Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after a thrilling first race of the 2019 season at Qatar:
KTM launched their 2019 MotoGP campaign at their factory in Mattighofen, Austria today. They introduced the Red Bull Factory MotoGP team, and the Red Bull Tech3 satellite squad. They issued the following press release after the launch:
2019 MotoGP is Go! Red Bull KTM race teams show new colours in Austrian unveiling
Press releases from the factories and teams after the first MotoGP test of 2019 at Sepang:
KTM has 40 years less experience than Honda in premier-class Grand Prix racing, so what does the Austrian factory need to do to get closer to the front?
KTM had an impressive rookie season in 2017, but last year the Austrian factory stalled. And when prize signing Johann Zarco first tested the RC16 in November he was shell-shocked.
The arrival of Zarco at KTM is supposed to be the factory’s next big step because he is the strongest rider to sit on the RC16. But the Frenchman’s first outings on the bike suggest the gap between KTM and the front of the pack is still huge, so what did KTM learn from 2018 – and what does it need to do in 2019?
With two WorldSBK tests under our belts, we are now just days away from the 2019 MotoGP preseason starting. The entire MotoGP field, minus the injured Jorge Lorenzo, will take to the Sepang circuit on 6th February for three days of testing.
But before that, from 1st to 3rd of February – that's Friday through Sunday – the MotoGP factories will be present at Sepang for the first shakedown test of the year. Test riders from all six factories will take to the track, and will be joined by the riders for the factories with concessions, who are allowed unlimited testing.
The original point of the shakedown test was to allow factories to ensure that all of the parts they have brought for their contracted riders (e.g. full-time entries in MotoGP) to test are actually working, and do some preliminary preparation ahead of the official test. After all, the full-time riders cannot afford to waste a day while engineers and mechanics try to figure out why something which worked at the factory has ceased to work at the race track, for example.
2018 proved to be the end of an era for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Early in the year, team boss Hervé Poncharal signed contracts which would see them leave Yamaha for KTM, and Monster for Red Bull, becoming the Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad. 20 years of history with Yamaha, and 10 years with Monster Energy ended, a new future began.
At KTM's home round of MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, the Austrian factory announced their program for the coming two years. As part of that, Tech3 announced they would also be switching to KTM for their Moto2 entry as well, with riders Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Öttl moving up to the intermediate class, joining Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin in MotoGP.
On the Sunday after the race in Austria, I spoke to Hervé Poncharal about his plans for the next two years, and how he saw the years he had spent together with Yamaha. He talked about his pleasure at signing both Bezzecchi and Öttl, what he expects from his relationship with KTM, and ponders the predicament in which Yamaha find themselves.
Q: You announced your program this year. It’s also in Moto2, with Philipp Öttl and Marco Bezzecchi. You must be very excited about Bezzecchi.
HP: I am. This was a big mission because when we decided to move from Yamaha to KTM, I clearly took the decision to move everything - MotoGP, Moto2. But it was not easy to find the right riders. A lot of them were already signed. I’m very happy because Marco is… I don’t like to jump on the rider when he’s somebody, but I spoke to Uccio about Bezzecchi in Argentina, and even last year. So for a long time I’ve been working on him.
How close is MotoGP at the moment? If you just looked at the championship standings, you might reply, not particularly close. Marc Márquez wrapped up the MotoGP championship after just 16 of the 19 races, with a lead of 102 points. He had won 8 of those 16 races, a strike rate of 50%, and been on the podium another five times as well. On paper, it looks like the kind of blowout which has fans turning off in droves, and races held in front of half-empty grandstands.
But that's not what's happening. The series is as popular as ever, TV ratings are high, crowds are larger than ever before, and social media lights up on every race weekend. Rightly so: the show has been spectacular in 2018. Marc Márquez' championship blowout belies just how close the racing actually is. How? Because there are eight or nine riders who can compete for the podium on any given weekend.
The five races leading up to Sepang bear this out. There have been four different manufacturers and six different riders on the podium, and that is with Jorge Lorenzo missing four of those five races. The podiums are fairly evenly distributed as well: Honda have 6 of the 15 podium places, Ducati have had 4, Suzuki 3 podiums, Yamaha 2 podiums. Honda, Ducati, and Yamaha have all won races.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the Malaysian Grand Prix: