Toprak Razgatliogu ends the Portimao WorldSBK test as fastest, the Pata Yamaha rider a fraction faster on Monday than yesterday's fastest rider Scott Redding on the Aruba.it Panigale V4R. Loris Baz was third quickest on the Ten Kate Yamaha R1, over four tenths faster than Michael van der Mark on the second Pata Yamaha rider.
After the press conference part of Ducati's 2020 MotoGP launch, we got a chance to ask Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna a few more questions about the Italian factory's plans for the coming season. Dall'Igna expanded on some of the things he had told the press conference, such as his priority for the Desmosedici GP20, and how he expected the new Michelin rear tire to affect the racing.
But Dall'Igna also answered some other questions as well. The Ducati Corse boss talked about why he wanted more power from the GP20, the support on offer for Johann Zarco, how he sees rider contracts, and Ducati's thoughts on racing in Endurance. He even fielded a question about Marc Márquez, and managed to answer it by not answering it.
Corners or straights?
One of the main questions the media had for Dall'Igna was what his priorities were for the GP20. Ducati had brought a couple of new chassis and a new engine spec at the Valencia and Jerez tests last November, and at Valencia, especially, the bike seemed to turn better. At Jerez, that improvement didn't seem as significant.
Was the GP20 really better in the corners? "It’s difficult to tell you an answer," Dall'Igna said. "For sure we’re improving the bike. We have some ideas about improving the bike that can help us in that direction. But we have to test it before telling you something. Maybe after Sepang I can tell you something more."
A few days after packing up at Jerez, the WorldSBK paddock - or at least a large part of it - is back in action in Portugal, at Portimao. Prominent absentees are Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes of the KRT Kawasaki team, who are in Barcelona testing. With the weather having looked favorably at the Portimao circuit, the teams got in plenty of laps.
Scott Redding ended the day as fastest, the Aruba.it Ducati rider vastly less experienced at Portimao. Redding was under the circuit race record, and nearly six tenths quicker than second-fastest man Loris Baz on the Ten Kate Yamaha.
On Thursday, Ducati presented its 2020 MotoGP team at a spectacular location: the Palazzo Re Enzo in the heart of Bologna's main Piazzo Maggiore square. Before the launch was live-streamed to the public, the main protagonists spoke to the media to lay out Ducati's plans for the 2020 MotoGP season. And though nothing inside the team is changing, and factories always attempt to keep their cards close to their chest, they always manage to let one or two things slip, whether inadvertently or not.
Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali kicked off the press conference with a justification of why Ducati goes racing. The crux of his argument was that disruptive technologies and a rapidly changing political environment made it imperative for companies to be as independent as possible. That meant being able to rely on their own knowledge, and not having it taken away by outside factors.
"To be economically independent, we at Ducati absolutely think that investment in research in development is crucial," Domenicali told us. "And we at Ducati consider racing as the most advanced part of our research and development. And when we put together all the effort for racing, for production bike research and development and all the tooling to make and produce new bikes for racing and production we are above 10% of our total company turnover."
Plucking the fruits of racing
Ducati have presented their 2020 MotoGP project in Bologna. Here are my first quick thoughts after the presentation. You can watch the official launch on the Ducati website here.
In this piece:
- Nobody wants to talk about 2021
- More horsepower or better turning? Why not both!
- How the new Michelin tire will affect the racing in 2020
- Does Gigi Dall'Igna want to hire Marc Marquez?
- What Andrea Dovizioso will be focusing on
- Danilo Petrucci on 2020
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The WorldSBK riders got a little bit of dry running at Jerez on Thursday, or at least some dry-ish running. A couple of hours were enough for Jonathan Rea to believe it worth going out on track and laying down a time. But his best lap was still 2.7 seconds off the time he set at the November test in Jerez.
For the second winter in succession, Marc Márquez is recovering from shoulder surgery to fix a problem with dislocation. It didn't slow him down much in 2019, the Repsol Honda rider finishing the season opener at Qatar in second place, losing out to Andrea Dovizioso by just 0.023 seconds. He went on to win the next race in Argentina by nearly ten seconds, and crashed out of the lead in Austin. It was to be the only time Márquez finished outside of the top two.
So when Márquez decided to have surgery on his right shoulder last November (in 2018, it was his left shoulder which was operated on), he was confident of a quick recovery. The right shoulder was far less damaged than the left had been, and the surgery was much more simple. He spent far less time in surgery in November than he had done a year ago.
The first day back testing was something of a washout for the WorldSBK and WorldSSP teams. The track started wet, never really dried out, and heavy rain started to fall in the afternoon. The conditions proved treacherous, with a spate of crashes causing the test to be red-flagged four times during the day.
Testing resumes today at Jerez for the WorldSBK class. At least, it will if the track dries out enough to make conditions usable. Heavy overnight rain has soaked the track, and more rain is expected over the next two days.
