WorldSBK riders are embracing the role of track spotters and rider coaches but what do they actually do?
If Tiger Woods needs a swing coach it stands to reason that eve a world class motorcycle racer needs a coach too. Gone are the days where riders eschewed coaching now they’re embracing it. In paddocks, like in any walk of life, keeping up with the Joneses is a factor of life. When one rider makes a change it forces others to do the same.
When world class racers got to the point of diminishing returns when it comes to fitness training their focus turned to having more bike time with Flat Track training or Supermoto training taking on extra significance. Now it’s coaching that is taking centre stage.
“It’s about marginal gains at this point,” said Chaz Davies when quizzed about having Michael Laverty working with him in 2019. “He passes on clear information to us about what he sees and with such a new package that’s useful for all of the team. I think that having someone like him out on track is necessary in this day and age. Having an extra pair of eyes is worthwhile. If you can find the right person, and that’s not easy, it can make a massive difference.
The legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said that “sports don’t build character they reveal it.” This season certainly revealed a lot about Jonathan Rea. He was utterly relentless in his pursuit of a fifth world championship but this season was one unlike any other.
Playing catchup through the season Rea was faced with his toughest test; Alvaro Bautista and Ducati. The former MotoGP rider arrived in WorldSBK like a hurricane. He was destroying everything in his path to win races by over ten seconds. By the time the paddock had arrived in Europe the Spaniard was commenting that he was “changing the level of Superbikes and forcing riders to change their styles.” It was a bold claim but one that couldn’t be challenged at the time such was his supremacy.
“If this was a fight in boxing I’d have been on the ropes in those early rounds,” said Rea after wrapping up the title. “I’ve never seen a turnaround like this one. Of course every season you target to win the championship but honestly after four rounds it was…a big dream. We couldn’t see any weakness in the package of Alvaro Bautista and Ducati.
How do riders prepare for Thailand? Round 2 of the WorldSBK season is the biggest physical test of the year. WorldSBK commentator Steve English stepped out of the air conditioning to try and find out what it’s like
There is no challenge like Buriram on the WorldSBK calendar. It is the hottest round of the year and it places huge physical and mental demands on riders. With temperatures expected to be in the high 30’s the sun and heat will sap the power from riders.
Leon Camier has described racing in those conditions as “brutal” in the past and he’s not wrong. To get an idea of what the riders will go through this weekend try sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes and then imagine doing that while your heart is racing and you’re wearing leathers and a helmet. Before travelling to Thailand I tried to put myself into a rider’s frame of mind and the results were interesting to say the least. We’ve all heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s a lie. I didn’t die but I definitely wasn’t strong afterwards!
“Give it a go, it won’t kill you…and at least you’ll give all of us a laugh,” was how Alex Lowes talked me into seeing how rider’s prepare for a WorldSBK race weekend. In the name of research, and for Lowes’ own personal amusement, I wanted to see the difference between a world class motorcycle racer and what separates them from a normal, everyday Joe Soap.
What is it that draws a motorcycle racer to the Isle of Man for the TT? The prize money is meagre, the cost can be absolute but the challenge is unlike any other
The Isle of Man TT races are everything that’s spectacular about motorcycle racing. There is no greater challenge than taking to the closed roads of the island and trying to calm the inner demons that tell you to stop. That tell you to slow down. That tell you to just survive. The best riders don’t think about surviving; they think about pushing harder than ever. Only a handful of riders will make a living racing on the roads, even fewer will taste champagne or stand in the winner’s enclosure. What drives them to do it?
“Honestly I can’t believe it’s legal to go out and do this,” explained Lee Johnston in the build up to winning his first TT this year. “There is nothing like it. Nothing comes close.”
Lee Johnston has been the coming man of Road Racing. He’s had to deal with the expectations and pressure of being a factory rider. For TT 2019 he’s back in a role that’s much more suitable-a Road Racing Maverick
Ten years ago Lee Johnston was the coming man of Road Racing. He was a 20 year old British national champion who had started to race on the roads and was showing a lot of promise. Fast forward a few years and he had become a winner. He was on a path that would see Honda make him a factory rider. He was on a path to everything any rider would ever want. Any rider that is except for Johnston.
He’s always had a maverick streak. Fermanagh sits close to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Johnston was born into a town that had been hit by The Troubles. He was born at a time of conflict when life and death was an every day fact of life for his country. Now, 30 years later, he still has to factor life and death into his decisions.