It may be December, and the world of motorcycle racing may be retreating into hibernation for a few weeks, but news does keep cropping up from time to time. So before we also take a break for the holiday season, here is a quick round up of the news stories you may have missed.
The week started off (or ended, depending on when you start counting) with a fascinating and honest appearance by Jorge Lorenzo on British MotoGP broadcaster BT Sport's season review show. The Spaniard spoke frankly about the reasons he left Yamaha, the struggles he faced at Ducati, and how he pondered retirement before turning it around.
Lorenzo made his reasons for leaving Yamaha clear: he had run out of challenges to chase. "There was a time when I was in Yamaha that I was not learning so much anymore, because I'd achieved my dream from when I was a little kid, which was winning the MotoGP World Championship. I won it three times with Yamaha, so I didn't have any more things to achieve, no, and I was feeling a lack of motivation."
No easy move
But the move to Ducati was not as easy as he expected. "The swap was more difficult than I expected!" Lorenzo said. "When I tried the bike I had a big shock. I needed to change completely my riding style. I needed to work a lot. But results were not easy to keep believing in yourself and with confidence but working on the mental side and my thinking, I kept going and going and working and working and finally in the middle of 2018 in Mugello we got the splendid victory."
That victory is often put down to the arrival of the specially shaped tank, which provided support for Lorenzo under braking. Lorenzo acknowledged that his had been the final part of the puzzle, the key to him sustaining his speed over the course of a race, but he also insisted that there was much more to it than just a shaped tank. The bike had changed radically, he said. "This was just the last part of it. Because we've been making a big and long work together with the engineers at Ducati, from the first moment that I arrived at the factory. I took a bike that was very nervous, with a very harsh first touch of the throttle, the bike didn’t turn… So little by little, the factory started making new chassis, that before they almost do one chassis per year, they started to do three or four chassis in one year. We start trying to improve the first touch, the behavior, to make the bike more smooth."
Lorenzo talks about much more in the BT Sport MotoGP review show, which also features interviews with Sam Lowes, Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow, and Rory Skinner. The show is up on Youtube for everyone without a BT Sport subscription based in the UK, or whose computers Youtube thinks are in the UK.
Orange + Red?
A few weeks after KTM's first podium in MotoGP – Pol Espargaro's third place at Valencia – and a couple of difficult tests at Valencia and Jerez, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke to Austrian journalist Guenther Wiesinger of German-language website Speedweek. In an interview ranging over a variety of subjects, Pierer let slip that he might just have his eye on Ducati, something which may not just be idle speculation considering the constant stream of rumors that the VW Audi Group is considering selling Ducati.
Pierer told Speedweek that KTM was in good financial shape, coming off a good year for sales. But the uncertainty of Brexit and the tariffs placed on US motorcycles meant that the industry could be facing a period of consolidation. That left KTM looking at single-digit growth instead of double digits. That growth would come from sales of its new 790 models, and a new 500cc twin, Pierer expecting the 500cc-800cc premium bike segment to be the engine of growth.
Which left the KTM boss thinking about Ducati. "I have an emotional relationship with Ducati," Pierer told Speedweek. "Ducati is Ducati, it's as simple as that. Ducati is the only brand which would be a good fit with us. You can forget anything else." Given that KTM has set as its objective to win a MotoGP championship, buying Ducati might give the Austrian factory a shortcut to success.
Your very own MotoGP bike
Pierer did not make mention of the V4 track bike which KTM have hinted they would be making. But for those who are both impatient and have €250,000 to spare, they can get their hands on something arguably even better. KTM are selling two of their RC16 MotoGP machines to anyone with deep enough pockets. The bikes come with a set of Pol Espargaro's race leathers, a signed helmet, and a chance to attend a MotoGP race as the guest of KTM and Red Bull.
The current iteration of the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike is due to take to the track again on 18th December. Dani Pedrosa is set to get his first outing on the bike in his new role as KTM test rider at a two-day test at Jerez. The test will be held behind closed doors, and so we will have to wait until Sepang to hear what Pedrosa thinks of the bike.
Hayden in AMA Hall of Fame
Last week also saw a special moment for American motorcycle racing. Nicky Hayden was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame at the organization's annual induction ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. The AMA celebrated the life and achievements of the Kentucky Kid, who was killed in a cycling accident last year. Two Honda motorcycles were also unveiled, a Honda CBR1000RR in Repsol colors, and a customized Honda XR650L in street tracker trim. The bikes will be displayed at a range of AMA events, before being raffled off to raise funds for the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation.
Another announcement which came earlier in the week was that the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit will continue to host the Argentinian round of MotoGP through the 2021 season. The contract had been due to expire after the race in 2019, but Dorna and the Santiago del Estero region in Argentina extended the contract for two years.
There had been some speculation that MotoGP could switch venues, and head to the San Juan Villicum circuit, 600km to the southwest of Termas, after the San Juan circuit was heaped with praise by the WorldSBK paddock after their first race at the track. That circuit is also just a few hundred kilometers away from the Chilean capital Santiago, making it more easily accessible for a larger crowd. But the extension with Termas de Rio Hondo means any such notion has been shelved for the next few years. Dorna is keen to expand further in South and Central America, but having a second race in Argentina would be a bit of a stretch.
The off season is also traditionally the time for riders to get surgery to fix injuries picked up during the year. Marc Márquez went under the knife for major surgery on his shoulder on 4th December, but he was not the only one. Aruba.it Ducati rider Chaz Davies also had surgery to fix his right collarbone, which he broke riding a mountain bike during the summer break. Yamaha test rider Jonas Folger also had surgery to fix a collarbone he broke in an MX accident a couple of weeks ago.
But it is Márquez' surgery which was the most invasive. The Spaniard underwent a procedure called Latarjet surgery to stop the recurring problem of his shoulder being dislocated. The operation involved taking a piece of bone from the coracoid process (a bone spur at the front of the shoulder blade) and attaching it the glenoid, the cavity in the scapula (shoulder blade) in which the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone) sits, with the aim of preventing the shoulder from dislocating.
The procedure was carried out by the paddock's favorite orthopedic surgeon Dr. Xavier Mir in Barcelona, together with specialists Victor and Teresa Marlet. Dr. Mir was surprised at how bad a shape Márquez' shoulder was in, which made the operation more complicated than expected. "It came out very easily," Dr. Mir told Jaime Martin of Spanish sports daily Marca. "He couldn't carry on like this. I can barely understand how he managed to win the championship like this."
Márquez is at home already, recovering, and receiving visitors – as a picture posted on social media of Mick Doohan visiting Márquez' home town of Cervera demonstrated. He is now just starting to mobilize the shoulder again. Márquez had a plate removed from his left hand at the same time, fitted after a training accident back in 2015.
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