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Aleix Espargaro Extends With Aprilia Through 2020

Aleix Espargaro is to remain with Aprilia for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Aprilia today announced they have extended Espargaro's contract for two more years. 

Espargaro's announcement is the second signing to come today, and brings the total of signed riders for next season and beyond up to eleven. For the full list, see the story on Alex Rins re-signing with Suzuki.

The Aprilia press release appears below:


ALEIX ESPARGARÓ WITH APRILIA IN THE NEXT TWO SEASONS
IMPORTANT CONFIRMATION FOR DEVELOPMENT OF THE APRILIA MOTOGP PROJECT
ALEIX: “MY MISSION IS TO TAKE THE RS-GP TO THE PODIUM”

On the eve of the GP of France in Le Mans, the most important news for Aprilia is actually a long-awaited confirmation: Aleix Espargaró will be astride the Aprilia RS-GP in the 2019 and 2020 seasons as well. This consolidates a technical and sport project in which Aleix has participated enthusiastically from the first tests on the Italian bike in November 2016.

Aleix's confirmation guarantees further continuity to the still young, but increasingly more solid Aprilia project in the premier motorcycle racing class, with the goal of capitalising on the hard work done since their return to MotoGP and achieving those results which, since the latter part of last season, have appeared to be close on several occasions. An expert, skilled and technically savvy rider, Espargaró is one of the fundamental components of a development path which goes beyond just the sport aspect for Aprilia and the entire Piaggio Group. This is a path that aims to create a range of innovative products on the cutting-edge of technology and performance, worthy of the history and tradition of a brand like Aprilia.

ALEIX ESPARGARO'

"I am very happy to stay with Aprilia for another two years. For the first time in my career, I am able to have stability and this is important to improve and grow together. I have a sole objective, an obsession and that is to take the RS-GP to the podium. I wish to thank Aprilia and my entire team. We will continue working at 100% through 2020."

ROMANO ALBESIANO - APRILIA RACING MANAGER

"This renewal is first and foremost acknowledgement of Aleix's qualities. He is a fast rider and an exemplary professional. From the time he arrived, he has brought passion and motivation to the garage with a positive effect on the entire team. His contribution to the growth of the RS-GP is undeniable and I am certain that the next two years will allow us to achieve important results and above all that they will bring us back to involving, thrilling and inspiring young people and the many fans that Aprilia has all over the world The signs are there, so giving the technical project continuity with a rider who knows the team and bike well lets us plan development in the best possible way with an eye to the future."

Aleix Espargarò - Spain - #41

Born in Granollers, Spain on 30 July, 1989. Spanish 125 champion in 2004, after a series of placements in the 125 and 250 classes, he made a name for himself in 2012 as the best rider astride a CRT (the ART developed by Aprilia Racing) in the Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing premier class, a result that he repeated the following year. Overall, in MotoGP, Aleix Espargarò has taken two pole positions and a podium finish, as well as seventh place in the rider standings as his best position at the end of the championship season.

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Alex Rins To Stay With Suzuki For Two More Seasons

Alex Rins has signed a new contract with the factory Suzuki Ecstar team for 2019 and 2020. The young Spaniard will stay with the team for two more seasons, as he continues to show the growth expected of him after a difficult rookie season marred by injury. Rins is now the twelfth rider to be confirmed for the 2019 season, and leaves one less factory seat to fill.

The re-signing of Rins had been widely expected. The Spaniard had spoken at Austin of positive progress being made, and the final details were hammered out at Jerez. Rins' first podium in MotoGP helped, taking third place in Argentina, but the fact that he has crashed out of the other three races held so far is a concern. Yet he has consistently shown he has the pace to compete at the front.

With Rins signed, Suzuki will now switch their attention to the second seat. It looks like a decision on who will ride the second Suzuki may yet take some time. Jorge Lorenzo is believed to be the prime contender for the seat, but the five time world champion wants to prove he can be competitive on the Ducati before making a decision. Andrea Iannone's improved form has also complicated matters, the Italian having made a big step forward in 2018. If Dani Pedrosa is available, as expected, then Pedrosa, too, could be an interesting prospect at Suzuki.

With Rins signed, there are now twelve riders with contracts for next year, though all of the factory contracts expire at the end of 2020, setting up another potentially explosive silly season:

  • Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales will stay at Yamaha through 2020;
  • Marc Marquez will remain at Repsol Honda through 2020;
  • Alex Rins will stay a Suzuki rider through 2020;
  • Johann Zarco has signed for KTM for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, while Pol Espargaro has extended his contract for two more years;
  • Miguel Oliveira will join the Tech3 team, who are switching to KTM for 2019;
  • Pecco Bagnaia will move up to the Pramac Ducati for 2019 and 2020;
  • Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon all have one more year on the current contracts, and will stay where they are for 2019.

Below is the press release from Suzuki announcing they have signed Rins to a new contract:


RINS TO RACE WITH TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR FOR TWO MORE YEARS

Team Suzuki Press Office – May 17, 10:00hrs CET

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR and Alex Rins are happy to announce an agreement which will see the young Spaniard race with the Suzuki GSX-RR for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons. This two-year extension comes as confirmation of the strong relationship between the rider and the team, as well as acknowledging the consistent improvement of the positive feeling between the rider and the machine.

