01 – Welcome to performance
Welcome to the Second edition of Performance, our exciting new magazine which was launched earlier this year all about the wide world of Öhlins.
We have again so many great stories to tell about the people behind the products but first congratulations are due to all our competitors, from MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo and the Yamaha team, the newly retired Max Biaggi in WSB, our friends at Audi who dominated Le Mans but also to those riding and driving at all levels of motorsport using our products to help them go quicker. Thank you.
Our relationship with manufacturers and teams such as Ducati, Triumph, Yamaha, MV Augusta and in cars Lamborghini, Ferrari, Lotus, Audi, Mercedes, Volvo, Ford, VW and Pagani are all a source of great pride. Crucially so are those of individuals that have chosen to use our equipment.
Some featured in this edition include Gregor Behrens- who has a stunning collection of machines, Simon Crafar- who uses them as part of his Motovudu track teaching and even something completely different from the world of cycling; Robert Starling; a camera-bike rider. We even found space for our Race Manager Mats Larsson who has brushed shoulders with legends such as Lawson, Rainey and Rossi for so many years in MotoGP.
We at Öhlins know that we can create great products but it is what they are used for which is interesting and these are some of those stories.We hope you enjoy the magazine and look forward to your comments,
02 – ‘The Technician’, Mats Larsson
To many riders and teams in MotoGP, one man epitomises the professionalism and commitment needed to succeed in this results-driven sport – Mats Larsson…
The Öhlins’ Racing Manager has now worked in the high-octane GP paddock since 1987 and in that time he has witnessed some colossal changes to the sport, including the move from 500cc two-strokes to 1000cc four-strokes, the dependence on electronics and of course the rise of a certain superstar racer…Valentino Rossi.
The fifty-one year old from the arctic like North of Sweden explains how it all started, “I joined the company in ’84 because it seemed like a good way of working on motocross bike and still have a job! Then things started getting serious and by ‘87 we were in 500cc GPs – just me , big Lars (Isaksson) and skinny Lars (Osth)
“We developed upside-down forks for MX but the bikes weren’t ready for them because the forks were super stiff and the frames were still too flexible. So we thought maybe these will be better on road race bikes. I was told not to waste too much time on inverted forks so we designed them on the quiet and did work in the labs at night. In 1987 Swedish racer Anders Anderson used our forks to qualify well in the F1 Championship and then he finished third in the race – so we knew they would work.
“The next year we devised the first set of upside-down GP forks for Eddie Lawson’s Yamaha YZR500. We rocked up to Salzburg, Austria, yet we’d not had a chance to test them at all. Eddie said ‘let’s go with them and use them in the race on Sunday.’ To be honest I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep before the race but he won. We were so happy- it really made us focus on road racing and was a big turning point for the company and I guess also for me personally.
“It started the beginning of a great relationship with Yamaha (the Japanese company famously ‘bought’ into the suspension company in 1987) which continues to this day.”
These days Mats splits his time between the world’s race circuits and the Öhlins base near Stockholm. An average day now is looking after the schedules of 30 race technicians (some in Sweden, some out at the tracks), talking to teams about their racing progress and suggesting tests. He still enjoys working on new designs from the drawing board but the company now has over 20 CAD systems for computer design and development. As much as 75% of all racing technology eventually finds its way to the aftermarket and Mats is a vital link between the departments.
“I used to attend every GP and every test including maybe three trips to Phillip Island, Australia, – after a while you realise that you have good guys and you don’t have to be at every single event! Only now have I started relaxing a bit when I’m at home, enjoying life with my family, but of course always with the TV on for the racing…
“I still ride MX which is how I got into Öhlins in the beginning, it’s a great sport and I’ve ridden since 1973. But, I had to have a bit of a sabbatical though as the doctor’s have threatened to install titanium joints in my knees…
Mats other big passion is American muscle cars; “I have a 1965 Ford Galaxy Nascar replica 6.4 litre V8 – my neighbours love me! I took my father who’s 81 to go buy it with me and he wasn’t sure, but loved the ‘in your face’ noise – even if he had to turn down his hearing aid. I did a big burn out with him in it and then we bought it I try not to grow up, it’s like I’ve been having an ‘all life crisis’ not a just mid life one!”
Contracts for Öhlins Racing include the mighty HRC, Yamaha Racing, Ducati Corse (MotoGP and WSB) , Ten Kate, Aprilia Racing, BMW Mottorad and many more.
“What is so important, and always has been, is having a good relationship with the team managers and owners. You can spend time at the circuits but you also need to go see the bosses and understand how they work whether that be Hammatsu, Amsterdam or Bologna.
“Talking of Bologna, I see the Rossi situation both ways. Sometimes it’s not just a suspension issue, it’s the way the rider, suspension, chassis and tyres all relate to each other. In this case they don’t! – and it will be very interesting to see how Rossi gets on back at Yamaha. In my opinion he can describe what a bike is doing better than anyone, how it needs changing and he can actually separate suspension characteristics from tyre deflection.”
