It is tempting before each season to say that this is going to be the best season ever. It is a phrase that oscillates somewhere between hope and expectation, though more often than not, it is hope which has the upper hand. The 2019 MotoGP season promises to swing the balance back toward expectation, as the sport goes from strength to strength.
The reason MotoGP went from having 17 bikes on the grid in 2010 and the races decided virtually by qualifying position is simple. Thanks to a mixture of coaxing and cajoling, bribing and bullying, Dorna managed to get most of the rule changes they wanted. First, a switch back to 1000cc, bore limited to impose a theoretical rev limit (which has remained theoretical, as revs soar back above 18,000). Next, the adoption of spec electronics, forced through with the threat of CRT bikes, along with a promise by the factories to supply bikes at an affordable price.
Then the introduction of the more user-friendly Michelin tires. The concession system, whereby successful factories have engine designs frozen, giving less successful factories a chance to catch up. And finally, an influx of talent to fill a field of closely competitive bikes.
Close as you like
Behind the fairing of the Kalex (Marc VDS)
Peter Bom: A typical winter test photo. The wiring hasn't been tidied up and isn't very neat. Below the clutch lever, you can see a sensor which measures the movement of the steering damper. This isn't part of the ECU strategy (yet), but it does tell the data engineer a lot about the position of the bike, for example, if the bike is getting sideways when braking.
The switch to Triumph engines in Moto2 has had a major impact on the chassis manufacturers in the middleweight class, requiring a complete redesign of their chassis. The dimensions of the Triumph 765cc triple is very different to the Honda CBR600RR engines which they replace, and the power delivery places very different demands on the chassis in terms of handling and getting drive out of the corners.
After the first test at Jerez, Kalex appears to have done the best job of understanding the requirements the new engines place on the chassis. Eleven of the top twelve riders were on the German bikes, with only Jorge Navarro on the Speed Up spoiling the party in sixth. Austrian giant KTM were in real trouble, Brad Binder the best-placed KTM rider in thirteenth, over nine tenths behind Luca Marini on the Sky VR46 Kalex. Six of the last ten riders are on KTMs.
Reason for Kalex chief chassis designer Alex Baumgärtel to celebrate? "Well, it's too early to say," the affable German told us on Saturday. "It's just one and a half days now, and one of those had a wet session start, so I would say 'tranquilo', let's be calm. It was not a bad start, let's call it like that, with only minor problems. But everybody still had quite a lot of work to do to understand how systems work."
Press releases from some of the teams after the first Moto2 test with the new Triumph engines and Magneti Marelli electronics:
TOP-2 FOR LOWES AT JEREZ MOTO2 DEBUT
Jerez marked the start of a new era for Moto2 as a whole, but it also marked a reset in the career of Tom Lüthi. The Swiss rider moved up to MotoGP with the Marc VDS team for 2018, but suffered through a miserable season vying for the last few places in every race. It was, he told us, the most instructive year of his career.
For 2019, Lüthi returns to Moto2, racing a Kalex for the Dynavolt Intact GP team. On Saturday evening, a group of journalists spoke to Lüthi at length about adapting back to Moto2, and how the class has changed with the advent of the Triumph engines and the introduction of Magneti Marelli electronics. It proved to be an extremely enlightening insight into the differences between the old Honda-powered 600cc Moto2 bikes, and the new, 765cc Triumph-powered triples.
Q: How are you adapting back to Moto2?
TL: It was actually a good day for us. A little bit disappointed, it was a pity it was shortened a little bit by the rain and the conditions. I've got to the point already where I have really had enough of this rain, after Valencia, and now again! It's tiring...
But we could work quite well, it was an interesting day, but still a lot of work to do. I have still quite a lot of focus on the seat position, still not absolutely happy with that. We could improve some steps, but still there is some more to do, for sure. Also in the bike in general we could improve, electronics side, engine brake side, we could make steps forward, but there are still many things to try to understand what's the right thing and what's the wrong thing. It's still a new bike.
Press releases from some of the Moto2 teams after the first day of testing at Jerez with the new Triumph Moto2 engine:
Kalex issued the following press release after their test with the Triumph Moto2 engine and Magneti Marelli electronics:
PROMISING CONCLUSION OF FIRST TEST WITH 2019 RACE SPEC TRIUMPH ENGINE
From this week’s Tuesday to Thursday, the German chassis manufacturer KALEX Engineering continued its developing process and preparations for the next season with a three-day test at Spain’s MotorLand Aragón circuit.