A little later than planned, but the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out. Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett get together to discuss the last couple of weeks in World Championship motorcycle racing. Neil returns from the inaugural Thai round of MotoGP in Buriram, while Steve was just off a plane from Argentina, after the first ever WorldSBK round in that country, and at the San Juan Villicum circuit.
Rossi and Viñales scored their best result in a year in Thailand – so will they be even faster in Japan this weekend?
You know things are bad when a factory that once took winning for granted celebrates a third- and fourth-place finish as a ‘return to form’. That’s exactly how the Movistar Yamaha team reacted to its so-close-but-so-far result at Buriram.
Maverick Viñales finished less than three tenths of a second behind winner Marc Márquez, with Valentino Rossi just 1.2 seconds further back after very nearly ramming his team-mate at the final corner.
Remarkably, this was the closest both factory Yamahas had been to winning a race since Phillip Island, this time last year.
WorldSBK's South American adventure saw the history books once again rewritten by Jonathan Rea, with the Northern Irishman claiming a tenth consecutive victory. The world champion claimed a comfortable win on Saturday, the series' first ever race in Argentina, but after a weekend of cleaning a dirty and dusty track, it was the temperature that caused problems on Sunday.
With over 43°C temperatures on the asphalt, it was as slick a surface as many riders could remember, with overnight rain also washing away any rubber that had been put down on the surface. It was easy to make a mistake, and coming from the third row of the grid Rea certainly made his fair share in the early laps. Once on clear track, however, he was imperious and comfortably the fastest man on track. He used this advantage to charge down Xavi Fores and claim a historic double that broke the long-standing record of Colin Edwards (2002) and Neil Hodgson (2003) for most consecutive victories in WorldSBK.
Rea had to earn the win though. The Kawasaki rider spent Saturday night in the throes of a stomach virus, and by race day morning he was weak and tired. Spending the afternoon hydrating and trying to stay as relaxed as possible, he was likely glad of the later race start time and the extra time to be ready for action.
With the announcement that Takaaki Nakagami has signed for an extra year with the Idemitsu LCR Honda squad, the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost finalized. Nakagami's signing brings the total of confirmed riders up to 21 of the total of 22 entries.
The only rider left to be confirmed officially is Tito Rabat. The Spaniard's serious leg injury, sustained at Silverstone, has caused a delay, with his contract extension expected to have already come earlier. There is no doubt that Rabat will get the final seat, though it will probably have to wait until he is fit enough to return again.
Below is the official line up for 2019:
The LCR Honda team today announced they have agreed to extend their contract with Takaaki Nakagami through the 2019 season. The Japanese rider will continue to race a satellite spec Honda RC213V with the Idemitsu-backed part of the Italian team alongside Cal Crutchlow.
The anouncement was widely expected, as Nakagami has had a solid rookie season, and done more than enough to earn an added year. Honda are keen to support a Japanese rider in MotoGP, as are Dorna, and Japanese lubricant firm Idemitsu are happy to help back that side of the garage.
Nakagami's signing brings the total up to 21 riders who have now signed a MotoGP contract for 2019. The only rider left to be confirmed is Tito Rabat, who is expected to continue with the Avintia Ducati team.
Below is the press release from the LCR Honda team:
TAKAAKI NAKAGAMI TO CONTINUE WITH LCR HONDA IDEMITSU IN 2019
PRESS RELEASE: 16 October 2018 | Official Announcement
On the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, the LCR Honda IDEMITSU MotoGP Team is delighted to announce that Takaaki Nakagami has extended his contract with Honda HRC for 2019 season. The 26-year-old born in Chiba will again ride the Honda RC213V thus completing HRC 2019 line-up for next year MotoGP World Championship.
When Bradley Smith speaks, he always makes it worth listening. His thoughtful, analytical approach to racing means you will always learn something, always be surprised by something he says. At Aragon, we spoke to the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider for the best part of 40 minutes, and dissected a lot of areas of racing.
In this, the final part of the interview, Bradley Smith explains how he finds motivation through what is one of the most difficult parts of his career, developing the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, and being far from competitive. He describes the contrarian attitude, the wanting to prove people wrong, which drives racers to achieve what they do.
Smith also explains just what a rider is looking for from his bike. The Englishman gets into "the feeling", what he wants from his bike, and what that translates to out on the track. He talks about searching for, and not finding, that feeling from the KTM, and the pleasure at getting close to that feeling again, and posting competitive times.
Finally, Smith talks about what motivated him to take a test role, and why he wasn't ready to retire. What his objective is at Aprilia, and how he finds satisfaction from not just his own success, but in helping others. He also talks about wanting to make a comeback to racing, and how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Toni Elias, who returned to MotoGP, before looking forward to the future, after his racing days are over.
Q: Three or four seconds used to be second or third, and now four seconds you could end up outside of the top ten.
Bradley Smith: Yes. That's what we're talking about. I think that's what's fun about GP racing at the moment.
Press releases from the teams and organizes after the inaugural Argentinian round of WorldSBK:
WorldSBK standings after the second race in Argentina:
WorldSSP standings after the penultimate round:
Twenty one laps to go, then it's a two week wait until the last race of the season. Argentina's Circuito San Juan Villicum gave World SUperbike two races on a fresh track, surrounded by a region rebuilt after the 1944 earthquake.
The first World Supersport race at the Circuito San Juan Villicum was nineteen laps of the four thousand two hundred and seventy six metre track and could help define who would be crowned champion. Rain overnight cleaned the track and left before it became a problem.
The Circuit San Juan Villicum has surprised everyone in the WorldSBK paddock this weekend. With the Andes Mountain range offering one of the most picturesque backgrounds in all of racing, this brand new facility has instantly added a unique circuit to the championship.
The 4.2km circuit has received positive feedback from the riders and teams, and Milwaukee Aprilia's Eugene Laverty offered us his perspective of the track.
“I think that they've done a really nice job with this track and I've been quite impressed with it,” said the Irishman. “It took a day to rubber the track in, but in FP4 it has really started to offer more grip and we could start to push on. Over the start finish line we're able to hold fourth over the start finish straight, it's a bit too slow an exit from the final corner with low RPM to need fifth gear for us, but we're back to first for turn one.
“There's a steep descent into this corner, like at Portimao, and it's tricky going into that corner, but coming around Turn 2 it opens up and we're into second and then through the kink we'll hold second gear even though some riders are able to get into third for it. It's really nice through the faster section as you take third and fourth gear through the sweeping corners, and it's similar to Misano into Turn 6 and 7.”
Press releases from the organizers and teams after qualifying and race 1 in Argentina:
WorldSBK standings after Race 1 in Argentina:
An anti-clockwise track, starting with a hill with a crest after the finish line, a couple of swooping corners, a kilometre run to a passing corner, some tight one-line-only corners, flip-flop, flip-flop and a couple of tight lefts to get back to the hill. Race one of World Superbike at Circuito San Juan Villicum would be twenty one laps with clouds looking on from the shadows of the Andes.