Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Missing Links

Whatever number of permanent WorldSBK entries Dorna had in mind for the 2019 season, you can bet it was not 18. Yet, to listen to some comments regarding this final number you might imagine that some global tragedy had occurred, rather than WorldSBK simply facing up to reality.

A reality created both by itself and the actions of others.

So why are there missing links in WorldSBK’s ideal drive chain length this year? Many reasons, but here are the biggies.

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News Round Up: KTM Open To Marquez Approach, Ducati Looking At 2020 Already

The MotoGP riders are just two weeks into their shiny new contracts, but already, there is talk of what happens next. In Italy, there is a discussion of who gets the factory Ducati seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso in 2020. In Spain, they are looking ahead to 2021, and the option of KTM offering Marc Márquez a contract.

To start with Márquez first. The Repsol Honda rider is still in the midst of rehabilitation after his shoulder surgery in December. That is proceeding reasonably well, as Márquez' post on Instagram, showing him participating in the Fita973, a 13km cross country run organized by the Márquez brothers in Catalonia, demonstrates.

With the attention of the world turned to the Dakar rally, Spanish sports daily Marca, which also runs a radio program, called Marc Coma, former five-time Dakar winner and now head of KTM Spain, to talk about the rally currently going on in Peru. During the interview, Coma said that he wouldn't rule out an approach to Marc Márquez. "Marc was part of the KTM family in the past," Coma said. "KTM's MotoGP project is evolving in the right direction. When the bike is ready to win, why not have Márquez with us?"

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Exactly What Does Ducati's Torque Arm Do?


The forces in play with Ducati's torque arm

Ducati has always been known for taking the path less traveled when it comes to their MotoGP bikes. Their willingness to experiment and innovate – and sometimes, pick up old solutions which were dropped in the past – has been put into overdrive since Gigi Dall’Igna took over as head of Ducati Corse, the Bologna factory's racing department.

The appearance of a torque arm on the Ducati GP19s at the Jerez test in November last year is another example of exactly this kind of thinking from Dall'Igna. An idea which was once common practice in racing motorcycles in the 1970s and early 1980s, but disappeared shortly afterward. Why had Ducati reinstated the idea again? What were they trying to achieve?

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MotoMatters.com Subscriber January Prize Draw: Win A Honda RC213V-S Press Pack & Marc VDS Calendar

There are many benefits to supporting MotoMatters.com with a subscription: access to our exclusive interviews and background articles, full-size photographs by our ace snappers such as CormacGP and Scott Jones, and perfect marriage of full-sized technical close-ups by Tom Morsellino with explanation by Peter Bom.

From this year, there is another benefit: all of our paying subscribers will be entered into our prize draw, where they can win a range of MotoGP-related goodies. The draws will be held once a month, with winners drawn at random from among active subscribers.

To kick things off, we have two grand prizes for subscribers. First prize is an exclusive object indeed: the media pack handed out at the official launch of Honda's RC213V-S street bike at the Barcelona round of MotoGP in 2015.

Honda RC213V-S press pack cover

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Dani Pedrosa Breaks Collarbone, KTM Testing Derailed

Dani Pedrosa's career as test rider for KTM has gotten off to an unlucky start. The Spaniard has suffered another broken collarbone, and will require surgery and a long recovery process before he can start testing again.

Pedrosa's injury is a legacy of the many previous times he has broken his collarbone. The right collarbone is severely weakened after being broken twice before, and having surgery to fit plates. That has left him with a so-called sclerotic lesion on the collarbone, which means that bone growth in the collarbone is very slow. That, and a lack of blood flow to the bone, has left him with osteoporosis, and a weakened collarbone.

Just how weakened is clear from the fact that Pedrosa managed to break the bone without any particular physical impact. He had broken it as a result of 'a gesture of strength', he said in a press release, by which he presumably means a sudden and strong movement. 

That endemic weakness means Pedrosa faces a long recovery process. He is to undergo treatment with stem cells to help promote bone growth and strengthen the bone, to prevent a recurrence.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Maverick Viñales

Viñales reveals how he rode the rollercoaster of the last two seasons and why he’s planning to hire a sports psychiatrist for 2019

Viñales joined Yamaha in 2017, won three of the first five races, then didn’t win another race until October 2018. In this interview, conducted a few days after that Phillip Island victory, he covers all the bases: riding technique, tyres, bike set-up and the all-important matter of a racer’s psyche.

