Saturday, February 28, 2009

MotoGP: The Kawasaki farce continues

Will Marco Melandri really ride a bike that was uncompetitive last year and which, without Kawasaki's involvement, has no chance of improving this year?!

In the ongoing Kawasaki-MotoGP debacle, the latest, according to MCN, is that one Kawasaki machine will participate in the 2009 MotoGP season. This lone Kawasai ZX-RR will, however, be re-branded ‘Hayate’ and will be run by Dorna, with Kawasaki themselves not playing any role in the entire thing.

Reports in the media claim that Marco Melandri will be racing this Dorna-Hayate machine, while Melandri himself says he will first test the machine (in Qatar, tomorrow) and see if it’s worth riding at all. Indeed, why Melandri should race a machine that was completely uncompetitive in 2008 and which hasn’t changed since then, is beyond us. And to top that, since Kawasaki will not be involved and there is apparently nobody else who’s equipped to handle development work for the bike, there’s zero chance of the ZX-RR improving at all!

The other thing of course is that nobody knows what’s happening with John Hopkins, who’s now left without a ride. In any case, this whole Kawasaki-MotoGP thing seems to be in shambles – it’s a shameful to way to bring things to an end. If Kawasaki had decided to leave MotoGP, a clean, clear exit would have been so much better than this protracted Dorna vs Kawasaki battle.

Kawasaki ZX-RR MotoGP

Friday, February 27, 2009

Toyoshi Nishida: “We wanted to make the new R1 exciting to ride…!”

Rossi's bike for the street? Yeah, well, the 2009 R1 is probably as close as most of us can get...

Is Toyoshi Nishida the next Tadao Baba? Baba, the man responsible for the first ‘wild child’ Honda CBR900RR FireBlade, became a cult figure who is even today idolised by fans of the original ’Blade.

When it was launched in 1992, the FireBlade was an absolute revelation – the world had not seen anything like it before. And, it seems, the 2009 Yamaha R1 is a similar step in superbike evolution. In one fell swoop, it has raised the bar and changed the game, making all other Japanese litre-class sportsbikes look dated. So much so that in the years to come, Toyoshi Nishida, the 2009 R1 project leader at Yamaha, just might be looked upon as the new Tadao Baba…

‘The crossplane crankshaft gives a very gentle torque feeling, a less aggressive character than the old R1. We wanted to make the bike exciting to ride, so we focused on providing good injection control and a very linear feel from the throttle,’ says Nishida. ‘This makes the bike very exciting to ride, and it’s very fast too. We tested with many riders of different levels and the new bike is always faster. Riders of all skill levels had the same comment – that the new model is very controllable,’ he adds.

But why didn’t Yamaha fit anti-lock brakes and/or traction control on the new R1? Isn’t that a serious oversight? ‘At this moment, I don’t think the most important thing is to help the rider who miscontrols [?!] the bike. The priority is to give the rider a linear feel, which is more enjoyable and also safer,’ says Nishida. ‘For the same reason we didn’t fit ABS, although we considered it. At this moment, the most important thing is to provide the rider with very precise control,’ he adds.

Finally, what about the MotoGP-style exhaust system that many were expecting to see on the 2009 R1? ‘We considered using a shorter exhaust system, like the one on the M1 and R6, instead of the high-level system. But we had many things to consider, including the length and straightness of the exhaust, which affect performance, and the new, lower, rear suspension linkage. There was not much space under the engine,’ concludes Nishida.

Indeed, it looks like Yamaha have done things right with the 2009 YZF-R1. ‘Before riding this bike, and with the brilliance of Ducati’s 1198S fresh in my mind, I thought Yamaha had missed a trick in updating the R1 so comprehensively without adding traction control,’ says noted bike journalist Roland Brown, who recently tested the new R1 at the Eastern Creek circuit. ‘Time to think again. The electronic aids will, inevitably, come soon. But in the meanwhile, this version of the R1 is not simply the best yet – it’s a significant step forward whose edge is gained via its rider’s brain and right wrist – surely the purest, most satisfying way possible,’ he adds.

Hmm… sounds good to us, though we don’t know if we’re convinced about Yamaha’s decision to leave ABS out of the equation. On the street, especially in tricky road/weather conditions, even the best riders can and do mess up, and ABS is an invaluable safety aid in such situations. Then again, that also leaves something to look forward to in 2010…

Toyoshi Nishida speaks about the 2009 Yamaha R1...

