Despite rain and lightning teaming up overnight, the first day of action for the final round of the season did see some motorbikes hit the track straight away. The wet surface, serious drizzle and darkening clouds did not allow for particularly competitive times early on but nearly the entire lightweight class pack braved the conditions.
It's been a long season. The difference between 18 and 19 rounds is more than the 5.5% increase it implies. The wear and tear of 19 races – well, 18 races and a day of hanging around in the rain at Silverstone – has taken its toll on the bikes, on the riders, on the teams, on the paddock. So what better way to round the season off with a giant party at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo near Valencia?
There are probably half a dozen or more places better suited to holding the last race of a MotoGP season. Phillip Island would be warmer, and guarantee an exciting race. Jerez would be less likely to see heavy rain or cold temperatures. South Africa, Argentina, even Sepang or Thailand would be more suitable, in terms of climate.
Yet Valencia still has an awful lot going for it. The track might be too tight for MotoGP bikes, but it sits in a bowl, forming a natural amphitheater, giving the fans in the stands a view of every part of the track. The fans turn up, too: 100,000 or more, creating a real party atmosphere, exactly what you need at an end of season race. The fact that it is under four hours from Barcelona, Dorna's base, meaning that most Dorna staff can sleep in their own beds on Sunday night (or for the lucky ones, on Monday, after Sunday night's prize-giving ceremony and blowout party) is a bonus.
It has been a long and eventful career for Dani Pedrosa, which draws to a close at Valencia. The Spaniard has been enormously successful: three world championships in 125s and 250s, 54 Grand Prix victories, 31 in the premier class, putting him seventh and eighth respectively all time. On Thursday, he will be made officially a MotoGP Legend by Dorna, to mark his achievements in the series.
Yet Pedrosa has always been an intensely private man. Like Casey Stoner, Pedrosa loved the racing passionately, but everything in between climbing off the bike after the latest race, and climbing back aboard for the next, that he could do without. He was always friendly to fans, and polite to reporters, but it was obvious from his media appearances that this was the one thing which interested him least of all.
At Aragon, I got a chance to take a look back at MotoGP with Pedrosa, and talk about how he had experienced it. It was a personal view of his life, and his approach to racing, rather than a dry look at his stats. Pedrosa talked about how he saw the series, about the things he loved and the things he hated, and about the difference between racing now, and racing in previous eras. He was open about himself as a human, and how his view of the world had changed through the years, and how, in a way, that played into his decision to stop racing.
Q: MotoGP has changed a lot in the time that you've been in it. How do you see the championship? What state is it in? What is going well, and what is going wrong? What were the good changes? What were the bad changes? What would you change if you were Carmelo?
Air cooling system on Kalex (Marc VDS), for water
Peter Bom: Moto2 engines automatically enrich the fuel mixture over 80°C in order to cool the engine. This rich mixture causes a slight loss of power and in the extremely tight Moto2 class, every detail is worth looking at. Here we see the MarcVDS team, cooling down there Moto2 engines while the bike waits in the pit box.
Air duct for front calipers (Yamaha YZR-M1)
Peter Bom: Air ducts to guide air to the brake caliper, and no covers over the carbon brake disks. Carbon brakes have a fixed temperature window in which they operate well. Too low and they don’t work (very low coefficient of friction), too high and they get damaged.
A new era dawned for Ducati at the Motorland Aragon circuit on Wednesday, as the Panigale V4R took to the track for the first time in the hands of the riders who will be racing it. Chaz Davies of the factory-backed Aruba.it Ducati team and Michael Ruben Rinaldi of Barni Racing put the first serious laps on the bike after Michele Pirro has brought it to this point during testing.
Can he still cut it? That's the most common question that was asked in Qatar about Tom Sykes as the 2013 WorldSBK champion signed off from Kawasaki
Over the course of 228 races, Tom Sykes made himself into a Kawasaki legend. It's easy to look at the last four years and to only see the success that Jonathan Rea has achieved on the green machine, but before 2010 the Japanese firm were struggling. Chris Walker's win in the wet at Assen was a bright spot that punctuated ten years of failure.
From the turn of the millennium until Sykes joined the team had three wins, a home double at Sugo in 2010 by wildcard rider Hitoyasu Izutsu, and Walker's famous result. These weren't lean times for Kawasaki, this was a famine. With only 19 podiums in the ten years prior to his arrival, it's remarkable what the Englishman has achieved with the team.
Ducati's new WorldSBK machine will get its first public airing at Aragon today
It's hard to remember a more hotly anticipated racing motorcycle than the Ducati Panigale V4R. The bike will make its track debut today at Aragon with Chaz Davies on testing duties.
The V4 is arguably this is the most interesting bike to hit the track since 2015, when the first Gigi Dall'Igna-designed Ducati MotoGP machine rolled down the pit lane at Sepang. That GP15 transformed Ducati's fortunes in Grand Prix racing, and the GP15-inspired V4 will hold similar hopes for the Bologna based firm.
It took a year for Ducati to get back to winning ways in MotoGP but the GP15 was a podium threat from the opening round of the year. The Italian manufacturer doesn't need to make huge leaps forward in WorldSBK, so if the V4 improves on its predecessor it will be an instant contender to end Jonathan Rea's dominance of the production-based series.
Some say current technical regulations are unfair for bigger riders like Petrucci and Rossi, so is it time to even things up a bit? Michelin and Ducati think so
Some years ago I thought MotoGP needed a combined rider/machine minimum weight. After all, I reasoned, if Formula 1 (where the car weighs around nine times more than the driver) has a combined limit, surely it would make sense in MotoGP (where the bike is a bit more than twice the weight of the rider).
So I talked with several MotoGP engineers and technical director (now race director) Mike Webb. They were all convinced this wasn’t the way to go. They said it’s swings and roundabouts, especially in the case of soon-to-retire Dani Pedrosa whose advantages on the swings (the straights) are easily outweighed by his disadvantages on the roundabouts (the corners).
Cal Crutchlow is out for the rest of the 2018 season, as well as for the winter tests at Valencia and Jerez. The injury the LCR Honda rider sustained in practice at Phillip Island is so severe that it will take at least until the beginning of next year before Crutchlow will be fit enough to attempt to ride.
Crutchlow sustained a so-called 'Pilon' fracture of the tibia, fibula (the two bones in the lower leg), and talus (the bone which hinges the two leg bones, and joins them to the feet). That fracture (Pilon comes from the French word for pestle) is the result of the foot smashing into the ground, and the three bones being crushed together by the force involved.
Crutchlow had surgery to fix the bones, which involved the use of two plates, eight screws and some artificial bone. The severity of the injury is such that he has had to keep his ankle immobile, and with no weight on it. He hopes to start moving it again soon, and will start cycling again this week. But with a typical recovery period of between six and twelve months, Crutchlow has been forced to miss all testing this year.
The LCR Honda rider is aiming for a return at the Sepang test on February 6th, three months after his surgery. The chances of the Englishman being 100% are slim, but he should be fit and strong enough to manage testing and prepare for 2019.
Below is a statement taken from the LCR Honda press release:
Ducati announced on Tuesday that they would not be renewing their collaboration agreement with former double world champion Casey Stoner. The move had been widely rumored since the middle of the year, and the announcement was merely a formality.
For Ducati, the bulk of the test work will continue to fall on Michele Pirro, who did most of the development work. Stoner's input was valued by Ducati as he was able to lap at similar lap times to Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, while Pirro is a couple of tenths slower than the factory riders. Stoner had helped with development of both the Ducati Desmosedici and the Ducati Panigale V4.
What happens next for Casey Stoner is unknown. Rumors continue to circulate that Honda are interested in seeing Stoner return as test rider, though official sources remain quiet on the subject.
