Latest MotoGP News
A number of the MotoGP teams have had a busy test at the Aragon circuit over the past two days. This is the test which played a role in not being able to move the Silverstone race to the Monday, a public holiday in the UK, as the trucks needed to travel the 2000km from Towcester to Alcañiz and set up ready for testing.
On Wednesday, Suzuki, Yamaha, and KTM were the factories taking to the track, with the Pramac Ducati squad also present. Thursday saw Yamaha and Pramac depart to make way for the factory Ducati squad. The teams were met with much better weather than at Silverstone, allowing two full days of testing, with the track improving as it got cleaned up with bikes circulating.
No press releases were issued after the test, though plenty of riders posted images on Social Media (such as Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Viñales, Alex Rins, Bradley Smith, and KTM substitute test rider Randy De Puniet). But Italian website GPOne.com spoke to Alma Pramac team manager Francesco Guidotti after the test.
We are a week away from being able to book (provisionally, with free cancellation) to see a race in 2019. The provisional MotoGP calendar for 2019 is due to be published at the Misano round in just under 10 days' time.
As the official MotoGP.com website revealed over the weekend, there will only be 19 rounds in 2019. The numerical symmetry of that may be pleasing, but there were plans to have 20 races next season. The debut of the Kymiring in Finland has been delayed by a year to 2020, as the circuit will not be ready in time for a 2019 date. And the planned round in Mexico at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City has been dropped, unless the circuit is prepared to make changes.
On Saturday evening, Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuit, told a small group of journalists that the delays and problems caused by the wet track during FP4 were due to the unusually heavy rainfall, and not the resurfaced track. "It was a Biblical downpour," he told us. "It was more like a monsoon you’d see in Malaysia than heavy, normal rain. The drainage on the circuit is very good." He was not worried about racing on Sunday, because although rain was forecast, it was not a deluge. "It’s heavy rain, but it’s not the kind of cloud burst stuff we saw earlier. Is it going to be more of a challenge if it’s wet? All circuits are more challenging in the wet than the dry. So I think we’re set for a good race tomorrow."
Sunday proved Stuart Pringle wrong. It wasn't the quantity of water which caused the problems. It was the fact that water simply wasn't being drained fast enough to allow riders to ride safely, or as safely as can reasonably be expected of traveling at over 300km/h on a wet track, braking as late as possible in a close pack, as 23 riders battle for position in the opening laps. There was standing water in just about every section of the track, causing the MotoGP bikes to aquaplane while on their sighting lap, a lap taken usually at nine tenths, rather than ten tenths. They were aquaplaning while accelerating, at speed, and while braking.
Bikes aquaplaning had caused Tito Rabat and Franco Morbidelli to crash while braking for Stowe. But Morbidelli had crashed after Rabat, and the Italian's Honda had flown across the gravel and struck Rabat as he sat in the gravel trap, breaking the femur, tibia and fibula in his right leg, and putting him out of action for months rather than weeks. Nobody who saw that wanted to suffer the same fate. Or worse.
Track conditions have forced the cancellation of the 2018 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The original schedule had been changed after problems with standing water during the FP4 session for the MotoGP class on Saturday afternoon, with the MotoGP race moved to an 11:30 start and the first race of the day. But after a series of delays due to water on the track, the races were officially canceled after a meeting of the Safety Commission at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.
The circuit had been hopeful of being able to hold the races. The MotoGP warm up had started in the dry, the first spots of rain starting to fall during the Moto3 warm up. The rain fell steadily, but not heavily, and the riders who returned from the sighting lap when they went to the grid reported aquaplaning all around the track. On Saturday, there had only been problems at the entry to Stowe and to Vale. On Sunday, there were problems everywhere.
The weather usually plays a role when racing in the UK, in any discipline, but Saturday at Silverstone, the rain took center stage. Not just because of the way it forced the MotoGP riders to pick their strategy very carefully, making timing and tire management absolutely crucial. But also because a heavy downpour at the southern end of the track created massive problems, and kicked off a serious debate.
More than that, it caused a bunch of riders to crash during FP4, starting with Alex Rins at Stowe, or Turn 7 as the riders tend to call it, to avoid confusion during debriefs. Then Tito Rabat crashed in the same place. Then Franco Morbidelli, whose bike hit Rabat who was sitting in the gravel, smashing into the Reale Avintia rider's right leg, breaking his tibia, fibula, and femur, requiring surgery and putting him out of the running for a long time, if not for the remainder of the season.
Having been the first to fall, Alex Rins did his best to emulate Kevin Schwantz at Donington in 1992, running out into the gravel to warn other riders to take care, while all around him, riders headed into the gravel, unable to brake on the water-soaked surface. Jorge Lorenzo came flying by, as did others, until eventually the session was red flagged.