Ducati GT1000 riding impression

The right Ducati for those lazy Sunday morning rides...

All right, so we do think the Ducati 1198S is the most lust-worthy motorcycle (though the 2009 Yamaha R1 is not too far behind…!) in the whole world right now. But the GT1000 also looks charming in its own retro-classic way. For the times when you aren’t in the mood for full race leathers – for lazy Sunday morning rides when you’d rather just throw on an old leather jacket and wear a stylish open-face helmet – the GT1000 might just be perfect. Even the wife/girlfriend is likely to find the GT more comfortable than the 1198, so…

The guys at InfoMotori recently had the opportunity to test ride the Ducati GT1000, and here are some excerpts from what they have to say about the bike:

The Ducati GT1000 offers the best of two different worlds – elegant styling that harks back to a different era, combined with contemporary motorcycle technology, which makes it safe and reliable. Retro styling cues are everywhere – large, generous double seat, twin rear shocks, wire-spoke wheels, steel tube chassis and even the way the headlamp and taillamp look – everything looks like it’s from a different age.

And yet, even though you may not be able to spot them immediately, there are modern bits aplenty on the GT1000. For example, the 43mm USD Marzocchi fork, twin 320mm brake discs (front) and 245mm disc (rear) and the tyres, with their modern tread pattern.

The GT1000, which weighs 185kg dry, is fitted with Ducati’s 992cc air-and-oil cooled v-twin, which produces 92bhp at 8,000rpm and 91Nm of torque at 6,000rpm. Get on to the bike and it feels light and incredibly comfortable – just right for slicing through city traffic. And even at low revs, there’s always a hint of that special Ducati character, a glimpse of the bike’s ‘fighting spirit’ that’s just waiting to surface.

The GT1000 is, of course, all about looking good...

Up in the winding roads in the hills of Bologna, the GT1000 builds speed quickly and effortlessly. The Ducati engine, which is all aggressive at lower revs, seems to calm down as the speed builds up, while the handling remains spot-on. The bike corners with confidence and stability – the rider always feels completely in control and completely safe.

Now, while the GT1000 is happy being ridden fast, you may actually enjoy the bike more if you slow down a bit. It’s the type of bike on which you’d want to look around a bit, enjoy the scenery. This definitely isn’t about performance calibrated to the last hundredth of a second – it’s about style and turning on the charm…

The GT1000 has no storage space, but that’s a problem that the touring version – with its saddlebags and high windscreen – should take care of. At €10,300 (US$13,100), the GT1000 probably isn’t for everyone. But then stylish, sophisticated Italian motorcycle like this one can never be cheap.

For the full article, visit the InfoMotori website here

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Max Biaggi, Shinya Nakano on the Aprilia RSV4

Shinya Nakano and Max Biaggi, with the Aprilia RSV4 World Superbikes racebike

We think the Aprilia RSV4 is simply amazing. We love the way it looks and we’re sure it’ll go like blazes. This bike, we think, will rock the World Superbikes establishment on its haunches. On the Aprilia website, Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano – the two men who’ll be racing the RSV4 this year – have answered some questions about the bike’s handling and overall performance. Here are some excerpts from what the two have to say about the bike:

On its handling

Biaggi: ‘I am still working hard to find the perfect feeling but it is certainly more manageable [compared to the RSV1000] and very precise upon entering into curves. We are trying to do the most to optimize the handling in respect to the electronics and the engine. It does well coming out of curves – even if the movement is a bit skittish – and I am amazed at how it changes direction. I am also happy about its extreme reactivity.’

Nakano: ‘The RSV4 is really a ‘racing motorcycle’ and I immediately found a great feeling. It has an optimal limber that we worked on a lot during the first test since I think it is of utmost importance; I immediately achieved the sensation I had been seeking. It is still a bit skittish when coming out of curves although that doesn't depend on the mechanics but instead the power supply and engine mapping.’

On its ride-by-wire system

Biaggi: ‘Ride-by-wire was adopted from MotoGP and brought to Superbikes last year by Yamaha. It allows for a much improved management of the motorcycle and can be a great help to the rider since it is well calibrated to make the most of its potential.’

