Takaaki Nakagami

2019 Argentina MotoGP Race Round Up: False Starts, Close Fights, And The Raw Emotion Of Racing

A sense of dread must fill the hearts of senior MotoGP staff as they head to Argentina each year. There is so much to love about the round – one of the best race track layouts in the world, and probably the best atmosphere at any race – and yet somehow, the Fates always find a way to cause controversy, filling the media and fan chatter with debate about rules, regulations, and anything but the actual racing.

Since MotoGP first returned to Argentina in 2014, we have had customs hold ups, a collision between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, rear tires blistering and shedding rubber, compulsory pit stops, complaints about bumps causing riders to crash out, start line chaos, another collision between Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi (and between Marc Márquez and a whole bunch of other riders), just to mention a few things in no particular order. On more than one occasion, the Argentina round of MotoGP has forced adjustments to the rules, or clarification on how the rules are applied. As sure as night follows day, intense criticism (whether deserved or not) of Race Direction follows a MotoGP race at Termas de Rio Hondo.

Rolling

So why would 2019 be any different? Sitting on the starting grid as the starting lights came on, Cal Crutchlow balanced his LCR Honda RC213V on his tiptoes, and inadvertently rolled his toes forward, moving the bike imperceptibly forward a few centimeters. Just as that happened, the lights went out, and the pack tore off towards Turn 1.

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2019 Qatar MotoGP Friday Round Up: Explaining New Tech, Viñales' New Crew, And Not Moving The Race Start

And so hope and expectation meet reality. On Friday, we could stop fantasizing about just how good this season might be, and see for ourselves just how close the field is in the premier class. Well, how close it is outside Marc Márquez' insane record-crushing lap in FP2, made following Maverick Viñales around and using him as a target. It may only be Friday, but Márquez beat Johann Zarco's pole-setting lap record from last year by three tenths of a second. And they will only be going faster again tomorrow.

Any concerns that Marc Márquez might ease himself back into MotoGP, nursing the shoulder he had operated on last year until it was back at 100%, were laid to rest. "No, I ride full attack. I am riding full attack, I am pushing," Márquez said.

Viñales, who knew that Márquez had been following him when he made his fastest time, joked about it being a magnanimous gesture towards a weakened rival. "Yeah, I knew he was there, but I know he is injured, so I tried to help him a little bit... " the Monster Energy Yamaha rider joked. "Maybe I helped him too much! But it was important to see where our competitors are, so at the moment, we have to put the head down and work, work, work. They are ahead at the moment, some tenths ahead, so we need to keep working really hard."

From development to practice

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Scaphoid Surgery Forces Lorenzo To Skip Sepang Test

Jorge Lorenzo has had successful surgery to fix his fractured scaphoid, but the surgery means he will miss the Sepang test. The Spaniard had a titanium screw inserted to hold the broken scaphoid together, but the recovery period needed means he will not be fully fit in time for the start of the Sepang test, and Repsol Honda and Lorenzo have decided to skip Sepang and focus on the Qatar test at the end of February.

Despite the surgery, Lorenzo will be present at the launch of the Repsol Honda team in Madrid, to be held on Wednesday, 23rd January. 

Lorenzo's accident puts Honda in a difficult situation for Sepang. Marc Marquez is still recovering from major surgery on his left shoulder, to fix a chronic problem of dislocation. Though Marquez' recovery continues apace, he is far from full fitness, and has not been able to train the way he normally would. Cal Crutchlow is still recovering from a massive ankle injury which he suffered at the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island last year. Though he is cycling, he still has some pain while walking, and so his condition is far from 100% for the test.

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2018 Jerez November MotoGP Test Thursday Round Up: Fast Times, Obvious Tech Updates, Yamaha vs Yamaha, And The End At Last

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.

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