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Bombshell: Yamaha And Tech3 To Part Ways For 2019 - Who Takes Yamahas, Who Supplies Tech3?

If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team.

The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 have been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro.

However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months. Although Hervé Poncharal remained ever the gentleman when talking about Yamaha, toeing the company line, there were occasional hints of frustration in his response to questions, though never anything explicit. With Tech3 having been given a better offer from a different manufacturer - as the press release states - that made it easier to end the association with Yamaha.

That huge piece of news opens up a whole range of questions. Who will be supplying Tech3 with MotoGP bikes next year? Will Yamaha have a satellite team in 2019? And does this open the door to the VR46 team to make their entry into MotoGP? 

To address the first question first, there are only really two candidates to supply Tech3 with MotoGP bikes from 2019: KTM and Suzuki. Neither the budget nor the size of the racing department at Aprilia would suggest that the Italian factory would be capable of offering Tech3 a better deal than Yamaha. Both Honda and Ducati are already supplying a lot of teams with bikes for 2019, and neither would be able to add another satellite squad.

Between KTM and Suzuki, a similar principle applies: KTM has one of the largest budgets in the paddock - the Austrian factory is investing €250 million over a five-year program - and the resources in the racing department to support a satellite team. Both KTM CEO Stefan Pierer and head of racing Pit Beirer have expressed an intention to have a satellite team in the near future. In an interview with MotoMatters held last year at Aragon, team boss Mike Leitner said "Of course, it would be nice to have a satellite team one day. This is clear. This is the commitment from Mr. Pierer and Pit." 

Suzuki, on the other hand, has a much smaller racing department and budget. Team boss Davide Brivio has also expressed a desire to have a satellite team, but has always met with some resistance from senior management in the Japanese factory. When discussing the possibility of a satellite team, Brivio has always said that having a single satellite rider would be manageable, but supplying two riders would be more difficult. 

So although it remains speculation at the current moment, it looks more likely that Tech3 will partner with KTM than anyone else. That would also make sense given KTM's expression of interest in having Johann Zarco ride for them in 2019. Zarco would then swap to the factory team from Tech3, and make room for new riders in the Tech3 satellite squad. Those riders would most likely be Miguel Oliveira and possibly Brad Binder, who are both under contract to KTM in Moto2, and are believed to have clauses in their contracts offering them a seat in MotoGP in the future.

Tech3 parting ways with Yamaha would almost certainly also mean a split with current title sponsor Monster. The obvious replacement for Monster would be Red Bull, and if Tech3 were to become a KTM satellite team, then the F1 Toro Rosso junior team would serve as an example.

If Tech3 are parting ways with Yamaha, where does that leave Yamaha in 2019? The most likely answer is, without a satellite team. Although Dorna is know to be keen to have the Sky VR46 team in MotoGP, the series organizers have guaranteed the grid slots to the current MotoGP teams for a five-year period ending in 2020, meaning that a vacancy for a new team would only open in 2021. Dorna has stated explicitly that they do not want to expand the grid beyond 24 riders, as that would require them to support those riders financially as well.

The current satellite teams know that any contract with Yamaha would be merely temporary, until the Sky VR46 team could take a grid slot in 2021. Given Valentino Rossi's strong association with Yamaha (beyond his own history with the brand, the VR46 Riders Academy also has a contract with Yamaha to supply bikes), there is no doubt that when the team bearing his name enters MotoGP, it will be with Yamaha. This would also open up a route for talented riders from the VR46 Academy into MotoGP, whoever is in the factory team.

The only realistic way for the Sky VR46 Racing Team to enter MotoGP before 2021 would be to either partner with an existing satellite team, or to purchase the grid slots of the team. Partnering with the VR46 organization would be a very one-sided affair, and basically amount to a takeover. Selling grid slots would be a better, more lucrative deal, though it would mean stepping out of MotoGP. With the money involved - an educated guess would put the price of two grid slots for two years somewhere in the low seven figures - a team would be able to race in Moto2 or Moto3 quite comfortably for several seasons.

All this is speculation, for the moment. What we do know is that Tech3 won't be with Yamaha from 2019. Who they will be with, we expect to find out fairly shortly.

Below is the press release announcing the split:


TECH3 AND YAMAHA TO PART WAYS FOR 2019

Yamaha and Tech3 announce that 2018 will be their last season as partners in the FIM Grand Prix MotoGP World Championship.