Nakano: ‘The functioning of this system didn't alter my riding style but instead gives more advantages. The most important thing is to find the right connection between the handle control and the rear wheel reaction. Finding the right setting can be tough but that wasn't the case with the RSV4; we've already established a great feeling.’

In a separate interview with Superbike Planet, Biaggi recently gave more insight into the RSV4’s behaviour. ‘It feels like more close on the way of Suzuki, for sure. Not even close to Ducati in the way the two cylinders go, the behavior. That bike is two cylinders less, it makes a big difference. It's pushing out of the corner in a different way compared to Ducati. But it's more close to Suzuki, which is an inline-four. So what I think is, it feels like, young. It feels like it's a young project,’ says Biaggi.

‘Our test in Portugal was not great but I am hopeful that we will come back strong for the Phillip Island test and race. I think the Aprilia Superbike project is very important to the factory and they are putting all of their strength behind it. It's good for me to be back with Aprilia and be back where it really began with me in racing. Would it not be a good story if after all these years we were again successful together,’ says Max. Yes, we’re sure it’ll be one hell of a good story. Here’s wishing you all the best – hope you, Nakano and Aprilia go on to rock the WSBK scene this year!

BMW F800R to hit showrooms by May this year

The BMW F800R is coming out in May...

The BMW F800R, the first official pics of which were released back in November last year, is due to go on sale by May this year, according to a report on Solo Moto. The bike is fitted with BMW's 798cc parallel twin, which makes 87 horsepower at 8,000rpm and 86Nm of torque at 6,000 revs. The bike weighs 204 kilos wet and will be available with ABS. Prices to be announced soon...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 BRP Can-Am Spyder SE5

The 2009 Can-Am Spyder SE5. Looks quite cool, though we wish it had a bit more power...

We quite like powerful, high-performance trikes here at Faster and Faster, and while the Campagna T-Rex, Carver One and Piaggio MP3/Gilera Fuoco remain our absolute favourite three-wheelers, the Can-Am Spyder is not too far off either.

For 2009, BRP are doing a new variant of the Can-Am Spyder – the SE5 – which features a sequential push-button semi-automatic transmission. Most other things remain the same – the Spyder SE5 is still fitted with Rotax’s eight-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 998cc v-twin that makes 106bhp at 8,500rpm and 104Nm of torque at 6,250rpm.

Final drive is via a carbon-reinforced belt, so there are none of the maintenance-related hassles associated with chain-drive. The SE5 uses a double A-arm with anti-roll bar setup at the front and swingarm/monoshock at the rear.

The Spyder rides on 14-inch front wheels, while the rear wheel is a 15-incher. Tyre sizes are 165/65 at the front and 225/50 at the back. The foot actuated brakes comprise of 260mm discs on all three wheels, with four-piston callipers at front and single-piston calliper at the rear. There are bits like electronic brake force distribution (EBD), anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control system (TCS) and vehicle stability system (VSS), which we’re sure boost the Spyder SE5’s safety factor.

The SE5 weighs 317kg dry, is priced at US$17,000 and comes with a two-year warranty. If we had the money, would we buy one? Umm… probably not. If we were getting a three-wheeler, we’d really have something a bit funkier, something like the Carver One or the Campagna T-Rex. However, with a bit more power – perhaps another 80-100bhp or so – the Spyder SE5 may not be such a bad deal after all…!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Aprilia RSV1000: The heat is on!

Cindy Iglesias provides a whole new perspective on the Aprilia RSV1000. Go ahead, drool. And if you want more hot Aprilias, there's some below that you may like...
Via Motoblog

Pics: Flickr

Sunday, February 22, 2009

KTM 990 SMT riding impression

Not exactly a Honda Goldwing, the 990 SMT is KTM's take what a touring bike should be

A supermoto tourer? That’s what KTM have done for 2009, with the new 990 SMT. And why not – we suppose there would be people who’re looking for a touring bike that’s lighter, more agile and more fun than, say, a K1300GT or a Goldwing. The guys at Motociclismo recently had a chance to ride the new 990 SMT and here are some excerpts from their report:

KTM have a particular way of building their bikes and the 990 SMT is no different. Yes, it’s comfortable, versatile and well suited to long journeys, but it also has that sporty DNA like all other KTMs. With this bike, with its wider range of capabilities, KTM hope to expand their customer base.

