Gordon Ritchie has covered World Superbikes for over a quarter of a century, and is widely regarded as the world's leading journalist on the series. MotoMatters.com is delighted to be hosting a monthly blog by Ritchie. The full blog will be available each month for MotoMatters.com subscribers. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here. This month's blog has been published for non-subscribers as well, as it addresses an important subject, and is in part a reply to an article by respected Spanish journalist Manuel Pecino. If you would like to read all of Gordo's columns in full, make sure you subscribe.
New season looming, same old story. Where are the indicators of new/young British talent coming from in the MotoGP entry list? Actually, in WorldSBK too, which is the point I would finally like to address.
Let me be clear that this column was going to be about something else entirely this month until a wander through the Twittersphere pointed my curiosity in the direction of old friends and colleagues, Mat Oxley and Manuel Pecino. Few racing journalists are as respected as these guys, each with decades of cutting-edge MotoGP scribing and insight behind them.
I was hooked even before I followed the link to read the pecinogp.com story asking – from a Spanish perspective and using Mat as their British conduit - where were the British riders going to come from now in the top MotoGP class?
After the press conference part of Ducati's 2020 MotoGP launch, we got a chance to ask Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna a few more questions about the Italian factory's plans for the coming season. Dall'Igna expanded on some of the things he had told the press conference, such as his priority for the Desmosedici GP20, and how he expected the new Michelin rear tire to affect the racing.
But Dall'Igna also answered some other questions as well. The Ducati Corse boss talked about why he wanted more power from the GP20, the support on offer for Johann Zarco, how he sees rider contracts, and Ducati's thoughts on racing in Endurance. He even fielded a question about Marc Márquez, and managed to answer it by not answering it.
Corners or straights?
One of the main questions the media had for Dall'Igna was what his priorities were for the GP20. Ducati had brought a couple of new chassis and a new engine spec at the Valencia and Jerez tests last November, and at Valencia, especially, the bike seemed to turn better. At Jerez, that improvement didn't seem as significant.
Was the GP20 really better in the corners? "It’s difficult to tell you an answer," Dall'Igna said. "For sure we’re improving the bike. We have some ideas about improving the bike that can help us in that direction. But we have to test it before telling you something. Maybe after Sepang I can tell you something more."
Scott Redding was at the centre of attention when the British Superbike season began in late April. A MotoGP outcast, the 26 year old was faced with fight or flight. Could he win races? Could he ride a Superbike? Could he turn around his career? Fast forward four months and Redding is still at the centre of attention, only this time it's from WorldSBK teams - looking for the hottest property in BSB.
“The last 12 months have been a crazy turnaround,” admitted Redding. “I've gone from rock bottom to the top of the top in terms of emotions. Coming to BSB after racing for Aprilia has been crazy for me because the end of 2018 was the hardest time I've ever had in racing. Losing the Moto2 title was hard, but I could show my potential on track whereas at Aprilia, I couldn't show any of that. To go to PBM and race for Ducati has let me show my talent again.
“I went to BSB without knowing what to expect, but I've really enjoyed this year. I've enjoyed the series - I like how it's run - I've enjoyed the fans and how involved they get. I've enjoyed the racing - apart from a few moments but, that's bike racing! I've had a really enjoyable year; I've found my passion and love for racing again which I lost in MotoGP, and I'm really happy to have it back. It's been a good year so far.”
In just 15 races in the domestic championship, Redding has established himself as the clear favourite for the title. With more wins and more podiums than his rivals, he knows that he’ll be in a strong position for The Showdown in the final three rounds of the year. With Assen, Donington Park and Brands Hatch playing host to the title deciders, he knows each of them and is fast at them too. The man who skipped an education on British tracks to instead learn his trade in Spain looks ready for domestic glory.
Mental vs physical
It had been known unofficially for weeks, but today, the Aruba.it Ducati team announced that they have signed Scott Redding to ride for them in WorldSBK for the 2020 season. Redding has had a very strong season in BSB since losing his ride in MotoGP with Aprilia, and is currently second in the standings behind Be Wiser Ducati teammate Josh Brookes.
It comes as no surprise that Redding is off to WorldSBK. The Englishman had expressed an interest in returning to world championship racing, having first been linked with the Shaun Muir Racing BMW effort. That option faltered over contractual difficulties getting Redding out of the second year of his BSB deal, but a switch to a Ducati team was easier to negotiate.
When people talk about the differences between BSB and WorldSBK the biggest talking point is the relative competitiveness of both. What are the biggest factors?
I’m a self confessed addict. There’s nothing better than sitting down on a Sunday to watch racing. It doesn’t matter what it is. Cars or bikes I’ll be sitting down to watch it. My earliest memories are of sitting down and watching Formula 1 and from when I started to watch World Superbikes and 500GP in the 90’s I was fully hooked.
Missing school on a Friday and watching practice sessions wasn’t a regular occurrence but it did happen on far too many occasions to be purely coincidental. I can still remember being a schoolboy and seeing British and American Superbike stars wild card, take pole positions and race wins. It was a magical time for Superbike racing when it was the biggest game in town in the UK and Ireland.
Some say current technical regulations are unfair for bigger riders like Petrucci and Rossi, so is it time to even things up a bit? Michelin and Ducati think so
Some years ago I thought MotoGP needed a combined rider/machine minimum weight. After all, I reasoned, if Formula 1 (where the car weighs around nine times more than the driver) has a combined limit, surely it would make sense in MotoGP (where the bike is a bit more than twice the weight of the rider).
So I talked with several MotoGP engineers and technical director (now race director) Mike Webb. They were all convinced this wasn’t the way to go. They said it’s swings and roundabouts, especially in the case of soon-to-retire Dani Pedrosa whose advantages on the swings (the straights) are easily outweighed by his disadvantages on the roundabouts (the corners).
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the Malaysian Grand Prix:
Press releases from some of the MotoGP teams and factories ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang: