Assen, The Netherlands
The FIM has announced the provisional WorldSBK calendar for the 2019 season. The calendar as it stands has 13 rounds, 12 of which have been confirmed. Brno and Laguna Seca are out, while Jerez makes a comeback, with a midsummer round still to be announced. That round could be Kyalami.
The season starts out in a similar vein to previous years, kicking off proceedings at Phillip Island on 24th February, before heading to Buriram in Thailand three weeks later. Three weeks after that, the series lands in Europe, racing first at Aragon in Spain, where WorldSBK and WorldSSP are joined by the WorldSSP300 class, before heading north to Assen for the Dutch round. Four weeks after Assen, the WorldSBK paddock heads south to Italy for the round at Imola.
There has been a fair shake up of the middle of the season, with various rounds reshuffled. From Imola, the paddock heads west again to Spain, this time to Jerez, then drives all the way back again to Misano. From Misano, WorldSBK heads to the UK, for the British round at Donington Park.
After Donington, an additional round has been scheduled, though it is not yet clear where that is. It is widely expected to be Kyalami, though details remain to be finalized. After this round, WorldSBK heads into its long summer break, with no racing through the month of August.
Dorna today unveiled the provisional MotoGP calendar for 2019, confirming much of what we already knew. The schedule will consist of 19 races, as the circuit in Mexico City will not be ready to host a MotoGP race next year, and the Kymiring in Finland is also still under construction. Both races are provisionally expected to be on the 2020 calendar.
The calendar is broadly similar to this year's schedule, with a few tweaks. The season kicks off at Qatar on 10th March, earlier than usual and a week before F1, which normally starts before MotoGP. Three weekends later, the series is racing in Argentina at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, and two weeks after that, the whole circus heads north for the US round in Austin.
We are a week away from being able to book (provisionally, with free cancellation) to see a race in 2019. The provisional MotoGP calendar for 2019 is due to be published at the Misano round in just under 10 days' time.
As the official MotoGP.com website revealed over the weekend, there will only be 19 rounds in 2019. The numerical symmetry of that may be pleasing, but there were plans to have 20 races next season. The debut of the Kymiring in Finland has been delayed by a year to 2020, as the circuit will not be ready in time for a 2019 date. And the planned round in Mexico at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City has been dropped, unless the circuit is prepared to make changes.
MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. After every MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.
In this edition of Freddie Spencer's video blog, the former world champion takes a look back at one of the greatest premier class races in history, the 88th Dutch TT at Assen. Spencer starts off talking about the possibility of bringing F1 to Assen, and the reasons not to be too enamored of the idea. He looks back at his experiences of riding at Assen, at what was then a much longer track with the magical North Loop still intact.
After the exhilarating MotoGP race at Assen, the celebrations in the Suzuki garage for Alex Rins' second place were even more intense than those going on in the Repsol Honda garage, cheering on Marc Márquez fourth victory of the season. Rins had already had one podium back in Argentina, and been running at Qatar and Jerez before crashing out. His second place was, to some extent, confirmation that Suzuki had made the right choice in re-signing the Spaniard for the next two seasons.
Once the press conference had finished, I spoke to Suzuki Ecstar team boss Davide Brivio about Rins' podium. He explained to me how he felt the result had come about, and what it means for Suzuki.
Q: Really strong result by Alex. The bike is clearly better. Even though it’s only a small update that you brought to the engine, it seems to be better. Do you feel the Suzuki is there with Yamaha and Honda now?
Davide Brivio: Difficult to say. For sure, this track probably is good for the characteristics of our bike, a good chassis. The engine is a little bit more power so for sure, it doesn’t hurt. So it’s a help. I think we are quite good since the beginning of the year. Then we couldn’t really grab a result. OK, a good third position in Austin by Andrea, which was a third position but clear third position. In Argentina also we didn’t get any gift, everybody was there. Maybe Jerez was lucky because there were some crashes in the front, but also in Qatar Alex was there. Alex had a crash, but when he crashed he was in the group. He was not far away. So, we couldn’t really grab the results so far. I think it’s all the season that we are quite close, let’s say. We’re trying to close the gap.
Q: Is this also a sign that Alex is growing, that Alex is learning?
We suspected that Marc Márquez was something special when he came into MotoGP. The young Spaniard was fresh off his Moto2 title, having racked up the wins in the junior classes. He adapted even more quickly to MotoGP than he had to Moto2, getting on the podium in his first MotoGP race, and winning the second, becoming the youngest ever rider to win a race in the premier class. By the end of the year, he had added the distinction of being the youngest ever rider to win a premier class title.
From that point on, Márquez' appetite for victory has been voracious. Adding his win at Assen, he has accumulated a grand total of 65 Grand Prix wins, of which 39 in MotoGP. When he can't win, he will settle for second or third, finishing on the podium in 70.4% of the MotoGP races he starts. He also has four titles from his five season in MotoGP.
How does he do it? And what motivates him to keep up this level of competitiveness? At Assen, I sat down with Marc Márquez to try to understand what makes him tick. We covered a lot of ground in our conversation, starting with the pleasure of winning, and how he handled the pressure of a year without success in 2015 to improve his approach to racing. He discusses how he learned to manage risk better by keeping his eye on the prize at the end of the year, rather than just trying to win every Sunday.
There may never have been a more thrilling Grand Prix race than Sunday’s spectacular at Assen, so why does Rossi say racing is more boring than it used to be?
Wow. Epic MotoGP race. One of the best ever. More overtakes than in a decade of Formula 1. Closest top 15 in 70 years of Grand Prix racing. Hugely entertaining. And scary as hell.
Of course, motorcycle racing is supposed to be scary. It’s almost half the fun, whether you’re actually racing or just watching. I enjoyed every millisecond of Sunday’s race, but sometimes I could hardly hear what was going on for the ringing of alarm bells.
When it comes down to it, it is always individual races which define an era. Silverstone 1979 defined the late 1970s, with Barry Sheene coming up just short of Kenny Roberts, a milestone in the American takeover of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1983, at Anderstorp in Sweden, Freddie Spencer brought the Roberts era to an end, by beating the triple world champion with an outrageously late braking maneuver on the final lap.
In the 1990s, what we might now refer to as the First Golden Age, Hockenheim 1991 typifies the battles between Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey, where quarter was neither asked nor given. The wild scenes at Eastern Creek and Jerez in 1996 marked the rivalry between Mick Doohan and the man came closest to stopping him, Alex Crivillé. Valentino Rossi's arrival in MotoGP may have been spectacular, but his win at Welkom in South Africa in 2004, his first race on the Yamaha since leaving Honda beating arch enemy Max Biaggi, was a watershed in his career. That was the point at which Rossi truly transcended the sport.
When we look back at this period, which will surely be called the Second Golden Age, then Assen 2018, along with the 2015 and 2017 races at Phillip Island, will be the races that fans and pundits point to as the ones which defined the era. Mass battles between multiple riders, hard and close passing in which contact is frequent and accepted, a healthy mix of riders and bikes, of factory and satellite. Battles which rage almost from start to finish, with frequent lead changes, and an almost uncountable number of passes.
MotoGP standings after Assen: