Bikes: Ramon on South African pole

Team Teka Suzuki WMX1 rider Steve Ramon took pole position in difficult conditions during timed qualification for the Grand Prix of South Africa at Nelspruit while his team-mate Ken De Dycker finished the session a fighting fifth.

The low winter sun made visibility particularly difficult on the already-technical 1.6 km Nelspruit circuit as many of the ruts and bumps were hidden by long dark shadows.

Despite this, reigning MX1 World Champion Ramon was able to power his way to first place in the timed session on his aluminium-framed, fuel-injected RM-Z450 after setting a scorching lap near to the end of the timed period.

"The light was terrible and that made riding dangerous - it really wasn't very good," explained Ramon. "There are quite a few jumps with ruts and lips on and it made the bad light made it really dangerous because we were hitting them blind because the sun was so low - I had to be very careful. I was riding well though; the bike was working well too; and I was able to push hard because I knew the lines I had were safe.

"Tomorrow's races will be difficult also because we'll be racing at the same time as qualification was today. It's not going to be fun but it's the same for everyone. I'm confident I can do well in tomorrow's races and if I get a good start I know I can go for the win or at least be on the podium." 

De Dycker tried to combat the blinding sun by constructing an extra visor on his helmet during the qualifying period. Not working as well as he'd hoped, he was still happy to qualify in fifth spot as it will give him a good pick at the gate for tomorrow's points-paying races - something that's vital due to the layout of the 180-degree first turn at the Nelspruit circuit.

"The sun was really bad and on most jumps you can't see any of the lines so I tried to make an extra visor with tape on the side of my helmet so the sun didn't come in and that maybe helped a bit but it's still pretty dangerous out there.

"The track itself is actually okay though and there are more ruts and bumps coming all the time. It's going to be a tough race tomorrow but I'm ready for it.

"There are quite a lot of slow riders here and that made putting in a fast lap quite difficult during the timed session. I'm quite happy with fifth and I know that if I get a good start tomorrow I can do well because the track is going to be quite technical. I'm going to give it everything I have and try to get on the podium - if I can do that I'll be happy."

As part of the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team's mission to win races, championships and improve the RM-Z450 even further, the team are now utilising a data-logging system that collects information from various sensors fitted around the factory machine while Ramon and De Dycker ride them in anger.

By using the freshly-collected data from practice, qualifying and race sessions, and then comparing it with information compiled over seasons past, the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team are able to fine tune the race-bikes to make them even more potent as Team Manager Eric Geboers explained.

"By using data we've collected over the years from overseas races - especially in South Africa - and from data we've collected this year by using the data-logging system, we were able to make pre-race changes to the bike for this race. But the difference between here and Europe in regard to elevation, heat and humidity proved not to be as big as we thought they would be so we had to go back towards our normal settings a little bit.

"This is the first year we've used fuel injection and an engine management system and so we're learning from it constantly. This weekend proved that we don't need to change so much ahead of time because the engine management system is very good and it is very capable of doing the job itself."

The weather for today's races at Nelspruit is forecast to be similar to yesterday's with strong sunshine and an ambient air temperature of around 24 degrees Celsius.

Timed Qualification: 1 Steve Ramon (Suzuki - BEL) 1:57:112, 2 Max Nagl (KTM - GER) 1:57:348, 3 Jon Barragan (KTM - ESP) 1:57:948, 4 Sebastien Pourcel (Kawasaki - FRA) 1:58:429, 5 Ken De Dycker (Suzuki - BEL) 1:58:560, 6 Josh Coppins (Yamaha - NZ) 1:58:594, 7 Tanel Leok (Kawasaki - EST) 1:58:615, 8 Manuel Priem (Kawasaki - BEL) 1:58:881, 9 David Philippaerts (Yamaha - ITA) 1:59:873, 10 Billy MacKenzie (Honda - GBR) 1:59:873.

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