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Subscriber Interview: Bradley Smith On His Future - Caught Between Racing And Testing

Hubris is a dangerous, but necessary, affliction for any world class athlete. You need to believe that you're as good as anyone and better than most if you're to reach the top. That driving determination to prove the bastards wrong is one that is ingrained in the best. It's an unshakable belief that your will and skill can overcome anything.

Bradley Smith was never noted as a great talent on his route to the top, but he found a way to get there. Hard work, dedication and getting the most from himself was his ticket to MotoGP. Digging deeper was always the primary option for Smith coming through the ranks, and whether it was joining the Alberto Puig Academy as a 12 year old or racing a factory Aprilia in 125GP, Smith always did everything to get the most from himself.

Racing comes down to choices. The impact of decisions to make a move have reverberations as pronounced in the paddock as on the track. When Bradley Smith spoke at Mugello and said he'd retire rather than not race in MotoGP it was clear how slighted he felt by KTM moving on without him.

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Tony Goldsmith Photos: The Gold Standard Shoots Brno, Part 1


No closing the lid on Pandora's box. Ducati debuted a new aero package at Brno. Expect more updates next year.


Dark days for Maverick Viñales


The Doctor is still In, and will be for the foreseeable future. But they need to fix tire wear


Cal Crutchlow went a long way at Brno, but lost the two with five to go

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Interview: Veteran Crew Chief Gilles Bigot, Part 2 - On The Lessons Learned & Not Learned In Moto2, On Thumb Brakes, And On How Hard The Honda Is

Gilles Bigot, the French crew chief of Marc VDS MotoGP rider Tom Lüthi, has been in MotoGP a long time. In that time, he has seen a lot of riders come and go, and learned an awful lot about racing. At Jerez, I spoke to the Frenchman about the process of adapting to MotoGP. What started out as an attempt to get to the bottom of the problems Tom Lüthi faces in his switch to MotoGP after spending so many years in Moto2 became something much deeper, and much more interesting. We ended up speaking for half an hour, all of which was fascinating.

The first part of the interview covered three changes which he had seen from close up: the switch from 500cc two strokes to the four-stroke MotoGP bikes; the move to Moto2; and Kenan Sofuoglu's aborted attempt to make the jump from the World Supersport class to Moto2. You can read that part of the interview here.

But after talking about those changes, we went on to discuss Tom Lüthi's switch from Moto2 to MotoGP, and the difficulties the Swiss rider faced in making the jump. Lüthi is a proven winner and championship contender in Moto2, but he has struggled in the premier class. Bigot talked in great depth about the lessons which can be learned in Moto2 to prepare a rider for MotoGP, about what Moto2 doesn't teach riders, and how hard the Honda makes the transition to Moto2.

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Suzuka 8 Hours Gallery - Steve English On Qualifying


Jonathan Rea - Can the King of WorldSBK become the King of Suzuka?


Takumi Takahashi leads a Japanese Red Bull Honda effort


Suzuka is light and darkness - Alex Lowes is defending Yamaha's crown


Ant West will race anything, anywhere, so naturally, he's racing at Suzuka

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Subscriber Feature: Dissecting Tires - Comparing Pirelli, Bridgestone, And Michelin

The Suzuka 8-Hours is dominated by Bridgestone tire. Why is that? And what is the difference between a Bridgestone a Pirelli, and a Michelin at this iconic race?

Even the most talkative factory riders get tight-lipped when the topic of tires is raised. Jonathan Rea was asked after securing pole position for tomorrow's Suzuka 8-Hours about the feeling he has with Bridgestone tires, compared to using Pirelli rubber in WorldSBK. The three-time world champion sidestepped that landmine with customary ease by saying, “both are very high performance tires.” It was a similar situation when talking with MotoGP riders about comparing to Michelin tires in recent years.

There are, however, some outliers in the paddock. Riders with experience of Bridgestone, Pirelli, and Michelin tires, and who are able to speak about the contrasts. Both Michael Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli have plenty of experience on all three brands, with Laverty even acting as a MotoGP test rider at the time when the French manufacturer was building their initial batch of tires for their return to Grand Prix racing.

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Interview: Veteran Crew Chief Gilles Bigot, Part 1 - On Valentino Rossi, Shoya Tomizawa, Kenan Sofuoglu, And Adapting As A Rider

Gilles Bigot, the French crew chief of Marc VDS MotoGP rider Tom Lüthi, has been in MotoGP a long time. In that time, he has seen a lot of riders come and go, and learned an awful lot about racing. At Jerez, I spoke to the Frenchman about the process of adapting to MotoGP. What started out as an attempt to get to the bottom of the problems Tom Lüthi faces in his switch to MotoGP after spending so many years in Moto2 became something much deeper, and much more interesting. We ended up speaking for half an hour, all of which was fascinating.

In the first part of the interview, Bigot talks about his involvement in three key transitions. First, the switch from two strokes to four strokes, when the MotoGP machines replaced the 500cc bikes, and how Valentino Rossi made that jump faster and more easily than anyone else. Next, the introduction of the Moto2 class, when he was crew chief to Shoya Tomizawa, and how the Japanese youngster adapted to four strokes. And finally, why Kenan Sofuoglu, who eventually took over Tomizawa's seat after the tragic death of the Japanese rider, never really adapted to Moto2, and ended up going back to World Supersport.

