Thailand at the heart of Moto2 engine switch to Triumph

June 15, 2017 3 comments

Triumph_Moto2_001With most of Thailand’s recent motorsport headlines trumpeting the three year deal to bring MotoGP to the Kingdom from 2018, another significant move that gives Thailand another important role in Grand Prix racing, went largely unreported.

MotoGP rights holder, Dorna, confirmed that they will change engine supply for Moto2 from the venerable Honda 600cc four cylinder unit to Triumph’s 765cc three cylinder engine that powers the latest Street Triple RS. The change takes effect from 2019, for a period of three years, after eight years with Honda. Peak power will be similar, at around 130bhp, though the characteristics of the power delivery will be vary significantly.

As with Honda, the engines will be race tuned for more performance and durability. Modifications include bigger inlet and exhaust valves, made from titanium to reduce inertia, that will use stiffer springs to enable a higher (as yet undisclosed) rev limit and fewer electronic restrictions. These should increase peak power from the Street Triple’s official 121bhp to 131bhp for the race motor. There will also be a tune-able FCC slipper clutch and a race alternator and a new ECU from Magneti Marelli.

Triumph_Moto2_002While the moving race parts will be manufactured at Triumph’s Hinckley factory in England’s East Midlands, castings, crank cases and machined heads will come from the company’s plant in Chonburi, 70km from Bangkok. This is a vote of confidence in the performance and quality of output from the British company that says much more than a corporate press release ever could. Triumph was one of the first European motorcycle manufacturers to set up a factory in Thailand, where it has now been operating for more than ten years.

All parts will be shipped to engine builder, Externpro, at Aragon in Spain for assembly. The company has been building Honda Moto2 engines since 2012, achieving remarkable consistency and reliability so that Moto2 teams know that they always have a competitive engine. They have been working with a continuously rotating batch of engines, which are reconditioned and sealed after every three races. With 34 teams allowed for in 2019, Triumph will need to supply around 150 engines. With claimed engine failures numbering just three under Externpro’s stewardship in more than five seasons and one million kilometers of racing, the Triumph engine will be well and truly in the spotlight.

It is a significant step for the British manufacturer. Despite low visibility as a manufacturer of race bikes, its recent record includes numerous short circuit successes in the Supersport categories and victories at the Isle of Man TT and the Daytona 200. Triumph says it is confident in their racing pedigree and their ability to provide reliable engines to the Moto2 grid.

1_lukestapleford_profileracing_worldsbkrd4_2016UK based Profile Racing has, for several seasons, been racing the Triumph Speed Triple 675 with notable success. Rider, Luke Stapleford, claimed the 2015 British Supersport Championship before switching to Honda in World Supersport at the beginning of 2016. The pairing was short-lived and, together with his title-winning Crew Chief, Tristan Palmer, Stapleford switched back to Profile and the Triumph after three rounds. Adapting the Triumph for the world championship required considerable development work, but results now speak for themselves, with the Englishman lying 10th in the 2017 rankings to date and having scored a fourth place last time out, at Donington Park.

Speaking from Misano, as the team set up for World Supersport Round 7, Palmer said, “A lot of our parts are made there now. The engines will be really good as they make good power and because it’s a 765 it’s not that stressed. It makes great torque compared to the Honda and the gearbox is better too.

“With three cylinders the engine is very narrow, so frames and fairings will also be narrower.”

The change of engine throws down a major challenge to Moto2 chassis manufacturers. While it will be some time before they receive the actual engines, Triumph is now preparing a technical information kit to help them design their frames around the engine. That could well result in one manufacturer getting an early advantage if they hit it more right than the others. Kalex will need an element of luck to add to their technical brilliance in order to maintain the dominance they are currently enjoying.

Triumph_Moto2_004From 2019 castings for the Triumph Triple RS engine, precision made in Thailand, will be on display in the world’s most competitive motorcycle racing showcase. It is a move that adds another dimension to the Kingdom’s place in the sport, alongside a growing supply of riders, technicians and race tracks.

