It is not often that we have cause to write about road-going motorcycles, but this is something a little bit special. The German engineering company Ronax have released a 500cc two-stroke V4 track missile, a cross between a Honda NSR500 and Yamaha YZR500. The bike is an 80° V4 two-stroke featuring two counter-rotating cranks, a design similar to Yamaha's 500cc GP machine, the two counter-rotating crankshafts balancing each other's inertial torque out. The bike features electronic fuel injection, and comes in at a paltry 145kg dry weight. The weight is kept low due to extensive use of aluminium and carbon fiber parts, the bodywork, tank, rear seat unit and airbox all being produced from CF. Quoted power is 160bhp, a fair few short of the 200 generally ascribed to the last of the 500cc Grand Prix racers.
With Ben Spies already retired, Colin Edwards about to retire at the end of the 2014 season, Nicky Hayden struggling with a wrist injury and Josh Herrin having a very tough rookie year in Moto2, there is growing concern among US fans about the future of American racing. What is to become of the nation that once dominated world championship racing, with existing stars in decline and no fresh blood ready to replace them?
Perhaps the brightest point in the firmament for American racing is PJ Jacobsen, currently racing in the World Supersport championship for the Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress team. The native of Montgomery, New York has been quietly building a reputation as a fast and promising young racer, stringing together a series of top ten results in the competitive WSS series in his debut year, and coming very close to scoring his first podium. Jacobsen's World Supersport debut comes after an impressive first year racing in the British BSB championship with Tyco Suzuki, which earned him a move to the world stage.
We caught up with Jacobsen a few weeks ago at Assen, ahead of the third round of the World Supersport championship. There, we spoke to him about the state of American racing, the difficulties faced by American riders trying to break into a world championship, and the path he took to the world stage. Jacobsen covers BSB, living in Northern Ireland and how his background in dirt track helped in road racing. PJ tells us about how BSB is a viable route into a world championship, and just what it takes to make the move. It was a fascinating perspective from an extremely talented young racer.
MotoMatters.com: First, a little background on you. You started your career racing with Barry Gilsenan in the AMA with Celtic Racing?
PJ Jacobsen: I've been racing for [Barry Gilsenan] since I was twelve, he was the first person that got me on a bike.
MM: He got you onto a bike, he got you racing, what was your path to World Supersport?
PJ: I was racing 125s in the USGPRU series in the US. He got me involved in that, and I won a title with him in the States. Then I came to Europe to race in the Spanish championship, and was in the MotoGP Academy. Then I went back to the US and rode for them in the AMA on a Suzuki 600. I rode for them for three years in the States. I rode in the Daytona Sportbike class, that's when everything was kinda turning around there.
The Sepang World Superbike races brought teammates to the fore today. All of the top teams have two-riders that need to get along and compete at the same time. Under the tropical sun, some of the partnerships may have changed beyond repair.
Press releases from the organizers and from the teams after Sunday's World Superbike and World Supersport races at Sepang:
2014 Sepang World Superbike Race Two Results: Race Restarted After Burning Bike Brought Out Red Flag
World Superbike race two started at 16:30 local time, with the schedule being shifted for the main markets to be able to see the racing.
The race started with Toni Elias taking the lead into turn one from an excellent start, with Sylvain Guintoli pushing past a few turns later when Elias wobbled out of a corner. Tom Sykes, with his wrist injured in the first race, was third until Marco Melandri passed him, setting up an Aprilia 1-2-3 ahead of a Kawasaki 1-2 tailed off by Baz.
On the fourth lap, Guintoli started eking out a lead from Elias but the red flags were brought out after Claudio Corti's MV Agusta leaked fluids onto the track and caught fire, much to Corti's surprise.
The opening World Superbike race was sixteen 5.5km laps for a total of 88.7 kilometres on a 52°C track.
The World Supersport race was fourteen long laps of close racing in 32°C sunshine with a track temperature of 48°C.
It rains almost every day in Sepang, and yet it has been dry for the last two days. Rain is predicted for Sunday, but that doesn't mean it's a certainty. Heat and humidity, however, are. New riders need to be reminded to take their helmets off when they get back to their pit boxes, and plenty of fluids need to be ingested.
The Hermann Tilke designed Formula 1 circuit suits motorbikes more than other car tracks, but the bumps, caused by braking cars pushing the tarmac into corners like a carpet against a wall, can still catch riders out, especially at the end of the faster stretches where you have to tip your bike in over corrugated road.
Press releases from the series organizers and World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying at Sepang:
As the temperature rose to 35°C, the lap times dropped.
Superpole took place in a humid 35º climate and 60º track. The long lap length reduced the amount of chances each rider would have determine their qualifying place.
Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri topped the sheets ahead of Superpole in the untimed practice session.
Jules Cluzel was two thirds of a second quicker than Michael van der Mark, with an impressive 2'08.577 lap. Ratthapark Wilairot was unable to improve on his times from Friday but remains third in qualifying due to his quick time in the first session yesterday.