Analysis

Suzuka 8 Hours Preview - Everything Riding On Suzuka For The Japanese Factories

The Suzuka 8 Hours is the biggest single race on the motorcycle racing calendar. The final Sunday of July is circled on the calendars of racing presidents of the Japanese manufacturers because it's the day that careers are made or lost. It's the day that legends are born, and it's the day that the pressure is ramped right up on the racing bosses at Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

If you want to ensure your future, you need to prove your worth at Suzuka. The only way to guarantee good graces is with success. Honda has been chasing it in recent years, and after being on the receiving end of a Yamaha trouncing in recent years the pressure is higher than ever to win again.

That pressure manifests itself up and down the pit lane. Riders come off their bikes and look into the expectant faces of engineers who know their career aspirations are linked to Suzuka. Win here and you could get the chance to develop the next MotoGP machine. Lose and you could well be looking at the job ads on Monday.

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: No Stopping Number Nine

It is a truism in MotoGP that though they hand out the trophies on Sunday, the race is often won on Friday and Saturday. Practice is when riders and teams can find the setup tweaks they need to go faster, evaluate tire choices, and plan a strategy. Which tires offer the most potential? Which area of the track can we gain most while sacrificing the least in other points? Is there more to be gained by pushing hard early and trying to manage, or by being patient in the first half of the race, hoping to have an advantage in the second half?

The wide range of tires offered by Michelin make practice even more important. Michelin's remit from Dorna is to produce three front tires and three rear tires that can all be used during the race. That requires a certain amount of compromise: labeling tires soft, medium, and hard does not mean that Michelin make three tires with an equal step in between the three different tires. It is more like an indicator of how well the French tire make expects each tire to cope with the heat and stress of a race, and the trade off in terms of grip. So a soft and a medium tire may use the same rubber on one side of the tire, or on opposite sides of the tire. Or they may use the same compounds with a stiffer carcass, to reduce flex and therefore the amount of heat being generated.

Understanding how all these factors work together, and what that will mean for the race, is what the teams spend their time doing in practice. The team and rider that does this best on Friday and Saturday gets to spend Sunday evening celebrating their victory during the race. If all goes to plan, of course.

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Not A Honda Track Any Longer

Betting on Marc Márquez to take pole and win the race at the Sachsenring looks like the safest bet imaginable. From 2010 until 2017, Marc Márquez has started the race on pole and gone on to take victory in all three of the Grand Prix classes he has raced in. Márquez is truly the King of the Sachsenring.

Friday seemed to merely underline the Repsol Honda rider's dominance at the Sachsenring. Though he didn't top the timesheets in either FP1 or FP2, that was only because he hadn't bothered putting in a soft tire in pursuit of a quick time. Take a look at underlying race rhythm, and Márquez was head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

That pace continued into Saturday morning. Once again, Márquez was not the fastest – he finished sixth in FP3 – but in terms of pace, he had half a step on everyone else. But it was only that: half a step. Others were starting to catch the Spaniard. Could he really be in trouble for the race?

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Speed vs Consistency, A Lack Of Crashes, And Scott Redding's Future

As if anyone needed reminding of just how close the MotoGP field is at the moment, you have to go a very long way down the standings to find the first rider more than a second slower than Jorge Lorenzo, the fastest man on the first day of practice at the Sachsenring. Eighteen riders are within a fraction over nine tenths of a second of each other, with Scott Redding the first over a second away.

It's even closer than that, once you discount Lorenzo's time. The Factory Ducati rider put in a searing lap at the end of FP2 to go fastest, and was over a quarter of a second quicker than second-place man Danilo Petrucci. The gap between Petrucci in second and Johann Zarco in eighteenth was 0.645 seconds. Or approximately two blinks of an eye.

That makes it hard to judge riders by position. A tenth of a second would move you up three or four places; three tenths is the difference between eighteenth and eighth. A small mistake in a single corner could be the difference between being comfortably through to Q2, and going to sleep on Friday night worrying about posting a fast enough time on Saturday morning in FP3. "I needed to make a perfect lap," Red Bull KTM's Pol Espargaro bemoaned his twelfth place, before joking, "or my rivals needed to not make a perfect lap!"

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Preview - Defeating The King Of The 'Ring, And Replacing Pedrosa

The Sachsenring is a unique circuit, and a unique place. We say that about almost every racetrack we go to, but it is much more true of the Sachsenring than of anywhere else. No track is as tight, yet deeply challenging as the tightly-coiled circuit in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, and the atmosphere among the fans is electric.

Normally here, I would give a brief description or history of the circuit at which MotoGP is due to race. But Mat Oxley has already done that much better than I would have, so I suggest you read his article on the Motor Sport Magazine website. There is a very good chance that this is the last race here at the Sachsenring, as Oxley lays out in the article. But all hope is not yet lost: regional politics may yet solve the problem, though it will be done with taxpayers' money.

Given the huge attendance at the circuit – Sunday numbers often well over 90,000, and over 100,000 on occasion – the race generates a huge amount of revenue for the surrounding area. Hotels are full, restaurants are heaving, supermarkets stock extra food and drink (especially drink). All that generates more revenue for local government through taxes. But will that be enough to justify spending on keeping the race here?

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Dani Pedrosa - A Look At His Career, And His Retirement

After weeks of speculation, Dani Pedrosa has announced that he will end his active racing career at the end of the 2018 season. The Spaniard had been mulling his future for some time, after it had become clear that there was no place for him left in the Repsol Honda MotoGP team, and after discussions with other teams throughout the first part of the year, Pedrosa made his decision some time after Assen, and announced it at a special press conference held ahead of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring.

"Next year, I will not compete in the championship, this means I will finish my career this season in MotoGP," Pedrosa told a packed press conference room at the Sachsenring. "This is a decision I've been thinking about for a long time, and it's a very hard decision because this is the sport I love. But despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with such an intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life."

"I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity," he said. "It's been an amazing life to be racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. So I can say I achieved way more than I expected and I'm very proud of everything I've done in the sport. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and this is something I didn't expect as a kid watching on TV." It was an emotional press conference, the normally taciturn Pedrosa fighting to control his emotions.

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2018 Misano WorldSBK: What We Learned At Misano

Jonathan Rea may have done the double at the Italian circuitm but WorldSBK was in rude health last weekend

New tires offer a new reference
Pirelli brought a huge tire range to Misano. The Italian manufacturer has been criticized at times but they certainly aren't resting on their laurels in 2018. At their home round there were six front tire options available to teams and a new option to complement the increased profile of the rear tire. This new front tire wasn't to every rider's liking but it is now “the reference for teams” according to numerous engineers. The tire offered stability under braking but was a handful for some riders when they released the brake and tried to enter the corner. It will take time to make it work perfectly and find the correct settings but it was very well received.

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2018 Misano WorldSBK Notes: The Magic Of Misano Strikes For WorldSBK

Five riders from four manufacturers stood on the Misano podium to show the strength and depth of WorldSBK

“This is the real Superbike racing” was how Marco Melandri assessed Sunday's racing at Misano and it was hard to argue with the Italian. Under blue skies and a burning sun the action on track was just as hot, with Jonathan Rea, Michael van der Mark and Melandri all fighting it out for the win.

With Chaz Davies keeping a watching brief following his Saturday podium and Eugene Laverty having stood on the Race 1 rostrum it was clear this was the best race weekend of the 2018 season. Five riders spraying Prosecco on the podium and four manufacturers able to see their riders on the box it was a fantastic weekend to bring a close to racing before the summer break.

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A Lap Of Misano With Leon Camier - Flat Out Through Curvone

Leon Camier has plenty of experience at Misano. The Red Bull Honda WorldSBK star has ridden at the Italian circuit in Grand Prix and also on a Superbike. He's spent time learning the nuances of the Rimini venue and over that time he's found out one thing: patience is key!

“Misano is a tricky circuit but it's got some interesting quirks,” said Camier. “The opening sector of the lap is very challenging, because if you make a mistake in Turn 1 it affects you for the whole sector. From Turn 1 to Turn 4 it's connected and your speed at the apex of the first corner is the key. You have to carry so much speed through the opening corner but that makes it very easy to run wide and lose time. You have to make sure to get the bike stopped at Turn 1 but you still need to carry massive speed through the corner while not running wide because you need to be in the right place for the entry to Turn 2.

“Carrying so much speed through that corner is exciting but it's also so easy to over cook it. You have to turn the bike on the edge of the tire after you've let off the brake so it's easy to be too hot into that corner. Having a good line through Turn 2 second gear and very important because you carry that speed all the way through to Turn 4. You take a short shift for Turn 3 and carry that speed to Turn 4.”

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2018 Laguna Seca WorldSBK Notes - The Wild, Wild West of WorldSBK

The American Frontier was about finding a way to survive. To do this, people from all over the world had to work together and find a way to coexist on the open plains and in the mountains. They did this because they knew the rewards could be massive. Unimaginable wealth lay beneath the rivers and mountains of the West Coast, and everyone believed they would find it.

Every racer in the world also believes that the trophies and points are at their fingertips once they have the tools at their disposal. Finding a way to work with a group of people from all over the world and making them believe in you is crucial. The American Dream was founded on the ideal that anything was possible and the Racer's Dream is based on the belief that you're the best in the world and any issues you're having are just a temporary delay of the inevitable.

At Laguna Seca we had proof once again that the Racer's Dream is real. Jonathan Rea was a highly regarded rider prior to moving to Kawasaki in 2015 but since then he has been all but unbeatable. On Sunday he claimed his 62nd WorldSBK and fourth victory at the American venue. The success that the Northern Irishman has enjoyed has been unprecedented but, at least for Rea, was the gold he'd been seeking in a river bed.

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