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Suzuka 8 Hours Gallery - Steve English On Qualifying


Jonathan Rea - Can the King of WorldSBK become the King of Suzuka?


Takumi Takahashi leads a Japanese Red Bull Honda effort


Suzuka is light and darkness - Alex Lowes is defending Yamaha's crown


Ant West will race anything, anywhere, so naturally, he's racing at Suzuka


Suzuki test rider Takuya Tsuda is getting his chance to represent for Hamamatsu


Domi Aegerter giving the Musashi Honda a handful


Michael Laverty has brought a BMW and Christian Iddon to Suzuka


An American in Japan: Moto2 rider Joe Roberts is racing a Suzuki for Team Kagayama USA


Leon Haslam is practicing for 2019 by being Jonathan Rea's teammate at Suzuka


Mr Rea, taking things seriously


And Mr Lowes, wondering how to stop Mr Rea


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Suzuka 8 Hour Gallery - Steve English Shoots Practice


Suzuka is a race with a rich history and a full factory effort from Honda for the first time years is a real sign of the ever increasing importance of this race once again. Honda had trusted the efforts of supported teams in the past but now they're back and it's a full-fat Fireblade that's in action this weekend. It will take a lot to beat the Yamaha's but this is a good starting point


Sylvain Guintoli is back in action this weekend for the Yoshimura Suzuki squad and the former WorldSBK champion is keen to show exactly how much potential the bike has. A second lap crash cost the team any opportunity of success in 2017 but the bike will be fast once again


Bradley Ray has struggled in recent BSB rounds with grip issues. Armed with Bridgestone tyres this weekend he'll be keen to prove his speed to the Japanese bosses


The Number 21 Yamaha R1 has dominated recent years at the 8 Hours but they'll be under pressure this year. Honda is back with a full factory team, Kawasaki is back with Jonathan Rea and a handful of KRT WorldSBK bigwigs and the Yoshimura Suzuki has already proved to be a one-lap threat


Randy de Puniet has been moved to the Pro-Harc squad and he's certainly not afraid of sliding his Honda Fireblade through the Dunlop Curve!


It's been 20 years since Yukio Kagayama made his 500GP debut but at Suzuka he's still a big draw.


American PJ Jacobsen was elevated to the Red Bull Honda seat vacated by the injured Leon Camier. He'll be out to prove his speed but alongside two factory HRC riders he's been behind on seat time thus far.


Time to towel down! Takakki Nagagami feels the burn in qualifying


Alex Lowes does his best to tend to the grass while out on track on the Number 21 Yamaha


Michael van der Mark looks into the light as he prepares for qualifying at the Suzuka 8 Hours


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of the fantastic photos which appear on the site, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. A subscription will also give you access to the many in-depth and exclusive articles we produce for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The more readers who join our growing band of site supporters, the better we can make MotoMatters.com, and the more readers will get out of the website.

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Pata Yamaha Extend With Lowes And Van Der Mark - WorldSBK Silly Season Set To Kick Off

The WorldSBK series may be on its summer hiatus, but there is still plenty of news going on. After the official announcement that Tom Sykes would not be back with the KRT Kawasaki team, it is the turn of the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad to make announcements. Today, the team issued a statement saying that current riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes will remain with the team for the 2019 season.

Though the announcement did not come as a surprise, it does close the door to Tom Sykes, who had been linked to a possible ride with Pata Yamaha, had either Van der Mark or Lowes moved to the Kawasaki team to replace him. But with Leon Haslam set to take the second seat next to Jonathan Rea, Sykes will have to look elsewhere.

These are the first signs that WorldSBK's silly season is about to accelerate over the summer. There are still a lot of open questions left in the WorldSBK series, and a lot of open seats. Complicating issues is the fact that there could be an influx of riders from the MotoGP series now that rides are all tied up in that championship. 

With the Kawasaki and Yamaha seats filled, all eyes will now turn to the Aruba Ducati squad. Chaz Davies is likely to stay at Ducati, though the Welshman would really like a chance to ride the 1000cc Panigale V4 before he makes up his mind, a desire which Ducati is not inclined to indulge. Marco Melandri could stay put - Ducati like to have an Italian rider, and Michael Ruben Rinaldi is not quite ready for a full-time gig in the factory Ducati squad - but he is also being linked to the new Yamaha squad to be run by GRT, currently racing in WorldSSP. Melandri could line up alongside Sandro Cortese, who is expected to enter WorldSBK in 2019.

The Honda line up for 2019 is an open question. Leon Camier is certain to return, but Jake Gagne, who has failed to adapt to WorldSBK, will not. Tom Sykes could be a fit in the Red Bull Honda squad, though that would require him to ditch his long-term connection to Monster Energy. The SMR Milwaukee squad is considering dropping Aprilia for Ducati, in part over a lack of support from the Noale factory, which is set to diminish even further for next season, and in part at being forced to sign Lorenzo Savadori for 2018, who has failed to live up to expectations. Eugene Laverty would help smooth the way for a switch to Ducati, as Laverty has very close ties to Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, and would be an effective player in helping to develop the Panigale V4.

Though the summer break means that meetings will mostly take place by phone, there is every chance that when the WorldSBK paddock reconvenes in Portimao in September for the next round of the series, many more deals will be ready to be finalized. In the meantime, make sure you keep up with the latest developments in WorldSBK by listening to the last episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast with Steve English and Jensen Beeler, who take a deep dive into the WorldSBK series.

Below is the press release from the Pata Yamaha team:


Yamaha retains van der Mark and Lowes for 2019 WorldSBK Campaign

Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes will again lead Yamaha's assault on the FIM Superbike World Championship in 2019, after the two riders agreed terms with Yamaha Motor Europe during the recent Misano race weekend.

The 2019 season will be van der Mark's third in Yamaha colours. The former European Superstock and FIM World Supersport champion secured two podium finishes during his debut season aboard the Yamaha YZF-R1 in 2017, an achievement he has already surpassed in 2018.

The 25-year-old Dutch rider has finished on the podium seven times already during the first half of the 2018 season, including a career first WorldSBK win in Race 1 at Donington Park. Van der Mark then went on to take victory in Race 2 at the British round to secure his first double win during what was his most successful WorldSBK event to date. Van der Mark currently lies third in the 2018 championship standings with 248 points.

Van der Mark has also enjoyed success at the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race, winning on three of the five occasions he's contested the race, with his last victory coming in 2017 when he rode for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team alongside Lowes and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

For Lowes the 2019 season will be his fourth with Yamaha's official WorldSBK team, of which he's been an integral part since Yamaha made their official return to the FIM Superbike World Championship in 2016.

The 27-year-old British rider has secured seven podium finishes for Yamaha since the start of the 2017 season, including a first race win at this year's Czech Republic round in Brno. Lowes currently lies equal fifth in the 2018 championship standings with 193 points.

The former British Superbike Champion is also a two-time winner of the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race, having taken back-to-back victories for Yamaha in 2016 and 2017.

Having secured their rider line-up for the 2019 season, Yamaha's official WorldSBK team is fully motivated to return to action after the summer break, for Round 10 of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimão, Portugal, which takes place from 14-16 September.

Michael van der Mark

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team

"I am really happy to have signed for a third season with Yamaha. I trust in this project, Yamaha believes in me as a rider and this makes for a strong combination. While we're still working to improve, it is clear that we have made significant progress, to the point where we're now winning races and fighting at the front every weekend. I am looking forward to continuing this trend and making the next step forward as we work towards our main goal of fighting for the World Championship title together."

Alex Lowes

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team

"I am really happy to continue as a part of Yamaha's World Superbike project, having been involved since they returned to the series in 2016. Since then we've been through a lot together; some ups, some downs, but we're definitely on an upward trajectory now. It was great to get my first race win this season but, of course, this success just means we expect more every weekend. I believe so much in this project, my ambition has always been to see it through to a World Championship title and I don't think that's unrealistic given the progress we've made. I have never enjoyed racing as much as I do with this team and I will continue to give it my all to get to where Yamaha needs to be. Massive thanks to Eric de Seynes, Andrea Dosoli and Paolo Pavesio at Yamaha and to Paul Denning from the team for believing in me."

Eric de Seynes

President, Yamaha Motor Europe N.V.

"We are delighted to pursue our cooperation with both Alex and Michael for the 2019 WorldSBK season.

They have done a fantastic job for Yamaha in the FIM World Superbike Championship so far and the 2018 season has been our most successful since our return in 2016, with three race wins and 10 podium finishes halfway through the championship. And obviously, Alex and Michael have played an important role in our success.

We look with confidence ahead to the upcoming season and work towards our ultimate goal: the FIM Superbike World Championship title for Yamaha."

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Kawasaki Part Ways With Tom Sykes In WorldSBK

Tom Sykes is to part ways with Kawasaki in the WorldSBK championship. The 2013 WorldSBK champion is to leave the team and manufacturer with which he had virtually all of his success in the series. 

Sykes' departure has been coming for some time. The Yorkshireman has been increasingly unhappy in the team ever since Jonathan Rea joined Kawasaki. Since Rea arrived, development of the bike has been moving away from Sykes and towards Rea, understandably, given just how dominant Rea has been on the ZX-10R, winning three titles in a row and on his way to a fourth.

The situation has deteriorated even further throughout the 2018 season, as Sykes has struggled for results. After nine rounds and eighteen races, he still only has a single win this year, to go with five other podium finishes. Yet he is still capable of banging out a blisteringly quick lap, taking four poles from nine Superpoles, and further extending his unrivaled run of 46 poles in WorldSBK̇. He has long displaced Troy Corser as Mr. Superpole in the WorldSBK series. 

Though we already know who will take Sykes place in the KRT squad - Leon Haslam is to make a return to WorldSBK to partner Jonathan Rea - where Sykes ends up is still an unknown quantity. Sykes has been in talks with many teams inside the WorldSBK paddock, though he has yet to find a place to settle. Rumor has it that Sykes' financial demands were too great for the Pata Yamaha squad, who look set to re-sign their current pairing of Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark. Several other teams are still an option - Honda, Aprilia, the SMR squad - as is a return to the BSB series.

Below is the press release from Kawasaki announcing the split:


Tom Sykes and KRT to finish sporting relationship at end of 2018 season

After nine successful years on Ninja machinery and with the official factory Kawasaki Racing Team in WorldSBK, Tom Sykes and the Kawasaki Racing Team have mutually agreed to end their sporting relationship at the end of the 2018 season.

Credited with changing the way Kawasaki approached the rigours of superbike racing while playing a large role in the development of the Ninja ZX-10R racing package, Tom will seek a new challenge for 2019 having delivered maximum effort across a total of nine years of racing and development on Kawasaki machinery in WorldSBK.

As the 2018 season is far from over, Sykes is still pushing with KRT in a bid to add to his landmark 2013 WorldSBK championship, the first title for Kawasaki after 20 years following the 1993 success of Scott Russell. Not simply a winner, Tom also achieved championship second place status in 2012, 2014 and 2016 with the 2012 attempt being closest ever runner up finish at just 0.5 points between himself and a second world championship.

With the remainder of the 2018 season yet to be completed the most successful Superpole winner in WorldSBK history still has a chance to increase his amazing tally of qualifying and race successes on KRT machinery. Fully motivated and with the full support of the Kawasaki Racing Team and his pit crew, Tom remains a racing force to be admired by fans and feared by rivals in equal measure.