Alex Rins arrived at Suzuki in 2017, marking his debut in the MotoGP class. Despite a tough start to the season, where he was severely affected by injury, he was able to properly begin his ‘MotoGP adventure’ around the mid-season mark. He demonstrated consistent improvements in his performances and reported an increasingly good feeling with the bike. The partnership then continued into 2018, with Alex showing fast pace and strong performances in the winter test, followed shortly by the success of his first podium in MotoGP; at the Argentina GP this year where he took 3rd place.

Shinichi Sahara – Project Leader

“The renewal of Alex’s contract is a source of great pride for us, especially as we always hoped it to be a project which would last for a long period of time. We started this adventure with him last year with the objective of not only seeing him grow as MotoGP rider, but also to grow and develop ourselves alongside him. I believe that the journey to success is a process that must be advanced step by step, taking the proper time, learning from the mistakes and taking advantage of the successes. Both Alex and his crew, together with all the Suzuki team, have made outstanding progress in this sense, and this is the reason why we’re very happy to have the chance to build up this project for two more years.”

Davide Brivio – Team Manager

“I’m very happy that we have been able to finalise the renewal of Alex’s contract for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons. Alex is growing and improving fast, and knowing that we will have a long time together allows everybody to concentrate and work even harder to achieve important results with him. I’m glad that Alex was happy to stay with us, and I want to thank Alex’s crew and everyone in the Team, as well as all the staff in Japan for creating a nice environment where he feels he can continue to work well and grow. Now let’s carry on doing a great job with this exciting project together."

Alex Rins

“I’m very happy about this contract renewal. Even when I was still in Moto2, and I was planning to move to MotoGP, it was always the Suzuki project which looked brightest and most interesting in my eyes. My debut last year was complicated; there was my back injury in the 2016 Valencia test, then the ankle injury while training, and finally the arm injury in Austin. So after only two races we had already been through a very tough time, but I always felt the affection and support of Suzuki and the whole Team. We were able to turn the situation around through being patient, working hard, and being consistent, and finally this year we got the first podium together with my third place in Argentina. But no matter the results, whether good or bad, the mood in the box has always been positive. The project that the Team have set up for me is fantastic, I can fully trust the capabilities of the Company and the Team when it comes to development and improvement, and I’m sure we can continue to aim for big results. Now we only have to keep on working hard to see just how far we can go…”

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Nicky Hayden Tribute Exhibition Opened At Imola

Mirco Lazzari unveiled an exhibition of 69 photographs to remember Nicky Hayden at the Imola WorldSBK round

Mirco Lazzari at the Nicky Hayden exhbition

An exhibition of Nicky Hayden photographs by the Italian photographer Mirco Lazzari opened during the Imola WorldSBK round, aptly named A Million Dollar Smile. With 69 photographs depicting the American's international career, it provided a reminder to fans of what made the Kentucky Kid so popular.

For Lazzari, the challenge of finding the correct pictures was a trying time, with weeks spent to ensure he struck the right chord as the first anniversary of Hayden's death approaches.

“I wanted to create an exhibition for Nicky, and it was very emotional because Nicky was a rider that gave all of us a lot of emotions,” said Lazzari. “He meant a lot to so many fans and to the sport, so I wanted to do this exhibition because he is missed by so many people. There are 69 pictures and it was very difficult to cut the list down to the chosen pictures! I had originally planned on having 25 or 30 pictures, but when it was said to do 69 it felt right. It's difficult to find so many pictures, but I had a lot of help to choose the correct ones and these 69 pictures are all very special to me. I started working in MotoGP in 2002, and was at almost every race of Nicky's MotoGP career – I only missed some races due to a motorcycle accident one year.”

The exhibition came about as a result of the close collaboration between Lazzari, Nikon Italia and the Imola circuit, and it will remain open until June 10th. For Lazzari, this was one of the most difficult exhibitions of his career due to the pressure that he felt, as he wanted to showcase Hayden's sense of humor as much as his racing prowess.

“Every exhibition is emotional for me because you have to work so hard, but this one was the most difficult for me. It's not just about finding nice photos for this exhibition, it's the emotion that you feel for a person like Nicky. As I went through the pictures, the moment of taking each one came to my mind. I hope that everyone can understand that this exhibition is about Nicky and not about me. I'm very lucky to have been able to do this, and the comments from the people means so much to me.”

The sense of responsibility wasn’t lost on Lazzari, the Italian has attended almost every MotoGP race for the last 16 years and has worked in motorsports for over two decades.

“I love motorsport and even though I worked in Formula 1 before this, I've always loved motorcycles because the photographs can be so special. The ambiance in MotoGP is more in line with my personality, and for this reason I have always loved to work in motorcycle paddocks - the bikes and riders are unbelievable for a photographer. In this exhibition the bike is important, but not as important as the person. I much prefer to take an artistic picture rather than just to shoot the race, the photograph should show the emotions that you have for the sport.”

This is just one of many tributes to a rider that meant so much to so many. The Nicky Hayden memorial garden in Misano is set to be opened on the anniversary of his passing, and Hayden's hometown of Owensboro will unveil a statue of its famous son on June 9th (6/9) and declare the day Nicky Hayden Day for the #69.

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Miguel Oliveira To Move Up To MotoGP In 2019 With Tech3

It has been a big weekend of news for KTM at Jerez. First, there was Pol Espargaro extending his contract. Then the factory KTM team announced they had signed Johann Zarco. And now, the first seat at the KTM Tech3 team has been filled, with Miguel Oliveira moving up to MotoGP for 2019.

