Press releases from the first day of world championship racing of 2019, issued by the organizers and some of the teams after Friday at the WorldSBK round in Australia:
Alvaro Bautista wrapped up testing in Phillip Island by dominating the time sheets in all four sessions. The Ducati rider has it all signed and sealed ahead of his WorldSBK debut this weekend. The top speed of the Ducati Panigale V4R is such that he’ll blow past everyone on the straight. Single-lap speed and top speed will make it an unbeatable package. After four years of Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki, dominance we’ve traded one era for another.
So goes the logic from some quarters of the WorldSBK paddock, but don’t run to the bookies to put the mortgage on Bautista. He’ll definitely start this weekend’s races as the favorite, and rightly so after his testing performances, but that’s the thing... that was testing. Racing is a very different beast and while the headlines from testing belong to the Spaniard, the Prosecco and the trophy might land somewhere else.
Phillip Island is a track tailor made for Bautista. Carrying corner speed and big lean angles mean that the long radius corners of the final sector are his ideal type of turn. Add to this the middle sector of the lap where you sweep from one side of the track to the other, and his accurate style always works well here; there’s a reason he was a contender for the MotoGP win last year.
Old dog, new tricks
Press releases from some of the teams after the final test of the preseason at Phillip Island:
Testing concludes with Bautista the man to beat in Australia
Jonathan Rea has gotten the band back together in his attempt to win an unprecedented fifth WorldSBK title in 2019
You’re the man to beat until someone beats you, and Jonathan Rea is doing all he can to make sure his time at the top continues. While the four-time WorldSBK champion might reset his points at the start of every season, he doesn’t reset the core group of people around him. Crew chief Pere Riba, electronics specialist Davide Gentile, and mechanics Uri Pallares and Arturo Perez are all back together for a fifth season.
The goal remains the same for Rea in 2019: winning. But after rewriting the record books where does the motivation come from for the Northern Irishman? At the start of his Kawasaki tenure the motivation was clear – win a first title. Since than it’s been about staying on top and then the fear of losing was a force last year. For 2019 Rea seems relaxed and the motivation seems to be coming from a less cluttered life.
“My motivation hasn’t really changed,” said Rea. “I want to stay at the top. At one point last year I did panic that maybe my time was running out, but this year I feel like I can ride into the wave again and keep it going. When I found the right feeling with the bike last year I felt invincible. It wouldn’t have mattered if you brought a MotoGP bike to the track with the best rider in the world. I felt like I’d go out there and win.
Testing paints a picture but it’s never a complete one. It shows only what the artist wants you to see with their work in progress. The winter is a time to work through your program and do it at your own pace. This year that has been even more the case. With new bikes for Ducati and BMW there is plenty of change in the air of the World Superbike paddock, and after eight days of testing there are arguably more questions than answers.
The Ducati V4R was billed as the weapon to finally end Jonathan Rea’s dominance of WorldSBK. It was a MotoGP-derived bike that didn’t pull punches. It was one that broke cover over 12 months before its competitive debut. It was expected to be a honed creation from the outset. It was expected to be seamless. But instead, Ducati’s introduction of their new machine has run aground this winter.
Circumstances have worked against Ducati. Four days of testing in November were ruined by bad weather in Aragon, and then a bad track surface at Jerez that would need to be replaced. With a brand new surface at Jerez, it was dirty for the opening test of 2019. It took time to clean and it was almost impossible for riders to do long distance stints without excessive tire wear. Coming to Portimao it was hoped that Ducati could get some information on the new bike.
Press releases after the Portimao World Superbike test:
Jonathan Rea tops final day of pre-season testing at Portimao.
Press releases from some of the teams present at the Jerez WorldSBK test:
Whatever number of permanent WorldSBK entries Dorna had in mind for the 2019 season, you can bet it was not 18. Yet, to listen to some comments regarding this final number you might imagine that some global tragedy had occurred, rather than WorldSBK simply facing up to reality.
A reality created both by itself and the actions of others.
So why are there missing links in WorldSBK’s ideal drive chain length this year? Many reasons, but here are the biggies.
There are a few books which every MotoGP fan should have on their bookshelves. As many editions of Motocourse as you can afford, of course, for a review of each year, as it was seen at the time. Michael Scott's MotoGP, The Illustrated History, for a grand overview of the history of Grand Prix racing. Mat Oxley's Age of Superheroes, for a closer look at the previous golden age of GPs, if you can get your hands on a copy. And Rick Broadbent's Ring of Fire, a look at the heady days at the end of the 990cc era in MotoGP.
Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology belongs in that list. Part history and part technical reference work, MotoGP Technology takes a detailed and in depth look, not just at the current batch of MotoGP bikes and how they work, but also why they work. It is, if you like, a work on the engineering theory behind the design of a racing motorcycle, but also a guide to how the manufacturers racing in MotoGP have put that theory into practice.