The nose section of the Ducati fairing
Peter Bom: This is a great view of the inside of the nose section of the fairing. This is the air intake, which channels the air from the point of highest pressure at the nose, then channels it around the steering head and into the airbox, and from there into the engine.
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.
What are you to do if you find yourself stuck on a bike you know you can't ride? On a bike which you are convinced is trying to hurt you, and which you keep falling of every time you try to push? The obvious answer is you try to leave as soon as possible. But that simple answer hides a host of factors which make leaving not as easy as it looks. The cases of Jorge Lorenzo and Johann Zarco illustrate that very well.
First of all, why would a rider want to leave a factory ride? The pay is good, rarely less than seven figures. Riders have a chance to shape the bike and point development in a direction which suits them. They are treated, if not like royalty, then at least like nobility: transport is arranged and rearranged pretty much at their whim, picked up at their front doors before a race and deposited there again afterward. The pressure is high, but in a factory team, they do everything they can to take the strain and let their riders concentrate on riding.
That is little consolation when the going gets really tough. When you are struggling to get inside the top ten, despite giving your all to try to make the bike go faster. When you are crashing at twice, three times your normal rate. When factories are slow to bring updates to the bike. Or even worse, when they bring boxes and boxes of new parts, and none of those parts make much of a difference to your results.
Gravel rash on repeat
How tough can it get? In 2009, while Valentino Rossi was riding a Yamaha, he crashed 4 times during the season, the same number of times he had fallen the year before. In 2010, he crashed 5 times, though one of those crashes was enough to break his leg and take him out of competing for four races. In 2011, the year he switched to Ducati, he crashed 12 times. When you are not used to falling, that can put a real dent in your confidence. What's more, he scored just a single podium that year, compared to ten, including two wins, the year before.
There was so much to talk about after the Austrian round of MotoGP. The stunning battle and spectacular last lap between Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez, in which Dovizioso emerged triumphant. The bizarre story surrounding Jack Miller's contract and Jorge Lorenzo, a rider who wasn't even present in Spielberg. And to top it all, Johann Zarco's shock announcement he would be leaving KTM at the end of 2019, with no clearly defined plan.
While all of this dominated the headlines, there was so much more going on at the Red Bull Ring that got lost in all the drama. Developments which promise much for the future, both for next year and for the rest of the season. This was a weekend where Yamaha made a comeback, and especially where this year's crop of rookies started to shine.
That Fabio Quartararo should have a good race is no longer really news. The Frenchman has slotted in perfectly to the Petronas Yamaha SRT team, and has shone from the very first weekend. He has had a couple of podiums before, but the podium at the Red Bull Ring should count as something very special indeed. Barcelona and Assen, the two previous races where he got on the podium, are known to be Yamaha tracks. The Red Bull Ring is anything but.
No business being so fast
Sometimes events overshadow events. The MotoGP race at the Red Bull Ring turned into an instant classic, pretty much as the last three editions have done, with the race decided at the last corner, but despite the adrenaline-filled, heart-pumping, edge-of-the-seat final few laps, it is the drama which happened off track for which this race will be remembered. The insanity of a rider stepping away from a MotoGP contract with no guarantees of a ride for 2020, and the insanity of a rider flirting with another factory with a few to swapping teams and manufacturers in the middle of a contract rather took attention away what turned out to be a fantastic race.
So let's get the off-track stuff out of the way first. Though I have covered both the Jorge Lorenzo situation and the Johann Zarco situation in some detail elsewhere, here is a quick recap of where we stand.
Jorge Lorenzo first, as that situation is now resolved. Over the summer break, it appears that Lorenzo had been in touch with Ducati about a possible return to the Italian factory, after having severely hurt himself on the Repsol Honda, and found it a far more difficult beast to tame than he had expected. That all came to a head in Austria, as the seat Lorenzo and Ducati were discussing was currently held by Jack Miller at Pramac Ducati.
Not worth the paper they are written on?
The drama over this weekend - Jorge Lorenzo's flirtation with Ducati, and now Johann Zarco's precipitous split from KTM - together with travel plans post-race have caused a few logistical issues with producing the Subscriber Notes for the Austrian round of MotoGP.
The first part of the subscriber notes should be online some time this evening, with the second part to follow on Tuesday. Apologies, especially to subscribers, for the delay.
The Austrian round of MotoGP has been a weekend of bombshells. After the news that Ducati and Jorge Lorenzo had been in talks to replace Jack Miller in the Pramac squad before the weekend, on Sunday night it emerged that Johann Zarco has asked to be released from his contract with KTM for 2020.
The Frenchman has long been unhappy with the Austrian factory, sometimes very publicly so. Since the moment he jumped on the KTM RC16, he has struggled to adapt to the bike. Zarco's style is to be very smooth and precise, while the KTM only really responds to a very physical riding style, to being bullied around the track. The harder you push the bike, the faster you go, and that has always run completely counter to Zarco's natural riding style.
The relationship was star-crossed from the very beginning. Johann Zarco's former manager Laurent Fellon signed Zarco to a deal with KTM at the end of 2017, the Frenchman's first season in MotoGP. In the year that followed, Fellon continued to negotiate with both Repsol Honda and Yamaha, despite Zarco already having a deal signed with KTM. It was just one unusual aspect of the Frenchman's relationship with his manager.
From bad to worse
MotoGP standings after Austria:
Results and summary of the MotoGP race in Austria: