May 2020

MotoGP Silly Season Stirs Into Life: Pramac Expect Jack Miller To Take Factory Ducati Seat

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, the gears of the motorcycle world are starting to grind again. Riders are training once again, and their thoughts are turning to the future.

It is also clear that riders, teams, and factories are starting to think about 2021. This summer had promised to unleash a Silly Season of unrivaled scale, with all riders bar Tito Rabat out of contract at the end of 2020. January and February threw a wet blanket over the wilder speculation, as Maverick Viñales extend his contract with the factory Yamaha squad, Fabio Quartararo was promoted to the factory Yamaha team, and Valentino Rossi was promised a factory-supported Yamaha should he decide to continue for 2021.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 145: Crew Chiefs, Riders, And How They Work Together

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the role of the crew chief, what their job is, and what role the rider plays in managing the bike. In the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, Steve English and David Emmett discuss the many things they have learned about the role from talking to crew chiefs about their role.

It is a long and rambling discussion, with Steve and David drawing on their long years in the paddock, both in MotoGP and in WorldSBK, and using two articles as a basis for discussion. Steve's piece on the Ten Kate WorldSBK team, featuring interviews with Loris Baz and his crew chief Mick Shanley, and the article Peter Bom wrote on MotoMatters.com about the role of chassis setup software, and how it has eased the workload of engineers.

Steve and David discuss the work that goes on in the run up to a race weekend, to prepare for a race. They talk about how riders and teams use time in free practice to find the right setup for the race, and compare the different approaches between the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks. They discuss what teams do differently during practice and the race, and what happens after the race.

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Tech Briefs: Team work is the key to success in WorldSBK

Loris Baz at Philllip Island in 2020

A race team is forged on the principle of working together to find solutions. No-one can work i isolation and even though once the lights go out and a rider is out there alone the result will come on the basis of the days building up to that point. Motorcycle is a team sport. It’s the ultimate team sport. We delve into Ten Kate’s garage to see how they all work towards the ultimate goal.

How many times in all walks of life has it been said communication is key? In almost every task undertaken, having a clear plan of attack is the basis of getting the job done well. From childhood to adulthood the tasks change but the process stays the same. A checklist is key to ensuring any job is done correctly and for a race team the goal is to minimise mistakes and maximise efficiency.

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Crunching The Numbers: What If COVID-19 Had Affected Previous Seasons?

What if “COVID-19” happens in the past

The 2020 MotoGP season has gotten off to a rocky start. Since the opening round at Qatar, where only the Moto2 and Moto3 classes raced, we have had two updated calendars for the season. We have had news of races postponed, then later on canceled. Speculation about the possible scenarios is changing week by week, or even day by day.

In the beginning of April, it looked like it would not be possible to start the MotoGP championship earlier than August, and multiple sources were talking about 10 races, leaving the final third of the calendar intact. The possibility of returning to Qatar round for the season finale was also being suggested.

More recently, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta offered two possible scenarios for 2020: 10 to 12 races only in Europe, or up to 16 races, if intercontinental travel becomes possible again later this year.

The more versions we heard about, the more interested I became in seeing how the championships in the last 10 years might have ended differently with the given scenarios.

So until we know what the final and definitive calendar for this year looks like, let’s play with the numbers a bit.

Warning! During this experiment we haven’t taken into consideration the human factors. The only thing we took into account: that the numbers never lie, and in statistics everything is possible.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why inline-four MotoGP bikes handle better than V4 MotoGP bikes

V4 MotoGP bikes make more power, inline-fours handle better. That’s why Johann Zarco, Jorge Lorenzo and others struggle when they switch from inline-fours to V4s

Speak to most MotoGP engineers and they will tell you that the two most important words in race-bike engineering are balance and compromise.

Pretty much whatever you do to improve one area of performance impairs another: you make the bike turn quicker and it becomes less stable, you increase peak power and you lose midrange and so on.

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Steve English Blog: Sport is back, but is it a blueprint for the future?

Wasn’t it amazing! Football, motorsport and golf were all back on television. There is a God and His name is Live Sport In Your Living Room! Suddenly instead of endless re-runs and memories (I’m as guilty as everyone else) there was now new memories, new moments and a new norm was being constructed before our eyes.

The cost of not returning to football to finish the 2020 season could cost over €6bn worldwide. Whether it’s the Premier League having to pay out over €750m or the loss of gate receipts, the effect of the shutdown could be profound. The German Bundesliga at least shows that it is possible to host a game, and the TV coverage wasn’t noticeably different.

