Analysis

2016 Jerez Thursday Round Up: Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha, and Ducati Speak at Last

It has been three years in the making. Ducati have been chasing Jorge Lorenzo for a very long time, almost since the moment Gigi Dall'Igna took over as head of Ducati Corse. Dall'Igna came to Ducati with a master plan. "Ducati had a plan when we started with Gigi at the end of 2013, which was to develop a competitive bike and - once the bike was competitive - to attract one of the top riders," Ducati MotoGP boss Paolo Ciabatti told a specially convened press conference on Thursday.

The candidates who qualified as "top riders" (for the linguists, this is the English phrase the Italians use where English speakers would use the term Alien) are few and far between. Ciabatti made it perfectly clear what he meant. "With all due to respect to all the other riders, including the two Andreas, there are a few riders who have been showing their potential. They are able to win championships. Obviously if you look at history in the last six years three times Lorenzo, twice Marquez and once Stoner. So obviously to be sure to be in a position to fight for a world title we needed to aim for one of the two riders which are Lorenzo and Marquez."

Picking an alien

One interesting detail: before talking to Lorenzo, Ducati had first asked Casey Stoner if he would like to make a full-time return to racing. "No," Stoner replied. "I am fine like this." He is happy as a test rider. That opened the door for Lorenzo.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened, and What Happens Next

If anyone still doubted that Jorge Lorenzo has signed for Ducati for 2017 and beyond, then the news that Yamaha Motor Racing boss Lin Jarvis will be at Thursday's pre-event press conference at Jerez should finally convince them. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo's move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed.

We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi's return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.

2016 Austin MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Imperious Marquez, Complex Crashes, and Intrigue in the Support Classes

If the big question at the Circuit of the Americas was "Who can beat Marc Márquez?" then we found out the answer on Sunday: Nobody. There were only two brief moments during which Márquez was not leading the MotoGP race. Off the line, Jorge Lorenzo was a fraction quicker going into Turn 1, but Márquez turned earlier and already had the lead on the exit. Lorenzo tried once more into the hairpin of Turn 11, but overshot and ran wide, Márquez taking back the lead immediately.

After that, Márquez was gone. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo kept Márquez honest for a couple of laps, but the Repsol Honda rider's relentless pace forced them to concede. Márquez went on to win his fourth straight Grand Prix of the Americas, and his tenth straight win in the United States of America. Since ascending to MotoGP, he has never been beaten on American soil.

There are plenty of adjectives you could throw at Márquez' performance – imperious, dominant, superlative – but perhaps the best word to sum up Marc Márquez at the Circuit of the Americas is "Unbeatable." His rivals will have to wait another year to try to find a way of stopping him.

2016 Austin MotoGP Saturday Notes: On Beating Marquez

Does Marc Márquez still own the Circuit of the Americas? So far, there has been just one session of practice which the Repsol Honda rider did not head. But as that was Q1, a session he had managed to bypass by heading up every other session of practice, it seems fair to say he does still own the place.

2016 Austin MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez' New Style, Viñales' Bright Future, Smith's Personal Revolution

After the drama of Argentina, the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas was pleasingly normal. The track was not perfect, but it was the normal kind of not perfect, Friday-green-track-not-perfect. A week ago, a filthy unused track left everyone struggling for grip and worried faces. On Friday, there were a few concerns over tire wear, especially on the right-hand side, but they were minor compared to Argentina. It was just another Friday in Texas.

And just like any other Friday in Texas, Marc Márquez was slaying the field. The Repsol Honda rider was fastest both in the morning and in the afternoon, and though Jorge Lorenzo kept Márquez honest in FP1, FP2 saw him go seven tenths of a second quicker than anyone else. His gap over the rest made the gaps look massive, just six riders within a second. Take Márquez out of the equation, and a second separates places two and fourteen. The field is actually quite close, as long as you disregard the man out in front.

2016 Austin MotoGP Preview Notes: On Rider Resentment, and the Importance of Tires

It was a particularly tetchy press conference at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Thursday. That may have come from the travel – team staff trickled in throughout the day, as the final stage of their epic journey from Termas de Rio Hondo to Austin came to an end – but more likely it was the questions about the future of Jorge Lorenzo, in particular, which generated a sense of real irritation. Little was said directly by Lorenzo, by Rossi, or by Márquez, but it was clear that the mutual antipathy between the Italian and the Spaniards is reaching new heights. There is a storm coming, and it will break some time this year. When it does, things are going to get very ugly indeed.

First, though, about that journey. Reconstructing the tales of those who arrived in good time after an uneventful voyage, and those who were only just traipsing in towards the end of Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the weather had been the deciding factor. Those who had left on Sunday night and Monday morning had made it to Austin without incident. In the afternoon, though, the clouds rolled down the mountains and into Tucuman, where charters were flying in and out of the regional airport.

Flights were canceled, and teams were sent off, first towards Cordoba, then back to Tucuman, then off to Buenos Aires, then finally to Cordoba once again. From there, they flew to Buenos Aires, then dispersed over half the globe. Sometimes almost literally – one Dorna staff member flew all the way back to Barcelona, then back across the Atlantic to Houston. The MotoGP paddock is much richer in air miles after Argentina, but much poorer in sleep.

2016 Argentina MotoGP Post-Race Notes: On Redding vs Pedrosa, a Brilliant Malaysia, and Aprilia

Argentina left us with an awful lot to talk about. So much, that most of the discussion focused on just a few points: the problems with Michelin tires; the chaotic process by which Race Direction arrived at a race with compulsory pit stops, and the effect it had on the outcome of the race; and the various ways in which riders found to crash out of the race, and how it affected the championship. That overshadowed several aspects which will affect the championship down the line. Time to take a look back at what we missed.

It was a surprise podium, not least to those who actually ended up in second and third spot. Valentino Rossi had resigned himself to another fourth place until Andrea Iannone made what Race Direction colorfully described as an 'overly optimistic pass' on his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, and robbed Ducati of an outstanding double podium. He was not surprised when it happened – Rossi criticized Iannone's earlier pass as being too aggressive, saying it lost him two places – but he had not expected to be on the podium. Ducati's strong showing at Termas de Rio Hondo bodes well for Austin, but more of that later.

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.

Pages