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Interview: Suzuki's Kawauchi And Sahara On The 2019 GSX-RR, Alex Rins And Joan Mir, And Power vs Control

In the 2019 season, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR made a huge step forward. Alex Rins won two races, at COTA and Silverstone, and concluded the season fourth in the championship. Meanwhile, their rookie rider Joan Mir finished in the top ten on nine occasions and finished twelfth in the riders’ standings, despite an injury and an absence of two races over the summer.

At the end of December, we drove four hours from Tokyo to Suzuki’s hometown Hamamatsu to conduct an exclusive interview with Team SUZUKI ECSTAR project leader Shinichi Sahara and the technical manager Ken Kawauchi.

Alex Rins at Silverstone in 2019

Q: The 2019 GSX-RR doesn’t seem to have a big difference from the previous year’s spec, especially in terms of the chassis …

Kawauchi: Although there was a very subtle difference here and there, the main frame with carbon wrapping is almost the same as the 2018 final version.

Q: Does the ‘spoon’ (the spoiler attachment underneath the swingarm) have some aerodynamic effect?

Kawauchi: There is no big difference, to be honest. Maybe it is just a bit better if you have it on your bike. It is such a very small difference.

Q: Do you improve your lap time with this material?

Sahara: I’d love to believe that it has some positive effect for the lap time….

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Yamaha MotoGP Project Leader Takahiro Sumi On Where Yamaha Struggled In 2019, And How They Will Fix It In 2020

In 2019, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales won two MotoGP races - the Dutch TT at Assen and the Malaysian GP at Sepang - to finish third in the championship. His teammate, Valentino Rossi was seventh in the championship, with two second-place finishes: at the season opener at Qatar, and at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Fabio Quartararo from the newly-formed team Petronas Yamaha SRT team put on an amazing rookie performance, with six pole positions and seven podiums, ending the season in fifth place in the championship. Teammate Franco Morbidelli crossed the finish line inside the top six on seven occasions and finished the season in tenth overall.

On Christmas day, we visited Iwata in Shizuoka prefecture to ask Yamaha Motor Company’s MotoGP Group GL (Group Leader) Takahiro Sumi about how their 2019 season had gone, what the objective for 2020 would be. First of all, Sumi-san gave Yamaha's perspective on the disappointing first half and the hopeful latter half of the season, before moving on to an exclusive interview.

Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi at the 2019 Misano MotoGP round

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Your Questions Answered: What Do Yamaha's Big Announcements Mean For 2021 And Beyond?

After the carpet bombshelling done by Yamaha's press department over the past couple of days, it's time to answer your questions. In yesterday's piece looking at Yamaha's choice of Fabio Quartararo over Valentino Rossi, I promised to answer questions for MotoMatters.com subscribers. So below, here are the answers to some of the questions you asked.

Questions answered include:

  • Franco Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia
  • Valentino Rossi – one-man team, two-man VR46 team, or Petronas Yamaha?
  • What happens to Andrea Dovizioso?
  • The likelihood of rider retirements
  • Suzuki, Gresini, Aprilia, and a Suzuki satellite team
  • The chances of Yamaha building a V4
  • Will Repsol leave Honda?

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Quartararo In, Rossi Out: What This Means For Yamaha, And For The MotoGP Silly Season

After Tuesday's announcement that Yamaha had signed Maverick Viñales, the Japanese factory today issued two more press releases. In the first, they announced they had signed Fabio Quartararo to a two-year deal to race in the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team. In the second, they announced that Yamaha would be giving Valentino Rossi all the time he needed to make up his mind about his future.

In these notes:

  • What Yamaha's decision means for their future
  • Valentino Rossi's options for the future
  • Whether this brings a VR46 MotoGP team closer
  • Who the next hot property in MotoGP is
  • Which signings to expect next

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Making The Jump

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?

