Silly Season Kicks Off: Petrucci To Leave Pramac - But Where To, And What About The Rest?

There were signs that the MotoGP Silly Season could be wrapped up early last week in Bologna, at the launch Ducati's MotoGP team. Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti said he expected to sign the riders for the factory team 'quite early'. "Quite early probably means the second half of February or the first half of March," he clarified. So before the lights have gone out for the first race of the 2018 MotoGP season, Ducati hope to have two factory riders wrapped up, and they are unlikely to be the only factory to have done so.

It is apparent that the riders have taken note of this, and are adjusting their strategy accordingly. After Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport ran a story suggesting that Ducati were about to sign Pecco Bagnaia to the Pramac team, Danilo Petrucci has told the same paper that 2018 will be his last year with Pramac. "[Team boss] Paolo Campinoti and I both know this. He pulled me out of the gutter, but we know this is our last year together. The cycle is complete."

Poetry aside, Petrucci's announcement is significant. The Italian has a contract with Ducati which promises him a seat in the factory team if one becomes available, in much the same way that Andrea Iannone did previously. But the question is, will there be a seat there for Petrucci to take?

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Motorcycle Racing Gets Nearer: Testing For WorldSBK And MotoGP Starts This Week

With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks. Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.

The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test. The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations - new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.  

All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November. Rea was seemingly unaffected by the new rule changes, saying less top end merely made the bike easier for him to ride. Teammate Tom Sykes will be hoping to match Rea's pace, and adapt to the new character of the bike.

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Interviewing Suzuki's Bosses: Sahara and Kawauchi On Getting The Engine Wrong In 2017, And Fixing It For 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Suzuki's MotoGP program, Shinichi Sahara and Ken Kawauchi. 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

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR had a tough season in 2017. From the beginning, Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins faced severe difficulties and finished the year without getting a single podium. As a result, Suzuki will be granted concessions again for the 2018 season. On the other hand, Iannone and Rins showed their competitiveness at the final four races, which indicated Suzuki had found the light at the end of what proved to be a very long tunnel. Suzuki’s MotoGP project leader Shinichi Sahara and technical manager Ken Kawauchi talked frankly about their hard effort in the challenging year and expectations for the forthcoming 2018 season.

Q: Everything looked smooth in the preseason. At the season opener, Iannone took the second row of the grid in qualifying, and Rins started the race from 18th position and fought his way through to reach the checkered flag in 9th place. The opening round of the 2017 season was good for Suzuki. When did you come to think “something is wrong…”?

Kawauchi: It was very early. In Argentina, Alex complained, “I cannot stop the bike as I wanted and it’s difficult to hold the line.” Andrea had been saying something similar, and then Alex, who didn’t have enough experience in MotoGP, told us the same thing as Andrea. So, we had a suspicion that something should have been different from last year.

Q: From that time onwards, what did you do to improve the situation?

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 66: Reviewing The 2017 MotoGP Season

With testing due to kick off in Sepang in just over a week, the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast takes a look back at the highlights and lowlights of the 2017 MotoGP season. The PPP Posse™ - Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett - gathered at the Barcelona Superpresitigio to break down the year into five categories.

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Ducati MotoGP Launch Part 2: Dovizioso And Lorenzo On Distractions, Contracts, Money, And Life Lessons

The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond. Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.

That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday. While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall'Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season. New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.

Andrea Dovizioso had spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to. "A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years" is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge. Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. "The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years," he said. "There are many riders who can win races. It wasn't like this in the past."

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Jonas Folger Pulls Out Of Racing For 2018 To Focus On Recovery

The 2018 season starts off with a nasty surprise for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. Today, the team announced that Jonas Folger will not be racing in 2018, leaving them without a second rider for the coming season.

The reason Folger gave for pulling out of racing is to focus on recovery from the health issues he suffered at the end of 2017. The German was forced to pull out of the three Asian flyaways, after health problems later diagnosed as Gilbert's Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the liver which causes chronic fatigue. Folger still does not feel at 100% fitness, and decided to take a year out of racing to focus fully on his recovery.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Aprilia’s central focus in 2018

Aprilia had an up-and-down 2017, so what does the Italian factory need to do to make Aleix Espargaró and Scott Redding competitive in MotoGP 2018?

Aprilia is MotoGP’s underdog; the factory with the smallest race department of them all.

Racing manager Romano Albesiano has 70 staff working with him at Noale, which is considerably less than most of his rivals. Suzuki probably has MotoGP’s second smallest race shop, although the company won’t reveal numbers.

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Ducati MotoGP Launch Part 1: Management On More Power, Fixing Turning, Sponsorship, And Silly Season Starting Early

MotoGP team launches are always the triumph of hope over experience. Each year, the bosses of every factory in the series tell the media that their objective is to win races and fight for the championship. Sometimes, they even believe it.

At last year's launch of the Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna said they hoped to be fighting for the championship. That, after all, is why they signed Jorge Lorenzo to what is reported to be a very lucrative contract. The assembled press were skeptical, despite the clear progress which Ducati had made in the past couple of seasons, their first wins coming in 2016.

Such skepticism was unwarranted, though you get the distinct feeling that even Ducati were surprised at how close Andrea Dovizioso came to clinching the 2017 MotoGP title. Ducati were delighted by the Italian's first win at Mugello, amazed at his victory in Barcelona a week later, and impressed by the way he beat Marc Márquez at Austria. By the end of the season, Ducati had come to expect to win races, and realized just how far they had come on their journey since the dark days of 2013, when they didn't score a single podium all year.

