Franco Morbidelli

Provisional 2019 MotoGP Grid - 21 Riders Confirmed, Grid Almost Finalized

With the announcement that Takaaki Nakagami has signed for an extra year with the Idemitsu LCR Honda squad, the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost finalized. Nakagami's signing brings the total of confirmed riders up to 21 of the total of 22 entries.

The only rider left to be confirmed officially is Tito Rabat. The Spaniard's serious leg injury, sustained at Silverstone, has caused a delay, with his contract extension expected to have already come earlier. There is no doubt that Rabat will get the final seat, though it will probably have to wait until he is fit enough to return again.

Below is the official line up for 2019:

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CormacGP Shoots Aragon: The Race In Spain Was Mainly On The Plain


The second half of 2018 is turning into a repeat of 2017: Dovizioso vs Marquez


Pol Espargaro was back in fine style, until he fell and rebroke his collarbone


Dark days for Movistar Yamaha at the moment


Story of the race: Jorge Lorenzo went down at Turn 1, and blamed Marc Marquez for it. Race Direction disagreed

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2018 Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: MotoGP Emulating Moto3, Failed Mind Games, And Yamaha's Descent Continues

It is a common enough sight in Grand Prix racing: slower riders cruising around at the edge of the track, waiting for a faster rider to come by so they can get a tow. It is especially common at the Motorland Aragon circuit. With its massive back straight of nearly a kilometer in length, a decent slipstream can be worth an awful lot.

It is less common to see slower riders cruising for a tow in MotoGP. In Moto3, sure: with horsepower at a premium, cutting down on drag equates to free speed. In Moto2 as well, as the fact that the bikes all produce exactly the same horsepower means that riders have to find an advantage anywhere they can. But MotoGP? A lack of horsepower is not really a problem in the premier class. The bigger problem is usually transferring it to the tarmac to generate drive, and translate that power to speed.

But Aragon is different. Sure, tucking in behind another bike can give you extra speed using their draft, but above all, using another rider as a target makes you that little bit faster. "MotoGP is so close now that if you can follow someone, get a bit of a tow, that's obviously going to improve your time," Bradley Smith explained on Saturday afternoon. "We don't see it very often in MotoGP, to be honest, as much as it was today, but it shows how important it is here in Aragon."

Reference, not tow

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CormacGP Shoots Misano - Racing Beauty On The Rimini Riviera

Another new feature on the site starting this week. After every round of MotoGP, the immensely talented Cormac Ryan Meenan of CormacGP will be supplying a selection of photographs from that weekend's event. If you'd like to see more of his work, you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram, or check out his website, cormacgp.com.


Flying on Friday and Saturday, but when the grip went, so did Maverick Viñales' chances of a podium


Miller Time

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Interview: Veteran Crew Chief Gilles Bigot, Part 3 - On Giving The Rider The Bike They Need To Go Fast

In the final part of our mammoth interview with Gilles Bigot, crew chief to Tom Lüthi, the Frenchman takes a deep dive into the process of adapting to riding in MotoGP, and some of the problems Lüthi has had in making the switch. The greatest task for a crew chief, Bigot explains, is finding the right setup to give the rider what they need to go fast, and convincing the rider of the best way to get the most out of the bike they are riding.

Through his explanation Bigot meanders through a range of fascinating subjects. From the effect of exhaust valves on two-stroke 500s, via riding a MotoGP bike with the front rather than the rear, to helping Tom Lüthi adapt to the extremely aggressive Honda, and perhaps the mistakes made along the way.

Taken together with the other two parts of this interview – part 1, where Bigot discusses seeing a young Valentino Rossi adapt to four-stroke MotoGP machines faster than his rivals, and how patience can be a key part of adapting from one class to the next, and part 2, detailing Lüthi's specific problems in adapting to MotoGP – a clear and informative picture emerges of the many and varied details which go into the process of switching from one class to the next.

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The Cat Is Out Of The Bag: Petronas SIC Yamaha MotoGP Team To Be Presented At Silverstone

It is hard to keep secrets in the MotoGP paddock (though not impossible, as Jorge Lorenzo's move to Repsol Honda conclusively proves). One of the worst kept secrets has been the news that the Sepang International Circuit, or SIC, is to expand its current operation to include a MotoGP team. Over the months since rumors first started circulating that Sepang was interested in running a MotoGP team, details have slowly dripped out, until we now have an almost complete picture. The whole picture is to be formally announced at Silverstone, at a press conference at 6pm BST on Friday.

Here's what we already know: the team is to be an extension of the current Petronas Sprinta Racing team, which currently runs Adam Norrodin and Ayumi Sasaki in Moto3, and Niki Tuuli in Moto2. The Petronas SIC Yamaha team, as it will almost certainly be called, will be the showcase team for the Petronas-backed structure run by the Sepang International Circuit. The objective is to have two riders in each of the three Grand Prix classes, from Moto3 to MotoGP, as well as a team in the FIM CEV Junior World Moto3 Championship. 

