2017 Motegi MotoGP Preview: The Weather As Wildcard

The three Pacific flyaways are all tough, but each is tough in its own particular way. At Sepang, the brutal combination of heat and humidity punishes the body and the mind. At Phillip Island, the fickle weather, which can change in the blink of an eye, always manages to catch out the unwary. And Motegi is tough because of the physical demands of the circuit, featuring the hardest braking sections on the calendar, combined with often cold and wet weather.

Motegi can really take its toll, on machinery, but especially on the riders. Braking is so tough at the circuit that the MotoGP rules specifically state that 340mm carbon discs must be used there. There are plenty of riders who paid the price of trying to run the smaller 320mm discs, their brakes overheating on the run into Turn 1 and then never really getting a chance to cool off properly as they approach the next hard braking section after crossing the finish line.

Those braking sections are illustrative of the stop-and-go nature of the Japanese track. Like Le Mans, the circuit has a bunch of straights which loop back toward each other, with tight corners in between. Once the riders exit Turn 5 and head under the bridge, they enter a more flowing and natural section. 130R is a fast right hander, which is followed by one of the better overtaking points on the circuit, the left of Turn 7, then the right-handed S Curve of Turn 8.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 61: A Look Back At Aragon, And Reviewing The Season So Far

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out. Jensen Beeler steps in for David Emmett, and picks the mighty brain of Neil Morrison on the Aragon round of MotoGP, and takes a look back at how the season is developed.

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Jonas Folger To Miss Motegi And Possibly More Due To Illness

Jonas Folger has been forced to pull out of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, and may be absent for the remainder of the overseas triple header as well. The German has been taken ill with what could potentially be a recurrence of Epstein Bar, which he suffered from previously. Japanese test rider Kohta Nozane is to replace him in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team for the Motegi round at least.

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Leon Camier To Race For Honda World Superbike Team In 2018

The Red Bull Honda World Superbike team issued the following press release announcing the signing of Leon Camier for 2018:


Camier joins Honda for the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship

Honda Motor Europe and the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team are pleased to announce the signing of Leon Camier, who will join the squad for the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship. The 31-year-old from Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom, will be riding the WorldSBK-spec version of the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 throughout the upcoming season.

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Crunching The Numbers: Who Has Momentum Going Into MotoGP's Asian Triple Header?

In many ways, the MotoGP season is structured like a Hollywood action blockbuster. There is preseason testing, the opening sequence in which we are introduced to the main cast of characters. After the opening credits, we start off by flying across continents to a range of exotic and colorful locations, where the first threads of plot are laid out, some of which will turn out to be red herrings later in the season. There then follows a regular sequence of dramatic action sequences, the narrative of the season taking dramatic twists and turns along the way.

If MotoGP is a Hollywood blockbuster, then the Pacific triple header of flyaway races is the frantic last 10 minutes, where the protagonists face off again and again leaving the audience barely a moment to catch their breath. It is where the battle for MotoGP reaches its crescendo, the drama of the season raised to another level and compressed into the briefest of windows. The flyaways are intense.

If the fans feel the triple header takes its toll on them, just imagine what it's like for the riders. Back-to-back races within Europe are usually manageable, as the riders are only a few hours away from their homes, and spend the weekends in their motorhomes, which are a home away from home. For the flyaways, the riders spend four weeks on the road, moving from hotel to hotel. They kick off the trip with a 15-hour flight to Japan, follow it up with an 11-hour flight from Japan to Melbourne, then another 9-hour flight to Malaysia.

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Leon Camier Interview - On MV Agusta, Development, Reliability, And 2018

It has been over four years since Leon Camier last stood on the WorldSBK podium, but since Silverstone 2013 the Englishman has been able to do something remarkable; rebuild his reputation without having the silverware to show for it.

Having raced for Aprilia and Suzuki following his 2009 British Superbike title success, Camier was left high and dry for 2014 and had to take on the role of super sub for the season. It must have been a humbling experience for Camier but it has certainly made him a stronger and more rounded racer and since joining MV Augusta in 2015 he been the focal point of their WorldSBK program.

