All eyes were on the weather this weekend at Le Mans, with the 2.6 mile Bugatti circuit plagued by changeable conditions during qualifying. Saturday saw plenty of yellow flags, with damp patches catching out many. However, the weather improved enough overnight for Sunday to be declared a dry race.
At the start of the weekend only 6 points separated the top 3 in the championship, with Remy Gardner leading on 69 points, and Sam Lowes second with 66. Raul Fernandez, in his rookie season in Moto2, rounded out the top 3 on 63 points, after gaining victory in the third race of the season in Portugal.
Lowes went into the weekend having won the first two races of the season, at Qatar and Doha, and race 4 in Spain saw Fabio Di Giannantonio on the top step of the podium.
Another one to watch this weekend was the Brit Jake Dixon, who came so close to winning at Le Mans last year only to crash out four laps from the finish.
Sam Lowes started strong, setting the fastest lap in FP2 on the Friday, with just over a 10th off the outright lap record but it was Raul Fernandez who emerged victorious in qualifying, setting the fastest qualifying lap at 1’50.135 to gain his maiden pole in Moto2.
Bezzecchi, whose fastest lap was only 0.240 behind Fernandez, lined up second on the grid, and third was Joe Roberts, who had started from pole at Le Mans in 2020.
Lowes was nudged further down the order, starting from the fourth row of the grid in 10th place, and Jake Dixon was way back in 26th.
Bezzecchi made the best start off the line and led from the outset, R Fernandez taking second, and the American Joe Roberts in third.
Aron Canet, starting 4th, briefly moved up into 2nd, before crashing out at the Chemin ux Boeufs esses.
Lowes went out on the fifth lap, attempting to overtake into turn 8, catching a damp spot and collecting Vierge, resulting in Lowes retiring, unable to restart his machine.
Joe Roberts also left the race on lap 5, losing the front end at turn 9 and heading into the gravel.
Meanwhile at the front, Fernandez caught Bezzecchi and moved up into the lead, remaining there for the rest of the race.
Having dropped down the order early on, Remy Gardner worked his way back up, putting in the fastest lap of the race at 1’36.893.
By lap 16, Gardner was back up into 3rd and starting to close the gap. Bezzecchi runs slightly deep and onto the green paint beyond the track limits, and Gardner seized his chance to move up into 2nd.
Again, as on Saturday, the dark clouds started to gather, raising the possibility of the race being cut short, but the rain held off long enough to complete the full race distance.
Gardner can’t quite catch his teammate, with Fernandez maintaining nearly a one second lead to win the second Moto2 race in his rookie season. Gardner finishes a comfortable second, resulting in a team Red Bull KTM Ajo one-two on the podium. Bezzecchi takes the third spot, with Arbolino less than 3 seconds behind him in fourth.
Fabio Di Giannantonio, winner of the previous Moto2 race two weeks ago in Spain, finishes 8th and Jake Dixon is well off the pace, finishing 19th.
The weekend comes to an end with the championship even closer – Remy Gardner holds onto his lead with 89 points, but Fernandez is breathing down his neck with 88, and Marco Bezzecchi moves up into third with 72. Sam Lowes, his 66 points unchanged after a difficult weekend, moves down to fourth.
This leaves Lowes with plenty of work to do going into the 6th round at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in 2 weeks time. All eyes will be on the rookie Raul Fernandez, with Gardner facing a battle on his hands to keep hold of that top spot in the championship.
First fifteen riders:
1 Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points
2 Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 16
4 Tony Arbolino ITA – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 13
5 Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 11
6 Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 10
7 Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 9
8 Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 8
9 Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 7
10 Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 6
11 Lorenzo Dalla Porta ITA – Italtrans Racing Team – 5
12 Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 4
The date 4th April 2021 may well go down in motorcycle racing history as the day that Pedro Acosta announced himself to the world. Still only 16 years old, the Spaniard pulled off one of the all-time great rides in any class in modern memory.
Fans look back at 18th August 1996 when Valentino Rossi won his first 125cc Grand Prix at Brno or 6th June 2010 when Marc Marquez took his first victory in the same class at Mugello. You have to wonder in years to come just how historic the second race of the 2021 season will be in the career of young Acosta.
A rookie winning a race is nothing new, even in only his second race. What stands out though is that Acosta started from the pit lane along with six other riders, some eleven seconds after the lights went out to start the race. As the eighteen laps ticked away, Acosta and Romano Fenati (who finished tenth) dragged the late starters up to the main pack with seven laps remaining. Once there, Acosta picked his way through each rider and when he hit the front, and you might think he had over-used his tyres, he still pulled away. Darryn Binder nearly caught him by the end but the Red Bull rider held on to win by 0.039 seconds.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Acosta will be a star of the future as it was a young Fenati that finished second in his debut at Qatar in 2012 before winning in Jerez at the next round and he’s still in Moto3 at the age of 25 (largely through issues of his own creation).
