Grand Prix Commission Winter Rule Clean Up: More Wet Tires, And Clarifying Racing Rules

The off season is a good time for motorcycle racing organizations to do a spot of housekeeping. There is time to look back over the year, and figure out what was missing from the rules, and what was unclear, an issue made more pressing by the number of rule changes in recent years. And so that is what the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, did, at a meeting in Madrid on 30th November.

Though it took a 3-page press release to cover all the changes made during the meeting, most of them are fairly minor in their effect. The biggest change was not even in the press release, although that is because it is a consequence of the switch from Honda to Triumph engines in Moto2, and from the Honda ECU to the spec Magneti Marelli electronics kit. That switch means that the Moto2 technical regulations need to be updated to reflect the situation going forward from 2019. Nothing in those changes is new, however: the changes have long been debated and agreed between the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna, as well as the suppliers and chassis builders for the Moto2 class.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘The prize is pride!’

There’s no prize money at Valentino Rossi’s annual 100km dirt-track race, but the racing is just as vicious as MotoGP

Perhaps one day Valentino Rossi will work out how to sit back and rest on his laurels. But he’s not there yet.

Eleven weeks before his 40th birthday and two days after MotoGP’s longest-ever season of racing and testing, he was back at it: racing motorcycles around in circles (and hurting himself), because that’s what he likes doing.

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Shoulder Surgery A Success For Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez has had surgery on his left shoulder to fix the recurring problem of dislocating that shoulder. The surgery was carried out by Dr. Mir, together with Dr. Victor and Dr. Teresa Marlet, at the Hospital Universitari Dexeus in Barcelona on Tuesday. 

The surgery, which involved grafting a section of bone onto the head of the humerus, is meant to stop the shoulder from being dislocated so easily. This has been a problem which Marquez has had for a number of years now, the issue getting worse every time the shoulder popped out. The problem had become so bad that Marquez managed to dislocate his shoulder when he reached out to receive the congratulation of Scott Redding, after the Repsol Honda rider had wrapped up the title at Motegi. He partially dislocated the shoulder twice more at Valencia, after crashing. 

Marquez will require some time to recover from the surgery, six weeks of rehabilitation being needed before he can start to train properly. At the Jerez MotoGP test, Marquez had expressed his concern about the loss of training time, and the recovery period. "The plan is surgery next week, and then recovery all the winter," he told us last Thursday. "Because it's a long recovery, and I will not arrive at Malaysia maybe 100%, it will be tight. So all the winter will be concentrated on my shoulder, and then I will have all of February and March to work on my physical condition."

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 88: Testing At Jerez - MotoGP, WorldSBK, Moto2, MotoE

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and after a week of testing at Jerez over four different classes of bikes, Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett get together to discuss what happened, who brought what, and what it all means for the 2019 season.

We start first with a rundown of how the various factories fared in the MotoGP test, starting with Yamaha, and their development dilemma, and the very different opinions which Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales have of the 2019 Yamaha M1. We then move on to discuss Ducati, and the myriad tricks Gigi Dall'Igna has up his sleeve, including the return of the torque arm for the rear brake and aerodynamic additions to the rear seat.

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Review: Mat Oxley- Speed: The One Genuinely Modern Pleasure

It is hard to overstate just how radically the internal combustion engine changed the world. It led to a revolution, because they ease and speed with which people could move from point to point caused a radical change in the way they thought about the world. The steam engine had opened up the world of work and communal travel, but its bulk and complexity made it impractical as a means of individual transportation.

The internal combustion engine, in which light oil fractions were burnt by means of controlled explosions inside of steel cylinders, was more compact and more suited to personal transport. When Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach assembled the first "Reitwagen", a vehicle which is a motorcycle despite its own intentions, to paraphrase Melissa Holbrook Pierson. The world fell in love with the freedom which the internal combustion engine brought, and the speed which it made possible.

Of course, once one motorcycle had been built, the second would follow shortly afterwards, and once two of anything exist, the human compulsion to compete takes over. Racing followed motorcycle development as sure as night follows day. And as racing followed motorcycle development, so motorcycle development followed racing, a process which continues to this day.