Below is the press release from Ducati on ending their relationship with Casey Stoner:
Casey Stoner and Ducati conclude their collaboration
Ducati and Casey Stoner will not continue the collaboration agreement that has seen them work together since 2016.
The accord had been stipulated on a three-year basis (2016-2018) and in these three years, thanks also to Casey’s important contribution, Ducati has constantly improved the performance of the Desmosedici GP, which is now considered to be one of the most competitive bikes in the MotoGP World Championship.
The FIM has announced the provisional WorldSBK calendar for the 2019 season. The calendar as it stands has 13 rounds, 12 of which have been confirmed. Brno and Laguna Seca are out, while Jerez makes a comeback, with a midsummer round still to be announced. That round could be Kyalami.
The season starts out in a similar vein to previous years, kicking off proceedings at Phillip Island on 24th February, before heading to Buriram in Thailand three weeks later. Three weeks after that, the series lands in Europe, racing first at Aragon in Spain, where WorldSBK and WorldSSP are joined by the WorldSSP300 class, before heading north to Assen for the Dutch round. Four weeks after Assen, the WorldSBK paddock heads south to Italy for the round at Imola.
There has been a fair shake up of the middle of the season, with various rounds reshuffled. From Imola, the paddock heads west again to Spain, this time to Jerez, then drives all the way back again to Misano. From Misano, WorldSBK heads to the UK, for the British round at Donington Park.
After Donington, an additional round has been scheduled, though it is not yet clear where that is. It is widely expected to be Kyalami, though details remain to be finalized. After this round, WorldSBK heads into its long summer break, with no racing through the month of August.
While the line up for the 2019 MotoGP season was settled surprisingly early in the year, the opposite has been the case for WorldSBK. With just two weeks to go to the first full test of 2019, there are still a whole range of seats open, and questions going unanswered.
One of the reasons for the delay became clear at the EICMA show in Milan last week. While the manufacturers were presenting their newest bikes, including some of the key machines which will star in World Superbikes next year, a couple of manufacturers also presented their racing programs for 2019.
Perhaps the biggest story came from Honda, where HRC presented Althea and Moriwaki as their new partners in running their WorldSBK program. After a partnership of three years, and a relationship going back nearly two decades, Ten Kate are out, with the Italians and Japanese taking over.
It wasn't just Ten Kate: title sponsor Red Bull were also out. The energy drink firm had signed up when Nicky Hayden was with the team, a big name draw for sponsors, and a rider with a long connection to Red Bull. It was Red Bull who brought in Jake Gagne, the American who never really found his feet in the WorldSBK championship. After two years of poor results, Red Bull withdrew.
HRC + WorldSBK
Torque sensor on the Yamaha M1
Peter Bom: Like all current MotoGP engines, the Yamaha M1 has a torque sensor fitted to the drive shaft. By measuring the amount of torque delivered on the track, the manufacturer can validate their engine dyno torque maps and fine tune them on the track. Note that Yamaha don’t use them on Sunday, that’s when everything should be sorted out. Left of the sprocket is an ‘inside-out’ or inverted sprocket which the external starter motor slides into.
The Grand Prix Commission is to tighten the noose on electronics a little further, in an attempt to prevent cheating. The GPC today issued a press release containing the minutes of their meeting held at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. There, they agreed restrictions on the ECU, agreed to limit riders in all classes to FIM homologated helmets, and increased the penalty for speeding in pit lane.
The two changes to the electronics are aimed at restricting the ability of teams to alter the data on the official ECU. The first change allows the Technical Director to use an official approved laptop to download the data directly from the datalogger on the bike, connected to the ECU, rather than relying on the team to provide the data. By downloading the data directly, the idea is to ensure that the data has not been altered for whatever reason.
The issue for the teams is that their data is then stored on a computer outside their control. To ensure that such data does not leak to their rivals, a safeguard has been put in place to have the data deleted once it has been verified by Technical Control.