Mats has worked with every top rider you’ve ever heard of so which ones stand out for him? “Wow that’s hard, so many great names and personalities. As I said Rossi for his feeling of the bike and also his calm way of giving feedback, very un-Italian! Wayne Rainey was a unique guy to work with, he tried so hard in every session, always pushing, pushing. A second was terrible to him and he could be so hard, angry and aggressive. Then you’d see him at the airport and was the nicest guy and would take time to ask how everything was going, it was like two different guys.
“Marco Simoncelli will be missed in so many ways, he had a lovely character. I remember him coming up and saying ‘Thank you so much for all your help and service’- how many riders do that?”
And tracks? “I love Mugello and Jerez – both real ‘fans’ tracks, great layout and with amazing atmosphere. Laguna Seca is special too, so fast in the turns, bumpy and spectacular.
“We are at an incredible place right now with bike racing in particular – you see we have complete domination in MotoGP, World Superbike, Moto2 and Moto3.
“I think the best part of working here is its one of the few jobs I see where you have freedom to come up with ideas and test things – and the environment is so far from ‘corporate’. You’re surrounded by guys who get up every morning with a fierce drive and will to win, like they have an inner drive. This is the Swedish way.
“I love coming back from races to Sweden not particularly for the Swedish way of life, compared to some of the places we go this is like returning to a desert island each week!”
03 – Simon Crafar – Öhlins in his blood and a spring in his step…
With a career that has included ten World Superbike podiums and that memorable Grand Prix win at Donington Park in 1998 – where he beat a certain Mick Doohan (and became the only non-Honda rider to win that year), Simon Crafar is a name every biker knows. With Öhlins being a key partner throughout his career, he continues his relationship with the brand on his groundbreaking Motovudu training project. Over to Simon to explain a little more…
“I started racing when I was a kid doing motocross and then when I left school I did a five year apprenticeship as a Motorcycle mechanic.
I won my first road championship at 18, and the New Zealand F1/Superbike class at 21, and in doing so became the youngest ever champion in the premier class. That year was also my first on Öhlins so you could say the partnership started on pretty good terms! That was 1989 and remained riding Superbikes until 1997, winning national championships and securing 10 podiums in World Superbike on the way. I rode on Öhlins almost all this time and was relieved to be on Öhlins product in 1998 when I moved into 500 GP’s. That first year I completed a dream of mine to race in grand prix on top machinery, but then to get three podiums and a win in my first year was almost unbelievable.
I am still very proud that I was able to get to know, race and beat some of my all time hero’s.
Öhlins have always remained a key part of my racing career. I’ve ridden with other suspension makes but in my experience the thing that really sets Öhlins apart were the technicians at the track. They would make the changes that I wanted right there and then during the session, rather than discussing possible internal settings with the factory overnight – that level of speed and skill is vital as a rider as it makes it possible to test a new direction before the end of the session, rather than waiting for the next day – giving us a critical advantage.
This level of commitment to racing is one of the reasons I decided to put my mind to becoming an Öhlins technician in MotoGP when I stopped racing. Over the winter of 2000 I was welcomed by Mats Larsson and the other great guys at the Race Department in Sweden, where they set about teaching me the technical side of the suspension, to back up what I knew already from my experience as a racer and mechanic. Then in 2001 I was working as a fully fledged Öhlins technician at every Grand Prix event and tests with the Antenna 3 Yamaha riders Norick Abe and Jose Luis Cardoso in 500GP’s and the Aprilia factory riders of Roberto Locatelli and Franco Battaini in the 250GP class.
I really enjoyed this job from the start, I was already at ease with being part of the huddle of technicians that group round the rider when he comes in off the circuit having once been that very rider.
I found that I had a headstart on translating what it is the rider wanted and felt out on the track as I had felt these things myself. What you don’t often see as a rider though is the work that goes on back at the race truck after the session, the collective experience of the Öhlins team means they can find a solution to pretty much any problem, and fast.
After working with Öhlins I went back to racing and spent the season in British Superbikes but at the end of the year I retired for good. I was stumped as to what my next move was, it was tough giving up what had been the most important thing in my life for the past 20 years. I threw myself into my hobbies and started to do a bit of instructing on the circuit where I soon found that I had a talent for teaching people – which was pretty surprising as I’ve never taught anything in my life before!
Seeing the pleasure people got from learning to ride faster is really rewarding. I instruct riders from all different levels, from complete novices to professional races. Having raced for over two decades I learnt how to ride fast myself but teaching on the circuits taught me how to put into words exactly what fast riders do on the track. I tried to always find what each client needed to get going as everyone is different. After a year or so people began to say I should put it all into a book, so I spoke about it with a few good mates who were all in agreement and were also pushing me to do it, so after a few enquiries Motovudu was born.