You can check Triumph’s official Moto2 video here.

Anucha gains in the rain at Thailand Circuit

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Declaration of Interest: Barry Russell is Jury President for the FMSCT All Thailand Superbike Championship 2017

Images courtesy of Ratchata Tanwira

Yamaha Thailand’s Anucha Nakcharoensri  set aside a difficult start to the season and some painful injuries to claim his first win of 2017 on a rain-soaked Thailand Circuit at the weekend. This was Round 4 of the FMSCT All Thailand Superbike Championship 2017 and Round 2 of the R2M Superbikes Thailand 2017 Championship.

Rain clouds threatened from the start of Free Practice on Friday, unleashing a heavy storm in the afternoon and early evening, but then stayed quiet throughout Saturday and up until soon after the start of the Superstock 1000 race in the middle of Sunday afternoon.

After a heavy fall at Bira that ended in the tyre barrier at the final turn and resulted in a fractured scapula, right collarbone and a rib, it got worse on Friday when the 2015 champion fell at the exit to Turn One, leaving him in a great deal of discomfort. With Yamaha Thailand’s management ready to withdraw him for his own sake, Anucha returned to the circuit on Saturday to have a run at qualifying, with the intention of racing to capture as many points as possible. With two second places and a DNF to the three wins taken by the Kawasaki of Thitipong Warakorn, it was vital to stay within reach of the championship.

Qualifying was held in near ideal conditions, with some cloud to keep off the worst of the heat. A sensational lap of 1:20.097 by Thitipong’s Thailand Kawasaki team mate, Chaiwichit Nisakul, secured pole position by 0.68 of a second from the former Moto2 star. Anucha, the lap record holder, dug in to pull off a lap of 1:21.066 to complete the front row. Behind them, the SB-2 Rookie class contenders, Or, for Core Motorsport on a Kawasaki, Rattasit on the GSL Yamaha, the UTR Racing Kawasaki of Asawin and the Elf Smart Honda of Thierry Perenon, made up the rest of the grid.

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Chaiwichit, Anucha and Thitipong in their early battle

Rain affected delays to the schedule, including a red flag in the Powergirls WS-1 and 2 race, meant that race distance was reduced from 17 to 15 laps. As the grid formed the track was properly wet, with standing water in many places and light rain still falling. Chaiwichit made the most of his pole position to take the lead as the field came out of Turn 1, chased by Thitipong, who was forced to give way to Anucha as they went into Turn 4. These three maintained their positions for the first three laps until Chaiwichit got badly out of shape under braking for Turn 1 and ploughed straight on into the grass and mud, quickly re-mounting to continue at the rear of the field.

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True Grit – and grass: Chaiwichit pushes on after crashing out of the lead

 

Thitipong pushed hard, showing a wheel when he could, but except for one brief spell in front that lasted just two corners, Anucha controlled the race from the front. Thitipong’s challenge faded in the last five laps, leaving Anucha a gap of 9.7 seconds at the chequered flag. In a race of attrition, Chaiwichit’s gritty recovery saw him finish 5th and last, 1:37 behind the winner but good enough to put him onto the podium by virtue of Rattasit and Asawin, who finished in front of him, being Rookie class SB-2 entries.

The physical demands of racing in dry conditions would almost certainly have prevented the injured Anucha from keeping Thitipong behind for the full race distance and the Yamaha rider was elated at having achieved a win that had looked unlikely after his crash in Free Practice.

