Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: That Whizz The Year That Was

The greatest WorldSBK championship fight for many years has just gone all the way to the very last day of competitive action. The new best Superbike rider in the world managed to become the most tip-top Top Cat after a season-long fight with the greatest WorldSBK rider of all time. And don’t forget another bloke in red, not blue or green. He also won more than a fistful of races.

Five of the top six riders also won at least one race, on four of the five competing manufacturer’s flagship products. All five manufacturers took multiple podiums.

When you see the final WorldSBK outcome written down like that then obviously 2021 will be regarded as a classic.

The past season will be remembered for many things, but primarily for Razgatlioglu vs Rea. It was, as even the most cursory glance under the roller-shutter pit garage doors proved, much more than just enthralling man-to-man combat.

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Why Did Ducati Move Its Front Holeshot Device?

MotoGP is always an arms race. A contest between manufacturers to try to make their bikes go faster. The trouble is, of course, that once you have made your own bike go faster, your rivals turn around and do exactly the same. You find yourself back where you started, or worse, the only difference being that everyone is another tenth of a second quicker, and finding the next tenth is now exponentially more difficult.

Ducati are the current masters of this, though it wasn't always this way. In the past, the Desmosedici was an intransigent beast that only a few riders – or rather, one rider – could wrangle into submission. Ducati have turned that around over the past decade, and now, where they lead, others follow.

So with two years of enforced inaction due to the restrictions imposed to keep costs down during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Jerez test saw Ducati unleash a pent-up torrent of new parts and ideas. Many of the new development parts have been discussed here already, including the new fairing, the new engine, and the extra long exhaust tried on the bike that might become the GP22. (For a full analysis, see my post-Jerez test round up).

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Takahiro Sumi Interview: Yamaha's MotoGP Project Leader On The Key Change That Helped Quartararo Win The Title, 2022 Objectives, And Valentino Rossi

In 2021, Yamaha's motorsport efforts can rightly be described as formidable. In MotoGP, Fabio Quartararo became the first ever French premier class champion. In WorldSBK, Toprak Razgatlıoğlu won the championship, becoming the first Turkish rider to do so. Yamaha also clinched the title in All Japan Road Race Championship, BSB, and MotoAmerica. It is literally a clean sweep. Meanwhile, their competitors started preparing for revenge. Ducati will line up eight bikes in 2022. Their invincible armada must be a grave menace to Yamaha and other MotoGP manufacturers.

At 18:00 on the eve of the final race weekend at Valencia Ricardo Tormo Circuit, we visited the Yamaha factory team’s office and interviewed Takahiro Sumi, the project leader of YZR-M1. It was three days before Valentino Rossi would take the grid for the final race in his racing career.

Q: In 2021, Fabio Quartararo won the MotoGP championship, and Toprak will likely win the WorldSBK in Indonesia. Yamaha also won in JSB, BSB, and MotoAmerica. Could you tell us the reason why Yamaha is so strong this season in all road racing categories?

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KTM Press Release Confirms Francesco Guidotti To Be Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager

The news that Francesco Guidotti is to replace Mike Leitner as team manager of the Red Bull KTM MotoGP team has been known for a while now. After the news last week that Mike Leitner is transition to a consultancy role, today, KTM issued the following press release confirming Guidotti will take his place as team manager:

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Casey Stoner On Competing, And Why Qualifying Is Better Than Racing

After a prolonged absence, Casey Stoner returned to the paddock at Portimão, where he gave an extensive press conference to the media present on site and via zoom. Just as when he was still racing, his observations were well worth listening to, and without the pressure of race weekend and an endless string of media commitments, was even more thoughtful and insightful than usual.

One subject which he was particularly interesting on was the question of competition, why people race, and what drives them, and especially, what drove him. The pursuit of perfection, of wanting to do everything just right to extract the maximum performance from themselves and from the bike is one of the most important motivations for most motorcycle racers, and indeed, most elite athletes.