The book and DVD are an in depth, easy to understand guide that contains all the rules to going faster on a race track while minimising the risk of crashing.
I’m very proud of the response Motovudu has received from the motorcycle racing and track day worlds and it continues to go from strength to strength. It’s currently available in English and Spanish and the French version will be out before the end of 2012, with the German version planned for 2013.
I’m also still continuing to travel round Europe to different race tracks where I’m out on my Motovudu Öhlins shod GSX-R1000 giving one-to-one tuition as well as being the mentor and series instructor for the European Junior Cup which is a support class at the European WSB events.
Any future Motovudu projects? Watch this space…”
For more on the amazing Motovudu experience visit www.motovudu.com
04 – Öhlins and Ducati – A winning partnership
When your mind conjures up images of famous Ducati superbikes that have emerged from the Bologna factory there are only two colours required – red for the fairings and gold for the suspension. The link between the two companies is so strong it seems incomprehensible that a top of the range Ducati wouldn’t come equipped with Öhlins suspension. Performance takes a look back on a partnership that has taken over a quarter of a century to develop and is now stronger than ever…
Paris-Dakar rally they turned to Öhlins for help. Always looking for a new challenge, as well as having their eye on the attention that race success would bring within Ducati, Öhlins equipped the Cagiva with its latest suspension.
The gamble worked and although it wasn’t until 1990 that a Cagiva won the Dakar, a Ducati Paso was delivered to Öhlins’ Upplands Väsby factory to be measured up for suspension in 1986.
The early days
Sharing the same philosophy when it comes to the connection between racing success and production development, it was always only going to be a matter of time before Öhlins and Ducati started working together. However the first ‘Ducati’ to be fitted with Öhlins wasn’t actually a Ducati, it was a Cagiva.
In the early 1980s the late Claudio Castiglioni owned both Cagiva and Ducati. The two companies had worked closely before with Ducati supplying the engines for Cagiva bikes and so when Cagiva decided to enter the Ducati powered Elefant into the torturous
Before working with Öhlins, Ducati relied on other suspension manufacturers for its race projects and so Öhlins had to build a whole new range of shock absorbers to fit the Ducati models.
With its high tech factory and advanced production facilities this wasn’t a problem and soon Ducati asked Öhlins to expand its range of suspension to include not only the Paso, but also its hugely successful 851 race bikes.
The glory years
The 851 and its later update the 888 were little more than race bikes with lights. Although homologated for road use to fit within the World Superbikes rules, the SP (Sports Production) versions always carried the very highest specification of components to allow racers to succeed on track – it was on these bikes that the first OEM (original equipment) Öhlins suspension was found on a Ducati. And as you would imagine, the link between road and track was as strong as ever…
When Marco Lucchinelli’s factory Ducati 851 became the first bike to win a WSB race at the inaugural round at Donington Park, he did it on Öhlins suspension – but better was to come. In 1989 Raymond Roche’s 851 wore Öhlins suspension and finished third in the championship before 1990 saw him take Ducati and Öhlins’ first WSB championship together. The next year Doug Polen retained the title for Ducati, a feat he repeated in 1992, making it three on the bounce for Ducati and Öhlins. That in itself seemed a tremendous achievement – but Ducati was about to unveil a brand new machine that would change the face of motorcycling and a British rider that would go on to be a Ducati and WSB legend.
The Ducati 916 was launched in 1994. Designed to win WSB, the ultra rare 916SP version came with an Öhlins shock absorber as standard equipment while the race bikes ran Öhlins forks as well. At the hands of ‘King’ Carl Fogarty the Ducati 916 won the 1994 and 1995 championship before taking the 1996 title with Troy Corser at the helm. In 1998 normal service was resumed when Fogarty returned to Ducati from Honda and won the championship before retaining his title in 1999. After being forced to retire through injury, Ducati found a new hero to replace Fogarty in 2000 in the shape of Troy Bayliss. The likable Aussie won the 2001, 2006 & 2008 titles on the Ducati 916, 999 and 1098 while British riders Neil Hodgson and James Toseland took the 2003 and 2004 championship respectively on the 999 and most recently Carlos Checa won the 2011 title on an 1198. Thirteen world titles and all with the help of Öhlins suspension, however it wasn’t just race success, the road bikes also carried Öhlins suspension….
Although Ducati’s racing history is intrinsically linked with that of WSB, perhaps their greatest moment came in 2007 when their new young rider Casey Stoner snatched the MotoGP title away from the likes of Valentino Rossi, to shock the Japanese factories who had won the series since the 1970’s. The forthright Australian took 10 victories on the awesomely powerful and electronically superior 800cc Desmosedici machine in a devastating display of man and machine in perfect synchronicity.