With the Supermoto Tourer, the Austrian company has managed to create a bike that offers great all-around performance. With 116bhp, it’s not extremely rapid, but the performance is still commendable – we assure you, it can satisfy the most demanding palates.

The 990 SMT is as agile as the standard 990 Supermoto, but is more comfortable, versatile and less tiring on longer rides. It even handles better, probably due to its lower, firmer suspension – the bike handles fast, flowing roads with great aplomb. In terms of styling, we think the 990 SMT is perhaps not as good looking as some other KTMs and comes across as a bit too ‘serious,’ but that is a matter of personal taste. The 990 SMT is probably targeted at a more mature audience, which may actually prefer the bike’s rather subdued bearing.

Like the standard 990 SM, the SMT is happy being ridden at a quick pace – it actually allows you to go even faster at most times – but unlike its cousin, this KTM is equally happy chugging along at a more relaxed pace. Because of its firmer suspension and reduced suspension travel, the SMT does not weave or wallow – it changes direction quickly and is easy to manoeuvre at low speeds. The brakes also work very well, showing no signs of fade even after extended hard usage. Overall, a very confidence-inspiring package…

Coming to the engine, the 990 SMT’s v-twin feels quite smooth and refined. It starts pulling hard from 3,000rpm and delivers an aggressive punch between 5,000-8,000rpm. The engine will actually rev all the way to 9,500 rpm though most of the time, you won’t need to push it that hard. The gearbox is also quick, precise and silent – no missed gear changes ever.

We liked the 990 SMT’s ergonomics, though the seat remains a bit on the higher side despite KTM having lowered it a bit. The riding position feels relaxed and bigger riders should be able to get quite comfortable on this bike. To conclude, the KTM 990 SMT was quite a pleasant surprise – it was good fun to ride and not one rider had anything negative to say about it. Just perfect.

...and here's the MCN guys having a go at the 990 SMT

2009 KTM 990 SMT: Tech Specs

Engine: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 8-valve, 999cc v-twin
Torque: 97Nm@ 7,000rpm
Power: 116bhp@9,000 rpm
Chassis: Steel tube trellis-type
Suspension: 48mm USD fork (front), adjustable monoshock (rear)
Price: 12,486 euros (US$16,000)

For the full article, visit the Motociclismo website here

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

World Superbikes: BMW S1000RR vs Aprilia RSV4

BMW S1000RR vs Aprilia RSV4, Germany vs Italy. World Superbikes is going to be an all-out war zone this year...!

Strange things seem to be happening in the world of top-flight motorcycle racing. In a year when a major Japanese company like Kawasaki has announced its withdrawal from MotoGP, two European companies – BMW and Aprilia – are actually getting into World Superbikes, with all-new four-cylinder machines.

Forget the recession and cost-cutting, BMW and Aprilia are planning a no-holds-barred assault in World Superbikes this year, and they seem to be bringing the right kind of firepower for the battle that lies ahead for each of them. First, the BMW. The brand-new S1000RR, which will be ridden by Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus, is fitted with a liquid-cooled 999cc four-cylinder engine that, according to BMW, makes 200+ horsepower at 14,000+ revs.

There's never been a BMW bike quite like this ever before...

The S1000RR comes with a six-speed gearbox, Dell´ Orto fuel-injection system (with 48mm injectors), fully adjustable Öhlins suspension (43mm USD fork at front, TTX shock at the back) and Brembo brakes (twin 320mm discs with four-piston callipers at front, single 220mm disc at the back with four-piston calliper). The bike rides on 16.5-inch wheels shod with Pirelli tyres and weighs 162kg dry.

On to the Aprilia, and the all-new RSV4, which is fitted with a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 999cc, 65-degree V4 that Aprilia claim is the most powerful engine they’ve ever built. Indeed, the street-legal version of the RSV4 packs 180bhp at 12,500rpm, so the World Superbikes racer should, like the S1000RR, easily have more than 200 horsepower.