The lack of a crowd, substitutes evenly spaced along the sideline, and the muted celebrations are strange but you grow accustomed to it. Why can the Bundesliga return and other countries can’t? The German government took steps before other nations to limit the outbreak and now they’ll also act as a guinea pig for how football can return.

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Interview, Part 2: Suzuki's Davide Brivio On How Suzuki Sees A Shortened Season And Negotiations With Rins And Mir

Alex Rins and Joan Mir at the Thailand round of MotoGP at Buriram in 2019

Last week, Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP boss Davide Brivio held a teleconference with a number of journalists to face questions on a broad range of topics. Brivio talked about the possibility of MotoGP resuming again at Jerez, as Dorna has announced, and what that would entail for Suzuki and for the paddock. He discussed how the manufacturers are working together to cut costs, putting an end to the long-running dispute which has divided the MSMA members, which I examined in detail in this story.

Brivio also fielded questions on the 2020 MotoGP season, and how Suzuki saw the advantages and disadvantages of a curtailed season with a limited number of races taking place on an even smaller number of circuits. And he went into some detail on the contract extensions signed with riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir.

Below is the second half of the interview Davide Brivio gave to journalists:

Q: With a shorter season planned, at fewer circuits, who do you think who will be the surprise of the year, and what are the chances of Suzuki riders causing an upset?

Davide Brivio: I don’t know, but I don’t think having a short championship or a long championship will change a lot. The fast riders will always be the same. Of course there are a few variables this year, because we have to see if this long stop affects somebody more than others. In terms of results or competition or whatever I think it will be pretty much the same.

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Grand Prix Commission Confirms No Wildcards, Extends Engine Development For KTM, Aprilia

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated motorcycle racing in many different ways, some quite unexpected. To address some of those complications, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rulemaking body, agreed a number of exceptions to the rules for the 2020 season, concerning wildcards, concerning concession points, and concerning engine development.

Engine development had already been frozen in response to the coronavirus crisis. In part as a cost-cutting measure, and in part because the European manufacturers had had their factories closed, all six MSMA members agreed to halt engine development and use the engines they were due to homologate for the 2020 season for the start of the 2021 season.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 144: Coronavirus Update And Restarting MotoGP At Jerez

This week's episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, we take a break from our looks back at seasons past to get back up to date with recent developments. Since Dorna announced that MotoGP is to resume at Jerez on July 19th, with two back-to-back races at the circuit, followed by a WorldSBK round at the track, Neil Morrison, Jensen Beeler, and David Emmett got together to discuss where things stand right now, and what might lie ahead.

We first run through the various measures in the countries we live in - Spain, the US, and The Netherlands - and compare and contrast the different approaches taken by the various governments. We talk about the measures being put in place in different countries, the pace at which restrictions are being lifted, and what that means for racing and training.

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Interview: Suzuki's Davide Brivio On COVID-19 Cost-Cutting, Satellite Teams, And Paddock Life In A Pandemic

The Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP machine during the presentation at the Sepang test in February

For a few weeks, it looked like racing in 2020 might be impossible. But as the peak of the COVID-19 crisis appears to have passed in many parts of Europe, there are a few rays of hope that racing might resume before the end of the year. At the moment, Dorna have put plans in place to hold two races at Jerez, on July 19th and 26th, with more races to follow.

These plans see factories and teams start to slowly ramp up their preparations for racing in Jerez. At the same time, the factories are having to come to terms with the still-emerging post-coronavirus economic reality. Measures have already been put in place to cut costs, including a freeze on engine development and aerodynamics until 2021, while the factories and teams are considering further proposals to cut costs and secure the future of the sport.

On Monday, the Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP team organized a press teleconference with team manager Davide Brivio, in which he discussed this, and many other subjects. Brivio talked about starting the championship in Jerez, the impact of the coronavirus on Suzuki and on the MotoGP championship, and about Suzuki's plans for a satellite squad. He also talked about what life in the paddock could look like when racing resumes.

All in the same boat

"Everybody is in the same situation," Brivio started off by saying. "We are trying to be in contact with MotoGP, Dorna, IRTA and also with the other teams. We’ve had a few meetings altogether. We are also looking at other sports to see what is going on: what’s happening in football, everybody is taking different directions and positions. In Germany they are going to restart the football next week and Spain and Italy are still to decide."

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