viernes, 13 de marzo de 2020


Interview and Pictures : José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Paco Villaverde affectionately holds between his hands a 30 x 40 cm photograph recently made by him at the FK1 Circuit in Villaverde de Medina (Valladolid, Spain) of Jesús López González (a 70 years old pilot who battled with Ángel Nieto and Ricardo Tormo in 50 cc, 80 cc and 125 cc races throughout seventies and eighties) riding with remarkable style on his single cylinder Bultaco TSS 250 cc with 2T engine from 1968, featuring great mechanic reliability and excellent stability, the same bike with which competition figures like Barry Sheene and Jean-Pierre Beltoise started their path during the decade of sixties and pilots like Ramón Torras, Rodney Gould, Jack Findlay and Ginger Molloy achieved significant successes.

Paco Villaverde, a recognized photographer of motorcycles and currently (along with Jeff Barger, Neale Bayly, Gary Phelps, Carlos Bartual, Nick Cedar, Arnold Debus, Isard Alfonso, Alan Stulberg, Hiromitsu Yashui, Stephen Piper, Kyochi Nakamura, Massimiliano Serra, Marcello Mannoni, Marco Campelli and others) one of the foremost international specialists in the scope of getting pictures of classical bikes of different epochs, technologies and capacities running in a number of circuits,

kindly offered at the Palace Hotel in Madrid (Spain) the following interview that we show now :

Do you remember the moment of your life when your passion for motorcycles began?

P.V : I was only 11 years old and was in a summer camp for children in Velilla del Río Carrión (Palencia), when my parents arrived to pick me up and we went from there to Suanzes (Santander) to spend our holidays.

The following day, my father and me went very early to the fish market of this village of Cantabria.
Suddenly, three French riders appeared in the stretch of road beside the sea, two with Laverdas and another one with an exceedingly beautiful air cooled Benelli 750 Sei, six cylinders in line, sumptuous red colour, two valves per cylinder, 906 cc, featuring six gorgeous chromed exhausts, three on each side and a wonderful noise generated by the 65 CV engine.

My father, who had worked in France for a year, spoke French acceptably and started a conversation with the pilots.

I was enraptured beholding the Benelli, and then, his owner raised me onto the bike, put my hands in the handles, my feet in the footrest and asked me in Spanish if I liked that Italian machine.

And I said to myself that I wanted to be like him when I was grown-up.

Those instants were a turning point in my life, because I felt very happy and decided that I also needed to go on a motorcycle and wear a black leather jacket.

When did you start doing motorcycling photography?

P.V : I began thirty-two years ago, in 1988.

As well as being a photographer of bikes and portraits, I´ve always been a bike rider since my early teens, grasping the motorcycle as a way of life and a philosophy you share with other pilots also feeling an unswerving passion for bikes, strengthening an unselfish comradeship spirit to spare enabling you to make friends who usually endure a whole life and on whom you can trust, because they will always be there, to help you in rough times.

And in this context, the main characters are the bikes, hugely interesting from a photographic viewpoint, since it is fascinating the myriad of possibilities they offer when it comes to capture their manifold shapes, designs, textures of their metallic surfaces and components, countenances of the pilots while they ride on them during races, the imposing appearance of their engines and many more things.

Having been a bike pilot for 35 years helped me a great deal from scratch to become a photographer of motorcycles.

My background was always related to bikes, because I made Technical Engineering at Valladolid University and made stints in workshops with bikes and cars machinery, lathe, milling cutter and so forth.

I was always a great enthusiast of everything linked to the motor world.

I have travelled more than 500,000 km throughout my life and this gives you tons of experience, pretty useful when tackling the photography of pilots on their moving motorcycles.

To have ridden different bikes and be a pilot has helped me very much as a photographer to be able to know what riders are going to do and how their two-wheeled machines will behave.

To name only an example, I also like to depict how bikes tyres flex, the way in which they sag, for the pressures of the circuit are much lower than the public highway ones.

The tyre is what holds the rider onto the floor when he/she is cornering, but the centrifugal force of the whole mass of pilot and motorcycle makes that both of them be prone to go outwards, so on enduring that stress, the tyre bends to adhere more to the ground.

On having gone through those same situations, when I´m in a circuit and look at a bike, I know when the aforementioned dynamics of centrifugal forces which will reach its climax with the maximum slant of the pilot inside the bend.

From a photographic standpoint this is something impressive, and sometimes you can see in the images that the tyre is curved outwards, even utterly stretched, since the centrifugal force is smashing the motorcycle.

And of course, to be a veteran rider enables me to strive upon anticipating the reaction of each pilot according to the race circumstances.

Why is the photography of riders on their moving bikes during competitions such a difficult genre?

P.V : There are some major reasons :

a) To begin with, each rider has got a different bike, from a specific brand, featuring different technologies and performances.

