we race for the fans, but it's better to race with the doors closed than have no races [at all]."
Rossi's Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales feels it would be "perfect" if MotoGP could simply run the second half of the season as it was before the crisis, and feels it will be "difficult" to race twice in once circuit.
"I completely agree [with Rossi], because finally we have to race, the championship has to move on, all the factories have to work and do laps on the track because right now they are stopped," said Vinales.
"And also for us, for the fans, they can watch at home.
"Like Valentino says, it would be a shame [to race without fans] because we race for our fans and for all the people there [at the circuits] watching us.
"For me, it will be good if we can make the second part of the season, that would be perfect.
"Then, it will be difficult to race two times in one track.
"For me it will be so strange because for sure the results can change a lot."
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April 30, 2020 at 06:21AM
F1 News - 'He was fast and had a great smile' - remembering Roland Ratzenberger
For David Brabham, Roland Ratzenberger is not the forgotten man of Imola.
His former team-mate died on this day 26 years ago, 24 hours before the sport lost one of its greatest drivers, Ayrton Senna.
The events of that horrific weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix have been retold countless times since, but with the focus on the three-time world champion.
Here Brabham remembers the last moments of his friend, the effervescent rookie Ratzenberger.
'Ideal racing driver'
Ratzenberger had signed a deal with the small Oxfordshire-based team at the start of the 1994 season, and in doing so realised a lifelong dream to compete in Formula 1.
"He didn't have it easy," said Brabham, son of three-time world champion Sir Jack. "Roland had no real help in terms of racing from his parents - his dad didn't approve - so he went off on his own."
The Austrian raced in touring cars, Formula 3000 and Le Mans 24 Hours, before he got the chance for the Simtek team after impressing owner and passenger Nick Wirth on a thrilling drive through Banbury in a Ford Fiesta.
"That story about him and Nick wouldn't surprise me. Roland would have done anything to get a seat," added Brabham.
"I'm glad we'd signed him. For me he was the ideal racing driver - he was fit, good-looking and had a great smile. He was fast in the car and understood the car. He was a real asset for us as a team."
But the Simtek car was uncompetitive, as the new team tried to find its feet at motorsport's top table. After failing to qualify for the 1994 opener in Brazil, Ratzenberger finished a commendable 11th at the Pacific Grand Prix in Japan - a race that had 15 retirements.
"I qualified for Brazil, but he didn't, but then we both made Japan," said the 54-year-old Brabham.
"We were talking about that race - he managed a finish. That was a big effort for a new team. Both of us were looking forward to the European races."
Brabham had more experience in the sport. He was asked by Ratzenberger at Imola to test his car's carbon brakes, which the Austrian had complained about. Once that issue was resolved, the Australian said his team-mate felt a lot better and was confident of braking. Unfortunately for Ratzenberger, it was another car part that was the cause of his fatal accident on the Saturday.
'I looked and immediately knew he was gone'
Earlier in the qualifying session, the Austrian's front wing had been damaged; it later broke and became lodged under his car. Unable to control the Simtek, he crashed into the concrete wall at the Villeneuve corner.
"I can't remember how long into the session it was," Brabham said.
"We had done some qualifying runs. I came round Tamburello [curve] and the red flag had come out - actually I think they were yellows at first. I slowed down.
"He'd finished up at the middle of the corner - we ended up going around the outside of the car. When I saw the bits first and saw where the car ended up, I was concerned - that was the fastest part of the circuit. You're doing 300-something kilometres an hour. I looked and immediately thought he was gone - his head position, his visor was up.
"You thought: 'What doesn't look good' - then your brain goes into protection mode or something. The next thought I had was I had to get back to the pits to keep the tyres warm which is the most ridiculous thing to think about, but that's what I thought about."
Brabham returned to the Simtek team in the paddock, where his wife, pregnant with their first child, was waiting for him.
"She asked: 'What do you think?' I just told her that I didn't see life in the car and that he was gone, although I hoped I was wrong. A little while afterwards, that was unfortunately confirmed."
