October 2019

Sepang MotoGP Preview - On The Usefulness Of Test Data, Yamaha's Problems, Beating Marquez, And Lorenzo's Thwarted Plan

How quickly things can change. At Phillip Island a week ago, Valentino Rossi was being feted for his 400th Grand Prix start against a background of concern over the nine-time champion's pace. Sitting seventh in the championship with 153 points, behind both Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales and Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Fabio Quartararo, questions were being asked whether it was time for Rossi to retire.

And yet a year ago, at Sepang, Rossi came within four laps of winning the race, or at least taking the race down to the wire with Marc Márquez. The Italian crashed out at Turn 1, washing the front out and handing victory to his arch rival. But the race was as clear a sign as you could get that Rossi was still competitive, still capable of winning races.

Jorge Lorenzo finds himself in a similar situation. At Phillip Island, he had one of the worst races of his career, finishing 66 seconds behind his teammate, the winner Marc Márquez. Lorenzo is on his way out, the media and fans said, he can't ride the Honda. Yet in November last year, at the Jerez test, Lorenzo was fifth fastest overall, a tenth of a second behind his teammate, and 0.160 slower than fastest rider Takaaki Nakagami.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 121: Qatar WorldSBK - The Season Finale, And Looking To 2020

With the WorldSBK season coming to an end under the floodlights in Qatar, Steve English and Gordon Ritchie sat down to look at the last weekend of World Superbikes, to look back, and to look forward.

Steve and Gordo start off with a look at Race 1 on Friday, in hotter conditions than either of them expected. Then they go on to take a longer look at the motivations of all concerned in the battle for third in the WorldSBK championship, with Alex Lowes, Toprak Razgatlioglu, and Michael van der Mark all having their own particular reason for wanting to finish third. (In the end, Lowes took it by a 14 point margin).

They then take a look at the 2019 season. How Jonathan Rea staged perhaps the greatest comeback in motorcycle racing history, and how Alvaro Bautista fell apart midway through the season. Steve and Gordo then give their top three of the 2019 season.

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Barcelona Joins WorldSBK Calendar For 2020 - Prelude To Losing MotoGP In 2021?

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo is to host a round of the World Superbike championship in 2020. The event is to be held from 18-20th September 2020, between the Portimao and Magny-Cours rounds of the series. 

The addition of Barcelona presages a few of the changes coming in both the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars in future years. Next year, WorldSBK loses Buriram in Thailand to MotoGP, and also looks set to lose the race at Laguna Seca in the USA. Instead, WorldSBK will head to Barcelona in September, and the German circuit of Oschersleben in August.

The loss of both Thailand and the US means a stark reduction in the number of rounds outside Europe. The WorldSBK championship now only visits Phillip Island at the start of the season, and Argentina and Qatar at the end, meaning that ten of the thirteen WorldSBK rounds will be held in Europe, with three rounds on the Iberian peninsula (Jerez, Portimao, and Barcelona) and two in Italy (Imola and Misano).

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Phillip Island MotoGP Sunday Notes: A Track Where You Have To Feel It

That Phillip Island is a special racetrack is self evident. It is unique in so very many different ways. It flows like Mugello, and has the same high speed nature, with fast corners sweeping through a loop dictated by geography rather than a CAD program. It has a fast front straight, yet it is also a track where slower bikes can find a way to stay with, and even beat, faster bikes. Speed is a factor, but the rider counts for a lot more.

What makes Phillip Island even more unique is its location, exposed to the wild weather which blows in across the Bass Strait. The track has grip, but conditions can change quickly. The sun can warm the asphalt, and the cold ocean wind can whip the heat right out of asphalt and tires just as fast. The track feels more like a force of nature than a technical challenge to be mastered.

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