Thanks so much to all who came and said hello at Donington. Too exhausted to scribble now (thanks to our motorway network rather than the spectacular event at Donny) but in the meantime here's some pics. And that's Eddie Roberts on the works Ducati he lapped the TT circuit at 106-odd mph
Thursday, 6 August 2015
I'll have a stand at the Donington Classic Motorcycle Festival 7 to 9th August (aiming to get there lunchtime Friday) which is now one of the largest classic bike events in Europe. With 46 (!) races plus practice and parades a bumper entry of over 500 bikes is expected.
Star names of the world of motorcycling have already confirmed appearances at this year’s festival, including the legendary Freddie Spencer, Niall Mackenzie, Steve Parrish, Ron Haslam and Jim Redman. Oh, and me. I'll have my Ducati and the TT book for sale, with Pat Slinn on hand to autograph, plus the cover star on show - the wonderful ex-Sports Motorcycles Ducati that Roger Nicholls' rode to a morale victory in the 1977 F1 TT.
I'll also have a handful of Benzina back issues - if there's something missing from your collection, email me and I'll try and find a copy to bring along
Monday, 3 August 2015
Ducati's racing manger Alan Jones has some of the best news for UK Ducati racing fans for years... PR follows
John Hopkins confirmed as permanent rider for Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team
John Hopkins has been today (3 August) been confirmed as the permanent rider for the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team for the rest of the 2015 MCE British Superbike Championship season. Hopkins replaces the Czech rider Jakub Smrz, who was injured following a heavy crash in qualifying at Snetterton back in June. The injury to his left hand sidelined Smrz for the Knockhill, Brands Hatch and Thruxton rounds.
Hopkins, the 2011 BSB runner-up, had been drafted in to deputise for the last two rounds but with the injury to ‘Kuba’ still in question it has been decided that he will be replaced on a permanent basis by the ex-MotoGP Californian.
John Hopkins said: “I have definitely been enjoying myself with the team and there is a great atmosphere and for me it has been fantastic to come in straight away and show what we are capable of. I haven’t enjoyed myself on a bike this much in a long time and this opportunity is what I have been waiting for, especially after the frustrating start of the year when you had to watch everyone else testing and racing.
“I bided my time and it has paid off because I wanted to come back with a team and package that I knew had the potential to be at the front and everything I think happens for a reason. I can’t deny that I feel bad for Kuba because he is a great rider and I am sure he will be back soon, but I had to grasp this opportunity and I couldn’t give it up.
“It is amazing to think where we are already; I have had to take a step back and breathe to just look and appreciate how much progress has been made already. I have felt instantly at home with the feel of the throttle and the chassis which is incredible, I think that comes down to it feeling very similar to how the GP bikes were that I spent most of my career on.
“Last weekend we had a few technical issues at the start of the weekend, which wasn’t the fault of the team, but some of the things would have been what everybody else had ironed out at the start of the year.
“We are coming up to some of my favourite tracks and I couldn’t be more excited now and I definitely want to pick up where we left off last weekend at Thruxton.”
Steve Moore, Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati Team Principal, said: “I can confirm that John Hopkins will ride for the team for the remainder of the season and is now signed as our permanent rider.
Expanding the team to a two rider effort isn’t possible, we simply don’t have the resources to properly staff and run two riders without compromising the effort and attention to detail that I’m sure has pushed the team forward. To overstretch would be a big mistake and wouldn’t be professional or fair to either rider. Personally it isn’t an easy decision to replace Kuba, but with his injury still in question and the momentum we have with John I have to do what is the best for the team, sponsors and Ducati. I’ve spoken to Kuba and he remains professional, which I thank and respect him for. It’s important to recognise the amazing development work that he has done with the Ducati. The situation doesn’t do him any justice especially as the bike was considerably improved prior to the Snetterton round (specifically the clutch to fix the race launch issue) and he just didn’t get a chance to display his potential on the bike John is now riding. I am sure he would be a front running rider too and if we had the opportunity to expand the team there would be no question about having him ride.
The remainder of the season and 2016 is what we have to concentrate on now, and my job is to make the decisions that will give us the best chance of success.”
Jakub Smrz said: "Racing is not always going direction you want and I understand and respect decision of the team. It’s been hard beginning of season and very unlucky for me and team as well. In the moment when things started to work perfect and I could finally fight for podiums I got injured. Of course I’m not happy for early season finish and that it’s not me to benefit from hard development work we’ve done. But I wish good luck to Moto Rapido and John in the remaining of season. Now I will continue in my fitness preparation and hopefully I can be back on race bike soon.”
John Hopkins and the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Team will be back in action at Cadwell Park on the 21/22/23 July.
Saturday, 25 July 2015
Parking regulations once again pushed aside for the annual Calne Bikefest. I had to leave by 10:30 but already there were hundreds of bikes - and the sheer variety is striking. Everything from pre-war speedway bikes to the latest shop fresh common or garden, it's all here. Too many Harleys for my taste but at least they get ridden. The affection for Brit bikes is still touching, although the age of owners suggests this may pass in the next decade or so. What is nice to see is Marks and Spencer kitted middle aged couples wander though the bikes reminiscing about their youth, happy to mingle with ruffty tuffty bikers. The townsfolk genuinely welcome the bikers, and the bikers appreciate it. Live music adds to the atmosphere, and it would be churlish to bemoan the rather downmarket stalls and burgers vans, when there are some hidden gems.
The bigger purpose is to raise money for charity - a children's hospice (Julia's House), the Calne Youth Trust and, perhaps predictably, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. At the end of 2014 the committee gave away £10,000, most of it raised by the happy campers who stay Friday and Saturday nights at your typical bikers' rally. The town gets extra business and a higher profile thanks to what the organisers claim is Europe's biggest free bike meeting. Calne could do with it - although famous for being the home of JB Preistly when he discovered oxygen, its greatest employer was the Harris family. They invented the Wiltshire cure for ham, by soaking to meat in brine for under a week - far quicker and more reliable than the old air cured methods. However, like many others, the firm struggled through the 1970s and eventually closed in 1982 after 200 years of meat production, employing 1500 people in its heyday. Since then, despite huge efforts at regeneration, Calne has struggled to match the prosperity of many other Wiltshire towns. Something left field like a bikers' meet might well be part of the solution