Binder often featured in the leading pack and was so close to his second ever win. He was lucky to avoid being taken out by an incident involving his teammate John McPhee and Jeremy Alcoba however. With four laps to go, Binder led into turn one from Alcoba who nearly clipped the back of the South African. Alcoba went over the handlebars and his cartwheeling Honda took out the innocent McPhee who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Scot reacted badly to being taken out of the race two weeks in a row and squared up to the Gresini rider before aiming a kick at his Spanish crown jewels. Both riders will receive a pit lane start at the next round at Portimao in Portugal on 18th April, with McPhee penalised one thousand Euros and 10 seconds and Alcoba one thousand Euros and five seconds.
The last step on the podium went to Nico Antonelli who won here five years ago. The Italian started twelfth and positioned himself in the top six with a lap to go. Fortunately for him, last week’s winner Jaume Masia took Gabriel Rodrigo wide half way around the lap and Antonelli popped up to fourth. The 25-year-old then passed his compatriot Andrea Migno for third and beat him to the line by 0.032 seconds. Masia came home seventh while Argentine rider Rodrigo was only thirteenth.
Kaito Toba, who won here in 2019, finished fifth for his second top ten finish in a row with the rookie taking his best finish so far with sixth. Ayumu Sasaki took his best Losail result in seventh followed by fellow Japanese rider Ryusel Yamanaka who took his best ever finish with eighth in his twentieth start. With Tatsuki Suzuki finishing twelfth and Yuki Kunii fifteenth (his first points finish) there were five Japanese riders in the top fifteen for the first time since Jerez 2019.
RESULTS (TOP 15)
1 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25
2 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 20
3 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 16
4 – Andrea Migno – ITA – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 13
5 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 11
6 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 10
7 – Ayumu Sasaki – JAP – Red Bull Tech 3 KTM – 9
8 – Ryusel Yamanaka — JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 8
9 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 7
10 – Romano Fenati – ITA – Sterilgarda Max Husqvarna – 6
11 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 5
12 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 4
13 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 3
14 – Max Kofler – AUT – CIP Green Power KTM – 2
15 – Yuki Kunii – JAP – Honda Team Asia Honda – 1
STANDINGS (TOP 15)
1 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 45
2 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 36
3 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 32
4 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia Esponsorama KTM – 26
5 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 19
6 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 18
7 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 14
8 = Sergio Garcia – SPA – Gaviota Aspar Gas Gas – 13
8 = Andrea Migno – ITA – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 13
10 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 12
11 = Romano Fenati – ITA – Sterilgarda Max Husqvarna – 11
It was a Qatar dream to end the double-header for British rider Sam Lowes in the jam-packed Moto2 race at the Losail International Circuit.
Sam became the first British rider since Mike Hailwood to win the opening 2 rounds of the season in the intermediate class since 1966.
Despite the victory, challenging weather conditions throughout the entirety of the weekend made it challenging for teams across the board – battling against the Doha winds and dust in order to find the pace and comfortable set-up for race day.
The Adriatic man Marco Bezzecchi lead the race for the opening laps after getting a fantastic start, however it wasn’t enough for the Elf Marc VDS rider to sit and watch behind him – as with 17 laps to go Sam was able to overtake and held on comfortably for the entirety. It wasn’t particularly peachy for all riders though, as things soon turned sour for a number of laps as the pressure was heightened.
One of the victims of this was John Hopkins’ apprentice Joe Roberts who, although finished a respectable 6th last weekend under the lights – on the 8th lap tucked into a slide. This was also bad news for Ai Ogura, who in order to avoid Robert’s sliding machine had to run far wide off track.
Joining fellow American rider was Cameron Beaubier who with 12 laps to go came off his machine. Cameron had been strong all weekend with the American Racing Team, last weekend finishing 11th. It had been a positive weekend for the team with Beaubier getting to grips with the track, bike and team despite the challenging conditions.
It wasn’t all sunshine and positive endings for the Brits today. Petronas SRT rider Jake Dixon suffered a fairly mystical accident with 7 laps to go today, looking upon inspection taking Marcel Shrötter down with him. The crash was not actually shown live, but instead panned to imagery of both riders and their machines down. Liqui Moly Intact GP rider Shrötter appeared up and unharmed during the live race, however Dixon was still down. Later reports confirmed that it was a solo racing incident on behalf of the Brit that unfortunately couldn’t be avoided by Shrötter. Thankfully, Jake confirmed on his Twitter account that although gutted with ending the weekend with a DNF he was feeling okay after the crash.
Following last weekends’ penalty involving team mate Xavi Vierge, it’s fair to say Jake is looking ahead to Portimao with a clean, fresh head with the focus to maintain the fantastic pace he’s shown in the opening two rounds of the championship.
Towards the end of the race Solunion Aspar Team rider Canet ended a tough weekend for the team in the gravel – following not far behind by SAG Team rider Thomas Luthi who has been fairly under the radar this weekend. The initial incident for Luthi made for worrying viewing, however the rider was up and unharmed.
It was a stunning race for Red Bull Ajo KTM team with last weeks’ runner up Remy Gardner showing no defeat this weekend. He consistently held good pace not letting Lowes get away. Smashing Luthi’s all-time lap record at the circuit in the final lap, Gardner walked away with another 20 points in the bag. Orange plastered the podium as joined beside his team mate was rookie Raul Fernandez who has shown great pace all weekend, proving that not all rookie’s need time to settle!
Personal special mention to Stefano Manzi who, to say the least has had a few seasons of finding his feet again in order to find the right bike for him. He held strong and consistent pace today which was reflected highly in his lap times and ultimately his finishing result of 8th position. A fantastic result for himself and the Pons Racing team.
FIRST FIFTEEN RIDERS
1 – Sam Lowes
2 – Remy Gardner
3 – Raul Fernandez
4 – Marco Bezzecchi
5 – Ai Ogura
6 – Augusto Fernandez
7 – Celestino Vietti
8 – Stefano Manzi
9 – Xavi Vierge
10 – Fabio Di Giannantonio
11 – Tony Arbolino
12 – Bo Bensnyder
13 – Jorge Navarro
14 – Lorenzo Dalla Porta
15 – Albert Arenas
Overall, what a way to kick start the season. This weekends’ racing is an absolute credit to all those working hard to ensure us viewers have access to a safe season of racing. The upcoming Portimao race leaves Lowes ahead of the game with 50 points in the bag, Gardner only shy behind with 40.
As they say where our bikes land next, vejo você em breve!
Sam Lowes became the first British rider since the late, great Barry Sheene to win an opening grand prix of the season. Although Sheene’s last opening day victory was in 1979, he did win the opening races in both his title years 1976 & 1977 and Lowes will hope for the same success by the end of the season.
The 30-year-old was in commanding form all weekend, second in FP1 and fastest in FP2 before taking pole position on Saturday. Although he was passed by both Bo Bendsneyder and Marco Bezzecchi at the start he soon took the lead and controlled the race from the front. After missing out on a challenge for the 2020 title through injury, the 2013 World Supersport champion will be hoping every race weekend goes as smoothly as this one.
Remy Gardner finished second for Red Bull KTM Ajo after passing his teammate Raul Fernandez with twelve laps to go. Although the Australian rider could not catch Lowes, he did finish three seconds ahead of third place after a solid ride. Fernandez dropped down to fifth place in the end but should be delighted with his showing over the weekend, especially qualifying on the front row on his debut.
The battle for the last step on the podium was a great one between Italian riders Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi. In the end, Gresini rider Di Giannantonio came out victorious and it was a great tribute to the late Fausto Gresini to see one of his riders on the podium. It was the fifth podium for the 22-year-old who is still chasing that first elusive win. Bezzecchi was fourth overall last season and is expected to be the main challenger to Lowes this year but missed out on the podium by just 0.013 seconds.
Joe Roberts and Jake Dixon were in close company for much of the race on Sunday. Dixon in particular can be pleased with his performance as he is still recovering from a wrist injury which will have hampered his ability and certainly his stamina. It can surely only be a matter of time before the Brit takes his first podium finish.
Germany’s Marcel Schrotter finished eighth ahead of Bo Bendsneyder who achieved his second-best finish in Moto2. The Dutch rider looked much better on the Kalex chassis after riding Tech 3 and NTS since he graduated to the class in 2018. Jorge Navarro came home tenth on the first non-Kalex bike, the Boscoscuro which is a re-branded Speed Up.
American Cameron Beaubier had an impressive first race in Moto2. The five-times AMA Superbike champion qualified 22nd but made steady progress throughout the race and finished eleventh in front of rookie Celestino Vietti.
FIRST FIFTEEN RIDERS
1 – Sam Lowes – GBR – Elf Marc VDS Racing – 25 points
2 – Remy Gardner – AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 – Fabio Di Giannantonio – ITA – Federal oil Gresini – 16
4 – Marco Bezzecchi – ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 13
5 – Raul Fernandez – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 11
6 – Joe Roberts – USA – Italtrans Racing – 10
7 – Jake Dixon – GBR – Petronas Sprinta – 9
8 – Marcel Schrotter – GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 8
9 – Bo Bendsneyder – NED – Pertamina SAG – 7
10 – Jorge Navarro – SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 6
11 – Cameron Beaubier – USA – American Racing – 5
12 – Celestino Vietti – ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 4
13 – Aron Canet – SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 3
14 – Augusto Fernandez – SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing – 2
15 – Thomas Luthi – SUI – Pertamina SAG – 1
Jaume Masia won an exciting race to start the 2021 season, winning in Qatar ahead of his Red Bull teammate Pedro Acosta. The pair had spent the majority of the race near the front of the leading pack and took first and second at the start of the last lap. For Masia it was his fourth win in Moto3 and he has now won three of his last six races after he won both rounds at Aragon last year.
