International Racing News

NTS: taking on the Moto2 big guns in 2018

Japanese engineering firm NTS will take on the big guns of Moto2 next season when rider Steve Odendaal goes up against the likes of Miguel Oliveira and Sam Lowes.

From small beginnings, NTS have raced in the Spanish CEV series and now feel ready to move on to the global stage to compete with Kalex, Suter and KTM in the middleweight division.

BSN sat down with the team’s Jin Sasaki to ask him what he thinks he is playing at?

BSN: How did this all begin?
JS: NTS had an opportunity to discuss a future partnership with Steven Odendaal after the last round of CEV Repsol 2016. NTS explained that this is an on-going development project and will be happy to have the 2016 champion to push the project forward.

Can you tell us why you’ve decided to move into Moto2 this season?
Taking a step in CEV Repsol, before going into the Grand Prix, was inevitable and crucial in terms of R&D. There are seven races for Moto2, which is not too much and not too small to evaluate the output, as well as the fact that the level of competition is second to that of the WGP’s.

What is different about the frame you’ve designed?
There are theories and thoughts in chassis manufacturing, and they all differ. I would say that because NTS is not a motorcycle racing chassis manufacturer, but in fact, we are precise metal processing company serving in Aerospace, high-end motorsports, marine and medical equipment, our goal is to achieve very precise and digital manufacturing to ensure the performance of each of the NTS bikes would be absolutely the same, not only statically but also dynamically. To achieve this, we fully machine the main frame as well as the swingarm for more precision and stability.

Can you tell us about the thinking and manufacturing processes?
Mentioned above, but let me add a spice. NTS Chassis is designed and are carefully studied academically which include analysis and studies such as, for example, CAD/CAE, CFD, and all sorts of engineering measuring and data comparison of all kinds to target higher stability, agility, top speed and safety.

What is the timescale of the project in Moto2?
Three years in Grand Prix from 2018 to start with. We will consider how the options will turn out for further projects.

Do you have any plans for other European series?
No we don’t.

How long has it taken you to get to this stage?
NTS started building our own Moto2 chassis in 2015. This is our third year total, second year in CEV.

What is it you like about Steven as a rider?
Steven is an experienced rider who can push to the bike to 100 per cent regardless of the condition of the track. This is crucial to understanding the behaviour of the bike with different parts and set-up to compare and understand the progress. If a rider was unstable, meaning that if a rider was not capable of pushing himself and the bike to the limits each time he or she rides, the standard of the data will vary from time to time and the team will never be able to compare the data correctly.

This may sound simple, but giving 100 per cent constantly as an athlete is not so easy. There are fast riders out there, who may be just as fast as Steven, but being fast is not always enough. NTS think that Steven is a good race rider as well as an R&D rider.

Robin Miller: WorldSBK 2018 – reasons to be cheerful…

Picture: GeeBee Images

What is there to be said about WorldSBK that is positive? Well, first of all it is run by young, enthusiastic, energetic people like Dorna’s executive director Daniel Carrerra and Scott Smart, representing the FIM as series technical director, and sporting director Greg Lavilla, who recognise that something has to be done and pretty damn quick.

And if ever there was a clear example of that it was Jerez at the weekend which attracted the lowest crowd of the year – the paddock being the most populated area – who witnessed Jonathan Rea, already world champion, playing his own version of monopoly.

So why do the changes being announced this week appear so underwhelming? Won’t rev limits – the equivalent of getting Usain Bolt to run in leg irons – accepted with good grace by Kawasaki and Ducati, and adjustable during the year, change the game? The opinion of the paddock is that they will still be the teams to beat, an unsurprising conclusion as they spend the most money and have arguably the best riders. But it’s a start.

The other big proposal to further level the playing field was for a control ECU, the black box of electronics non-wizardry which, together with tyres, has made the biggest difference to race bikes in recent times. Although accepted in BSB and put up with in MotoGP there were strong objections from one or two manufacturers who would have to change.

BMW, for example, use the same box on their racer, with a few tweaks, as their road bike and are reluctant to change. Of course some teams are using the same kit anyway, one or two will go along with it recognising the championship has to buck up its appeal and some think it won’t make much difference anyway.

This, of course, doesn’t make life any easier for the series boss who is being told by his boss, the redoubtable Senor Ezpeleta, that he wants revolution not evolution and what about dumbing down to Superstock or even the less sophisticated British Superbike formula come to that. Easier said than done, it seems.

The aforementioned Messrs Carrerra, Smart and Lavilla want to move faster too but they have got to take the manufacturers with them. No throwing any toys out of the pram because a drop in factory support for already badly-underfunded smaller teams would put them and the whole series in jeopardy and Dorna, nor the FIM, want this championship to collapse. And that is why they don’t want to fall out with a single manufacturer, indeed part of the deal for next year is to persuade them to give more support to the independent teams.

Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three:

1) Pata Yamaha have stepped up their game. Their performance at Jerez was a big improvement; in van der Mark and Lowes they have two aggressive young fighters, not afraid of mixing it; Japan are giving more backing encouraged by the Herbie Blash, sidekick of one-time F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and a big bike racing fan with connections.

2) Honda have, with the exception of MotoGP, had a humiliating year and they don’t like it. They will say that their Superbikes are closer to the road models than any of the other teams but big changes have been made at Ten Kate; they will be much better prepared than this year; Leon Camier has been taken on as their No 1 rider with Stefan Bradl probably remaining with an order to pull his socks up.

3) Milwaukee Aprilia, despite a disastrous Sunday when, after crashing on the first lap, Eugene Laverty had to start from the pit lane, seem to have come on in leaps and bounds. And with any luck should at least be a candidate for the winners’ circle once or twice next year.

These teams should all benefit from the rule changes as will MV who will sign either Baz or Torres, both class riders for next year; one-time world champion Sylvain Guintoli rode the Puccetti Kawasaki for the first time at Jerez, performed very well, and with more help from the parent company could be a real threat; as could the Barni Ducati outfit with Fores aboard.

If, with Dorna’s encouragement and the manufacturers co-operation, the independent teams in WorldSBK could be as competitive as those in MotoGP then it could be game on. But beyond all the technical tweaks it comes down to the riders. And this year, last year and the year before the two best teams have also had the best riders. Maybe next season we’ll see just how good the other guys are?

Finally, and most encouragingly, from race boss Carrera: “We are looking to make big changes in 2019 and nothing will be ruled out. They will not be just technical but as we see manufacturers bring out new Superbikes for 2019 we will look at how to shape the Superstock and Superbike categories; we will examine the format, maybe longer races even pit stops, to give better value. There will be lots of discussions and we want to survey our fans to see what they would like.”

One of the things they do like are the paddock presentations which give them an opportunity to hear and see their heroes close up, And presentation, both before and after races, is important as part of the entertainment mix. The new owners of Formula 1 are clearly realising that and in order to inject a bit pizazz into their one US round in Texas, prior to 50 laps of pure boredom, they wheeled out Michael “Let’s get ready to rumble” Buffer, Usain Bolt and Bill Clinton…

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by Bliss Drive Review