Jerez, Spain

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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Grand Prix Commission Confirms Testing To Be Limited As Calendar Expands

Today, the Grand Prix Commission officially announced further restrictions on testing for the MotoGP class. Those restrictions were published last month on MotoMatters.com, including the news that the Brno and Valencia tests are to be dropped in 2020, with further reductions in 2021.

The idea is that as the calendar expands from 20 races next year to 22 in 2022, testing is reduced to reduce the workload and stress on the riders and teams. In 2020, there will still be two tests in February, at Sepang and Qatar before the season starts, and Monday tests after the Jerez and Barcelona races. 

The Brno test will be dropped, however, as it made for a very short week between the Brno and Spielberg rounds of MotoGP, especially for the crews who have to tear down and build up the hospitalities and garages before and after each race. 

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Testing To Be Reduced In 2020 For Moto2 And MotoGP - Valencia, Brno Tests Dropped

As the MotoGP championship expands to 20 race in 2020, and the prospect of 22 races from 2022, Dorna and IRTA are making a push to reduce the amount of testing in the series. Next year, testing will be much more limited, not just for MotoGP, but for Moto2 as well.

At Misano, the Grand Prix Commission met to discuss testing for Moto2 going forward. There have long been complaints that the current rules allowed rich teams to spend a lot more time testing than poor teams, the lack of rules on testing between the end of the season and the start of the test ban on December 1st meaning that testing was almost unlimited.

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2020 Provisional Calendar - 20 Races, Finland Added, More Back To Back Races

The FIM have issued a provisional calendar for the 2020 MotoGP season, which sees the series expand to 20 races, and lays the basis for expansion to 22 races. The biggest changes are the addition of the Kymiring in Finland in July, and the moving of the Thailand round of MotoGP in Buriram from October to 22nd March.

The racing season kicks off as ever in Qatar, the MotoGP race being moved to the first week of March. From Qatar, the series heads east to Thailand, the MotoGP race taking the slot of the WorldSBK race at Buriram. Attendance for the WorldSBK round had fallen since MotoGP went to Thailand, and so the WorldSBK round is being dropped, with another overseas round to be held in its place.

From Thailand, the paddock heads east once again to cross the International Date Line and head to Austin, the US round moving up to become the third race of the year, ahead of Argentina. The Argentina Grand Prix takes place two weeks after Austin. 

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Interview Part 1: KTM Crew Chief Paul Trevathan On Pol Espargaro, Testing vs Racing, And Understanding Tires

MotoGP presents a dilemma for the motorcycle manufacturers. On the one hand, it has never been closer or more exciting, making it a very attractive prospect for factories looking to boost their profile and push the limits of their engineering prowess. On the other hand, when the top ten is so close and there are so many competitive bikes on the grid, it becomes much more difficult to make a mark on the championship. When there are perhaps 14 bikes capable of getting on the podium, the margin between success and failure is razor thin.

KTM is learning this lesson the hard way. In their third year competing in the championship, the Austrian factory is only now starting to make regular inroads into the top ten. Much of that success is down to Pol Espargaro, the stable factor in KTM's line up in its third season. Since the beginning, Espargaro has been working with crew chief Paul Trevathan, and that pairing has proven to be an ideal combination. Both lively, enthusiastic, with a keen sense of humor, and both absolutely dedicated to pushing above and beyond in pursuit of success.

At Barcelona, I sat down with Paul Trevathan to talk about KTM's MotoGP project, and working with Pol Espargaro. We covered a lot of ground in the 25 minutes or so we spoke for, talking about everything from applying lessons learned in motocross to MotoGP, how the progress KTM have made mean there is a little bit less testing and a little bit more concentrating on race pace, the benefits of using the right approach to testing, why Espargaro is currently really the only rider to get everything out of the KTM, and much more.

To make it all a little easier to digest, the interview has been split into two parts. Here is part 1, part 2 will follow:

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Nicolas Goubert On Rebuilding MotoE After The Fire, And Lessons Learned: Part 2 - Looking To The Future

Coming weekend, history will be made. For the first time, Grand Prix racing will welcome vehicles not powered by internal combustion engines, as the MotoE series makes its debut at the Sachsenring. It is the very first step on the long path toward a future where batteries replace burning hydrocarbons.

