Michael van der Mark

10 Things To Look Forward To In 2017

The New Year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight.

If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

1. Six factories

For the first time since 2004, MotoGP has six different manufacturers* competing again. Unlike 2004, however, the level at which those manufacturers are competing is much more equal. In 2004, only Yamaha and Honda won races, though Ducati were regular visitors to the podium, and would win more consistently in 2005 and 2006. In 2016, four different manufacturers won races in the dry – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Ducati – and all four were consistent podium threats.

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The Top Ten WorldSBK Riders Of 2016

Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But who was the best rider of 2016? This is the MotoMatters.com top ten riders of the 2016 WorldSBK season.

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2016 Magny-Cours World Superbike Saturday Notes - Self Belief Wins Through

The decision on whether to be conservative or aggressive with your choices wasn't the key in Magny-Cours rather it was just about having belief in your convictions. With a drying track Chaz Davies was one of the few riders to start the race with intermediate tires and the gamble proved worth the risk for Davies as he romped to victory.

In the early stages with a wet track Davies was a sitting duck to riders with more grip from full wet weather tires. The Welshman even said afterwards that “I was so slow that I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had hit me!”

When the track started to dry the race came to Davies and rather than being a sitting duck he became a shark and picked off his rivals. It was an inspired race by Davies who rarely seemed to have push but instead kept calm and allowed the race to come to him.

Having made his decision on the grid - based on track conditions, the increasing temperature and the knowledge that the surface doesn't dry as fast as others - the Ducati rider raced accordingly. There were precious few heroics from Davies, but with a minimum pit stop time of 45 seconds, he knew that as long as he could stay upright he had a decided advantage. The tire compounds used in the slick and intermediate tires are quite similar and for Davies this gave him even more confidence in his decision.

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Lausitzring Lottery-A German WorldSBK roundup

It was a weekend of contrasts in Germany. Four weathers in a race weekend is usually something associated with Phillip Island, but with 30°C temperatures having welcomed the WorldSBK paddock from their summer break, the heat gradually transitioned to a downpour on a cold and windy Sunday.

With Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea claiming the spoils in the races there was little reason to think that this was a standout weekend, but in many ways the German round of WorldSBK could prove pivotal when the season concludes.

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Michael van der Mark Confirmed at Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Squad for 2017

In the latest round of poorly-kept secrets emerging at last, Yamaha have announced that they have signed Michael van der Mark for the 2017 season. He will join Alex Lowes in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad for next year, replacing Sylvain Guintoli.

The move had been long expected. It became clear over the summer that Van der Mark would be leaving the Ten Kate Honda team, with whom he has had a long relationship. Once the signing of Stefan Bradl alongside Nicky Hayden at Honda was announced, there was only one destination Van der Mark could be heading.

Part of Van der Mark's motivation for moving has to do with MotoGP. The Dutchman is known to be keen to move to the Grand Prix paddock, but could not find a competitive package, or a deal with hopes of progressing towards a factory team. A switch to Yamaha may smooth his path in the future, though with the Tech 3 team having signed two rookies for 2017 and 2018, that route could also be more difficult.

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Stefan Bradl to Join Ten Kate Honda in World Superbikes for 2017

In the first of a two-part announcement, the Honda WorldSBK team, run by Ten Kate, have announced that they have signed Stefan Bradl for the 2017 season. He will join Nicky Hayden for next year on the Honda CBR1000RR.

Bradl had the choice to stay in MotoGP, but the best offer he had was with the Avintia Ducati team. Bradl elected to race for podiums in World Superbikes, rather than top 10s in MotoGP. Though Honda is expected to debut a new Fireblade later this year, it is unlikely that bike will be ready to race for the 2017 season. Leaked details about the bike also suggest that it is a rather small evolution, rather than a radically new bike.

The announcement had been widely expected, as we wrote in our WorldSBK silly season round up last week. Bradl will be replacing Michael van der Mark, who will be signing for the Pata Yamaha squad in World Superbikes. With the Bradl signing now public, Van der Mark's announcement is now imminent.

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World Superbike Silly Season Update: Melandri's Back, Bradl Switches, Aprilia Arrives

While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing. With the Kawasaki riders' contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.

The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.

Melandri has been angling for a ride ever since his departure from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, a move he had never wanted to make in the first place. Over the past twelve months or so, he has been linked to rides with Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki in World Superbikes, and – possibly the most bizarrely inaccurate rumor to be published in a while – to a ride with BMW in MotoGP. (The fact that BMW have no intention of racing in MotoGP, and the break up with Melandri in 2013 so acrimonious that they would not have him back anyway is what made that particular rumor so entertaining.)

Melandri's return to the fold

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2016 Laguna Seca WorldSBK Review: Looking Back at Laguna, Forward to 2017

The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.

Jonathan Rea's dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defense.

An engine issue left Rea on the sidelines in Race 2, his championship lead immediately cut to 46 points. It is still a comfortable margin for Rea but suddenly doubt can creep into the Team 65 side of the Kawasaki garage. Tom Sykes' win on Sunday marked a return to the winner's circle for the former champion and while he is still an outside bet for the title he is at least back in realistic range of Rea.

Equal spoils for Kawasaki riders?

A win apiece for Rea and Sykes left them both with reason to cheer in California but it was Sykes that will leave the happier rider. The 2013 champion left Laguna Seca with 45 points and some momentum entering the summer break.

Sykes followed his teammate home in Race 1 but took advantage of Rea's retirement to take 25 points from his rival. Having crashed in Assen earlier in the season the tally stands at one retirement each but the 46 point lead still gives Rea a very healthy title cushion.

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