Seven MotoGP Races To Be Shortened To Tighten Up Schedule

Seven MotoGP races are to be shortened for the 2018 season onwards. The MotoGP races at Austin, Le Mans, Barcelona, Brno, and Misano are all to be cut by a single lap, the race at Jerez is to lose two laps, and the season finale at Valencia is to be reduced by a whole three laps. 

The reason for the reduction in length is to bring the races into line with the remainder of the calendar, and create a consistent time schedule. Previously, the MotoGP regulations specified a minimum and maximum length for races (between 95km and 130km), but for 2018, the specification of distance has been dropped. Race distance for all events is now to be determined by the Permanent Bureau, consisting of the FIM and Dorna.

The old race distances caused a large variation in race duration. Races could last anywhere between 40 and 45 minutes, making scheduling for TV problematic. It also meant that if there were delays at the start, or if races were wet, they could overrun the allotted TV slot, causing major headaches for broadcasters. It meant that audiences were never sure whether they would get to see the Parc Fermé interviews or podium ceremonies. 

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Moto2 & Moto3 Teams To Test At Valencia From Tuesday To Thursday

With MotoGP and WorldSBK both already having had their first tests of the season, it is now the turn of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams to get the 2018 season underway. Over the next three days, a large contingent of riders from the two Grand Prix support classes will gather in Valencia for their first test of the year.

The complete Moto2 and Moto3 field will not be present at the Valencia test. According to the official website of the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, 26 Moto2 riders and 14 Moto3 riders will be participating in the test. Riders present will include Moto2 favorites such as KTM riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, Gresini's Jorge Navarro, Marinelli Rivacold team's Romano Fenati, and Swiss rider Domi Aegerter, who has successfully managed to raise nearly €170,000 towards his season through a special crowdfunding scheme for Swiss athletes.

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Hafizh Syahrin To Test Monster Tech 3 Yamaha At Buriram In Audition For 2018 MotoGP Season

Hafizh Syahrin is to test the Tech 3 Yamaha at the upcoming MotoGP test in Buriram, Thailand. The test is quite obviously an audition for the Malaysian rider, who is the prime candidate to replace the sick Jonas Folger for the rest of the 2018 season.

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Hafizh Syahrin Now Main Candidate For Tech 3 MotoGP Seat As Zulfahmi Khairuddin Confirmed In His Moto2 Ride

The chances of MotoGP getting its first ever Malaysian rider are rising exponentially. It is looking ever more likely that Hafizh Syahrin, currently signed to the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team in Moto2, will move up to MotoGP and take over the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat vacated by Jonas Folger due to illness.

Rumors that Syahrin was a candidate to replace Folger first emerged after the opening MotoGP test of the 2018 season in Sepang, where a range of names were being bandied about. Few people were mentioning Syahrin, however, until MCN published a story linking the Malaysian rider to the team.

Since Saturday, things have moved into a higher gear. Today, the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team confirmed that Zulfahmi Khairuddin will be replacing Syahrin on the Kalex Moto2 machine the team will be fielding in 2018. At the same time, Syahrin confirmed in an Instagram post that he will be leaving the team to ride elsewhere.

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From Phillip Island To Coalisland: Putting Northern Ireland On The WorldSBK Map

There have been few projects as ambitious as the £30m development for the Lake Torrent circuit but the foundations seem solid

Ireland is a land of legends and tales. Many of these relate to finding paradise, but few are actually about creating paradise. That's the goal for David Henderson, the man behind the project to take WorldSBK to Northern Ireland. Yesterday's announcement of a three year deal to host a WorldSBK has put Henderson on the clock, but having spent 15 years working on the project he's keen to get started.

“I've wanted this for a long time,” said Henderson. “I've been involved in motorcycle racing for 40 years and unfortunately some of my dearest friends were killed road racing. I always felt that there had to be a safer way to go racing in Northern Ireland. When Joey Dunlop died in 2000 I was given an extra incentive to develop this circuit.

“Road Racing is special and unique but you would look at the circuit and think what lamp post can we remove? What cats eye can we take off the road? What changes can we make to improve safety? As a civil engineer I could see all the dangers, but I also knew that you couldn't remove most of them. I wanted to build a circuit with the feel of the roads but the safety of a closed circuit.

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Northern Ireland To Play Host To World Superbikes In 2019

The WorldSBK series is set to go to Northern Ireland in 2019. Dorna have come to an agreement with Manna Developments, the company behind the brand new Lake Torrent Circuit near Coalisland, County Tyrone, to host a round of WorldSBK starting next year.

The announcement will be welcomed in Northern Ireland, given the very strong motorcycling heritage of the region. The northern part of Ireland - both north and south of the border - has produced some of the great names of motorcycle racing, and one of the great dynasties in the Dunlop family.

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Subscriber Interview: The Huge Honda MotoGP Interview - Kokubu-san And Kuwata-san Talk 2017 And 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Honda's MotoGP program, Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Shinichi Kokubu. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

In 2017, Honda achieved the triple crown in MotoGP; manufacturer, team (Repsol Honda Team), and rider’s title (Marc Marquez). Above all, the fierce battle between riders for the championship went on until the final race of the season, which fascinated people all over the world. Tetsuhiro Kuwata, director and general manager of Honda Racing Corporation, and Shinichi Kokubu, general manager of Technology Development Division in HRC, unreservedly looked back how tough their 2017 season was. They also give a frank view of their expectations for the 2018 season, which is already well underway in the laboratories and offices of the HRC race department.