Throughout the life of the Ducati 916, 996, 998, 999 and 1098 models the higher specification SP, R or S versions all came with Öhlins suspension as standard to signify their sporting potential and premium status. Away from the track-orientated bikes Ducati’s Monster range of street bikes also featured Öhlins suspension on higher specification versions and so did the touring ST models and later the original Multistrada in 2005. Ducati and Öhlins were now linked thanks to their shared passion for sporting excellence and it was now time to show the world how strong the partnership was…
Shaping the future
The 2008 Ducati Desmosedici RR was not only the first MotoGP replica for the road, it was also the first, and only, road bike to feature gas-pressurised Öhlins FG353 inverted forks. And this was just a taste of what Ducati and Öhlins’ could offer motorcyclists…
Thanks to the closeness of the relationship between Ducati and Öhlins, the 2010 Multistrada S became the first road bike to feature Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES). Designed by Ducati and Öhlins, DES was tested by Öhlins’ R&D team and was developed specifically for the Multistrada. As well as allowing the rider to alter the suspension while on the move, DES was unique when it came to electronic suspension as it included the ability to programme the settings rather than be forced to rely on pre-determined configurations. Due to their vast understanding of suspension, Öhlins understood that not all riders are alike and suspension needs to be tailored to suit individual riding styles or weights.
Two years later the DES system became the first electronic suspension package to be fitted to a sportsbike when it appeared on the Ducati Panigale 1199S, again thanks to the close links between the two brands. Even those Ducati’s not sporting OE suspension of Swedish origin are often quickly uprated by enthusiastic owners, which may explain the success of Öhlins as aftermarket products for the Ducati. It has been quite an eventful quarter of a century for the red and gold of Ducati and Öhlins, however the best maybe yet to come as both companies continue to strive for excellence both on and off the track…
05 – Me and my Öhlins – A gold obsession…
Both Gregor Behrens and his massive 104 bike collection are slightly out of the ordinary…
The 40 year old Swiss collector hasn’t simply collected his machines and kept them immaculate in a personal museum as often happens, he races, upgrades and modifies his bikes on a regular basis…
Then man himself is also unique. When we ask his profession he says “Well for a while I imported Bimota but originally I studied psychology, have been a helicopter pilot, owned a motorcycle shop, restored toys and worked as a clown. But for the time being, I am not working….”
It’s fair to say that he has a healthy obsession with gold with about 70 of his bikes containing Öhlins suspension, which as you can imagine is a healthy market share for the Swiss distributor!
Coming from a non-motorcycling background Gregor had to win over his parents as “just mentioning the name “motorcycle” scared my family.”
“When I was nine, I remember saving money for four years to buy my first motocross bike and then when I was then fourteen, I ended up with a quad, a Yamaha Banshee which was incredibly powerful. That was when my story with Öhlins started, I mounted my first Öhlins shock absorbers to this beast!
That’s also the time when I met Patrik Wäckerlig from 3W Motorsport, the Swiss Öhlins distributor. I have since kept a very friendly relationship with Patrick and his father Werner. Over 27 years I have bought my suspension equipment at 3W so we have become good friends.
When I was 18, I had a lot of arguments with my mother when I told her I wanted to buy my first street bike…you know how it is, they are always wanting to over-protect you.
My first road bike was a BMW R1100 GS, and the first thing I did when I got the brand new bike was to buy a set of Öhlins shock absorbers!
The difference between the original absorbers was just light years ahead. I had a much smoother ride, I could “feel” the street and the ride was precise.
I now own 29 BMW’s: All the HP2 models, all the GS models with the new electronic shock absorbers by Öhlins, also the newest S1000RR Superbike with Öhlins fork and shock, the R1200 C, the K 1200 R…you name it I have it…the K1, even older models like the R 60/5 again with Öhlins shock absorbers!
I own a few Moto Morinis and asked Sigi Zachmann, who is responsible for the services of the Öhlins products in Switzerland, to custom build a set of shock absorbers for my Morinis, namely the 1200 Sport and the 1200 Scrambler- the bikes are transformed, the ride quality is just amazing!
I was responsible for importing Bimota into Switzerland and had a custom built DB7 with Öhlins forks and shock absorbers… After that, at the Bimota factory, they even decided to offer their customers, on order, the same set of Öhlins forks.
I guess it has become a bit of an obsession, I love collecting bikes and I love getting the most out of them also. Once you start with Öhlins, the quality is so good you would never change but also the fact that I always had a very good professional relationship with 3W and Öhlins makes me continue with these projects.”
06 – The future’s here – Electric avenue
The Öhlins Mechatronics electronically controlled shock for the Kawasaki ZX10-R is both a revolutionary yet evolutionary development. Öhlins have been playing with and have had various forms of electronically adjustable suspension for many years, as seen on bikes like the Ducati Multistrada and Ducati Panigale whilst race bikes have long bristled with various datalogging equipment. Back in 2008, Yamaha Motor Italia riders Noriyuki Haga and Troy Corser ran Öhlins electronic suspension on their YZF-R1’s, in the World Superbike Championship…
Now the two have been combined together so the new EC shock absorber effectively reads the bike’s ‘brain’ and adjusts accordingly. The shock is a top spec TTX36 MkII system fed by various inputs from a new ECU, which intercepts important info from the bike. The rider can affect how the system interprets the riding style in by choosing the different Kawasaki power modes.
