January 2019

2019 Sepang MotoGP Shakedown Test Begins - Test Riders On Track From Friday

With two WorldSBK tests under our belts, we are now just days away from the 2019 MotoGP preseason starting. The entire MotoGP field, minus the injured Jorge Lorenzo, will take to the Sepang circuit on 6th February for three days of testing.

But before that, from 1st to 3rd of February – that's Friday through Sunday – the MotoGP factories will be present at Sepang for the first shakedown test of the year. Test riders from all six factories will take to the track, and will be joined by the riders for the factories with concessions, who are allowed unlimited testing.

The original point of the shakedown test was to allow factories to ensure that all of the parts they have brought for their contracted riders (e.g. full-time entries in MotoGP) to test are actually working, and do some preliminary preparation ahead of the official test. After all, the full-time riders cannot afford to waste a day while engineers and mechanics try to figure out why something which worked at the factory has ceased to work at the race track, for example.

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2019 WorldSBK Testing Round Up: Panigale A Work In Progress, Rea Dominant, Lowes One To Watch

Testing paints a picture but it’s never a complete one. It shows only what the artist wants you to see with their work in progress. The winter is a time to work through your program and do it at your own pace. This year that has been even more the case. With new bikes for Ducati and BMW there is plenty of change in the air of the World Superbike paddock, and after eight days of testing there are arguably more questions than answers.

The Ducati V4R was billed as the weapon to finally end Jonathan Rea’s dominance of WorldSBK. It was a MotoGP-derived bike that didn’t pull punches. It was one that broke cover over 12 months before its competitive debut. It was expected to be a honed creation from the outset. It was expected to be seamless. But instead, Ducati’s introduction of their new machine has run aground this winter.

Circumstances have worked against Ducati. Four days of testing in November were ruined by bad weather in Aragon, and then a bad track surface at Jerez that would need to be replaced. With a brand new surface at Jerez, it was dirty for the opening test of 2019. It took time to clean and it was almost impossible for riders to do long distance stints without excessive tire wear. Coming to Portimao it was hoped that Ducati could get some information on the new bike.

Hampering progress

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Johann Zarco

The Frenchman was a revelation during his rookie MotoGP season in 2017 and finished top non-factory rider last season – so how does he do it?

During 2017 and 2018 Johann Zarco made a habit of embarrassing factory riders aboard his second-hand Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1.

The Frenchman seemed able to overcome technical deficiencies with a new way of riding which allowed him to get more performance out of his Michelin tyres. Last year he did drift into the doldrums after scoring two podiums from the first four races, then tumbling out of his home GP at Le Mans.

But he was back up to speed at the end of the season, taking a close third-place finish at Sepang, just behind factory riders Marc Márquez and Álex Rins.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Aleix Espargaró

One of MotoGP’s most exciting riders tells us how he gets the best out of his bikes, tyres and electronics

Aleix Espargaró is yet to win a MotoGP race but he is one of the category’s most exciting riders, with an all-attack riding technique.

The Aprilia RS-GP rider, who I interviewed halfway through last season, is one of those who is happy to go pretty deep when he’s explaining his riding technique. He offers many fascinating revelations about MotoGP riding styles, as well as the behaviour of MotoGP engines, tyres and electronics.

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2019 Portimao WorldSBK Test Monday Times: Rea Dominates Portimao Test

Jonathan Rea leaves the Portimao test having stamped his authority on the test at at the end of the day. The KRT Kawasaki rider ended the test nearly a second quicker than second-place rider Alex Lowes on the Pata Yamaha. Alvaro Bautista set the third fastest time on the Aruba.it Ducati Panigale V4R, a tenth behind Alex Lowes, while Rea's KRT teammate Leon Haslam was fourth.

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Interviewing Suzuki Bosses: How Suzuki Went From Concessions Team To Potential Race Winner In 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Suzuki's MotoGP program, Shinichi Sahara, Ken Kawauchi, and Daijiro Mashita. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR started the 2018 season as a Concession team. Thanks to Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins’ hard efforts, Suzuki managed to score three successive podiums from Round 2 to Round 4. At Aragon, Round 14 of the championship, they finally accumulated 6 concession points in total, which lost them their concession status and restored them to the normal MotoGP rules for 2019 alongside their competitors. At the end of December, we visited their headquarters Hamamatsu to interview Suzuki’s MotoGP Project Leader Shinichi Sahara, Technical Manager Ken Kawauchi, and their engine design team leader Daijiro Mashita. They gave us a lot of interesting answers and honestly revealed their resolutions for the forthcoming 2019 season.

Q: You started the 2018 season in good shape, taking three successive podiums in Argentina, COTA, and Jerez. Were these results just as you expected?

Kawauchi: Even though we had good results in these races, I had to say we weren't confident we could achieve it, to be honest. In fact, we were fortunate to take third place at Jerez, but it was a result of the crash by other riders. So, we recognized we had to improve ourselves to be more competitive.

Q: Concession teams can update their engines during the season. Did you update your engine and other parts from the beginning of the year?

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2019 Portimao WorldSBK Test Sunday Times: Rea Rules Day 1

Jonathan Rea topped the timesheets on the first day of the second WorldSBK test, currently underway at Portimao in Portugal. The Kawasaki rider finished four tenths faster than Alex Lowes on the Pata Yamaha, who in turn just edged ahead of WorldSBK newcomer Alvaro Bautista on the Aruba.it Ducati Panigale V4R.

Toprak Razgatlioglu was not far behind Bautista, the young Turkish rider five thousandths slower than the Spaniard on the Puccetti Kawasaki. Tom Sykes' first public timed appearance on the SMR BMW S1000RR backed up the impression of speed he had made during his untimed appearance at Jerez, ending the day in fifth, a tenth behind Razgatlioglu and a few hundredths ahead of Leon Haslam on the second KRT Kawasaki and Michael van der Mark on the second Pata Yamaha. GRT Yamaha's Marco Melandri was the last rider within a second of Jonathan Rea.

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