Unlike most top MotoGP riders you only spent one season with Bridgestone tyres and factory software, so was that an advantage when everything changed in 2016?

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Tom's Tech Treasures: A Close-Up View Of The MotoGP Bikes At The Jerez Test - Part 1


Honda RC213V steering damper
David Emmett: Honda have switched the location of their steering damper to above the tank. It's a conventional damper (the rules say electronic control of the steering damper is not allowed), but it has been relocated because of the change to the air intake, which now goes straight through the steering head.


Joan Mir’s Suzuki GSX-RR
David Emmett: This is the 2018 version of the chassis. The later version doesn't have the carbon sections glued to the upper part of the frame. Suzuki staff said that working with the carbon sections had allowed them to work on varying stiffness, and they weren't needed any longer.

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Four Predictions For 2019: The Most Competitive Field Yet Means More Winners, More Intra-team Tension, And Thoughts Of Withdrawal

You would think that after writing about what I got wrong in my predictions last year, I would not be so foolish as to try to make predictions again for the 2019 season. As it turns out, I am that foolish, so here is a list of things I expect to happen in the coming year.

2019 certainly looks very promising for world championship motorcycle racing, in just about every class in both MotoGP and WorldSBK. A range of changes mean the racing should be closer and more competitive. Cutting the MotoGP grid from 24 to 22 bikes, and having the Petronas Yamaha team replace the underfunded Aspar squad, means there are more competitive bikes on the grid.

Ducati will field only GP19s and GP18s, and the GP18 is a much better machine than the GP17. Honda will field three 2019 RC213Vs, and a 2018 bike for Takaaki Nakagami, and the fact that Nakagami was fastest at the Jerez MotoGP test last November suggests that it, too, is good enough to run at the front. Yamaha, likewise, will field three factory-spec bikes, with only rookie Fabio Quartararo on a 2018-spec machine. Suzuki made big steps forward in 2018, and have a more powerful bike for 2019.

It's not just in MotoGP either. In Moto2, the new Triumph engine will change the way riders have to ride the bike, and the introduction of electronics – very limited, but still with more than the old Honda ECU kit had to offer – will give teams more options. Ducati's introduction of the Panigale V4R will make the WorldSBK series a good deal more competitive. And the cream of last year's Moto3 crop moving up to Moto2, to make way for an influx of young talent, will make both classes fascinating and exciting to watch.

So what can we expect from 2019? Here are a few concrete predictions:

1. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2019's biggest battle: Ducati v Honda

The first in a series examining how each of MotoGP’s six factories is aiming to gain the advantage going into the 2019 championship

The last two seasons have been all about Ducati and Honda. Those two manufacturers have won all but five of the last 36 races, and the battle for the 2019 MotoGP title will most likely see the duel continue.

Last year the Desmosedici and RC213V were more closely matched than ever, so what are the engineers in Bologna, Italy, and Asaka, Japan, working to improve for their 2019 contest? We spoke to Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati Corse manager Gigi Dall’Igna from Ducati, and Marc Márquez and HRC director Tetsuhiro Kuwata from Honda to find out.

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Editor's Blog: What I Got Wrong In 2018

The start of the year is traditionally a chance to look ahead, and make predictions for what is to come. But as an old Danish proverb, sometimes ascribed to the brilliant Danish physicist Niels Bohr, says, it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. To demonstrate just how hard, we will kick off the year taking a look back at predictions I made last year, and what I got wrong.

I started last year with an article in which I made three predictions for the 2018 season:

1. Marc Márquez wins more on his way to title number seven

He's going to win a lot of races in 2018 – my best guess would be eight or nine of the nineteen – and the way you win championships is by winning races.

This one, I got right. Marc Márquez did indeed go on to win the 2018 MotoGP championship by a comfortable margin, wrapping up the title at Motegi, in front of Honda's biggest bosses. And – more by luck than judgment – my guess for how many races Márquez would win was right on the money, the Repsol Honda rider racking up a total of 9 victories last year.

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Repsol Honda Press Release: Jorge Lorenzo Talks Joining Repsol, Differences Between Honda And Ducati, And Marc Marquez As Teammate

On the second day of the new year, and the first working day, the Repsol Honda Team seized the first opportunity to issue a press release containing a video and interview with Jorge Lorenzo, their new rider for the 2019 season.

The interview is cautiously worded, as you might expect from one conducted by a corporate entity, but some of Lorenzo's frankness still shines through. He is most interesting when talking about the differences between the Ducati Desmosedici and the Honda RC213V as bikes, and how he feels better and safer on corner entry, the bike being lower to the ground. And he hints at a rivalry between himself and his new teammate Marc Marquez, how they will help each other and how they will push each other.

