Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after a thrilling first race of the 2019 season at Qatar:
On October 21st, 2018, at Motegi, Marc Márquez wrapped up his fifth MotoGP title in six seasons, with three races to spare. He did so despite having suffered his 18th crash of the season so far during FP4, the front washing out as he released the brakes in Turn 7. He led the MotoGP class in crashes at Motegi, and would continue to do so through the final race in Valencia, amassing a grand total of 23 crashes at official events throughout the 2018 season.
He had gone one better in 2018 than he had the year before, finishing second to Sam Lowes in 2017, ending up with 27 crashes to Lowes' 31. In 2016, he was a lowly third in the crash rankings, ending the season with 17 falls, behind Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller with 26 and 25 crashes respectively.
That propensity to crash has caused many people to question just how long Márquez can keep taking the risks that he does. Former triple world champion Wayne Rainey, in a recent interview with Motorsport.com's Gerald Dirnbeck, voices a concern felt by many. "If Marquez falls down over 20 times again next year, maybe Marquez beats himself," Rainey said. "When you are off your bike, sliding across the grass at 200km/h, maybe you're OK for the first two meters, but then if you start flipping across the track, anything can happen. I'm hoping Marquez can find a way to be more consistent. He needs to stay on his bike more. It's not very healthy to make mistakes like that."
Press releases from the factories and teams after the first MotoGP test of 2019 at Sepang:
With two WorldSBK tests under our belts, we are now just days away from the 2019 MotoGP preseason starting. The entire MotoGP field, minus the injured Jorge Lorenzo, will take to the Sepang circuit on 6th February for three days of testing.
But before that, from 1st to 3rd of February – that's Friday through Sunday – the MotoGP factories will be present at Sepang for the first shakedown test of the year. Test riders from all six factories will take to the track, and will be joined by the riders for the factories with concessions, who are allowed unlimited testing.
The original point of the shakedown test was to allow factories to ensure that all of the parts they have brought for their contracted riders (e.g. full-time entries in MotoGP) to test are actually working, and do some preliminary preparation ahead of the official test. After all, the full-time riders cannot afford to waste a day while engineers and mechanics try to figure out why something which worked at the factory has ceased to work at the race track, for example.
One of MotoGP’s most exciting riders tells us how he gets the best out of his bikes, tyres and electronics
Aleix Espargaró is yet to win a MotoGP race but he is one of the category’s most exciting riders, with an all-attack riding technique.
The Aprilia RS-GP rider, who I interviewed halfway through last season, is one of those who is happy to go pretty deep when he’s explaining his riding technique. He offers many fascinating revelations about MotoGP riding styles, as well as the behaviour of MotoGP engines, tyres and electronics.
Suzuki and Yamaha have struggled to keep up with Ducati and Honda in recent years, so what are their chances for 2019?
Inline-four MotoGP bikes have won two of the last 30 MotoGP races. That’s why some outsiders predict the end of the line for them.
But if you’ve been paying attention you will know that Ducati’s V4 and Honda’s V4 dominate MotoGP for reasons other than engine configuration. Both layouts have their good and bad points; end of story.
You would think that after writing about what I got wrong in my predictions last year, I would not be so foolish as to try to make predictions again for the 2019 season. As it turns out, I am that foolish, so here is a list of things I expect to happen in the coming year.
2019 certainly looks very promising for world championship motorcycle racing, in just about every class in both MotoGP and WorldSBK. A range of changes mean the racing should be closer and more competitive. Cutting the MotoGP grid from 24 to 22 bikes, and having the Petronas Yamaha team replace the underfunded Aspar squad, means there are more competitive bikes on the grid.
Ducati will field only GP19s and GP18s, and the GP18 is a much better machine than the GP17. Honda will field three 2019 RC213Vs, and a 2018 bike for Takaaki Nakagami, and the fact that Nakagami was fastest at the Jerez MotoGP test last November suggests that it, too, is good enough to run at the front. Yamaha, likewise, will field three factory-spec bikes, with only rookie Fabio Quartararo on a 2018-spec machine. Suzuki made big steps forward in 2018, and have a more powerful bike for 2019.
It's not just in MotoGP either. In Moto2, the new Triumph engine will change the way riders have to ride the bike, and the introduction of electronics – very limited, but still with more than the old Honda ECU kit had to offer – will give teams more options. Ducati's introduction of the Panigale V4R will make the WorldSBK series a good deal more competitive. And the cream of last year's Moto3 crop moving up to Moto2, to make way for an influx of young talent, will make both classes fascinating and exciting to watch.
So what can we expect from 2019? Here are a few concrete predictions:
1. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
It's been a difficult test at Valencia. The weather simply hasn't played ball. Tuesday started wet, took a few hours to dry out, then rain started falling around 3pm, meaning the riders effectively had around two and a half usable hours on track. Rain on Tuesday evening meant the track was wet on Wednesday morning, and in the chill of a November morning, it took a couple of hours before the track dried out enough for the riders to hit the track.
At least it stayed dry and sunny throughout the day, and the last couple of hours saw the best conditions of the test, times dropping until falling temperatures put paid to any thought of improvement. The teams may have lost time, but at least they had a solid four and a half hours of track time to work.
For half the factories, what they were focusing on was engines. Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki all brought new engines to test, and in the case of Yamaha and Honda, two different specs. Ducati was mainly working with a new chassis, aimed at making the bike turn better. Aprilia had a new engine and a new frame to try. And as usual, KTM had a mountain of parts and ideas to test.
It has been a strange and intense year in MotoGP, so it seems fitting that we should end the year with such a strange and intense weekend. Three races defined by the weather, by crashes, and by riders holding their nerve and playing their cards right. And at the end, an explosion of emotion. Exactly as it should have been.
There were no titles on the line on Sunday – no serious titles, though the riders vying for Independent Rider and the teams chasing the Team Championship may choose to disagree – but the emotional release on Sunday was as great, or perhaps even greater, than if all three championships had been decided. We had records broken in Moto3, a new factory on the podium in MotoGP, and a farewell to old friends in all three classes, as riders move up, move over, or move on.
The weather figured prominently, as you might expect. Moto3 and Moto2 got off lightly, the rain falling gently and consistently, keeping the track wet, but never to a truly dangerous degree. That did not stop riders from falling off, of course, and dictating the outcome of both races. Those crashes – two races, two riders crashing out of the lead – were just as emotional as the riders who went on to win.
In with the new, out with the old
The most remarkable skill of truly great motorcycle racers is their ability to compartmentalize everything. Break down every situation, put each part into its own separate container, and not let one thing bleed into another. Private lives – often messy, sometimes chaotic – stay in the box marked private life, and don't cross over into racing. Pain stays in the section reserved for pain, and is not allowed to encroach in the part set aside for riding. Crashes are to be analyzed, understood, and then forgotten, but not to be allowed anywhere near the part of a racer's mind where they keep their fears. That is the theory, at least, and the better a rider can manage to live up to the theory, the greater their chances of success.
Marc Márquez gave a masterclass in the art of compartmentalization during qualifying at Valencia. The Repsol Honda rider went out on his first run in Q2, and on his first flying lap, lost the front going into Turn 4, the first right hander after a whole sequence of lefts. It looked like a harmless low side, of the sort which Márquez has so often, and which he usually escapes without harm. But whether it was due to the bars being wrenched out of his hands, or due to his arm being folded up awkwardly beneath him as he tumbled through the gravel, he managed to partially dislocate his weak left shoulder.