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2018 Barcelona MotoGP Sunday Round Up: A War Of Attrition, Internal Politics, And Friendship Between Rivals

How do you win a championship? There are two schools of thought. Casey Stoner believed that the way you won world titles was by focusing on winning races. "If you win races, the championships will look after themselves," he said when he was still racing. Others argue that consistency is key, that you win titles by getting the best result available on the day, and hope that you don't make mistakes. After all, Emilio Alzamora became 125cc World Champion in 1999 through sheer consistency, without winning a single race that season.

The riders in contention for the 2018 MotoGP title have mixed opinions about the best way to win a championship. Marc Márquez wanted to win every race he started in, until the 2015 Honda RC213V got the better of him, and he had to push too hard to try to be competitive, crashing himself out of contention. Since then, he has tamed his approach, winning whenever possible, but understanding that sometimes, he has to grit his teeth and settle for whatever is available on the day.

Valentino Rossi, wily veteran that he is, follows the same approach, take what you can, where you can, and wait to see where it takes you. That's how he came close to racking up title number ten in 2015, and that's how he has remained in contention every season since he came back to Yamaha in 2013. On Sunday night, Andrea Dovizioso affirmed that he was thinking about the championship in every race as well. "My approach to the race is always thinking about the championship," the Ducati rider said. "If I fight for the championship or for another position, I always race for the championship."

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2018 Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Making Magic Saves, Mr Unbeatable, And Choosing Tires At The Test

The trouble with racing in MotoGP at the moment is that no matter how spectacular your riding, no matter how phenomenal your achievements, no matter how dominant your performance, you will always, always be upstaged by Marc Márquez. "The worst thing is that we have to deal with the situation of Marc saving [crashes] every week," Cal Crutchlow complained, only half joking. "It makes the rest of us on Honda look like idiots. Imagine how many he has saved this year compared to how many we have we crashed. He saves fifteen a weekend."

Saturday in Barcelona was yet another example, and perhaps Márquez' biggest yet. In the dying seconds of FP4, after passing Xavier Simeon through Turn 12, Márquez entered Turn 14 and the front folded completely on him. Where other riders would simply go down, Márquez was unwilling to surrender without a fight. "It was last corner, last lap and I lose the front," the Repsol Honda rider told the press conference. "I was fighting against everything, against the bike, against my knee pushing a lot. Then it looks like I was able to save it, but the when I go on the dirty part of the track, I again lose the front."

He had not yet had a chance to look at the data, he said. "I already said to [my team] to check, but what I can say is that the steering was full close because I feel, but it was long. It was very long this one. It was maybe the longest one in my career." Long enough to upstage everyone else on Saturday, despite there being many riders deserving of attention.

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2018 Barcelona MotoGP Friday Round Up: Crashing On A New Surface, And Why Lorenzo Scares His Rivals

MotoGP riders love resurfaced tracks, and Barcelona is no exception. But while the new asphalt laid at the start of this year is infinitely better than the old surface it replaces, there are still the odd few blemishes. The surface may be new, but the grip wasn't universally good, especially as the track was a little dirtier than expected. And as the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmeló is used extensively by F1, the cars have already started to pull up the tarmac in the braking zone, bumps and ripples starting to make an unwelcome appearance already.

And though you can change the asphalt, you can't change the locating and microclimate around the track. It got hot and humid in the afternoon on Friday, and riders went tumbling through the gravel despite the new surface. A grand total of 28 riders hit the deck on Friday, across all three classes and all sessions. That is well over twice as many crashes on Friday as on any Friday during the last five years.

Johann Zarco was one of them, washing out the front at Turn 5. It was a fairly normal crash, Zarco explained. "The crash this afternoon was not something bad, just closing the front when you try to lean the bike to turn the bike as quick as possible," the Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider said. "Things can happen. It was the medium front after three laps. Maybe I asked a bit too much, or we were not good in the setup to lean that way. But not a big problem, I could understand it quickly."

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2018 Barcelona MotoGP Thursday Round Up: How The World's Media Fooled Itself About Dani Pedrosa

From time to time, the media gets hoist by its own petard. A story comes along which everyone picks up and runs with, pushed to ever more dizzying heights of breathless commentary; what ifs, maybes, and wild speculation. Professional sports are soap opera for men, as the great darts promoter Barry Hearn once said, and the logical corollary of that is that sports media extrapolate throwaway comments and a handful of facts into vast sweeping narratives.

Thus it was that what looked like the entire MotoGP media contingent packed into Honda's hospitality unit to hear what Dani Pedrosa had to say during his media debrief. It was both genuinely impressive and actually quite frightening. Normally, somewhere between 20 and 30 journalists and photographers attend Pedrosa's media debrief in the HRC hospitality, which is held upstairs on a unit built in the space between two trucks holding offices. A large balcony spans the space between the two trucks, with stairs ascending to a space full of chairs on the roof of one of the trucks, and a table where first Marc Márquez, and then Dani Pedrosa sit and give their account of the day to the assembled media.

Instead of 30 journalists, there was what looked like between 200 and 300 people. Honda's design is meant to be spacious and airy, but that amount of people standing on the roof of what is basically a truck trailer made it look crowded, and rather fragile. Coward that I am, I chose to stay downstairs, and listen there.

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2018 Barcelona MotoGP Preview: Will A New Surface Make Montmeló A Yamaha Track Once Again?

Barcelona has always been a challenging track, but the MotoGP paddock has faced additional challenges at the Catalonian circuit over the past three years. The tragic death of Luis Salom – a typical case of confusing the improbable with the impossible, and leaving a section of track with no gravel runoff and fence unprotected – caused the track layout to be changed halfway through the weekend in 2016, dropping the long left of Turn 10 and the sweeping right of Turn 12, and replacing them with the F1 layout.

A year later, the circuit made other changes, revising the F1 chicane to stop bikes which crashed from crossing the track, while still keeping the F1 layout replacing Turn 10, a tight hairpin and quick kink replacing the long sweeping turn. But that, too, had its shortcomings.

Even the revised chicane was a poor compromise, and for 2018, the Circuit de Catalunya chose to make more radical changes. The track badly needed resurfacing, and the circuit chose to reconfigure the runoff at the sweeping right hander which MotoGP used to use instead of the chicane. That restored the old Turn 12 (though it is now Turn 13, confusingly), bringing back much of the track's old glory. The old section, the tighter right hander of Turn 12, followed by the two sweeping turns of Turn 13 and Turn 14 which build towards the finish line.

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2018 Brno WorldSBK Subscriber Special: Teammate Games Force Czech mate

Internal team rivalries played out in Brno with very different results

“I was going to make it...or I wasn't,” was how King Kenny Roberts summed up one of his Grand Prix victories in the late seventies. The triple 500GP world champion knew the importance of momentum and psychology on a race track better than anyone, and knew that at times, riders need to take a win it or bin it mentality.

That mentality was at the front everyone's minds as they watched last weekend's Czech WorldSBK round, where the importance of coming out on top of an internal team battle bubbled under the surface. On Saturday Jonathan Rea claimed his 60th career victory, but on Sunday the tensions of four years at Kawasaki overflowed.

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2018 Brno WorldSBK Notes: Feuding Kawasakis, Parity At Yamaha, Potential From Aprilia

The return of WorldSBK to the Czech Republic proved to be a race weekend to remember. Tensions between Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes overflowed, Alex Lowes delivered on his long held promise and we saw flashes of promise from elsewhere on the WorldSBK grid.

Kawasaki tensions overflow

That Rea and Sykes don't like each other has been clear since the start of their tenure as teammates. The 2013 world champion had been the center of attention at KRT for years and Sykes had developed the ZX10R into the best package on the grid. It allowed him to win races and become a consistent force at the front of the field. Since Rea joined in 2015, however, his power has been eroded within the team and his potential on track has been limited. Their dislike for one another has been clear to see for years but on Sunday it boiled over.

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2018 Brno WorldSBK Preview: What To Expect At Brno

Round seven of the 2018 WorldSBK season will see the paddock head for Brno in the Czech Republic. The fast and flowing circuit is a firm favorite with MotoGP riders and fans and is sure to be well received by the Superbike riders when they return to action in the hills and valleys for the first time since 2011. That season saw Marco Melandri do the double for Yamaha but will that past form matter this weekend?

Yamaha seek to maintain momentum

Yamaha will certainly hope that their previous form, three Brno victories, is a good indicator that the Japanese firm can expect a strong showing this weekend. At Donington Park, Michael van der Mark delivered the first victories for Yamaha since their return to WorldSBK, and the Dutchman's confidence will be high this weekend. After claiming the first ever Dutch wins in WorldSBK history his stock is higher than ever, and it couldn't have come at a better time with contracts set to be signed for 2018.

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The Comprehensive Silly Season Update: Mugello Madness Sees Lorenzo Go Repsol, Petrucci To Ducati, And More

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP.

So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions which almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen. Instead, Lorenzo has signed a two-year deal with HRC to partner Marc Márquez. The announcement was originally due at Barcelona, but the publication by La Gazzetta forced Honda to make a hasty and brief announcement..

The Petronas rumors had plenty of fire to provide the smoke. In an interview with Crash.net, Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato' Razlan Razali openly discussed the possibility of running Yamahas with Lorenzo and Franco Morbidelli. Everyone I spoke to – including other team managers, rider managers, riders, journalists – believed that Jorge Lorenzo would be riding a Yamaha in 2019.

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2018 Mugello MotoGP Sunday Round Up: The Prodigal Son Returns And Wins

A circuit as magnificent as Mugello creates a certain level of expectation. The crowds pack the banks and grandstands expecting their favorite riders to triumph. The riders expect to be able to use skill and bravery to make up for some shortcomings of their bike, but they also expect to suffer on top speed if they are down on horsepower. The manufacturers expect to showcase their engineering prowess, at a circuit which demands the utmost of their machine in almost every aspect. The bike has to brake well, turn well, accelerate well, and be so fast it takes your breath away. Something which the front straight at Mugello does quite literally at MotoGP speeds.

Were expectations fulfilled this year at Mugello? Some were, perhaps. The massed sea of yellow spectators who made the pilgrimage to Mugello were not disappointed, though their joy was not unalloyed. They came to see a race which featured Valentino Rossi as a protagonist, one in which he would emerge triumphant and vanquish his rivals (especially those from the Iberian peninsula), and they got some of what they wanted. Rossi was involved in a thrilling battle for the podium for most of the race, there was an Italian victory to celebrate, and the failure of Rossi's arch rival to take pleasure from.

The weight of expectation lay heavily on Rossi's rivals, too. Marc Márquez came to a track where he has struggled in the past, knowing that the tire allocation would mean he would struggle. Andrea Dovizioso came to the place where he won last year, but on the back of crashes in the last two races, risks were even less of an option. Maverick Viñales came to Mugello after a successful test at Barcelona, where he believed the team had solved the problems he had suffered through the first part of the season. And Jorge Lorenzo came to Ducati's home track for his 24th race on the Ducati, one for every million his contract paid him, without having lived up to reasons the Italian factory had signed him: to win races, and contend for the title.

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