Gerno di Lesmo, Italy & Bormes les Mimosas, France - 22nd February 2018

After 20 mutually successful years of partnership, Tech3 have informed Yamaha that they will end their collaboration with Yamaha at the end of the 2018 season.

Yamaha have accepted Tech3‘s decision and will provide its full support to the team until the last race of the 2018 season.

Tech3 will continue its participation in the MotoGP (and Moto2) World Championship and will announce its plans for 2019 and beyond at a later date.

Yamaha is in the process of deciding whether they will run a satellite team for 2019 and, if so, what form that collaboration will take.

KOUICHI TSUJI
GENERAL MANAGER MOTORSPORTS DEVELOPMENT DIVISION, YMC | PRESIDENT, YMR

Very recently we were informed by Hervé Poncharal, the owner of Tech3, that he has decided not to extend his contract with Yamaha to lease YZR-M1 bikes. After discussions with Hervé it was clear that he has chosen to align with a new partner for the future and therefore, regretfully, we were obliged to respect and accept his decision.

The end of such a successful partnership is always a bit sad, as it also marks the end of a long-term relationship. We are very grateful for Hervé‘s loyalty and support to the Yamaha brand and for the excellent results obtained throughout that time.

We will continue to provide our full support to the Tech3 team and their riders throughout the 2018 season, while we simultaneously evaluate our options for an alternative team in the MotoGP World Championship class for 2019 and beyond.

HERVÉ PONCHARAL
MONSTER YAMAHA TECH3, OWNER & TEAM PRINCIPAL

To summarize 20 years of an incredible partnership between Tech3 and Yamaha in a few words is a very difficult mission. Since I first met Mr. Iio in 1998, where he gave me the opportunity to join Yamaha Motor Corporation, it has been an extraordinary journey together. All I remember are fantastic memories, great results, an awesome atmosphere and astonishing feelings we shared with the Yamaha family, which will always be in my mind and in my heart. Clearly, to end that kind of partnership is a big decision for me. All I want to say is more than a huge thank you to Yamaha, to Mr. Tsuji, Mr. Tsuya, Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Nakajima, plus all the guys that have been supporting and helping us.

Tech3 is a small company, which has to think about the future and has to weigh the different options. We‘ve been offered a deal, that includes something we‘ve been waiting for almost since we started with Tech3 and I couldn‘t say no. But obviously, we are the Monster Yamaha Team until the last lap of the Valencia GP 2018. Johann Zarco and Hafizh Syahrin will be fighting for top positions and without a doubt, Yamaha can count on us to be a loyal performant partner.

One more time a huge thank you for Yamaha‘s support. I hope they can carry on and have the success they deserve and eventually find a partner to replace Tech3.

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Pecco Bagnaia To Move To MotoGP In 2019 With Pramac Ducati

Pecco Bagnaia is to move up to MotoGP with the Pramac Ducati team in 2019 and 2020. The news was announced on Twitter by the SkyVR46 team, and confirmed by Bagnaia himself on his Twitter feed.

The move is not a surprise. Bagnaia had been widely tipped to move to MotoGP with Ducati, with Paolo Ciabatti admitting at the launch back in January that the Italian factory had an interest in the 21 year old. 

Bagnaia's contract is official confirmation that Danilo Petrucci will be leaving the Pramac team at the end of this season. Petrucci's current contract with Ducati contains a clause granting him a seat in the factory Ducati team, if a seat is open. As yet, there are no open seats in the factory team, with Ducati expected to sign both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo to new contracts.

The signing of Bagnaia is the second contract to be finalized in the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season, after Maverick Viñales signed on with Yamaha for two years, and testing is not even complete yet. More is likely to come, and sooner rather than later.

The press release from the Alma Pramac Team appears below the Tweet from Pecco Bagnaia:


Alma Pramac Racing announces agreement with Pecco Bagnaia for 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons

The Italian rider signed a contract directly with Ducati

Alma Pramac Racing announces that it has reached an agreement with Francesco Bagnaia for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons. The Italian rider, who signed a contract directly with Ducati, will step on board the Ducati Desmosedici GP of Alma Pramac Racing during the next official Valencia tests at the end of the 2018 MotoGP season.