Rookie Acosta qualified eleventh but worked his way forward early on to work well with his teammate, especially when trying to break away from Darryn Binder who finished third. The sixteen-year-old Spaniard proved he is one of the rookies to look out for this season with a confident ride. Another rookie worth noting for the right reasons is Izan Guevara who qualified on the front row for the new Gas Gas team and finished seventh in the race.
One rookie with a race to forget was Xavier Artegas after he took out three riders as well as himself on the second lap with a move which could be described as optimistic or adventurous at best, or likely in less polite terms by the riders he retired. Coming into the heavy-braking left hand corner he tried to go up the inside but had too much speed and too little grip to make it work. His move took out Jeremy Alcoba, Andrea Mignoe and one of the pre-race favourites John McPhee. The Brit had qualified on the front row with his new teammate Binder on pole position.
Binder had a solid race from the front row, riding in his usual aggressive style with late-braking passes and was in the top three for many of the eighteen laps. In the end though he could not catch the breakaway from the Red Bull riders on the last lap and settled for his fifth career podium.
The entire race was a typical Moto3 affair with places changing every lap and plenty of riders going three or four wide into turn one. In the penultimate lap though there was one fantastic rear-facing onboard shot showing the riders going six-wide into one right hand turn and all coming out unscathed. It was a perfect example of the combination of skill and madness required to race at this level.
Guevara’s teammate Sergio Garcia had a solid race on the Gas Gas, running in the leading pack throughout and staying out of trouble. He just did not have enough at the end to reach he podium. It was very similar for Argentine rider Gabriel Rodrigo although at one point it did look like his chance of a high finish had gone when he clipped Masia’s rear wheel and ran wide. The 24-year-old pulled himself back up from outside the top ten to finish fifth in the end.
Nico Antonelli qualified tenth and was largely unnoticed in the early stages of the race but in the final third he worked his way through to the front and led shortly before the final lap. He dropped back to sixth by the chequered flag. His 2020 teammate Tastsuki Suzuki finished eighth with Gueveara between them. The Japanese rider started dead last after failing to set a qualifying time in Q1 so a top ten finish was a great result.
2019 winner Kaito Toba finished tenth ahead of Jason Dupasquier who took his first points finish. Romano Fenati made his name here in 2012 on his debut with second place but struggled around to eleventh ahead of Carlos Tatay.
TOP FIFTEEN RIDERS
1 – Jaume Masia – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points
2 – Pedro Acosta – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20
3 – Darryn Binder – RSA – Petronas Sprinta Honda – 16
4 – Sergio Garcia – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas – 13
5 – Gabriel Rodrigo – ARG – Indonesian Gresini Honda – 11
6 – Nico Antonelli – ITA – Avintia KTM – 10
7 – Izan Guevara – SPA – Aspar Gas Gas – 9
8 – Tatsuki Suzuki – JAP – SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda – 8
9 – Kaito Toba – JAP – CIP Green Power KTM – 7
10 – Jason Dupasquier – SUI – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 6
11 – Romano Fenati – ITA -Max Racing Husqvarna – 5
12 – Carlos Tatay – SPA – Avintia KTM – 4
13 – Filip Salac -CZE – Rivacold Snipers Honda – 3
14 – Ryusei Yamanaka – JAP – CarXpert PruestelGP KTM – 2
15 – Max Kofler – AUT – CIP Green Power KTM – 1
Sam Lowes lived up to his billing as favourite for pole position with a stunning performance in qualifying in Qatar. The Brit is aiming to take control of the championship as early as possible after missing out on the 2020 title through injury.
Lowes will be joined on the front row by rookie Raul Fernandez who was on pole six times last year in Moto3 on his way to fourth in the standings. Dutch rider Bo Bendsneyder will start third which is a huge improvement on his 2020 form when he only scored points in four races (one of which was Qatar).
Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi is tipped as a challenger to Lowes this year and will start from the head of row two alongside American Joe Roberts and Australian Remy Gardner. British rider Jake Dixon will start seventh after running as high as second at one point and was lucky that contact from his Petronas teammate Xavi Vierge didn’t cause a fall.
Fabio Di Giannantonio came through Q1 and qualified eighth and with Jorge Navarro ninth.
Both Simone Corsi and Marcos Ramirez will be sore tonight after heavy falls but both riders walked away from their falls in Q1.