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Lin Jarvis: On The Sepang Yamaha Team, Dealing With Rumors, And Ending Yamaha's Winless Streak

Yamaha have been at the center of the MotoGP news for a good part of this season. For good reasons and for bad reasons: the new Petronas SIC satellite team has been at the center of speculation over who would run the team, who would manage the team, and more importantly, who would ride for the team, with some top riders linked to the seats. But Yamaha have also now gone for 19 races without a win, their longest streak without a victory since 1998. At the same time, Valentino Rossi is second in the championship, and Movistar Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales is third, and both riders have been podium regulars throughout the first part of 2018.

After the Sachsenring, Yamaha announced that Monster Energy would be taking over as title sponsor from the 2019 season, replacing the departing Movistar, who are expected to lose the MotoGP broadcasting contract for Spain and are stepping back from the series. On Thursday at Brno, Yamaha held a press conference with Monster Energy, giving the media their first chance to question Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis and Monster Energy Vice President Mitch Covington about the deal.

Once the press conference was over, a small group of journalists got a chance to question Jarvis about the challenges the factory Yamaha team has faced over the course of this year. He spoke about dealing with the pressure of going for such a long time without a win, of handling rumors about dissatisfaction within the team, and some of the more fanciful rumors of discord between Valentino Rossi and himself, and about needing to expand their testing strategy.

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Mid-Season MotoGP Silly Season Update: 22 Bikes - Marc VDS Out, Petronas SIC In

The summer break – if an extra weekend off can be counted as an actual break – marks the end of the first half of the 2018 MotoGP season, but it also marks a significant point in the MotoGP Silly Season. With Marc van der Straten telling the riders and crew of the Marc VDS MotoGP team that the team will not be competing in MotoGP in 2019 and beyond, the final shape of the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost clear.

There was no official announcement to mark the withdrawal of the Marc VDS squad, it was indirectly confirmed when the team sent out a press release (shown below) announcing that they had extended their deal with Alex Márquez for the Spaniard, younger brother of Marc, to remain in Moto2 for another season. Emilio Alzamora, who manages both Márquez brothers, had been pushing for Van der Straten to keep at least one grid slot in MotoGP for Alex Márquez, a move which had the strong backing of his brother Marc. Alex Márquez remaining in Moto2 is tacit confirmation that there is no seat in MotoGP for the Spaniard.

The withdrawal of the Marc VDS team, and the transfer of the Angel Nieto Team's grid slots to the Petronas SIC Yamaha team (whose existence was confirmed officially in a press release between the Dutch and German rounds of MotoGP) means that the MotoGP grid will be smaller in 2019. There will be 22 riders lining up at Qatar, rather than the 24 who started at Losail this season. The loss of two riders from the grid will not overly trouble Dorna: with uncertainty over who will broadcast MotoGP in Spain next year, saving around €6 million in team subsidies will create some negotiating room for the series organizer.

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Franco Morbidelli Forced To Withdraw At Sachsenring, Bradl To Substitute

Franco Morbidelli has been forced to withdraw from the German GP at the Sachsenring. The Marc VDS rider was suffering too much pain in his left hand, which he broke in a crash during practice at Assen. 

Morbidelli had been hopeful he would be able to ride when he spoke to the media on Thursday evening.  "The fracture is recovering pretty well so I decided to come and try to race," he said. "It is a left-hand circuit. but what gave me confidence is that it’s a track when you spend a lot of time on the edge, so you don’t have to make a lot of changes in direction."

Morbidelli's optimism proved premature, however. In the end, his left hand was causing him too much discomfort, and he was forced to withdraw. Morbidelli is to be replaced by Stefan Bradl, currently an HRC test rider, and already present as a TV presenter working for the Red Bull-backed Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Preview - Defeating The King Of The 'Ring, And Replacing Pedrosa

The Sachsenring is a unique circuit, and a unique place. We say that about almost every racetrack we go to, but it is much more true of the Sachsenring than of anywhere else. No track is as tight, yet deeply challenging as the tightly-coiled circuit in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, and the atmosphere among the fans is electric.

Normally here, I would give a brief description or history of the circuit at which MotoGP is due to race. But Mat Oxley has already done that much better than I would have, so I suggest you read his article on the Motor Sport Magazine website. There is a very good chance that this is the last race here at the Sachsenring, as Oxley lays out in the article. But all hope is not yet lost: regional politics may yet solve the problem, though it will be done with taxpayers' money.

Given the huge attendance at the circuit – Sunday numbers often well over 90,000, and over 100,000 on occasion – the race generates a huge amount of revenue for the surrounding area. Hotels are full, restaurants are heaving, supermarkets stock extra food and drink (especially drink). All that generates more revenue for local government through taxes. But will that be enough to justify spending on keeping the race here?

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