The Portuguese rider had been widely expected to make the move. Oliveira has progressed all the way through the KTM Red Bull project, from Moto3 to Moto2 and now up to MotoGP. He has been a consistent challenger in both Moto3 and Moto2, and has led KTM's charge in the Moto2 class, winning three races on the bike last year and finishing on the podium for the past two races.

Who the second rider at Tech3 will be is yet to be determined. Bradley Smith is determined to earn a seat back at Tech3, but will need to have a very strong season if he is to earn a place in the team. Oliveira's Moto2 teammate Brad Binder is another option, but he is yet to make a decision on his future, and he has been outperformed by Oliveira so far. But current Tech3 rider Hafizh Syahrin is probably the favorite to keep the ride, the Malaysian rider enjoying strong support from the Sepang International Circuit.

The press release from KTM appears below:


Miguel Oliveira signs for 2019 MotoGP chance with KTM Tech3

MotoGP Announcement

Miguel Oliveira will be the first Grand Prix star to come through the entire Red Bull KTM MotoGP system after inking a contract to represent the brand in the premier class for the 2019 season. The Portuguese will ride for the Tech3 team after enjoying success in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, Moto3 and is currently fighting for spoils in the Moto2 division.

Miguel Oliveira: “It is very early in the season but I am really happy that KTM have seen enough from this year and the last to trust me and believe I deserve this opportunity in MotoGP. I’m really thankful for that. I’ve always dreamed of MotoGP. I had it as a goal and to be able to achieve that is something so positive. We still have a long Moto2 season ahead and the fact that this is already done allows me to relax and really focus on my riding. I have been through all the steps that Red Bull and KTM have together since the Rookies Cup; I believe I’m the first. I think that shows other riders can trust in KTM and their project. I think I have the skills and the will to be able to perform well on a MotoGP bike.”

Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsports Director): “This is an emotional step for us because it proves all what we have said about building a structure in this paddock and being able to come from the Red Bull Rookies Cup, go through the classes with us and end up in a MotoGP team. Together with Aki Ajo we created the Moto2 project to be the platform that develops riders for MotoGP and I have to thank Aki for this partnership because he is doing a great job with the riders; if they come out of his ‘school’ then they are ready for MotoGP and I’m happy we can give a chance to Miguel. At the same time I’m also pleased that he can trust us as the right partner to try and be a successful MotoGP rider. We already have a great line-up of talent and there is still one spot open. It feels great to know we can have Herve (Poncharal), Aki and Mike Leitner around the table to make our strategy in this paddock. Miguel has his goals for race wins, podiums and the title in Moto2 this year and he has our full support for that and then his MotoGP career will start in Valencia.”

23 year old Miguel Oliveira joined the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 team in 2015 and clinched six wins and nine podium finishes. He immediately graduated to Moto2 and in 2017 again grasped nine trophies with three victories. He already has two rostrum appearances in 2018 on the KTM Moto2 machine in the intermediate category. Oliveira confirmed his MotoGP contract after the first day of the Gran Premio Red Bull de España at Jerez.

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Johann Zarco Signs Two-Year Deal With KTM

One of the biggest dominoes of the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place. Today, KTM announced that they have signed Johann Zarco to a two-year contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

That Zarco would leave the Tech3 Yamaha squad had been widely anticipated, the only question being which factory team he would end up in. The Frenchman was an extremely hot property, after displaying blistering speed on the satellite Yamaha M1 in 2017. Zarco had offers from Suzuki, Repsol Honda, and KTM, though only Honda and KTM were in the frame for the Frenchman. Zarco and his management were still unhappy with the way Suzuki had treated the Frenchman after the Japanese factory failed to honor a pre-contract Zarco had signed ahead of the 2017 season, choosing Alex Rins instead.

That left Repsol Honda or KTM, and the choice between trying to beat Marc Marquez on a bike designed for Marc Marquez, or an opportunity to help develop the KTM into a weapon capable of beating the reigning champion. Zarco came down on the side of the challenge. This choice is a risk, of course. After making astonishing progress in its first year, the KTM RC16 has gotten stuck just outside the top ten. For Zarco to challenge, the bike will have  to make a further step before the end of the year.

Zarco will line up alongside Pol Espargaro, whose contract extension was announced on Wednesday. This leaves Bradley Smith out of a ride for the moment, and could have a negative effect on development. The incentive for Smith is now to go for results above everything, in an all out attempt to beat his teammate, as that is the way he will secure a ride for 2019. Previously, Smith has focused very keenly - too much, as far as management is concerned sometimes - on development, and improving the bike. Development will now switch to Mika Kallio and Pol Espargaro, while Smith will want to get on with racing.

The official press release appears below:


Johann Zarco joins Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2019 with two year MotoGP agreement

MotoGP Announcement

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will welcome the very first Red Bull Rookies Cup winner and current MotoGP star, Johann Zarco, onto the works KTM RC16 for the 2019 and 2020 FIM World Championship seasons.

KTM’s READY TO RACE philosophy often means the creation of some special stories from the field of competition. The signature of 27 year old MotoGP sensation and double Moto2 World Champion (the most successful French rider in the history of Grand Prix racing) Johann Zarco for the next two years fills a standout narrative.

The Cannes-born athlete will return to KTM and the brand with which he made his first impression in the world of motorcycle racing when he claimed the 2007 Red Bull Rookies Cup; the KTM-supported series designed to filter the best young talent through to the world stage.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing is thrilled to be able to bring Johann back to Orange. He will partner Pol Espargaro on the KTM RC16 for the next two years.

Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsports Director): “There has always been a good contact with Johann and since the Red Bull Rookies Cup. We supported the Moto2 project through WP and our Moto3 Team Manager Aki Ajo is a good friend of him. We also have a nice connection with his manager Laurent Fellon. It was a group effort to get this done. We had to trust in our capability to build a winning bike and Johann would not come over if he did not see and feel that trust. We feel very responsible now to get that package strong enough so that he can continue on the level where he is. It is our big target."

“It is clear that we want to take another step in MotoGP. The first two years were about building up the project and to get everything running. You always want to get the best possible riders on board and it’s obvious with Johann beating the factory guys on satellite machinery and consistently qualifying on the front row means he is a strong fighter with a strong sprit. I’m convinced we can reach the next level with a rider like Johann with us.”

Zarco went on to win and grasp podium success in 125cc (now Moto3) Grands Prix and 15 victories in the Moto2 class where he enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with Red Bull KTM Ajo Team Manager Aki Ajo and WP Suspension technology on the way to his two world championships. Since coming into the MotoGP category in 2017 – where he gained the accolade of Best Rookie – Zarco has thrilled audiences with his speed, racecraft and attacking prowess. With 4 trophies and 3 Pole Positions his he has regularly upstaged rivals on factory machinery. His ability and potential marked his name as one of the most sought after for the coming seasons in MotoGP.

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Pol Espargaro Renews With KTM For 2 More Years - New Round Of Silly Season Signings Imminent?

With the MotoGP paddock back in Europe and heading to Jerez, the first round of contract announcements is upon us, with the second wave not far behind. First domino to fall for the moment is Pol Espargaro, who will be staying at KTM for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Ahead of his first home Grand Prix of 2018, KTM today officially announced they will be retaining the services of the Spaniard for the next two years.

Espargaro's signing had been broadly expected. The Spaniard has outperformed his teammate Bradley Smith, and with the Austrian factory's MotoGP project moving from the development phase to the point where they need to start producing results, Espargaro has been favored over Smith. 

Espargaro's contract may not be the only rider signing to be announced in Jerez. It now seems certain that Johann Zarco will be joining Espargaro in the factory KTM team, and the announcement could come as early as this weekend. Zarco also had an offer from HRC to partner Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda team, but the Frenchman is believed to have preferred to try to beat Marquez on different machinery, rather than face him on the bike developed around him. The logical place to announce Zarco's signing would be Le Mans, but it may not be possible to sit on the news for that long, as the MotoGP grapevine cannot keep secrets for that long.

Jerez is likely to be a very busy weekend for rider managers. UK publication MCN is reporting that the deal between Suzuki and Jorge Lorenzo is as good as done, despite the financial obstacles such a deal faced. As Lorenzo also faced a drop in salary at Ducati, if he had chosen to remain there, he may have decided to jump to a bike that suits his style better, and which he may believe he will be capable of winning on straight away, without having to work so hard to adjust his riding style to. 

Whether that deal gets done or not at Jerez, the Spanish circuit will be a busy weekend for Suzuki. The factory's top brass will be flying in to Jerez for talks with the Marc VDS team about becoming a Suzuki satellite team for the next three years. Marc VDS as Suzuki satellite squad would help, not just with development - it is likely that Suzuki would be providing bikes of almost identical spec to the factory bikes to the team - but also as a conduit for talent. Franco Morbidelli is a hot property in MotoGP, and having the young Italian on the Suzuki would offer the Japanese factory a way to deepen their talent pool. It would also allow Joan Mir to step up to MotoGP in 2019. A deal with Suzuki will have to be signed at Jerez, to allow Marc VDS to be able to prepare in time for next year.

Other contracts to be discussed at Jerez include Andrea Dovizioso, who is still in talks with Ducati and will sign with them again at some point, with only the details to be left out. With Lorenzo likely to leave Ducati, the second seat in the Italian factory is open. Nominally, Danilo Petrucci has an option for that seat should it become available, but the option for that lies with Ducati, rather than Petrucci. Ducati could choose to put Pecco Bagnaia straight into the factory squad alongside Dovizioso, rather than putting him into the Pramac team first. Or they could look at some of the displaced riders, such as Dani Pedrosa - who is certain to lose his Repsol Honda seat - or Andrea Iannone. Having Iannone back would be a stretch, however: the Italian was not a good fit with Dovizioso when the pair were racing together, and with Dovizioso performing as he is, Ducati may not want to risk ruining the atmosphere.

There is still a lot of ground to cover before all of the contracts are signed for 2019 and MotoGP's Silly Season is in the books. Yamaha have to find a team to run satellite Yamahas, and once again, MCN added an interesting wrinkle to this story, Simon Patterson reporting that the Sepang International Circuit is looking to collaborate with an existing team in MotoGP, to keep Malaysian rookie Hafizh Syahrin in the premier class. This tallies with what circuit boss Razlan Razali told Crash.net's Peter McLaren earlier this year, where he mentioned the possibility almost as a joke. The meeting rooms in team trucks will be fully occupied this weekend at Jerez.

The KTM press release announcing Pol Espargaro's contract extension appears below:


Pol Espargaro renews Red Bull KTM Factory Racing contract till 2020

MotoGP Announcement

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are delighted to confirm that Pol Espargaro has signed a two year extension to his current contract to remain part of the works team for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons.

