Analysis

Jonathan Rea at Kawasaki: Why would he leave? Why should he leave?

Jonathan Rea on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR at the 2020 Phillip Island WorldSBK round - photo by Steve English

The news that Jonathan Rea had re-signed with Kawasaki was met with almost universal ambivalence. There are lots of pros and cons to Rea staying put. From a racing perspective, why would he leave? He has a team centred around him with a proven track record of success. What could motivate him to move? A new challenge is the reason most cited.

In 2014 there was a general feeling in the WorldSBK paddock that Rea was a rider waiting for the right opportunity to show his true ability. Years on a Honda had seen him at the sharp end of the field, despite racing with a blunt weapon. Switching to the all-conquering Kawasaki gave him the opportunity he had been waiting for.

Five world titles, 74 race wins, and 128 podiums later, and Rea is regarded as the greatest Superbike rider of all-time. There’s nothing left for Rea to prove in WorldSBK so why would he leave? A loyal team, a good bike, a hefty pay cheque and an ambassadorial role with the manufacturer when he retires would certainly make it very difficult to walk away from Team Green.

Dalliances

Back to top

Gossip Moves The Market: How Rider Managers Maximise Earnings

Picture the scene. The sun is setting over the hills that surround the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The day has been fierce and the weekend is only going to get hotter. Keeping a cool head, keeping your eyes on the prize will be crucial but all you can hear is talk of chatter.

Chatter is a paddock keyword. You hear about it all the time. You hear it a lot more in June because this isn’t chatter on the bike. It’s chatter inside the paddock.

Rumours become fact very quickly in the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks. All it takes is a chance photograph for a story to suddenly have legs and suddenly half the paddock is running around and chasing their tails looking for quotes and concrete information.

The rider market. The silly season. The rumour mill. The fools errand. Trying to keep abreast of the market is an important part of paddock life. Rumours are currency and having good sources gives you a lot of information to trade with people. Trying to report it? If you’re hitting more than you're missing it’s a very good batting average, and people remember the wild swings more than the home runs.

Back to top

Why Repsol Honda Signing Pol Espargaro Could Cause Marc Marquez To Leave

The rumors had been doing the rounds for some time, but last night, things came to a head. Multiple media outlets were reporting that Pol Espargaro has signed a deal to ride for Repsol Honda in 2021. The most interesting facet of this was that several outlets had independent sourcing, making this look highly credible. Information I have seen also confirms this.

Though an agreement seems to have been reached, there are still some hoops to jump through. Speaking to Spanish daily AS.com, Espargaro's manager Homer Bosch said negotiations with Honda, KTM, and Ducati were still going on. "It's not true that Pol has a verbal agreement to go and race for the Repsol Honda team next year," he told AS.

Repsol Honda team boss Alberto Puig issued a similar statement denying an agreement had been reached. "HRC is always thinking about the present and the future of its structure, from the lower categories to MotoGP. Due to the circumstances that we are in, this season is not developing through the usual channels, but that does not mean that Honda stops continuing to plan the best possible future for all their riders. We do not have any contracts signed with anyone that have not already been announced," he said.

Back to top

The MotoGP Silly Season Logjam: Dovizioso At Ducati, Rossi At Petronas, And The Youth Wave

While the motorcycle racing world awaits the return of real racing, contract time is heaving into view. Though the methods are different – Skype calls and WhatsApp messages, rather than private conversations at the backs of garages or between trucks – the objective is the same: to find the best match of bike and rider, giving the most hope of success.

Having to work remotely is the least of both managers' and teams' problems. The bigger issue is that there is next to no data to go on. Teams and factories are having to make a guess at who they think will be strong in 2021 based on who was fast in 2019, and who showed promise in the winter tests. Riders have no idea which bikes have made progress over the winter, and which have stagnated. Is it worth taking a gamble on KTM? Has the Honda gotten any easier to ride?

For the Moto2 riders in with a chance at moving up to MotoGP, they have had just a single race in 2020 to show their worth. What's more, it was very far from an ordinary race: the last-minuted decision to make it a night race instead of a day race complicated tire choice, which some got right and some got wrong. Jorge Martin was widely regarded as the hot ticket for promotion to MotoGP in 2021, yet he had a miserable race at Qatar, finishing 20th. Tetsuta Nagashima won the race, while Joe Roberts dominated practice and qualifying. Nobody was mentioning their names as possible promotion candidates in late 2019.

Back to top

Tech Briefs: Team work is the key to success in WorldSBK

Loris Baz at Philllip Island in 2020

A race team is forged on the principle of working together to find solutions. No-one can work i isolation and even though once the lights go out and a rider is out there alone the result will come on the basis of the days building up to that point. Motorcycle is a team sport. It’s the ultimate team sport. We delve into Ten Kate’s garage to see how they all work towards the ultimate goal.

How many times in all walks of life has it been said communication is key? In almost every task undertaken, having a clear plan of attack is the basis of getting the job done well. From childhood to adulthood the tasks change but the process stays the same. A checklist is key to ensuring any job is done correctly and for a race team the goal is to minimise mistakes and maximise efficiency.

Back to top

Crunching The Numbers: What If COVID-19 Had Affected Previous Seasons?

What if “COVID-19” happens in the past

The 2020 MotoGP season has gotten off to a rocky start. Since the opening round at Qatar, where only the Moto2 and Moto3 classes raced, we have had two updated calendars for the season. We have had news of races postponed, then later on canceled. Speculation about the possible scenarios is changing week by week, or even day by day.

