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Provisional 2019 MotoGP Calendar: 19 Races With Minor Reshuffles

Dorna today unveiled the provisional MotoGP calendar for 2019, confirming much of what we already knew. The schedule will consist of 19 races, as the circuit in Mexico City will not be ready to host a MotoGP race next year, and the Kymiring in Finland is also still under construction. Both races are provisionally expected to be on the 2020 calendar.

The calendar is broadly similar to this year's schedule, with a few tweaks. The season kicks off at Qatar on 10th March, earlier than usual and a week before F1, which normally starts before MotoGP. Three weekends later, the series is racing in Argentina at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, and two weeks after that, the whole circus heads north for the US round in Austin.

Another extra weekend off means the season gets off to a slow start, the circus heading back to Europe for the first Spanish round at Jerez on 5th May. Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, and Assen all follow at two-week intervals, with the final race before the summer break being at the Sachsenring, a week after Assen. No surprise that MotoGP should stay at the Sachsenring, the event being hugely popular, and the circuit working on a deal to take over as promoter of the event, replacing the ADAC in that role.

The reason for Germany being a week earlier is to be give the riders a summer break, the series now having 3 weekends off before returning at Brno. The Czech round and the Austrian round remain back-to-back, before the series heads north again to the UK for the British round. The British GP is scheduled for Silverstone, the circuit having made a commitment to hosting the series, but whether that will remain the case as the fall out from this year's canceled race settles is open to question. Dorna will demand the track is resurfaced, or at the very least that the circuit fixes the draining problems at the track. 

One significant change to the calendar is that the Misano round has been moved back a week to 15th September, to avoid a clash with the F1 round at Monza, due to happen on 8th September. This puts the Misano and Aragon rounds back-to-back, a logistical challenge given the 1500km which separates the two circuits.

The flyaways happen in the same order as this year, with the paddock heading to Thailand, then a break for a week, then Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang all back-to-back, Sepang starting in November for the first time. The circus ends up at Valencia, as usual, on 17th November.

The 2019 provisional calendar:

Date Grand Prix Venue
10 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
31 March República Argentina Termas de Río Hondo
14 April Americas Circuit of The Americas
05 May Spain Circuito de Jerez
19 May France Le Mans
02 June Italy Autodromo del Mugello
16 June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
30 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
07 July Germany Sachsenring
04 August Czech Republic Automotodrom Brno
11 August Austria Red Bull Ring - Spielberg
25 August Great Britain Silverstone Circuit
15 September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
22 September Aragón MotorLand Aragón
06 October Thailand Chang International Circuit
20 October Japan Twin Ring Motegi
27 October Australia Phillip Island
03 November Malaysia Sepang International Circuit
17 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo

* Night race

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SilversTone: Tony Goldsmith's Photos From Before The Flood


Storm clouds gather over Silverstone. The storm would break on Sunday


If anyone could claim to have lost out at Silverstone, it was Maverick Viñales. The Spaniard was back to his old form during practice


Of course, Viñales only lost a chance to win a race. Tito Rabat lost the rest of his 2018 season after going down on some standing water


A reservoir and a piece of aluminum. One of the secrets to Jorge Lorenzo's speed on the Ducati


Jack Miller would have raced. But he was one of the only ones


Two of the parts which get swapped a lot. Shock linkages, and rear shocks. This is where traction starts


Andrea Dovizioso. Pondering lost opportunities?


Cal Crutchlow came to win his home GP, but went away empty handed. Like everyone else


The Misano test helped the Yamahas. Valentino Rossi was back near the front again


Bad weather = clear visors = awesome


Slovenian titanium bringing the loud


Repsol Wrestlemania


Johann Zarco is back to something like his old form


Playstation? No, these are the go-faster buttons

 

 


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Busy Days And Record Times At Aragon Private MotoGP Test

A number of the MotoGP teams have had a busy test at the Aragon circuit over the past two days. This is the test which played a role in not being able to move the Silverstone race to the Monday, a public holiday in the UK, as the trucks needed to travel the 2000km from Towcester to Alcañiz and set up ready for testing.