Francesco "Pecco" Bagnaia was born in Turin on 14 January 1997 and made his debut in the Moto3 world championship in the 2013 season. In 2014 he joined the SKY Racing Team VR46, scoring his best result with a fourth place at Le Mans in France. After his first podium finish in the 2015 French Grand Prix, the following year Bagnaia was one of the Moto3 protagonists with two victories and four podiums that allowed him to finish fourth in the championship standings. In 2017 Pecco moved to Moto2 with the SKY Racing Team VR46 and had a great season (four times on the podium with two second places), finishing 5th in the championship standings and winning the Rookie of the Year trophy.


THE SKY RACING TEAM VR46 ACHIEVES ITS MOST IMPORTANT GOAL
IT IS OFFICIAL THE DEBUT OF FRANCESCO BAGNAIA IN MOTOGP: FROM THE NEXT SEASON HE WILL BE ON THE DUCATI OF THE PRAMAC RACING TEAM
FIVE YEARS SINCE THE BIRTH OF THE SKY-VR46 PROJECT, FOR THE FIRST TIME, A YOUNG ITALIAN RIDER GROWN IN THE TEAM ARRIVES IN MOTOGP

Milan, February 21st 2018. The Sky Racing Team VR46 has hit its most important goal of identifying the young Italian riders, making them grow and helping them to become the champions of the future. In fact, it is now official the debut of Francesco Bagnaia in MotoGP in 2019. From next season the young Italian rider, supported in these years by the Sky-VR46 project, will continue his professional career in MotoGP on the Ducati of the Pramac Racing Team.

This is a prestigious result for Sky and the VR46 of Valentino Rossi, which have been working together with the VR46 Riders Academy since 2014 with the aim of enriching the Italian motorcycle movement with new talents.

"Next year I my dreams will come true. Often I have said that I would have like to debut in MotoGP riding a Ducati and it will finally happen.” - says Bagnaia – “For me it is a great result and I have to thank the Team, Sky and the VR46 Riders Academy, for all the support and for following me in my growth path in the last 5 seasons, three with the Sky Racing Team VR46. But now, it is important to stay focused on this last season in Moto2. We have a great opportunity”.

Francesco Bagnaia, after winning the Rookie of the Year title in Moto2 in 2017 with 4 podiums, will race again this year for the Sky Racing Team VR46; alongside him Luca Marini. In Moto3, confirmation for Nicolò Bulega and Dennis Foggia at his debut in the world championship.

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Photo Gallery: Andrew Gosling Shoots The Phillip Island WorldSBK Test - Tuesday


Master & Pupil - Jonathan Rea shows Toprak Razgatlioglu the way around Phillip Island


PJ Jacobsen moves up to WorldSBK, and is testing the Magneti Marelli electronics ahead of the Ten Kate team


Chaz Davies has some catching up to do


Anything PJ can do, Leon can do too


Xavi Fores puts the hammer down


Meet the wildcards. The name is on the backdrop


Kenan Sofuoglu has not made much of a mark yet at PI. But it isn't Sunday yet


And Troy Herfoss makes it three Fireblade wheelies


What Chaz Davies hopes Jonathan Rea will mainly be seeing this season.


Jake Gagne faces a steep learning curve


#1


The Man In Black


#2


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If you'd like a print of one of Andrew Gosling's shots, then send Andrew an email and he'll be happy to help.

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Photo Gallery: Andrew Gosling Shoots The Phillip Island WorldSBK Test - Monday


Phillip Island feels like a Ducati track. Marco Melandri agreed on Monday


Leon Camier hopes to revive Honda's fortunes in WorldSBK. So far, so good


Not the best of starts to the test for Jonathan Rea. Still third fastest, despite the highside


The brains of the operation


Aussie veteran Wayne Maxwell is still posting respectable times among the WorldSBK crowd


Tom Sykes' first objective? To beat the other side of the garage


Back to WorldSBK for Loris Baz, after a solid few years in MotoGP


Hot headers


Lucas Mahias: looks like a boxer, rides like the wind, wears a pink helmet. Any questions?


