Copyright: Camilla Fratesi
The Noyes Camp riders and monitors are the first Spanish flat trackers to ride in Tavullia (Italy) together with the MotoGP rider and members of the VR46 Riders Academy.
Ferran Sastre and Gerard Bailo are the first Spanish flat track specialists to visit the MotoRanch VR46 in Tavullia. Valentino Rossi decided to invite these two top European leaders of the discipline as a gesture of support for the Noyes Camp Racing School operated by Kenny Noyes, the Spanish-based ex-racer (Grand Prix rider and former Spanish Superbike Champion) who continues to oversee Noyes Camp training sessions during his long recovery from serious racing injuries suffered in 2015. It was an unforgettable day for the riders who enjoyed the privilege of training together with the legendary #46.
The experience for the riders trained by Kenny Noyes was very enriching thanks to the VR46 team, who have created a perfect project enabling riders to reach their maximum level. According to Sastre: "The key is that you never get bored and that you can always try things, improving the set-up of the bike and your skills as a pilot rider. As fast as you are, you can always learn from others. Even the smallest details makes the difference."
Both Sastre and Bailo observed that 'Vale' has a very refined technique. "He's very smooth and technical opening gas, but also braking and going through the curve. He works a lot on the bike and that allows him to go very fast. He knows when to overtake, when to close a gap and how to take advantage of every meter of the track", explains Bailo.
According to 'Ferry', the surface that they have created for the MotoRanch track is "ideal for a TT" (flat track circuit that also has right-hand curves), and Bailo adds that it is "lots of fun, but also has a very technical layout with slow and fast corners, very strong braking and other points where you have to let the bike carry high corner speed. All of that favours overtaking and close racing."
Since its inception, the MotoRanch has become a place of inspiration and training for top riders, and also a venue that showcases American flat track to fans outside the United States. Noyes Camp is one of the firm defenders of the authentic American flat track in Europe, a philosophy that it shares with 'The Doctor' and his MotoRanch riders. Kenny Noyes won the US Formula USA ProSingles title in 2000 before moving to Grand Prix and eventually winning the Spanish Superbike title and is working today to promote TT racing in Spain and Europe and encouraging the use of 19 wheels as in the USA and at the MotoRanch.
For more information, here is an interview with Ferran Sastre and Gerard Bailo about their MotoRanch experience:
Question: What is the overall balance of this experience in MotoRanch?
Gerard Bailo #17: It has been an unforgettable experience. It was one of those days in which you realize that any detail, however minimal, both on and off the track, is very important to achieve your best performance. Enjoying on the bike and learning at the same time is very important, and in the MotoRanch I did it in an incredible environment. All the riders had the same goal: to improve, to give the maximum in each lap, to study all the corners, to improve the set-up of the motorcycle to lower that tenth of a second that we all always look for...
Ferran Sastre #215: The truth is that it could not have gone better. It is an experience whose importance I am gradually realizing.
Q.: What do you remember most?
#17: Everything! [laughs] Above all, I would say this one thing: to be able to share a laugh with a legend like Valentino while commenting on the circuit racing lines. With him you learn a lot in a short time. What I most remember is the moment I found 'Vale' on the track. There you forget almost everything and I could not prevent a smile escaping from under my helmet, although I erased it quickly to try to follow him, because it is not easy.
#215: Everything was great. I really liked the good atmosphere. In addition to the kindness of the MotoRanch staff, who made us feel at home, there was a special feeling among the riders. As if they were lifelong friends. Talking with Valentino for the first time was very strange, because I've been a fan since I can remember and I was surprised that a person in this category spoke to me with such closeness. At that time I was speechless, but it is something I will remember all my life.
Q.: What was your first impression when viewing the circuit and its surroundings?
#17: The truth is that it was bigger than I imagined. We could enjoy it from the beginning because they let us take a ride on one of Valentino´s old scooters. As soon as you get there, you are aware that you are breathing a very healthy environment, although the competitiveness is very high. In fact, the first thing they did was give us the transponders [laughs]
#215: I had seen many videos and photos of MotoRanch. I already had an idea very close to reality, but I did not expect two things: that the circuit has a couple of really fast straights that make for a very quick entry into the next corner and that the surface of the track is impressive. You have good grip on braking and you can slide into the corners to help you to turn the bike.
Q.: What do you think about the layout? Was it different from the surfaces on which you usually ride?
#17: It's a a lot of fun and, at the same time, very technical. It has slow and fast curves, very strong braking and other points where you have to let the bike run. All of this, together with the fact that it is a very wide circuit, allows for very different lines and favors overtaking. The fight is constant and you are obliged to maintain maximum concentration at every moment. It's different from what I'm used to because you are drifting a lot, but it's also true that, as the laps pass, the grip increases. It is really fast.
#215: It has nothing to do with the circuits on which I usually ride. Honestly, I think the MotoRanch ground is the perfect surface to make a TT. In addition, there is a downward sector that in the videos is flat compared to reality... and the Academy riders skip it as if nothing happened, but it requires a confidence with the bike and the track that in a single day of training is difficult to get.
Q.: The level of riding was high, right?
#17: Very much! From the first moment, all the riders went very fast. It was like Moto3! If you dropped a tenth you climbed very fast in the classification, and the times went down lap after lap. I felt obliged to give 101% all the time, and in spite of everything it was not enough. Everything had a very worked technique.
#215: The level was high and the equality was incredible. That a simple training is so disputed is a symptom that riders are able to maintain a very high pace from the first laps.
Q.: How did you see Valentino on the bike? What would you highlight about his riding?
#17: He is very smooth and technical opening gas, but also braking and going through the curve. He moves around a lot on the bike and that allows him to go very fast. He knows when to overtake, when he must close a gap and makes good use of every meter of the track.
#215: I would emphasize that his style is very fluid and constant. He makes very few mistakes and takes meters of advantage on each curve.
Q.: As a rider, what do you think is the key to training in such an environment? What do you think Valentino can learn from other pilots and vice versa?
#17: The key is in the environment of improving and laughing too. It forces you to improve and to keep your guard. When you are in a race at the MotoRanch you must think on the bike: where to overtake, prepare the next curve while also remembering to keep the door closed...
# 215: The key is that you are never bored and that you can always try things, improving the set-up of the bike and your skills as a rider. No matter how fast you are, you can always learn from others. Maybe Valentino is not always the fastest at first, but he learns from the rest at all times because they practice on different surfaces.
Q.: What is the most important thing you learned after riding with Valentino? What advice did he give to you?
#17: Above all, you must use every meter of the track to scratch back a few thousandths and it is important to work on the bike to find traction, something that Kenny insists on too. It is essential, especially on a track as big as the MotoRanch. Also I learned that you can never lose the smile and the passion with which he does things, so as never to give up. He gave me some tips on racing lines, on how to get out of the corners faster and making the best use of the gearbox. In general, I´d say for motorcycling, Valentino is the benchmark of most riders, and even for many people who do not ride. The fact that flat track is an important training for roadracers is a great added value. The MotoRanch is something very positive, because in Europe this type of racing is not so developed and this type of initiative encourages riders to try it. This improves the level of riders and championships; it also helps sponsors get involved to make the sport grow.
#215: I did not have a chance to talk to him very much, but just watching all the World Championship riders was enough to improve in each round on a totally new track for me. From what I saw at MotoRanch, we still have Valentino for years. On top of the bike, his 39 years are transformed into 29. I think he is an exceptional rider, with the ability to adapt very quickly to the track and to new riding styles. It has marked an era, and the MotoRanch has created a new way to publicize flat track around the world, but especially in Europe. I think it will continue to help the discipline grow.
Q.: What do you think about the use of 19" tires? Is it important to be promoted in European competitions, as Kenny did in the RFME Spanish Cup of Flat Track? Why?
#17: I think using 19" tires is the way to go. In American Flat Track you compete with 19" tires and, if you aspire to compete in the United States, it is imperative that you have competed with them previously. Encouraging their use is more important than it seems. European flat trackers familiar with 19s will be more prepared if they ride in the American Flat Track.
#215: It is important that flat track is encouraged at all levels and for everyone, but I also believe that the most professional categories should be focused on the American Flat Track philosophy. That is to say, they should be as similar as possible to that championship, because the goal of a flat-track rider in Europe is, one day, to race in the United States.