Pol Espargaro was one of the first recruits for KTM’s comprehensive and dedicated effort to fight with the very best teams and factories at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. The new agreement will take the Spaniard into four years representing the Austrian brand as the company eyes considerable expansion in MotoGP from 2019 onwards.

Espargaro: “It has been really easy for me to make this decision; I did not think of another possibility for even a minute. I cannot hide how happy I am being involved in this amazing project, despite the challenges and the work we still have to go through. I love the KTM philosophy and I want to continue trying to reach our goals. I don’t know when we will be able to do it, but I’m sure that we will arrive. I have to thank my whole crew for how they push and how they support me, with the leadership of my crew chief Paul Trevathan, and for sure Mike Leitner and Pit Beirer for how they strive every day. And, of course, all the people that work at the races and back at Munderfing. We are a team with an ambitious aim. I’m enjoying my best moments in the MotoGP championship, and I’m really happy to know that I’m going to continue here at least until 2020”.

Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsports Director): “Pol has been such a strong part of our project and gave us a lot of trust and belief as well as the highlights so far with two ninth positions. I’m really happy we can continue together for another two years because we can build on the work we have already done and keep progressing with the bike; he should definitely be one of the people that should benefit from everything we have achieve and learned and how we will push on in the future.”

The 26 year old, born in Granollers and in the shadow of the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya, is negotiating his fifth term in the premier class since claiming the Moto2 title in 2013. #44 has been the strongest performer on the KTM RC16 with four top ten finishes in MotoGP despite the project clocking only 21 events as a full-time member of the Grand Prix grid in the run-up to this weekend’s Gran Premio Red Bull de España at Jerez.

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Two-Day Private WorldSBK Test Concludes At Brno

A few days after a couple of entertaining races at Assen, a part of the WorldSBK paddock was back in action, this time at a private two-day test at the Brno circuit, which is set to return to the World Superbike calendar after an absence of five years. The weather was not entirely cooperative - a warm Wednesday was followed by a much cooler and overcast Thursday - but the teams present all managed to get important work done. 

At the test were the factory Aruba.it Ducati team, along with Barni Racing's Xavi Fores. The official Yamaha WorldSBK and WorldSSP teams were there, as was Randy Krummenacher on the Bardahl Even Bros Yamaha R6. The official KRT Kawasakis were also present, as was Triple M Racing's PJ Jacobsen on the Honda CBR1000RR. The Red Bull Honda WorldSBK team were not in Brno, having already had two days of private testing in Assen before the Aragon round.

While finding the right setup for the upcoming race was important, there was real work to do on testing bike geometry and finding the right base setup. The biggest issue for the Aruba.it Ducati team was finding some stability in the bike, especially for Marco Melandri, whose Ducati Panigale has had a horrific case of the headshakes all season. In a press release after the test, Melandri pronounced himself very happy with the test, the Italian saying that they had taken big steps forward to eliminating the stability they had suffered. That had been helped in part by the use of a swingarm being raced in the BSB championship by Shane Byrne and by Michael Ruben Rinaldi at the Assen WorldSBK round, according to Greg Haines writing for MCN

The Pata Yamaha riders worked on finding a base setup for the Yamaha R1, with Alex Lowes being especially happy with a new fork setting which helped him in trail braking. The KRT Kawasaki riders worked on geometry and bike balance, looking for a better base setting for the Kawasaki ZX-10R. No times were released, either officially or unofficially after the test. 

The WorldSBK riders have now all headed home to prepare for the next round of the series at Imola in Italy in two weeks' time. They will return to Brno for the Czech round of WorldSBK on the weekend of the 10th June.

Below are the press releases from the WorldSBK teams after the test:


Strong Two-Day Test Wraps Up Busy Period for Pata Yamaha

Fresh from Round 4 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team completed a successful two-day private test at Brno ahead of the race weekend at the track in June. Both Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes were in action on Wednesday and Thursday, as they focused on finding a good setup with their Pata Yamaha R1s around the 5.403km Brno Circuit, completing 346 laps between them.

The Pata Yamaha team brought the weather with them from Assen, as the first day of the test was conducted in sunny and hot conditions. Day two saw much colder temperatures and some light rain at points but the cooler conditions led to an improvement in lap times around Brno as grip levels increased.

Van der Mark wowed the fans at his home round in Assen with a double podium, finishing second in Race 1 and then crossing the line third in Race 2. The 36 points he collected saw him jump up to fourth in the WorldSBK Championship standings with 103 points and the 25-year-old Dutch rider is keen to continue the form that has seen him on the podium three times at the last three rounds. With this in mind, he used the two-day private test to find a good base setup with his Pata Yamaha R1 and work on his feeling with the electronics around the Brno circuit, that will feature on the WorldSBK Calendar for the first time since 2012. Completing 95 laps on Wednesday the 2014 WorldSSP Champion managed to get through 80 on Thursday to make it a total of 175 laps over the two days, and he now heads to Imola full of confidence.

Lowes wanted to bounce back from a tough weekend in Assen and the Brno test gave him a chance to do just that. Determined to be back fighting for the podium in Imola, the 27-year-old British rider worked hard with his team over the two-days to find a good chassis setting with his Pata Yamaha R1 in an effort to improve his grip levels. He managed 88 laps on Wednesday and a further 83 on Thursday to get through a workload of 171 laps in total, as he, like his teammate, worked on his setup for the Brno race weekend and assessed some new suspension components. Lowes was happy with the work done and is now looking forward to putting it into practice at the next round in Imola.