1 – Sam Lowes – GBR – Marc VDS
2 – Raul Fernandez – SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM
3 – Bo Bendsneyder – NED – Pertamina SAG
4 – Marco Bezzecchi – ITA – Sky Racing VR46
5 – Joe Roberts – USA – Italtrans Racing
6 – Remy Gardner – AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM
7 – Jake Dixon – GBR – Petronas Sprinta
8 – Fabio Di Giannantonio – ITA – Federal Oil Gresini
Qualifying for the Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix was dominated by Ducati and Yamaha, who between them occupied the first seven places on the grid.
Francesco Bagnaia was the star of the day as he beat both factory Yamaha riders, the satellite Yamaha of Valentino Rossi and his own Ducati teammate Jack Miller to pole position with a fantastic late lap. It is the first pole in the 24-year-old’s MotoGP career but on this performance, it won’t be his last.
Factory Yamaha riders Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales had a great battle for the front row and will hope their race pace is just as good tomorrow. Rossi will start his first race for a non-factory team in twenty years from fourth place which is probably better than he would have expected after free practice. He is joined on the second row by the Ducatis of Jack Miller and Johann Zarco.
Franco Morbidelli heads row three with Aleix Espargaro impressing for Aprilia in eighth place and apparently having good race pace for tomorrow. Alex Rins completes the third row after a rather average qualifying overall.
Reigning champion Joan Mir fared even worse than his teammate and had to come through Q1 to get to his place on row four.
Taka Nakagami also came through Q1 and finished as top Honda rider in 11th place, just ahead of factory rider Pol Espargaro.
I had the absolute privilege of speaking with Kirsten and was able to ask some questions which she very kindly took the time to answer.
Kirsten is South Africa’s top female enduro racer and has been riding since the age of 8 years old when she started riding dirt bikes for fun with her uncle and cousin round their garden and then her dad started to take her to the track on a Sunday which quickly progressed to both Saturdays and Sundays. Kirsten started riding professionally at the age of 22 and has now truly made a name for herself worldwide in the hard enduro racing scene.
Indeed Kirsten has been the first female rider to finish races such as Redbull Romaniacs silver class, Redbull Sea to Sky, Redbull Megawatt 111, Redbull Braveman & the Roof of Africa. Whilst competing at the top level of her sport all over the world, and most times being the only lady to do do, Kirsten has achieved her South African Springbok colours!
As a tomboy growing up and wanting to keep up with the boys, Kirsten loves the challenge of being a female rider competing against the boys on rough terrain and describes herself as very competitive even off the track – she will race to the front door and even race the dogs to the swimming pool! To say Kirsten excels in her sport is an understatement and the list of achievements is pretty impressive!
X-Race Namibia, Expert Class : 2nd overall, 1st lady
Redbull Romaniacs, Bronze Class : 15th overall, 1stlady
Sea to Sky, Turkey : 31st overall, only lady competitor in the Gold Class
WildWood Rock : 6th overall, 1st lady
Roof of Africa Gold class Finisher : 25th overall, 1st lady
Powasol Timberland Extreme Enduro : 14th overall in gold class, first lady finisher
Redbull Romaniacs Silver Class : 45th overall, first lady finisher
South African Overall Silver Class National Champion in a male dominated class
Roof of Africa Gold class : 33rd overall
King of the Hill : 28th overall in expert class; made history being the first lady to ever finish expert class
FIM Super Enduro World Series, Prague: 4th in world championship
Alfie Cox Redbull Invitational Extreme Enduro:Kirsten was the only female to compete, making it into the semi- final and ranked 15th amongst the best male extreme enduro riders in South Africa
Redbull Romaniacs : 48th overall; the first Female in history to finish the race in silver Class
Redbull Braveman : 2nd in Silver class; only female to finish
Redbull 111 Megawatt Poland : 30th overall out of over 1000 entries, only female to qualify and finish
Redbull Sea to Sky : 24th overall in Gold class, reaching the top of Mount Olympus, bettering her previous years position by over 30 positions
South African National Enduro Championship:Kirsten raced a consistent season finishing on the podium at all rounds, but finished 2nd overall. This is the best Kirsten has done in all her years racing the National Enduros.
Roof Of Africa : This was Kirsten’s first attempt at Gold class, going out on a whim & no expectations, Kirsten made history again and became the first ever woman in the 49 year history of the Roof Of Africa and finished the Gold class, completely unassisted
Redbull Romaniacs : Kirsten attempted silver for the first time but due to complications, she didn’t manage to finish.
Redbull Sea to Sky : 56th overall, becoming the only woman in history to ever finish a gold class at any extreme hard enduro event
Redbull Braveman : 1st overall in silver class (only riding against men)
Roof of Africa : 32nd overall in the silver class, first lady finisher
National Enduro Series : 3rd overall in the mens silver class
Redbull Romaniacs : 47th place in bronze class out of 160 bronze riders and first lady home
Roof of Africa : 23rd in silver class, first placed female finisher unassisted
National Enduro Championship : 4th place in silver class
In 2020 Kirsten competed in the Dakar and finished 55th overall and was the 3rd female finisher. What is the Dakar, I hear you ask?