The Orange Menace: Luke Stapleford caused a bit of a stir on the Triumph 675 on Monday, finishing 3rd in WorldSSP


An American back in WorldSBK: Jake Gagne has big shoes to fill in the Red Bull Honda team


Peekaboo, Mr West


High hopes for the Pata Yamaha team, though Alex Lowes finished just 8th on Monday


Tom Toparis, wildcarding at his home round, on the Kawasaki ZX-6RR


Two-time ASBK champ Troy Herfoss demonstrating the Universal Racer Sign Language for "the front keeps wanting to wash out"


Daniel Falzon, teammate to Wayne Maxwell, and another Australian at the test


Built for speed, not for comfort


One of Xavi Fores' mechanics demonstrates the artisanal craft of tie-wrapping


Kenan Sofuoglu lost his WorldSSP title last year. Can he get it back in 2018?


Behold the steed of His Chazness


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of the fantastic photos which appear on the site, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. A subscription will also give you access to the many in-depth and exclusive articles we produce for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The more readers who join our growing band of site supporters, the better we can make MotoMatters.com, and the more readers will get out of the website.

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The Week That Testing Hits Full Swing - Moto2 & Moto3 In Jerez, MotoGP In Buriram, WorldSBK In PI

The official start of the WorldSBK season is less than two weeks away, with practice for the first round set to kick off at Phillip Island on Friday 23rd February. And to get fans in the mood for the return of actual racing, the coming week sees a full program of testing take place.

The week kicks off in Jerez, where the full grid of Moto2 and Moto3 has now assembled. After skipping the Valencia test last week, the Marc VDS Moto2 team, Sky VR46 team, and Swiss Innovative Investors team are all on track together in Jerez. The test will last for three days, from Monday through Wednesday 14th February, with the Moto2 and Moto3 classes taking to the track in separate sessions. 

The Jerez test should give a much better indication of what is to come this year, especially in Moto2. The riders missing from Valencia included Pecco Bagnaia, Joan Mir, Alex Marquez, and Sam Lowes, all names reckoned among the favorites for 2018. Seeing how they will fare against Lorenzo Baldassarri, Mattia Pasini, and Simone Corsi, who were fastest in Valencia, should be revealing. Near-live timing is available on the MotoGP.com website, with the Moto2 times here, and the Moto3 times on this page.

Once the Jerez test is finished, eager fans will have to wait less than a day for bikes to return to the track. On Friday 16th February the MotoGP teams take to the track at Buriram in Thailand. The full compliment of riders will be present, including Hafizh Syahrin making his debut on the Tech 3 machine. 

The Thailand test is not expected to be particularly instructive, however. Informally, the test in Buriram was being referred to as a "Michelin test" by paddock insiders. The expected heat and the layout of the track is not going to be much help in developing the bike. The Chang International Circuit, as the Buriram track is officially known, is a few long straights strung together with tight corners. What's more, the extreme heat - heat and humidity is expected to be worse than at the already tropical Sepang - will sap a lot of power from engines, making judging them difficult. Michelin, however, will get some data on the stress imposed on tires by the track.

Live timing of the MotoGP test in Thailand will be available via the MotoGP.com website. TV coverage of the test will be similar to that on offer for the Sepang test, with regular updates during the test,and then a wrap up show at the end of the day.

The MotoGP test finishes on Sunday the 18th of February, and then we are into the first week of racing. That week kicks off with a two-day WorldSBK test at Phillip Island, ahead of the opening round of the series that weekend, from 23rd to 25th February.

Source: 

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Seven MotoGP Races To Be Shortened To Tighten Up Schedule

Seven MotoGP races are to be shortened for the 2018 season onwards. The MotoGP races at Austin, Le Mans, Barcelona, Brno, and Misano are all to be cut by a single lap, the race at Jerez is to lose two laps, and the season finale at Valencia is to be reduced by a whole three laps. 

The reason for the reduction in length is to bring the races into line with the remainder of the calendar, and create a consistent time schedule. Previously, the MotoGP regulations specified a minimum and maximum length for races (between 95km and 130km), but for 2018, the specification of distance has been dropped. Race distance for all events is now to be determined by the Permanent Bureau, consisting of the FIM and Dorna.

The old race distances caused a large variation in race duration. Races could last anywhere between 40 and 45 minutes, making scheduling for TV problematic. It also meant that if there were delays at the start, or if races were wet, they could overrun the allotted TV slot, causing major headaches for broadcasters. It meant that audiences were never sure whether they would get to see the Parc Fermé interviews or podium ceremonies. 

