October 2019

Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 120: Argentina WorldSBK - Deconstructing The Mess, And Jonathan Rea Speaks Frankly

The WorldSBK round in Argentina skirted with disaster, as the newly-resurfaced San Juan Villicum circuit caused a rider revolt, with the WorldSBK riders judging the track too dangerous to ride on. Despite that, race 1 went ahead anyway, causing much bad blood.

Steve English and Gordon Ritchie were there on the ground, and saw it all at first hand. So in this episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, Gordo talks us through exactly what happened in Argentina, what went wrong and why. As the only WorldSBK journalist on the ground at San Juan Villicum, he has a unique and full insight into events.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How will Johann Zarco go on the Honda as he returns to MotoGP?

The Frenchman is on his way to Phillip Island with his brand-new Alpinestars LCR Honda leathers. So is this judgement day for Johann Zarco?

Johann Zarco expected to watch MotoGP’s final few races from the comfort of his sofa in the south of France. Now, thanks to Takaaki Nakagami’s troublesome right shoulder injury – sustained at Assen when he got sideswiped by Valentino Rossi – he will spend the last three races sat somewhat less comfortably on the Japanese rider’s 2018-spec LCR Honda.

Before we wonder how Zarco will fare on the RC213V, we should ask why this is necessary. Why is Nakagami going under the knife when the 2019 championship isn’t over?

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Ramping Up For 2020 - Test Teams Get Busy In Europe

While the MotoGP paddock is away, the test teams will play. In the middle of the Asia-Pacific flyaways, back in Europe the test teams are preparing for the start of 2020. In the coming days, test teams for Aprilia, KTM, and Ducati will all take to the track, while Honda will be testing directly after Sepang.

Aprilia and Bradley Smith will kick off events at Aragon, with a three-day test at the Spanish circuit. Smith has plenty of work to do: there are preparations for the 2020 season, though the bike will not be ready until the Sepang test, in all likeliness. But after engine problems for both Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone in the race at Motegi, Smith will have plenty to work on in helping to isolate the problem.

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Motegi Race Notes: On Fuel Management, The Rookie Surprise, Ducati's Weakness, Rossi's Future, And Lorenzo's Progress

To win a motorcycle race, team, rider, and machine need to get as close as possible to extracting 100% of performance from both motorcycle and rider. In the Socratic Ideal of a motorcycle race, as the bike crosses the line, it runs out of fuel, explodes into a thousand pieces, the tires destroy themselves, and the rider drops down dead. That, however, would contravene the engine durability regulations, be extraordinarily expensive, and make winning a championship impossible.

Instead, what the riders and teams try to do is maximize the performance of the bike, and allow the rider to manage performance throughout the race. That means finding the right engine mapping to extract as much power as possible without burning through tires and fuel, and setting up suspension and electronics to keep as much edge grip, corner speed, and braking ability as possible for as long as possible.

In 2017 and 2018, tire consumption was often the limiting factor. Riders knew tire performance would drop significantly at some point, so they had to design their race strategy around that: either push hard from the beginning and manage to the end, or slow up the race and hope to keep as much performance as possible to make a dash for the end. Andrea Dovizioso was a master at this, which allowed him to control the races such that he could win them, or at least keep them close.

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