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Marco Melandri Signs On With Aruba Ducati For 2018

The Aruba.it Ducati team has signed Marco Melandri for a second season. The factory-backed Ducati World Superbike squad has extended Melandri's contract through 2018, and the Italian will once again line up alongside Chaz Davies next season.

The contract extension comes on the back of a successful return to racing for the Italian. After parting ways with Aprilia in the middle of the 2015 season, Melandri was forced to take a season away from racing in 2016. Ducati gave Melandri a second chance for 2017, and so far, that gamble has paid off well. Melandri has won one race so far this season, and had six other podiums.

The press release announcing the contract appears below:


The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team and Marco Melandri on track together also in 2018

The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team officially finalized its roster for the 2018 WorldSBK Championship extending for one more year its professional collaboration with Marco Melandri, who will ride once again alongside Chaz Davies.

The synergy between the 35-year-old Italian and both the team and the Panigale R was clear from the very beginning, and Melandri showed his competitiveness to collect seven podiums – including a memorable win at Misano in front of the home crowd – in eight rounds thus far. Melandri will share the pits again with Chaz Davies, who signed a two-year contract in 2016, to form one of the most successful pair in WorldSBK with a collective prize record of 44 wins and 115 podiums to date.

“I’m really happy for the opportunity to prolong this professional collaboration, which represented a new beginning in my career as a rider,” said Melandri. “Together with Ducati and Aruba.it, we enjoyed some really memorable moments, while in other occasions I think my long break from racing affected our performance, so I’m sure there’s still plenty of room to improve. To this end, continuing with the same team and the same bike represents the best possible opportunity to achieve higher goals. I’m ready to tackle a new season with more experience and confidence, and it’s a challenge that makes me incredibly happy. First of all, however, we need to finish the current championship as strongly as possible. With five rounds to go, we’ll always give our 100 percent and assess our performance in the end.”

Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager:

“We’re really happy to consolidate our efforts in the WorldSBK Championship based on continuity, both in terms of the technical package and the riders’ roster. One year ago, Marco started a new adventure with great enthusiasm, showing his talent since the very first outing with the Panigale R despite coming back from a long absence. His qualities are quite obvious, as shown by the results achieved thus far this year. That said, we believe we can reach even more ambitious goals together. With Melandri and Davies, our target is obviously the championship title, both in the Riders and Constructors standings.”

Stefano Cecconi, Aruba S.p.A. CEO and Team Principal:

“From early on, Marco seamlessly integrated within our ‘family’, showing both great speed and professionalism. He worked constantly together with Chaz to develop and improve the package, stepping on the podium already in the opening round of the season, at his official debut with us, and steadily fighting for top positions. Therefore, our priority was to confirm the current riders’ roster. Both Marco and Chaz can aim at the title, and we’ll do our best to always give them the necessary tools to win.”

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Scott Redding Confirmed At Aprilia For 2018

Aprilia have today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season. 

The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes' contract at the end of this season. Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.

With Redding confirmed at Aprilia, that leaves five seats officially still open for 2018. Most of those seats are close to being filled, however. Aspar is very close to extending their deal with Karel Abraham for another year. The second seat at LCR (if it happens, as that is still not 100% certain) will be filled by Taka Nakagami. 

The seats at Avintia Ducati are also still open, though the list of candidates there is very small. It looks like Hector Barbera and Loris Baz will be out from the team, despite Baz posting some solid results. Tito Rabat is believed to be close to a deal for one of the bikes in the Avintia garage, while there are strong and credible rumors that Xavier Simeon could take the other seat. That would be a surprising move, as Simeon has had a thoroughly nondescript career in Moto2, after a single notable victory at the Sachsenring in 2015. But he is said to have the backing of Belgian TV and several other interests, and be bringing around €1 million to the team.

That leaves only the seat at Marc VDS. Sam Lowes is one rider under discussion for that seat, after he was ousted from Aprilia. Stefan Bradl is also talking to the Marc VDS team, in the hope of returning to MotoGP after a disastrous year in WorldSBK. The choice looks to be between those two riders, though rumors persist of Tom Luthi moving up from Moto2. Luthi seems an unlikely candidate, however, as having two rookies from Moto2 in the team at the same time is a risky step to take. Risky, but not impossible, as Tech 3 has demonstrated this year.

More news is likely to be announced in the next few days. The last few seats in MotoGP should be filled before MotoGP leaves Europe for the flyaways.

Below is the official press release from Aprilia on the deal with Redding:


SCOTT REDDING WITH APRILIA IN MOTOGP FOR 2018
ESPARGARÓ AND REDDING TOGETHER TO FORM A MOTIVATED, WELL-ROUNDED DUO WITH GREAT POTENTIAL
ROMANO ALBESIANO: “HIS TALENT AND THE GROWTH OF THE RS-GP FOR IMPORTANT RESULTS”

British rider Scott Redding will team up with Aleix Espargaró and Aprilia Racing astride an RS-GP in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.

Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager, commented: “Scott is a rider who, in spite of his young age, has significant experience in MotoGP. We are pleased to have him join our project and we think that his talent and the continued growth of the RS-GP will allow the team and him to achieving important results.

Our bike has grown consistently, race after race. The goal to battle stably in the top ten has been more than achieved. And while further steps in technical development are on their way already this season, with this agreement with Scott, we are preparing for next season. Aprilia will be at the starting line with a pair of quality riders that have interesting potential. Aleix is demonstrating more and more that he is a high quality rider and a guarantee for the team. With Scott's contribution, we expect that the team's work will bring Aprilia even closer to the top of the championship, into the positions that such a glorious brand deserves to occupy.

At the same time, we bid Sam Lowes farewell, certainly thanking him for his commitment and efforts during this, his rookie season in MotoGP, and for the contribution he has made to the team's growth. He is a rider who will doubtless be able to express his talent, but right now we must make choices that allow us to fulfil our commitments to the Piaggio Group and our fans. We will continue to work together with the efforts we have always made so that he can have a good season finale and we wish Sam all the best for his career in the future.”

Born in 1993, Scott Redding took his first steps in World Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing astride an Aprilia in the 125 class. In the 2008 season, his rookie year, he took a win at his home GP in Donington Park. In 2010 he moved over to Moto2, where he would remain for four seasons, taking 3 wins and 11 podiums. In MotoGP since 2014, as his best result, he boasts a third place finish at Misano in 2015 and Assen in 2016.

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Danny Kent Signs Two-Year Deal With Speed Up For Moto2 From 2018

Danny Kent is to make a return to the Moto2 paddock for 2018. The 23-year-old Englishman is to race for the Speed Up team in Moto2 for 2018 and 2019. 

The deal has been something of a coup for the former Moto3 world champion. Kent split with his Leopard Moto2 team at Austin, after disagreements with the team over bike setup and preparation. Since then, he has replaced Iker Lecuona in the Interwetten team at Mugello, raced as a wildcard and replaced Niccolo Antonelli in the KTM Ajo Moto3 team, and is this weekend replacing the injured Marcel Schrotter in the Dynavolt team.

Kent follows in the footsteps of another British rider at Speed Up. Sam Lowes rode for the Italian team for two seasons in 2014 and 2015, with some success.

The press release issued by Speed Up appears below:


Moto2-SPEED UP RACING TEAM CONFIRMS DANNY KENT FOR 2018 AND 2019 SEASON

Speed Up Racing announces the signing of Danny Kent to ride for the Speed Up Racing Team for 2018 and 2019.

Danny Kent, born in Chippenham (England) on 25th November 1993, made his World Championship debut in 2010 in the 125cc Class. His racing career highlights include the victory of the Moto3 World Championship in 2015.

DANNY KENT#52

“I’m really excited about this new opportunity with Speed Up and I can’t wait to get on the bike. I’d like to thank Luca and all the team for their belief in me, I’m working hard towards the end of season tests and already excited for 2018! This weekend I’m replacing Marcel Schrotter which will be good to get some time back on the Moto2 bike. I’d also like to thank Alpinestars and Nolan for their support. 2017 has been tough but it had made me even more determined for the future.”