In addition, the skills, virtues and defects of every one of them are various, along with their riding style, the way of tackling the curves, how they accelerate, and so on.

But the photographer must do his/her best to capture the most meaningful instants of their riding, the most defining moments regarding how they handle the bike, including the circuits stages and stretches in which they make every effort to fulfill their goals or show their prowess and courage, particularly during the rushed brakings and cornerings.

b) It´s pivotal that the obtained images have great sharpness, something that isn´t easy, because the bikes run at high speed during competitions, which puts the AF of photographic cameras together with the knowledge and experience of the photographer through their paces, above all if we bear in mind that pannings must be made at shutter speeds between roughly 1/60 s and 1/320 s, depending on the area of the circuit and the speed of the bikes at every specific moment, to avoid static pictures and attain dynamism and feeling of motion in them.

To achieve an accurate focus on motorcycles moving very quickly, shooting handheld at such slow shutter speeds, isn´t something one can learn overnight. You must have traipsed a number of circuits and have spent a lot of hours getting pictures of motorcycles at full blast until mastering the adequate techniques and be able to obtain this kind of images.

c) The accumulated stress and weariness are often great, since every bike competition, whether MotoGP, SBK or races of classic motorcycles, endurance, etc, feature huge levels of emotion, stress and collective passion bringing about that everybody sweats buckets, because you have to pay attention not only to the bikes at top speed, but also to all kind of relevant details and situations which can arise in boxes, pit lanes, reactions of spectators, etc.

Bikes spawn indescribable sensations resulting in a rampant increase of adrenalin, so there´s an inevitable physical wearing.

d) The light trajectories and qualities change depending on the atmospheric conditions, the layout of the circuits and the day hour.

The photographer must have experience and intuition in this aspect, looking for the best feasible natural lighting to highlight both riders and their two-wheeled machines.

e) The photographer has to walk very much, often changing position in circuits, searching for the most favourable sections to render pilots on their motorcycles from the most various angles.

f) You have to be standing for a lot of hours, covering different kinds of machines, epochs and capacities, etc.

Large doses of mental strength, passion for bikes and photography are needed to be able to get pictures of such a wide range of competitions and not become a victim of the increasing strain and fatigue as the day goes by.

But first and foremost, if you are a lover of what you´re photographing, difficulties turn into challenges.

In this professional environment it is very important to be humble and endeavour to do things better and better, trying to go beyond yourself, because you learn something new every day and there is always somebody better.

How many different bikes have you had hitherto?

P.V : Being still a child, I had some mopeds. I loved everything having wheels.

My first bike was a 48,7 cc Derbi Antorcha Tricampeona SE with three speed gear box and a power of 2 CV. It was given to me by my uncle Jose Mari in 1974, when I was eleven years old. I enjoyed a great deal with it, riding with some friends also having bikes in the village of Boecillo (Valladolid).

When I was 17 years old I had a Puch Cobra 75 TT that ran in a fantastic way, a full-fledged competition motorcycle, incredibly elastic and very comfortable to ride, whose three first gears were exceedingly together, which made possible to do spectacular starts. Besides, its 10 CV at 7800 rpm air cooled single cylinder 2T engine yielded an extraordinary performance at medium rpm.

The following year, my father bought me a Simca 1000 Rally with back engine and traction, but what I liked were motorcycles.

Then, I bought an air cooled 250 cc single cylinder Ossa Copa 2T featuring intake through piston skirt and 25 CV, with which I ran some races of the Formula 3 Spanish Championship in 1984, because the original model was also sold in a special kit for this competition, featuring identical cylinder head inside the engine, but a better exhaust pipe and superior distribution.

I was already a passionate of photography at the time and together with two friends I hired a studio in Valladolid in which I had a small darkroom where I developed my black and white films and made my prints in different sizes.

Afterwards, I bought a desmodromic Ducati Pantah 600 from Evelio Tejero, an outstanding tuner of V-Twin desmodromic Ducati bikes featuring V90º engine.

I had previously seen this bike run in Formula 2 category in some circuits of Spain and Europe and Tony Rutter made wonders with it, winning four consecutive TT2 World Championships in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984.

This motorcycle was one of the jewels created by Fabio Taglioni and the second Ducati bike boasting desmodromic powerplant and distribution through neopren belt, a trend that the mythical Italian engineer had started at Borgo Panigale with the Ducati Pantah 500 (the mother of every modern bicilindric Ducati bike), which replaced the classic distribution through single overhead camshaft with bevel gears for the aforementioned driving belts, as well as being the first Ducati 90º L twin cylinder sporting the multitubular stainless-steel trellis frame.

This Ducati Pantah 600 conveyed unique feelings on riding it, had an hydraulic clutch, new disc brakes and front brake calipers behind the fork.