The Dakar Rally, or “The Dakar” was formerly known as the “Paris–Dakar Rally” and is an annual rally raid organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation. Most events since the inception in 1978 were staged from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal, but due to security threats in Mauritania, which led to the cancellation of the 2008 rally, events from 2009 to 2019 were held in South America. Since 2020, the race has been entirely in Saudi Arabia. The rally is open to amateur and professional entries, amateurs typically making up about eighty percent of the participants.
The rally is an off-road endurance event and the terrain is much tougher than that used in conventional rallying. The vehicles used are typically true off-road vehicles and motorcycles, rather than modified on-road vehicles. Most of the competitive special sections are off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass and rocks. The distances of each stage covered vary from short distances up to 800–900 kilometres per day.
In the Dakar 2021 there were 108 bike entries, only 63 of which finished the event. Just to finish the event is an achievement in its self.
Kirsten was considering taking part in Dakar 2021 but was unsure about doing the Dakar back to back and then due to the Covid pandemic the economy in South Africa took a downturn and Kirsten was unable to get the funding she needed to take part. As it turned out Kirsten may have been unable to take part had she got the funding as whilst training on the bike one session, Kirsten took a nasty fall and dislocated her shoulder which put her out of action for four months.
Kirsten’s next challenge is to compete in the Dakar 2022 in the Malle Moto class. What is that, I hear you say!
Malle Moto, which is French for ‘Trunk Motorbike’, is a category in the Dakar which riders of motorcycles and quads are almost completely unassisted. There are very few riders who take on this added challenge and it is considered to be the toughest category you can possibly compete in.
Competitors are allowed to pack one Malle (trunk) (there are restrictions on the maximum dimensions) which the organisers will transport to each bivouac. The trunk should contain their spare parts, tools, equipment and any necessary personal belongings. The organisers will also transport one spare headlight, one set of wheels and tyres, a tent and a travel bag.
Every day, the riders must prep their bike for the next stage without any outside assistance which may take a few hours, depending on the condition of the bike. They must also prepare their own road books before every stage and there is a common canteen to eat from. This all has to be done by the rider after each stage, which can run for many gruelling hours. After the rider has done all this, they then need to get enough sleep to be ready for the next stage. It is not uncommon for competitors to survive on just two or three hours of sleep everyday, for two weeks!
Although Kirsten can do a lot of her own bike maintenance already, she is unable to take apart an engine and fix it or work on anything electrical so preparation is already underway with Kirsten learning these new skills in preparation for Malle Moto.
Kirsten knows that time management will play an important role in this. I asked if she was worried about taking part in such an arduos event by herself with no assistance – Kirsten is not really worried about doing it by herself as knows the route having taken part in Dakar 2020 and she is really looking forward to the challenge of doing the event by herself. New challenges excite Kirsten, the harder the challenge is, the better it is.
I asked Kirsten who her inspiration was and she said it was Laia Sanz who is known as The Queen of the Desert. Laia is the best female motorcycle rally racer in history, has won the title of best Dakar racer five years in a row and was the only woman to finish the race at all in two separate years. She is also the three-time Women’s World Enduro Champion. WoW!
Surprisingly, well to me anyway, Kirsten does not ride her motorbike on the road, she finds road bikes uncomfortable and feels that riding on the roads local to her to be somewhat dangerous. Kirsten is far more at home on her dirt bike riding through the mud. Although Kirsten lives in a beautiful place, her two most favourite places to ride are Romania, where she has competed five times and went back again just for some casual riding and La Sutu, which is a country within her country with beautiful mountain ranges and extreme riding.
Kirsten’s best feeling about being on a motorbike is the feeling of accomplishment, knowing that she has achieved the end of the race and got to the finish line. It is the sense of adventure she loves, the fact that she is outdoors, loving the nature around her and being lucky to have such great roads to ride on and travelled the world in the process. Kirsten has made some very passionate lifelong friends through her love of riding with that unspoken rule that as you ride a motorbike, you just get along, the people are just so cool.
So Kirsten, what is the one thing people would never know about you just by looking at you? Baking. Kirsten loves to bake cakes, muffins and cooking in general, she is a big foodie and finds that when she is baking she can switch off from her riding and relax. I, myself can totally relate to that but unfortunately I like to eat my baking too!
Kirsten’s most embarrassing moment on a motorbike came when she was competing in an event and was absolutely desperate for a wee so she pulled over, popped the bike on the stand and walked round to a bush. Just as she was mid flow, another competitor stopped to see if she was okay and walked round and caught her peeing! Ooops!!!