By shortening the seven longest races, the schedule has been tightened up significantly. All of the races bar Austria and Barcelona are between 40 and 42 minutes in length. Only Barcelona is likely to be significantly longer, at nearly 43 minutes, though the reinstatement of Turn 12 made possible during the resurfacing of the circuit should make the lap shorter than it has been for the past two years, since the tragic death of Luis Salom.

The biggest change comes at Valencia. By cutting the race by 3 laps, reducing it from 30 to 27 laps, the race duration should be cut by over four and a half minutes. That is a crucial change at the last race of the season, especially given that the title has been decided at Valencia twice in the last three years. 

Reducing race distance will not have an enormous impact on fuel consumption. The one race to be reduced which was relatively critical for fuel consumption was Misano, and taking a lap away should ease the problem there. 

The change will also be important in the coming years. From 2019, Grand Prix racing will add a fourth class, in the Moto-e electric bike racing series. That race - a 20-minute sprint race - will also have to be fit into an already busy schedule. Cutting back on race length will assist in scheduling for that series as well.

The table below shows the effect of shortening races on race duration, and the amount of time possibly saved. Though times are shown to three decimal places, these are approximations, and likely to be out by several seconds.

Race Pre-2018
race
length
(laps)
Race
time
record
Record
year
2018
race
length
(laps)
Projected
new
record
Difference
Qatar 22 42:28.452 2016      
Argentina 25 41:35.644 2015      
Austin 21 43:33.430 2014 20 41:28.981 2:04.449
Jerez 27 44:57.246 2015 25 41:37.450 3:19.796
Le Mans 28 43:29.793 2017 27 41:56.586 1:33.207
Mugello 23 41:32.126 2017      
Barcelona 25 44:41.518 2017 24 42:54.257* 1:47.261
Assen 26 40:54.037 2015      
Sachsenring 30 40:59.525 2017      
Brno 22 42:47.800 2014 21 40:51.082 1:56.718
Austria 28 39:43.323 2017      
Silverstone 20 40:51.835 2014      
Misano 28 43:43.524 2016 27 42:09.827 1:33.697
Aragon 23 41:44.933 2015      
Motegi 24 42:21.259 2014      
Phillip Island 27 40:33.849 2015      
Sepang 20 40:37.691 2015      
Valencia 30 45:54.228 2016 27 41:18.805 4:35.423
             
  Longest
race
Longest
race length
       
Before changes Valencia 45:54.228        
After changes Barcelona 42:54.257        

* The layout of Barcelona has been changed again for this year, with the reinstatement of Turn 12. Race time will vary from this.

Race length calculation based on the average lap time of the fastest race time recorded at a circuit. This is an approximation, giving a rough idea of how much shorter a race will be, rather than an exact prediction. Race length will vary by track condition and weather conditions

Source: 

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Moto2 & Moto3 Teams To Test At Valencia From Tuesday To Thursday

With MotoGP and WorldSBK both already having had their first tests of the season, it is now the turn of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams to get the 2018 season underway. Over the next three days, a large contingent of riders from the two Grand Prix support classes will gather in Valencia for their first test of the year.

The complete Moto2 and Moto3 field will not be present at the Valencia test. According to the official website of the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, 26 Moto2 riders and 14 Moto3 riders will be participating in the test. Riders present will include Moto2 favorites such as KTM riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, Gresini's Jorge Navarro, Marinelli Rivacold team's Romano Fenati, and Swiss rider Domi Aegerter, who has successfully managed to raise nearly €170,000 towards his season through a special crowdfunding scheme for Swiss athletes.

In the Moto3 class, Aron Canet will be present with the Estrella Galicia team, as well as Gresini riders Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannnantonio, and the Angel Nieto (formerly Aspar) Moto3 team of Andrea Migno and Albert Arenas. The Moto3 teams are likely to start off with bikes based on last year's machines. After the surprise Honda sprung on KTM last season, introducing a new, more powerful engine at the final test, too late for KTM to address this before the first race at Qatar, both Honda and KTM are likely to keep their powder dry for the final test, and wait awhile before introducing a new engine.

There will be some big names missing from the Valencia test, however. The Estrella Galicia Moto2 team of Joan Mir and Alex Marquez will not be present in Valencia, nor will the CGBM team of Sam Lowes and Iker Lecuona. The Sky VR46 team will not be sending either its Moto2 or Moto3 riders to the test. The reason given for missing this test is the temperatures in Valencia in early February. "We would rather wait for warmer temperatures and have a private test at the end of February," Marc VDS press boss Ian Wheeler told Speedweek.

After Valencia, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams head south to Jerez, for a three-day test there starting on 12th February. The final official Moto2 & Moto3 test will be at Jerez once again, from 6th to 8th March. The Moto2 teams will get their official engines from Externpro at that test.

The Valencia and Jerez tests will be open to the public, attendance being free. Live timing should be available via the dedicated timing sites of the Valencia circuit, and for the Jerez circuit.

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Hafizh Syahrin To Test Monster Tech 3 Yamaha At Buriram In Audition For 2018 MotoGP Season

Hafizh Syahrin is to test the Tech 3 Yamaha at the upcoming MotoGP test in Buriram, Thailand. The test is quite obviously an audition for the Malaysian rider, who is the prime candidate to replace the sick Jonas Folger for the rest of the 2018 season.

The test is a formality for Syahrin. The SIC Moto2 team has already replaced him with Zulfahmi Khairuddin for the coming season, and all pieces are in place for Syahrin to become a full-time fixture in MotoGP. But caution dictates that the Malaysian rider must first show he what he is capable of at Buriram before being officially signed to a contract.

But the bar will not set at a particular finishing position in the test for the Malaysian. What Syahrin will have to do at Buriram is to show continuous progress, and show he is capable of learning. Given his progress in Moto2, that should be acheivable.

The press release from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team announcing Syahrin for the test appears below:

Hafizh Syahrin to test the Yamaha YZR-M1 in Buriram

For the upcoming official MotoGP test in Thailand, Buriram, Monster Yamaha Tech3 calls for the services of Hafizh Syahrin. With just 23 years of age, the Malaysian rider is already looking back on four years of Moto2 experience and now feels more than ready to make his first steps in the premier class of motorcycle racing. Following three exciting days of testing at the all-new venue for the MotoGP category, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team together with its partners will evaluate the performance of the new arrival in order to decide a possible permanent ride concerning the 2018 season.

Hafizh SYAHRIN

“First of all, I want to thank Herve Poncharal for giving me this opportunity and of course the entire Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. I’ll try to do my very best during these three days in Thailand. For me, it’s a dream coming true to be able to ride a MotoGP machine. I have to admit, that I’m overly excited to get this chance. I hope I can be fast from the word go to show everybody what I’m capable of. In addition, I want to thank Razlan and all the people, who support me and made this possible. I’m incredibly happy and I’m looking forward to be in Buriram, because it will be the very first time ever I can ride a MotoGP bike. I know that I have to learn a lot abroad the Yamaha YZR-M1 and I’m eager to try to understand how the team works as I know that they are very experienced, so I want to make the most of their input. During this winter, I trained a lot, yet I hope this hard work pays off and I can’t wait to get this test started.”

Hervé PONCHARAL

Team Manager

“I’m really happy and honored to have the possibility to have Hafizh Syahrin with us for the test in Buriram. As everybody knows, since Jonas Folger decided that he couldn’t race in 2018, we’ve been looking for who could be the right replacement rider. Following the Sepang test, we had many meetings and it has been decided that Hafizh Syahrin would be a very good choice for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Right now, it is only three days, but I am more than convinced that Hafizh is going to show us what he can do. He is young, only 23 years old, has already done some podiums in the Moto2 class, which is not easy. He ended inside the top 10 in the final ranking of Moto2 in 2017, which is a huge achievement, because I know how tough this category is. As I always said, to have a young rider is much more meaningful for the team than having an already established rider. Let’s do the test, I’m already full of excitement and optimism and really soon after Buriram we will take a final decision. Yet, I would like to thank Razlan Razali from Sepang International Circuit, who is the team manager of Hafizh Syahrin.”

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Hafizh Syahrin Now Main Candidate For Tech 3 MotoGP Seat As Zulfahmi Khairuddin Confirmed In His Moto2 Ride

The chances of MotoGP getting its first ever Malaysian rider are rising exponentially. It is looking ever more likely that Hafizh Syahrin, currently signed to the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team in Moto2, will move up to MotoGP and take over the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat vacated by Jonas Folger due to illness.

Rumors that Syahrin was a candidate to replace Folger first emerged after the opening MotoGP test of the 2018 season in Sepang, where a range of names were being bandied about. Few people were mentioning Syahrin, however, until MCN published a story linking the Malaysian rider to the team.