SUPERSTOCK 1000 saw Ben Fortt, on the YSS Motul Racing Kawasaki, take pole position from Yamaha Thailand’s Anon Sangval with a lap of 1:21.844, 0.241 faster than the Yamaha rider. Apidej Boonsri was a further 1.1 seconds back, on 1:23.216 to complete the front row. The Aprilia Thailand RSV4 of BRP Racing, ridden by Bodeepak  led the second row after putting in a qualifying lap of 1:23.683. The ST-2 Rookie class filled out the rest of the grid, led by the BK Motorsport Yamaha of Nattapon Wongwutthian, with the Lupromax Kawasaki of Jonathan Valero Rubio at the back after he breached the ST-2 time ranking limit of 1:26.00 and was disqualified from Qualifying. In the middle of the pack was the eye-catching 1999 vintage Yamaha R1 of Mark Harrison, tastefully wrapped in Candy Strip Moto livery.

Rain looked inevitable as the bikes started the warm-up lap. As the grid formed and the start line marshal prepared to walk off the grid, a gale force wind tore across the track, ripping down pit lane tents and threatening to hurl them onto the track. Race Director Anawat Hongpong showed the Start Delay Board to allow time for marshals to check whether anything had been blown onto the track. It was clear, so the race got underway a few seconds later.

18839344_1902192393139697_6406548644175938952_nAnon got the holeshot, chased by the in-form Fortt, with Apidej and Bodeepak taking third and fourth behind. Fortt’s challenge came to an abrupt end when his ZX-10’s electronics went into safety mode, taking away the traction control, quickshifter and limiting him to 6,000rpm. When the rain began to fall in earnest on lap 4, Bodeepak became the man on the move, closing the gap on Apidej and Anon, until he crashed the Aprilia two laps later at Turn 3.

With the minimal rain dispersal afforded by the Superstock tyres, the field continued to slip and slide around the twisty 2.5km circuit. Valero Rubio, who had been making his way through the field before the rain started, continued his progress in the worsening conditions, coming through to second place, 1:12.5 behind Anon, who stayed focused and brought his R1 home in a race time of 29:49.6. Tepparat rode an excellent race to finish third on the road on the Ake Helmet 18951010_1902192249806378_7511022587525373104_nLiquimoly Kawasaki. Apidej was a further 12 seconds back in fourth ahead of Nattapon. With the podiums adjusted for the professional and rookie classes, Apidej and Fortt joined Anon on the ST-1 podium, while Valero Rubio took the ST-2 win from Tepparat and Nattapon. The X-Speed Kawasaki of Naruchit Khanchitwaranon was sixth past the chequered flag ahead of the Candy Stripe classic R1 of Harrison.

THE SUPERSPORT 600 class suffered from a depleted entry list, which left Yamaha Thailand’s Prawat Yannawut as the only professional class entry. Always the professional, the reigning All Thailand Supersport 600 champion took pole position with a lap of 1:22.668 ahead of three rookie entries: the X-Speed Yamaha of of Tannaphon, the Miyata SC CR Honda of Nattapatara and the Marry G LiquiMoly Suzuki, which was later withdrawn from the race.

The weather delays meant that the race, the last of the day, was shortened by five laps to 12. With the track still wet, Prawat went to work, opening up a margin of around 10 seconds on the two rookies and holding it to the end. Tannaphon rode well to second place, while Nattapatara improved his lap times as the race went on to finish third on the road and second on the SS-2 podium.

18814104_1902207356471534_8332594426200660916_nTHE SUPERBIKE POWERGIRLS Professional and Rookie classes both served up surprises. The Raceoil Suzuki of Pattama Lammomanda, got within 0.6 of a second of Round 1 runaway winner, Ratchada Nakcharoensri in qualifying. In wet conditions, she followed up by taking a convincing by 5.9 seconds over a five-lap re-started race, after a crash left the Jomthai Motabatt Yamaha in the middle of the track at Turn 3. The remaining Professional entry, Issey Wiriyahyuttamar, riding the classic Candy Stripe Yamaha R1, weathered worn tyres to 18893232_1902209026471367_1087578573325868937_ncomplete the WS-1 podium. In the Rookie WS-2 class, Sukanya, on the X-Speed Kawasaki got the better of Ananyalal on her new Elf Kawasaki Pune ZX-10, only to roll off the throttle when she mistook the the first bridge for the finish line. Ananyalal did not need a formal invitation and pounced to take the class win.  Behind them Pirapat completed an impressive debut for the new Racing Project Mobius Motorbike Team, also on a Kawasaki.

