Analysis

2017 Jerez IRTA Test Preview: Full Moto2 & Moto3 Grids Assemble For First Time

As the start of the MotoGP season draws near, this is a big week for motorcycle racing. On Wednesday, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams meet for the first official test of the season at Jerez, lasting until Friday. Early Friday morning, European time, the second round of the WorldSBK championship kicks off at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand. Then on Friday afternoon, the MotoGP teams start the final test of preseason at the Losail circuit in Qatar.

But the first place to see action is Jerez. After several private tests scattered around Spanish tracks, it is the first chance to see the entire Moto2 and Moto3 grid on track together. Or most of the grid: injury leaves at least one rider sidelined, Stefano Manzi being out with a knee injury. The three-day test is split into sessions, with the Moto2 and Moto3 classes each going out separately.

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Carmelo Ezpeleta On The British Talent Cup: Dorna's History Of Nurturing Talent

It is terribly fashionable in some circles to regard Dorna as a blight on the face of motorcycle racing. Their alleged crimes are both heinous and manifold. They have dumbed down the sport by exerting an ever tighter grip over the technical regulations. They killed off the two strokes in favor of four strokes. They have aggressively pursued copyright and trademark claims, at the cost of broadening the appeal of the sport. They have been relentless in their pursuit of financial gain over the spirit of the sport. They have meddled in the sport to favor one rider, or one nationality over the rest.

Most of these complaints are either baseless, or an expression of anger at how the sport has changed over the years. Some points are valid: the death of the 250cc two strokes, however understandable from a financial point of view, was a tragedy, as a 250cc two stroke was perhaps the most perfect expression of a racing motorcycle. In the past, as I found myself on occasion, Dorna were slow to embrace change online, and wasted energy chasing down Youtube clips of MotoGP, rather than controlling them by providing them to fans in an easy-to-share way. (Fortunately for the fans, they have learned and bettered their ways in this regard.)

Yet it is hard to argue with results. This season, six factories – three Japanese, three European – will line up on the MotoGP grid. 23 riders from seven different countries will take the start, with a grand total of 31 world championship titles between them. The bikes they will ride are extremely close in performance, with technical differences limited. For the past two years, riders from three different countries have won the three Grand Prix titles. The MotoGP series has emerged from global financial crisis in rude health, despite some major challenges along the way.

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Notes From Phillip Island WorldSBK: Rea vs Davies, And The New Grid Format

Can we just have every race at Phillip Island? That's certainly what a lot of fans will be thinking after a thrilling opening weekend of WorldSBK action. The tension that has simmered between Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies over the winter came to the fore over the weekend and once again it these two riders fighting it out for wins.

Jonathan's Island

Jonathan Rea had a fight on his hands for both wins in Australia but the reigning WorldSBK champion did enough to continue his domination of Phillip Island. In claiming his fifth win in the last three years at the Australian circuit the Northern Irishman also became just the fourth rider in history to win 40 WorldSBK races.

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2017 Phillip Island World Superbike Race 2 Notes: Title Favorites Talk Season Opener

The second race of the WorldSBK season saw history made with the introduction of the much-touted revised grid that saw the podium men from Race 1 start from the third row.

This meant that Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes had to fight through the field during the 22 lap affair. It proved little challenge for Rea and Davies to hit the front but ultimately Sykes lost too much time making progress and abused his tires trying to bridge the gap to the leading group.

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2017 Phillip Island World Superbike Race 1 Notes: Sunday's Front Row Speaks About Saturday

WorldSBK came back with a bang in the opening round of the 2017 season. With five different leaders and four manufacturers in the scrap for the podium the Phillip Island crowd was treated to a superb season opener that eventually saw Jonathan Rea come out on top.

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Subscriber Feature: Honda's Private Jerez MotoGP Test - Why It Matters

Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez are to head to Jerez for a private, two-day test on 24th and 25th of February, or Friday and Saturday of this week. The Repsol Honda team announced the test on Twitter, confirming earlier news stories which had broken after the official MotoGP test at Phillip Island last week.

This two-day test is a sign that Márquez and Pedrosa are getting close to making a decision on which version of the engine they will be racing in 2017. They need one final test comparing the various possibilities before heading to Qatar.

The fact that they are now heading to Jerez is emblematic of just how important this choice is. This Jerez test replaces HRC's original plan, which was to retest the big bang engine rolled out at Valencia, verifying results from its original roll out at Valencia, then refine it for Sepang. But Repsol Honda called off that test at the request of the riders, giving the engine to Jack Miller to test in November of last year.