Ratzenberger died on arrival at the nearby Maggiore di Bologna hospital. He was only 33. It was later confirmed the Austrian suffered several injuries, including a skull fracture.
"I don't remember much of the rest of the day," continued Brabham. "We put the shutter down in the garage and we walked back. There weren't a lot of people talking. Everyone was in a state of shock. Nobody could comprehend what had happened."
Following a meeting that evening and warm-up in his car, Brabham and the team decided to compete on Sunday.
"I did notice when I came into the pits that this incredibly dark cloud heaviness surrounding the team had shifted ever so slightly," he said. "I thought I have to pick this team up and continue what we're doing. I decided to race, really for the guys."
'That's when the whole weekend hit me'
The race itself began with a crash on the grid when Pedro Lamy's Lotus went spinning off the track after it smashed into the back of JJ Lehto's stationary Benetton. A safety car was deployed before the racing resumed on lap six. That was the third major accident of the weekend following Ratzenberger and Rubens Barrichello, who suffered a broken nose and arm when his Jordan careered into the Variante Bassa corner at 140mph.
Moments after the restart, the red flag came out again.
"The cars stop once more and you just think: 'Oh no, not again,'" he recalled. "You then realise it's Senna."
"I don't think I got word that he passed away until that evening when I turned on Teletext. That's when the whole weekend hit me and I burst into tears."
Safety measures were introduced immediately for the following race in Monaco, while in the months and years that followed other changes were made, including stronger helmets, a head and neck support device and a redesign of the cars' cockpits. Tracks were also tweaked, with some made slower, run-offs larger and new barriers added.
Jules Bianchi's death in 2015 following his accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, has been the only fatality in the sport since Senna.
"There's no doubt the changes have saved the lives of many drivers," added Brabham.
"There are lots of pros, but the changes to the tracks means some have lost their character. Also the fear and respect for the track from drivers' has changed - I feel that with the young drivers I've worked with.
"If their cars go off then they can keep going - there's no penalty for a mistake, in that sense."
'He had a smile on his face that day'
Some see Ratzenberger as the 'forgotten man' of that tragic weekend, but the Australian disagrees.
"There's looking at it that way or the other way, which I prefer," said Brabham.
"Would we still be talking about Roland 20 years on if only he had died? The fact it happened on the same weekend as Senna means he will always be remembered."
Brabham said a visit to Imola had awoken the memories of that race and of his team-mate - painful, but also positive.
"There was no bad bone in him. He was very charming and had a fun side - everyone liked him," he added.
"Roland probably died happy because he was in Formula 1 - he had a smile on his face that day and that is the last memory I have of him."
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April 30, 2020 at 04:21AM
MotoGP News - MotoGP News: Maximum team sizes outlined for delayed 2020 season
MotoGP has outlined the maximum numbers of team personnel allowed in the paddock when racing resumes, while confirming it is looking to purchase 10,000 coronavirus test kits.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced the opening 11 rounds of the season to be either cancelled or postponed, with the campaign now set to commence at the end of July at the earliest.
On Wednesday, MotoGP governing body the FIM confirmed that a revised calendar won't feature the Finnish, German and - for the first time in history - Dutch GPs, while essential track works in Qatar has ruled out a premier class slot in 2020 after the Losail International Circuit hosted Moto2 and Moto3 in March.
Last weekend, Carmelo Ezpeleta - CEO of MotoGP promoters Dorna Sports - said he was "optimistic" of a late July or August start, with hopes of a 10-12-round season centred in Europe.
It is thought most, if not all, of these races will be held behind closed doors, with a reduction to a skeleton crew of teams personnel previously discussed.
In an update on Wednesday evening, Ezpeleta says a consensus on numbers for each factory and satellite MotoGP team, as well as for the Moto2 and Moto3 squads has been taken.
"We talked to the teams and arrived at a consensus that maximum number for a MotoGP manufacturer team will be 40 [personnel], for satellite or independent teams will be 25, 20 for Moto2 and 15 for Moto3," Ezpeleta said.
