Press releases from the factories and teams after the first MotoGP test of 2019 at Sepang:
For fans of technological innovation, the first day of the Sepang MotoGP test had been something of a disappointment. There were very few clearly visible upgrades to the bikes on display on Wednesday, teams using the first day to get themselves accustomed, and focus on checking the engine choices made back at the November tests. There were one or two things going on, but they weren't obviously visible to casual fans.
Thursday was a much better day for MotoGP tech nerds. New parts started to appear, as factories started working their way through the list of parts they have prepared for the 2019 season. Suzuki debuted a new fairing, with a more Yamaha-like aero package, with wider wing surfaces and a slimmer side section.
Alex Rins was positive about the new fairing. "It gave me more support on the front, less wheelie, which is important for the speed. We are faster on the straight because of the fairing – it’s more aerodynamic. The front wheel is more on the floor." That was borne out by his lap times, the Spaniard finishing with the second fastest time of the day, and the second highest number of laps in 1'59, including a run of four in a row. This was pace, rather than just a single quick lap.
Hitting the holeshot
All eyes were on Ducati, however, as a mystery lever appeared on the top of the Desmosedici GP19's (and only the GP19) top triple clamp:
Ducati launched their 2019 MotoGP campaign at the Philip Morris R&D cube in Neuchâtel, Switzerland this evening. The Mission Winnow Ducati team, as it is now called, consisting of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci were presented to the world on stage in Switzerland, in a new livery with a lot more red and a lot less white in it compared to previous years, in a throwback to the 2008 color scheme. Like that color scheme, there is a link to Philip Morris once again, though this time, indirectly. But much more on that later.
In a tightly-scripted presentation, Ducati managed to let slip just enough information to make the presentation interesting, without giving too much away. But what they did let slip was enough to allow observers to read between the lines for an insight into the factory. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna spoke briefly about the bike for 2019, but more importantly, sketched a picture of how the team and the team's two riders will function in much more of a partnership. This was in stark contrast to the combative atmosphere which prevailed when Ducati had both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo aiming to win the championship.
The live stream of Ducati's presentation of their 2019 MotoGP team from Neuchâtel in Switzerland is to start at 6pm Central European Time. We will be publishing photos of the new livery, along with news and updates from the launch, after the launch.
You can watch the live stream below:
The MotoGP riders are just two weeks into their shiny new contracts, but already, there is talk of what happens next. In Italy, there is a discussion of who gets the factory Ducati seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso in 2020. In Spain, they are looking ahead to 2021, and the option of KTM offering Marc Márquez a contract.
To start with Márquez first. The Repsol Honda rider is still in the midst of rehabilitation after his shoulder surgery in December. That is proceeding reasonably well, as Márquez' post on Instagram, showing him participating in the Fita973, a 13km cross country run organized by the Márquez brothers in Catalonia, demonstrates.
With the attention of the world turned to the Dakar rally, Spanish sports daily Marca, which also runs a radio program, called Marc Coma, former five-time Dakar winner and now head of KTM Spain, to talk about the rally currently going on in Peru. During the interview, Coma said that he wouldn't rule out an approach to Marc Márquez. "Marc was part of the KTM family in the past," Coma said. "KTM's MotoGP project is evolving in the right direction. When the bike is ready to win, why not have Márquez with us?"
The start of the year is traditionally a chance to look ahead, and make predictions for what is to come. But as an old Danish proverb, sometimes ascribed to the brilliant Danish physicist Niels Bohr, says, it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. To demonstrate just how hard, we will kick off the year taking a look back at predictions I made last year, and what I got wrong.
I started last year with an article in which I made three predictions for the 2018 season:
1. Marc Márquez wins more on his way to title number seven
He's going to win a lot of races in 2018 – my best guess would be eight or nine of the nineteen – and the way you win championships is by winning races.
This one, I got right. Marc Márquez did indeed go on to win the 2018 MotoGP championship by a comfortable margin, wrapping up the title at Motegi, in front of Honda's biggest bosses. And – more by luck than judgment – my guess for how many races Márquez would win was right on the money, the Repsol Honda rider racking up a total of 9 victories last year.
And the winner is... Takaaki Nakagami! Or at least the LCR Honda rider's name sit atop the timesheets at the end of the final day of the final MotoGP test of 2018. Which both counts for a lot, and counts for very little at the same time. The fact that Nakagami was able to do the time is proof that the 2018 Honda RC213V is a much better bike than the 2017 version which the Japanese rider spent last season on – see also the immediate speed of Franco Morbidelli, now he is on the Petronas Yamaha rather than the Marc VDS Honda. It was also proof that Nakagami – riding Cal Crutchlow's bike at Jerez – is a much better rider than his results on the 2017 bike suggest. And puts into perspective that this was the bike which Marc Márquez won the 2017 MotoGP title on.
But it also doesn't really mean very much. Testing is just testing, and the riders don't necessarily have either the inclination or the tire allocation to go chasing a quick lap time the way they do on a race weekend. Nobody wants to risk it all just to prove a point and get injured just before they go into the winter break. And with the top 15 within a second of one another, and the top 7 within a quarter of a second, the differences are pretty meaningless anyway.
Dovizioso finished runner-up to Marc Márquez in 2017 and 2018, so how does rider counter the skills of his greatest rival and how has riding technique changed since he came to MotoGP?
How has riding technique changed since you came to MotoGP in 2008?
Riding technique has changed a lot. The bikes have changed a lot and the intensity we are able to put into the bike has changed a lot, so you need to be much fitter because to be fast for 45 minutes with such a level of intensity is impossible if you are not very, very fit. This is the first thing, the second thing is the electronics. The electronics have changed a lot: they are much better and the way we manage them is much better; this is the biggest change and it affects our riding style.