With temperatures knocking on the doors of the 40 degrees, it still felt very much like summer holiday by the time the intermediate class hit the tarmac. The man who enjoyed it most was Marcel Schrotter, the Dynavolt rider picking up the lead of the session early on and finishing untroubled at the top of the timesheets by nearly half a second.
In the rapidly rising temperatures of the Czech Republic, the usual suspects returned from summer holiday in top shape and ready to enjoy some more sunshine in their first session of the weekend. Marc Marquez kicked off proceedings at the top of the standings by dipping into the 1:56s but his reign was cut short halfway through the session by a seemingly invigorated Andrea Dovizioso.
After a short summer holiday, the lightweight class swept away the cobwebs in the picturesque hills of Brno. Jorge Martin looked to be starting off his second half of the season on the right foot by jumping to the top of the timesheets late in the session with the first 2:09 time of the day. Nothing too impressive given the conditions but the world championship leader was consistently in the top three positions of the morning. His best time seemed untroubled at the top but Martin ended his session with a highside at turn ten and walked away worryingly holding his wrist.
There are modern tracks on the MotoGP calendar, and there are old tracks. The modern tracks offer plenty of run off and nice wide tarmac, but are usually too tight and convoluted to give free rein to a MotoGP bike. The old tracks are fast, flowing, offer plenty of overtaking opportunities, and are a real challenge, but they also tend to be narrow, and, frankly, dangerously lacking in run off. The riders find the new tracks irritating, but enjoy the safety, and they love the old tracks, but fear the consequences of a bad mistake.
The Automotodrom Brno seems like the perfect compromise. Fast and flowing, challenging, and big enough to give a MotoGP bike its legs. But also wide, with plenty of run off in most places, and plenty of grip from the track. It has a stadium section, giving fans the chance to follow the action through a section of track. But it also flows up and down a hill, and through the woods, a ribbon of tarmac snaking through a beautiful natural setting, high on a hill above the city of Brno.
That location offers its own challenges. Up on the hill, it is usually a little cooler than down in the town. The woods exhale oxygen which gives the bikes a little power boost. But they also hold moisture, the combination of high hills and thick woods raising the possibility of rain. Fortunately, the track retains its grip in the wet, though the rain can still shake up a race.
Yamaha have been at the center of the MotoGP news for a good part of this season. For good reasons and for bad reasons: the new Petronas SIC satellite team has been at the center of speculation over who would run the team, who would manage the team, and more importantly, who would ride for the team, with some top riders linked to the seats. But Yamaha have also now gone for 19 races without a win, their longest streak without a victory since 1998. At the same time, Valentino Rossi is second in the championship, and Movistar Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales is third, and both riders have been podium regulars throughout the first part of 2018.
After the Sachsenring, Yamaha announced that Monster Energy would be taking over as title sponsor from the 2019 season, replacing the departing Movistar, who are expected to lose the MotoGP broadcasting contract for Spain and are stepping back from the series. On Thursday at Brno, Yamaha held a press conference with Monster Energy, giving the media their first chance to question Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis and Monster Energy Vice President Mitch Covington about the deal.
Once the press conference was over, a small group of journalists got a chance to question Jarvis about the challenges the factory Yamaha team has faced over the course of this year. He spoke about dealing with the pressure of going for such a long time without a win, of handling rumors about dissatisfaction within the team, and some of the more fanciful rumors of discord between Valentino Rossi and himself, and about needing to expand their testing strategy.
Gilles Bigot, the French crew chief of Marc VDS MotoGP rider Tom Lüthi, has been in MotoGP a long time. In that time, he has seen a lot of riders come and go, and learned an awful lot about racing. At Jerez, I spoke to the Frenchman about the process of adapting to MotoGP. What started out as an attempt to get to the bottom of the problems Tom Lüthi faces in his switch to MotoGP after spending so many years in Moto2 became something much deeper, and much more interesting. We ended up speaking for half an hour, all of which was fascinating.
The first part of the interview covered three changes which he had seen from close up: the switch from 500cc two strokes to the four-stroke MotoGP bikes; the move to Moto2; and Kenan Sofuoglu's aborted attempt to make the jump from the World Supersport class to Moto2. You can read that part of the interview here.
But after talking about those changes, we went on to discuss Tom Lüthi's switch from Moto2 to MotoGP, and the difficulties the Swiss rider faced in making the jump. Lüthi is a proven winner and championship contender in Moto2, but he has struggled in the premier class. Bigot talked in great depth about the lessons which can be learned in Moto2 to prepare a rider for MotoGP, about what Moto2 doesn't teach riders, and how hard the Honda makes the transition to Moto2.
The first in an occasional series of chats with MotoGP’s top crew chiefs – this week it’s Santi Hernández, right-hand man to Marc Márquez
How did you get into 'bikes?
My father was a race-'bike mechanic and my brother raced in the Spanish championship at the same time as Alex Crivillé, in the early 1980s. At that time I was very young, so we’d go to the circuits, with me sleeping in the van, between the 'bikes. There were always 'bikes around the house, but I didn’t like 'bikes, I was focused on soccer.
MV Agusta have released the first official photos and details of their Moto2 bike. The Italian manufacturer is partnering with the Forward Racing team, who will race the MV Agusta from 2019 onwards, once Triumph takes over as official engine supplier. The MV Agusta Moto2 machine brings to an end a 42 year absence from Grand Prix racing.
The Suzuka 8-Hours is dominated by Bridgestone tire. Why is that? And what is the difference between a Bridgestone a Pirelli, and a Michelin at this iconic race?
Even the most talkative factory riders get tight-lipped when the topic of tires is raised. Jonathan Rea was asked after securing pole position for tomorrow's Suzuka 8-Hours about the feeling he has with Bridgestone tires, compared to using Pirelli rubber in WorldSBK. The three-time world champion sidestepped that landmine with customary ease by saying, “both are very high performance tires.” It was a similar situation when talking with MotoGP riders about comparing to Michelin tires in recent years.
There are, however, some outliers in the paddock. Riders with experience of Bridgestone, Pirelli, and Michelin tires, and who are able to speak about the contrasts. Both Michael Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli have plenty of experience on all three brands, with Laverty even acting as a MotoGP test rider at the time when the French manufacturer was building their initial batch of tires for their return to Grand Prix racing.
Suzuka is a race with a rich history and a full factory effort from Honda for the first time years is a real sign of the ever increasing importance of this race once again. Honda had trusted the efforts of supported teams in the past but now they're back and it's a full-fat Fireblade that's in action this weekend. It will take a lot to beat the Yamaha's but this is a good starting point
Some experts tipped Johann Zarco to challenge for this year’s MotoGP crown. So what has become of him? Best ask Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal…
It’s time to examine the strange case of Johann Zarco. Last year the French rookie bulldozed his way into our hearts by bruising egos, ruffling leathers and almost sawing Marc Márquez’s seat unit in half at Phillip Island. And all this on a second-hand motorcycle that wasn’t particularly adored by its previous owners.
No wonder the Frenchman was tipped to challenge for the 2018 MotoGP title. And he did, at least for the first few races. The 27-year-old qualified on pole in Qatar and led the race until he ran out of front grip. Two weeks later, he missed out on his first MotoGP victory by two-tenths of a second and another two weeks later he finished on the podium at Jerez. France was agog with excitement. More than 100,000 fans turned up at Le Mans to see him win. And he might have done if he hadn’t crashed out.
The summer break – if an extra weekend off can be counted as an actual break – marks the end of the first half of the 2018 MotoGP season, but it also marks a significant point in the MotoGP Silly Season. With Marc van der Straten telling the riders and crew of the Marc VDS MotoGP team that the team will not be competing in MotoGP in 2019 and beyond, the final shape of the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost clear.
There was no official announcement to mark the withdrawal of the Marc VDS squad, it was indirectly confirmed when the team sent out a press release (shown below) announcing that they had extended their deal with Alex Márquez for the Spaniard, younger brother of Marc, to remain in Moto2 for another season. Emilio Alzamora, who manages both Márquez brothers, had been pushing for Van der Straten to keep at least one grid slot in MotoGP for Alex Márquez, a move which had the strong backing of his brother Marc. Alex Márquez remaining in Moto2 is tacit confirmation that there is no seat in MotoGP for the Spaniard.
The withdrawal of the Marc VDS team, and the transfer of the Angel Nieto Team's grid slots to the Petronas SIC Yamaha team (whose existence was confirmed officially in a press release between the Dutch and German rounds of MotoGP) means that the MotoGP grid will be smaller in 2019. There will be 22 riders lining up at Qatar, rather than the 24 who started at Losail this season. The loss of two riders from the grid will not overly trouble Dorna: with uncertainty over who will broadcast MotoGP in Spain next year, saving around €6 million in team subsidies will create some negotiating room for the series organizer.
The Kawasaki Racing Team issued the following press release confirming that Leon Haslam will partner Jonathan Rea in 2019 in the KRT WorldSBK team:
Haslam To Join KRT In 2019
Experienced British competitor Leon Haslam will join Jonathan Rea in KRT to complete the rider line up of Kawasaki’s official squad in the 2019 WorldSBK Championship.