The WorldSBK field has gotten the first test of 2019 under their collective belts, and christened the new asphalt at the Jerez track. As you might expect, it was Jonathan Rea who was fastest, just shy of Marco Melandri's Superpole lap record from 2017. The fact that Rea set his time on race rubber may well give his rivals pause for thought. The KRT Kawasaki rider had by far the fastest pace of the WorldSBK riders, racking up a total of 14 laps of 1'39, while his rivals could manage no more than a handful.
If you looked very carefully at the Repsol Honda 2019 livery, you could see a difference. A touch more black under the tail. A dash more white on the tank, and a different line here and there. But other than a large sticker celebrating 25 years of collaboration between Repsol and HRC, the differences were almost impossible to see.
And why should they change? In the previous 24 seasons together, Repsol and Honda have won the premier class championship 14 times, a strike rate of nearly 60%. Marc Márquez, Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Nicky Hayden, and Alex Crivillé have all become world champions wearing Repsol colors. Repsol Honda riders have a combined 168 wins, 427 podiums, and 177 poles between them. So why ditch that in pursuit of novelty? The Repsol livery is proven, and it is timeless. And so it stays as it was, no matter how much the crowd bays for change.
Márquez and Lorenzo make the most successful team in premier-class history… shame they’re unlikely to be fully fit for the first race
Most team launches are a bit, well, meh, because the future is like looking for Eldorado: it’s easy to promise all kinds of gold and glory before the journey has even begun.
During every team launch you will hear riders explain why they are looking forward to fighting for the title because they’ve got the best bike, the best team, the best sponsors, the best team-mate, the best of everything… It’s déjà vu-inducing.
The winter break is officially over for the WorldSBK teams, as almost the entire paddock assembled in Jerez for the first test of 2019. The WorldSBK and WorldSSP riders took to a freshly resurfaced Jerez to get 2019 underway.
Alex Lowes ended the day as fastest, the Pata Yamaha rider taking over at the top of the timesheets in the final couple of hours to finish just eight hundredths of a second faster than reigning world champion Jonathan Rea. Rea was four tenths faster than KRT teammate Leon Haslam, who was in turn a tenth quicker than Toprak Razgatlioglu on the Puccetti Kawasaki.
After the team presentation at the Repsol Campus in Madrid, the Repsol Honda Team issued the following press release. Unfortunately, as a result of Jorge Lorenzo's injury, HRC were unable to do their normal full photoshoot with the team. A full gallery of the bikes will be available next week:
2019 Repsol Honda Team livery revealed in Madrid
The Repsol Honda Team will be presenting its bike and its 2019 riders at the Repsol Campus in Madrid today at 10:30am. You can follow the live video stream here:
Jorge Lorenzo has had successful surgery to fix his fractured scaphoid, but the surgery means he will miss the Sepang test. The Spaniard had a titanium screw inserted to hold the broken scaphoid together, but the recovery period needed means he will not be fully fit in time for the start of the Sepang test, and Repsol Honda and Lorenzo have decided to skip Sepang and focus on the Qatar test at the end of February.
Despite the surgery, Lorenzo will be present at the launch of the Repsol Honda team in Madrid, to be held on Wednesday, 23rd January.
Lorenzo's accident puts Honda in a difficult situation for Sepang. Marc Marquez is still recovering from major surgery on his left shoulder, to fix a chronic problem of dislocation. Though Marquez' recovery continues apace, he is far from full fitness, and has not been able to train the way he normally would. Cal Crutchlow is still recovering from a massive ankle injury which he suffered at the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island last year. Though he is cycling, he still has some pain while walking, and so his condition is far from 100% for the test.
The FIM today officially confirmed the 2019 MotoGP calendar. There were no changes made to the provisional calendar released in September last year. There will be 19 races, starting in Qatar on 10th March, and ending in Valencia on 17th November. There will be tests after the race at Jerez, Barcelona, and Brno, while the first test of 2020 is expected to take place after Valencia.
There could be an extra test in the schedule, to be held directly after Silverstone. If the new Kymiring circuit in Finland is finished on time, the riders will head to Finland at the end of August to try the new circuit, and generate important data for Michelin.