And however incredible it may seem, it could compete one on one with the tremendous Yamaha RD 350 2T and the very powerful four cylinder Japanese bikes that began to penetrate into the market then and beat the Pantah 600 in the straight sections, but the Italian V-Twin cylinder motorcycle showed its power on cornering, with commendable agility and handling, far superior to Japanese bikes.

I made 80,000 km with the Ducati Pantah 600 and no mechanical component was broken, though maintenance was expensive.

It was a wonderful bike that I missed later because of its fabulous performance in bends, where the three key factors are the suspensions, the brakes and the rider´s skill and courage. All of it in synergy with the excellent frame of the Ducati Pantah 600 allowed yo to utterly relish the riding on crossing the curve, where its stability was incredible.

Then, I had a Ducati 900 Super Sport featuring around 90 CV, which I also bought from Evelio Tejero and had been brought from Barcelona, with high compression pistons and more crossed than usual camshafts.

It was a formidable machine, one of the flagship models of Ducati dynasty boasting desmodromic L 90º twin cylinder Desmodue engine with two valves per cylinder, driven by bevel gears, with a superb highly sportive design and a breathtaking powerplant sound, a racing motorcycle adapted to go through streets.

I remember that cornering with it was a relish, both its top speed and instant acceleration were praiseworthy for the time and its braking ability was sensational thanks to its double braking disc in the front axle, in symbiosis with a monodisc one behind.

Mechanically and as to engine, it was an extraordinary bike, but in that period Ducati motorcycles suffered from frequent glitches in accessories, and one day, riding it under the rain, water entered the electrical wiring and the whole bike burnt.

After it, I had a BMW R100R for a year. It was one of the last models with the round cylinder heads. I made approximately 20,000 km with this bike. It was a good motorcycle, but its boxer engine of that time seemed a bit boring to me in comparison to the powerplants from Ducati and other brands I had previously tested.

Following it, I bought a four cylinder Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 from Rodolfo Otero (second dancer of the Antonio Company for 25 years and with whom I had a good friendship) in 1993. It featured two valves per cylinder, 5 speeds and was air cooled, a very beautiful and retro naked bike, comfortable to ride and boasting excellent acceleration. I travelled 90,000 km with it.

It was a fantastic motorcycle, with style and contours from sixties but performance from nineties, as well as keeping on with the spirit of the original Kawasaki Z1 903 cc from 1972 featuring superb engine mechanics and being a forerunner of the high cylinder capacity 4T models which would replace the 2T ones.

The only thing that broke down during the whole time I had it was the starting relay and it was this bike what made me fall in love with the Japanese motorcycles featuring large four cylinder engines.

It dawned on me that I had to go on with that kind of bikes, since they are the ones I like most, because of their operating smoothness, the massive quantities of torque to ride from the lowest rpm of the engine and so forth.

In spite of being a fervent Ducatista having ridden some models of desmodromic V-Twin cylinder bikes with Borgo Panigale DNA since eighties, Paco Villaverde finally opted for the Japanese motorcycles featuring large four cylinders (which were the most adequate ones for his travels) from early XXI Century.

These big Japanese tetracylinder bikes with more than 1000 cc of capacity engines sported by bikes like the Yamaha XJR 1300, the Honda CB 1300 and others, work flawlessly, since they reach not very high rpm and the efforts endured by these powerplants are lesser.

It is not the same to ride at 120 km/h at 3500 rpm as advancing at that same speed at 8000 rpm, though the engine may have been designed to reach up to 16,000 rpm.

The wearing out at 3500 rpm is going to be always lower than at the highest rpm.

For instance, you can travel with a Honda ST 1300 Pan European bike of the Sport Touring segment, boasting highly aerodynamic frame and longitudinally mounted 1267 cc V-four engine, let the engine rpm drop from sixth gear and can cross a village at 40 km/h with the powerplant at 1200 rpm, a little more than at idle, but the engine keeps on pushing, you touch slightly the gas and they are machines becoming mono march, with exceptional levels of comfort and control on riding them covering great distances.

That´s to say, at 30 or 40 km/h you can perfectly go in sixth gear opening throttle, and the engine pushes. If you are going up a mountain pass, with this breed of Japanese motorcycles you can ascend in second, third or fourth gear, because you open throttle and it advances equally very well, whether the pilot goes alone on the bike or with another person on the back seat, without being bound to change gear, so there isn´t any powerplant sputtering whatsoever.

Shortly afterwards, I began being interested in the Custom world, sold the Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 and acquired a Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600, a bike oozing great character, two cylinders and cardan. It was like a custom dragster, with inverted fork, 320 mm double front disc, radial forward calipers and a power of 80 hp.

You wouldn´t believe how it did burnouts at the traffic lights. You put it in first gear and started smoothly, shifted to second one and since it features cardan, there wasn´t the delay inherent to elastic chains, in addition to the fact that the fastening of the chainring to the back wheel is supple, since it features rubbers to avoid any excessively rigid bump.

It was impressive how on slightly opening throttle after shifting to second gear, when the engine went beyond 2000 rpm, the back wheel skidded.

In spite of being a great bike, I couldn´t or didn´t know to adapt well to the riding position during long trips, so I sold it and bought the Suzuki GSX 1400 I have now, and at the moment of purchase, it had only made 4,000 kilometers.

It is an extraordinary motorcycle, though delicate to handle, with a weight of 250 kg and little margin for error. You can go calmly at 90 km/h, but when wishing to reach high speeds with these large capacity Japanese motorcycles, the rider must have a lot of experience and know what he wants to do.

They are bikes for veteran riders, machines with which it´s necessary to arrive at the bends with everything thought in advance.

Why classic bikes races are so special?

P.V : Classic bikes are exceedingly beautiful, boast timeless designs, remarkable elegance of lines and great personality.

They´re bikes with soul and character, whose riding conveys unique feelings, an unforgettable experience, linked to a historical stage of motorcycling in which riders mostly looked for torque and easiness of traction when cornering, because the usual drum brakes of those times, however good double cam they sport, don´t brake as the most modern disc brakes.

The riding of XX Century classic bikes was based on arriving at the curve exit and opening throttle from the lowest rpm, since the engines couldn´t reach very high rpm because they broke.

That´s why the Norton Manx M30 single cylinder 4T (with featherbed chassis, squish combustion chamber, 40 CV engine featuring exceptional mechanic simplicity, reliability and very wise harnessing of the available space between the piston head and the cylinder head by the engineer Leo Kusmicki, who increased the power a 20% and made possible to compete with the multi-cylinder bikes from other brands until early sixties) ridden by Geoff Duke was able to win the 500 cc World Championship in 1951.

They are likewise pretty interesting because of the extraordinary technology for their time they feature and in which engineers, mechanics, etc, made use of large talent doses when it came to find solutions and had a craftsmanship concept of how to manufacture things, unit by unit, with a great deal of manual work, very deft use of welding, lathe, milling, great skill with the file ans so on.

They were motorcycles made to last a lot of decades of impeccable functioning, without any programmed obsolescence, with a laudable aesthetic sense and poshness.

It was a fascinating period in which function didn´t make the shape, times in which heart prevailed over reasoning, with mythical motorcycles like :

- The BMW R32 from 1923.

- The two cylinder Scott Flying Squirrel 2T 596 cc from 1928 (very advanced for its time and a pioneer bike showing the mechanic superiority with the same capacity of the 2T engines over the 4T ones).

- The Velocette Viper from fifties and sixties.

- The Moto Guzzi V8 500 cc and eight cylinders (with a power of 80 hp at 14000 rpm) of fifties.

-The Triumph Bonneville T120 parallel twin 650 cc from sixties and first half of seventies.

Single cylinder 4t aircooled engine of a Ducati 350 Mono Special from 1981. Another of Paco Villaverde´s strong points is the black and white photography of powerplants from classic motorcycles, which he masterfully lights up to enhance the texture and brightness of its glittering metallic surfaces, the machining accuracy of its different components, the design of carburettors, the imposing appearance of cylinders and cylinder heads, the bevel gears, etc.

- The Ducati 350 Mono Special from 1980.

- The Honda CMX 450 Rebel from 1986 and 1987.

- The Norton Commando from late sixties and until 1977 featuring a two cylinder OHV engine and hemispheric combustion chambers.

- The single cylinder Royal Enfield Bullet 4T 350 cc and 500 cc manufactured from 1931.

- Masterpieces like the Ariel Square Four made between 1931 and 1959.

- The beautiful Japanese classic bikes from seventies like the Honda CB 750 Four, the Suzuki GT 750, the Kawasaki Z1 900 and others.

- The parallel twin cylinder Honda CB450 featuring 444 cc and a power of 45 hp (made between 1965 and 1974), with double overhead camshafts on each cylinder, in a time when only the racing bikes had them. In addition, unlike other motorcycles of those years optimized for achieving the greatest power at the lowest rpm, the Honda CB450 reached its best performance over 6000 rpm, with excellent reliability whenever the engine was heated before each journey and the oil was frequently changed.

It should also be specially mentioned the Suzuki GS1000 from 1979, which set a new standard in the sphere of Superbikes with the great labour fulfilled by the engineer Hisashi Morikawa, who used all the know-how gleaned with the Suzuki RG-500 2T, developing a very sturdy multitubular stainless-steel frame able to withstand any stress in the brakings and on cornering in highways with potholes, in symbiosis with its air cooled transverse four cylinder 987 cc engine with 5 speeds and a power of 90 hp (attached by Massimo Tamburini to the Bimota SB3), as well as needing very little maintenance, a bike that meant a turning point in the history of motorcycling.