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Jack Miller Joins Pramac Ducati For 2018

Pramac Ducati have announced they have signed Jack Miller for the 2018 MotoGP season. The Australian will ride a Desmosedici alongside Danilo Petrucci next year. Miller's contract is directly with Ducati, however, rather than Pramac.

The move had been rumored for some time, and had been expected to be announced last week at Brno. But last week, Miller was still waiting for details of the package his current Marc VDS team could offer. Marc VDS, in turn, were waiting for confirmation from HRC of exactly what equipment they would be supplying, and more importantly, which personnel would be available.

Reportedly, Miller was keen to keep his current team together, but as his crew chief and much of the crew were employed by HRC rather than Marc VDS, he was dependent on what Honda wanted to do. When no information was forthcoming from HRC, Miller accepted the offer from Ducati, which had been on the table for several weeks. Miller will ride a Desmosedici GP17 at Pramac.

Miller's move to Pramac raises several questions elsewhere. First of all, his departure from Marc VDS leaves an open seat at the team. Secondly, his arrival at Pramac leaves Scott Redding looking for a seat. It is tempting to put two and two together, and see Redding return to the team with which he had so much success in Moto2, but that is by no means a foregone conclusion. Marc VDS is said to have a long list of potential candidates to fill the seat, though obviously Redding remains a possibility.

Other names in contention include Stefan Bradl, but it is believed the German would not be a popular choice for the team. Marc VDS is also looking at other riders in Moto2, but the most obvious candidates to make the move up to MotoGP are already signed up, either in Moto2 or MotoGP.

The press release from Pramac Ducati appears below:


Octo Pramac Racing announces agreement with Jack Miller for 2018 MotoGP season
The Australian rider, directly under contract with Ducati, will defend the colours of the Team on board a Ducati Desmosedici GP

The Octo Pramac Racing team wishes to announce that it has reached an agreement for 2018 with Jack Miller. The Australian rider, who will be directly under contract with Ducati, will defend the colours of the Tuscany-based team in the MotoGP World Championship on board a Ducati Desmosedici GP bike as team-mate to Danilo Petrucci.

Born in Townsville, Queensland, on 18th January 1995, Miller made his debut in the 125 cc World Championship in 2011 and then moved immediately into Moto3, where he finished runner-up in the 2014 season. The Australian rider then joined MotoGP the following year and, in 2016, scored his first win in the Dutch GP at Assen.

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Pata Yamaha Confirm Alex Lowes For The 2018 WorldSBK Season

Yamaha today confirmed their rider line-up for 2018 with Alex Lowes re-signed to the Japanese manufacturer.

Despite having consistently being the man most likely to break the Kawasaki and Ducati monopoly Lowes' future had been uncertain until his Suzuka 8 Hours success. Having stood on the WorldSBK rostrum twice for Yamaha this year it had looked like a foregone conclusion that a new contract would be signed, sealed and delivered early in the summer. As it was patience was key for Lowes but in the end he got the deal that he had been chasing.

“The most important thing for me is that I want to be in a position to win the WorldSBK championship in the future,” said Lowes. “I believe that I can be world champion but it's been a tough four years for me in WorldSBK. I believe that I can achieve a lot in this championship and it has been difficult to not have that success.

“I've got a great relationship with Yamaha now and we're continuing to build that relationship. When the time is right and the we're ready I think that Yamaha and myself will be in a really strong position. I'm delighted to be staying here because it's the best option for me and all year it's where I've wanted to be for 2018. We made steps over the winter and we can keep making progress together.”

Yamaha has already made big strides this year with the R1 this year but Lowes is keen to stress the importance of continuing to progress. In the second year of their return to the series they have been able to challenge at the front on a weekly basis. From the season opener in Phillip Island the blue bikes have been able to challenge the Kawasaki's and Ducati's but it's clear that another step forward is needed.