Tom Sykes: “I feel the time has arrived; the moment to make a change in my career and seek new challenges. Having the motivation to push to your limits and that of your machine is all the more important when you look for the victory at every race and I feel I have given all I can within KRT. I am now the best rider I have ever been, and I have the experience and performance to keep winning. So now I have decided to make a step away from the KRT project for 2019 and look for new goals and challenges. I will now concentrate to finish on the podium for the last four rounds of 2018. I am determined to enjoy my racing and making this announcement effectively ends all speculation. The timing of this big career decision is never easy but it is especially difficult as my personal life also faces big changes. Regarding this I feel the weight of pressure has been slightly lifted from my shoulders and I am sure 2019 will allow me to operate at full capacity”.

Guim Roda - KRT Team Manager : “It has been a busy few weeks recently and for sure we have talked many hours internally. In the most recent rounds Tom’s concentration was not able to be the best, as he was dealing with a big decision - apart from some family points to solve - this has taken a lot of his concentration over the past two years. I hope this final confirmation will give us room to finish the year in the same way we dominated in Assen. We have big job to do until end of year, so is not time to say good bye yet. Of course this is an announcement of intentions for 2019 but the more important is to work hard to finish the year with the same determination that we started with”.

Ichiro Yoda - KRT Senior Engineer: “We understand Tom wishes and we agree it is time to take different ways in WorldSBK. Myself and all KHI engineering group have big respect for the job done since beginning of WorldSBK project 2010 and of course for the one still have to do to end of year. His sensors to go fastest lap, develop components and understand details of bike feedback to improve the package have been very useful those years, we will be always thankful for his efforts”.

Steve Guttridge - KME Racing Manager : "We've got a lot of history and thousands of happy miles with Tom over the years. His efforts both on the track, testing, developing plus within the press and at public occasions with the fans has made a really positive impact on Kawasaki. He is so popular because he always gives 100%. It is sad to lose such a great brand ambassador within KRT but I understand it's time for him to face his new goals and motivations. Whichever direction he moves onwards, we want to help him create his best possible future and that means of course starting again on pole in Portimao as the season resumes!"

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Monster Energy Replaces Movistar As Yamaha Title Sponsor

Yamaha have announced that they will have a new title sponsor for their MotoGP team in 2019 and beyond. Current title sponsors Movistar are to leave Yamaha, and subsponsor Monster is to take their place as title sponsor.

The move comes as no surprise, given the background of the two companies. Monster had been left without a title sponsorship for 2019 since the Tech3 team announced they were switching from Yamaha to KTM for next year, which also implied taking on the Red Bull sponsorship which comes along with that. Movistar are withdrawing not just from title sponsorship of MotoGP, but also from their role as MotoGP broadcaster in Spain. Movistar's departure made it logical for Monster to step up as title sponsor, especially as both current Yamaha MotoGP riders, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, are also Monster athletes.

Though the sponsorship deal for Yamaha is an interesting aspect of this announcement, the bigger question is who will take over the broadcasting rights for MotoGP in Spain. The Spanish national broadcaster TVE lost the rights after the financial crisis hit Spain, making it hard to justify spending so much money. Now that the Spanish economy is booming again, it remains to be seen whether TVE will step back in again. Telecinco is another option, having also broadcast the racing in the past.

Below is the press release from Yamaha on the Monster Energy deal:


MONSTER ENERGY COMPANY AND YAMAHA FACTORY RACING MOTOGP TEAM ANNOUNCE NEW TITLE SPONSORSHIP AGREEMENT

The Monster Energy Company and Yamaha strengthen their global alliance by signing a multi-year agreement, elevating Monster Energy to the Title Sponsor position within the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team.

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 17th July 2018

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce that the Monster Energy Company will be the Title Sponsor of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team, effective from the start of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship season.

The multi-year Agreement will see the factory Yamaha team race as the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. The title sponsorship further strengthens the long-standing partnership between the two companies, with Monster Energy having been an Official Team Sponsor since 2013. During this time, the factory Yamaha squad secured the MotoGP Triple Crown in 2015 and the Team Title in 2016.

