Bradley Smith

Austria MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 1: Lorenzo And Zarco Recapped, And The Marquez vs Dovizioso War

Sometimes events overshadow events. The MotoGP race at the Red Bull Ring turned into an instant classic, pretty much as the last three editions have done, with the race decided at the last corner, but despite the adrenaline-filled, heart-pumping, edge-of-the-seat final few laps, it is the drama which happened off track for which this race will be remembered. The insanity of a rider stepping away from a MotoGP contract with no guarantees of a ride for 2020, and the insanity of a rider flirting with another factory with a few to swapping teams and manufacturers in the middle of a contract rather took attention away what turned out to be a fantastic race.

So let's get the off-track stuff out of the way first. Though I have covered both the Jorge Lorenzo situation and the Johann Zarco situation in some detail elsewhere, here is a quick recap of where we stand.

Jorge Lorenzo first, as that situation is now resolved. Over the summer break, it appears that Lorenzo had been in touch with Ducati about a possible return to the Italian factory, after having severely hurt himself on the Repsol Honda, and found it a far more difficult beast to tame than he had expected. That all came to a head in Austria, as the seat Lorenzo and Ducati were discussing was currently held by Jack Miller at Pramac Ducati.

Not worth the paper they are written on?

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The Zarco Saga: Johann Zarco To Part Ways With KTM For 2020, But Who Will Take His Place?

The Austrian round of MotoGP has been a weekend of bombshells. After the news that Ducati and Jorge Lorenzo had been in talks to replace Jack Miller in the Pramac squad before the weekend, on Sunday night it emerged that Johann Zarco has asked to be released from his contract with KTM for 2020.

The Frenchman has long been unhappy with the Austrian factory, sometimes very publicly so. Since the moment he jumped on the KTM RC16, he has struggled to adapt to the bike. Zarco's style is to be very smooth and precise, while the KTM only really responds to a very physical riding style, to being bullied around the track. The harder you push the bike, the faster you go, and that has always run completely counter to Zarco's natural riding style.

The relationship was star-crossed from the very beginning. Johann Zarco's former manager Laurent Fellon signed Zarco to a deal with KTM at the end of 2017, the Frenchman's first season in MotoGP. In the year that followed, Fellon continued to negotiate with both Repsol Honda and Yamaha, despite Zarco already having a deal signed with KTM. It was just one unusual aspect of the Frenchman's relationship with his manager.

From bad to worse

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Tom's Tech Treasures: Black Carbon From The Valencia MotoGP Test


Under the tank of the Yamaha YZR-M1 (Petronas)
Peter Bom: A dummy fuel tank on the Yamaha R1 as used by the mechanics to start and warm up the bike in pit lane. The real fuel tank is constantly measured for weight (= amount of fuel) to calculate fuel consumption. It was with a fuel tank like this that things went horribly wrong at the Suzuki pit box in Sepang. Fuel leaked out from a leaking hose and the bike caught fire.


Carbon swingarm on the RC213V (Marc Márquez)
Peter Bom: Honda RC213V’s carbon swingarm. Note the aluminum chain tensioner integrated to make room for the brake caliper and speeds sensors.

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2018 Valencia Race Round Up: KTM Cleans Up, New Tires Make The Difference, Emotional Farewells, And A 2019 Testing Preview

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

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Friday Round Up: Fast Rins, Yamaha Revival, And Marquez Saves

Given the severity of the storms which have washed across the Malaysian peninsula, you might expect practice for MotoGP to be a wet one minute, dry the next. So far, however, only the Moto3 class has had a problem with wet conditions, the day starting out on a drying track, then rain disrupting FP2 for the smallest class in Grand Prix racing. MotoGP were a good deal more fortunate, left with a dry track in surprisingly good condition.

That might explain why the times were so good: there were a handful of riders knocking out 1'59s in both the morning and afternoon sessions, times which normally only appear once qualifying starts. In 2017, only Valentino Rossi got into the 1'59s in free practice. In 2016, only Maverick Viñales managed it. "Lap times were fast today," said an impressed Bradley Smith of KTM. "1'59s were like a miracle in the past. Guys were on 1'59s from the first session and there in the second session as well, it wasn't just when the track was cool. We're still a little way away from a 1'58, which I think Jorge did in the test, but not that far away that I think it's the track conditions."

There is no obvious explanation for why the track would be so fast, Smith said. "Here we know, from February 1st to February 20-something, the track can be half a second slower, or faster, whichever way the conditions are going. I really can't put my finger on one thing or another."

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2018 Phillip Island MotoGP Race Round Up: Flirting With Disaster, And Triumph At Last

Phillip Island is a glorious race track, in a glorious setting, with a history of serving up glorious racing, especially when the weather plays ball. On Sunday, it did just that, the circuit bathed in warm sunshine, almost taking the edge off the antarctic chill which can still hit the circuit in very early spring. And great weather brought fantastic racing, starting with a spectacularly insane Moto3 race, followed up with a thrilling Moto2 race, and finally topped off with an intriguing and incident-packed MotoGP race.

The MotoGP grid arrived at Phillip Island mindful of the lessons of last year. In 2017, a large group had battled for the win for 20+ laps, until their tires were shot. Marc Márquez, having been mindful of his tires for much of the race, made his move in the last five laps, opening a gap over the chasing group of a couple of seconds. Everyone Márquez had beaten last year had spent the weekend concentrating on tire preservation for the last part of the race.

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Interview: Bradley Smith, Part 3 - On Proving The Doubters Wrong, On 'The Feeling', And On Coming Back To MotoGP

When Bradley Smith speaks, he always makes it worth listening. His thoughtful, analytical approach to racing means you will always learn something, always be surprised by something he says. At Aragon, we spoke to the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider for the best part of 40 minutes, and dissected a lot of areas of racing.

In this, the final part of the interview, Bradley Smith explains how he finds motivation through what is one of the most difficult parts of his career, developing the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, and being far from competitive. He describes the contrarian attitude, the wanting to prove people wrong, which drives racers to achieve what they do.

Smith also explains just what a rider is looking for from his bike. The Englishman gets into "the feeling", what he wants from his bike, and what that translates to out on the track. He talks about searching for, and not finding, that feeling from the KTM, and the pleasure at getting close to that feeling again, and posting competitive times.

Finally, Smith talks about what motivated him to take a test role, and why he wasn't ready to retire. What his objective is at Aprilia, and how he finds satisfaction from not just his own success, but in helping others. He also talks about wanting to make a comeback to racing, and how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Toni Elias, who returned to MotoGP, before looking forward to the future, after his racing days are over.

Make sure you read part 1 and part 2 of this interview, though you don't necessarily have to read them before reading this final part.

Q: Three or four seconds used to be second or third, and now four seconds you could end up outside of the top ten.

Bradley Smith: Yes. That's what we're talking about. I think that's what's fun about GP racing at the moment.

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