Those crashes triggered a chain of events which saw the MotoGP race start moved forward to 11:30am local time, to avoid the expected heavy rain on Sunday afternoon, which could have made it difficult to run the race. It caused delays as the riders were forced to wait for the return of the medical helicopter, which had flown Tito Rabat to hospital in Coventry. And it created a fascinating spectacle during qualifying, where timing ended up being everything.
For the past couple of months, the UK, along with the rest of Northern Europe, has been sweltering under one of the hottest summers in recent memory. That, of course, was before MotoGP arrived. The arrival of Grand Prix racing brought an abrupt end to the British summer, with temperatures struggling to get anywhere near the 20° mark. Add in a strong and blustery wind, and a late shower in the afternoon, and the MotoGP paddock faces a very different prospect to recent weeks. And let's not talk about the heavy rain which is forecast for Sunday.
Before the bikes took to the track, there had been much talk of just how bumpy the new surface would be. On Thursday, the riders were wary, wanting to ride the track at speed before making a judgment. After Friday, the verdict was pretty devastating. For the majority of the riders, the bumps are worse, if anything.
"Everybody expected the new asphalt to give us a good track and it was a disaster," Marc Márquez commented. "It was worse than last year, better grip but many bumps." In Spanish, he joked that he hoped the contractor had not sent a bill yet. Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro was even more vehement than Márquez. "Sincerely I don't understand what happened. I’ve never seen something like this. Many times this year we have pushed in the safety commission to make new asphalt in tracks that are much better than this! It’s a shame because Silverstone is a really nice track; very long with a lot of fast corners but I am more trying to avoid a crash and the bumps than being competitive."
Cal Crutchlow has added an extra year onto his contract with HRC to race in the LCR Honda team for the 2020 season. This means the Englishman will be remaining at the LCR Honda team for the next two years, bringing him into line with almost the whole of the rest of the MotoGP grid. At the end of the 2020 season, Crutchlow will be involved in the next wave of contract madness, with all factory seats (with the possible exception of one Ducati seat), falling open at the same time.
Crutchlow's announcement will not be the only one to take place today. Alvaro Bautista is scheduled to be in the Thursday press conference at Silverstone, where he is expected to announce he has signed for the Aruba.it Ducati team in WorldSBK.
The press releases from HRC and from the LCR Honda team appear below:
CRUTCHLOW EXTENDS HIS CONTRACT WITH HRC AND LCR UNTIL 2020
PRESS RELEASE: 23 August 2018 | OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
LCR Honda CASTROL Team is pleased to announce that Cal Crutchlow has extended his contract with HRC and LCR Team until the end of 2020. The British talent riding the RC213V since 2015, has achieved excellent results so far (7 podiums – of which 3 were victories - and 2 pole positions) and his contribution to the development of the Honda machinery has been very important.
A permanent and bitter debate rages among British fans over where the home of the British round of MotoGP should be. One faction believes that Donington Park should play host to MotoGP. The other states categorically that, no, the true home of MotoGP in the UK is the Silverstone circuit. (There is a third, far smaller faction which claims that Brands Hatch is where the British Grand Prix should be held. Blinded by nostalgia, they hark back to the halcyon days of World Superbikes, when fans packed the track to watch Carl Fogarty dominate. But they ignore the fact that the circuit is too short, too tight, and frankly, too dangerous to play host to 270+hp MotoGP machines. The Ducati would barely get out of third gear around Brands. The Brands Hatch faction can safely be ignored.)
The battle lines between Donington and Silverstone are clearly drawn. Donington is set on a rolling hillside, with grass banks where fans can watch a large part of the action. Fans love Donington for the views, and for the access (though not so much for the facilities). Silverstone is a vast affair, with lots of fast sweeping corners where the MotoGP bikes can really stretch their legs. Racers love Silverstone for the challenge of riding fast and hard, but fans complain of limited access, limited views, and cold and windy seats up in grandstands.
Which track is better? In terms of racing, there is really no contest. Donington is too small, too tight to host a modern MotoGP machine. The final sector, the Melbourne Loop, was a late addition to find the necessary length to allow the track to qualify as a Grand Prix circuit. It was added without any thought or imagination on how to make the circuit more interesting.
With Pol Espargaro ruled out of this weekend's British Grand Prix, Loris Baz will fill the void at KTM. With replacement riders once again in the MotoGP news, how does it feel to jump onto a MotoGP bike?
“It was like I'd never ridden a motorbike before,” is Leon Camier’s review on his MotoGP debut when he deputized for Nicky Hayden in 2014. With such a steep learning curve, what can you gain by jumping on a MotoGP bike for one weekend? It's a hiding to nothing according to many, but as Camier attests, world class riders can get up to speed quickly.
“It's tough mentally and it was draining to try to learn so much in such a short space of time. Understanding the tires was the biggest thing to learn because the brakes are quite normal; they stop the bike when you pull the lever! The tires take time to get the most out of them. You'll figure out how to get the most from them for one lap pretty quickly, but understanding them for a race takes longer.”