"The bike has evolved from when I first rode it," said Camier. "It was not a very good race bike at the start, and now it is really quite competitive. A lot of that is down to the technicians that we have and obviously from my feedback and being able to tell the team exactly what I want from a bike. I have to understand how the bike works, how the team works and how exact I have to be with my feedback. It's not enough to say, 'I need a smoother throttle.' I have to be in depth about what's going on and the knock-on effect that any change can have on other parts of the bike too."

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KTM Confirm Smith And Espargaro As 2018 MotoGP Rider Line Up

After months of speculation of an impending rider change at KTM, the Austrian factory has issued a press release clarifying its 2018 line up in MotoGP. The KTM factory team will continue with both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith as their contracted race riders, while Mika Kallio remains contracted as a test rider. 

The move will be welcomed inside the team, restoring stability and removing the uncertainty which had surrounded Bradley Smith and his future as a factory rider. The Englishman had struggled badly to be competitive in the first part of the season, while his teammate Espargaro seemed to go from strength to strength. Smith's position was made even more tenuous when test rider Mika Kallio easily outperformed him during the Finn's wildcard appearances, especially at the team's home race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Riders: behave yourselves!

MotoGP has got its work cut out dealing with Moto3 maniacs hunting for slipstreams and by riders in all classes who get greedy with the asphalt runoff

If MotoGP was a high school, Moto3 would be the class of misbehaving young bad boys and girls that sends its teachers home each evening sobbing into their hankies.

There is no naughtier class in MotoGP than Moto3. The smallest category causes head teacher more of a headache than the other two classes combined. That’s right, Race Direction spends more time policing Moto3 than it does MotoGP and Moto2.

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Bradley Smith Interview - Running On Faith

For Bradley Smith the switch to KTM was one made on "blind faith," but during a tough year he's aware he needs that faith to be reciprocated

"I'm the first one to admit that I've under performed this year," admits Bradley Smith as he looks ahead to the final races of the MotoGP 2017 season. "I can't really pinpoint exactly why that is. I think that I've put in the effort and the focus but I've not understood what I needed to do to get the most from the KTM. I think that I've done a great job with the development of the bike and I've embraced the role of developing the bike. At some times I've probably focused on that too much rather than racing."

Since joining the premier class in 2013 Smith has been noted as one of the most articulate and insightful riders on the grid. His ability to explain the minute details of how a MotoGP bike interacts with the track and rider has made him a favorite of journalists looking for information. On the back of a superb 2015 campaign, it also put him on the shopping lists of numerous teams. Ultimately, that season, where he spent the majority of the year inside the top six, showed his potential in the class.

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Making Motegi A Little More Japanese: Aoyama And Nakasuga To Race At Their Home Grand Prix

In the week in which MotoGP marks ten years since the remarkable Norick Abe tragically died in a traffic accident (an occasion which MotoGP.com is marking by posting videoes of some of Abe's career highlights on their Facebook page), news comes of extra Japanese presence at the Motegi round of MotoGP. There will be at least two Japanese riders on the grid for the start of the race on Sunday, 15th October.

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Subscriber Interview: Mike Leitner, Part 2 - On Bradley Smith, MotoGP As The Champions League, And Signing A Top Rider

KTM's MotoGP project has made remarkably rapid progress in the short period since it started. All three of the Austrian factory's riders – factory men Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, and test rider Mika Kallio – have already scored top ten finishes, and the gap to the leading bikes has been cut from three seconds a lap to three quarters of a second.

I sat down with KTM team manager Mike Leitner to discuss the progress. In the first part of the interview, published yesterday, Leitner talked about the technical concepts behind the machine, why the steel trellis frame is here to stay, and the advantage of using suspension supplied by WP, the company owned by Red Bull. Leitner also talked about just how important a role Mika Kallio has played in the development of the bike.

In the second half of the interview, Leitner discusses the issues Bradley Smith has faced in adapting to the bike, and how KTM has been trying to address them. He also talks about the long-term future of the project, and whether KTM will be going after a top-level rider like Marc Márquez, with all of the top riders being out of contract at the end of 2018.

Q: I wanted to ask about the difference between Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. Pol is totally adapted to the bike. Bradley seems to struggle a lot more. Do you have an explanation for why that is?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - What is Bradley Smith’s problem?

Bradley Smith has struggled since the start of 2016 – this is what has wrongfooted the Briton

Changing tyre brands can make or break bike racers. There’s a long history of top riders riding the crest of a wave, changing tyre brands, then disappearing without trace.

In 1998 Simon Crafar was riding high on 500s. This was the New Zealander’s rookie 500 season and yet by Assen he was already hassling Mick Doohan, then at the peak of his towering career. Next time out at Donington Park, Crafar left Doohan trailing, beating the reigning champion by 11 seconds. It was probably the biggest defeat ever inflicted on Mighty Mick.

Crafar nearly did it again at Phillip Island, Doohan’s home race, breaking the lap record and crossing the line eight-tenths behind the Aussie hero. No doubt about it, Crafar was the Next Big Thing. His Red Bull Yamaha team believed it could challenge for the title in 1999, so long as it changed to Michelin, then the dominant force in 500 GPs. Michelin also wanted Crafar on its side, so the team switched from Dunlop.

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Ducati Superbike Boss Ernesto Marinelli To Leave Ducati At End Of 2017

A major surprise out of Borgo Panigale this afternoon. Ernesto Marinelli, the man behind so much of Ducati's World Superbike success, is to leave the company at the end of 2017 for pastures new.

Marinelli has been a lynchpin in Ducati's WSBK operation, working with the company for 22 years. He started as a track engineer, working with both Carl Fogarty and Neil Hodgson, but soon took on a major role in Ducati's racing operations. The Italian led Ducati's AMA racing program at the end of last century, working with such legendary riders as Troy Bayliss, Ben Bostron, Anthony Gobert, and John Kocinski. After returning to Europe, he took over the role of technical director, then project manager of Ducati's WorldSBK project.

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Subscriber Interview: KTM Team Boss Mike Leitner, Part 1- On Progress, Trellis Frames, And Mika Kallio

The announcement that KTM would be building a bike to compete in MotoGP was met with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. The addition of another manufacturer to the grid was a cause for celebration, especially one with such a stellar record in other disciplines. The question was, with MotoGP technology at such an already high level, would KTM be able to competitive quickly enough before the board loses interest? And would KTM's insistence on a steel trellis frame mean it could be competitive, when everyone else had moved on to an aluminium beam frame?

With 14 races in the books, the answer to those questions appears to be yes. Before the race at Aragon, Mika Kallio, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith had already scored a string of top 10 finishes. In the race at the Motorland Aragon circuit, Espargaro finished 10th and Kallio 11th, the Spaniard finishing 14 seconds behind the winner. The bike is making remarkable progress.

On Thursday evening at Aragon, before Sunday's outstanding results, I spoke to KTM MotoGP team manager Mike Leitner, about the progress the team has made. In the first part of this two-part interview, the Austrian team boss talks about the technical choices the team has made, how the project has lived up to expectations, and the role test rider Mika Kallio has played in the factory's success. In the second part, to be published later this week, Leitner talks about the difference between Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, and what the future holds for KTM.

Q: First of all, to me it seems like there’s been much more progress this year than maybe we had any right to expect because it’s taken other factories much longer to get up to speed?

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Jack Miller Breaks Leg In Training Accident, To Miss Motegi

The 2017 season has claimed another training victim. This time, Jack Miller is the victim of misfortune, the Australian breaking his right leg while out trials riding in Andorra.

Miller was relatively fortunate, in that he suffered the injury at very low speed, putting his foot down trying to save the front end from washing out. However, his foot got stuck, causing the tibia to fracture just below the knee. He was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona, where a plate and eight screws were fitted, to pin the bone fragments back together again.

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