The key to success in MotoGP is adapting to the tools you have been given. That means understanding what the bike will and won't do, and how to get the most out of it. It means understanding how to make a tire last, where to use the available grip, and how to save wear as much as possible. It means knowing what your crew chief needs to know to give you the bike you need. And it means understanding where a track will give you an advantage, and where to minimize your losses.
The 2019 MotoGP field is an object lesson in just how difficult this can be. Johann Zarco went from chasing podiums on the Tech3 Yamaha to competing for points on the factory Red Bull KTM. Jorge Lorenzo went from being a red hot favorite on the Yamaha to struggling on the Ducati to winning on the Ducati to struggling on the Repsol Honda.
Their prospects of success on these bikes are down to their approach. Lorenzo learned on the Ducati that he had to change his riding style, and if he did, Ducati could tweak the bike to bring it closer to something he could use, and eventually a bike he was capable of winning on. He is now going through that process again on the Honda. Zarco has tried and failed to get his head around the fact that the KTM will not ever be a Yamaha, and he cannot try to ride it like one. He persists in trying to be smooth, while Pol Espargaro wrestles the RC16 ever further forward.
Change is the only constant
No sooner had the idea of a full World Championship for so-called production machinery been agreed in 1988 than half the manufacturers had already created homologation special road bikes which then dominated most of the early results. But that was only part of the story, then and now.
WorldSBK has never been a true production racing series, whether you started in year dot with a super-special 851 Ducati or a humble Kawasaki GPX750. Chassis or engine; you could legally muck about with them.
Really, quite a lot.
Austrian factory KTM chose a unique path when it entered MotoGP three years ago, so will the RC16’s differences help it succeed or make it fail?
Two weeks is a long time in MotoGP. Sunday night at Jerez wasn’t a good time to hang around outside the Red Bull KTM garage. The factory had had a horrible weekend, its fastest rider finishing 20 seconds behind the race winner and its prize signing throwing his toys out of the pram in front of a TV crew.
The Jerez sufferings of Pol Espargaró and Johann Zarco made headlines – many of which insisted that KTM’s three-year-old MotoGP project is doomed to failure until the factory bins the RC16’s tubular-steel frame and its WP suspension.
In the second Paddock Pass Podcast in two days, this episode comes to you from a cafe inside the railway station at Le Mans, where Neil Morrison and David Emmett sat down to discuss the French Grand Prix while they waited for their train to Paris and home. There was plenty to talk about.
The big topic of discussion was of course Marc Marquez, and a seemingly dominant third victory from five races at a track he hasn't usually gone well at. Neil and David talk about how Marquez won, how he has adapted his riding style to the 2019 Honda RC213V, and how he has used that to his advantage. But his new riding style is also a chink in his armor, and we talk about how his rivals might try to beat him in future races.
With Jonathan Rea finally beating Alvaro Bautista in the WorldSBK race at Imola, Steve English and Gordon Ritchie had plenty to talk about in episode 102 of the Paddock Pass Podcast. First of all, they dive into the question of why it was that Rea managed to outclass Bautista at Imola, and whether it was the track or the conditions or Bautista's lack of familiarity with the track.
They discuss Chaz Davies' adaptation to the Ducati Panigale V4R, and what the difference was at Imola compared to earlier races. As they recorded the podcast on Sunday morning before the race was canceled, they discuss how difficult Imola is as a circuit, and how tricky it can be in the wet. They touch on Tommy Bridewell filling in for the sadly injured Eugene Laverty, which leads into a further discussion of the V4R, and even presage today's announcement by the FIM that the Endurance World Championship will allow the bike to be raced in the championship, opening up the possibility of racing at the Suzuka 8 Hour race.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the French Grand Prix at Le Mans:
There are lots of ways to win a motorcycle race, but most racers are only capable of applying one. Some riders can only win they can break away at the front, and have a clear track to ride clean, fast lines. Other riders can't maintain a pace on their own, so have to sit behind a fast rival and wait until the end of the race to pounce. Some need to sit in a group and exploit the dynamics of that group to create the right moment to strike.
Great riders can adapt to any type of race. If they need to break away, they break away. If they need to sit with another rider and wait, they wait. If they need a group to drag them along, they sit in front of a group and slow the whole thing up to control the race and wait to pounce.
The truly great riders can manage all of this, and understand what is needed in any particular situation. They don't just adapt to a type of race, they create the race they need in order to win. It can render them nigh on invincible, as they control the race. They write the rules, and force everyone else to play along with them. Then they rewrite them again, and leave their rivals on the back foot.
Finding a way to win