Bigot had been crew chief to Alex Crivillé in 1999, when the Spaniard won his, and Spain's, first premier class title. After Crivillé retired at the end of 2001, Bigot embarked on a new project, working with the Tech3 team, who were at that point considering entering MotoGP. For the first part of the 2002 season, the year in which the four stroke 990cc MotoGP bikes made their first appearance, Bigot spent his time at the side of the track, watching the bikes and learning to understand the difference between the old two strokes and the new four strokes.

Gilles Bigot: I spent one year with the Tech3 team. I was in Grand Prix but at that time they wanted to set up a team for Sylvain Guintoli, with Gauloises and Yamaha. That was the idea from Hervé. Then at the end we did it. We did a couple of tests and we did one Grand Prix in Brno. So meanwhile I was doing this, some testing, and of course I was also going to the races. I was doing basically, not sight-seeing, but I was spotting some areas. It was the year of the transition with the 500 and MotoGP, so that was very interesting to watch. I witnessed a few things that were at that time very interesting.

Q: Such as?

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Subscriber Interview: Suzuki Ecstar Boss Davide Brivio On What Alex Rins' Assen Podium Means For Suzuki

After the exhilarating MotoGP race at Assen, the celebrations in the Suzuki garage for Alex Rins' second place were even more intense than those going on in the Repsol Honda garage, cheering on Marc Márquez fourth victory of the season. Rins had already had one podium back in Argentina, and been running at Qatar and Jerez before crashing out. His second place was, to some extent, confirmation that Suzuki had made the right choice in re-signing the Spaniard for the next two seasons.

Once the press conference had finished, I spoke to Suzuki Ecstar team boss Davide Brivio about Rins' podium. He explained to me how he felt the result had come about, and what it means for Suzuki.

Q: Really strong result by Alex. The bike is clearly better. Even though it’s only a small update that you brought to the engine, it seems to be better. Do you feel the Suzuki is there with Yamaha and Honda now?

Davide Brivio: Difficult to say. For sure, this track probably is good for the characteristics of our bike, a good chassis. The engine is a little bit more power so for sure, it doesn’t hurt. So it’s a help. I think we are quite good since the beginning of the year. Then we couldn’t really grab a result. OK, a good third position in Austin by Andrea, which was a third position but clear third position. In Argentina also we didn’t get any gift, everybody was there. Maybe Jerez was lucky because there were some crashes in the front, but also in Qatar Alex was there. Alex had a crash, but when he crashed he was in the group. He was not far away. So, we couldn’t really grab the results so far. I think it’s all the season that we are quite close, let’s say. We’re trying to close the gap.

Q: Is this also a sign that Alex is growing, that Alex is learning?

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Subscriber Exclusive: Marc Marquez On Winning, Learning To Lose, Battles With Dovizioso, And Subconscious Fears

We suspected that Marc Márquez was something special when he came into MotoGP. The young Spaniard was fresh off his Moto2 title, having racked up the wins in the junior classes. He adapted even more quickly to MotoGP than he had to Moto2, getting on the podium in his first MotoGP race, and winning the second, becoming the youngest ever rider to win a race in the premier class. By the end of the year, he had added the distinction of being the youngest ever rider to win a premier class title.

From that point on, Márquez' appetite for victory has been voracious. Adding his win at Assen, he has accumulated a grand total of 65 Grand Prix wins, of which 39 in MotoGP. When he can't win, he will settle for second or third, finishing on the podium in 70.4% of the MotoGP races he starts. He also has four titles from his five season in MotoGP.

How does he do it? And what motivates him to keep up this level of competitiveness? At Assen, I sat down with Marc Márquez to try to understand what makes him tick. We covered a lot of ground in our conversation, starting with the pleasure of winning, and how he handled the pressure of a year without success in 2015 to improve his approach to racing. He discusses how he learned to manage risk better by keeping his eye on the prize at the end of the year, rather than just trying to win every Sunday.

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Subscriber Feature: Petronas, Sepang International Circuit, Yamaha, Pedrosa - How It Happened

This has truly been a revolutionary year for MotoGP, in terms of the rider's market. Not only has there been more movement between factories than expected, some of the switches would have been unthinkable previously. Most people expected Johann Zarco to get a factory ride, Dani Pedrosa to be forced out at Repsol Honda, Jorge Lorenzo to leave Ducati. But nobody saw Lorenzo's move to Repsol Honda, it only being picked up by Gazzetta dello Sport Paolo Ianieri being willing to look past the preconceptions which clouded the vision of the entire MotoGP media.

There have also been some radical developments which nobody expected. At the start of the year, nobody gave a thought to the question of whether the Marc VDS team would pull out of the premier class or not. Then again, nobody expected Jonas Folger to withdraw from MotoGP for health reasons either. The odds of seeing a Malaysian rider in MotoGP for 2019 were slim, and zero for 2018.

Few people expected to see a Malaysian team contemplating entry in MotoGP either. The grid was full, the independent teams happy to hang on to their grid slots, at least until their contracts run out at the end of the 2021 season. And yet that is what will happen: in 2019, a Petronas-backed MotoGP team run by the Sepang International Circuit will be on the grid, on factory-spec Yamahas, with Franco Morbidelli and (almost certainly) Dani Pedrosa riding them.

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