The system uses all the information available based on many different parameters to figure out the desired damping force in each situation.
Stepper motors quickly work to firm or soften the suspension and make for a stiffer or plusher ride as the need arises. Less aggressive handling of the bike is rewarded with a softer suspension but it is adjusted to always provide a safe ride. Slow, non revving power characteristics are rewarded with one of a softer ‘Comfort’ setting but as you open up the power and the bike tries to ‘squat’; the ECU interprets this to produce more damping, creating a ‘Sports’ ride and provide the rider with optimum grip and stability.
The system works over the shock’s entire span of rebound and compression settings (30 clicks) in under 0.7 seconds, however in normal use the shock usually only has to make a smaller sudden change, which is typically carried out in less than 0.2 seconds. The electronically activated system works over the same span as the non EC TTX as it is essentially the same hardware.
The intelligent part of this Mechatronic suspension system are called Algorithms. These algorithms are basically a set of calculations which detects different riding conditions and calculates the desired damping force. This is where the classic Öhlins know-how about how to set up suspension has been replicated. The unique part with the mechatronic system is that you can use the optimal Öhlins setup for each situation detected. The information on exactly how this magic works is a well kept secret within the mechatronics department of Öhlins. The result is a shock absorber that is adjusted while riding to the pilot’s riding style and chosen power modes.
Motorcycle Product Manager Peter Andersson explains, “We have been working on such systems for many years and had great experience with the Ducati Multistrada system. We also wanted to create an aftermarket system for a sports bike so we could help these riders who didn’t want to sacrifice their road comfort for a track set-up and vice versa. Without a trained suspension technician it’s very easy to go the wrong way on settings and this system takes away that uncertainty. You really can have the best of both worlds!”
But is the system ‘semi-active’ ? “Well yes, it is effectively ‘Smart EC’ ” says Andersson, “Some testers and journalists have said they can’t feel the shock adjusting- and that was the aim, smooth adjustment without any obvious change or movement to the rider, so he can concentrate on his riding. The more sport orientated the rider, the more he will be rewarded with a ‘more racer’ feel.”
As well as the Multistrada and ZX-10R, there are aftermarket systems for the BMW R1200 GS, the awesome new Ducati Panigale comes with it as standard and there are many other applications in the pipeline.
So who would this shock be most appealing to? Trackday riders with limited set-up knowledge are the most obvious target- ride to and from the track in comfort, then go out in each session with a race prepared bike. Of course the same applies to road riders who don’t want to compromise their normal riding comfort for the times when they want to attack the ‘twisties’ in those perfect weather and road conditions.
As one journalist put it on the World Launch “It’s like having an Öhlins technician sitting pillion with a really long screwdriver!”
07 – All through the night, an insider’s view…
It’s fair to say that Audi again totally dominated the Le Mans 24hr race with a 1-2-3 in this 80th instalment of this Gallic classic.
The impressive R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrid took a historic first Le Mans victory for a hybrid vehicle, with its stablemate in second, whilst R18 ultras, the non-hyrbid derivative took third and fifth.
It was champagne all round for suspension partner Öhlins after another intense development programme with the German manufacturer.
Performance spoke to Claes Hesling – Öhlins Automotive Racing Project Manager about what goes on behind the scenes and the feeling back in Stockholm…
So a fantastic result for Audi and Öhlins, with a complete podium sweep! A great feeling for you and your team?
Absolutely, it is always a great feeling to be involved with such a successful team and manufacturer as Audi. I have been working with them now since 2005 both in Le Mans and DTM and they are a great customer with a lot of good people involved. Although aerodynamics is important on a car like this, suspension is definitely an area that has a big impact on the car also.
How much involvement did you have with the car engineers in the build up to the event?
During pre-season testing there are always a few different development parts that we test before the final solution is fixed. We are also discussing different damping set up options but at the end it is the Audi engineers that fine tune the set up on the track and with 7-poster testing.
Tell us a little bit about the equipment that was supplied?
When you design dampers for a Le Mans car of this calibre weight and packaging are key features, so therefore the dampers are fairly small. Also we use a lot of exotic materials such as titanium, high strength magnesium and aluminium alloys. Also composites like PEEK are used. Another feature that is very important is ease of use and adjustability- as testing is extremely expensive so therefore you need to have a very precise fully adjustable damper.
Could a racer buy that level of equipment?
An everyday racer could definitely not buy this kit. I think it would probably be more expensive than their car! Plus we don’t release such specially designed products to the open market. They are not suitable for the production line; it requires skilled mechanics to put them together and fine tune them. We build them all in our development lab.
