Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 73: Le Mans And Silly Season Madness With Neil And Steve

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in this edition, Neil Morrison and Steve English catch up with the events of the Le Mans MotoGP round and take a broad overview of the happenings in WorldSBK. After a quick recap of the on track events at the French Grand Prix, Neil and Steve turn their attention to the wildness that is the current state of MotoGP's Silly Season.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “Marc is a freak!”

Another race, another victory, so what exactly is Marc Márquez’s big secret?

I’m stood in the Le Mans pitlane, chatting with a venerable MotoGP engineer, trying to eke from him the relative merits of every bike on the grid.

“The holy grail of motorcycle racing has always been to come up with a device that can save front-end slides, and now Honda has one…” he says, pausing for effect. “He’s called Marc Márquez.”

And that there is the story of MotoGP right now. Love him or loathe him, Márquez is on another level to everyone else. He has an ability that none of the others possess. That doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable, because he’s not always the fastest man out there, but it’s this unique talent that helps him to make the difference.

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Barcelona Tire Test Day 1: Iannone Fastest As New Asphalt And Layout Means Scorching Lap Times

After Le Mans, the MotoGP teams had rushed from France down to Barcelona to test the new surface and layout at the Montmelo circuit. The track has been completely resurfaced, and extra runoff created at Turn 13 (the old Turn 12) which means that the corner can be restored to its former glory, before it was altered in the wake of the tragic death of Luis Salom in 2016.

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Subscriber Feature: The Importance Of Test Riders, Part 3: Davide Tardozzi On The Importance Of Michele Pirro, And Ducati's Role As A Pioneer

In the third part of our series on test riders, we come to the rider who has arguably had the biggest impact on the factory he has worked with. Michele Pirro has been the workhorse for Ducati's test program, putting in the miles to do the hard work, while at the same time being fast enough to be genuinely competitive during his wildcard appearances. Ducati's use of Michele Pirro has clearly inspired other factories to pursue similar avenues, with KTM taking Mika Kallio and Suzuki using Sylvain Guintoli.

In the next couple of days, we will have an interview with Pirro on how it feels to be a test rider, but first, Ducati team boss Davide Tardozzi on Pirro's role as a test rider for Ducati. Tardozzi talks about the importance Pirro's speed has had to the development of the Desmosedici, and how Ducati try to cultivate that speed through competition, either in the Italian CIV championship or by scheduling tests with other manufactures to encourage riders to try to beat each other's lap times.

Q: How important has Pirro been to Ducati?

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2018 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Crashes Shape The Championship, Yamaha's Woes, Ducati's Decision, And Moto3 Madness

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking. In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways. In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa's brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden's championship challenge was over. Valentino Rossi's heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time. Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia. The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship. And Sunday's drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn't finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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2018 Le Mans Saturday MotoGP Round Up: The Pressure Of Home Races, And What's Causing The Crashes

Pressure comes in many different varieties in motorcycle racing. There is always the internal pressure to perform, of course, but that is natural. Without that, there are no results. There is external pressure from the team, who want to succeed just as badly as the rider does. There is pressure from sponsors, who want to know their money has been well spent. There is pressure from friends and family, who want to see a rider succeed, and from the fans, who will on their favorite riders. How a rider handles this pressure is usually the difference between success and failure in MotoGP.

Then there are occasions when the pressure rises to bursting point. When fighting for a championship, for example, when riders both need to win, but at the same time, they can't afford to fall off. Or at a rider's home race, when the fans, the media are all willing you on to win, and show a lack of understanding if that doesn't happen. How a rider handles this pressure is the difference between being a very good rider and being a great champion.

Riding at home can create extra pressure, especially if you are the only rider representing your country of birth. When it comes to home races, Spanish and Italian riders are at an advantage. The pressure they have on them is much less than some of the other nationalities in MotoGP. Firstly, they have multiple attempts at getting it right at their home race. With four races in Spain and two in Italy, riders know that if they don't do well in their first home race, they will get another shot at a second race.

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Dorna Propose "Miller Rule" - Ride Through For Changing Bikes Before Race Start

The tumultuous start to the Argentina round of MotoGP is to have consequences. As Jack Miller's brave decision to choose slicks on a drying track went unrewarded, the start procedure on the grid is to be changed, and ride through penalties served on any rider leaving the grid to switch from wet tires to slicks or vice versa. The new rules are to apply from the next race at Mugello, once approved by the Grand Prix Commission.

The new start procedure is aimed at simplifying and clarifying what happens when a rider decides to leave the grid and switch tires. If a rider leaves the grid after the sighting lap to switch bikes from a dry to a wet setup or vice versa, they will be allowed to start from their normal qualifying position, but they will have to serve a ride through penalty during the race.

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