Since Saturday, things have moved into a higher gear. Today, the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team confirmed that Zulfahmi Khairuddin will be replacing Syahrin on the Kalex Moto2 machine the team will be fielding in 2018. At the same time, Syahrin confirmed in an Instagram post that he will be leaving the team to ride elsewhere.

The probability that "elsewhere" turns out to be the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP teams now looks very high indeed. Several pieces have now fallen into place to make this possible, and especially solving the problem of riders getting out of contracts. With the Sepang International Circuit having a very big say in the running of the SIC and Petronas Sprinta Racing teams, it was relatively simple for them to release Syahrin from his contract, which Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told MotoMatters.com was a requirement for any rider he would sign.

The announcement of Khairuddin on the Moto2 bike makes an announcement about Syahrin imminent. The odds of an official announcement on who will ride the Tech 3 Yamaha M1 being released early next week are high.

There is one possible stumbling block along the way. Syahrin has a long relationship with Malaysian oil giant Petronas, who have backed him for most of his career in Grand Prix racing. However, Tech 3 have a similarly long relationship with French oil company Motul, who are very prominent in MotoGP. This relationship will have to be solved before the deal can go forward.

No doubt that both Dorna and Yamaha would help grease the wheels of such a deal. Having a Malaysian rider in MotoGP would be an enormous coup for both the MotoGP series organizers and the Japanese manufacturer. Syahrin would be the first Malaysian to race in the premier class since its inception in 1949.

The move would not be a bad one from a sporting perspective either. Though Syahrin has not set the world alight in Moto2, he has been respectable, racking up three podiums in the class. He has finished in the top ten of the championship for the last two years, ahead of riders such as Mattia Pasini, Dominique Aegerter, Alex Márquez, Simone Corsi, Xavi Vierge, and Fabio Quartararo. He finished ahead of the other riders being linked to the ride – Sandro Cortese, Dominique Aegerter, and Yonny Hernandez the most prominent – and has consistently managed to finish in the top six.

More intriguing is his ability in the wet. When the rain falls, Syahrin finds another gear, all three of his podiums having come in wet conditions. Syahrin made history with Zulfahmi Khairuddin back in 2012, when the two Malaysians both finished on the podium at their home Grand Prix, Khairuddin in Moto3, Syahrin in Moto2. Syahrin's wet-weather riding skills mean he could cause a surprise or two if it rains. And given the recent history of MotoGP, rain seems certain at at least a couple of circuits this (and every) year.

Of course, nothing is done until the contracts are signed and the official press release has been issued. But all the signs so far are pointing in the direction of that being just a matter of days.


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Northern Ireland To Play Host To World Superbikes In 2019

The WorldSBK series is set to go to Northern Ireland in 2019. Dorna have come to an agreement with Manna Developments, the company behind the brand new Lake Torrent Circuit near Coalisland, County Tyrone, to host a round of WorldSBK starting next year.

The announcement will be welcomed in Northern Ireland, given the very strong motorcycling heritage of the region. The northern part of Ireland - both north and south of the border - has produced some of the great names of motorcycle racing, and one of the great dynasties in the Dunlop family.

The area plays host to one of the most prestigious races held on public roads, the Northwest 200, and many other races are held in the area, including at Cookstown and Dundrod. Dundrod is also the site of the Ulster Grand Prix, which was on the Grand Prix calendar until 1971. Both reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea and Milwaukee Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty hail from the region. 

The Lake Torrent project appears to be a much more financially sound proposition than the Circuit of Wales, which was due to be built to host MotoGP. The Lake Torrent Circuit would require one tenth of the funding of the Circuit of Wales, and the funding has already been raised through private means. The chances of the circuit actually being completed are very high, as there is no dependency on public funding.

The press release from Dorna announcing the WorldSBK round appears below:


WorldSBK set for Northern Irish debut in 2019

Lake Torrent Circuit confirmed to host MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship action

Developer Manna Developments and Dorna WSBK Organization today confirmed the signing of a three-year agreement to host the WorldSBK Races at the new £30m (€34m) Lake Torrent Circuit which is currently under construction in Coalisland, County Tyrone, just 40 minutes away from Belfast.

Lake Torrent is the brainchild of Manna Developments founder and motor-racing enthusiast David Henderson and is set to regenerate the Mid Ulster area through new jobs in the business, leisure and engineering sectors – as well as boosting tourism in County Tyrone and across Northern Ireland as a whole.