On Wednesday, Suzuki, Yamaha, and KTM were the factories taking to the track, with the Pramac Ducati squad also present. Thursday saw Yamaha and Pramac depart to make way for the factory Ducati squad. The teams were met with much better weather than at Silverstone, allowing two full days of testing, with the track improving as it got cleaned up with bikes circulating.

No press releases were issued after the test, though plenty of riders posted images on Social Media (such as Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Viñales, Alex Rins, Bradley Smith, and KTM substitute test rider Randy De Puniet). But Italian website GPOne.com spoke to Alma Pramac team manager Francesco Guidotti after the test.

The roles in Pramac varied. Jack Miller had nothing to test, and focused on setup for the race weekend. Danilo Petrucci, however, was there in part as factory tester, preparing the ground for the factory team, who rode on Wednesday. Times released by the team gave Miller a fastest lap of 1'48.8, while Petrucci managed a 1'49.1.

For reference, Dani Pedrosa's fastest lap during last year's race was1'49.140, while Maverick Viñales' pole time was 1'47.635. Those times are still well short of the times set on Bridgestones in 2015: Marc Márquez holds the pole record with 1'46.635, and Jorge Lorenzo holds the fastest race lap at the track, with a 1'48.120.

The Movistar Yamaha team had a very busy day, putting in as many laps as possible. They are said to have been working mainly on race setup, but in Austria, Yamaha had promised a larger upgrade to test at the Aragon test. It is unknown whether they got to that, but the fact that both Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi put in so many laps suggests that they had more to do than just race setup.

There was a new face in the factory Yamaha garage. Jonas Folger was present at the test, though not riding, further fueling speculation that Folger is to be the official test rider in Yamaha's European MotoGP test team. Folger's role with Yamaha is made more likely as Bradley Smith is edging closer to an official deal as test rider for Aprilia.

On Thursday, the factory Ducati team took the place of Pramac and Movistar Yamaha, with Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo taking to the track, alongside official test rider Michele Pirro. The factory Ducati riders were mainly concentrating on setup for the race there in just over three weeks' time, an important task, given that Aragon is one of Lorenzo's favorite and best tracks. It is also a track where Ducati have traditionally struggled, their only win there coming in 2010 with Casey Stoner.

They certainly have good pace, if the unofficial times are to be believed. According to GPOne.com, Jorge Lorenzo matched Maverick Viñales' pole time from last year, with a 1'47.6, while Andrea Dovizioso set a fastest time of 1'48.0.

The test also brought bad news for Ducati, though for the Aruba.it WorldSBK team. Chaz Davies fell while riding a supermoto bike at the circuit. Davies fell on the collarbone he injured in a mountain bike accident before the World Ducati Week in July. The Welshman suffered a minor fracture of the right collarbone, and is being treated in hospital. At the moment, it is not clear whether he will be fit for the Portimao round of WorldSBK on 16th September, but Ducati currently expect him to be racing there.


Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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2019 Calendar To Be Announced At Misano: 19 Races, No Mexico, No Finland

We are a week away from being able to book (provisionally, with free cancellation) to see a race in 2019. The provisional MotoGP calendar for 2019 is due to be published at the Misano round in just under 10 days' time. 

As the official MotoGP.com website revealed over the weekend, there will only be 19 rounds in 2019. The numerical symmetry of that may be pleasing, but there were plans to have 20 races next season. The debut of the Kymiring in Finland has been delayed by a year to 2020, as the circuit will not be ready in time for a 2019 date. And the planned round in Mexico at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City has been dropped, unless the circuit is prepared to make changes.

The Mexico round had been proposed to the riders at the Brno round, but the idea was not received well. The F1 circuit has a lot of armco and very little runoff, and the riders in the Safety Commission felt it could not be used without significant changes.

I understand that FIM Safety Officer told the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit that significant changes needed to be made to the circuit, including the removal of three buildings. The circuit came back with an alternative plan which left the buildings in place, and Uncini rejected the plans as not safe enough to stage MotoGP. I understand that the circuit is studying alternative solutions with the aim of staging a race in 2020. Dorna and the manufacturers would like to see a race in Mexico as soon as reasonably possible. But the riders have demanded a chance to test at the track before Dorna can give it the go ahead.

At Silverstone, Aleix Espargaro had explained some of the background to the decision. "I'm proud about the decision they took," the factory Aprilia rider said. "I mean I'm happy because they really listened to us. When we were in the Safety Commission two races ago the idea was, 'we go to Mexico'. And we were like, 'what?' And then we explained our thoughts and said, 'it's better to do a test, it's better to see not just in a pdf but by being there, somebody does a test with a MotoGP bike'."

"So they said, 'Okay we need some days to think and we will come back with some news'. They thought about it and I'm happy they took this decision. I would really like to race in Mexico, but it's better if we do a test, see the track. I'm sure they will do a nice and safe track and then we can race in 2020."

Espargaro told reporters that significant changes would be needed to make the Mexico City circuit a viable proposition. "Yeah, they have to change a lot the track. We will see if the design is enough. What makes me really curious is about the stadium zone. It's very nice, but we have to see if there is enough room for MotoGP, which is getting faster and faster every year and we don't want the walls too close. Also the straight, the walls are very close. I didn't like the straight at Indianapolis and I think this straight is very similar, so it's better to go there and test."

With Mexico and Finland off the table, the 2019 calendar will look very similar to this year's schedule, with a few tweaks. The season kicks off in Qatar on 10th March, then heads to Argentina. Originally, this was expected to be on 24th April, but with Mexico dropping out, Argentina could be moved a week later. The US round in Austin takes place on 14th April, before the circus heads back to Europe.

The European rounds will take place in their traditional sequence, starting with Jerez on 5th May. However, according to German-language publication Speedweek, there could be a problem with the Misano round, as F1 has provisionally scheduled the Monza round to be on the 8th September, the same date as Misano. That would be a problem, as MotoGP and F1 do everything possible to avoid having their events in the same country on the same weekend, because of the fan overlap. MotoGP may be forced to swap the Misano and Aragon rounds, bringing Aragon two weeks earlier, and Misano two weeks later. 

A couple of questions remain. The future of the German round of MotoGP is yet to be settled, though it is vanishingly unlikely that the race will take place anywhere other than the Sachsenring. According to Speedweek, the current promoter, German automobile association ADAC, is set to be dropped, with Dorna likely to do a deal directly with the Sachsenring circuit, which is in the process of being purchased by a wealthy German investor. That would allow the circuit to make the necessary changes to make it profitable again, such as taking over the privately-owned grandstands run by companies neighboring the circuit, as well as allowing the regional government to subsidize the event. 

When the race is to be held is also an open question. The riders have demanded a longer summer break than they had this year, their summer consisting basically of a single extra free weekend. If the Sachsenring round is held a week after Assen, on 7th July, this would give the riders 3 free weekends between Germany and Brno. If it is held on 14th July, then they would once again have only 2 free weekends.

There is also a question of where the British round of MotoGP will be held. The expected scenario is that the race will be held at Silverstone on 25th August, the weekend of the August Bank Holiday. However, after the debacle at Silverstone with the new surface, Dorna will be demanding major changes, and most likely a completely new surface before allowing the race to be held there again. MSVR, owners of Donington Park, are known to be angling to hold MotoGP there, but they are arguably a year short of being in a position to do so, facilities needing just a couple more upgrades to get them ready for Grand Prix racing. If Silverstone are unable - financially or politically - to either resurface the track or address its inability to clear the surface of standing water, then Dorna's hand may be forced. 