What’s the drip down result of this sort of development? Does it relate to any equipment for Audi road sportscars- or may it in the future?
Race dampers for a car like this are quite specialised but valve technologies and such could possibly find its way onto road cars in the future.
Do the high-end TTR dampers used in the super competitive Formula Nippon and Super GT series’ in Japan have some relation to your equipment?
Actually it is a direct development from the dampers used at Le Mans and DTM which in turn came from many years of development together with different Indy Car teams. It is a larger version of the race dampers where we can use the same main structure as the TTX-damper to keep cost down.
Was there a long development and testing period?
Normally we start the design work together with the Audi engineer’s one year before the car will run at Le Mans. It is an on-going process where you iterate to a final solution together. After that there are a number of durability tests and more that is performed both here at Öhlins and at Audi before the dampers actually get on the car and onto the track. And of course there is an extensive testing program that Audi performs with the car before it is ready for Le Mans 24hrs. Audi has a non-disputable reputation of world class quality and durability. The amount of resources that they put into a project like this I think is the key to their unrivalled success.
What is it like to work with a full factory team such as Audi?
It is very exciting for sure. You feel that you are on the pinnacle of racing and that the resources and commitment is almost infinite from a team like this. It is definitely comparable to a Formula One team in some respects. Through the years I have also built a relation with the people there so the cooperation with them I feel is very efficient.
Any specific challenges you had to overcome for this particular race and car?
There were some new damper concepts that we had to develop for this car and there is always a challenge to make sure that everything can withstand the full 24hr race stint without any mechanical or other failures. But everything gets thoroughly tested before the race so come race day you feel quite secure.
Did you witness the entire race?
To be honest, no I didn’t, but I always try to follow the race on the television and keep updated on what is going on from time to time and of course watch the end of the race to the finish line.
Tiring stuff for all involved we can only imagine?
The drivers, engineers and race mechanics are totally exhausted after the race but I guess they all run on a high dose of adrenalin.
Presumably some pressure there then…
Every time your dampers are on a car like this where there is so much at stake and so many people have been involved for such a long time, not to mention all the money that have been spent in total, there is of course an enormous pressure that nothing can go wrong so I am always a little bit anxious when the race is on. The night of Le Mans 24hrs is not when you have the best of sleep.
What was your best memory?
It must be the fight against Peugeot last year. I think many people thought it was one of the best Le Mans races for many years. It was so close, the difference was less than 15 seconds at the end and this on a race that had been going on for 24hrs. It was amazing. Of course I had my hopes for Audi and they pulled it off once again.
And any ‘scary’ moments?!
In the same race two Audis were involved in huge crashes and for a moment you thought that the drivers could not have survived but once again Audi proved their excellent engineering skills and both drivers walked away basically without harm.
There was an incredible 240,000 fans at Le Mans and an amazing atmosphere, can you explain the continued attraction to this type of racing?
At Le Mans 24hrs you can see some of the fastest race cars in the world compete, plus there is so much history and tradition surrounding Le Mans. Also the level of technology presented there is very exciting with the big car manufacturers showing off the best that they can produce. It is a big marketing event for them where they can show future technology ending up in their road cars. The diesel route was basically a marketing strategy showing that diesel is not only for trucks, diesel can be sporty. Who would have thought Porsche for example would build a diesel car 10 years ago. The next thing now is to show and develop hybrid technology which for sure will end up in many road cars in the future.
You can see more Audi racing and information at www.quattroworld.com
08 – Steady as she goes!
You’ve no doubt seen some footage of the Tour de France or caught some of the cycling events from this summer’s Olympic Games in London, but have you ever wondered how they managed to get such silky smooth videos? The answer comes at the hand of professional moto-pilots, such as American Robert Starling, who transport’s cameramen on the back of their bikes, enabling some of those breathtaking shots to reach your television screens.
Having worked with the likes of Disney, McDonalds and Sony music over the course of his 28 years in the industry, Robert is a leading Steadicam operator in the States, but the real excitement begins when he gets on two wheels.
Riding a BMW R1200GS Robert utilizes a set of Öhlins TTX Mechatronic suspension. With his work pushing not only the suspension, but Robert himself he has to be prepared for every possible event that can occur out on the roads. Over to him to explain a little more on what work as professional moto-pilot involves…
“My work requires me to push the bike and the suspension system to its limits; especially when I’m carrying a photographer or videographer, and these new shocks have transformed the bike in so many ways.
“I was recently working on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, where we went from open highways to tight twisty mountain roads and even mountain dirt roads that climbed to well over 12,000 feet. As the saying goes, what goes up must come down so we also had to contend with a mad dash downhill into the town of Aspen.
