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2017 Lausitzring World Superbike Round Up: Soft Tires For Kawasaki, MV's Momentum, Bradl's Motivation

The first round after the summer break is always one that fans and paddock personnel get excited about. But the German round of the WorldSBK calendar hasn't captured the imagination, because of its remote setting and, for the riders, the bumpy track surface.

With Jonathan Rea easing his way towards the history books as the first rider to win the championship three years in a row, there was a feeling from some quarters that it was merely a matter of marking time rather than making a mark. That being so, once the weekend got underway it did throw up plenty of excitement in what appears to the final race at the Lausitzring.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Is Ducati’s grip computer-enhanced?

The Ducati MotoGP team is using trick new software created to improve tyre performance, so how important is this technology to the factory’s title challenge?

It looks like we may get away without a proper soaking at Silverstone this weekend, but that won’t make it much easier for riders and teams trying to choose the best tyres for Sunday.

This year tyre choice is by far the most important factor separating MotoGP victory from defeat, so the teams clever enough to find their way through the Michelin maze have a crucial advantage on race day.

Ducati is currently the most successful factory out there, with three victories from the last six races, which suggests that its engineers have become very good at choosing the right tyres. But how?

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MotoGP Factories Busy Testing At Misano: Race Preparation And Tire Preservation The Focus

It has been a busy few days at the Misano circuit. MotoGP teams have come and go, with five of the series' six factory teams having tested at the track between Saturday and today. Honda and Yamaha tested at the weekend, with Aprilia, Ducati and KTM taking to the track at the start of the week. The private tests were the last for most of the factories, with Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati having burned through their testing days for the year.

The main objective for most of the factories was preparing for the race at Misano. Especially for the riders in contention for the title, arriving at the race with a working setup can mean the difference between victory and missing out on a podium. With the title fight so close this year, the smallest details are making the difference.

When Yamaha took to the track on Sunday, they had one main focus: to solve (or at least improve) the issue of excessive tire wear which has plagued them all season. After an impressive start to the season, the Movistar Yamaha team riders have struggled. The issue has been a major problem since MotoGP returned to Europe. At Jerez and Barcelona, the Movistar Yamahas struggled badly, but it has been tough at other tracks as well. A large part of the tire wear issue can be solved with electronics, but bike balance and swingarm parts will be vital as well.

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2018 MotoGP Rider Line Up, Late August - Three Seats Left To Fill

With Taka Nakagami and Karel Abraham signing contracts for 2018 over the weekend, and another announcement due at Silverstone, we can update the 2018 MotoGP rider line up. Just three seats remain open: the second seat at Marc VDS Honda, and both seats at Avintia Ducati. A single question mark behind the name of a rider indicates a very strong rumor. An asterisk indicates an alternative rumor for a signed contract.

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Subscriber Only Feature: Ducati's Paolo Ciabatti On Identifying Talent, Managing Riders, And Replacing Valentino Rossi

One day, Valentino Rossi will retire from MotoGP. That day won't come next year, and if Rossi is as competitive next year as he has been this year, it probably won't come in 2019 either. But at some point, age will creep up on the Italian, and he will be forced to hang up his leathers.

When that time comes, Yamaha will be faced with a problem. Valentino Rossi leaves some huge boots to fill. Finding a rider with the same charisma and fame outside of the sport is impossible, but even finding a rider capable of matching his results will be tough. Should Yamaha poach a top-level rider from another factory? Should they give one of the Tech 3 riders a chance to move up? Or should they look to a young rookie to partner Maverick Viñales? And whoever they do choose, what role does Viñales play in all of this, and how much say does he have in the choice?

How do you replace the irreplaceable? I spoke to three factory team managers about how they see the dilemma facing Yamaha once Valentino Rossi retires. They all talked about the various options open to Yamaha, and the strategies for assembling a team. They gave a fascinating insight into dealing with rider selection for a factory team.

First up in this series is Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati Corse Sporting Director, the man who oversees the sporting side of Ducati's race department. Ciabatti talked about how he saw Valentino Rossi, and the role Rossi plays at Yamaha. He discusses the options for replacing Rossi, and the pitfalls of looking for a new rider. Ciabatti was also open about Ducati's strategy in rider choice, and why they chose Jorge Lorenzo to partner Andrea Dovizioso.

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