But the series got off to a rocky start, even before the first race. At the second test of the electric bike racing series, a fire started in the special tent containing all of the bikes, batteries, and chargers, destroying everything and wiping out the entire series in one fell swoop.

Since March, Nicolas Goubert, director of the MotoE series for Dorna, Energica, who build the spec electric bikes to be raced in the series, and Enel, who supply the charging technology to maintain the bikes, have worked at double speed to rebuild everything needed for the series, and get it ready for the inaugural race at the Sachsenring.

In Le Mans, I spoke at length to Goubert about the progress made in preparing the series, the challenges they had faced, and the lessons learned from the fire in Jerez. The fire highlighted some of the difficulties of an electric bike series, but just staging the series raises logistical and technical issues which nobody had foreseen.

Here is part 2 of the interview. If you want to read part 1, catch it here.

Q: Any logistics things that you haven’t thought of? Apart from the power supply in the charger, which you already said.

Nicolas Goubert: Yeah. We will be in charge of all the logistics. We’re trying to make the series as easy as possible for them. So basically it will be plug and play for them. They will arrive - when I say “they,” the teams. They will arrive with the crew.

Q: They turn up, set the bike up, the rider gets on the bike and rides, and that’s it?

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Nicolas Goubert On Rebuilding MotoE After The Fire, And Lessons Learned: Part 1 - After The Fire

Coming weekend, history will be made. For the first time, Grand Prix racing will welcome vehicles not powered by internal combustion engines, as the MotoE series makes its debut at the Sachsenring. It is the very first step on the long path toward a future where batteries replace burning hydrocarbons.

But the series got off to a rocky start, even before the first race. At the second test of the electric bike racing series, a fire started in the special tent containing all of the bikes, batteries, and chargers, destroying everything and wiping out the entire series in one fell swoop.

Since March, Nicolas Goubert, director of the MotoE series for Dorna, Energica, who build the spec electric bikes to be raced in the series, and Enel, who supply the charging technology to maintain the bikes, have worked at double speed to rebuild everything needed for the series, and get it ready for the inaugural race at the Sachsenring.

In Le Mans, I spoke at length to Goubert about the progress made in preparing the series, the challenges they had faced, and the lessons learned from the fire in Jerez. The fire highlighted some of the difficulties of an electric bike series, but just staging the series raises logistical and technical issues which nobody had foreseen.

Here is part 1 of the interview. Part 2 will follow tomorrow:

Q: I want to ask obviously about the progress, because that’s important, but also just in general about because setting up a completely new series, you’re going to run into things that you never thought of. But first of all, do you know what caused the fire yet?

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Jerez WorldSBK Round Up: Pressure Plays Strange Tricks

In racing you’re either under pressure or you’re applying pressure. The one thing proven over the years is that pressure will do strange things to a rider. The tension that comes from pressure and your reaction can lead to mistakes and Jerez showed that once again. We saw crashes and cool heads from riders under pressure.

Some riders are at their best when the pressure is at its most, others struggle in those moments and some make their mistakes when the pressure valve is relieved. On Saturday we saw Jonathan Rea make the mistake of a rider who has been seeing a world title slip away after round by round domination of Alvaro Bautista. On Sunday it was Bautista’s turn to make the mistake of a rider out in front. With two Jerez wins already in the bag he would have been feeling secure that another hat-trick was on the cards. Between these two riders stood Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman was peerless in race trim at the Spanish circuit and never put a foot wrong over the 50 racing laps. His reward were three podiums and his first win of the campaign.

Top level sport is 90% mental. The differences in outright talent levels aren’t that significant - they can’t be when you’re looking at the best in the world. The differences are subtle. It’s hard work, dedication and the mental game that separates the great from the very good. A slice of luck doesn’t hurt but you can’t rely on the rub of green on a consistent basis!

Seek and destroy

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