That pursuit of perfection explains their obsessive attention to detail. The many rituals you see riders go through before they get on the bike and leave the pits is part superstition, but also a way of eliminating errors. By doing everything the same way on each exit, it makes it easier to ensure they haven't forgotten anything: boots, leathers, gloves, helmet are all securely fastened, correctly fitted, and not causing discomfort, and therefore distraction.

The devil is in the detail

This attention to detail can become quite compulsive. Andrea Iannone's nickname "The Maniac" was not given to him for his wild riding, but for the obsessive way he would arrange everything, in his pit box, in his motorhome, in every aspect. At media debriefs on site, Valentino Rossi would carefully arrange the various voice and memo recorders placed in front of him to for a neat configuration, rather than the chaos created by journalists flinging their recorders onto the table at the last moment.

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Barcelona Circuit Renews Contract As MotoGP Shifts Focus Out Of Spain

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has extended its contract with Dorna for another five years. However, like the contract signed last year with the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, the contract does not guarantee a round of MotoGP for every year of the contract.

Instead, both Barcelona and Valencia have signed up to host three races between 2022 and 2026. With both circuits on the provisional 2022 calendar, that means that they will get two more races between 2023 and 2026. In addition, Barcelona will hold at least two rounds of WorldSBK between 2023 and 2026.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 254: Wrapping Up Mandalika, 2021, And Why Toprak Razgatlioglu Made The Right Choice To Stay In WorldSBK

With the WorldSBK finale finished and the title wrapped up, Steve English and Gordon Ritchie sit down to review the last round of World Superbikes and look back at the season on the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast sponsored by Fly Racing and Renthal Street. They kick off with a review of the Mandalika International Street Circuit, the brand new track on the island of Lombok in Indonesia, and what it was like to take a long haul flight to a race again. They discuss how the track changed, how the rain affected the circuit, and how Toprak Razgatlioglu's training methods gave him an advantage on a green track.

With Razgatlioglu having tied up the title, Steve and Gordo discuss just how tight the championship was, and how any one of Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu, or Scott Redding could have won the title had things played out only slightly differently. They debate Razgatlioglu's strengths, and make a very strong case for why he would be better off staying in WorldSBK rather than going to MotoGP.

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2022 Provisional WorldSBK Calendar Released - 12 Rounds And An Intriguing TBA

The WorldSBK championship is to look a little different in 2022. Though the length will stay the same as in 2021 - 13 rounds - the order is to be reshuffled a little, with the intriguing prospect of a possible race at Istanbul Park in Turkey during the season.

The season kicks off later than usual, with Phillip Island likely to be moved to the end of the year, possibly as the season finale held after the Indonesian round at Mandalika Circuit. Racing starts at the Motorland Aragon circuit, before heading north to Assen for the Dutch round of WorldSBK, which returns to its more normal date. After a four-week break, the series reconvences in Portugal for a race at Estoril.

The WorldSBK calendar heads east to Italy after that, for a race at Misano in June, before having a month off between the UK round at Donington Park. Two weeks later, the series travels to the Czech Republic to visit Most for the second time.

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KTM Moves Mike Leitner Out Of Team Management Role, Brings Francesco Guidotti In

Mike Leitner, the man who was brought in to lead KTM's MotoGP project from the very beginning, is to be moved aside by the Austrian factory. Today, KTM officially announced that the engineer and former HRC crew chief - he was crew chief to Dani Pedrosa for most of the Spaniard's career - is to be moved into a consultancy role.

Although the press release does not give an explict reason for the change, beyond a desire to "restructure the KTM Factory Racing hierarchy", the move reflects a feeling that KTM's progress toward its objective of winning a MotoGP title has stalled. While KTM made good progress in 2019, and won its first races in 2020, 2021 saw the Austrian factory take a step backward. Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira still won races, but they struggled to make it into the top ten just as often.

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MotoGP To Switch To 100% Non-Fossil Fuels By 2027

MotoGP is to follow in the footsteps of Formula 1 and switch to sustainable fuels. From 2024, 40% of fuel used in the MotoGP class must be obtained from sustainable sources - either synthetically produced using sustainable energy or from non-food biomass - and from 2027, all fuel used in all three grand prix classes, Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP, will be of non-fossil origin.

The idea behind the switch is in part leveraging the function of racing as a research and development platform, and in part bowing to the inevitable. As the world faces a global climate crisis, a switch away from extracting carbon stored underground and pumping it into the atmosphere is needed to manage CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

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2021 Jerez MotoGP Test Deep Dive: What Makes Ducati The Big Winners At Jerez?

MotoGP got lucky at Jerez. Not perfectly lucky – strong winds made Turn 11 treacherous, and made it hard to assess some of the aerodynamics and chassis changes being tried. But for two days, the sun shone, and temperatures were high enough to ride for most of the day. November in Jerez can be hit and miss, but it was mostly hit, with little time lost to conditions.

With so much track time, it is instructive to note that very few riders actually went for a time attack. Most years, leaving the last test of the year with the fastest time, or at least, a very fast time, is a matter of pride, and of momentum. MotoGP riders want to go into next year having shown their rivals that they have something to worry about, to intimidate them going into the long winter break.

Not 2021, however. Riders were too busy actually testing new parts to waste time on braggadocio. That factories and teams were busy testing new parts suggests a number of things, and has a few possible explanations. Firstly, there has been a dearth of testing over the past two Covid-stricken years, with little winter testing between 2020 and 2021, and limited testing during the 2021 season.

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Valencia Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison Winners And Losers, At Cheste And In 2021

After a dramatic finale in Valencia, we look at the big winners and losers from the final race and indeed the 2021 season as a whole.


Aki Ajo

It’s quite the feat to manage two world champions in the same year. And quite another to have team-mates fighting for one of those gongs, as Aki Ajo did with Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez in the Moto2 class. But it wasn’t just about the Finn’s eye for rider selection. Up to the final round, the battling team-mates remained respectful without tensions ever bubbling over.

During the final round, Fernandez attempted to unsettle his elder team-mate. He hovered around Gardner in free practice, passing, sitting up, watching from behind. Even in the race, the Spaniard slowed the pace to make the Australian’s life difficult, back in the pack.

For this, Ajo has to take great credit. As Massimo Branchini, Gardner’s crew chief testified, “Inside of the box we don’t want fighting. Aki’s so strong about this. We have two riders that use their heads, and don’t create tension. We go to eat together. Everything is shared. Both guys are very clever about this.”

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2021 Jerez Moto2 Dunlop Test Times - Tricky Conditions See Vietti Fastest As Rookies Make Debut

Mist and rain dogged the Moto2 class at Jerez as they took to the track for a private test, with assistance from Dunlop to test tires ahead of the 2022 season. Poor conditions made it hard to read anything into the times, Celestino Vietti's fastest time four tenths off the race lap record at the track and over a second slower than the outright lap record, both set earlier this year at the Jerez Grand Prix.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 253: Moto2 And Moto3 From Valencia

The Paddock Pass Podcast Follow Up Show Fueled by Elf Marc VDS Racing sees Neil Morrison and Adam Wheeler sit in a cafe in Barcelona and discuss the final Moto2 and Moto3 races of 2021. They go through the Moto2 finale which saw Remy Gardner finally clinch the title ahead of Raul Fernandez, and the last clash between Moto3 champion Pedro Acosta and the man he beat to the title, Dennis Foggia. They go through the extraordinarily imaginative conspiracy theories of the Leopard Racing team, and the conspiratorial interview given by Raul Fernandez on why he lost Moto2. And then they look ahead to the 2022 season in both Moto2 and Moto3, and what to expect.

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