Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Suzuki catch up?

Suzuki’s MotoGP effort seemed to go backwards last year, so what must the factory do to close the gap to the front-runners?

Suzuki has a lot to do in 2018, mostly to erase the memory of a gloomy 2017. Any factory team fighting back from difficult times is under a lot of pressure; but probably none more so than Suzuki, where the factory management has never seemed that dedicated to Grand Prix racing. Unlike Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki has drifted in and out of the premier-class over the past few decades, so this year Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins need some good results to keep the Suzuki Motor Corporation signing off budgets.

Suzuki returned to MotoGP in 2015 after a three-year absence and scored its first-ever dry-weather MotoGP victory in 2016. The all-new GSX-RR was a superb motorcycle: rider-friendly, fine-handling; all it needed was more grunt and fully sorted electronics.

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Livio Suppo Interview: On Talent, Gambling On Young Riders, And Replacing Rossi

Valentino Rossi's Peter Pan-like ability to remain competitive through his late thirties leaves fans and paddock insiders alike wondering if and when the nine-time world champion will retire. The subject comes up every two years or so, when Rossi's contract (and that of others) comes up.

Though it looks for now as if Rossi will continue, who to replace him with is an interesting question. Should Yamaha go for a veteran to partner Maverick Viñales? Or should they pick young talent for the second seat, and allow them to develop?

Last year, I spoke to three different factory bosses about how they viewed the issue, and how they go about developing talent for their own factories. The interview with Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti was published last summer, but at the beginning of 2017, I spoke to Livio Suppo, then Repsol Honda team principal, about how his experiences of bringing on young talent, and the problem of finding a replacement for Valentino Rossi.

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Interview With A Champion: Sitting Down With Jonathan Rea

Having claimed an unprecedented third title in a row WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea looks back on an action packed year

Jonathan Rea wrapped up a third world title in 2017 and on the final day of winter testing the Northern Irishman sat down with the us to reveal all.

Having become the first rider in history to win three consecutive WorldSBK titles Rea was honored by the Queen mid-season and made an MBE. Receiving his award in London from Prince William would be the start of a whirlwind tour for the champion. From Jerez to London to Andorra for the FIM Gala, to Japan for Kawasaki duties, the off-season is busier than the WorldSBK season but Rea is grateful for everything he receives.

“It's been incredible and honestly I don't have words to describe how I feel,” said Rea. “It's amazing to be able to go to London and receive my MBE. It's something that I can't believe has happened and it's only starting to sink in what we've been able to achieve together. I was looking back this week and it feels like it's only recently that I was a kid with a dream and wanting to be in the world championship. To have the success of the last three years has been beyond my wildest dreams.”

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2018 Week 1 News Round Up: Rossi's Ranch, Retiring Youngsters, And Preparing For Sepang

Though the world of motorcycle racing slowed to a crawl over the holiday season, that does not mean that nothing happened whatsoever. Racing news trickled out from around the globe, as riders, teams, and factories made decisions, and racing collided with the real world. So here's a round up of some of the news stories you may have missed while we were away over the past couple of weeks.

Rossi's Ranch wins in the courts

The year started off with good news for Valentino Rossi. Ever since it was built, some local residents have complained about the noise and nuisance caused by Rossi's dirt track ranch, situated just east of his home village of Tavullia. A group of locals lodged formal complaints against the ranch with the Tavullia council, alleging several violations of local rules, such as missing documents including an environmental impact assessment, as well as complaints about excess noise and noise outside of normal operating hours.

Those complaints were dealt with by a regional court earlier this week, the Regional Administrative Tribunal (TAR) of the Marche region, where Tavullia is located. The court rejected the complaints, dismissing a part as having no grounds to proceed, a part as being inadmissible, and rejecting the remainder.

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A New Year: Three Predictions For The 2018 MotoGP Season

A new year brings new opportunities, and a chance to start again with a blank slate. The future is unknown, and so now is a time for predictions, some wild and baseless, some canny educated guesses. That we do not know which category our predictions will fall into is half the fun of making them, of course.

2018 looks like being another outstanding year for motorcycle racing. There is much reason for optimism: the racing in MotoGP has never been as close as it is now, the field is deep in talent and the bikes are close in performance; there are fresh young faces coming up through Moto2 and Moto3, ready to push aside the old guard; and new rules in WorldSBK may help to address the disparity between the championship front runners and those who pursue them.

Will the new season play out as we hope? Anything can happen in racing, but here are three predictions for 2018, and factors to watch in the coming year:

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Yamaha give Rossi a winning bike?

Valentino Rossi’s chief engineer Silvano Galbusera explains what went wrong last year and what needs to go right this MotoGP season

Yamaha has a lot of work to do: the factory needs to win back the MotoGP world title and (for the sake of Dorna and millions of fans) build a bike good enough to keep Valentino Rossi racing for another season or two.

Achieving both those goals will keep Yamaha busier than any of the other factories, because it’s got to dig Rossi and Movistar team-mate Maverick Viñales out of a big hole. Last year was one of Yamaha’s worst MotoGP seasons, with just four wins from 18 races. But it wasn’t only last year that was bad. Since the start of MotoGP’s new technical era – different tyres and electronics – Yamaha’s win rate has slumped by more than 50 per cent. Indeed the factory won fewer races in 2016 and 2017 combined than it did in 2015 alone.

