Freddie Spencer To Lead FIM Stewards: The Politics Of MotoGP Disciplinary Bodies

Once upon a time, disciplinary measures in MotoGP were simple. If a rider was felt to have transgressed the rules, they were hauled up before the Race Director and given a punishment, and that was just about the end of it. Sometimes, riders appealed against those judgments, and sometimes, the FIM even found in their favor.

But times change, cultures change, social mores change. What was once regarded as acceptable is now frowned upon. Physical contact and riding with the intent to obstruct others became less and less acceptable. Suspected transgressions were examined more closely and judged more harshly. The increase in the number of cameras covering the track, and the vast improvement in resolution and picture quality, helped identify more potential offenders. In turn, this created more pressure on Race Direction to punish these transgressions.

Then came Sepang 2015. When the two biggest names clash on the track amid a bitter personal feud, then the pressure on the series organizers to treat the situation with kid gloves becomes almost unbearable. In the fallout of that ugly incident, Race Direction was reorganized, and the disciplinary duties moved to a separate body, the FIM Panel of Stewards. The official explanation was that this would allow Race Direction to get on with the job of managing the race, while the Stewards could focus on assessing whether a particular action needed to be punished or not.

The Forever War

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2018 Motegi Moto2 FP2 Result: Lecuona Finds the Fast, Dry Line

Iker Lecuona set the fastest Moto2 lap time on Friday at Motegi as the circuit finally dried sufficiently for riders to push hard on full slicks -- at least for the early part of the afternoon session. Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia slotted into second, a tenth of a second from the leader's time. It also was the Kalex rider's first posted time of the weekend as he didn't emerge from the pits in the mixed conditions of FP1. Agusto Fernandez rounded out the top three.

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2018 Motegi MotoGP FP2 Result: Pedrosa Leads the Pack; Top Dogs Sit

In mixed conditions that saw one-third of the field spend more time in the pits than on the track, Dani Pedrosa seized the top time of the session at the Motegi citcuit in Japan. Pedrosa's 1'48.136 topped second-place Scott Redding's best lap -- also set at the end of the drying, afternoon FP2 -- by more that half a second but still remained three seconds from the top laps of FP1.

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2018 Motegi Moto2 FP1 Result: Schrotter Tops Stop-Start Session

Not in unusual fashion, the intermediate class got the worst of both worlds, enjoying barely five minutes in fully dry conditions before raindrops started falling, on and off throughout the session but not significant enough to decisively stop play. This allowed for three short runs for most of the grid who did not want to risk too much but some longer bouts of bravery were repaid as well.

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2018 Motegi MotoGP FP1 Result: Another Round Goes To Dovizioso

The lovely weather was generous with the premier class and allowed them a fully dry playground for the first practice session, although clouds were starting to gather as the action hotted up. The morning started with Johann Zarco in charge of proceedings but while the grid was struggling to follow the early leader’s suit into the 1:46s, Marc Marquez promptly did eight tenths of a second better and raised the bar for the opposition.

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2018 Motegi Moto3 FP1 Result: Kornfeil Surprises Canet

No sign of the rain that soaked things up earlier in the morning and the familiar clouds gave way to bright sunshine by the time the lightweight class went out to play. After missing the trip to Thailand due to being convalescent, Aron Canet was back in action and went all in, crashing out in turn nine right after jumping to the top of the timesheets ten minutes into the session. The final five minutes changed the narrative and late attacks brought Jakub Kornfeil to the limelight, the Czech rider keeping the lead of the first practice session until the checkered flag came out.

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2018 Motegi MotoGP Preview: Dovizioso vs Marquez, The Rematch?

MotoGP's Asia-Pacific races tend to get lumped together in the popular imagination. They are "The Flyaways", formerly three, now four races in parts East, a long way away from the homes of the vast majority of the paddock. The triple header – Motegi, Phillip Island, Sepang – is especially susceptible to this, as the three back-to-back races tend to leave the paddock in a state of constant befuddlement, fatigued from jet lag, and spending much of their time on 8+ hour flights between the various venues. Everything tends to become one big blur.

Yet there are vast differences between all four flyaways. Leaving the crushing heat of Thailand, the paddock heads east to Motegi, a track where conditions can be almost Northern European, with mist, rain, and cold mornings. Across the equator to Australia, and the edge of the Bass Strait, from a massive circuit complex to an old-fashioned facility perched on a cliff above the sea, from stop and go to fast and flowing. Then north again to Malaysia, and more oppressive tropical heat.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 85, The New Tracks Edition: Thailand MotoGP and Argentina WorldSBK

A little later than planned, but the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out. Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett get together to discuss the last couple of weeks in World Championship motorcycle racing. Neil returns from the inaugural Thai round of MotoGP in Buriram, while Steve was just off a plane from Argentina, after the first ever WorldSBK round in that country, and at the San Juan Villicum circuit.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Is Yamaha’s sun rising again?

Rossi and Viñales scored their best result in a year in Thailand – so will they be even faster in Japan this weekend?