Both of Yamaha‘s factory riders are established Monster Energy athletes. Motorsport fans can look forward to the iconic Monster Energy brand becoming an even more eye-catching feature in the MotoGP scene, as Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales will feature Monster Energy prominently on their leathers, their factory YZR-M1s, and on all Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team assets.

The collaboration between Yamaha and Monster Energy is also underlined by the presence of the world famous “claw” icon on several other Yamaha bikes in racing disciplines such as Monster Energy Supercross, AMA Motocross, MotoAmerica SuperBike & SuperSport, FIM Motocross World Championship and Suzuka 8 Hours. This global Monster Energy-Yamaha alliance will now take on an even greater significance for both companies.

A press conference is to be scheduled on the Thursday before the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky event, held from August 3rd - 5th, serving as an opportunity for the media to ask questions.

LIN JARVIS
MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

We are delighted to have reached agreement with Monster Energy Company as the new Title Sponsor of our Factory MotoGP Team. The new partnership will provide Monster Energy with an even stronger presence in the MotoGP class – the pinnacle activity of the motorcycle racing world.

With Monster Energy being a very dynamic brand that‘s extremely active all around the world, we expect that this collaboration will further enhance the exposure of both brands and also give us a great platform for marketing activities.

The new Agreement also signifies the intention of Yamaha and Monster Energy to further strengthen our collaboration for our global on-road and off-road motorsports programmes.

RODNEY SACKS
CHAIRMAN AND CEO, MONSTER ENERGY COMPANY

It‘s with great pride that we announce the next chapter of Monster Energy‘s decade long association with and participation in MotoGP, which will be anchored by our alliance with the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team. Having shared our passion for this sport with Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Jorge Lorenzo, Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco (among others) as well as the wider Yamaha family for multiple years; the prospect of developing our relationship with the team is something we are hugely excited by.

We remain fully committed to providing the most exciting Monster fan experience to the many millions of MotoGP enthusiasts worldwide, both at race tracks and beyond. Through our title sponsorship of the fantastic Yamaha Factory Racing Team and iconic races such as the Czech and Catalunya Grands Prix, we have the opportunity to continue our partnership in what is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic sports on the planet.

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Aleix Espargaro Declared Unfit For Sachsenring Race After Warmup Crash

Aleix Espargaro is to miss the German round of MotoGP. The Gresini Aprilia rider crashed heavily at Turn 4 during the morning warm up, slamming into the air fence. He suffered some chest trauma in the crash, and was taken to the medical center, in obvious pain. From there, he was taken to hospital in Chemnitz for further examinations.

Below is the press release from Aprilia on Espargaro's crash:


ALEIX ESPARGARO TO MISS THE GERMAN GP

Aleix Espargaró, victim of a violent crash at turn 4 during the Warm Up, will not start today's German GP. After crashing on his fifth lap at the circuit of Sachsenring, the Spanish rider suffered a bad thoracic trauma in the left ribs area and was helicoptered to the nearby hospital of Chemnitz for further checks.

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Franco Morbidelli Forced To Withdraw At Sachsenring, Bradl To Substitute

Franco Morbidelli has been forced to withdraw from the German GP at the Sachsenring. The Marc VDS rider was suffering too much pain in his left hand, which he broke in a crash during practice at Assen. 

Morbidelli had been hopeful he would be able to ride when he spoke to the media on Thursday evening.  "The fracture is recovering pretty well so I decided to come and try to race," he said. "It is a left-hand circuit. but what gave me confidence is that it’s a track when you spend a lot of time on the edge, so you don’t have to make a lot of changes in direction."

Morbidelli's optimism proved premature, however. In the end, his left hand was causing him too much discomfort, and he was forced to withdraw. Morbidelli is to be replaced by Stefan Bradl, currently an HRC test rider, and already present as a TV presenter working for the Red Bull-backed Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

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Yamaha Confirm Three-Year Deal For Sepang International Circuit MotoGP Team

The first two pieces of the Petronas Yamaha MotoGP team, to be run by the Sepang International Circuit, have now been confirmed. Today, the Angel Nieto Team belonging to Jorge Martinez Aspar announced that they have sold their two MotoGP grid slots to the Sepang International Circuit organization, and thirty minutes later, Yamaha announced that they have agreed a three-year deal with the Sepang International Circuit to lease M1 MotoGP bikes through the 2021 season. 