Besides, it must be kept in mind that along with 2T classic motorcycles there are a lot of 2T bikes exuding great character, reference-class immediate power delivery and tremendous instantaneous push, like the Yamaha RD350 (able to beat the Yamaha XJ600 4T and the Suzuki GSX550ES 4T), Cagiva Mito 125, Honda NSR400R with V3 engine (with its two external cylinders horizontally located, parallel to the ground, and the third one in the middle in vertical position), Aprilia AF1, Cagiva Freccia C9 125 cc, Gilera KZ 125, Honda NSR 75, Suzuki RG 125 Gamma, etc, equipped with 2T powerplants, whose riding becomes a unique and peerless experience, also bringing about great satisfactions to their pilots, since they are lighter engines than the 4T ones, having fewer components, and on occurring an explosion for each crankshaft turn instead of each two turns as in the 4T ones, they yield more power for a same capacity and their march is more regular, though because of their greater turn rate, they suffer an also greater wearing and guzzle more fuel.

Almost every rider of classic bikes in Spain began with 2T Ossa, Montesa and Bultaco models.

And already in 1977 and 1978, Barry Sheen won two back-to-back 500 cc World Championships with a Suzuki RG500 XR-14 2T, whose registered versions spent a huge quantity of fuel, but on being its engine virtually identical to the one featured by the official Grand Prix bikes, the performances of the Suzuki RG500 bikes ridden by the pilots of the 500 cc World Championship and the Suzuki RG500 motorcycles driven by private riders were very similar, something unheard of until then, in addition to begetting a wonderful sound and auditive orgasm, accompanied by the characteristic smoke trail of the classic 2T engines.

On the other hand, the 2T bikes that disputed the 500 cc World Championship of the second half of nineties (the glorious times of the half a litre competition, with Wayne Rayney, Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan, Álex Crivillé and others) approached to 200 hp of power, but the last 40 or 50 hp went into roughly the highest 100 rpm, so these motorcycles were very untamable, with those skids and high sides.

After more than two decades having elapsed since then, these formidable 2T machines that were champions in the queen category like the liquid cooled V-Four and lacking traction control Yamaha YZR 500, Honda NSR 500 and Suzuki RGV500 have likewise become classic bikes and icons which meant a technological quantum leap in the scope of competition at its highest level.

In the same way, the four cylinder 4T Japanese and Italian sporting bikes from nineties have turned into classic ones, because they are models with performance almost on a par with the competition versions and definitely built up a keynote according to which the bike is deemed as a whole in which it is important not only the engine power but also the frame lightness and efficiency, the torque amplitude, etc, with motorcycles like :

- The extremely fast Kawasaki ZZR1100 147 hp from 1990, which reached a top speed of 286 km/h, along with amazing agility and stability thanks to its reference-class RAM Air device.

- The Suzuki GSX-R750 128 hp from 1996.

- The Honda CBR600F from 1991 with an engine boasting fabulous performance, and a legendary bike that was the most sold motorcycle in Spain for many decades.

- The Yamaha FZR600 91 hp with Deltabox chassis.

- The MV Agusta F4 750 126 hp from 1998 with superb design stemming from Massimo Tamburini´s workmanship and ingenuity, as ell as boasting very advanced electronic injection, counter rotating crankshaft, multitubular frame in synergy with metal plate, radial valves optimizing the gas flow shape together with the torque curve, and removable cassette gearbox.

- The dazzling Suzuki GSX1300 Hayabusa 175 hp SuperSport from 1999, featuring four titanium valves in each of the four cylinders and able to reach 300 km/h, turning it into the fastest bike on earth then.

- The liquid cooled Yamaha MT-07 689 cc, inline 2 cylinder engine delivering 74,8 hp at 9000 rpm and crossplane philosophy with crankshaft at 270º which makes possible to develop linear torque, attaining remarkable acceleration. With its great all around performance, this bike has outstandingly boosted the scope of Hypernaked motorcycles for two years, in addition to currently being the medium capacity Yamaha model par excellence.

All of these both 4T and 2T classic motorcycles have a great charm and offer phenomenal photographic possibilities, in the same way as their riders, who are unswerving enthusiasts of bikes and motorcycling mechanics, able to repair and adequately prepare their own machines. Needless to say that you can learn a lot listening to them.

Many people have been surprised on watching your superb pictures of bikes thay you get using a relatively modest photographic gear, with non full frame cameras and not very luminous zoom lenses. What´s the reason for it ?

P.V : The reason is very easy to understand. I try to choose the cameras and lenses best adapting to the kind of photography I do.

Evidently, photography of MotoGP, SBK World Championship, British SBK Championship, Moto3, Moto2, the Super Sport World Championship, the FIM CEV and other competitions developing in large circuits with bikes being the technological state-of-the-art, make necessary for photographers to use exceedingly big, heavy and highly luminous 300 mm f/2.8, 400 mm f/2.8, 500 mm f/4 super tele objectives, coupled to full frame cameras like the reflex Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, Nikon D5 or mirrorless Sony A9, whose AF accuracy in continuous tracking with bikes running at speeds up to roughly 350 km/h is impressive, as well as boasting tremendously fast shooting rates of up to 20 frames per second.

