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Jorge Lorenzo's two seasons at Ducati have truly been a roller-coaster. The three-time MotoGP champion went from a consistent front runner to struggling mid-pack. By the end of his first season, Lorenzo was starting to look competitive, leading races at the Red Bull Ring, Misano, Aragon, and Sepang, and scoring a couple of podiums.
A new bike was supposed to turn better and make his life easier, yet Lorenzo seemed to struggle once again in the first half of 2018. From the beginning of the season, it looked like Lorenzo's time at Ducati was over, and would be considered a failure. Then, Ducati brought a redesigned fuel tank to Mugello, and Lorenzo's fortunes were transformed, winning two races in a row at Mugello and Barcelona, and suddenly being a force to be reckoned with at pretty much every race.
But it was too late. Minds had already been made up before Mugello. Ducati had decided to move on from Lorenzo, and Lorenzo had decided to switch to the Repsol Honda team for 2019. The apogee of Lorenzo's time at Ducati was also his swan song there.
At Aragon, I spoke to Jorge Lorenzo about the wild ride he has had aboard the Ducati Desmosedici. He spoke frankly about the lessons he learned about himself, about adapting to the bike and changing his riding style, and his struggle to make Ducati understand what he needed to be faster. He described the differences between the Yamaha and the Ducati, and what he expects when he moves to Honda. And he talked about how he kept himself going in the face of adversity.
Q: What have you learned at Ducati? What was the big lesson that you learned? It’s been such an interesting, emotional, up-and-down time.
When Bradley Smith speaks, he always makes it worth listening. His thoughtful, analytical approach to racing means you will always learn something, always be surprised by something he says. At Aragon, we spoke to the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider for the best part of 40 minutes, and dissected a lot of areas of racing.
In this, the final part of the interview, Bradley Smith explains how he finds motivation through what is one of the most difficult parts of his career, developing the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, and being far from competitive. He describes the contrarian attitude, the wanting to prove people wrong, which drives racers to achieve what they do.
Smith also explains just what a rider is looking for from his bike. The Englishman gets into "the feeling", what he wants from his bike, and what that translates to out on the track. He talks about searching for, and not finding, that feeling from the KTM, and the pleasure at getting close to that feeling again, and posting competitive times.
Finally, Smith talks about what motivated him to take a test role, and why he wasn't ready to retire. What his objective is at Aprilia, and how he finds satisfaction from not just his own success, but in helping others. He also talks about wanting to make a comeback to racing, and how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Toni Elias, who returned to MotoGP, before looking forward to the future, after his racing days are over.
Q: Three or four seconds used to be second or third, and now four seconds you could end up outside of the top ten.
Bradley Smith: Yes. That's what we're talking about. I think that's what's fun about GP racing at the moment.
Jonathan Rea made history at the weekend by claiming a record setting fourth consecutive WorldSBK title. The Northern Irishman is at the peak of his powers but where does he rank in the all-time list?
“Who's the greatest” has been a question asked in every sport over the years. Whether it's Muhammad Ali proclaiming himself the greatest, or Tiger Woods being anointed by the masses, a general consensus quickly forms about a pecking order.
In football it quickly comes down to Pele or Maradonna, Ronaldo or Messi or another combination from a certain era. In tennis it comes down to dominance over a sustained period with one era blending into the next of Rod Laver to Bjorn Borg to Pete Sampras to Roger Federer. Motorcycle racing is similar in a lot of ways, with riders typically earning their titles in spurts of sustained excellence.
Superbike racing is however a curious subset. With domestic series feeding into World championships and some of the brightest WorldSBK stars being offered MotoGP seats after only a couple of years, at the same as riders step across to Superbike racing from Grand Prix for only a handful of seasons at the end of their careers, it's a strange combination of fluidity and constant change. When you ask a Superbike fan who the greatest is, you certainly get more than your fair share of choice.
Jonathan Rea (Four time WorldSBK champion, 68 wins and 131 podiums)
Recency bias will place Rea at the top of the list of many fans, but a constant thorn in his side are the references to racing in an era of lesser competition and Rea having the best bike. In terms of the machinery the best riders almost always end up on the best bikes in any championship.
Bradley Smith is one of the most analytical and thoughtful riders in the paddock. So when we got the chance to spend the best part of forty minutes with the Red Bull KTM rider, we dived straight into the details. In part 1 of our interview with Smith, he talked about riders adapting to bike, and to the conditions, about learning to use the back brake as part of his riding, and about why he believes there are no Aliens in MotoGP.
In part 2 of our conversation, we got into how the series has changed since the switch to Michelin tires. Smith explains the differences between the Michelins and the Bridgestones, and how both the front and the rear behave differently. He gives his theory that the behavior of the Michelin rear is one of the reasons we are seeing more and more carbon fiber swingarms in MotoGP, and explains what effect the Michelin front and rear is having on rider body and arm position.
Smith also takes a hard look at his own attitude on a satellite bike, and how the closeness of the racing has now changed attitudes throughout the paddock. But we started off talking about throttle control, and managing rear spin.
Q: Everyone in this paddock has good throttle control. Is that sort of throttle control or that ability? You were talking earlier about flat track and the ability to manage the rear with the throttle. Is that something you don't really want to be doing? You want the bike to be doing, but if you can do it you can go faster?
Thomas Morsellino is a French freelance journalist and photographer, with keen eye for the technical details of MotoGP bikes. You may have seen some of his work on Twitter, where he runs the @Off_Bikes account. Peter Bom is a world championship winning former crew chief, with a deep and abiding knowledge of every aspect of motorcycle racing. Peter has worked with such riders as Cal Crutchlow, Danny Kent, and Stefan Bradl. After every race, MotoMatters.com will be publishing a selection of Tom's photos of MotoGP bikes, together with extensive technical explanations of the details by Peter Bom. MotoMatters.com subscribers will get access to the full resolution photos, which they can download and study in detail, and all of Peter's technical explanations of the photos. Readers who do not support the site will be limited to the 800x600 resolution photos, and an explanation of two photos.
KTM RC 250 R engine (Moto3)
Peter Bom: This engine is tilted backwards for cleaning and maintenance. Note the (orange) caps that keep dirt out of the inlet / exhaust ports during transport and cleaning. The aluminum box on the left is the water / oil intercooler. Here, instead of using an oil cooler, the water from the radiator cools the engine oil.