The next round of the FMSCT All Thailand Superbike Championship will be at Chang International Circuit on 7th-9th July.

Anucha flies fastest in Qualifying at Bira

Declaration of Interest: Barry Russell is Jury President for the FMSCT All Thailand Superbike Championship

Special thanks to Ratchata Tanwira for the action photographs

After two closely fought rounds of the FMSCT All Thailand Superbike Championship, the show moved on to the historic Bira International Circuit, near Pattaya this weekend.

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Championship leader, Thitipong Warakorn

The surprise of the season so far has been the immediate impact Thitipong Warakorn has had since joining Kawasaki Thailand. The former Moto2 star not only broke the domination of Yamaha Thailand by winning won the first two rounds, he also knocked Pirelli off the top step of the podium for the first time in many seasons to put Dunlop tyres into the Thai Superbike spotlight.

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Airborne Anucha

Yamaha Thailand’s 2015 champion, Anucha Nakcharoensri, who has collected two second places so far in 2017, is now wearing the look of a man intent on tipping the scales back in his favour. He was the only rider to dip below the 1:01 mark at Bira, recording a lap of 1:00.774, 0.365 of a second ahead of Thitipong. Chaiwichit Nisakul, on the second Kawasaki will line up next to his team mate in third place, with Thierry Perenon completing the front row on the Elf Smart Honda.

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Ben Fortt on his way to Pole Position

IN SUPERSTOCK 1000 it was Ben Fortt who took the fight to Yamaha on the Pirelli-shod YSS Motul Kawasaki. The ‘Pattaya Ice Man’ looks to be in the best form of his career and bagged an advantage of 0.219 over Yamaha Thailand’s Anon Sangval. The Singha PTT Srisakon Kawasaki of Apidej Boonsri was just seven hundredths of a second further back to set up an intense 17 lap battle for supremacy. With Fortt missing out on a chance for second place after a clash with Apidej on the penultimate lap last week at Buriram, and Anon’s Yamaha always a target, this could be the toughest race of the weekend. Fourth fastest was Bodeepak Watcharakajonwong on the Aprilia Thailand supported BRP Racing Aprilia RSV4 Factory.

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Ratchada Nakcharoensri on the TS Racing Yamaha

SUPERSPORT 600 again saw Yamaha Thailand’s Prawat Yanwut take a clear pole position from the in-form Ratchada Nakcharoensri on the Yamaha TS Racing R6 and privateer Jason McLeod on the former Hans Muehlebach Honda CBR600RR.

The action starts with Warm-up practice sessions from 08:30 on Sunday and the first race scheduled for midday.

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The new Michelin Power RS – track and long term road test

Ahead of the official launch in Thailand of the brand new Michelin Power RS, I was one of a mixed group of riders invited to test the French tyre giant’s latest sport-road tyre innovation by distributor Radial Tab (RDT) at Thailand Circuit, some 70 kilometres from the centre of Bangkok. I was there as a regular road user and sometime track rider.

The homework I did before the test, in January 2017, got me interested. Here was a new tyre developed to deliver excellent performance in cold, hot, dry or wet conditions – and to provide good durability. Were too many compromises required to deliver all of this?

Michelin’s research and development team identified that despite the climate differences around the world, riders who buy sport road tyres use their bikes in very much the same way: they want to have fun and mostly in dry conditions. With power, chassis and suspension development of sports bikes moving fast, delivering power to the road or track in a safe, predictable way is a tough and continuously changing challenge.

Naturally I was expecting a tyre with a dual compound: softer on the edges and harder in the middle, but there is much more to the technology than that. The Power RS is a product of Michelin’s Adaptive Casing technology (ACT+), which the company claim is the biggest breakthrough since the radial motorcycle tyre in 1987.

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ACT+ consists of a single, variable-angle casing ply. At the crown the angle is close to 90 degrees to give enhanced flexibility and high speed straight line stability, while at the shoulder the ply is folded back over itself to reduce sidewall flex and give better tracking through corners. Like the Pilot Power 3, the Power RS uses a harder, silica rich compound at the crown and softer, carbon black shoulders. The short, deep grooves are cut to expel water at moderate lean angles, as road riders generally do not go to the edges of the tyres on wet roads.

Technology aside, the Power RS looks cool, its tread identifying it as a relative of the Power Cup Evo. Michelin are clear that this is a not a track tyre, but a road tyre you can use on the track.

In keeping with my role in RDT’s testing programme, I rode to Thailand Circuit on my Kawasaki Z800, shod with the Pilot Road 3s I had bought some five months previously to replace the original Dunlops. With a couple of trackdays and less than 4,000 kilometres of total use, they were nicely scrubbed, but otherwise showing few signs of wear and tear. I had last ridden them on track the previous weekend, so would be able to make a useful performance comparison. I was the last of the testers to arrive, so had time to look around and talk to the other riders while I waited for the technicians to change my tyres. Among them were former 250 two-stroke GP racer Ben Reid and Apidej Boonsri, a top Superstock 1000 contender in the FMSCT All Thailand Superbike Championship. Ben was running in a newly delivered Aprilia RSV4 Factory also destined for Superstock success, while Apidej was on his hitherto Pirelli-shod Kawasaki ZX10R. Both bikes were testing Power Cup Evos and the paddock chatter was that the Thai rider had already knocked a full second off his previous best time at the Nakhonchaisri circuit. Meanwhile Ben, a man who is not easily pleased, was waxing lyrical about the hoops on his new machine.

20170123_132524The RSV4 had been supplied by Aprilia Thailand, part of the Vespiario conglomerate, and Executive Director, Visudt Tejapaibul had also brought along a similarly untouched Tuono V4 1100 Factory for Reid to run in the 2017 R2M Unleash the Beast naked bike class. Himself an accomplished and quick rider, Khun Visudt was putting the Tuono through its paces and invited me to try it out. That is a story for another day, suffice it to say that my first Power RS experience was on one of the most impressive and surprising motorcycles I have ever been lucky enough to throw a leg over.

The Tuono ride was too much of a sensory overload to isolate the contribution of the tyres, so I waited as patiently as I could for the tyres on my Z800 to get swapped over. Reminding myself that no matter how good the Power RS would be, mine were still cold and still shiny from the mold release agent, I went through the first few turns fairly gently, turning a little faster and harder each time. By the time I started my third lap, I was feeling confident, blasting down Thailand Circuit’s short start-finish straight and braking hard on the rippled approach to the hairpin at Turn 1, keeping pressure on the front brake as I turned in. There was no drama, so I knew I was still a long way from the limits.

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Of course, I was riding the motorcycle that gets me to work and back, around Bangkok for meetings and out of town on the odd occasion I have a free weekend, so I edged closer to the limits progressively. I worked on braking later, turning the bike in harder, increasing the lean angle and getting on the power earlier. Every time I pushed, the tyres asked me, “is that all you’ve got?” Even on the ‘hold on tight’ bumpy approach to Turn 6, a long, fast, right hander, the tyres worked with my stock suspension to keep things in line, despite the bucking effect that makes it wise to keep your teeth clenched to avoid biting your tongue. Extra demands from unforced errors – usually braking late and getting off the clean racing line were also forgiven without fuss.

Few riders stay on the demanding, 2.5 kilometre track for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time, but I was so deep into the happy zone of being relaxed mentally and physically, it was only a glance at the clock that told me I had been on track for more than 30 minutes. Checking myself, I realised that my confidence had grown sufficiently to set myself up for a crash, so I reeled off another two laps and came back to the pits.

I was in only long enough to drink a litre of water and jumped back on while the tyres were still hot. However, the break had allowed fatigue to creep in, so I gave it another 15 minutes, knowing that I would not find out anything new, and came back in to refresh myself and do a video interview, before the one hour blast in fading light back to Bangkok.

Already a happy Michelin user, I confess I was ready to be impressed by the new Power RS, but it exceeded my expectations on that first outing. More than anything I enjoyed the performance of the front tyre, trail braking and getting accurate feedback from the soft edges. The rear tyre gripped well mid turn and bit hard under power at the exit. In a nutshell, I was able to get more performance out of the Kawasaki than had been possible on the Pilot Road 3 and the original Dunlops before that. In other words, I had more fun.

You can see a video of the test, with comments from Thai and English speaking riders by clicking this link.

That was three months ago, before the Michelin Power RS was officially launched in Thailand. Since then I have covered 2700 kilometres of road riding and had one more track outing.

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This road is completely dry!

Riding within Bangkok’s city limits holds different challenges for riders who like to ‘make good progress’ on their urban journeys. The traffic volume in Thailand’s capital city is notorious, demanding that riders of large capacity motorcycles get their forward planning right and snap up any bike-sized space as it opens up. That is more of a game of strategy than a mechanical test, but it does take place on roads that are either potholed (nothing new for a Brit) or so finely polished that you have to ride as though they are wet, which makes finding grip an issue. That is fun when you put the power on – half throttle will spin the back wheel in the first three gears on stretches of Petchaburi Road among others – but needs a sensitive touch with the front brake when a cart with a wok full of boiling fat is pushed out into your path and you don’t have ABS. Even without random obstacles coming at you, hard braking on tricky surfaces is fun and I can definitely squeeze the lever harder on the Power RS than I could on the Power Road 3 before I hear the warning ‘chirrup’. Spinning up the rear often used to happen unexpectedly, but now requires a deliberate act of hooliganism, as the grip at the crown will take more power before it breaks loose. I have also attacked bends where the rear would step out previously and gone round faster with wheels in line.

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Parked up for a meeting in downtown Bangkok

The condition of the tyres now is scrubbed and showing no signs of excessive wear or squaring off from the use they have had so far.

Meanwhile, my Power Road 3s are still being stored at Thailand Circuit. I have a vague plan to put them back on when the rains arrive in July, but will try them in the wet before I do.

My experience with the Michelin Power RS so far has convinced me that I have the best tyres money can buy for the bike I own and the mixed use that I make of it.

ARRC Round 2 Supersport 600 – double for Azlan as West is disqualified

Something different for this weekend’s coverage. I am pleased to be writing for the official FIM Asia Road Racing Championship website for Round 2, as well as representing the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of Thailand (FMSCT) on the Jury. For that reason, rather than duplicate my articles here, I am simply publishing links.

My coverage for Race 2, which was amended after publication following the disqualification of Anthony West, is on this link.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Yamamoto keeps his cool to win Race 2

Something different for this weekend’s coverage. I am pleased to be writing for the official FIM Asia Road Racing Championship website for Round 2, as well as representing the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of Thailand (FMSCT) on the Jury. For that reason, rather than duplicate my articles here, I will simply publish links.

Please click through for my report on Asia Production 250cc Race 2

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Photo Credit: FIM Asia Road Racing Championship

Categories: Uncategorized

ARRC Underbone 150cc – Wahyu weathers the swarm to win Race 2

Something different for this weekend’s coverage. I am pleased to be writing for the official FIM Asia Road Racing Championship website for Round 2, as well as representing the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of Thailand (FMSCT) on the Jury. For that reason, rather than duplicate my articles here, I will simply publish links.

Please click through for my report on the Underbone 150cc Race 2

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Photo Credit Asia Road Racing Championship

Categories: Uncategorized