"Then there will be, of course, all the people who produce the television signal; all this crew, then the minimum number of people from Dorna who are in charge of race organisation.
"This will give us an average of around 1600 people.
"This is the possibility to control the MotoGP family.
"Unfortunately, at the moment there will be no media and no TV [media]."
Ezpeleta also revealed that Dorna's parent company Bridgepoint Capital is looking at buying 10,000 coronavirus test kits, with regular COVID-19 tests carried out on all personnel to strictly monitor any spread of the virus within the MotoGP paddock.
"We are working just on the 10,000 coronavirus tests which we agreed with Bridgepoint," he added.
"Then what we are doing is to try to make a protocol, which is the way we're working within Dorna now to see how the races could be without spectators and with a limited number of people working in the paddock, which will give different situations regarding transportation, accommodation, hospitality.
"Then everyone will be tested before leaving their house, then tested when they arrive at the circuit and also when they return home.
"This is the idea. We are working with another company which belongs to Bridgepoint to acquire these 10,000 tests."
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April 29, 2020 at 12:22PM
Motorcycle News - The Arkitekt: A bold and brassy BMW R75/6 from Austria
You may remember Titan for their magnificent ‘Bavarian’ BMW R50/3 bobber from three years ago, which looked as good as any official BMW concept. And now they’re back with an R75/6 with a steampunk vibe, a beautiful bronzed frame, and girder-style forks.
‘The Arkitekt’ is most definitely not your typical BMW café racer. Based on a 1977-spec airhead, it’s suspended at the front by a girder built by Sven Denker, a German builder who runs the Custom Corner workshop.
Titan were invited to exhibit a pair bikes at the Monaco Yacht Show, so ‘The Arkitekt’ became one of two machines built side by side.
A Silent Hektik electronic ignition keeps the hotrodded motor running smooth, and to cope with the increased thermal loading, Michael has also installed a bigger oil pan. The breathing is improved too, with pod filters at the intake end and a stubby custom-made exhaust system.
The star turn on this machine, though, is the bronzed finishing on the frame and tank.
This sort of finish takes a ton of work, but it was worth it. And the effect has been carried over to the forks too.
Blechmann also helped with many of the exquisite smaller metalwork details, while Michael tackled the heavier engineering work of adapting the front wheel to a perimeter-style brake system taken from a Buell XB12S.
The whole machine is crammed with unusual details like this. Which makes it a refreshingly creative approach, in a custom world full of cookie-cutter airheads.
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April 29, 2020 at 12:28PM
MotoGP News - MotoGP News: Marquez suggests rider contract freeze for '21
Reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez has proposed the idea freezing current rider contracts until the end of 2021 to avoid deals being done without any racing having taken place.
The 2020 season in on indefinite hiatus until at least the end of July, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation and postponement of the opening 11 rounds.
This has presented a major problem for the make-up of the 2021 grid, as almost all premier class seats were up for grabs at the start of this year.
Yamaha has locked down Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo, while Honda signed Marquez on a new four-year deal - reportedly worth up to €100million - and Suzuki has re-signed Alex Rins.
Avintia's Tito Rabat already had a deal in place to remain with the Ducati satellite operation for next year.
But the lack of racing, and potential for no racing at all, has posed issues for the likes of Valentino Rossi, Alex Marquez and Ducati, not to mention potential Moto2 graduates.
When asked about the situation, Marc Marquez told Spanish outlet Marca that MotoGP should consider following on from its engine and aerodynamic development freeze through to the end of 2021 and do the same with rider contracts.
"The situation is difficult," Marquez began. "I have already renewed for four years with Honda.
"It was a risky bet on both sides, but I think it was a good one.
"There are, however, many who have not yet signed a contract, who must prove they deserve a place in MotoGP, in Moto2, in Moto3, and among those is my brother.
"I think teams need to have tact, or a slightly more open mind.
"The development of motorcycles has been frozen from 2020 to 2021, and I think it is a good thing because the budgets of the team will also be affected by this pandemic.
"Why not do something similar with rider contracts?
"They could freeze them, as if this year hadn't happened. But these are things beyond my control."
In recent weeks, Petronas SRT boss Razlan Razali said he would push to retain works Yamaha team-bound Quartararo should this year be cancelled outright despite the Frenchman already signing his 2021 deal.
Responding to his brother's comments, Alex Marquez says extending his Honda stay into 2021 without proving himself on track does not appeal to him.
"I want to ride and earn my renewal with results," the reigning Moto2 champion said.
"As a rider, I would not like to sign a contract without racing. It could happen, but I hope not."
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April 29, 2020 at 09:31AM
MotoGP News - MotoGP News: Dutch, German and Finnish races officially cancelled
The MotoGP Dutch, German and Finnish Grands Prix will not appear on a revised 2020 calendar, as all three events have been officially cancelled by the FIM.
The coronavirus pandemic has put the 2020 season on hold until August at the earliest, after the first 11 races were wiped from their original slots.
The season-opening Qatar GP was cancelled a week before the event, and will not feature on a new calendar due to track works taking place at the Losail circuit later this year.
The other 10 races have thus far only been suspended, though Finland always looked unlikely to stage its MotoGP return this year owing to the KymiRing still needing FIM approval before being used - something impossible to do around current lockdown and travel restrictions.
A former Assen boss recently said the healthy financial situation of the circuit meant skipping a year would not have much impact, should MotoGP be unable to race in the Netherlands.
On Wednesday morning, the FIM confirmed the cancellation of the Finnish and Dutch races, as well as the German GP at the Sachsenring.
This will be the first time in MotoGP's 71-year history that the Dutch TT at Assen has not been held.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of these three important grands prix on the MotoGP calendar," Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said.
"The German GP is raced on a truly unique track with an incredible history, and the Kymiring is an exciting new venue set to welcome Grand Prix motorcycle racing back to Finland for the first time since 1982.
"And the iconic TT Circuit Assen had the unique honour of being the only venue to have held a round of the motorcycle racing Grand Prix World Championship every year, uninterrupted, since the Championship began in 1949.
"On behalf of Dorna I would like to thank all the fans for their understanding and patience as we wait for the situation to improve.
"We very much look forward to returning to the Sachsenring and the TT Circuit Assen in 2021, and eagerly await the Grand Prix debut of the new KymiRing next season."
Ezpeleta stated last weekend that the series was "optimistic" of a July start to the delayed 2020 season.
Previously stating that he'd be "delighted" with 10 races this year, Ezpeleta once again confirmed his hopes to have 10-12 events in 2020 centred in Europe.
With four races now cancelled, and doubts over the possibility of using any venues in Spain or Italy this year as well as the unlikelihood of any flyaways being staged, it's almost a certainty that multiple races will be held at small selection of circuits this year.
No new calendar will be issued until current uncertainty surrounding the spread of coronavirus subsides.
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April 29, 2020 at 05:16AM
Motorcycle News - Orbitkey Return of the Cafe Racers Key Organiser
Every motorcyclist wants to be more streamlined. With no boot or cabin space to utilise, being organised and clutter-free is essential when considering your everyday riding gear. Faced with this issue on a daily basis, Return of the Cafe Racers started looking for ways to reduce our EDC (everyday carry) to the bare minimum. This led to the discovery of Orbitkey’s Key Organiser. This convenient device minimises clutter by reducing your keys into one compact unit. It also wraps them in a protective strap to help reduce the chance of them digging into your body, jingling annoyingly while you ride, or scratching your beloved motorcycle.
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April 28, 2020 at 07:05PM
Motorcycle News - MO Tested: EarPeace Earplug Review
For almost a quarter-century, I’ve been wearing earplugs while riding, and I’ve tried just about every kind of earplug out there. For about the past decade, I’ve used musician’s earplugs because they fit my funny-shaped left ear canal, and they don’t muffle sound – just lower its intensity. However, I’ve had to put up with some idiosyncrasies, like the slight protrusion from my ear. Imagine my interest when the folks from EarPeace approached me to review their product. On the surface, it appears to address my issues with musician’s earplugs while still playing to their strengths.