It´s an inevitably frantic context, with professional photographers who must work under very hard conditions, very quickly and sending images through internet with laptops as soon as possible so that the editors do the selection of the best images, also at full speed.

Therefore, everything has to be hastily and thoroughly done, because nowadays most specialized media are online (albeit there are still top-notch motorcycling magazines on paper like Motociclismo, Biker Zone, Motociclismo Clásico, InMoto, Motorcycle Classics, Moto Classiche, Cycle News, Motorrad Magazin, Fast Bikes and others), so the swiftness of images capture and their transmission are the key factors, in symbiosis with the great experience, gift, knowledge of the circuits, proved skill and great work fulfilled beside the track by photographers, who need to use very large, heavy and highly luminous lenses, often shooting both handheld and with a monopod and having to move on scooters to the different areas of the circuits to get the best possible pictures.

The kind of photograph that I do, both with classic and contemporary motorcycles, is utterly different, in small and medium size circuits, with a handcrafted raison d´être, unhurriedly.

I am getting pictures as many hours as I need, and whenever I can I talk to the pilots, mechanics and engineers in boxes, pit lanes, etc.

Paco Villaverde sharing unforgettable moments in boxes with Jesús López González, a living legend of motorcycling and rider who competed with Ángel Nieto and Ricardo Tormo in small cylinder races during seventies and eighties. This illustrious pilot from Zamora and great person, has preserved unscathed his love for bikes and still presently he can be seen riding with outstanding style in different circuits of Spain on his replica of the Bultaco 250 cc from 1968, whose original model Bultaco TSS 250 was ridden by Ramón Torra.

I need to talk with them, to have a direct contact before and after the competitions, I try to know the main traits of their personality, their riding style, their favourite circuit stretches, the features and performance of the motorcycles they handle., etc.

But to be able to spend entire days getting pictures of pilots on their bikes in different races, I have to take with me as light as possible photographic gear and simultaneously yielding professional image quality.

That´s why I chose the APS-C format Nikon digital cameras, because the 1.5x crop factor enables me to have great reach without investing a great sum of money and above all to avoid excessive weight and dimensions, since I must always go walking to every area of each circuit and shoot hand and wrist without any monopod.

I´ve got two APS-C format Nikon D300 cameras with Tamron 150-600 SP f/5-6.3, Tamron 18-270 f/3.5-6.3,

Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 and

Samyang 8 mm f/3.5.

This lets me approach as much as possible to the riders and their bikes with the least feasible weight and volume of cameras and lenses, both when they´re running full blast immersed in the competition and when they are inside the boxes or pit lanes, greeting the attendees, etc.

On the other hand, the image quality doesn´t only depend on the resolving power and contrast of the lenses.

The fundamental factors to get good images of bikes during races are the photographer´s experience, his knowledge of the circuits and their different sections, the qualities and paths of lights, to pay heed to the most meaningful instants of each competition and pilot, to foresee what is going to happen, etc.

Furthermore, many of the pictures are not made at great f/2.8 apertures, but between f/4 and f/11, and qualitative differences among lenses reduce when stopping down.

Likewise, in my photographs I give great significance to the concept of sharpness, which isn´t the same as resolving power and is linked to acutance, so I make with each picture a comprehensive post production labour from the RAW archive until obtaining the best image aesthetics I can get.

In this regard, there ´s the wrong belief that cameras whose sensors have more megapixels are always the best and the ones delivering more image quality, but that isn´t always true and there´s a raft of factors taking place.

The 23,6 x 15.8 mm sensor of my Nikon D300 cameras is excellent.

This model of camera started being manufactured in 2007, its sensor " only " features 12 megapixels (though of top quality), goes on being a wholly professional camera, its AF is very accurate and boasts a good shooting rate of up to 8 fps, more than enough for the type of photography I do.

What kind of light metering do you use to get your pictures of motorcycles on their bikes ?

P.V : I use spot metering to capture detail in shadows, albeit you can underexpose between one and two diaphragms, on being defining the exposure in the shadow area, it gives a bit more of luminosity than in the dark zone.

The aim is to get the widest tonal range feasible, with a more overexposed shadow area in which everything shows a good sharpness.

I have also to comment that when it comes to making the correct exposures, it has been of invaluable help my previous background as a photographer during eighties and nineties, getting pictures of bikes with analog cameras and colour films, particularly the Fuji Velvia ISO 50 (really ISO 32) slide, which yielded a splended quality in the photomechanics of specialized magazines, but you had a margin of error of only half a diaphragm, so it was necessary to be very careful.

Other times, I use center-weighted average metering.

In which circuits of Spain have you made photographs of riders on their bikes hitherto ?

P.V : At the FK1 in Villaverde de Medina (Valladolid), the Kotarr in Tubilla del Lago (Burgos), Los Arcos in Navarra and others, particularly with amateur pilots from whom I always learn a lot.

The observation from near distances, to see and listen to the pilots, is something of paramount importance in the sort of photography I do.

They are not very large circuits in which it is possible a very direct contact of the photographer with riders, mechanics, engineers and audience, a philosophy shared by this kind of circuits with the SBK World Championship, a competition that in my viewpoint should be reinvigorated, since MotoGP will always be the queen category, because of its fabulous spectacularity, the best pilots in the world competing in it and its breakthrough technology undoubtedly being the pinnacle.

But they are overpriced prototypes, whose performance is out of reach of the street motorcycles, so I do believe that the Superbike World Championship should be strengthened much more, such as was made throughout the halcyon days of nineties, because the technological advances and improvements in performance of these SBK racing bikes are more easily transferred to street motorcycles.

Throughout the decade of nineties, Evelio Tejero was one of the best tuners of Ducati V-Twin ottovalvole bikes with four valves per cylinder in the world along with Franco Farné, Eraldo Ferracci, Reno Leoni, Bruce Meyers, Rory McGuire and Stuart Rust. Which influence has had in your professional trajectory as a photographer and rider your great friendship with the mythical Surgeon of Ducatis Evelio Tejero?

P.V : With regard to the world of motorcycles, Evelio Tejero has been for me like a father. He is the person from whom I have learnt more, the one having taught me more things.

It was Evelio who tuned for me the Ossa Copa 250 cc.

He has always been my mechanic and he was also the person who found the Ducati Pantah 600 and Ducati 900 Super Sport for me.

Evelio Tejero was about to win the Superbike European Championship 1996 (in which he was runner-up) with a Ducati 955 prepared by him and ridden by David Vázquez.

And in 1997, Herri Torrontegui won the Super Sport Spanish Championship with a wide margin of points mounting on a fabulous green colour Ducati 748 SP that had been tuned up by Evelio Tejero.

Some years ago I had the chance of photographing in Valladolid all the famous Ducati bikes prepared by Evelio, and shortly after, there was a homage to his figure as a mechanic organized by Moto Classic Racing and held at the Kotarr Circuit in Tubilla del Lago (Burgos).

Evelio Tejero is a man with tremendous proficiency on mechanics not only of Ducati motorcycles, but also of other brands, so scads of pilots from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Germany have taken him their bikes for decades to have them superbly tuned up.

Which is in your viewpoint the level of racing motorcycles photography in Spain?

P.V : Spain is nowadays one of the most important powers in the world in this field, with world-class MotoGP photographers like Tino Martino, Alejandro Ceresuela, Jaime de Diego, Jesús Robledo, Israel Gardyn, Jaime Olivares, David Clarés, Paloma Soria, Óscar J. Barroso, Quino de Mer, José Royo, Francisco Fraile Martín and others, able to capture in a fraction of a second highly meaningful instants making a difference.

They know the best places to be, the locations where there are more overtakes and how to get the best pictures.

This is highly commendable, because competing one on one with top class motorcycling photographers such as Mirco Lazzari, Gigi Soldadno, Diego Sperani, Scott Jones, Ingvild Bolme, Kurt Bradley, Tony Goldsmith, Marco Guidetti, Andrew Wheeler, Gareth Harford, Vincent Guignet, Dave Wilson, Alex Chailan, Richard Walch and others is something very difficult.

There are also extraordinary Spanish photographers specialized on both motorcycles tests and static images of bikes with splendid lighting and likewise being among the international cream of the crop in this sphere, like Jaime de Diego, Francesc Montero, Juan Sanz, Miguel Méndez, etc.

A genuine bike rider, nice guy, warmhearted and a person you can trust on, Paco Villaverde has lived for the bikes throughout more than forty years, with the same intensity and passion as being 11 years old, when he saw and listened to that Benelli 750 Sei that started his lifelong idyll with motorcycles, something for which there isn´t any antidote.

You have been the official photographer of Moto Classic Racing (a firm organizing races of Japanese and European classic bikes, competitions of resistence, MiniMotard, SM, Modern Sports Motorcycles, etc, in different circuits) for some years. Which aspects would you underline of this stage?

P.V :  It has been a very fruitful relationship right off the bat.

Paco García, driving force of Moto Classic Racing along with his wife Raquel, is a veteran bike rider with many decades of experience, unwavering devotion to motorcycles and a man having made a huge diachronic effort in favour of the celebration of all kind of motorcycling events and competitions. He does everything in a painstaking way and his true unselfish nature makes him endeavour to the utmost, always looking for the collective welfare of riders, mechanics, engineers and attendant public being enthusiast of bikes.