So on Monday, when Dall'Igna echoed the words of Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali in Bologna, that Ducati's objective was to win races and challenge for the championship in MotoGP, they were deadly serious. There is no doubt that Ducati is capable of doing just that – Dovizioso's results and Lorenzo's improvement in 2017 demonstrate that – and though they are all too aware of the dangers of complacency, Ducati start the 2018 season with both a firm expectation and belief that they are candidates for the 2018 MotoGP title.

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MotoMatters.com Travel Guide – Race 01, Qatar, Jewel Of The Night

As I will be writing my MotoGP travel guides in the same order as the calendar, I will start it in the same place that MotoGP kicks off every year: in Qatar. Why does it start in the middle of the desert so very far away from the vast bulk of MotoGP fans? The answer is simple: money. Qatar pays a lot of money to be the first race of the MotoGP season (and the last race of the WorldSBK season). So if you want to see the MotoGP season opener, you have to travel out to a sandy peninsula in the Persian Gulf.

MotoMatters.com Travel Guide Rating:

Atmosphere factor: 6
Exotic factor: 7
Cost factor: 8
Non-racing factor: 3

Explanation of this table

Where is it?

The Losail International Circuit is located some 30 kilometers north of the center of Doha, the capital of Qatar. It is situated just off the Al Khor Coastal Road. It is clearly visible from the plane when you fly into Doha, and visible as you drive to the track because of the floodlight system, which appears after the bulbous blue-and-white Lusail Multipurpose Hall, a sports facility.

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MotoGP Bike Launches Approach: Ducati On Monday 15th January, Yamaha Wednesday 25th January

With the first MotoGP test in Sepang less than two weeks away, the factories are preparing by launching their bikes and introducing their liveries. So far, only two factories - Ducati and Yamaha - have announced dates, but more should follow soon.

First up is Ducati, who are launching their 2018 MotoGP campaign in the factory headquarters in Bologna, as they have done for the past five years. The launch starts at 10:30am CET on Monday, 15th January. It will be streamed live via internet, and you can find a link to the presentation on Ducati's Youtube channel. The link will also allow you to set a reminder.

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World Supersport Interview: Andrew Irwin Stands On The Brink Of The Unknown

Andrew Irwin will jump from the British Supersport championship to the world stage in 2018. It's a step into the unknown for the Northern Irishman, but he's latest in a long line of talent

“There's something in the water over there” was said a lot about Northern Ireland in 2017. Jonathan Rea headlined that success by romping to his third consecutive WorldSBK title, but with riders such as Keith Farmer, Andrew Irwin, and Alastair Seeley dominating British Supersport, there's a lot of depth. Irwin will be stepping onto the world stage this year and joining his compatriots Rea and Eugene Laverty in the WorldSBK paddock.

“I'm really excited about going into World Supersport. It's a complete unknown for me and it's a massive change coming from the British championship, where I've been racing for the past four years. I know the circuits and the paddock in Britain and now I'll be going to somewhere that it's all new. I'm going to be on the Honda with an established team [Simon Buckmaster's CIA Landlord Insurance – DE] that's shown they can do the job in World Supersport. Hopefully I can go and do the bike and the team justice.

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Alberto Puig Appointed Repsol Honda Team Manager

After the departure of both Shuhei Nakamoto and Livio Suppo from HRC and the Repsol Honda team, Honda have announced that they will be making Alberto Puig Team Manager of the Repsol Honda team. 

The appointment of Puig did not come as a surprise. Puig has a long and storied history with Honda, having raced for them in 500GPs, then moving on to a variety of management roles associated with Honda. Puig was instrumental in the Movistar Cup, the series from which a vast array of talent came, including Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, Toni Elias, and much more. He went on to become Dani Pedrosa's personal manager, before moving on to run the Honda Asia Talent Cup and work with the British Talent Team in recent seasons. 

But this appointment also marks a break with recent history. Alberto Puig is a very different character to Livio Suppo, who he nominally replaces. Suppo approached the role of team management very much from a marketing perspective. Puig is much more of an ex-racer, and is much closer to the Japanese engineers than to the marketing and media side of the operation.

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Introducing The MotoMatters.com Travel Guide - How To Choose Which MotoGP Race To Go To

As someone who covers MotoGP, I get asked a lot of questions by fans. Most of those questions are about the racing itself, about why a particular rider did either well or poorly at a particular race, or why one manufacturer is performing better than another at a particular circuit, or any of a thousand other questions about riders, bikes, teams, and the series itself. I can answer most of the questions I am asked, some with more confidence than others, and usually find time to write about the questions I have been asked.

There is one class of question I don't get around to writing about, though. Again and again, I, like many other MotoGP regulars, am asked about which is the best race to attend, where to stay for a particular race, how to get to the track for a specific circuit, etc etc. Those are the kind of questions I don't get a chance to write about on the website, though I answer them on Twitter or Facebook regularly on an ad hoc basis.

So it's about time I rectified this situation. Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of articles on each race track currently on the MotoGP calendar. These articles will cover just about any question you may have about a particular track, and put you in a position to answer for yourself the question, "Which race should I go to?" I won't be telling you which race you should go to – tastes and preferences are different for everyone, and one person's Casey Stoner is another man's Valentino Rossi – but I hope that once you have read the articles, you will be able to decide for yourself which race you really want to go to, given the choice.

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