The official confirmation has come with a lot of detail still missing, but what we know is that a lot more pieces of the puzzle are in place, though they are yet to be confirmed. Petronas are set to be the sponsor for the team, and Franco Morbidelli is likely to be one of the two riders for the team. Track analyst for Maverick Viñales and long-time Yamaha employee Wilco Zeelenberg looks likely to be the team manager, a role he also fulfilled for the factory Yamaha team in World Supersport a decade ago. MotoMatters.com subscribers have known about this since last week, as all this and more was in the article I wrote about how the Petronas Yamaha team came about.

The one question which remains unanswered is who the second Petronas Yamaha rider will be. On Tuesday, Dani Pedrosa issued a press release stating that he had made a decision about his future, and will be making an announcement on the Thursday before the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring. There are no hints of which way this decision will go at the moment, though some publications believe he is tending towards retirement, rather than switching to a Yamaha.  

It is worth noting that the press release from Yamaha stated that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sepang International Circuit, rather than a contract. A Memorandum of Understanding allows either side to back out of the deal without the serious legal and financial consequences of breaking a contract, while affirming a commitment from both sides to make the deal work. This suggests that there are still one or two details to be ironed out before a contract is signed, the most likely of which is the level of equipment and support - full factory or satellite - to be supplied to the team. 

The next announcement is likely to come from the team at the Sachsenring race, once Dani Pedrosa has announced what his plans for the future are.

Below are the press releases from the Angel Nieto Team and from Yamaha.


Ángel Nieto Team - Sepang International Circuit

Ángel Nieto Racing Team (ANRT) and Sepang International Circuit (SIC) in principle have reached an agreement by which, from the 2019 MotoGP season, SIC will take over the two MotoGP™ class entries of the ANRT. Mr Jorge Martínez "Aspar" will assume the position as the Sporting Advisor to this new MotoGP™ Team.


YAMAHA MOTOR CO., LTD. SIGNS MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 5th July 2018

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is pleased to confirm the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Sepang International Circuit.

The MoU between Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and the Sepang International Circuit foresees the team leasing Yamaha YZR-M1 motorcycles for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship seasons as a satellite team.


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Motorland Aragon Moto2 Test Sees Triumph Make Debut, Folger Make Temporary Return

Two days after the Barcelona round of MotoGP had completed, some of the Moto2 riders were back testing again. At the Motorland Aragon circuit, a number of Moto2 teams gathered for a private test. Alongside them, the Moto2 chassis manufacturers were there for the first roll out of their 2019 chassis, housing the Triumph 765 Moto2 engine and Magneti Marelli electronics.

Three of the current Moto2 chassis manufacturers were there with their test riders. KTM had Julian Simon and Ricky Cardus, NTS had Alex De Angelis, and Kalex had official test rider Jesko Raffin, and to some surprise, Jonas Folger, who withdrew from the Monster Tech3 Yamaha MotoGP team at the start of this year.

The test was important for the manufacturers, as it was not just a chance to try their chassis with the Triumph engines, but also to test them with the Magneti Marelli electronics. The spec Magneti Marelli electronics package is significantly more sophisticated than Superstock package used with the Honda CBR600RR engines currently being used.

The addition of electronic settings to Moto2, along with a more powerful Triumph engine, will make the Moto2 class a better preparation for MotoGP. Having to work on electronics as well as chassis setup will challenge riders and team them more about racing with prototypes, while the different power delivery - with more torque and mid range, as well as more top end power - needs a style which is more like MotoGP, riders having to pick the bike up on corner exit.