As a youngster Kirsten was a tomboy and used to live in a big smallholding which had a massive garden. When she was around 8 or 9 years she was running around the garden with a friend pretending they were characters from the Jungle Book, they got hold of some matches and decided to make a fire like their characters. When they finished playing they thought they had put the fire out but during the night the wind caught up and the whole garden ended up on fire nearly spreading to the next door property. The fire brigade came and put the fire out thankfully but that is probably the worst thing Kirsten’s mum caught her doing as a kid!
I asked Kirsten if she has a lucky thing/ritual before the start of a race as it seems a lot of racers do. Kirsten is no exception, she always puts her left knee brace on first and then her right one and then puts her right boot on first and then her left one. Kirsten will then sit on the bike, put her head on the handlebars and say a prayer.
The first motorbike Kirsten owned was a Yamaha PW80 which was a limited edition bike. Unfortunately the bike was sold many years ago and has now become a collectors item. Kirsten has been looking for one for a while now with the idea of restoring it and then putting it in her house on display. I definitely like that idea, how cool would that be to have your bike on display in your house.
If Kirsten hadn’t been a racer, she would have liked to become a vet. Kirsten is an animal lover and has five rescue dogs that live with her and has re-homed so many more animals. Kirsten is part of the Saving Animals Movement (SAM) and raises money to help animals who are malnourished, overbred or in dire need of help and helps provide them with medical assistance and finding them new forever homes.
Would Kirsten ride pillion? Even if Valentino Rossi offered to take her out pillion on the road, she would say no! She is absolutely terrified of going out on the road! Now if you were to offer Kirsten a pillion ride on the track, she would happily go with you as long as you were an experienced rider on track.
I asked Kirsten what her friends and family would assume she had done if she got arrested and there was no hesitation in saying that it would be because she had got into an argument with someone over an animal. If Kirsten sees an animal being treated unfairly, she does get very emotional which may have led to one or two arguments in the past ……..
You can check out Kirsten’s website at Kirsten Landman and follow her progress with her preparations for the Malle Moto 2021. You can also follow Kirsten on Facebook and Instagram at : Kirsten Landman.
Thank you Kirsten for taking the time to speak with me, I really appreciate it and wish you good luck for the Dakar next year.
With Sky Racing Team VR46 and Estrella Galicia leaving Moto3 to focus their resources on MotoGP and Moto2 projects, the lightweight class grid will look a little different in 2021. The top five riders in last season’s standings have all moved up to Moto2 also. So with a full breakdown of the teams and riders at the bottom of this page, I’m going to first give you my six to watch in 2021.
Now the elder
statesman of Moto3, it had looked likely that the Brit would move to Moto2 with MV Augusta in 2021 but he has re-signed for a third season with Petronas Sprinta to race the Honda for another shot at the title. John has three wins under his belt, including Misano last year but to date has lacked the consistency and luck for a sustained challenge for the crown with his best overall being fifth in 2019. Can this be his year at last?
McPhee’s new teammate could be another title challenger in South African Brad Binder’s younger brother, Darryn. The 22-year-old has been in Moto3 since 2015 and took his maiden win in Catalunya last year. The first race of the 2021 will be his 100th in the class but also his first on a Honda after previously riding Mahindra and KTM machinery. So far in his career, Darryn has certainly been a Sunday rider, often coming through the pack in exciting fashion after qualifying poorly the day before. If he can start higher up the grid in 2021 it could make a huge difference to his season.
The young Spaniard is surely one of the favourites for the 2021 title. Of the riders staying in Moto3 from last season he finished the highest in sixth place, taking two wins in the double-header at Aragon. This is his fourth full season in the class and a move to one of the best teams on the grid, Red Bull KTM Ajo is his best shot at the title yet. The challenge for Masia may come from one rider I haven’t included in this sextet, his own teammate Pedro Acosta who won the Red Bull Rookies Cup last season.
The relationship between the likeable Japanese rider and the popular SIC58 Squadra Corse team continues for a fifth season in 2021. After seven races of 2020, the 23-year-old was a title contender with victory at Jerez in round three and a podium at Misano. Tatsuki appears to have formed a strong bond with Paolo Simoncelli over the years and it would be great to see the pair back on the podium in 2021.
The former VR46 Academy rider starts his fourth season in Moto3 with perhaps more expectation than any previous year. H
e remains with the competitive Leopard team and has a rookie for a teammate in Spaniard Xavier Artegas which should help the team focus on his title bid. The 20-year-old Italian also took his maiden win last season at Brno and was second at the final race of the year in Portugal.
The rookie of the year in 2020 took his first podium at the final round in Portugal. The 19-year-old also finished in the top ten in eight of the fifteen races and showed great consistency across the season (only one finish outside the points and two retirements). Of the riders yet to win a race in Moto3, Jeremy is my tip for one in 2021.
FULL LIST OF TEAMS AND RIDERS
Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda
17 – John McPhee (GBR) – 26yo – 151 races, 3 wins – 7th overall in 2020
Nicky Hayden “The Kentucky Kid” was known for his natural ability to ride motorbikes, his respectful polite attitude and for his abundance of charisma.
Nicky Hayden is all smiles (Image: Circuitricardotormo.com)
Born July 30th 1981 Nicky Hayden sadly passed away May 22nd 2017, from injuries sustained from riding a bicycle in Italy, aged just 36 years old. During these years he led an incredible life and a career many would be jealous of. His brother Tommy said “He dreamed as a kid of being a pro-rider and he not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport.”*
So how did Nicky Hayden manage to achieve all this?
At age 3 Nicky started to ride dirt bikes with his family and by age 5 was racing them. Aged just 16 he had turned professional and followed his brother (Tommy) into AMA Superbike racing. Aged 21 he won the Daytona 200 and became the youngest AMA Superbike champion, which propelled him into his Moto GP career.
Racing with the number 69 he carried on where he left off in AMA and rode for (Repsol) Honda in 2003 and became Valentino Rossi’s team-mate. An interesting choice as Hayden hadn’t come through the normal rankings to participate in Moto GP. He finished a respectful 5th place in the season. The same time he won Rookie of the year. He was definitely showing that he was one to watch.
2004 saw Nicky Hayden with a new team-mate – Alex Barros (the year that Rossi left Honda to move to Yamaha). Hayden sustained injuries from a broken collarbone which hampered his championship hopes and ended the season in 8th place, alongside Carlos Checca and Loris Capirossi.
Having his best season so far in 2005, Nicky Hayden secured his first win on home soil at Laguna Seca (America), making it an ever sweeter victory as Moto GP hadn’t returned here since 1994 (11 years). He also finished 3rd overall in the championship with 206 points, his best result yet. Honda also paired him up with yet another new team-mate – Max Biaggi.
Now with 3 year’s of experience, The Kentucky Kid was definitely making a name for himself. Through constant strong performances and sheer determination Hayden became the 2006 Moto GP World Champion. He had now “managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport”. This season Nicky was riding the prototype Honda, that no-one else had used and was helping to develop it all the while with his eyes on the prize. Honda also decided that he would have another new team-mate to get used to, this time saw Dani Pedrosa who progressed from 250’s, from this point on Pedrosa remained his team mate at Honda.
Hayden won the 2006 championship only 5 points above Rossi (252 points). Finishing 3rd in the final round at Valencia. He also finished 3rd at Istanbul Park celebrating his 50th Moto GP race and at Assen he gave Honda their 200th race win in the top-class. He also became the only other champion in the 990cc class, other than Rossi. Showing that consistency really does pay off.
The new engine format ruling brought into Moto GP for 2007, saw 990cc engines go to 800cc, this seemed a challenge for Nicky’s riding style which culminated in him finishing 8th overall in the championship.
Continuing with Honda, Hayden sustained injuries again, this time to his foot which hampered his championship throughout 2008 and he finished 6th for the season.
2009 was the year for a switch-up. Hayden left Honda for the first time in his professional career and teamed up with Casey Stoner at Marlboro Ducati. Adjustments were needed for the new change, Nicky tried his best but finished outside the top ten for the first time in a season, finishing 13th.
Riding for Ducati (Image: Motorcycle News)
Sticking with Ducati for 2010, he ended the year in 7th, a large improvement following on from the previous year.
Valentino then joined Ducati in 2011. Pairing up with his old team-mate and friend, Hayden and Rossi should have been the perfect team to lead Ducati to the championship. But, things were not perfect, even after all effort was made to make the bikes more competitive they just never amounted to much and Hayden finished 8th in the championship.
Nicky Hayden continued to ride for Ducati in 2012 and 2013. Finishing in 9th place, both seasons.
Hoping to find some new form and possibly another championship win, Hayden returned to Honda (2014) where he stayed for the next two years. Finishing 16th and 20th. The worst results in his career. Nicky decided enough was enough and left Moto GP for a new challenge in World Superbikes.
Before his last race at Valencia in 2015 however, the FIM recognised Nicky’s achievements and named him Moto GP’s 22nd Legend. He was now alongside such names as Agostini, Simoncelli, Rainey and Sheene – to name a few. Normally this status is awarded posthumously, but in his case, an exception was made.
Nicky Hayden leading the pack in WSB (Image: Motorsport.com)
2016 was definitely the injection Hayden needed. New challenges, new bike (still with Honda), new team, new tracks, new experiences saw Hayden finish 5th in the championship, mirroring his first year in Moto GP and not only that but winning at Malaysia and finishing on the podium a further three times.
If his first season in WSB was anything to go by, he was on his way to becoming champion there too. Tragedy struck though in 2017 and saw a shining star taken suddenly from us all.