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Davide Brivio Interview, Part 1: On Replacing Rossi, Choosing Viñales, And Managing Talent

Contract season is upon us in MotoGP. Everyone bar Cal Crutchlow and Xavier Simeon is out of contract at the end of 2018, and only Maverick Viñales has signed a new deal to remain where he is. The coming Silly Season could either be hyperactive and extended, or given the early Viñales signing, it could be all over in a few weeks.

One of the key players in the coming rider reshuffle is Valentino Rossi. At the moment, all signs are pointing to Rossi signing on for at least another year with Yamaha, and probably two. But if he doesn't – and there will come a time in the future when even Valentino Rossi has had enough and decides to retire – then Yamaha face some difficult choices. Who to choose to take the place of the Italian legend?

Through the first half of last year, I spoke to three factory bosses about how they would go about the task. Taking the need to replace Rossi as the starting point, the conversation expanded to the wider underlying question of identifying talented riders before they make it to the premier class, and how you approach building a team of two riders with different needs and abilities.

The two other interviews – with Ducati's Paolo Ciabatti and Livio Suppo of Honda – were published last year, but still well worth reading. The final episode, with Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio, the man who persuaded Rossi to go to Yamaha in the first place, is the most expansive of the series. In a lengthy and fascinating conversation, Brivio talked about Rossi's place in the Yamaha team, Suzuki's choice to sign Maverick Viñales, their decision not to sign Johann Zarco, how to build a successful team, and what he learned working with some of the greatest riders in the world.

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Subscriber Interview: The Huge Honda MotoGP Interview - Kokubu-san And Kuwata-san Talk 2017 And 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Honda's MotoGP program, Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Shinichi Kokubu. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

In 2017, Honda achieved the triple crown in MotoGP; manufacturer, team (Repsol Honda Team), and rider’s title (Marc Marquez). Above all, the fierce battle between riders for the championship went on until the final race of the season, which fascinated people all over the world. Tetsuhiro Kuwata, director and general manager of Honda Racing Corporation, and Shinichi Kokubu, general manager of Technology Development Division in HRC, unreservedly looked back how tough their 2017 season was. They also give a frank view of their expectations for the 2018 season, which is already well underway in the laboratories and offices of the HRC race department.

AN: The 2016 season saw very spectacular races with nine riders winning one after another. In 2017, we had another exciting season that the championship battle went on until Valencia. Did you expect such an intense and close championship?

Kuwata In the past, there were many seasons that the championship was decided at the final round of the year so that the hard fight was within our expectations. On the other hand, regarding our performance, it was a difficult year for us because there were ups and downs during the season.

AN: It was the first season for you to manage the MotoGP championship. What was your priority to work on?

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Subscriber Interview: Ducati Corse Boss Gigi Dall'Igna On The 2018 Desmosedici, Aerodynamics, Moto3, And Trellis Frames

At the launch of Ducati's MotoGP effort in Bologna last week, there was much talk of the riders, and of sponsors, but relatively little talk of the bike. Exactly what the Ducati Desmosedici GP18 will look like, and what has changed, was not immediately clear from the presentation.

But after the presentation was finished, I, along with MCN reporter Simon Patterson, managed to get a few minutes with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, the man leading the technical team building the bike. We seized the opportunity to go into the few snippets revealed during the presentation in more depth.

In our conversation, we covered quite a lot of ground. We had the chance to ask Dall'Igna about the upgrades Ducati hopes to bring for 2018, and when they hope to have them. We asked about aerodynamics, and how the new rules have increased costs for the factory. We talked about the necessity of Ducati's Moto3 project, and when it might become reality. And we got to ask Dall'Igna about the steel trellis frame used by KTM, and whether he believes the Austrian factory will decided to drop the chassis concept, as Ducati did in the past.

Our first question was about horsepower. During the presentation, Dall'Igna had revealed that Ducati engineers had found "a couple more horsepower." On a bike that is already the most powerful on the grid, that didn't seem like the biggest priorty.

Q: Why did you look for more power? It's already very fast?

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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Launch Gallery - Blue And White Is The New Black


Biggest change this year is from fluorescent green to white for the Movistar logo. Monster will be happy. Movistar too.


They say white is slimming. Works on the M1


For ducking and diving


The advantage of the I4 engine in the M1 is compactness

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Interviewing Suzuki's Bosses: Sahara and Kawauchi On Getting The Engine Wrong In 2017, And Fixing It For 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Suzuki's MotoGP program, Shinichi Sahara and Ken Kawauchi. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR had a tough season in 2017. From the beginning, Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins faced severe difficulties and finished the year without getting a single podium. As a result, Suzuki will be granted concessions again for the 2018 season. On the other hand, Iannone and Rins showed their competitiveness at the final four races, which indicated Suzuki had found the light at the end of what proved to be a very long tunnel. Suzuki’s MotoGP project leader Shinichi Sahara and technical manager Ken Kawauchi talked frankly about their hard effort in the challenging year and expectations for the forthcoming 2018 season.

Q: Everything looked smooth in the preseason. At the season opener, Iannone took the second row of the grid in qualifying, and Rins started the race from 18th position and fought his way through to reach the checkered flag in 9th place. The opening round of the 2017 season was good for Suzuki. When did you come to think “something is wrong…”?

Kawauchi: It was very early. In Argentina, Alex complained, “I cannot stop the bike as I wanted and it’s difficult to hold the line.” Andrea had been saying something similar, and then Alex, who didn’t have enough experience in MotoGP, told us the same thing as Andrea. So, we had a suspicion that something should have been different from last year.

Q: From that time onwards, what did you do to improve the situation?

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Livio Suppo Interview: On Talent, Gambling On Young Riders, And Replacing Rossi

Valentino Rossi's Peter Pan-like ability to remain competitive through his late thirties leaves fans and paddock insiders alike wondering if and when the nine-time world champion will retire. The subject comes up every two years or so, when Rossi's contract (and that of others) comes up.

Though it looks for now as if Rossi will continue, who to replace him with is an interesting question. Should Yamaha go for a veteran to partner Maverick Viñales? Or should they pick young talent for the second seat, and allow them to develop?

Last year, I spoke to three different factory bosses about how they viewed the issue, and how they go about developing talent for their own factories. The interview with Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti was published last summer, but at the beginning of 2017, I spoke to Livio Suppo, then Repsol Honda team principal, about how his experiences of bringing on young talent, and the problem of finding a replacement for Valentino Rossi.

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Subscriber Feature: Andrea Dovizioso On His Transformation Into A MotoGP Title Contender

It has been a remarkable year for Andrea Dovizioso. After years of being dismissed and overlooked, the 31-year-old Italian went from being placeholder for his new teammate Jorge Lorenzo – far more successful previously, and vastly better paid as a result – to being Ducati's main weapon in the 2017 MotoGP championship.

Viewed from the outside, Dovizioso's transformation has been truly astonishing. After a slow start in MotoGP – a podium in his first year with the JiR Scot Honda team, then a solitary victory at a soaking Donington Park the following season in 2009 – Dovizioso got into his stride in the Repsol Honda team. He scored seven podiums in his first season on the factory Honda, but that was not enough to secure his spot at Repsol. Early in 2010, Honda announced they would be signing Casey Stoner.

Dovizioso refused to budge for the Australian. He held HRC to their contract with him, and three Repsol Hondas lined up on the grid in 2011. Despite finishing ahead of Dani Pedrosa – helped by Pedrosa's absence with a broken collarbone for three races after he was knocked off at Le Mans by Marco Simoncelli – Dovizioso was dropped by Honda at the end of the year, when the Italian's contract expired.

The Nearly Man comes good

Dovizioso gained a reputation as the nearly man: always fast, but never able to finish the job. After moving to the Tech 3 Yamaha squad and finishing fourth in the championship, he was offered the seat at Ducati vacated by Valentino Rossi when he left at the end of 2012. While the media still focusing on the fallout from the inevitable break up of the marriage between two Italian icons which had ended so badly, Dovizioso got on with the slow and steady work of developing the bike.

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Subscriber Interview: Ernesto Marinelli On Ducati, Bayliss, Davies, Bostrom, Gobert, Kocinski

Ernesto Marinelli has been an almost ever present force within Ducati's World Superbike program for over two decades. Last month the Italian announced that he would leave his role as Superbike Project Leader but having enjoyed a hugely successful 22 years with the Italian manufacturer he will leave with a heavy heart.

Having joined Ducati fresh out of university as an engine technician, Marinelli was keen to prove his worth. He did this with an innovative approach to engine simulations while working as an undergraduate and quickly found his way into the Race Department, Ducati Corse. It is with a heavy heart that he finally decided to move away from Ducati and onto a new chapter in his career.

“Ducati is an extraordinary company,” reflected the Italian. “Even after 22 years I still love my job but it is a stressful life. Between testing and racing there really is no break. You do it because you have a passion and it’s not a normal job. It was actually quite hard when we announced it because of all the messages from people that worked for me. I was very pleased to see that you leave to everyone a good memory.

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Leon Camier Interview - On MV Agusta, Development, Reliability, And 2018

It has been over four years since Leon Camier last stood on the WorldSBK podium, but since Silverstone 2013 the Englishman has been able to do something remarkable; rebuild his reputation without having the silverware to show for it.

Having raced for Aprilia and Suzuki following his 2009 British Superbike title success, Camier was left high and dry for 2014 and had to take on the role of super sub for the season. It must have been a humbling experience for Camier but it has certainly made him a stronger and more rounded racer and since joining MV Augusta in 2015 he been the focal point of their WorldSBK program.

"The bike has evolved from when I first rode it," said Camier. "It was not a very good race bike at the start, and now it is really quite competitive. A lot of that is down to the technicians that we have and obviously from my feedback and being able to tell the team exactly what I want from a bike. I have to understand how the bike works, how the team works and how exact I have to be with my feedback. It's not enough to say, 'I need a smoother throttle.' I have to be in depth about what's going on and the knock-on effect that any change can have on other parts of the bike too."

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