“Suzuka is important because when you're in the box and all the key Japanese people are with you can talk to them and see that they do care about WorldSBK. They want it to be successful. I think that there's support from Japan and there will be opportunities for us to work closer with them to improve the bike. I think that it's probably more likely that at the end of the year we'll start to get some help from those guys for the 2018 season.

“I think that there's lots of areas we could learn from. I don't think that it's one thing that we could bolt on the WorldSBK bike and it would be a massive step. I really believe that having the respect and a closer relationship with the Japanese is the most important thing that would help us improve on all the areas of the WorldSBK bike.”

The WorldSBK season will resume in Germany on August 18.

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Ducati's Flexible Fairings - New Aerodynamic Package Allows Variable Internal Vanes

The new fairing unveiled by Ducati yesterday was not entirely complete. On Saturday morning, the fairing fitted to Danilo Petrucci's Pramac Ducati revealed an added layer of complexity and variability. Below is the new fairing used by Jorge Lorenzo, and fitted to the bike yesterday:

 

Funky fairing on both of Lorenzo's bikes, but not on Dovizioso's

A post shared by David Emmett (@motomatters) on

The aerodynamic package consists of a side pod on each side, with two large aerodynamic surfaces at the top and bottom.

But that is not the complete package. As you can see from Petrucci's fairing below, the side pod allows the number of internal vanes to be varied. Petrucci's bike has a single internal vane added (in white in the picture), which will increase the amount of downforce.

 

Extra internal vanes on Petrucci's bike, for more downforce. Only one of his bikes has the fairing.

A post shared by David Emmett (@motomatters) on

It is clear from the design that the side pods are meant to be swappable to change the amount of downforce at different tracks. If you look closely at the top of the side pods, you can see that the outer vertical element of the pod is attached with a couple of screws at the top, and a couple of screws at the bottom. That makes it possible to unbolt an element with no internal vane and replace it with one with an internal vane quite quickly.

That is allowed under the rules. The aerodynamic regulations mean that only the external shape has to be homologated. What happens on the inside of the side pods is completely free. Yamaha exploited the same loophole in the design of their aerodynamic package, using different numbers of internal vanes at different tracks. Interestingly, Yamaha are not using their aerodynamic package at Brno, while Ducati and Honda experiment. Suzuki, similarly, are not using their aero fairing.

However, the side pods on Petrucci's and Lorenzo's bikes are different. Petrucci's extends much further down the side of the fairing, the lower part containing a lower wing. The question is whether these have been homologated as two fairings or as one. Technically, the rules say that the outer shape must remain unchanged. However, teams are allowed to attach and detach bolt-on parts, such as is the case with the Honda aerodynamic package. If the upper and lower sections are regarded as detachable parts (which the prominently visible screws suggest they are), then the entire package may be regarded as a single, homologated part. This can be cleared up by MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge. We shall attempt to get an affinitive answer from him later.

Another note on the size of the side pods of the Ducati. In the flesh, the side pods aren't as large as they look in photos. They are still significant - roughly the size of Ducati's winglets last year - but they are not abnormally huge.

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Ángel Nieto Dies At The Age Of 70

Ángel Nieto, the thirteen-time (or "12+1", as he preferred to call himself) world champion has died as a result of injuries sustained in a traffic accident. He suffered head injuries after an accident with a quad bike in Ibiza last week, and was taken to hospital and placed in an artificial coma. Though there were initial signs of recovery, Nieto took a turn for the worse last night, and finally passed away on Thursday.

It is hard to overstate the importance of Ángel Nieto to Spanish motorcycle racing. Nieto rose to prominence in the late 1960s, winning his first races in the 50cc class in 1969, as well as his first title. He came to dominate the lightweight classes in the 1970s, winning races and championships in the 50cc and 125cc classes, as well as winning a race in the 80cc class which replaced the 50cc class in the 1980s. By the end of his career, he had racked up a grand total of 90 Grand Prix victories, 139 Grand Prix podiums and thirteen Grand Prix championships, as well as 23 Spanish championships. He retired in 1986 at the age of 39.

At the time of his retirement, Nieto was the second-most successful Grand Prix racer in history, behind Giacomo Agostini. He was overtaken by Valentino Rossi at Le Mans in 2008, but it was a cause for celebration for the Spanish legend. Rossi handed over the reins of his Yamaha M1 to Nieto, and rode pillion for the lap of honor behind Nieto.

During his time in Grand Prix racing, Nieto put Spanish motorcycling on the map, and inspired a generation of racers who would follow in his footsteps. Nieto concentrated on the lightweight classes, as heavy import duties imposed on large capacity motorcycles during the fascist Franco dictatorship era meant there were very few big bikes around. The restrictions on large capacity bikes did spawn a plethora of small Spanish manufacturers, especially in the Barcelona region, and Nieto's partnership with Derbi and Bultaco brought him great success. But Nieto was not afraid of switching manufacturers in the pursuit of success and money, racing for Morbidelli, Garelli, Minarelli and Kreidler.

Nieto's success increased the popularity of racing in Spain, and has inspired young riders ever since. In many ways, his successes spawned the golden era of Spanish racing which we are seeing now. From Nieto came Criville, and from Criville came Gibernau, and from Gibernau came Pedrosa, Marquez, Viñales, and so many more.

Nieto was notoriously superstitious. Though he won a total of thirteen championships, he steadfastly refused to name the number, preferring always to refer to "doce mas uno", or twelve plus one. That "12+1" logo was proudly displayed on the motorhome he still had in the MotoGP paddock, a symbol of the high esteem in which he was held. 

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Finland MotoGP Round Confirmed For 2019 Onwards

Grand Prix racing is to return to Finland after an absence of 38 years. Today, Dorna announced that they have confirmed the five-year agreement signed with the KymiRing circuit. The Finnish circuit is to host a round of MotoGP from the 2019 season onwards.

A deal had been signed between Dorna and the KymiRing in 2016, which gave the circuit a five-year contract to host MotoGP. The original plan had been for the circuit to be completed in time to host a race in 2018, but time constraints have pushed that back a year. While progress is being made on the circuit, there is still much work to be done. Finnish Twitter user Jyrki Hämäläinen posted a picture of the work being carried out at the circuit taken on the last Sunday of July:

The track will be a stark contrast to the previous circuits which hosted a Finnish Grand Prix. After two years at Tampere, the Grand Prix circus visited the Imatra street circuit between 1964 and 1981. That circuit was most famous for the spectacular leap riders had to make crossing the railway line which transected the street course. In contrast, the KymiRing will be a purpose-built circuit 110km north of Helsinki. The track will be 4.6km long, and feature a total of 18 corners, 9 left handers and 9 right handers, all with varying speed and radius.

The addition of the Finnish round of MotoGP will bring the 2019 schedule up to a total of at least 20 rounds. The Chang International circuit in Buriram, Thailand is scheduled to join the MotoGP calendar in 2018, though there are still loose ends to be tied up before that is confirmed. The addition of Finland would make 20 rounds in 2019, with the possibility of the calendar expanding to 21 races if a suitable track in Indonesia is completed, and that track can reach agreement with the Indonesian government to allow it to proceed.

It had looked like one, or maybe even two Spanish rounds could drop off the calendar. But with Jerez having already been resurfaced, living up to a requirement from Dorna, and Barcelona having committed to resurfacing, those two tracks look set to continue on the calendar for the foreseeable future. The regional government in Aragon are keen for the Motorland Aragon circuit to continue hosting a race, and the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia also wants to continue to host MotoGP. So it looks more like the calendar will be expanded, rather than races removed.

To compensate for this expansion, preseason testing will be dropped. For 2018, the Phillip Island test will be replaced with a test at Buriram, to allow the teams - and more importantly, Michelin - to gather data at the circuit. But for 2019, testing will be reduced to two preseason tests, at Sepang and Qatar. There is pressure to cut down preseason testing to just the single test at Sepang, following the Valencia test at the end of the season, but the manufacturers are resistant to that idea.

The calendar expansion is also unpopular with the riders and the teams. The vast majority of the riders have previously expressed a reluctance to see the calendar expanded beyond 18 rounds, and team staff - many of who are married and have children - are even more opposed. The reduction in testing is one way for Dorna and IRTA to meet the concerns of the teams.

Replacing testing with more races would also be more financially favorable for the teams. The teams receive a subsidy from Dorna for races, but not for testing. That may prove to be the argument which helps persuade the team owners and managers, if not the team staff.

The official press release announcing the deal appears below:


Finland confirmed to join MotoGP™ calendar in 2019

KymiRing ready to put the Finnish GP back on the map

The Finnish GP at Kymiring is set to join the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship calendar from 2019, with the first event of a five-year contract set to bring Grand Prix motorcycle racing back to a country with an incredible history in motorsport. The date of the venue’s inclusion was confirmed at a Press Conference at Helsinki Music House, where almost 50 representatives from the media gathered to hear the details of the project. The Press Conference was attended by key personnel involved in the return of the Finnish GP, including Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Sporting Manager Carlos Ezpeleta, Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport Sampo Terho, Chairman of the Board of the Directors of KymiRing Kari O. Sohlberg, Chair of the Finnish Motorcycling Federation Tapio Nevala and KymiRing Project Manager Timo Pohjola. That followed a visit to the track on Tuesday, to see the venue taking shape.

KymiRing motorsports complex, in Iitti, is currently under construction as it prepares to host the return of the Finnish Grand Prix, with considerable economic impact expected in Southern Finland as a result of hosting MotoGP™. Around 100,000 spectators are anticipated at the event, with the circuit in a strategic location as the only track of its kind in Northern Europe – making it a perfect addition to the MotoGP™ calendar.

Sampo Terho, Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport: "This is a fantastic announcement for Finland, a country passionate about motorsport and with an illustrious racing history. MotoGP will have a fantastic impact, both economically and in terms of exposure for the entire country and region. It also ensures our continuing role in the history of motorsport, and we are eager to write more chapters of that history together in the Finnish GP."

Kari O. Sohlberg, Chairman of the Board of the Directors of KymiRing: ”MotoGP is one of the most popular sports in the world. The five-year contract made with Dorna Sports has significant impact not only on Finnish motorsport but on the whole of Finland. Finland has a good reputation as an organizer of big international events. A good example from the sporting side is the WRC Finland, Neste Rally held last weekend. Good reputation, the Imatra GP and legendary drivers and riders in addition to long term personal relationships have for sure been major facts when Dorna Sports has made the decision to bring back the Finnish GP.”

Timo Pohjola, KymiRing Project Manager: “This is something we’ve wanted for many years and now it’s true. I think the layout is based on Finnish racing experience – Finns love motorsport and that’s why we want to make a special layout and track for MotoGP, something new. We are the only international circuit in northern Europe and that’s why so many other countries are interested in KymiRing. The first Finnish champion was Jarno Saarinen, then in Formula 1 we had Keke Rosberg and Mika Hakkinen and so on, but motorcycling has always been very popular in Finland.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO Dorna Sports: “It’s a big pleasure to announce the agreement we have with KymiRing and the works are now underway. We will propose to the FIM to have Finland on the MotoGP calendar for 2019. This is a great day as it's so many years since the Imatra GP here in Finland and we are very proud to announce this new venue. Finland has been a traditional place for motorsport. It has had number of fantastic riders in MotoGP in the past. I remember Jarno Saarinen and recently Mika Kallio, and many other people have raced. Finnish people understand motorsport very well and I think KymiRing will be hosting incredible events in the future. The layout of the circuit is very nice, it’s fast and it’s safe, and we’re very happy to announce this today.”

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Suzuka 8 Hours Practice Photos From Steve English


The real King of Suzuka - Katsuyuki Nakasuga


Trick pipes are a big feature of Suzuka specials


Jack Miller, deadly serious


Suzuka is such a gas


Tron time


With so many entries, the track is always full


Taka Nakagami puts the Suzuka 'Blade through its paces


Practice conflab


Every single part is trick


New Gixxer looks sweet in red


Full factory Yamaha effort


Jack Miller takes to the track


Magic Michael in the twilight


"So this is what it must feel like to be in the Repsol Honda team..."


Josh Brookes can't quite believe the Suzuki electronics package will also all let him play Sonic


The WEC regulars are here too. YART's Broc Parkes awaits his turn


Fastest man in practice Alex Lowes


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American Joe Roberts To Replace Yonny Hernandez In AGR Moto2 Team

The MotoGP championship is to get an American rider once again. Joe Roberts, currently racing with the AGR team in the FIM CEV Moto2 championship, is to replace Yonny Hernandez for the next five rounds of the Moto2 World Championship. Roberts will ride the AGR Team's Kalex Moto2 machine.

Roberts starts from a strong position to replace Hernandez. The American is already familiar with most of the tracks the series will visit, having raced at them during his stint as a Red Bull Rookie. He is already familiar with the bike, having ridden it in the FIM CEV championship. That leaves only the fiercely competitive nature of the World Championship to get used to, something which has caught out other riders in the past. 

Roberts is currently slated to race at the next five rounds of the Moto2 championship, doing it concurrently with the FIM CEV. That will take the team up to the flyaways, leaving speculation open as to who might race in Japan, Australia and Malaysia.

The choice of Joe Roberts is no real surprise. The youngster has long been seen as the candidate most likely to make the jump to the MotoGP paddock. Apart from his background, Roberts has shown the talent to succeed. Roberts won the MotoAmerica Superstock 600 title in 2015, and has already had two podiums in the FIM CEV Moto2 championship. For a fuller profile of Roberts, see this interview with the American by Andrea Wilson over on Sport Rider.

The press release from the AGR Team appears below:


Joe Roberts: The rider from California will replace Yonny Hernández

The Moto2 Argiñano & Ginés Racing Team has news for the second half of the World Championship season. The Team Management decided to replace Colombian Yonny Hernández as the official rider in Moto2 with one of our FIMCEV Repsol riders, Joe Roberts.

The American rider (Los Angeles, 16/6/1997) made his debut this year with our team in the European Championship and quickly got to grips with the Kalex and the class. Former 600cc Champion in his home country, he has achieved two podiums at the FIMCEV, and only some physical problems prevented him from getting even better results (he is 5th overall).

In a World Championship with no USA riders, Joe Roberts also arrives to cover that position and, for now, he will have 5 weekends to learn new circuits and the pace of the best in the world. It will not be an easy second half of the year for Roberts, as he will combine both Championships. Thinking about it, it might be a way to gather experience.

The AGR team thanks Yonny Hernández for all his efforts during his return to Moto2. His professionalism will be remembered.

Joe Roberts: “I was surprised to get this opportunity so soon. It’s been my dream, ever since I was a little kid to race in the World Championship and I was hoping for next year to get an opportunity so for me to get it this year is amazing. My expectations are basically to keep learning as much as possible and hopefully make some big steps riding with these amazing riders, some of the best riders in the world. If I can come in and learn some more and keep improving with my riding, that would be amazing. From the start of this year till now I’ve learnt so much about this bike and the team seems quite happy with the way I’m progressing. The best thing is to keep that going and we’ll see what happens. Thank you to everyone in the team for giving me this amazing opportunity. It’s a dream come true.”

Iker Burutxaga, Team Manager: “We’re very happy to have Joe Roberts with us for this second half of the World Championship. After his performances in the first few races of the FIMCEV Repsol, we considered that he was knocking on the Championship’s door. We think he’s a rider that has a high enough level to be among the best and that the earlier he takes that step, will be better for all. We are looking forward to seeing him compete with the best riders in the class. He will obviously need an adaptation period, and he’ll need to work very hard at the beginning, but we trust his talent and we believe he’ll be able to give us some good results. Of course, we want to thank Yonny Hernández for the job he has done during the first half of the year and we wish him the best of luck in his future projects”.

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