More clarity is expected next weekend, when the provisional calendar is due to be announced. But that calendar will come with an asterisk or two, with changes a real possibility. 

Source: 

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All Races Canceled At Silverstone MotoGP Round

Track conditions have forced the cancellation of the 2018 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The original schedule had been changed after problems with standing water during the FP4 session for the MotoGP class on Saturday afternoon, with the MotoGP race moved to an 11:30 start and the first race of the day. But after a series of delays due to water on the track, the races were officially canceled after a meeting of the Safety Commission at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.

The circuit had been hopeful of being able to hold the races. The MotoGP warm up had started in the dry, the first spots of rain starting to fall during the Moto3 warm up. The rain fell steadily, but not heavily, and the riders who returned from the sighting lap when they went to the grid reported aquaplaning all around the track. On Saturday, there had only been problems at the entry to Stowe and to Vale. On Sunday, there were problems everywhere.

There were team meetings and regular track inspections throughout the day, Franco Uncini and Loris Capirossi putting in plenty of laps in the Safety Car. But each time they came back, the conclusion was the same: too much standing water, which wasn't clearing. As a result, the track was not deemed safe to ride.

A final inspection had been scheduled for 4pm local time, but 20 minutes beforehand, an impromptu meeting of the Safety Commission was held. There, the riders decided nearly unanimously that the track was not safe to ride, and that the race should be called off. Dorna called off racing in all three classes, on the grounds that if it was not safe for the MotoGP riders to race, then it would not be fair to expect riders in other classes to race either. 

On Sunday evening, Silverstone Circuit, by way of its managing director, Stuart Pringle, said that they would investigate the causes of the standing water, and bring in an independent body to assist in the investigation. 

With the race canceled, no points were awarded, and the championship standings in all three classes will remain the same as after the Austrian round at the Red Bull Ring. Seven races remain in the 2018 Championship.

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Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK Team Confirm Chaz Davies And Alvaro Bautista For 2019

In a coordinated announcement with the MotoGP press conference, Alvaro Bautista and the Aruba.it Ducati Team today officially announced that the Spaniard will be joining Chaz Davies in the Aruba.it Ducati team in World Superbikes in 2019. Bautista and Davies are to race the Ducati Panigale V4 next year, when the bike makes its debut in the WorldSBK class.

Bautista's signing leaves Marco Melandri out of a seat at the moment. The Italian veteran is strongly linked to a return to Yamaha, this time with the GRT team, who are rumored to be moving up to the WorldSBK class from World Supersport for 2019.

The press release from Aruba.it appears below:


The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team on track in the 2019 WorldSBK Championship with Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista

The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team finalized its riders' lineup for the 2019 WorldSBK Championship, extending its collaboration with Chaz Davies and enlisting Alvaro Bautista.

Davies, 31, is currently in his fifth season with the factory team, the last onboard the Panigale R ahead of the much-anticipated debut of the Panigale V4 on the world stage. The Welshman has so far collected 68 podiums with Ducati, taking 25 victories and finishing the season as runner-up twice.

Bautista, 33, will debut in the WorldSBK Championship after completing his 16th full-time season in the MotoGP Championship. A new and exciting challenge for the Spaniard, currently competing in the top class onboard the Ducati Desmosedici GP of the Angel Nieto Team. Bautista has seized 49 podiums to date in MotoGP, including 16 wins, and conquered the 125-cc class world title in 2006.

The Qatar round, scheduled for October 25-27, will therefore mark the end of Marco Melandri's tenure with the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team. In two seasons with the squad, the Italian rider has always shown his professionalism and talent, taking 19 podiums and three victories to date. Ducati and Aruba.it will keep striving to allow Marco to achieve the best possible results until the end of the year and wish to thank him for all his efforts.

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Cal Crutchlow Extends Honda Contract Through 2020

Cal Crutchlow has added an extra year onto his contract with HRC to race in the LCR Honda team for the 2020 season. This means the Englishman will be remaining at the LCR Honda team for the next two years, bringing him into line with almost the whole of the rest of the MotoGP grid. At the end of the 2020 season, Crutchlow will be involved in the next wave of contract madness, with all factory seats (with the possible exception of one Ducati seat), falling open at the same time.

Crutchlow's announcement will not be the only one to take place today. Alvaro Bautista is scheduled to be in the Thursday press conference at Silverstone, where he is expected to announce he has signed for the Aruba.it Ducati team in WorldSBK. 

The press releases from HRC and from the LCR Honda team appear below:


CRUTCHLOW EXTENDS HIS CONTRACT WITH HRC AND LCR UNTIL 2020

PRESS RELEASE: 23 August 2018 | OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

LCR Honda CASTROL Team is pleased to announce that Cal Crutchlow has extended his contract with HRC and LCR Team until the end of 2020. The British talent riding the RC213V since 2015, has achieved excellent results so far (7 podiums – of which 3 were victories - and 2 pole positions) and his contribution to the development of the Honda machinery has been very important.

Cal Crutchlow: “I am very pleased to renew and extend my relationship with Honda HRC and the LCR Honda Team again in 2020. We have all worked very hard and we have had great successes and will continue too, I’m sure. As I said in the past I have the best support I could ask for from Honda and Lucio and his Team do an excellent job to give me a competitive bike every weekend”.

Yoshishige Nomura (HRC President): “We are happy to announce Cal’s contract extension. Last year we contracted with him for 2018 and 2019 as an HRC factory rider. This year he has again shown his strong talent and his performance deserves the status of factory rider. There is no better way to show him that than by making a new agreement with him, so we have decided to extend our contract. We’ve got to know Cal very well since he arrived at Honda in 2015. By hard work and by getting many good results he has contributed a lot to Honda and the LCR Honda MotoGP Team and he always gives us very useful feedback for the evolution of the RC213V.”

Lucio Cecchinello (LCR Team Principal): “We are very happy to continue our cooperation with Cal until, at least, the end of 2020. I believe that Cal has demonstrated an impressive talent since his arrival in Honda in 2015 and, once again, I want to thank him for the strong results we achieved together so far. The LCR Team will continue to support him in the best way together with the valuable cooperation of HRC and the LCR partners”.


HRC and Crutchlow sign contract extension until 2020

Honda Racing Corporation are delighted to announce that Cal Crutchlow has signed a contract extension that will see him remain an HRC rider until the end of 2020.

Crutchlow has been riding a Honda RC213V since 2015 in the LCR Honda MotoGP Team, taking three victories in the premier class so far, the latest at April’s Argentine GP. The Briton has had a contract with HRC since last year and will continue to help with development of the RC213V MotoGP machine.

HRC and the LCR Honda MotoGP Team are very satisfied with Crutchlow’s performance and this is why both parties have decided to extend their agreement.

Yoshishige Nomura

HRC President

“We are happy to announce Cal’s contract extension. Last year we contracted with him for 2018 and 2019 as an HRC factory rider. This year he has again shown his strong talent and his performance deserves the status of factory rider. There is no better way to show him that than by making a new agreement with him, so we have decided to extend our contract. We’ve got to know Cal very well since he arrived at Honda in 2015. By hard work and by getting many good results he has contributed a lot to Honda and the LCR Honda MotoGP Team and he always gives us very useful feedback for the evolution of the RC213V.”

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Misano Private MotoGP Test - Ducati Prepare For The Race, Yamaha Prepare For The Future

It is a busy schedule for the MotoGP teams since coming back from their all-too-brief summer break. After back-to-back weekends at Brno and Spielberg, five teams headed to Misano, for a private test this weekend.

For Ducati (the only team to issue a press release after the test, to be found below this article), the test was mainly about preparing for their second home race at Misano in three weeks' time. Misano is a huge race for Ducati, and a good result there is an absolute necessity. If the times released by Ducati are accurate, then a good result is almost assured: Jorge Lorenzo lapped at just about the circuit pole record, while Andrea Dovizioso was six tenths slower than his teammate.