The Aprilia RSV4, all set to take on the BMW S1000RR

Like the BMW, the Aprilia also has a host of electronics making sure the engine delivers its best at all times. The RSV4’s engine has bits like variable height intake trumpets, four throttle bodes, eight injectors and ride-by-wire fuel management. There’s also a six-speed cassette-type gearbox, aluminium beam frame with mixed cast and pressed sheet sections, fully adjustable Öhlins suspension and Brembo brakes with monobloc radial-mount callipers.

The RSV4 rides on 17-inch forged aluminium alloy wheels, shod with 120/70 (front) and 190/55 (rear) tyres. The streetbike weighs 179kg dry, so we suppose the WSBK-spec bike will be at least 10-15 kilos lighter. On paper, the RSV4 and S1000RR seem pretty evenly matched, though it remains to be seen how they’ll perform on the track. What’s certain is that the 2009 World Superbikes season should be the best ever and the action is likely to be fast and furious. Bring it on now

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2009 Piaggio MP3 HyS hybrid inches closer to production

The 2009 Piaggio MP3 HyS will use an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries, to augment its 250cc petrol engine...

Piaggio recently got a loan of €150 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which the company said it would invest towards the development of its next-generation two-wheelers, including non-polluting battery-powered electric scooters.

Well, it seems Piaggio are almost ready to take their first steps towards a cleaner, greener future. The company had started work on a hybrid version of its MP3 – the MP3 HyS – three-wheeled scooter back in 2007 and the little trike will soon be ready to go into production. It won’t be inexpensive though – prices are likely to be around €10,000 when this scooter is launched later this year, in Italy and Spain.

Apart from its 250cc petrol engine, the Piaggio MP3 HyS will be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, which will offer a range of about 20km in electric-only mode. However, even when the petrol engine is being used, the electric motor will chip in to help under hard acceleration. Since electric motors produce lots of torque at low RPMs, this ‘help’ is likely to provide a significant hike in performance.

The Piaggio HyS system has been designed as a ‘parallel hybrid’ where the petrol engine and electric motor are ‘linked,’ and work together seamlessly. With its ride-by-wire throttle and advanced electronics managing the engine and electric motor, the MP3 HyS will be able to offer better acceleration, reduced fuel consumption (the vehicle could average up to 60km/l) and lower emissions.

Piaggio’s HyS system also has other tricks up its sleeve – it uses regenerative braking to store the energy generated during braking, which it uses to charge the scooter’s battery. Even otherwise, the lithium-ion battery pack will only take around 3-4 hours for a full charge, via any household electricity outlet.

Riders will have the option to use the MP3 HyS in either battery-only, engine-only or hybrid mode, with the scooter’s on-board electronics managing the interaction between the engine and the electric motor in hybrid mode. Everything is, of course, fully automated – the rider only has to twist the throttle and go.

Will HyS be the future of two-wheeler technology? Umm… we’re not too sure. In fact, we think that probably wouldn’t be the case. Various manufacturers are working on full-on electric vehicles, which wouldn’t have a petrol engine at all and will only run on electric motors powered by lithium-ion batteries. Within the next 2-5 years, we expect mainstream manufacturers to start offering battery-powered bikes that would offer adequate range and performance, which would be vastly better than what’s currently available.

Over the next few years, scooters and small-displacement commuter bikes will move away from the IC engine completely and switch over to battery power, while high-end sportsbikes are likely to still have only petrol engines for at least another decade. So where does that leave HyS and other similar systems? In our opinion, these hybrid systems will be short-lived – they might be around for the next 2-3 years, after which they will fade away and lithium-ion batteries (and later, hydrogen fuel cells…) will take over the world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Birthday: Valentino 'The Doctor' Rossi turns 30

Rossi: 30 years old and getting faster and faster with every passing year...!

Valentino Rossi turns 30 today, on the 16th of February 2009. With 97 race wins and eight world championships (including six premier class world championships) over 14 years of racing, the man is phenomenally successful. And unlike some other immensely successful men who have their heads stuck up their own a****s most of the time, The Doctor remains humble, affable and genuinely likable. Yes, we love him!!!

Here are some people wishing Rossi a very happy birthday. Read on - some of these messages are quite interesting...