After back-to-back races and this private test, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action at Round 5 of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship in Imola on the 11th-13th of May.

Michael van der Mark - Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team

'It has been a really positive test! On the first day, the temperature was really high and so we gathered some really good data about the grip levels in those conditions. We also had a chance to get used to the track and find a good base setup with my Yamaha R1, including the gearing for the bike, so I was quite happy with day one. Day two was a lot colder and it was good to get to test in those conditions as when the track was cooler we had a lot more grip. Today we tested many things with the electronics and chassis and it all seemed to work, so I am happy with what we have done at this test. The team have been working really hard for the last three weeks, so they deserve some rest and we will be ready for Imola!"

Alex Lowes - Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team

"It was a good test! The second day was really good, we made some steps with the bike, especially with the front forks. It gave me a lot more confidence when trail braking into a corner. The conditions were a bit colder, so the lap times were a bit better anyway, but we made quite a big chunk. We did another race simulation today and it felt good, so it is all positive. We still need to work a little bit on mid-corner feel and corner exit but overall, it was quite a good test. The weather was a bit hit and miss with the wind and rain but we still managed to get quite a bit done, so we are happy!"


Mid-Season Test Success For KRT

KRT’s WorldSBK riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes completed a two-day test at Brno in the Czech Republic, from 25th to 26th April, just a few days after each had earned a race win apiece at the fourth round of the championship in the Netherlands.

Both Ninja ZX-10RR riders and the entire official Kawasaki effort arrived in Brno in confident mood after their recent successes at Assen. Rea extended his championship lead last weekend and Sykes climbed up the championship table to fifth after eight individual points scoring races completed so far.

This Brno test, run alongside some of their main championship rivals, was important for several reasons, including the fact that Brno has not been used as an FIM Superbike World Championship venue since 2012. It was also the culmination of a busy period for KRT, with race meetings in Spain and the Netherlands on consecutive weekends, and now another full-on test at a returning WorldSBK venue.

Rea and his crew used their two days at Brno to match his optimum riding style even more closely to a machine that has already delivered three race wins to him in 2018.

Sykes, who won his first race of the year in the second race at Assen, tried some more fundamental set-up options than most and found another positive path to follow for the rest of the season.

The Brno WorldSBK weekend is expected to be held in even warmer conditions than this test enjoyed, as race days will take place on 9th and 10th of June.

After the completion of two days on track at Brno, Kawasaki’s official team will return to competitive action at Imola, in Italy, with racedays on 12th and 13th of May.

Jonathan Rea, stated: “It’s been really positive to test in Brno especially because we haven’t raced here since 2012. It’s one of my favourite circuits so it was easy to keep my motivation high after these busy few weeks. The weather has been quite different on both days so it was good to understand how the bike behaves in both hot and cool conditions. Without the pressure of the race weekend we were able to work calmly each day and explore some different setup and chassis balance ideas. Each time we changed the bike we had some positive and some less positive feelings, so we will keep working on that side of things. I want to thank all the Kawasaki Racing staff and Hospitality crew who have been working full gas these past three weeks. Also a special shout out to my mechanics, because I kept them really busy making a lot of changes.”

Tom Sykes, stated: “Overall, a good test. Lots of laps and plenty of small tweaks to the bike, so we found out a lot of good information. I left with a good feeling overall with the feedback from the bike. With it being a proper test we had some key things to try and never got down to the nitty-gritty of finding pure set-up for this racetrack. It was more about fine tuning the bike’s characteristics. The last round at Assen was fantastic and I felt really comfortable, so hopefully we have found some things in small areas that can help me in each race from now on. We found a happy medium between two or three set-up changes, so these helped me in the area I needed improve and we did not lose too much in the areas where we were already good.”

Pere Riba, Crew Chief for Jonathan Rea, stated: “We had warmer weather on day one as today the test conditions were cooler. This was useful for us, as it was important to see how the tyres and bike work in different conditions. We tried to work for the best set-up and preparation for the June race here in Brno, after many years not racing at this circuit and also improve the general feeling from the bike. Jonathan has requested a smooth-feeling bike, with no aggressive reactions, so we worked on parts that would affect the balance. It has been a positive test and we are still making steps forward. We left here with a starting point for the race at Brno and also trying to improve some of the weak points from the first three or four races. Jonathan was first and then second in Assen recently but we are always looking to improve the bike and the feeling of the rider with the bike.”

Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief for Tom Sykes stated: “We had a nice test and after Assen I was very optimistic. Of course, we had found a good base setting already this season. We are very happy about the bike settings and our performance here. The target of this test was to familiarise ourselves with this track layout again, and to test some new items in the suspension set-up, which were very promising, and some other small items. We did not do so much work just for this track as our bike set-up works well at each track we have been to. So we worked in the areas we needed to make a general improvement in and Tom is happy.”


The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team concludes a two-day private test at Brno

After two consecutive rounds with the WorldSBK Championship, at Aragon (Spain) and Assen (Netherlands) respectively, the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team paid a visit to the Brno Circuit (Czech Republic) for a two-day private test. With some chassis and electronics upgrades, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri took advantage of the time on track, interrupted by some rain showers, to prepare the June race on the Czech track (which returns to the WorldSBK calendar after a five-year absence) as well as the upcoming "home round" of Imola.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi also had a first chance to get acquainted with the Brno track on the Panigale R of the Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team. The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team and the Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team will resume action at Imola for the fifth round of the WorldSBK Championship, scheduled for May 11-13.

Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7)

"It's been a steady test. We leave Brno with some room for improvement but, then again, racing is always a different game compared to testing. It's always nice to ride there, even though it's been windy and with a lot of pollen in the air so the track wasn't in fantastic conditions. We worked hard for two days, gathering solid answers even though we still need to clear a few question marks. Now it's time to recharge ahead of Imola."

Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33)

"It was a really important test. The goal, more even than to prepare the race here, was to improve stability on the straight. We took a decisive turn and the situation has improved significantly. We ran several back-to-back checks to better understand the nature of the problem, and I think we achieved our goal. Perhaps not 100 percent, but we took a big step forward. Now we head to Imola: I'm confident and sure I'll be able to fight, with even more determination."

Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team #21)

"We're pretty satisfied in general with the outcome of this test. In terms of performance, I've been quite close to the factory riders and we found a good base both in terms of pure speed and consistency. The track is fascinating and not too demanding physically. It's really fun to ride it with a Superbike".


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Dani Pedrosa Set For Surgery On Right Wrist

Dani Pedrosa has suffered a fractured wrist in his lap one crash at the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina on Sunday. Although there has not yet been official confirmation from Honda, well-informed Spanish media are reporting that Pedrosa is to undergo surgery today in Barcelona to fix the fracture in his right radius.

Pedrosa's crash was the subject of some controversy. The Repsol Honda rider crashed after being forced wide at Turn 13 by Johann Zarco, who had taken the inside line. Pedrosa was pushed out through a damp line onto a dirty section of track. When Pedrosa touched the gas, he highsided off the bike, falling heavily on his arm. Race Direction ruled it a racing incident, taking no action against Zarco for his involvement. 

Initially, it looked as if Pedrosa had escaped the crash unharmed, though he complained of pain in his right wrist. Further examinations have now revealed a fracture to the right radius bone.

At this moment, it is unclear how long Pedrosa's recovery will take, and how many races he will be forced to miss, if any. Honda currently has two former Grand Prix riders lined up as test riders, Hiroshi Aoyama and Stefan Bradl. If Pedrosa has to miss one or more races, either of those two could be drafted in to take his place.

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MotoGP To Introduce "Transfer Window" For Rider Contract Negotiations

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While there is great concern over the state of the rider market and the earliness of when Silly Season commences nowadays, there are no concrete proposals to restrict it in any way, as far as I am currently aware. Despite the fictional nature of this story, the logic behind Dorna wanting to keep things as they are - increased interest in the sport during the off season - is sound. But whether the factories would either be willing or able to restrict negotiations to a set time is open to question. Policing such an agreement would be extremely difficult. This was the last of the fictional stories for 2018, we hope. for another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed... 

There has been a trend over the past decade for rider contract negotiations to get earlier and earlier. Where once, talks about new contracts would start sometime in June, and agreements finalized and signed during August, now, initial discussions start at the Valencia Grand Prix the year before a contract is due to end, and deals are signed in the first few races, or as in the past two contract cycles, before the season has even begun.The underlying causes for this trend are numerous, but at its heart, it comes down to the glut of talent that is in MotoGP these days, both in terms of riders and in terms of bikes. The best riders have more choice of competitive machinery, and there are more talented riders for the factories to choose from. This has forced the factories into pursuing and signing up the riders they want as early as possible. As former HRC team principal Livio Suppo told ace French journalist Thomas Baujard, "In the MotoGP class, the manufacturers are the slaves of the top riders."

The MotoGP Silly Season for 2019 and 2020 rider contracts has been particularly frenzied. Maverick Viñales announced his contract extension in January at the Movistar Yamaha team launch. Talented Moto2 prospect Pecco Bagnaia was signed by Ducati to race with the Pramac team ahead of the factory Ducati team launch in January. Marc Márquez announced he was extending with Repsol Honda before the Qatar test, and Valentino Rossi made his new two-year deal with Movistar Yamaha public on the Thursday before the Qatar race.

This frenzy of negotiations has caused the factories to push for the introduction of a "transfer window", a practice common in other sports such as soccer. From the 2020 season, when the next round of rider contracts is due, negotiations will only be allowed to take place within a narrow window, with deals signed within that window and no talks allowed either before or after. That window will be in the week following the final race of the year at Valencia.

Grand designs

The factories, as represented by the MSMA, hope to achieve a number of objectives with this move. Firstly, by not allowing any talks during the season, riders, teams, and engineers will be able to spend the season focusing on racing, rather than worrying about how a rider fits into a team after they have either decided to leave, or been pushed out to make way for someone else. Secondly, the manufacturers hope to be able to contain the rise of rider salaries, which are being driven up in part by riders being able to shop their talents around between multiple factories.

Though the other members of the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, have agreed in principle, sources with knowledge of the situation tell MotoMatters.com that Dorna have made the MSMA pay a very hefty price for the introduction of a transfer window. The new rules on contracts are part of the sporting regulations, which are in principle have to be agreed among all four members of the GPC: Dorna, team representatives IRTA, the FIM, and the MSMA. The factories had pushed hard for the new rules as a cost-cutting measure, but Dorna were opposed to the move.

For Dorna, MotoGP's Silly Season generates a bonanza of publicity for the series. Contract negotiations and rumors about rider moves keep the news cycle buzzing throughout the year, only tailing off once all the available MotoGP seats have been filled. Contract rumors and signings in the preseason suits Dorna's agenda even better, generating interest in the sport in a time when there is little or no on-track action to celebrate. Dorna, with support from IRTA, had threatened to block the MSMA's request for a transfer window, unless they got something in return.

