Analysis

World Superbikes: The Monster Aragon WSBK Round Up

Davies Doubles down and ups the ante on Kawasaki

It’s very easy to jump to quick conclusions during the early stages of a season. Momentum swings from one bike to another and while some riders are ascending others are having an off weekend.

However, the third round of the Superbike World Championship has definitely shown that Chaz Davies and Ducati are the form package at the moment. The Welshman and the Italian bike claimed their first wins of 2016 in Aragon but having been in the thick of the fight for five wins in the opening six races their pace has not been in question.

What had been in question was top speed. While the Ducati MotoGP bike is a verified rocket the WorldSBK specification Panigale R has traditionally struggled to keep pace with the Kawasaki on straights. In the opening rounds we saw this when Davies was easily overtaken by Rea in both Australia and Thailand. Last weekend the tables were sensationally turned.

2016 Argentina Sunday Round Up: Controlled Chaos, and Blaming Ducati For It

If you had to sum up this weekend's racing in Argentina in a single word, it would have to be "eventful". The Termas de Rio Honda round has more twists and turns than a mountain trail, and just as many dangers lurking round every corner. On Friday, the riders found a track still dusty, dirty and green from disuse, causing slow lap times and a fair few falls. On Saturday, as the track cleaned and speeds increased, the rear Michelin of Scott Redding's Pramac Ducati delaminated, throwing the schedule into chaos. Rain on Sunday added even more complications, the plan for the MotoGP race changing hour by hour, as Michelin, Race Direction and the teams all tried to figure out how best to proceed.

Sunday felt chaotic, and it was chaotic, but by the end of Sunday, it was almost entirely forgotten. In Moto3, rookie Khairul Idham Pawi took the first ever Grand Prix win for a Malaysian rider in a style that made Danny Kent's wins from 2015 look positively pedestrian. In Moto2, there was a tough and close battle among the title favorites, with reigning champion Johann Zarco taking victory in very convincing fashion in the final laps. And crowning the weekend, a fascinating MotoGP race, shortened and spiced up with a compulsory pit stop, with a heavy dose of incident and drama added in for good measure. The chaos of the morning was all but forgotten in the excitement of three fantastic races.

2016 Argentina Saturday Round Up: A look at Argentina, and Tire Challenges

We have been here before, of course. The history of problems with spec tires is long and varied. In 2012, at Assen, the tires of several riders, including Valentino Rossi and Ben Spies, ended up losing chunks, causing huge problems in the race. The cold tire highsides of 2009 and 2010, which saw Hiroshi Aoyama crack a couple of vertebrae, an injury which ended his career as a competitive racer, and Valentino Rossi break his leg, forcing him to miss a race for the first time in his career.

2016 Argentina Friday Round Up:A Dirty Track, and Yamaha's Goldilocks Principle

One statistic captured the state of play in Argentina after the first day of practice. Of the eighty-three (83!) Grand Prix riders who took to the track on Friday, just a single rider failed to improve their time from FP1 to FP2. That rider was Tatsuki Suzuki, and the reason he did not manage to improve his time was because he crashed early in the session, leaving himself too little time to go faster.

Why is this remarkable? Normally, there would be somewhere between four and eight riders who do not manage to improve their time between sessions on Friday. At Mugello in 2015, for example, there were six in MotoGP, five in Moto2, and eleven in Moto3, a grand total of twenty-two, and broadly representative of a normal race weekend. The fact that almost everyone managed to go faster illustrated the problem with the track perfectly.

The problem? The track is filthy, to put it simply. As a result of a lack of use, the dust and dirt which settles on any uncovered surface just settles into the asphalt, and is never swept from the track. With no bikes or cars circulating regularly, the track remains green, its virgin surface unsullied by the dark rubber of motorized monsters. No vehicles on track means no grip.

2016 Argentina MotoGP Preview Notes: A Fast Track, and a Living Legend

The vast amount of work I have had to do to over the past five days to upgrade the software MotoMatters.com runs on has left me desperately short of time to write a proper preview for the Argentina round of MotoGP. This is a shame, as the Termas de Rio Hondo track is utterly magnificent, and deserves all the praise it can get.

So instead of a full preview, here are my notes on this weekend. What to watch out for, and what is likely to be important. For a fuller review, listen to the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, where Steve English and I look forward to the weekend ahead.

The unknowns

Though Qatar was the first race of the season, it was hardly a leap into the unknown. It may have been the first race with new tires and new electronics, but the teams and riders were hardly unprepared. Just two weeks previously, they spent three days testing at the Losail circuit, giving them time to figure out a lot of the intricacies of the technical changes.

MotoGP Silly Season: Has Jorge Lorenzo Signed with Ducati?

That this Silly Season – the (bi)annual round of rider contract negotiations – was going to be remarkable has been obvious for a very long time. Only very rarely have the contracts of nearly every rider on the grid ended at the same time, leading to a frenzy of speculation and rumor about who could and will be going where for the 2017 season. That this year is special was made obvious at Qatar, where both Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith announced they had already signed two-year deals for 2017 and 2018 before the flag had even dropped for the first race.

Jorge Lorenzo has been the key figure in this year's Silly Season, however. Of the four current MotoGP Aliens, he is the most likely to move, and to be offered big money to do so. Valentino Rossi is nearing his retirement, and his long-term future is tied up with Yamaha, so re-signing with the Japanese factory was a no-brainer. Marc Márquez may leave Honda at some point in his career, but at the moment, he has too many ties binding him to HRC. Dani Pedrosa may be a proven winner, but he is the only one of the four not to have won a championship. It is Lorenzo who is attracting all of the interest.

It now appears that Lorenzo's future may already be settled. Well-informed sources inside the paddock have told MotoMatters.com that Jorge Lorenzo has already signed a deal with Ducati, and perhaps at a record price. Certainly at a price which Yamaha would be unwilling – and probably unable – to match.

World Superbikes: Reviewing Thailand - Can Kawasaki Be Caught?

Good clean racing or overstepping the mark? That was the question being asked on Sunday night in Thailand after a thrilling race long duel between Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea.

For many the sight of Sykes fighting tooth and nail and refusing to cede the win to his teammate was something that was hoped for but not expected this year. The Kawasaki teammates fought a war of words over the winter but after Rea's dominant title victory last year, many expected something similar this year.

2016 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Moto2 Madness, and the Dawning of a New Era

May you live in interesting times, runs an apocryphal Chinese curse. The first Grand Prix of 2016 certainly provided us with plenty of events which might be termed interesting, in both the common sense of the word and the apocryphal curse. The three races at Qatar were thrilling, tense, intriguing, and mind-bogglingly bizarre.

2016 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up: On Unpredictable Racing, and the Futility of Mind Games

Practice, like testing, doesn't really count for much, riders will tell you. When you talk to the afterwards, they will tell you that they didn't set a really fast lap because they were working on set up, or trying to figure out which tire will be best in the race, or working on race pace rather than one lap pace. Maybe they were saving tires, or maybe they ran into traffic, or maybe there wasn't enough time left in the session to go for a fast lap. Even the rider who is fastest will tell you they were surprised, they were not really pushing for a time, but it just came naturally.

Silly Season Officially Open: Analyzing Valentino Rossi's Two-Year Deal with Yamaha

So the first shoe has dropped. Valentino Rossi is to remain at Yamaha for two more seasons after this, signing on to compete for 2017 and 2018. The signing of Rossi will have major repercussions for the rest of the MotoGP rider market, and has made it all a little more unpredictable.

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