Designed by award-winning motorsport design firm Driven International, the development of Lake Torrent will transform 163 acres of former clay pits into a world class racing circuit and its creation will see WorldSBK visit Northern Ireland for the first time in the series history.

The WorldSBK Championship is one of the largest motorsport championships in the world. Now in its 31st season, the championship is contested by 59 teams, visiting 12 countries and with global TV airtime in excess of 18,000 hrs. Northern Ireland will join a list of host nations that currently includes Australia, Thailand, Spain, Holland, Italy, England, Czech Republic, USA, Portugal, France, Argentina and Qatar.

Currently in the early development stages, work is now under way on the Lake Torrent Circuit which will be 3.6km (2.2 miles) in length, featuring 12 corners with a width of 12-15m and elevations of +/-30m, accompanied by full supporting facilities.

Estimated to create 700 jobs in the 18 month construction phase, with longer term plans to build a further 90 retail and business units around the circuit, Lake Torrent will bring a huge financial boost to the Mid Ulster area and is set to become more than just a race track.

Motorsport fans will be treated to the full race weekend experience at the state of the art circuit - and weekends don’t come much bigger than the WorldSBK, as David Henderson of Manna Developments explains: “For the past 15 years it has been a dream of mine to build a motor racing circuit that incorporates the feel of the road with the safety of an international standard track – and also to bring the World Superbike Championship to Northern Ireland,” said Mr Henderson.

“Having finally identified the perfect location and achieved planning permission last year, today sees the completion of that dream and is a day that will only be topped when we see up to 30,000 spectators converge in Coalisland for the first WorldSBK racing event in Northern Ireland. They really don’t come much bigger than this. This is a historic milestone for the town of Coalisland, the county of Tyrone and indeed for the whole of Northern Ireland as we celebrate the realisation of our vision to create an internationally recognised motorsport arena which will become a venue for regional, national and international competitions for many years to come," he added.

Reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), who hails from Northern Ireland, is understandably thrilled about the agreement: “I’m so excited about this news because motorcycling in Northern Ireland has a huge heritage, right through from Joey Dunlop to myself and Eugene Laverty. I’m very curious to see how the track is going to look, but I’m sure it will be very well attended because the fans over there love their bikes. I can’t wait to get the chance to go there in 2019, and it’s an incredible way to nurture young talent. I can’t wait to be involved and to fly the flag for Northern Ireland in this new adventure, and it would be nice to create a circuit that many people talk about as the best in the world.”

Mark Hughes, Managing Director of Mrk1 Consulting, who handled the WorldSBK contract negotiations on behalf of Manna Developments, was present at the signing ceremony.

“I’m thrilled that 12 months of hard work with Manna Developments, DORNA and the Mid-Ulster Council have paid off,” said Mr Hughes. “The passion for two-wheeled racing in Northern Ireland is legendary and this circuit and this race will take that passion to new heights. This event will have a huge economic impact on Northern Ireland, Mid-Ulster and Coalisland that will last for generations.”

Last September, Mid Ulster District Council granted planning permission for the first phase of work at Lake Torrent which includes the race circuit, pits, medical centre, restaurant, hospitality suites, six business units and a crèche, as well as a new public ring road to bypass the town and facilitate easy access in and out of the circuit.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Kim Ashton, said: “The development of Lake Torrent as a world class venue for motorsport is hugely important for Mid Ulster and its position has been boosted by news that a competitive event of the standard and reputation of the World Superbike Championship has been secured for three consecutive years. I am delighted to have hosted a reception for the championship representatives and for those who are spearheading Lake Torrent and look forward to meeting and working with them as the project develops.”

Speaking at a reception in the Mid Ulster Council offices in Dungannon, WorldSBK Executive Director Daniel Carrera said: “We are delighted to be adding Northern Ireland as a destination for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The Lake Torrent circuit is a fantastic project that will deliver a high-class facility for competitors and visitors. We are proud that Manna Developments and Mid Ulster representatives have chosen WorldSBK as their top event for the international promotion of the circuit and region.

“We know that the proper management of this kind of facility could provide the local community with new opportunities through business, job creation, leisure and tourism. With the large tradition and culture in motorcycling in Northern Ireland, I am sure that this event could become a reference in our Championship in the near future.”

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