Strictly

And boy, did they get something in return. The manufacturers, believing they would be able to save millions in rider salaries with the introduction of a transfer window, acquiesced to the demands of Dorna. To compensate for the loss of publicity in the preseason surrounding rider contracts, and to maximize interest in the season which follows, the MotoGP transfer window will be open solely during the week following the final race of the season at Valencia, ahead of the first test of the year the following weekend. What's more, the entire proceedings – from contract talks to the deal being signed – will be part of a special Dorna TV show called "Racing With The Stars".

The idea behind "Racing With The Stars" is that it will be a daily, two-hour show following a set pattern, and shown from the Monday to the Friday in the week following Valencia. It will be part reality TV show, part racing extravaganza, part panel discussion show. Contract talks will still happen behind closed doors, but Dorna will film teams and rider managers going into the talks, and then interview them after such talks have happened.

Every day, the riders will undergo a physical challenge relating to racing, and the results of those challenges will earn them bonuses from the teams they eventually sign with. The initial idea is to have a series of physical tests on the Monday, including a VO2 Max test, reaction time testing, and balance skills. Tuesday through Thursday will see the riders compete against one another in bike-related challenges, including a trials competition, a Supermoto race, and a flat-track race, culminating in a bicycle race around the Valencia track on Friday.

While the riders are testing their mettle on the track, their managers and the teams will be busy flexing their negotiating muscles. As part of securing a transfer window, the factories have agreed to make public the state of contract negotiations at the end of each day. Intriguingly, that will include the latest agreed salary offers for each rider.

Bike off

To add further spice to the spectacle, the week will be include some elements of a knockout competition. The entire MotoGP field from the previous season will start the week, along with hopeful prospects from Moto2 and the WorldSBK paddock. At the end of each "Racing With The Stars" show, the riders will assemble in a line up, and the presenter will read out a list of the latest salary offers, finishing up with a list of riders who have not managed to generate any interest from factories or teams, and who will not make it through to the next day.

The climax of the week will be a prime time extravaganza to be shown live on Italian and Spanish TV. On Friday night, the riders will find out which team or factory they will be racing for the following season. They will then be shown the bikes they will be riding for the next two days – Saturday and Sunday – at the first test of the season. Dorna will then provide live coverage of that two-day test on the MotoGP.com website, and TV broadcasters will also have the opportunity to show the test.

It was a compromise that all parties could live with, despite the obvious downsides for all of them. The factories were prepared to give up the chance to negotiate earlier, as they believe this allow them to significantly reduce rider salaries, and keep them affordable. Dorna was prepared to give up extra media coverage of the sport in the preseason, in exchange for a spectacle which will increase the value of their TV rights. The teams were willing to give up some control of their negotiations with riders, as they get the chance to see and talk to more riders from a wider talent pool, and possibly sign a rider they hadn't expected.

The riders were not consulted on the change.

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Private Testing Completed For Honda, Aprilia, Ducati At Jerez

The importance of a private test can sometimes be measured by the lack of news emerging from the track. For the past three days, the Jerez circuit has resounded to the bellow of MotoGP and WorldSBK machines, as Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, and KTM have shared the track.

Yet other than a couple of social media posts on Twitter and Instagram, there was next to no news from the test. The only official source was a brief news item on the official website of the Jerez circuit.

Despite that, it was an important test for the factories involved. For HRC, especially: on Monday, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa used the first of their five days of private testing to try the 2018 Honda RC213V at a tighter European track. The test was aimed at verifying the engine selected for this season, and setting it up for the slower, tighter tracks which form the bulk of the European rounds of the series. Given that the engine is now frozen, Jerez is an ideal place to work on chassis and setup, something which was deprioritized over the winter in favor of selecting an engine for the season.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Stefan Bradl took over from the Repsol Honda riders, carrying on the work in his role as Honda test rider. Bradl was joined by Matteo Baiocco testing the Aprilia RS-GP, Mika Kallio and Pol Espargaro on the KTM RC16 MotoGP machine, Danilo Petrucci working on the Ducati Desmosedici GP18 - Ducati using Petrucci as a test mule, to spare the test days of the factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo - and Michele Pirro, riding the Ducati Panigale V4 in race trim. KTM's Moto2 testers Julian Simon and Ricky Cardus were also present.

KTM had the track to themselves on Thursday, the other factories having already left. As a team with concessions, KTM are free to test as much as they want, limited only by the season's supply of 120 tires per contracted rider during testing.

The absence of Bradley Smith was notable, in part because of the presence of Pol Espargaro. Though Espargaro had been forced to miss a lot of preseason testing after aggravating a back injury in a massive crash at the Sepang test, and was therefore in need of more time on the bike, it is noteworthy that Smith was not invited. Smith has been the subject of fierce criticism by KTM bosses, most recently by KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer in an interview with the German language publication Speedweek. In that interview, Beirer expressed his frustration at Smith, who would demonstrate that he was capable of pushing for a very quick lap, but spent most of the tests and practice sessions going too slow to provide meaningful data, in Beirer's opinion. His ability was not in doubt, just his approach, Beirer told Speedweek.

 

Testing is now complete, and the teams are preparing to board flights for the long haul across the Atlantic to Termas de Rio Hondo, and the Argentinian round of MotoGP, which takes place on 8th April.

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