To this must be added the great toil of the whole Moto Classic Racing staff, always doing their best to oversee every detail long before each event and working intensively during their development.

Eight months after the demise in accident on June 27, 2019 of the good-natured rider from Cantabria Ismael Azábal " Nichi" with whom he had a great friendship often getting pictures of him in a number of competitions, Paco Villaverde watches the two first pages of the stunning article devoted by the prestigious Italian magazine MotoClassiche (currently the best illustrated publication in the world on classic bikes) from November 2019 to the legendary Honda VFR400R NC30 from 1992, featuring a fairly elastic and torquey V4 engine, with distribution made through cams being driven by straight cut gears instead of chains or belts, and cylinder heads boasting camshafts aligned with the valves (four per cylinder) to do the powerplant more compact. This was the motorcycle that Nichi loved with all of his being, a technological and design wonder that Ismael brought from England to Spain. The memory of " Nichi" will live on forever.

I have met a lot of interesting people, remember hundreds of unforgettable anecdotes, one-off moments, and I have learnt a great deal listening to them, because kerosene flows through their veins, they love bikes and are a kind of family with a stunning level of cohesion and comradeship.

Which sides would you underscore more in nowadays bikes?

P.V : The contemporary motorcycles are extraordinary, with a technological sophistication and power which were out of the question only twenty years ago, since everything evolves.

Now, it´s even possible to buy 231 hp street bikes like the Kawasaki H2.

They are very advanced models, boasting great aerodynamics and a state-of-the-art electronics, together with an impressive braking ability.

Besides, many of these bikes feature different riding modes, so each pilot can choose the option better adapting to his style.

Moreover, comfort and security on riding has been greatly improved both in sporting motorcycles and tourers, with the antiblock of brakes ABS systems, the traction control preventing the back wheel from skidding and losing grip in the surface on which it is spinning, and there are even models going beyond the electronic control and feature IMU (Unit of Inertial Metering), accurately defining what the bike is doing at every moment.

This cutting-edge technology used in aviation makes a 3D detection of the motorcycle movements ( pitch, yaw and roll ), which are very useful to optimize the traditional riding choices, traction control or braking.

On the other hand, the look of contemporary bikes is a riveting sight, with pretty aerodynamic designs and aggressive contours in which function makes the shape.

It goes without saying that the materials have likewise improved very much, along with the electronics management, which has reached highly sophisticated levels, particularly in the electronic injection and accelerators enabling to control the traction and power modes.

Paco Villaverde inside the restaurant La Cocina de Neptuno, beside the Prado Museum, after an unforgettable lunch also elaborating on bikes, posing next to some classic motorcycles magazines of his collection.

In the time of classic bikes, forged pistons, titanium connecting rods, etc, couldn´t be made, and the highest rpm they could reach were relatively low.

Presently, engines can achieve up to approximately 22000 rpm.

The technological revolution and betterment in materials is constant, in such a way that the piston speed in meters per second can be increased. The more revolutions are attained, the more power you get, because power is the torque / rpm .

That´s why the most powerful engines are those ones reaching the highest rpm, as happens with MotoGP bikes, which are prototypes with reference-class performance and technology.

Additionally, progress in aerodynamic development are being spectacular, specially the CFD (Computerized Fluid Dynamics) technology being used by Edoardo Lenoci (Manager of Aerodynamic Development at Ducati) in the design of MotoGP fairings and able to simulate in a computer with great precision both the circuit condition and the way in which the air flow makes contact with the bike, data that are used to get an extraordinary aerodynamic tune, different for each track and generating highly efficient levels of aerodynamic downforce, something truly deserving accolades, since aerodynamic aspects of MotoGP prototypes are much more complex than in Formula 1 cars, because the gravity center is in constant movement and the quantity of perceptions experienced by a motorcycle rider is much greater.

There are even highly advanced research on intelligent bikes that will feature very special sensors, emotional engines and dialogue systems talking to the motorcycle that will adapt to the specific daily mood of each rider.

Paco Villaverde reading the two first pages of the in-depth article published by MotoClassische Italian magazine in November 2019 on the mythical Suzuki Katana GSX 650 cc ED-1, whose first prototype was manufactured in 1979, a bike boasting amazing performance for its time, with a revolutionary design created by Hans Muth (previously design chief at BMW), which laid special emphasis on the aerodynamic optimization, a highly innovative wedge-shaped fuel tank and stability at high speed. It was a groundbreaking motorcycle as to the aesthetics and contours of the previous production models, bringing about the birth of the Suzuki Katana GSX1100S, which was a great sales success and whose shapes have had a huge influence in the appearance of every later bike since then, including the aerodynamic design of seats and fuel tanks.

The interest for motorcycles is on the rise, and in spite of the economical crisis, sales are growing, boosted by a great assortment of models from every brand featuring different capacities, designs, performances and prices.

Here is a selection of pictures made by Paco Villaverde :