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Editor's Blog: Happy Holidays, A Million Thanks, And See You In January

MotoMatters.com is taking a break for the holiday season. This will be the last post on the site until the New Year, circumstances willing. It has been a long year, with 19 rounds of MotoGP and 13 rounds of WorldSBK to cover, and it is time to recharge our batteries for what should be an outstanding 2019 season.

So let me first of all say thank you to all our readers for following the site, but most especially to our Site Supporters, the subscribers who make it possible to run the site and pay for us to actually attend races - my personal schedule included 14 MotoGP races, 3 MotoGP and 1 Moto2 test, plus a couple of sundry events - and to pay our contributors who add such amazing value to the site. The growth in the number of subscribers has allowed us to add such features as the beautiful action photos by CormacGP, or the tech porn of Tom's Tech Treasures, close up technical photos by Tom Morsellino with detailed explanations of what we are looking at by world championship-winning crew chief Peter Bom.

If we can replicate this growth in 2019, we will be able to even more great features. We have already signed up WorldSBK guru Gordon Ritchie to a monthly column, and have our sights on yet more world-class writers for next year. So if you love what we are doing, and what to help us make MotoMatters.com better, the best thing you can do is support us financially. You can make a donation via the website or directly via Paypal. You can support us via our GofundMe page. Or best of all, you can become a Site Supporter by taking out a subscription. In addition to the extra content we offer to subscribers, we will also be regularly giving away a variety of MotoGP-related goodies to subscribers, including signed caps, exclusive items such as the RCV213-S launch media pack, and more.

Thanks are also due to all of our contributors, especially MotoGP reporters Zara Daniela and Mike Lewis, WorldSBK reporter Jared Earle, WorldSBK writer Steve English, technical guru Peter Bom, and photographers CormacGP, Tom Morsellino, and Andrew Gosling. A special word of thanks to everyone who has helped us all year by patiently answering my stupid questions and supporting us with advice and information.

And thanks once again to you, our readers. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or whatever you choose to celebrate. A happy New Year, and may 2019 bring you good health, great happiness, and above all, a season of fabulous motorcycle racing!

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Tech3 Boss Herve Poncharal On Switching To KTM, Signing Marco Bezzecchi, And Being A Yamaha Satellite Team

2018 proved to be the end of an era for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Early in the year, team boss Hervé Poncharal signed contracts which would see them leave Yamaha for KTM, and Monster for Red Bull, becoming the Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad. 20 years of history with Yamaha, and 10 years with Monster Energy ended, a new future began.

At KTM's home round of MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, the Austrian factory announced their program for the coming two years. As part of that, Tech3 announced they would also be switching to KTM for their Moto2 entry as well, with riders Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Öttl moving up to the intermediate class, joining Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin in MotoGP.

On the Sunday after the race in Austria, I spoke to Hervé Poncharal about his plans for the next two years, and how he saw the years he had spent together with Yamaha. He talked about his pleasure at signing both Bezzecchi and Öttl, what he expects from his relationship with KTM, and ponders the predicament in which Yamaha find themselves.

Q: You announced your program this year. It’s also in Moto2, with Philipp Öttl and Marco Bezzecchi. You must be very excited about Bezzecchi.

HP: I am. This was a big mission because when we decided to move from Yamaha to KTM, I clearly took the decision to move everything - MotoGP, Moto2. But it was not easy to find the right riders. A lot of them were already signed. I’m very happy because Marco is… I don’t like to jump on the rider when he’s somebody, but I spoke to Uccio about Bezzecchi in Argentina, and even last year. So for a long time I’ve been working on him.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Perception Is Reality?

In the ever-whacky race series that is WorldSBK, watching it all from up close for over two decades allows a very different perspective from those who comment on it from afar.

Whether that remote viewpoint comes from all along MotoGP's ivory watchtower, or the ramparts of lower altitude national series', the view of WorldSBK through foreign field glasses shows a perennially distorted and often negative image.

But closer inspection always allows a greater level of clarity.

Simply put, what those outside 'the scene' believe are the few assets and multiple liabilities of WorldSBK are frequently different from the realities that make up the other World Championship.

Now that social media posts often determine what is 'true', simply by having more people agreeing with this belief rather than that opinion, you don't need to examine things too closely in our post-truth age, do you?

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