Marc VDS rider Alex Marquez was also given the opportunity to test the Triumph-powered Moto2 bike. Speaking to the official MotoGP.com website, Marquez described his experience with the new machine, and the new engine."It was really nice to try for the first time the Triumph engine with the Kalex bike," he said. "It was so nice, also so much more powerful, especially the torque."

That mid range power delivery changed the way the bike needed to be ridden, Marquez explained. "The torque is so nice and it changes the riding style a lot. So you need to prepare the exit a little bit more, and you need to pick up the bike a bit more. I think the category will change completely. Working on the electronics, it's nice to also have the experience for MotoGP. I think riders will be more prepared for MotoGP with the experience. I think for MotoGP the lap times now will also be more close, it will be faster. It will be nice for the category, and also for the Moto2 manufacturers."

The appearance of Jonas Folger came as something as a surprise, though the German rider has slowly been contemplating a return to racing at some point in the future. Folger has been spending time with Dynavolt Intact Moto2 rider Marcel Schrötter, the pair having trained together in the spring. Kalex founder Alex Baumgärtel told German website Motorsport-Total.com that the aim was just to allow Folger to see if he was still enjoying riding motorcycles, and there were no current plans for any further tests in the future.

Folger had previously cut off all contact with MotoGP, and was incommunicado for everyone, including his manager, and Tech3 team manager Hervé Poncharal. But Poncharal revealed that he had exchanged text messages with Folger in recent weeks. Though there is no room for Folger in MotoGP, the Tech3 boss said at Barcelona that Folger should call him first if he wants to make a return. Tech3 has still not completed its Moto2 lineup for 2019. The Forward Racing Team - next year racing an MV Agusta designed by Suter - are also believed to have an interest in Folger.

Alex Marquez riding the Kalex Triumph Moto2 bike at Motorland Aragon
Alex Marquez testing the Kalex Triumph Moto2 prototype

Alex Marquez riding the Kalex Triumph Moto2 bike at Motorland Aragon
Alex Marquez testing the Kalex Triumph Moto2 prototype

Joan Mir riding the 2018 Kalex Moto2 bike at Motorland Aragon
Joan Mir at the private Moto2 test at Motorland Aragon

Alex Marquez riding the 2018 Honda-powered Kalex Moto2 bike at Motorland Aragon
Alex Marquez on the 2018 Kalex Moto2 bike at the private Moto2 test

(Photo credit: the Marc VDS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Moto2 team)

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Confirmed MotoGP Grid For 2019

Below is a table listing all of the officially confirmed signings for MotoGP for the 2019 (and in some cases, 2020) season. These are all of the signings which have been confirmed and officially announced. 

Rider Bike Contract until
Factory Teams    
Movistar Yamaha    
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2020
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2020
     
Repsol Honda    
Jorge Lorenzo Honda RC213V 2020
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2020
     
Ecstar Suzuki    
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2020
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2020
     
Gresini Aprilia    
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2020
Andrea Iannone Aprilia RS-GP 2020
     
KTM Factory    
Johann Zarco KTM RC16 2020
Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 2020
     
Factory Ducati    
Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP19 2020
Danilo Petrucci Ducati GP19 2019
     
Satellite Teams    
Pramac Ducati    
Pecco Bagnaia Ducati GP18? 2020
Jack Miller Ducati GP19 2019
     
LCR Honda    
Cal Crutchlow Honda RC213V 2019
     
Tech3 KTM    
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2019
Hafizh Syahrin KTM RC16 2019
     
Avintia Ducati    
Xavier Simeon Ducati GP17? 2019

There are only a few more slots to fill. Avintia Ducati are likely to keep Tito Rabat, while Taka Nakagami is certain to stay at the LCR Honda team with Idemitsu backing.

The future of the Marc VDS and Angel Nieto teams is uncertain, though at least one of them is likely to stay on the grid in some form, to help run the Petronas Yamaha Sepang International Circuit team. Franco Morbidelli has a contract with Marc VDS to race in MotoGP next year, and the chances are that he will remain in MotoGP with the Petronas Yamaha team. Who the second rider will be is yet to be determined.

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