AN: The 2016 season saw very spectacular races with nine riders winning one after another. In 2017, we had another exciting season that the championship battle went on until Valencia. Did you expect such an intense and close championship?

Kuwata In the past, there were many seasons that the championship was decided at the final round of the year so that the hard fight was within our expectations. On the other hand, regarding our performance, it was a difficult year for us because there were ups and downs during the season.

AN: It was the first season for you to manage the MotoGP championship. What was your priority to work on?

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Numbers Don't Lie: 2017 vs 2018 MotoGP Tests Prove You're Better Off On A Ducati

Normally, when comparing times from a test, it makes the most sense to stick to a single year. But sometimes, there are good reasons to look back at past years, in search of a larger and more universal pattern. Comparing the best laps of riders who were in the championship last year and this year proves to be a highly instructive exercise.

Doing that, there is one thing that immediately leaps out at you. The two riders who improved the most between the two seasons are the two who switched between a Honda and a Ducati. Honda riders will freely tell you that the RC213V is very physical to ride, and the fate of rookies who have come into the championship on a Honda has not been great. Tito Rabat came to MotoGP as Moto2 champion, but struggled to make an impression on the Honda. On a Ducati, he finished the test ahead of factory riders Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, and just seven tenths behind Lorenzo on the Ducati.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Combined Times: Lorenzo Fastest Overall, Luthi Most Improved

Jorge Lorenzo finished the Sepang test as fastest overall, setting a new unofficial fastest lap in the process. That is meaningful in itself - it means that Lorenzo is a lot further along in his process of mastering the Desmosedici, and that he is likely to be competitive from the start of the season - but a more interesting perspective on the data is provided by the improvements made by the riders over the three days. Any improvement, or lack thereof, is an indication of how the factories are faring.

Unsurprisingly, the rider who improved the most over the three days was the rider with the least experience. Sepang was Tom Luthi's first outing on a MotoGP bike, and he had a lot to learn. But learn he did, quickly dispensing with the idea that old riders can't adapt. The 31-year-old has spent the last eleven seasons in the intermediate class, first in 250s, then in Moto2. But Luthi cut 2.606 seconds off his lap time between Sunday and Tuesday, adapting fast to the demands of riding the Marc VDS Honda RC213V. Luthi still finished as last of the officially contracted riders, but got to within six tenths of his teammate Franco Morbidelli, who has already had four days on the bike at both Valencia and Jerez.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 67: Talking Sepang With Thomas Baujard

The Paddock Pass Podcast is back, reporting direct from Sepang with a new guest. On Tuesday evening after the test, David Emmett sat down with respected French journalist Thomas Baujard, who works for the French magazine Moto Journal, to discuss what happened in the test.

Tom and David go through the factories one by one, and assess where they stand after the first test of the year. They start off talking about the Sepang track, and how the new surface is ageing, and finally starting to dry more quickly. Then they get on to discuss Ducati, and how the Gigi Dall'Igna's engineers have managed to solve at least part of the turning problem for the GP18, and how that has helped make both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo extremely competitive.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test: Tuesday's Quick Takes

Three days in the tropical heat of Sepang always generates so much information, and so much to think about, that it is impossible to encapsulate it all in just a few short hours immediately after the test. It takes time to digest, analyze, and separate the wheat from the chaff. That will happen over the coming days here on MotoMatters.com.

Yet there are clear lines emerging from the murk of testing. Avenues worth investigating, trains of thought worth pursuing. So here is the short version of what I think we have learned from three days of testing in Sepang. The long version – or more likely, versions – are still to come.

Honda – cautiously hopeful

After the Valencia test, Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa were happy about the new Honda RC213V motor. The electronics were roughly in the right place, and it sounded like the only work left was in refining it to turn it into a capable weapon. They were so happy they decided to skip the Jerez test, and left the donkey work to Cal Crutchlow.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday 2:30pm Times: Lorenzo Still Leading As Riders Focus On Race Simulations

Only one rider has improved his time since noon, as the riders have switched their focus to race simulations. Andrea Dovizioso has moved up from eleventh to fourth, putting both factory Ducatis into the top four. Riders who have completed their test programs are starting to pack up, Jack Miller being one of the first, while others are still on track, Marc Marquez foremost among them.

Times at 2:30pm:

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday 12pm Times: Lorenzo Under Lap Record As Riders Hunting Times

With next to no rain overnight, the MotoGP riders were met with a bone dry and blistering hot track on Tuesday morning, which meant they went straight to work. First order of business was a time attack: with air temperatures still rising, this was the best chance of a fast time the riders had been given during all three days of the test. 

Their attempts were rewarded. Half the field was quickly into the 1'59s, and before noon, Jorge Lorenzo had smashed the existing unofficial lap record of the track set by Marc Marquez in 2015. Lorenzo's time of 1'58.830 was just a fraction under the 1'58.867 set by Marquez, but it is a sign of both how much faster Lorenzo is this year, and how much the Michelins have improved in their first two seasons back in MotoGP.

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