This story, of how the obsession with speed and competition drove the early years of motorcycle racing, and how those developments both influenced and were influenced by the societies in which they existed, is the subject of Mat Oxley's book, Speed: The one genuinely modern pleasure. In this meticulously researched book, Oxley traces motorcycle racing and competition from its earliest origins, an alcohol-fueled postprandial contest on a bicycle racing oval at the stately (and, post hoc, aptly named) Sheen House, all the way through to the death of the obsessive and eccentric Eric Crudgington Fernihough in Hungary, who died trying to beat the land speed record set by Ernst Henne. It follows the long and winding trail to go from speeds of 44 km/h of that first race to the 279.5 km/h which Henne set in his supercharged 500cc BMW streamliner.

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2018 Jerez November MotoGP Test Thursday Round Up: Fast Times, Obvious Tech Updates, Yamaha vs Yamaha, And The End At Last

And the winner is... Takaaki Nakagami! Or at least the LCR Honda rider's name sit atop the timesheets at the end of the final day of the final MotoGP test of 2018. Which both counts for a lot, and counts for very little at the same time. The fact that Nakagami was able to do the time is proof that the 2018 Honda RC213V is a much better bike than the 2017 version which the Japanese rider spent last season on – see also the immediate speed of Franco Morbidelli, now he is on the Petronas Yamaha rather than the Marc VDS Honda. It was also proof that Nakagami – riding Cal Crutchlow's bike at Jerez – is a much better rider than his results on the 2017 bike suggest. And puts into perspective that this was the bike which Marc Márquez won the 2017 MotoGP title on.

But it also doesn't really mean very much. Testing is just testing, and the riders don't necessarily have either the inclination or the tire allocation to go chasing a quick lap time the way they do on a race weekend. Nobody wants to risk it all just to prove a point and get injured just before they go into the winter break. And with the top 15 within a second of one another, and the top 7 within a quarter of a second, the differences are pretty meaningless anyway.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Andrea Dovizioso

Dovizioso finished runner-up to Marc Márquez in 2017 and 2018, so how does rider counter the skills of his greatest rival and how has riding technique changed since he came to MotoGP?

How has riding technique changed since you came to MotoGP in 2008?

Riding technique has changed a lot. The bikes have changed a lot and the intensity we are able to put into the bike has changed a lot, so you need to be much fitter because to be fast for 45 minutes with such a level of intensity is impossible if you are not very, very fit. This is the first thing, the second thing is the electronics. The electronics have changed a lot: they are much better and the way we manage them is much better; this is the biggest change and it affects our riding style.

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2018 Jerez November MotoGP Test 2:30pm Thursday Times: Dovizioso Leading Viñales And Marquez

Cool weather meant another late start at Jerez, bikes taking to the track around 11:30am, despite the track opening at 10am. The weather is a little cooler and more cloudy than Wednesday, but times are still respectable.

Andrea Dovizioso is fastest shortly after 2:30pm, the Ducatis debuting a new tail with an aerodynamic shape. Maverick Viñales is second, from Marc Marquez, after Marquez had led for most of the session, spending most of the time on the 2019 prototype bike. Danilo Petrucci is fourth, just ahead of an impressive Pecco Bagnaia on the Pramac Ducati.

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2018 Jerez November MotoGP Test Wednesday Round Up: Yamaha Still Struggling, Ducati Dominant, Honda and Suzuki Improving, KTM Chasing Their Tails

The trouble with post-season testing is that it takes place after the season is over. That is a problem, because the season runs well into November, so any testing after that is nearer to December than it is to October. And wherever you go inside of Europe to test, you will never get a full day's testing done, even with the best of weather.

So it came as no surprise that when the track opened at 9:30am on Wednesday morning for the first day of a two-day test, nothing happened. Or that nothing continued to happen for another couple of hours, as we waited for track temperatures to break the 20°C barrier, and make it warm enough to generate useful feedback. It is a perennial issue with no easy answers. Finding a warm, affordable track is tough this time of year.

The good news was that once the track had warmed up, we had ideal conditions for testing. Dry, sunny, warm if you were standing in the sun, though not quite so much if you were in the shade. Despite the fact that so much time was lost to the cold, the riders ended up with a lot of laps completed, and a lot of work done.

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2018 Jerez November MotoGP Test Wednesday: Ducatis Fastest, Nakagami Surprises

Danilo Petrucci topped the first day of testing at Jerez, the Italian the only rider to get into the 1'37s. He beat factory Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso by two tenths of a second, though Dovizioso had a crash at the end of the session, which stopped him pushing for a fast time. 

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