You know things are bad when a factory that once took winning for granted celebrates a third- and fourth-place finish as a ‘return to form’. That’s exactly how the Movistar Yamaha team reacted to its so-close-but-so-far result at Buriram.

Maverick Viñales finished less than three tenths of a second behind winner Marc Márquez, with Valentino Rossi just 1.2 seconds further back after very nearly ramming his team-mate at the final corner.

Remarkably, this was the closest both factory Yamahas had been to winning a race since Phillip Island, this time last year.

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2018 San Juan Villicum Round Up: What We Learned In Argentina

WorldSBK's South American adventure saw the history books once again rewritten by Jonathan Rea, with the Northern Irishman claiming a tenth consecutive victory. The world champion claimed a comfortable win on Saturday, the series' first ever race in Argentina, but after a weekend of cleaning a dirty and dusty track, it was the temperature that caused problems on Sunday.

With over 43°C temperatures on the asphalt, it was as slick a surface as many riders could remember, with overnight rain also washing away any rubber that had been put down on the surface. It was easy to make a mistake, and coming from the third row of the grid Rea certainly made his fair share in the early laps. Once on clear track, however, he was imperious and comfortably the fastest man on track. He used this advantage to charge down Xavi Fores and claim a historic double that broke the long-standing record of Colin Edwards (2002) and Neil Hodgson (2003) for most consecutive victories in WorldSBK.

Digging Deep

Rea had to earn the win though. The Kawasaki rider spent Saturday night in the throes of a stomach virus, and by race day morning he was weak and tired. Spending the afternoon hydrating and trying to stay as relaxed as possible, he was likely glad of the later race start time and the extra time to be ready for action.

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Provisional 2019 MotoGP Grid - 21 Riders Confirmed, Grid Almost Finalized

With the announcement that Takaaki Nakagami has signed for an extra year with the Idemitsu LCR Honda squad, the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost finalized. Nakagami's signing brings the total of confirmed riders up to 21 of the total of 22 entries.

The only rider left to be confirmed officially is Tito Rabat. The Spaniard's serious leg injury, sustained at Silverstone, has caused a delay, with his contract extension expected to have already come earlier. There is no doubt that Rabat will get the final seat, though it will probably have to wait until he is fit enough to return again.

Below is the official line up for 2019:

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Takaaki Nakagami Confirmed With LCR Honda For 2019

The LCR Honda team today announced they have agreed to extend their contract with Takaaki Nakagami through the 2019 season. The Japanese rider will continue to race a satellite spec Honda RC213V with the Idemitsu-backed part of the Italian team alongside Cal Crutchlow.

The anouncement was widely expected, as Nakagami has had a solid rookie season, and done more than enough to earn an added year. Honda are keen to support a Japanese rider in MotoGP, as are Dorna, and Japanese lubricant firm Idemitsu are happy to help back that side of the garage. 

Nakagami's signing brings the total up to 21 riders who have now signed a MotoGP contract for 2019. The only rider left to be confirmed is Tito Rabat, who is expected to continue with the Avintia Ducati team. 

Below is the press release from the LCR Honda team:


TAKAAKI NAKAGAMI TO CONTINUE WITH LCR HONDA IDEMITSU IN 2019

PRESS RELEASE: 16 October 2018 | Official Announcement

On the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, the LCR Honda IDEMITSU MotoGP Team is delighted to announce that Takaaki Nakagami has extended his contract with Honda HRC for 2019 season. The 26-year-old born in Chiba will again ride the Honda RC213V thus completing HRC 2019 line-up for next year MotoGP World Championship.

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Interview: Bradley Smith, Part 3 - On Proving The Doubters Wrong, On 'The Feeling', And On Coming Back To MotoGP

When Bradley Smith speaks, he always makes it worth listening. His thoughtful, analytical approach to racing means you will always learn something, always be surprised by something he says. At Aragon, we spoke to the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider for the best part of 40 minutes, and dissected a lot of areas of racing.

In this, the final part of the interview, Bradley Smith explains how he finds motivation through what is one of the most difficult parts of his career, developing the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, and being far from competitive. He describes the contrarian attitude, the wanting to prove people wrong, which drives racers to achieve what they do.

Smith also explains just what a rider is looking for from his bike. The Englishman gets into "the feeling", what he wants from his bike, and what that translates to out on the track. He talks about searching for, and not finding, that feeling from the KTM, and the pleasure at getting close to that feeling again, and posting competitive times.

Finally, Smith talks about what motivated him to take a test role, and why he wasn't ready to retire. What his objective is at Aprilia, and how he finds satisfaction from not just his own success, but in helping others. He also talks about wanting to make a comeback to racing, and how he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Toni Elias, who returned to MotoGP, before looking forward to the future, after his racing days are over.

Make sure you read part 1 and part 2 of this interview, though you don't necessarily have to read them before reading this final part.

Q: Three or four seconds used to be second or third, and now four seconds you could end up outside of the top ten.

Bradley Smith: Yes. That's what we're talking about. I think that's what's fun about GP racing at the moment.

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