That change of plans was an indication that all was not well with the new engine. Both Márquez and Pedrosa were downbeat about the new engine at Valencia, Márquez emphasizing just how much work Honda still had to do with the new motor. "We must work much more," he said. "Honda needs to work much more this winter to give me something more in Malaysia."

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"Our Most Hated Rival" - KTM's Long Feud With Honda

Team launches are always a little combative. They are, after all, the places where factory bosses, team managers, and riders stake out their intentions for the coming season. They loudly proclaim that they are in it to win it, that their goal is to be champions sooner rather than later, and that they are plainly superior to their competition, both in talent and in engineering prowess and ingenuity. Team launches are a place for hyperbole.

Even by normal standards, though, the words spoken at KTM's team launch were more than ordinarily abrasive. In an interview with Austrian broadcaster Servus TV, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer took plenty of potshots at his rivals. He boasted of KTM passing BMW in terms of sales, adding that beating them in racing would be hard, "because they don't race any more". He spoke of competing against the Japanese manufacturers. "We love racing, and we love beating the Japanese manufacturers."

But Pierer reserved his sharpest ire for Honda. Speaking of the surprise decision to compete in Moto2, he joked that the spec Moto2 engine was supplied by "our most hated rival Honda". He also noted that KTM's entry into MotoGP brought balance to the MSMA, the manufacturers' group which has a vote in the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule making body. With three European manufacturers against three Japanese manufacturers, they were in a position to prevent Honda from bulldozing through proposals.

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WorldSBK 2017 Preview: Can Jonathan Rea win the triple crown?

Jonathan Rea is seeking history in 2017 but it's a clean sheet of paper as the champion strives for a third title

For the last two years Jonathan Rea has been as consistent as the tides and wrapped up the WorldSBK crown with almost a complete season of podium finishes. Since joining Kawasaki in 2015 the 30 year old has notched up 23 wins and 46 podium finishes from 52 races. To put his number of victories into perspective Rea's two year reign would place him in the top ten for career wins.

Last year Rea became only the fourth rider to successfully defend a WorldSBK crown and this year the Northern Irishman could write his name in the history book as the only rider to ever win three titles in a row.

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2017 Phillip Island MotoGP Test Friday Round Up: Two Rivals Arise

On Friday at Phillip Island, shortly after a quarter to four in the afternoon, local time, a new chapter started in the annals of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Maverick Viñales had just passed the halfway mark of what was supposed to be a full race simulation when Marc Márquez entered the track. The reigning champion latched onto the back of the Movistar Yamaha, following him around the track. After a couple of laps, Viñales lost his patience, and aborted his race simulation.

Viñales was not best pleased. "I don't know what to say, because sure I don’t want to gain nothing, because there is nothing. But it's not normal. You are doing your race simulation. Someone pulls out… you cannot stop. After five laps that he was behind, finally I needed to abort the race simulation. Anyway the track is 4 kilometers. Strange that he was there, where I was."

Márquez played the innocent. "Today there was one run that I go out and I saw that he passed. Then there was some gap, but I was able to recover this gap. Then I followed him two laps and it was interesting to see a different bike." The Repsol Honda rider then commented that he had also followed a Ducati and a Suzuki, to see where they were strong.

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2017 Phillip Island MotoGP Test Thursday Round Up: Marquez vs Maverick, Lorenzo Doubts, Zarco Shines

Scouring through the timesheets after the second day of the MotoGP test at Phillip Island, and reading through everything the riders have said, a picture emerges, not just of what happened on Thursday, but also how history has affected them. Seeing Marc Márquez' workload, his approach, the things he is working on, and it is hard not to think back to his past three seasons in MotoGP. The lessons learned in each of those seasons color everything he is working at Phillip Island, and give us a glimpse of his objective for 2017.

On Thursday, Márquez put in 107 laps around Phillip Island. That is 20% more than most of his rivals, and nearly double the amount which some of them rode. Asked if he was playing games in suggesting the 2017 Honda RC213V was not ready, Márquez was curt. "I don’t play games, because if I'm ready I would not make 107 laps! Because my hands are destroyed."

Why put in so many laps? A look at the past three seasons offers an insight. In 2014, Márquez destroyed the field in the first part of the season, winning ten races in a row, and a total of thirteen. For a man with a thirst for victory matched perhaps only by Valentino Rossi, this was an ecstatic period. It also lured him into a false sense of security, the bike suffering as a result. This was not helped by Honda's insistence on building a bike as powerful as possible, with no view of making it easy to use.

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