We’re accustomed to unboxing experiences with expensive products, but EarPeace has taken presentation to heart, too. The first thing you’ll notice when you look through the clear plastic package is that there are three earplugs. Yep, you can lose one without rendering the entire set useless. The next observation will be of the machined aluminum carrying case that, upon closer inspection, has a clip and dual storage chambers with screw-on caps. The top chamber has room for two plugs, and the bottom chamber gives you a choice. You can either store your spare plug or the extra noise-reducing filters.
The removable filters are EarPeace’s killer feature. The rider gets to decide what level of noise reduction they desire. The clear filters deliver a claimed SNR 17 / NRR 11 reduction, while the red and black filters give SNR 20 / NRR 14 and SNR 26 / NRR 19, respectively. The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is probably the standard with which readers are most familiar, though, with higher numbers representing more sound attenuation. (For sake of comparison, the box of Hearos foam earplugs I keep in my garage – for emergencies, along with an extra set or two in my track gear bag – are rated at NRR 30, but I am never quite able to get my left ear to seal properly. So, my actual rating is likely much lower.)
The earplugs themselves are short, dual-flanged pieces constructed of silicone. They are soft and conform easily to differing ear canal shapes – even my troublesome left ear. Each plug has a short tab that extends from the plug that is your grip when you remove the plugs. You need to align the pull tab with one of the two notches above or below your ear’s tragus, the flap of your external ear that covers the ear canal. If you don’t do this, you may find yourself digging the plug out of your ear with your bike key. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) With careful insertion, the earplug is easy to remove with the pull tab, but the need to be careful with the tab’s location is my sole complaint about the EarPeace earplugs.
The EarPeace plugs fit snugly, but comfortably, in my ears and don’t require the user spread the sides of the helmet (like my previous musician’s plugs) to keep them from being knocked loose when donning the helmet. I spent a lot of time testing the three filters and found the clear ones ideal for around town. For any more than a couple of miles on the freeway, I’d recommend switching to the red filters. In fact, the red filters would be my compromise daily use filter. Not surprisingly, the earplugs come fit with the red filters in the package. The black filters do the best job of blocking sound, but I still prefer to be able to hear vehicles around me on the street. So, these filters are likely the ones I’d use on track days, where the speeds/noise levels are higher.
After so many years, I never thought that I’d be switching to a different brand of earplug, but EarPeace’s quality and comfort have won me over in just a few rides. EarPeace earplugs retail for $25 in a standard or small size with a choice of a red or black aluminum carrying case. I highly recommend these comfortable, effective earplugs.
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April 28, 2020 at 06:31PM
Motorcycle News - Harley-Davidson Announces Q1 2020 Results and New Strategic Plan
Harley-Davidson reported its first quarter 2020 results, announced actions to address the impact of COVID-19 and outlined a new strategic plan for the company, moving forward.
It comes to no surprise that the Q1 numbers were bad, considering the recent departures of former Chief Executive Officer Michael Levatich and chief operating officer Michelle Kumbier, plus an attempted proxy fight with minor shareholder Impala Asset Management. And that’s all before the full impact of COVID-19 will really take hold.
For those keeping score, Harley-Davidson says it sold 40,439 motorcycles over the quarter, down 17.7% from the 49,151 models sold in the same quarter last year. International sales saw a 20.7% increase, while U.S. sales, which represents the bulk of Harley’s market, were down 15.5%. According to Harley-Davidson, U.S. retail sales were actually up 6.6% until mid-March when the pandemic crisis began to impact, well, everything, but especially motorcycle production.