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Opinion: 2017 – A Year Of Change, A Year Of Farewells

2017 has been a strange year in motorcycle racing. We have had one of the best ever seasons of racing in MotoGP, with close finishes and a surprise title challenger. We have seen one of the best ever WorldSBK riders stamp his authority on the series, though that has also seen the championship suffer partly as a result. We have seen young talent come through in the support classes, and older talent recognized and appreciated. There has been much to celebrate.

But there has also been much to mourn. 2017 saw two of the most iconic names in motorcycle racing lose their lives, ironically, both in traffic accidents and not on motorcycles. Nicky Hayden was killed while out training on his bicycle, hit by a car as he crossed a road at a treacherous crossroads. Angel Nieto suffered head injuries when he was hit by a car while out riding a quad bike on Ibiza.

Nicky Hayden – great rider, great human

Though Nicky Hayden is not a candidate for the greatest rider of all time from a results perspective, his impact on the sport is undeniable. He may only have had three Grand Prix victories to his name, but the way the American won the 2006 MotoGP championship etched him indelibly into the memories of racing fans for all time. The emotional highs and lows of that season, the dedication and consistency he put into it made him a popular champion, despite beating Valentino Rossi, something Rossi's fans tend to regard as unforgivable.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati: all about the middle of the corner

The second in our series of tech investigations into all six MotoGP factories: this week we reveal the main aims on Ducati’s 2018 R&D list

Last season Ducati played its best MotoGP campaign since its glory days with Casey Stoner. The factory won six races, fought for the riders title to the final round and very nearly made it into the top two of the constructors' championship for the first time since 2008.

It’s been a long road through the wilderness since Ducati lost Stoner’s racing genius. Ducati Corse engineers have had to throw away many of the Desmosedici’s unique features to make the bike competitive again. First, the screamer engine was replaced by a big-bang configuration when Valentino Rossi arrived, then the carbon-fibre chassis went before he was gone.

After Gigi Dall’Igna joined, crankshaft rotation was changed to improve steering. Now the factory is working to make the Desmosedici more like the other bikes through the crucial mid-corner phase.

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Chaz Davies Interview: Rolling with the punches of 2017

2017 left a mark on Davies but he's keen to get back on the bike and get back to work

Chaz Davies at the Jerez World Superbike test, exiting the Ducati garage

Defeat leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of any world class athlete and Chaz Davies is no different. The Welshman has been the foil to Jonathan Rea's title winning campaigns in recent years, but having come off second best he knows that the margins between winning and losing are remarkably fine.

A split second decision can change anything and everything has consequences. For Davies, there are moments that he'd like to have back from throughout the season, but he also admitted that “we were second best for a reason in 2017 and with or without our mistakes it wouldn't have been enough to beat Johnny.”

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Honda’s MotoGP tech plans for 2018

First in a series looking at the lessons learned by each MotoGP factory in 2017 and their plans to be faster in 2018. This week, Marc Márquez’s chief engineer Santi Hernández discusses Honda’s RC213V

If you look at the MotoGP gongs that Honda has won over the past seven seasons – six constructors' titles and five riders' titles since 2011 – you’d think the company wouldn’t have much to do for 2018.

But, of course, HRC has plenty to do for 2018. Two years into MotoGP’s new tech era, none of the manufacturers have fully got their heads around the control software and Michelin tyres. And that includes HRC, which has probably made bigger machinery changes than any of the major factories over the past two years.

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MotoMatters.com Holiday Hiatus Is Here - Taking A Break Until The New Year

It has been a long year in motorcycle racing. A rewarding, entertaining, surprising, and wonderful year, but with so much going on, it has been hard to keep up. So much so that we have been left exhausted at trying to cover it all, and depressed at how utterly we have failed to cover just a fraction of all the things which happened this year.

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No 2018 MotoMatters.com Calendar - Our Apologies

The MotoMatters.com calendar has earned a loyal following and customer base through the years. However, for a variety of logistical reasons, it has proven impossible to put together a calendar for 2018. So if anyone was holding out for a Christmas present, we are very sorry to disappoint you.

We are hoping this is only a temporary hiatus. The plan is to bring the MotoMatters.com calendar back for next year. Fingers crossed we will not face the same insurmountable problems we did this year. 

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2017 Superprestigio Superfinal Result: JD Beach Triumphs In Close Battle

JD Beach has won the fifth edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio indoor flat track race. The American passed Toni Elias in the first couple of laps and led for almost the entire 16 laps of the Superprestigio Superfinal. Beach entered the Superfinal as favorite, having won all three of the Open class final races to face off against the best of the roadracing world in the Superprestigio class.

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Barcelona Superprestigio Qualifying Results

Qualifying is over for the 2017 edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio, and the Spanish rider and Copa Rodi champion Ferran Cardus will start the evening as fastest overall. The Spaniard was a fraction quicker than his compatriot and fellow Open Class rider Gerard Bailo, while French Supermoto star Thomas Chareyre was third quickest. Toni Elias was the quickest of the Superprestigio riders, just ahead of Xavi Vierge and Albert Arenas.

Qualifying determines the seeding in groups, and choice of starting slot. The actual racing kicks off tonight at 6:30pm local time.

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