"I don't really have a favourite memory of Valentino, or at least it's difficult to choose the ‘absolute best!' The first one that comes to mind however is just after the Welkom race in 2004, his famous first MotoGP race with Yamaha. Before Valentino finally joined Yamaha, during one of the meetings the previous September, he said that he wanted to win his first race with Yamaha! This immediately created a lot of pressure for me and for Yamaha, but anyway I promised him that we would all try all our best. Honestly at that time I felt that it was going to be a very difficult thing to achieve! During the final few pre-season tests the chances of doing it began to look better and better, but in a race itself anything can happen. Incredibly, he won that race in Welkom and just after it, after the technical meeting had finished, we were alone in his changing room. Somebody had left a bottle of wine in the fridge and we opened it and raised a toast to that day way back in September, when he had first said that he wanted to win this race. "We did it!" I said to him. It was a very emotional moment for me because it was the moment we achieved our very first target together. Happy Birthday!"

"Vale is a fighter, but armed with a smile. I've never seen him lose his humanity, even in the most difficult moments. One time I found him making gags and jokes as if he was at home with friends, when in fact he had just a couple of minutes to go before a decisive race. While he was putting on his leathers, ready to go out and challenge the world, he transmitted a joy for life, listening to a song on his ipod. "Ciao Ragazzi! See you later!" He said. Then came a sweeping victory at the limits of possibility and a long night of partying together! Happy Birthday, Vale!"

"Valentino, You are a true champion. You keep raising the bar, relentlessly pursuing the next race, the next challenge, the next championship. I also know that the victories don't necessarily become easier. You have to dig deeper, work even harder, become more focused to overcome the distractions. That's what you do. And I, like countless others, know that when you're on that track anything is possible. It was my great pleasure to be there at Laguna Seca and see you take that victory. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it! You certainly don't disappoint! Thank you for all the great races you have given us, and for all the great races yet to come. Happy Birthday."

"Every race, every win, every championship! Vale the kid in the portaloo is an old favourite, always irresistible in victory and gracious in defeat (not that he had to prove it very often!) But the all-time favourite memory for me would be him at Laguna Seca going inside Stoner through the dirt. Death or glory; the whole race an answer to those daft enough still to have a question. And to have shaken the hand of that man - that I won't forget either."

"Cattolica, August 1996, 2pm, very hot. I'm travelling by motorbike on a deserted road towards the sea, when a small and colourful outline appears from an intersection ahead, going very fast. A young boy on a scooter ‘closes' the corner, accentuates the bend, runs around the pavement, straightens up and pulls a wheelie... he holds the wheelie on the aqua-green Zip for more than 200 metres, still on the gas. I accelerate and catch him up. The boy lets go of the left handlebar and lifts the left hand in a sign of victory. I recognise him and follow him. Finally he lowers the wheel and with his feet on the footrests he throws embraces and salutes all around the road to his imaginary fans. He notices me, right beside him, and smiles. Happy Birthday Vale!"

"I have a few fond memories of Vale starting from 2000. Our 2002 victory at the Suzuka 8-Hour was something special, but I'd have to say my one memory that stands out is Laguna 2005. Basically, we were both healthy and fighting for every inch. I did have a slight advantage knowing the track since 1992. As I can recall, it was the first time we were together on track racing close; as most would confirm, he was usually ten seconds in front of me leading by this point in the race! Then he mounted a charge on the last two laps that came up just short...I was happy we didn't have one more lap! Haha!!!! It's not really a memory that I beat him, it's more of a memory of racing side by side with what I consider "The Goat", which translates as The Greatest Of All Time. Happy birthday, you old man!"

"My favourite "Valentino moment" is remembering the unique human quality that he showed after his battle with Nicky Hayden for the 2006 MotoGP Championship. It is very easy to behave like a champion when you win, but Rossi's attitude after losing was admirable and impressive."

"It's difficult to think of a single moment but I guess one of the most memorable moments was during the 2003 season when Valentino had his first meeting with the Yamaha YZR-M1. We had started our secret discussions earlier that year for a possible future move to Yamaha. Vale said he wanted to have a real look at the Yamaha M1 bike so we agreed to organize a secret rendezvous in the paddock at the Donington GP. To keep it secret we arranged to meet on Saturday night in the Yamaha Factory Team pit box. After midnight Vale arrived in a dark parka jacket with the hood up. He looked like a burglar coming to steal our stuff! Once inside he greeted everybody there and introduced himself and then took his time to look at Carlos Checa's M1 from every angle before asking our permission if he could sit on the bike. We were so surprised by his humility and modesty and even more surprised when he paid a complement to us by stating that it was "not so bad" after all. His attitude on that first night time meeting said a lot about the man. Since then I have seen a hundred more examples... Happy Birthday, Vale!"