The two Ducatis were the fastest at the test, according to unofficial times collected by the stalwart Italian website GPOne.com, with both Lorenzo and Dovizioso significantly quicker than Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda and the factory Movistar Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales.

The reports from Misano suggest that the Movistar Yamaha team were working mainly on electronics, with recent WorldSBK transfer Michele Gadda joining the team to add his expertise. That was not the plan as given to me by Yamaha bosses Maio Meregalli and Lin Jarvis in Austria. "At Misano, we will start testing something for next year," Meregalli told me at the Red Bull Ring. "That is not anything related to the electronics, but there are many areas where we have to improve."

The times set by Rossi and Viñales suggest they were not chasing race setup for Misano, but rather focusing on actually testing the fundamentals of the Yamaha M1. This would suggest that Yamaha had real upgrades they were trying to evaluate, rather than just refine what they already have. That may include updates for next year, such as a new engine, but that is extrapolating a long way using just the tiniest sliver of data. 86 laps for Valentino Rossi and 95 for Maverick Viñales would seem to confirm that they had a lot of work that needed doing.

Aprilia were perhaps even busier than Yamaha. Aleix Espargaro flew home exhausted after 100 laps on the RS GP. Both Espargaro and Scott Redding (posting contritely on Instagram how happy he was with what he tested in Misano) had a lot of new parts to test. The carbon swingarm got another run out, as well as a new evolution of the frame.

The biggest update, though, was a new engine with better power for the Aprilia. Speaking to GPOne.com, Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano described the improvements to the engine as "extremely positive". The data from the test was "very, very good", he said. As a concessions team (unlimited testing and able to modify their engine design during the season), there is a chance that the parts tested at Misano could be available to Espargaro and Redding at Silverstone this coming weekend.

The schedule remains punishing for the MotoGP teams. After the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, some of the teams will head to Aragon for another private test the weekend after. From there, they head to Misano, after which they will finally get a weekend off.

Unofficial times from the test, courtesy of GPOne.com:

Pos Rider Bike Time Diff Prev
1 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati 1:31.9    
2 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1:32.5 0.6 0.6
3 Cal Crutchlow Honda 1:33.1 1.2 0.6
4 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1:33.2 1.3 0.1
5 Maverick Viñales Yamaha 1:33.4 1.5 0.2
6 Aleix Esparagarò Aprilia 1:33.5 1.6 0.1
7 Scott Redding Aprilia 1:33.8 1.9 0.3

Ducati press release after the test:


Ducati Team on track at Misano for one day of private testing

The Ducati Team riders wrapped up today’s one-day private testing session at the Misano Adriatico circuit at 18.30 after a full day of work out on track. The test revolved around preparations for the San Marino and Riviera di Rimini Grand Prix, which will be held at the Adriatic Riviera circuit from 7-9 September.

Perfect weather and track conditions allowed the two factory Ducati riders to carry out the testing programme they had scheduled with their respective engineers, and they both set some excellent lap times.

Jorge Lorenzo completed a total of 72 laps, setting his quickest time in 1’31.9 while his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso did 90 laps with a best time of 1’32.5.

Michele Pirro, who will take part in the race as a wild-card entry, was also out on track with a third Desmosedici GP18 of the Ducati Test Team. The Italian, who set a best time of 1’33.5 in his 74 laps, will continue to test at the Misano circuit over the next two days.


Gathering the background information for detailed articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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The Cat Is Out Of The Bag: Petronas SIC Yamaha MotoGP Team To Be Presented At Silverstone

It is hard to keep secrets in the MotoGP paddock (though not impossible, as Jorge Lorenzo's move to Repsol Honda conclusively proves). One of the worst kept secrets has been the news that the Sepang International Circuit, or SIC, is to expand its current operation to include a MotoGP team. Over the months since rumors first started circulating that Sepang was interested in running a MotoGP team, details have slowly dripped out, until we now have an almost complete picture. The whole picture is to be formally announced at Silverstone, at a press conference at 6pm BST on Friday.