The official calendar appears below:
The start of the new year has released riders from their previous contracts, and freed them to talk. For some, though, the new year also places new restrictions upon them. So in a fascinating interview with the Spanish sports daily Marca, Dani Pedrosa is forced to refuse to talk about his role testing for KTM. "I'm not allowed to say anything about this, but I can say that I love the work I am doing with KTM, because for me, the challenges never stop."
One of the more interesting things Pedrosa does talk about is the reason he left Honda. That had nothing to do with the tension which had existed between himself and team boss Alberto Puig, Pedrosa said. In fact, the decision not to keep Pedrosa on as a test rider came from higher up in Honda.
Just days before the Repsol Honda team launch in Madrid on Wednesday, Jorge Lorenzo has suffered a wrist injury. The Spaniard fractured his left scaphoid in a training accident while riding dirt track. Lorenzo underwent examinations in Italy and Spain, and is due to undergo surgery in Barcelona on Monday, with Dr. Mir set to operate.
The accident occurred in Italy on Saturday afternoon, and became public when Lorenzo turned up at the Clinica Pederzoli in Peschiera del Garda, in the southeast corner of Lake Garda in Italy. News of Lorenzo's incident emerged on the website of the local Corriere del Veneto paper, who reported that that Lorenzo had spent a couple of hours at the clinic. He was accompanied by two people, a man and a woman, who confirmed that Lorenzo was seeking treatment for a painful hand, but offered no other details.
Ducati launched their 2019 MotoGP campaign at the Philip Morris R&D cube in Neuchâtel, Switzerland this evening. The Mission Winnow Ducati team, as it is now called, consisting of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci were presented to the world on stage in Switzerland, in a new livery with a lot more red and a lot less white in it compared to previous years, in a throwback to the 2008 color scheme. Like that color scheme, there is a link to Philip Morris once again, though this time, indirectly. But much more on that later.
In a tightly-scripted presentation, Ducati managed to let slip just enough information to make the presentation interesting, without giving too much away. But what they did let slip was enough to allow observers to read between the lines for an insight into the factory. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna spoke briefly about the bike for 2019, but more importantly, sketched a picture of how the team and the team's two riders will function in much more of a partnership. This was in stark contrast to the combative atmosphere which prevailed when Ducati had both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo aiming to win the championship.
The live stream of Ducati's presentation of their 2019 MotoGP team from Neuchâtel in Switzerland is to start at 6pm Central European Time. We will be publishing photos of the new livery, along with news and updates from the launch, after the launch.
You can watch the live stream below:
As we inch closer to the official start of the MotoGP season at Sepang, where the first test of the year is set to be held from 6th-8th of February, we enter the season of team and factory launches. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, all of the MotoGP teams and factories will present their 2019 color schemes and riders at a series of events.
Ducati is the first to present its plans, as is the tradition. On Friday, 18th January, the Italian factory will present the MotoGP team of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci at an event in Neuchatel, Switzerland. The location - the Phillip Morris R&D Cube in Neuchatel - has been chosen as a reflection of Ducati's partnership with Phillip Morris, and the tobacco giant's move to promote its electronic smoking device. Whether that will also translate to iQOS branding on the fairings remain to be seen: tobacco advertising and sponsorship remains banned throughout most of world, and especially in the key markets where MotoGP races.
The launch is to start at 6pm CET on Friday, 18th January. It will be streamed live on the MotoGP.com website.
Repsol Honda is next, presenting their brand new line up of Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo at Repsol's main Campus in Madrid on 23rd January. It will be the first time that Lorenzo will be able to speak freely and publicly about his switch to Honda, though he is more likely to speak openly to journalists afterwards, rather than during the public presentation.
Suzuki and Yamaha have struggled to keep up with Ducati and Honda in recent years, so what are their chances for 2019?
Inline-four MotoGP bikes have won two of the last 30 MotoGP races. That’s why some outsiders predict the end of the line for them.
But if you’ve been paying attention you will know that Ducati’s V4 and Honda’s V4 dominate MotoGP for reasons other than engine configuration. Both layouts have their good and bad points; end of story.