"I want to say Happy Birthday to my team-mate Valentino. It is great for me to be racing with a legend like him, but maybe now he's 30 he might slow down a little bit!"

"We met thanks to Inter, but we became friends thanks to motorbikes: our two great passions! Now the stadium and the circuit are occasions to be fans for one another and to try to bring good luck; you for me and I for you. But the moment in which we feel the truest friends is when we're having dinner together at my house, sitting together at the same table. There we are just Marco and Valentino, two who for many reasons see life in the same way. Today I am just like you, when you put your number on to race it is the double of me when I put mine on to play, because I have 23! For your 30th I give you ‘double' greetings. And one more special thing to remember, to succeed in keeping our ‘secret' promise, the one which we can only tell when we've achieved it! Happy birthday Vale!"

"The end of testing, the slow-down lap. Valentino sees you from the track and goes to wave at you. It's a quick movement and it seems trivial, but it's a sign, a sign of how he focuses his attention; on the bike while he needs to, on the man when he can. He separates the moments, detaches them, changes and reasons. This is why everyone always wants him as their poster boy. The Valentino I know above all defeats what is normal while the legend grows. Now he turns 30, what can I say? As before, he still has his feet on the ground. He is ruthless and very much a perfectionist. He is easy-going and always curious with his own taste for an interesting life, but he is normal. After eight titles and 97 victories, I would like to be sure that I tell the story in the right way and, although the legend continues to grow, I can always find simple words."

"I have thought about what to tell you through the media for your 30th birthday... I could have dealt with sun, stars, mountains, love and happiness... but I feel it is more right to say, simply... HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

"How could I not love you, Valentino? The champions know exactly what they have to do, instinctively. I remember in 1997, when we were making your first TV advert. You had to endure a day with a fussy and long-winded director, who couldn't finish and had to adjourn until the next day. You left and, with your friend Uccio you called to warn that you were already home at your house, and where you were staying also the next day! Straugurissimi, Legend!"

"Happy 30th birthday Valentino! I love to watch when the odds are against you, the battle is on. Your passion to win is visible and I respect that very much. 30 years is just beginning for you!"

"Valentino, when I first saw you ride at the ranch in Barcelona... I thought Kevin Schwantz was tall and skinny! You were very impressive then as you are now! Good luck and Happy Birthday!"

"Simply... I would like to wish him to get to 40 without growing up anymore and then after 40... let's see!"

"Am I asking too much if I ask for 30 more years of excitement? Well, I can live with half!

"I hope that for the next 30 years Vale will be as fast as he has been in the previous 30 and that he gives us more passes and excitement like we had at Laguna Seca 2008. 30 more Corkscrews, Vale!"

"Happy Birthday, Bomber! Although you are now 30, try to give us as much excitement as you have given to us until you were 29! Auguri! Sic58"

"I know that every time I work with him something different will happen once again. One more time his image is in front of my lens and once again I have a different feeling and taste to be working with him. His little wrinkles, his determined gaze with his piercing eyes, which look right through you if you are not quick to change the shot. We play a game and by now he knows what expression I want before I have even asked, just like a team-mate in a match. The expressions stay in my mind as memories. This is what having Vale in front of the camera means, every time. I am always happy that I have the good fortune to work with him. Today he is posing for me with a chocolate cake to celebrate his 30th birthday. I shoot it as simply as possible; It's not necessary to have anything else to make it a unique shot. A white background is enough, and once again we relax into the ‘groove'. A song comes into my head: "When you have a sunny day in December, you can say that summer is already here! Congratulations, Vale!"

"30 is a big milestone for a racer because, even though you're not really old as a person, you're starting to be one of the older ones in professional racing and you start to feel that you can't go on forever! I don't think it's a problem for Valentino however, he seems to still feel 25 so as long as that continues he'll be just fine! Happy Birthday and have a great party!"

"Doctor, wish you a VERY happy birthday! This year, we hope and pray that you'll go out on the track and kick a** harder than ever. And, now, how about the exclusive interview that we've been chasing you for...?"

Random Ramblings