Features

Are MotoGP Managers Right About WorldSBK As A Talent Pool?

In my article analyzing the Jerez private tests, which took an in-depth look at the times set by the WorldSBK bikes and the MotoGP bikes, I set out several reasons why I thought Jonathan Rea would not be moving to MotoGP, despite obviously being fast enough. Though Rea has good reasons of his own to prefer to stay in WorldSBK, a good portion of the blame lies with MotoGP team managers, I argued.

That argument was based in part on a press conference held during the last round of the season at Valencia. In that press conference, the heads of racing of the six manufacturers in MotoGP gave their view of the season. During that press conference, On Track Off Road's Adam Wheeler asked Yamaha's Lin Jarvis, Ducati's Paolo Ciabatti, and KTM's Pit Beirer whether they regarded WorldSBK as a viable talent pool, or whether they were looking more towards Moto2 and Moto3 as the place to find new riders.

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Crunching The Numbers: Jonathan Rea vs MotoGP vs WorldSBK - An Analysis

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now "Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike" season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi's side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured.

How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes? Why are MotoGP manufacturers spending ten times as much to be shown up at a test by Jonathan Rea? And why, for the sake of all that is holy, does Jonathan Rea not have a MotoGP ride?

The answer to all but the last of those questions is buried away in the bigger picture of the laps posted throughout the week. When you examine the numbers, the picture is a lot more complex than the headline times seem to suggest. Tires, temperature, and track all play a part. But all of that can't disguise a rather outsize dose of talent.

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Leon Camier: A Leap Into The Unknown

When a rider changes team they also face the same question; will I sink or swim? First impressions from riding the Honda are that Camier will be swimming

Leon Camier was the central pin of the 2018 rider market in WorldSBK. The former British champion was sought after having proven his worth as a development rider in turning around the fortunes of MV Agusta. He faces a similar task for next year having joined the unfancied and under performing Honda squad.

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Alex Lowes: A Change For The Better?

Making a change at the crew chief position can reap rewards or add a new set of challenges. For Alex Lowes the 2018 season will see him work with Andrew Pitt and first impressions were very positive at the Jerez test.

A change can be as good as a holiday and having fresh eyes to look at a problem can lead to new solutions. For Alex Lowes, the 2018 season will see the former British champion work with a new crew chief, but following the Jerez test the Yamaha rider is excited by the prospect of working with Andrew Pitt.

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Marco Melandri: "The New Rules Are Hurting Ducati More Than Anyone"

The Jerez test offered the first chance to see the new regulations in action. For Marco Melandri it confirmed his worst fears; Ducati are being hit harder than anyone

That Ducati has been hit hardest by the 2018 regulations shouldn't come as a surprise, but following three days of testing at Jerez it was surprising how morose Marco Melandri felt. The Italian returned to WorldSBK in 2017 and was able to have a strong season that was highlighted by a victory in front of his home fans at Misano.

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Jerez WorldSBK & MotoGP Test Wednesday Notes: Hard Work, Secretive Factories, And New Asphalt

It has been a very busy track at Jerez, with a total of 27 bikes on track at some point or other on Wednesday, with a good mixture of MotoGP, WorldSBK, and the Honda Racing BSB team of Jason O'Halloran and Dan Linfoot. What the first day of testing showed is that the WorldSBK bikes are almost as fast as a MotoGP machine – or at least, a Kawasaki is, shod with qualifiers and ridden with sufficient attitude by Tom Sykes in this case – and that the new surface means the track is a good deal quicker than it was when the MotoGP race was held here back in May. Full times are here.

As it is a private test, there is very little official communication from the teams, despite the fact that a group of journalists – including myself – is here in the paddock. KTM and Suzuki have been forthcoming and helpful, Ducati are cagey, Aprilia don't have much to test, and Honda are secretive – and all of the work is currently falling on Cal Crutchlow's shoulders, as the Repsol Honda team are saving their test days for next year. Honda are not as secretive as Yamaha, however, who are holding their private test over in Sepang, under a virtual media blackout. All we know about that is that Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Johann Zarco, and Kohta Nozane will be on the bike, as Jonas Folger is still not fit enough to be riding.

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Analysis: The "Smart" Approach To Writing The WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart was tasked with improving the show in 2018. Here the FIM Superbike Technical Director explains the thought process behind the new regulations

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes.

“There's a lot of benefits to these changes but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike. This should improve reliability up and down the grid while also improving the quality of packages in the midfield which should improve the racing.

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Analysis: A New Dawn For WorldSBK In 2018

As winter testing begins, we take a look at the regulation changes for WorldSBK in 2018.

The opening round of the 2018 WorldSBK season may be 100 days away but the race to get ready for Phillip Island has begun in earnest. The majority of the paddock are in the south of Spain to begin winter testing at Jerez, and there is certainly a lot of work to be done.

The biggest single change in the history of the series will see widespread changes to the technical regulations. The headline act has been the introduction of mandated - and variable - rev limits for each manufacturer, in a bid to curtail the dominance enjoyed by Kawasaki and Ducati in recent years.

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Valencia MotoGP Test Wrap Up:

The moment the bikes fell silent at Valencia, at 5pm on Wednesday, officially marked the end of the beginning. The 2018 season is now well underway, the initial outlines of next year's bikes being revealed. There is still a long way to go to Qatar, but the first step has been taken, the first few hundred terabytes of data downloaded to laptops and uploaded to factory servers for analysis.

The new season began in much the same vein as the old season ended: with Marc Márquez fastest, and on a tear. The Repsol Honda rider was fastest on the second day of the test, and fastest overall, four tenths quicker than his teammate on Wednesday, and a tenth quicker than Maverick Viñales, who had topped the timesheets on Tuesday.

The timesheets had a familiar look to them. The top five overall consisted of the two Repsol Hondas and three Yamahas – the two Movistar factory bikes and Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 machine – followed by a couple of Ducatis, Jorge Lorenzo on the factory bike and Jack Miller on the Pramac machine. Whether the timesheets will stay like that when Qatar rolls around is another question entirely.

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