Latest MotoGP News

Mid-Season MotoGP Silly Season Update: 22 Bikes - Marc VDS Out, Petronas SIC In

The summer break – if an extra weekend off can be counted as an actual break – marks the end of the first half of the 2018 MotoGP season, but it also marks a significant point in the MotoGP Silly Season. With Marc van der Straten telling the riders and crew of the Marc VDS MotoGP team that the team will not be competing in MotoGP in 2019 and beyond, the final shape of the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost clear.

There was no official announcement to mark the withdrawal of the Marc VDS squad, it was indirectly confirmed when the team sent out a press release (shown below) announcing that they had extended their deal with Alex Márquez for the Spaniard, younger brother of Marc, to remain in Moto2 for another season. Emilio Alzamora, who manages both Márquez brothers, had been pushing for Van der Straten to keep at least one grid slot in MotoGP for Alex Márquez, a move which had the strong backing of his brother Marc. Alex Márquez remaining in Moto2 is tacit confirmation that there is no seat in MotoGP for the Spaniard.

The withdrawal of the Marc VDS team, and the transfer of the Angel Nieto Team's grid slots to the Petronas SIC Yamaha team (whose existence was confirmed officially in a press release between the Dutch and German rounds of MotoGP) means that the MotoGP grid will be smaller in 2019. There will be 22 riders lining up at Qatar, rather than the 24 who started at Losail this season. The loss of two riders from the grid will not overly trouble Dorna: with uncertainty over who will broadcast MotoGP in Spain next year, saving around €6 million in team subsidies will create some negotiating room for the series organizer.

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Monster Energy Replaces Movistar As Yamaha Title Sponsor

Yamaha have announced that they will have a new title sponsor for their MotoGP team in 2019 and beyond. Current title sponsors Movistar are to leave Yamaha, and subsponsor Monster is to take their place as title sponsor.

The move comes as no surprise, given the background of the two companies. Monster had been left without a title sponsorship for 2019 since the Tech3 team announced they were switching from Yamaha to KTM for next year, which also implied taking on the Red Bull sponsorship which comes along with that. Movistar are withdrawing not just from title sponsorship of MotoGP, but also from their role as MotoGP broadcaster in Spain. Movistar's departure made it logical for Monster to step up as title sponsor, especially as both current Yamaha MotoGP riders, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, are also Monster athletes.

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: No Stopping Number Nine

It is a truism in MotoGP that though they hand out the trophies on Sunday, the race is often won on Friday and Saturday. Practice is when riders and teams can find the setup tweaks they need to go faster, evaluate tire choices, and plan a strategy. Which tires offer the most potential? Which area of the track can we gain most while sacrificing the least in other points? Is there more to be gained by pushing hard early and trying to manage, or by being patient in the first half of the race, hoping to have an advantage in the second half?

The wide range of tires offered by Michelin make practice even more important. Michelin's remit from Dorna is to produce three front tires and three rear tires that can all be used during the race. That requires a certain amount of compromise: labeling tires soft, medium, and hard does not mean that Michelin make three tires with an equal step in between the three different tires. It is more like an indicator of how well the French tire make expects each tire to cope with the heat and stress of a race, and the trade off in terms of grip. So a soft and a medium tire may use the same rubber on one side of the tire, or on opposite sides of the tire. Or they may use the same compounds with a stiffer carcass, to reduce flex and therefore the amount of heat being generated.

Understanding how all these factors work together, and what that will mean for the race, is what the teams spend their time doing in practice. The team and rider that does this best on Friday and Saturday gets to spend Sunday evening celebrating their victory during the race. If all goes to plan, of course.

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Aleix Espargaro Declared Unfit For Sachsenring Race After Warmup Crash

Aleix Espargaro is to miss the German round of MotoGP. The Gresini Aprilia rider crashed heavily at Turn 4 during the morning warm up, slamming into the air fence. He suffered some chest trauma in the crash, and was taken to the medical center, in obvious pain. From there, he was taken to hospital in Chemnitz for further examinations.

Below is the press release from Aprilia on Espargaro's crash:


ALEIX ESPARGARO TO MISS THE GERMAN GP

Aleix Espargaró, victim of a violent crash at turn 4 during the Warm Up, will not start today's German GP. After crashing on his fifth lap at the circuit of Sachsenring, the Spanish rider suffered a bad thoracic trauma in the left ribs area and was helicoptered to the nearby hospital of Chemnitz for further checks.

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Not A Honda Track Any Longer

Betting on Marc Márquez to take pole and win the race at the Sachsenring looks like the safest bet imaginable. From 2010 until 2017, Marc Márquez has started the race on pole and gone on to take victory in all three of the Grand Prix classes he has raced in. Márquez is truly the King of the Sachsenring.

Friday seemed to merely underline the Repsol Honda rider's dominance at the Sachsenring. Though he didn't top the timesheets in either FP1 or FP2, that was only because he hadn't bothered putting in a soft tire in pursuit of a quick time. Take a look at underlying race rhythm, and Márquez was head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

That pace continued into Saturday morning. Once again, Márquez was not the fastest – he finished sixth in FP3 – but in terms of pace, he had half a step on everyone else. But it was only that: half a step. Others were starting to catch the Spaniard. Could he really be in trouble for the race?

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Speed vs Consistency, A Lack Of Crashes, And Scott Redding's Future

As if anyone needed reminding of just how close the MotoGP field is at the moment, you have to go a very long way down the standings to find the first rider more than a second slower than Jorge Lorenzo, the fastest man on the first day of practice at the Sachsenring. Eighteen riders are within a fraction over nine tenths of a second of each other, with Scott Redding the first over a second away.

It's even closer than that, once you discount Lorenzo's time. The Factory Ducati rider put in a searing lap at the end of FP2 to go fastest, and was over a quarter of a second quicker than second-place man Danilo Petrucci. The gap between Petrucci in second and Johann Zarco in eighteenth was 0.645 seconds. Or approximately two blinks of an eye.

That makes it hard to judge riders by position. A tenth of a second would move you up three or four places; three tenths is the difference between eighteenth and eighth. A small mistake in a single corner could be the difference between being comfortably through to Q2, and going to sleep on Friday night worrying about posting a fast enough time on Saturday morning in FP3. "I needed to make a perfect lap," Red Bull KTM's Pol Espargaro bemoaned his twelfth place, before joking, "or my rivals needed to not make a perfect lap!"

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Franco Morbidelli Forced To Withdraw At Sachsenring, Bradl To Substitute

Franco Morbidelli has been forced to withdraw from the German GP at the Sachsenring. The Marc VDS rider was suffering too much pain in his left hand, which he broke in a crash during practice at Assen. 

Morbidelli had been hopeful he would be able to ride when he spoke to the media on Thursday evening.  "The fracture is recovering pretty well so I decided to come and try to race," he said. "It is a left-hand circuit. but what gave me confidence is that it’s a track when you spend a lot of time on the edge, so you don’t have to make a lot of changes in direction."

Morbidelli's optimism proved premature, however. In the end, his left hand was causing him too much discomfort, and he was forced to withdraw. Morbidelli is to be replaced by Stefan Bradl, currently an HRC test rider, and already present as a TV presenter working for the Red Bull-backed Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

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2018 Sachsenring MotoGP Preview - Defeating The King Of The 'Ring, And Replacing Pedrosa

The Sachsenring is a unique circuit, and a unique place. We say that about almost every racetrack we go to, but it is much more true of the Sachsenring than of anywhere else. No track is as tight, yet deeply challenging as the tightly-coiled circuit in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, and the atmosphere among the fans is electric.

Normally here, I would give a brief description or history of the circuit at which MotoGP is due to race. But Mat Oxley has already done that much better than I would have, so I suggest you read his article on the Motor Sport Magazine website. There is a very good chance that this is the last race here at the Sachsenring, as Oxley lays out in the article. But all hope is not yet lost: regional politics may yet solve the problem, though it will be done with taxpayers' money.

Given the huge attendance at the circuit – Sunday numbers often well over 90,000, and over 100,000 on occasion – the race generates a huge amount of revenue for the surrounding area. Hotels are full, restaurants are heaving, supermarkets stock extra food and drink (especially drink). All that generates more revenue for local government through taxes. But will that be enough to justify spending on keeping the race here?

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Dani Pedrosa - A Look At His Career, And His Retirement

After weeks of speculation, Dani Pedrosa has announced that he will end his active racing career at the end of the 2018 season. The Spaniard had been mulling his future for some time, after it had become clear that there was no place for him left in the Repsol Honda MotoGP team, and after discussions with other teams throughout the first part of the year, Pedrosa made his decision some time after Assen, and announced it at a special press conference held ahead of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring.

"Next year, I will not compete in the championship, this means I will finish my career this season in MotoGP," Pedrosa told a packed press conference room at the Sachsenring. "This is a decision I've been thinking about for a long time, and it's a very hard decision because this is the sport I love. But despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with such an intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life."

"I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity," he said. "It's been an amazing life to be racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. So I can say I achieved way more than I expected and I'm very proud of everything I've done in the sport. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and this is something I didn't expect as a kid watching on TV." It was an emotional press conference, the normally taciturn Pedrosa fighting to control his emotions.

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Yamaha Confirm Three-Year Deal For Sepang International Circuit MotoGP Team

The first two pieces of the Petronas Yamaha MotoGP team, to be run by the Sepang International Circuit, have now been confirmed. Today, the Angel Nieto Team belonging to Jorge Martinez Aspar announced that they have sold their two MotoGP grid slots to the Sepang International Circuit organization, and thirty minutes later, Yamaha announced that they have agreed a three-year deal with the Sepang International Circuit to lease M1 MotoGP bikes through the 2021 season. 

The official confirmation has come with a lot of detail still missing, but what we know is that a lot more pieces of the puzzle are in place, though they are yet to be confirmed. Petronas are set to be the sponsor for the team, and Franco Morbidelli is likely to be one of the two riders for the team. Track analyst for Maverick Viñales and long-time Yamaha employee Wilco Zeelenberg looks likely to be the team manager, a role he also fulfilled for the factory Yamaha team in World Supersport a decade ago. MotoMatters.com subscribers have known about this since last week, as all this and more was in the article I wrote about how the Petronas Yamaha team came about.

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2018 Assen MotoGP Race Round Up: Another Monument To The New Golden Age

When it comes down to it, it is always individual races which define an era. Silverstone 1979 defined the late 1970s, with Barry Sheene coming up just short of Kenny Roberts, a milestone in the American takeover of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 1983, at Anderstorp in Sweden, Freddie Spencer brought the Roberts era to an end, by beating the triple world champion with an outrageously late braking maneuver on the final lap.

In the 1990s, what we might now refer to as the First Golden Age, Hockenheim 1991 typifies the battles between Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey, where quarter was neither asked nor given. The wild scenes at Eastern Creek and Jerez in 1996 marked the rivalry between Mick Doohan and the man came closest to stopping him, Alex Crivillé. Valentino Rossi's arrival in MotoGP may have been spectacular, but his win at Welkom in South Africa in 2004, his first race on the Yamaha since leaving Honda beating arch enemy Max Biaggi, was a watershed in his career. That was the point at which Rossi truly transcended the sport.

When we look back at this period, which will surely be called the Second Golden Age, then Assen 2018, along with the 2015 and 2017 races at Phillip Island, will be the races that fans and pundits point to as the ones which defined the era. Mass battles between multiple riders, hard and close passing in which contact is frequent and accepted, a healthy mix of riders and bikes, of factory and satellite. Battles which rage almost from start to finish, with frequent lead changes, and an almost uncountable number of passes.

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2018 Assen MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Deceptively Tight Field, The Limits Of A Satellite Bike, And Not Thinking And Riding

How close is MotoGP right now? At the end of FP3 on Saturday morning, the top five bikes were separated by 0.062 seconds. The top three had just six thousandths of a second between them. And the difference between Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales, first and second in FP3? Just one thousandth of a second. If they were both lapping at the same time, it would have needed the special finish line camera to separate them.

It was pretty close behind the top five as well. There were sixteen riders within nine tenths of Márquez, gaps between them counted in hundredths of seconds, rather than thousandths of seconds. Qualifying was much the same: the difference between pole and eleventh place on the grid was just half a second. If you made a mistake in two corners, costing you a tenth or so in each, you would have ended up starting from the third row, rather than the front row.

It was even worse for riders who hadn't made it straight through to Q2. If Jack Miller had been a six hundredths faster in FP3, he could have ended up tenth instead of twelfth, and not have to go to Q1. If he had been eight hundredths of a second faster in Q1, he would have been through to Q2, and not starting from sixteenth on the grid. But why pick on Miller? Taka Nakagami missed out on going to Q2 by a couple of hundredths, Tito Rabat and Hafizh Syahrin by seven hundredths. Even Scott Redding, starting from seventeenth, was just four tenths off going to Q2. That is quite literally just the blink of an eye.

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2018 Assen MotoGP Friday Round Up: Spectacular Saves, Hard Tires, And New Parts For Ducati And Suzuki

Another Friday, another save that would have seen any other rider rolling through the gravel. And at Assen, with its collection of terrifyingly fast corners, rolling through the gravel often ends up rolling into the back of an ambulance, and X-rays, cat scans, and metal plates holding your bones together. But Friday wouldn't be Friday without Marc Márquez folding the front completely, jabbing his elbow into the tarmac, and hanging on long enough for the front to catch again and stay upright, or what passes for upright if your name is Marc Márquez.

This time it happened at the Ruskenhoek, the very fast left hander after the Veenslang back straight, where the bikes flick right, then long left, and then right again for the short run towards Stekkenwal. Márquez was traveling at something approaching 200km/h when the front went, but he caught it, stayed on board, and ended up running just off track and clipping the gravel. "I didn’t expect it, and I didn’t want to have a 'safe' crash in fourth gear at a very high-speed corner," Márquez explained.

Holding your line is difficult because of the track changes direction at very high speed, so being precise is of the utmost importance, Márquez said. "Here at Assen, the speed is so high and to take the correct lines is difficult but we were already in FP2, but in the first run it is always difficult to understand the lines and to be precise. A small mistake is a big mistake here: you cannot adjust with the brakes or the gas and you need to keep the speed during all the lap."

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2018 Assen MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Waiting For Pedrosa/Petronas, The Crew Chief Shuffle, And Silly Season Remedies

Another weekend, another racetrack, but exactly the same story. We all gathered once again to hear what Dani Pedrosa had to say about his future, and once again, Pedrosa had nothing to say. "I know there are a lot of people waiting and wanting to know some information, but unfortunately not yet," Pedrosa told the pre-event press conference. "I can't give any different news from what I already in Barcelona. I expect to, but still things are going slow, so we don't know at this moment exactly. Sooner or later I will have something to say!"

Once bitten, twice shy, the media were a little more prepared this Thursday. Dorna had put Dani Pedrosa into the press conference, a little safer situation than the masses crowded into the HRC hospitality at Barcelona. We were acting on a little more information as well: journalists have been talking to a range of sources since Barcelona, and so there is a much better sense of where we stand on the Petronas-Yamaha story, as I explained on Tuesday. There was some hope Pedrosa might announce something, but a realistic expectation he would not. So the disappointment when the Repsol Honda rider told there was still no news on his future was much more limited at Assen than it had been at Montmeló.

Where do we stand? Sepang International Circuit boss Razlan Razali is at Assen this weekend, but unavailable for reporters, as he is in wall-to-wall meetings finalizing various details. That suggests that the deal is basically done, and he is now going through the laborious business of tying up loose ends. There is a lot of work to be done to get a MotoGP team off the ground from scratch.

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2018 Assen MotoGP Preview: Where History Lives, And History Is Made

The tale of the TT Circuit at Assen is really the tale of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. That is hardly surprising, given that the race has featured on the calendar since Grand Prix racing was born, or rather, since the FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix Road Racing World Championship was established, back in 1949. And like Grand Prix racing, it has roots which go back a long way before that.

The first race took place in 1925, a year after the Dutch government passed a law permitting racing on public roads. It ran over cobbled roads and sand tracks between three villages to the east of Assen: Rolde, Borger, and Schoonlo. The next year it moved south of Assen, again over public roads, between De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen, and Laaghalerveen. It stayed there until 1955, when the first sections of what would become the modern circuit were built. The roads were closed and the circuit was separated from the world, an isolated loop of tarmac, where racing was safer, easier to organize, and, not coincidentally, easier to monetize.

The inaugural Grand Prix season in 1949 took place mainly on circuits set out using public roads, which made for long tracks taken at high speed (Bremgarten in Switzerland and Monza in Italy were the two purpose-built circuits on the calendar, but Bremgarten, in particular, was a spectacularly dangerous circuit which wound through a forest).

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