At the top, or what we refer to as the King of Mountain, we bomb down the descents ahead of the cyclists who can easily hit speeds of 70mph plus and overtake a motorcycle. Pushing a 650-lb bike with 400 pounds of riders on it down these descents is really tough.
“Regardless of the surface, I feel really confident with the bike and have good contact with the road. Importantly, there’s no hint of sag in the rear.
Simply put, it goes where I point it instead of wallowing around or bobbing about – which is something that causes a lot of problems when trying to get some good footage. There was one moment on the trip where we raced through a downtown area that had significant gutter dips in the street.
Two of our TV bikes bottomed out so hard that one broke a foot peg and one broke off the TV transmitter antenna mast. I barely bottomed out on just one. Part of the tour saw me carrying on-camera talent where I would ride next to the lead riders while another camera bike shoots us in a live interview. Having been riding for over 23 days straight I barely noticed any discomfort – which says something!”
Starling’s website is: www.westcoaststeadicam.com
No, he doesn’t do weddings.
09 – Motorsport round-up – Motorcycle
MotoGP 2012 – A tale of three Champions…
The 2012 MotoGP season has seen some of the most spectacular action in recent years as ex-Champions Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo trade hard fought wins (4-3 to the Spaniard up to Assen) plus the added benefit of exciting scraps for podium positions from other members of the grid…
However it was an off-track move which has thrown a shadow over the on-track action so far…. that of Stoner’s announcement to a stunned press corps of his departure from the sport, at the end of the current season. The talented and often outspoken Aussie cited his retirement at the grand old age of 26 saying the sport had gone in a direction that doesn’t interest him and that he no longer takes enough enjoyment from the sport which justifies the sacrifices necessary to be competitive at the top of the sport.
Back on track the action was just as exciting. Following a crash at the American round at Indianapolis, Casey Stoner was forced to miss three rounds, ruling him out of the championship hunt and leaving Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa to battle it out. The two have traded wins all season and things came to a head at the Czech Republic round at the Brno circuit with a dramatic final few laps which saw Pedrosa take the win on the very last corner. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow crossed the line third in Brno to claim his first podium in MotoGP and be the first British rider to finish on the premier class podium since 2000, backing it up with a second podium at Phillip Island. Stoner also returned from injury to dominate Philip Island showing his home fans and GP watchers everywhere exactly what they will be missing next year.
The new Claiming Rules Team, or CRT bikes continues to split opinion but with some respectable finishes within the top ten, these machines with production engines and prototype chassis will remain for 2013 and could well be the future of MotoGP.
With over 90% of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 grids running Öhlins, the Swedish equipment remains the top choice for the Premier League of Bikesport…
Slip sliding away…
There was further success for Öhlins when Supermoto riders Hermunen Mauno and Febvre Romain secured victories at the prestigious 26th edition of the Superbiker Mettet races. Using an Öhlins front TTX cartridge Mauno took the ‘Supermoto Finale’ race, while claiming second in what became an enthralling battle for the famous ‘Superbiker 2012’ race. The win went the way of Romain who was riding with a complete Öhlins front forks and a TTX rear shock.
WSB – The Closest EVER…
After the enthralling final round at Le Mans, veteran racer Max Biaggi proved that despite competing in his 23rd season of racing he’s just as fast as the ‘young guns’ by securing his second World Superbike crown by just half a point – the closest finish in the championship’s 25 year history.
With nine different winners from every manufacturer, the championship continues to prove why it is regarded as one of the most competitive in the world, and its appeal continues to grow worldwide with new circuits such as the Moscow Raceway in Russia being included in this year’s calendar while a return to Laguna Seca in California and the inclusion of the Buddh circuit in India will make up part of the 2013 calendar.
Like MotoGP, Öhlins are the suspension equipment of choice for the majority of the grid and with all but one of the top ten riders using the gold forks, their domination in the main ‘production’ championship is evident.
There was further success for the ‘gold’ riders in the support classes as Kenan Sofuoglu wrapped up his World Supersport championship onboard his Kawasaki ZX-10R while Sylvain Barrier secured the European Superstock 1000 championship on his BMW S1000RR.
The AMA Superbike championship in the States has provided some of the top American riders in the world with both Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden being former champions. This year saw the Öhlins shod Monster Energy Graves Yamaha of Josh Hayes secure his third consecutive Superbike championship, placing him equal with legends Doug Chandler, Fred Merkel and Reg Pridmore. Hayes secured the title in dominating style taking 11 straight pole positions and victory in all but four of this year’s races.
‘Down under’ Josh Waters wrapped up the Australian Superbike Championship at Queensland raceway in mid-September on his Suzuki GSXR1000 and promptly got the call up for winter testing with the similarly suspension equipped Crescent Suzuki WSB squad.
In the hotbed of competition that is the Italian CIV Championship Matteo Baiocco piloted his Barni Racing Ducati Panigale for a first major SBK win for the machine, which also features OE Öhlins equipment.
Julien da Costa won the French Superbike series on his SRC Kawasaki ZX-10R leading home an Öhlins 1-2-3 in both Superbike and Supersport division’s – which was won by his team-mate Grégory Leblanc. The squad also won the Bol d’or 2012 and the 24H of Le Mans for the 3rd time in a row. The German IDM series saw French import and Endurance star Erwan Nigon take the title on a thankfully home grown BMW S1000RR using a TTX36 rear shock, TTX25 Cartridge Kit and steering damper, all serviced by Alpha Racing. The famous roundel also took the Canadian Superbike Championship as Jordan Szoke won an impressive eighth title.
10 – Motorsport round-up – Automotive
Audi – 2012 Endurance champions
Audi continues to have a successful endurance season. After yet another 24 hour Le Mans triumph Audi continued to wrap up both the constructors and drivers title in the first FIA World Endurance Championship…
The series runs to Le Mans style regulations with an LMP1 and LMP2 category complemented by two GT-classes, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am. Audi fought an intense battle with Toyota in the LMP1 category, a battle that was intensified during the second half of the season when Toyota stepped up and won the two last races. Audi’s advantage was enough to fend them off in the final Championship chase though. With the Constructors title already sewn up in August, the trio of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer became the Drivers Champions with a third place at the last round in Shanghai. The trio won three races this season in the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro adding to the successful tally for the new hybrid which also became the first hybrid vehicle to win the French classic; 24 hour Le Mans.
Also of note an Öhlins equipped McLaren MP4-12C GT3 entered by the Lapidus Racing-team won the Barcelona 24-hour race in Spain with drivers Adam Christodoulou, Tim Mullen, Phil Quaife and Klaas Hummel.
It’s all about Chevrolet in WTCC
With two race weekends and four races left to run it’s an all-Chevy affair in the FIA WTCC between the Chevrolet factory drivers Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu. 38 points separates the three with 100 points still up for grabs as Muller and Huff sit equal on points.
One championship decided, one to go in Japan
There’s also an intense title battle in Japan’s premier single seater category, Formula Nippon. With one round remaining former F1-driver Kazuki Nakajima leads just one point ahead of Koudai Tsukakoshi. German Andre Lotterer is also in the title hunt just five points behind team mate Nakajima in the Petronas Team Tom using Öhlins TTR shock absorbers as one of the available suspension options for teams in the series. The final round is held at Suzuka November 3th – 4th.
Japan’s other premier motorsport category is Super GT which finished at Motegi recently. As in Formula Nippon Öhlins is one of the suspension suppliers teams can choose from and most teams running Öhlins have elected to use the new TTR shock absorber. Yuji Tachikawa and Kohei Hirate finished second overall in the GT500 championship, driving for the Lexus Team Zent Cerumo, just 19 points behind overall winters Masataka Yanagida and Ronnie Quintarelli.
Successful Öhlins users in USA
In IndyCar the title was decided in a thrilling final race which eventually saw American Ryan Hunter-Reay winning the IndyCar-title for Andretti Autosport, just three points ahead of Australian Will Power.
An entirely different form of racing is Dirt Late Model oval track racing which see’s 800 horsepower beasts hammering sideways on dirt oval circuits. Öhlins equipment has dominated the season with the trio of Jimmy “The Newport Nightmare” Owens take the title, closely followed by Don O’Neal and multiple champion Scott Bloomquist.
On the American GT-scene it was the swansong season for the successful and legendary BMW M3 GT2, run by the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing team. Once again the squad was in the thick of things fighting for the title but they finally had to succumb at the season close. German Dirk Müller placed fourth overall in the championship after the final round at Road America.
V8 Supercars ‘Down Under’ goes into Endurance mode
The popular and massive V8 Supercars series in Australia has just entered its traditional Endurance part of the season with the drivers pairing up with co-drivers for the events at Sandown, the classic Bathurst 1000 and the Gold Coast 600.
The Holden Racing team started the Endurance season well with a fourth place at Sandown for Garth Tander and Nick Percat and repeated that feat in the all-Australian classic Bathurst 1000 utilising previous champion James Courtney and co-driver Cameron McConville, showing the team is slowly coming back to its pervious form after a difficult start to the season. In the Gold Coast event Garth Tander with IndyCar-driver Ryan Briscoe as co-driver scored a fourth and fifth.
Italian Superstars – Swede success in Italy
In a crazy final race in the Italian Superstars series Swedish rookie Johan Kristoffersson became the Champion after both he and former F1-driver Vitantonio Liuzzi both crashed out in the final race! Kristoffersson was taken out on the first lap after which Liuzzi just needed a fifth place to secure the title. But late in the race Liuzzi was also eliminated handing the title to the already retired Kristoffersson.
And finally… Öhlins in Formula One
In Formula One Öhlins has teamed up with the Lotus F1 team for a cooperation that has already started this year with a view for the 2013 season. Watch this space…