Here's what we already know: the team is to be an extension of the current Petronas Sprinta Racing team, which currently runs Adam Norrodin and Ayumi Sasaki in Moto3, and Niki Tuuli in Moto2. The Petronas SIC Yamaha team, as it will almost certainly be called, will be the showcase team for the Petronas-backed structure run by the Sepang International Circuit. The objective is to have two riders in each of the three Grand Prix classes, from Moto3 to MotoGP, as well as a team in the FIM CEV Junior World Moto3 Championship. 

Current Petronas Sprinta team manager Johan Stigefelt will continue to oversee the full team in all three classes, though management of the MotoGP team will be delegated to Wilco Zeelenberg, currently rider analyst for Maverick Viñales in the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Zeelenberg will be too busy managing the Petronas SIC Yamaha team to take on the role of rider coach for the Petronas team, so an existing rider coach is to be appointed to the team to assist the riders. 

Though it is yet to be announced, the rider line up for the Petronas SIC Yamaha team was finalized at Assen, with Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo riding the bikes. Petronas has the budget to obtain much better material from Yamaha than Tech3 ever did, with Morbidelli set to line up on a near-factory M1, while Quartararo will likely be riding something more similar to a satellite machine. Ramon Forcada, currently crew chief to Maverick Viñales, will join the Petronas SIC Yamaha team to work as crew chief to Franco Morbidelli. The crew for the Petronas SIC Yamaha team will be made up of a large part of the current Marc VDS MotoGP squad, as that team are leaving the MotoGP grid in 2019.

The importance of the team is emphasized by the role call of Malaysian representatives present at the Silverstone press conference. SIC CEO Razlan Razali will of course be there, as the driving force behind the team, as well SIC Chairman Azman Yahya. Wan Zulkiflee, CEO of Petronas, the state-owned Malaysian oil company, will also be present, along with the Malaysian minister of youth and sports, Syed Saddiq. The goal of the team structure is to promote primarily Malaysian, but in the second instance, Asian talent along a pathway from the FIM CEV to MotoGP, but it is also important for the team to be successful at as many levels as possible. The reason for Petronas to back the team so heavily is for the promotional value of being involved in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and that value is best served by winning.

The goal of winning races is why the rider line up took so long to assemble. Initially, Petronas and SIC had wanted an existing top rider, spending a lot of time courting first Jorge Lorenzo, and then Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo chose the security of a factory team, while Pedrosa decided he no longer had the passion to keep the intensity needed to be successful in MotoGP. Franco Morbidelli was already destined for the Petronas SIC team, as a protegé of the VR46 Riders Academy, and so it was a logical step to put him in the lead role. The team took a gamble on the youth and potential of Fabio Quartararo over existing and proven riders such as Alvaro Bautista. 

Though there are few concrete details left for the Malaysian protagonists to reveal at the Silverstone press conference, it will still be eagerly awaited. Above all, it will give an insight into the reasoning behind this team, and demonstrate the seriousness of the commitment to the program. If the wilder rumors circulating in the paddock are true, this could be the future of the factory Yamaha team.

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Tony Goldsmith Photos: The Gold Standard Shoots Brno, Part 2


Andrea Dovizioso was unbeatable at Brno. Just


Maverick Viñales blocks out the world. He needed to


Marc Marquez defended his comfortable lead at Brno, and made it even more comfortable


Stefan Bradl was back with a wildcard and a gorgeous livery


Brain food: feeding new maps into Cal Crutchlow's LCR Honda


Jorge Lorenzo ponders his Ducati


New fairing, front profile


Friction in the garage, harmony on the bike: Maverick Viñales


Same old same old for Valentino Rossi: the best chassis ruined by poor tire management


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