In the beginning of April, it looked like it would not be possible to start the MotoGP championship earlier than August, and multiple sources were talking about 10 races, leaving the final third of the calendar intact. The possibility of returning to Qatar round for the season finale was also being suggested.

More recently, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta offered two possible scenarios for 2020: 10 to 12 races only in Europe, or up to 16 races, if intercontinental travel becomes possible again later this year.

The more versions we heard about, the more interested I became in seeing how the championships in the last 10 years might have ended differently with the given scenarios.

So until we know what the final and definitive calendar for this year looks like, let’s play with the numbers a bit.

Warning! During this experiment we haven’t taken into consideration the human factors. The only thing we took into account: that the numbers never lie, and in statistics everything is possible.

Back to top

From Conflict To Collaboration: How The COVID-19 Crisis Reconciled The MSMA

Once upon a time, the manufacturers reigned supreme in MotoGP. The MSMA – the Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers' Association – determined the shape of the premier class. In the early years after Dorna secured the rights to promote Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the MSMA negotiated a monopoly over the technical regulations in MotoGP.

The rules in MotoGP are made in committee, the Grand Prix Commission, containing representatives of the four parties with an interest in the sport: Dorna as promoter, the FIM as sanctioning body, IRTA representing the teams, and the MSMA on behalf of the manufacturers. While the sporting and other rules are voted on by majority, the MSMA controlled the technical rules.

In the early years of the MotoGP era Rule changes proposed unanimously by the MSMA were adopted automatically, and the MSMA retained a veto over rules put forward by the other members of the GPC. It was the MSMA who asked for the switch from two strokes to four strokes, and the MSMA who insisted on reducing the capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007, when concerns were raised over the speeds of the bigger bikes.

Back to top

By The Numbers: Setting Up A Racing Motorcycle Using Chassis Software

Race against time

Riders and teams are in a constant battle against time at the highest levels of motorsport. And I don’t mean just the lap times: every race weekend they have just a few practice sessions to come up with the perfect setup for qualifying and the race. A setup that adapts their bike as well as possible to the nature of the track, helps it to get the best out of the tires on this type of asphalt, and gives their rider the feedback he needs to properly push the bike to its limits. This famous ‘setup’ we so often hear about is actually the combination of all the different parameters that can be adjusted on the bike. And this is where things starts to get complicated, because there are a lot of variables that can be adjusted or changed. And to make matters worse, almost all of them affect each other in some way. In this article I will explain how MotoGP teams deal with the setup.

From graph paper to spreadsheets

In the early days of motorcycle racing, bikes were a lot more basic and had only a few options to ‘tune’ the handling of the bike. Nevertheless, technicians quickly realized that they needed to keep track of some of the bike chassis parameters, such as spring rate, wheelbase, and ride height, just to name a few. With it, you could rebuild a complete bike and not accidentally change the way it handled. The resulting list became known as the setup sheet. It was still a rather short list, but it was enough to help them not to lose their way in tracking how the bike handled. With the lap times added to it later, usually alongside some remarks from the rider about the tires and the gearing, that sheet of paper was all you needed back in the old days.

Back to top

Covid-19 And MotoGP, Where Are We Now? How Marshals May Be The Next Stumbling Block

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, pictured here at Brno 2019

On the day that practice was supposed to get underway for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, we are still a very long way from any racing happening. Instead of riders warming up for the fifth race of the season, they are preparing for the third eSports race of 2020, to be played on the brand new MotoGP 20 computer game. It is also the first Virtual Grand Prix, featuring riders from all three classes, instead of just MotoGP.

It's something, for many fans, but it's not the same. Seeing bikes battle it out for an hour so in a computer game, and enjoying the banter between the riders, is entertaining, but it misses the visceral pleasure of real racing. Three days of practice, the roar of engines, the squeal of rubber, the scraping of kneepads over asphalt, the smell of hot oil. The carpet of yellow flowers which line the grass around the Jerez circuit. The party in downtown Jerez, with bikes riding up and down, and fans crowding the bars and restaurants, their deafening chatter about the events of the day making conversation all but impossible.

When will those days return? Nine or so weeks into the global lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it is clear that a return to what we traditionally think of as a motorcycle race is still some way off. That's the bad news. But the good news is that it is looking increasingly likely that there will be some form of world championship motorcycle racing this year, as countries start to look at lifting restrictions on travel and events. There appears to be reason for cautious optimism, though the SARS-CoV2 virus is still very much in the driving seat. Plans are starting to be made, but they are at the mercy of the virus. If the disease flares up again, those plans get torn up and Dorna moves onto the next lot.

Back to top

Tech Briefs: Tyres, Or How Evolution Brings Revolution In WorldSBK

In the era of control tyres in WorldSBK Pirelli has shown that it’s no excuse to halt development

In racing, you’re always competing. You’re battling against the clock and you’re battling against your rivals. Performance and pushing the boundaries is the key to success. But what happens when you are a control supplier to a championship? For over fifteen years that’s been the conundrum for Pirelli.

It’s very easy to look at tyres in a control era and think that development has stood still. Why would a tyre company want to push to the limits when the only time they’ll be noticed is if something goes wrong? For Pirelli, the sole tyre supplier to WorldSBK since 2004, the goal is to ensure development keeps pace with the evolution of current road-going machinery.

A control tyre doesn’t have to mean a lack of development. Recent years have shown the opposite, with changes to the profiles of tyres and the introduction of a host of “development” tyres in 2019. The goal for Pirelli for these tyres is to develop them into the tyres that customers can buy in the shops for use on track days and in club races. The goal for Pirelli has always been to produce production tyres from their involvement in WorldSBK for their customers.

Back to top

Pages