Revenue was down from all segments, including motorcycle sales (-6.8%), resulting in a first quarter operating income of $84.6 million (-22.0%). Harley-Davidson Financial Services also saw a hit, with an operating income of $22.9 million (-60.9%) despite a 5.1% increase in revenue, due to an “increase in the provision for loan losses related to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Addressing the pandemic, Harley-Davidson outlined measures to address its impact and prepare for recovery. The measures involve reduced capital spending (including a freeze on hiring and bonuses plus temporary salary reductions) and the retiming of new product launches; maintaining liquidity; supporting dealers; and continuing to take steps to protect the safety and health of employees. Harley-Davidson says it has restarted some manufacturing and will gradually ease work-at-home restrictions at the appropriate time.
Harley-Davidson also announced a new five-year strategic plan it calls “The Rewire” that will modify its current “More Roads” plan. The new plan will be fully fleshed out in the coming months, but the overall aims appears to be refocusing on the company’s core strengths and prioritizing its strongest markets.
That sounds to us like Harley-Davidson will retreat back to its core products, that is, cruisers and heavyweight tourers. Harley says it remains committed to entering the adventure touring, streetfighter and electric motorcycles, so the Pan America and Bronx will likely still be coming out this year, while the Livewire remains a core part of H-D’s lineup. Practically speaking, Harley-Davidson has already invested enough development and marketing capital into these products, there’s little choice but to proceed, but with more modest and more achievable targets. What’s less solid is the fate of Harley-Davidson’s next line of future products, including smaller electric models, electric bicycles, and the new liquid-cooled Custom models.
In focusing on its strongest, most profitable markets, we may see Harley-Davidson scaling back its goals for the European market. The new models and the liquid-cooled Revolution Max platform were a big part of the company’s European strategy, but Harley-Davidson still had a lot of work to do on its existing lineup, as most of its current models do not meet Euro 5 regulations that are supposed to be mandatory by the end of the year. Several manufacturers are petitioning for a delay on that front, and Harley-Davidson will likely be backing those efforts.
The Rewire plan also calls for adjustments in the company’s structure to be more nimble and able to adjust to new realities of the market once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Part of that will also include moving the timing of its product launches, traditionally in late August and early September, to better match up with the start of the riding season.
Further details to the Rewire plan will be released in the second quarter.
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April 28, 2020 at 05:19PM
Motorcycle News - In Too Deep: A KTM Supermoto flat tracker by Hombrese
Uwe Kostrewa at Hombrese Bikes pushed the project over the finish line, but the initial work was actually done the KTM’s owner, Patrick. The two Germans are good friends—they worked together for a while, and their workshops are right next to each other in Cologne.
Uwe settled on a 450 cc KTM single, but Patrick wanted something bigger—so he picked the 98 hp KTM 950 Supermoto.
The wheels were re-laced with a pair of 19” rims, powder coated, and shod with Dunlop DT3 dirt track rubber. Patrick had to fettle the oil cooler too, since the front wheel was now hitting it—so he moved it slightly, and took some superfluous material out of the casing.
Buzzing from the result, Patrick asked Uwe to take the KTM to the next level as soon as they got back to Germany. So when winter hit, it went onto Hombrese’s bench for a full makeover.
Uwe stripped the bike down, and started by reworking the rear end. The 950 Supermoto’s fuel sits under the tank, and Uwe wanted to keep it that way—but on his terms. This would prove to be the most challenging part of the build.
Up top is a flat track tail section from Survivor Customs in the UK. It’s a sneaky setup—one screw releases the seat pad, which comes off to provide access to the fuel filler. For the front, Uwe took a fiberglass tank from a Sunday Motors mini-tracker, and retro-fitted it to the KTM’s frame by splitting it in two and reshaping it.
The bars are a set of ProTaper dirt track bends, with ProGrip grips and a simple kill-switch. Keen eyes will notice the lack of a foot brake—it’s been replaced by a one-finger lever above the clutch control.
With sharp new lines and a refined setup, all the KTM needed now was a fresh coat of paint. The guys settled on a brilliant color—the same red Honda used on the CR500 in the late 80s.
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April 28, 2020 at 12:29PM