It is a busy schedule for the MotoGP teams since coming back from their all-too-brief summer break. After back-to-back weekends at Brno and Spielberg, five teams headed to Misano, for a private test this weekend.
For Ducati (the only team to issue a press release after the test, to be found below this article), the test was mainly about preparing for their second home race at Misano in three weeks' time. Misano is a huge race for Ducati, and a good result there is an absolute necessity. If the times released by Ducati are accurate, then a good result is almost assured: Jorge Lorenzo lapped at just about the circuit pole record, while Andrea Dovizioso was six tenths slower than his teammate.
p>Marc Márquez has won 5 of the first 11 races of the 2018 MotoGP season, and leads the championship by 59 points. Honda lead the constructors' championship by 28 points from Ducati. And the Repsol Honda team leads the team standings by 8 points over the factory Ducati Team. So the 2018 Honda RC213V must be quite the weapon, right?
That is the case often argued by some fans. If Márquez has such a huge lead, then a large part of it must be down to the bike. There is only so far that talent can go.
Is it the bike, or is it Marc Márquez? This is a complicated question, a little tricky to untangle, but we at least have an approach which might give us a better idea of just how much of a factor the bike is, and how much of Márquez' success is down to his own doing.
It is hard to keep secrets in the MotoGP paddock (though not impossible, as Jorge Lorenzo's move to Repsol Honda conclusively proves). One of the worst kept secrets has been the news that the Sepang International Circuit, or SIC, is to expand its current operation to include a MotoGP team. Over the months since rumors first started circulating that Sepang was interested in running a MotoGP team, details have slowly dripped out, until we now have an almost complete picture. The whole picture is to be formally announced at Silverstone, at a press conference at 6pm BST on Friday.
Here's what we already know: the team is to be an extension of the current Petronas Sprinta Racing team, which currently runs Adam Norrodin and Ayumi Sasaki in Moto3, and Niki Tuuli in Moto2. The Petronas SIC Yamaha team, as it will almost certainly be called, will be the showcase team for the Petronas-backed structure run by the Sepang International Circuit. The objective is to have two riders in each of the three Grand Prix classes, from Moto3 to MotoGP, as well as a team in the FIM CEV Junior World Moto3 Championship.
Riders, teams, journalists, fans, almost everyone likes to complain about the layout of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. Three fast straights connected by hairpins, with a long left hand corner thrown in for the sake of variety. The facilities and setting may be magnificent, but the track layout is pretty dire. Coming from the spectacular, flowing layout of Brno, the contrast could hardly be greater.
And yet the Red Bull Ring consistently manages to produce fantastic racing. The combined gap between first and second place across all three classes on Sunday was 0.867 seconds, and nearly half a second of that was down to Moto3. The MotoGP race was decided on the last lap again, just as it had been in 2017, though the race was decided at Turn 3, rather than the final corner. Spielberg once again served up a breathtaking battle for MotoGP fans, with a deserved winner, and the rest of the podium riders losing with valor and honor.
If we were to be picky about it, it would be to complain that the protagonists of the MotoGP race were rather predictable. It is no surprise that the factory Ducatis would play a role at the front of the race: a Ducati had won in Austria in the previous two races, and the long straights from slow corners are almost made to measure for the Desmosedici's balance of power, mechanical grip, acceleration, and braking stability. Nor was it a surprise that Marc Márquez should be involved, the gains made by Honda in acceleration giving the RC213V the tools to tackle the Ducatis.
It is a good job it will be dry on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring. Because if it were to stop raining half an hour before the race started, the rest of the field wouldn't see which way Marc Márquez went. That is the conclusion we can draw from Saturday morning in Austria, when FP3 started on a wet track with a dry line forming. Márquez waited patiently in the pits for half an hour, then when the dry line got wide enough, went out on slick, and destroyed the field, lapping 2 seconds or more faster than anyone else.
It was a display of just how useful all that riding flat track has been to Márquez. There is no one quite so good at searching for grip on a sketchy surface, and clinging so precisely to the thin line of drying track which offers grip. It was a repeat of his superiority in Argentina, only in that race, his superiority was marred by a reckless disregard for his fellow racers on track. He did much better in FP3 on Saturday.
The poor conditions caused major headaches for those riders stuck in Q1 after the FP1 session on Friday morning. The weather meant a lost session, with no chance to improve their time, and no real lessons to be learned from a track that was changing all the time. It left Valentino Rossi with no option than to try to make his way through to Q2 in Q1. That didn't happen, and Yamaha had their worse qualifying performance since Valencia 2007. You can read about the fallout from that, the reasons behind it and what Yamaha are doing to fix it, in this story on the situation at Yamaha.