KTM

2018 Barcelona MotoGP Preview: Will A New Surface Make Montmeló A Yamaha Track Once Again?

Barcelona has always been a challenging track, but the MotoGP paddock has faced additional challenges at the Catalonian circuit over the past three years. The tragic death of Luis Salom – a typical case of confusing the improbable with the impossible, and leaving a section of track with no gravel runoff and fence unprotected – caused the track layout to be changed halfway through the weekend in 2016, dropping the long left of Turn 10 and the sweeping right of Turn 12, and replacing them with the F1 layout.

A year later, the circuit made other changes, revising the F1 chicane to stop bikes which crashed from crossing the track, while still keeping the F1 layout replacing Turn 10, a tight hairpin and quick kink replacing the long sweeping turn. But that, too, had its shortcomings.

Even the revised chicane was a poor compromise, and for 2018, the Circuit de Catalunya chose to make more radical changes. The track badly needed resurfacing, and the circuit chose to reconfigure the runoff at the sweeping right hander which MotoGP used to use instead of the chicane. That restored the old Turn 12 (though it is now Turn 13, confusingly), bringing back much of the track's old glory. The old section, the tighter right hander of Turn 12, followed by the two sweeping turns of Turn 13 and Turn 14 which build towards the finish line.

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The Comprehensive Silly Season Update: Mugello Madness Sees Lorenzo Go Repsol, Petrucci To Ducati, And More

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP.

So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions which almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen. Instead, Lorenzo has signed a two-year deal with HRC to partner Marc Márquez. The announcement was originally due at Barcelona, but the publication by La Gazzetta forced Honda to make a hasty and brief announcement..

The Petronas rumors had plenty of fire to provide the smoke. In an interview with Crash.net, Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato' Razlan Razali openly discussed the possibility of running Yamahas with Lorenzo and Franco Morbidelli. Everyone I spoke to – including other team managers, rider managers, riders, journalists – believed that Jorge Lorenzo would be riding a Yamaha in 2019.

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2018 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Crashes Shape The Championship, Yamaha's Woes, Ducati's Decision, And Moto3 Madness

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking. In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways. In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa's brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden's championship challenge was over. Valentino Rossi's heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time. Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia. The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship. And Sunday's drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn't finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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2018 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Old Hards Vs. New Softs, Avoiding Electronics, And Dovi's New Deal

Andrea Dovizioso's manager arrived in Le Mans on Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon, the Italian had a new two-year contract with Ducati, provisional pole after FP2, and a new lap record. Not a bad start to the weekend, and a harbinger of good things to come, you might think. This is after all not particularly a Ducati track, yet here he was, on top of the timesheets.

Perhaps having his future settled helped, but Dovizioso has been an expert at excluding distractions from his race weekends. The simple fact is that the Ducati man was quick at Jerez, and is quick here, because he is in good form, and the bike is working really well. Dovizioso heads into qualifying feeling confident.

But there is a fly in the ointment, and it is Márquez-shaped, as always. Dovizioso had been pretty quick throughout the first part of FP2, just a couple of tenths behind the leader Márquez. Then in his final run, he fitted a new soft rear slick, dropped six tenths of a second off his best time and set a new lap record around Le Mans. It was an impressive showing of blistering speed.

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2018 Jerez MotoGP Monday Test Press Releases

Press releases from the teams after the Monday test at Jerez:


Zarco tops the testing time sheets in Jerez - Syahrin sits out

Just one day after his fantastic second place finish at the Spanish Grand Prix, Johann Zarco was back on track today to go through some different settings aboard his Yamaha YZR-M1. Following some intense working hours and 63 laps at the Jerez Circuit, the French star concluded the official test superbly in first position and was even 0.226 seconds faster than during Qualifying last Saturday.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Is Zarco complètement gaga?

Johann Zarco is one of MotoGP’s most talented riders, but he’s signed with a factory that hasn’t come close to the podium, let alone victory. Has the Frenchman lost his mind?

The normal trajectory for an up-and-coming MotoGP superstar goes something like this: prove your talent in Moto2 or show your skill aboard a so-so MotoGP bike, sign with a winning factory, then become MotoGP world champion.

Johann Zarco’s MotoGP stock couldn’t be higher than it is right now: the Frenchman is a front-row and podium regular on a second-hand motorcycle that was designed for the 2015 season, to work with Bridgestone tyres and tailormade factory electronics. And yet despite all this he might just become the first privateer premier-class world champion in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing.

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2018 Jerez MotoGP Monday Test Round Up: Big Things Coming, But Not Here, Yet

Once upon a time, a post-race test would see almost a full complement of riders taking part. But in the past couple of years that has changed, as spec software has meant fewer things to do. The spec software, the engine freeze, the aerodynamics freeze: there is less to test, and so more factories are opting out of the one-day post-race tests. So it was at Jerez on Monday that the factory Ducati riders, the Ecstar Suzuki team, and the Gresini Aprilia squad all decided to skip the test at Jerez in favor of some private testing at Mugello later in the week. Behind closed doors, they can work a little more freely, away from the prying eyes of the press, and especially of a contingent of photographers.

There are other reasons to be wary of a post-race test. The track is in as good a condition as it is going to get on the Monday after a race. It has been swept clean by a weekend of racing, and the last class to smear its rubber all over the track is MotoGP. So the bikes are treated to a clean, well rubbered in circuit, allowing lap times to drop. The average improvement between the race and the test was nearly 1.3 seconds a lap. About half the 16 permanent riders who took to the track on Monday improved their times from qualifying. It is fair to say that Monday tests can be deceptive.

Nothing gained

That was certainly Maverick Viñales' view of the test. "Well, Monday is always positive but we have to be positive on Sunday," the Movistar Yamaha rider said. "We didn’t solve nothing." The Spaniard ended the test as fourth fastest, behind Johann Zarco, Cal Crutchlow, and Dani Pedrosa, but he put it down to the conditions. "In the morning it was really different – much more grip, and much easier. Easier to do 1'38 lows. During the weekend it was impossible to do that."

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