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Ducati 2020 MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Initial Thoughts From The Launch

Ducati have presented their 2020 MotoGP project in Bologna. Here are my first quick thoughts after the presentation. You can watch the official launch on the Ducati website here.

In this piece:

  • Nobody wants to talk about 2021
  • More horsepower or better turning? Why not both!
  • How the new Michelin tire will affect the racing in 2020
  • Does Gigi Dall'Igna want to hire Marc Marquez?
  • What Andrea Dovizioso will be focusing on
  • Danilo Petrucci on 2020

To read the remaining 554 words of this article, you need to sign up to become a MotoMatters.com site supporter by taking out a subscription. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

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Joan Mir Interview, Part 2: "This Sport Is 50% Rider, 50% Bike"

Joan Mir in the garage at Phillip Island, 2019

In part one of Akira Nishimura's interview with Joan Mir, the Ecstar Suzuki rider spoke about adapting to MotoGP, what he learned from his teammate Alex Rins, and where they need to improve for 2020. In the second half of the interview, Mir goes on to talk about his path into MotoGP, how much easier or harder it is to be a rookie on a Suzuki, compared to a Ducati or a Yamaha, and how long he will need to adapt.

Q: Looking back at your racing career, it is just your fourth year in the world championship. So, when you started your world championship career in 2016, did you imagine you would be a MotoGP rider in four years?

Joan Mir: In four years, no. This is impossible. I think that this is a record or something. We have to find this, because it’s so, so fast. One year in Moto3. Win first race in Moto3, podiums. Then second year in Moto3 world champion. Then first year in Moto2 podiums. Then first year in MotoGP. It’s unbelievable. It’s so fast, but in all my career, I was always competitive, always. Also in MotoGP. So, I’m happy to be here.

Obviously, I would like to do one year more in Moto2 and fight for the title, because it’s something that we were able to do, to have a title in Moto2. I didn’t have it, but because everything came like this, everything fell into place so I had the contract with Suzuki. Otherwise I needed to wait two more years if I wanted to go up to MotoGP. I said, the moment is now. I went up. At the end I’m happy to be here.

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Joan Mir Interview, Part 1: "The Most Difficult Thing Is The Electronics"

Joan Mir on the Ecstar Suzuki GSX-RR at Sepang 2019

It was hard being a MotoGP rookie in 2019. It was probably the strongest rookie class we have seen in many years: Pecco Bagnaia and Joan Mir, two world champions; Miguel Oliveira, who has runner up in both Moto2 and Moto3; and Fabio Quartararo, the young man they changed the Moto3 entry rules for. Yet even these exceptionally talented youngsters faced probably the most talented MotoGP field in history.

Quartararo's meteoric success dominated the headlines, but it overshadowed some strong debuts by the other three. Ecstar Suzuki's Joan Mir, for example, crossed the line in eighth in his first ever MotoGP race, and went on to become a regular top eight rider. By the end of the season, he was challenging his more experienced teammate Alex Rins, and scoring his best result of the season at Phillip Island, finishing fifth in the group battling for the podium.

Before the Japanese round of MotoGP at Motegi, top Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura talked to Joan Mir about his first thirteen races – Mir was forced to miss two races due to the lung injury he suffered in the huge crash at the Brno test. The Suzuki rider spoke at length about his rookie season, about his rapid progression through the Grand Prix ranks, and about what he learned. He also talked to Nishimura-san about racing against his teammate, and how making your debut on a Suzuki compares to the Ducati and the Yamaha.

It was an insightful and long conversation, and so it has been split into two parts. Part two will be published tomorrow, but here is part one:

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Cormac Shoots Testing: Photos From The Valencia Post-Race MotoGP Test


This was the last ever Valencia test, for a lot of reasons. Riders and teams hate it. Photographers love it, for the light. Here's Dani Pedrosa in the setting sun


Valentino Rossi with a shiny new frame on his M1. Yamaha have changed the way they work, and the progress is starting to show

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