The WorldSBK field will be hoping for dry track time for a lot of reasons, not least because it will be the first time that the Honda CBR1000RR-R will be seen at a public test. Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam have ridden the bike at private tests already, the bike getting a run out at Aragon and Portimao, and reports were that the bike was very quick, but the rest of the WorldSBK field will want to see a direct comparison with the bike.
Photos of the Honda CBR1000RR-R have already been floating around social media. Here is one photo, with some of the engine visible.
Besides the Honda, there are plenty of other things to keep an eye. At Kawasaki, Jonathan Rea will be continuing his transition to a thumb brake, working on getting used to that feel. Alex Lowes, meanwhile, will be trying to unlearn some of the things he learned about braking on the Yamaha, and find the limits on the Kawasaki ZX10-RR. Corner entry has been Lowes' biggest problem so far.
Ducati and Honda have ruled MotoGP’s top-speed charts for years and are the dominant race winners. Here’s why
V4-powered MotoGP bikes have won 44 of the last 50 MotoGP races, a victory rate of 88 per cent, and topped the speed charts at 47 of the last 50 races, a success rate of 94 per cent.
How can this dominance be explained? Is it simply the fact that V4 engines make more horsepower? And if they do make more power, how do they do that?
As the world of motorcycle racing starts to get into the swing of things, activity is starting to ramp up. The first of the MotoGP factory launches is due this week, Ducati to present their 2020 livery and (unchanged) rider line up in a 13th Century palace in the middle of Bologna. That event happens on Thursday evening, the 23rd January, and I will be attending to try to find out more about Ducati's plans for the coming season.
The other factories will have to wait. The three Japanese factories will be launching their bikes just ahead of the Sepang test. Repsol Honda go first, holding their launch in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on 4th February. The Monster Energy Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT teams will be holding their launches at the Sepang circuit on the 6th February, as will the Suzuki Ecstar team.
In part one of Akira Nishimura's interview with Joan Mir, the Ecstar Suzuki rider spoke about adapting to MotoGP, what he learned from his teammate Alex Rins, and where they need to improve for 2020. In the second half of the interview, Mir goes on to talk about his path into MotoGP, how much easier or harder it is to be a rookie on a Suzuki, compared to a Ducati or a Yamaha, and how long he will need to adapt.
Q: Looking back at your racing career, it is just your fourth year in the world championship. So, when you started your world championship career in 2016, did you imagine you would be a MotoGP rider in four years?
Joan Mir: In four years, no. This is impossible. I think that this is a record or something. We have to find this, because it’s so, so fast. One year in Moto3. Win first race in Moto3, podiums. Then second year in Moto3 world champion. Then first year in Moto2 podiums. Then first year in MotoGP. It’s unbelievable. It’s so fast, but in all my career, I was always competitive, always. Also in MotoGP. So, I’m happy to be here.
Obviously, I would like to do one year more in Moto2 and fight for the title, because it’s something that we were able to do, to have a title in Moto2. I didn’t have it, but because everything came like this, everything fell into place so I had the contract with Suzuki. Otherwise I needed to wait two more years if I wanted to go up to MotoGP. I said, the moment is now. I went up. At the end I’m happy to be here.
It was hard being a MotoGP rookie in 2019. It was probably the strongest rookie class we have seen in many years: Pecco Bagnaia and Joan Mir, two world champions; Miguel Oliveira, who has runner up in both Moto2 and Moto3; and Fabio Quartararo, the young man they changed the Moto3 entry rules for. Yet even these exceptionally talented youngsters faced probably the most talented MotoGP field in history.
Quartararo's meteoric success dominated the headlines, but it overshadowed some strong debuts by the other three. Ecstar Suzuki's Joan Mir, for example, crossed the line in eighth in his first ever MotoGP race, and went on to become a regular top eight rider. By the end of the season, he was challenging his more experienced teammate Alex Rins, and scoring his best result of the season at Phillip Island, finishing fifth in the group battling for the podium.
Before the Japanese round of MotoGP at Motegi, top Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura talked to Joan Mir about his first thirteen races – Mir was forced to miss two races due to the lung injury he suffered in the huge crash at the Brno test. The Suzuki rider spoke at length about his rookie season, about his rapid progression through the Grand Prix ranks, and about what he learned. He also talked to Nishimura-san about racing against his teammate, and how making your debut on a Suzuki compares to the Ducati and the Yamaha.
It was an insightful and long conversation, and so it has been split into two parts. Part two will be published tomorrow, but here is part one:
The Paddock Pass Podcast returns after a brief winter layoff for the holiday period, and we still find plenty to talk about. Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett all go through what we are most looking forward to in the 2020 season.
There is a lot to look forward to. Will the new chassis for KTM or the new bike at Aprilia mean a breakthrough for the factories? What happens at Yamaha? Can they find more horsepower? And how will they handle trying to fit Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Fabio Quartararo into the factory team? Will Rossi retire, and who else will go with him? How will Scott Redding get on in WorldSBK? And will the brand new Honda Fireblade finally be competitive?