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A few days after a couple of entertaining races at Assen, a part of the WorldSBK paddock was back in action, this time at a private two-day test at the Brno circuit, which is set to return to the World Superbike calendar after an absence of five years. The weather was not entirely cooperative - a warm Wednesday was followed by a much cooler and overcast Thursday - but the teams present all managed to get important work done.
Press releases from the teams and Michelin after the Grand Prix of the Americas at Austin, Texas:
Marquez remains unbeaten at COTA, impressive Pedrosa takes seventh
Competing in his 93rd MotoGP race, Marc Marquez rode the RC213V to his sixth straight win of the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP, the Spaniard having been unbeatable at COTA since the circuit was added to the calendar in 2013. It was also Marc’s 12th consecutive victory on U.S. asphalt, an amazing statistic.
Press releases from the teams and organizers after the Dutch round of WorldBK at Assen:
#DutchWorldSBK Day 3 - Commanding Sykes storms to Assen win
Flag to flag lead for KRT rider as Rea’s Dutch streak is broken
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was delighted to take his first win of 2018
Making predictions for races in WorldSBK 2018 can be a fool's errand. The form book has been thrown out the window on a couple of occasions and that was certainly the case once again at the Assen TT Circuit.
The Magic is still there
Michael van der Mark may no longer go by the moniker of Magic Michael but there was definitely magic in the air at Assen. The Dutch star claimed a double podium at his home round and showed once again that he is a force to be reckoned with. Pressuring Jonathan Rea and beating Chaz Davies in a straight up fight in Race 1 was impressive, but his Race 2 performance shouldn't be underestimated. The pressure was on the 25 year old. A bumper crowd of over 62,000 turned up to cheer him on and VDM didn't disappoint.
His third place finish on Sunday was another example of being able to keep a cool head. Tom Sykes was clear from the field and for Van der Mark the goal became to stand on the rostrum. That meant beating the Ducatis of Xavi Fores and Chaz Davies. The Yamaha rider duly delivered and moved into fourth in the championship standings. Mission accomplished.
There is a lot to love about the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As an event, it is fantastic: the facilities at the track are great, the city of Austin is a wonderful place to visit, with a lively party atmosphere downtown, and a million other things to do. The landscape the track sits on is great for spectators, and the surrounding countryside is charming.
It is a race the riders love, and they have grown to love the track. "I like this track very much, it's very good," Valentino Rossi says of the Circuit of the Americas. "It's good to ride because it's very difficult, you have emotional corners, so it's good." The bumps around the track have made it much tougher to ride, but the layout is still a favorite among many of the MotoGP paddock. It is highly technical and has a bit of everything: hard braking, hard acceleration, fast corners, slow corners, flowing combinations of corners which reward precision.
As great at the track is, it still produces rather lackluster races. The average margin of victory over all six editions has been 3.458 seconds, and that is discounting the time lost to the inevitable easing off to celebrate in the certain knowledge that victory is in the bag. The gap has never been under 1.5 seconds, and there has never been a closely fought battle for victory, or even the podium spots, in the history of racing at the track. The result of the MotoGP race in Austin is usually set in stone before the halfway mark.
Even the normally mental Moto3 races are decided by seconds rather than hundredths. Only two of the six Moto3 races run so far were won by a margin of less than a second. In Moto2, the winning margin has only once been under two seconds. That was in 2015, when Sam Lowes beat Johann Zarco by 1.999 seconds. The result in Moto2 has never been close.
There was good news and bad news for the MotoGP paddock after the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas. The good news is that the work done to the track to try to remove the bumps had not made the track much more abrasive, as some had feared. Tires are wearing normally, so pit stops or worse will not be needed.
The bad news is that the work done to try to remove the bumps has not done anything to remove the bumps. It has moved them about a little, improved them in some places, made them worse in others, but the net effect has been zero, or worse than zero. What's worse, the process used has generated a huge amount of dust, bikes coming down the back straight billowing clouds of dust in their wake.
"It's worse than Qatar," Jack Miller said. "I said to the guys, 'I hope you've got the air filter in from Qatar, because you're going to need it'." At the first race of the season, the teams have to run a special air filter to prevent the desert dust from entering the engine and causing excessive wear. "The dust is far worse than Qatar, it's that crappy concrete dust," Miller explained.
Press releases previewing the upcoming Dutch round of WorldSBK at Assen:
Home heroes and history makers: Assen Awaits
There’s magic in the air as WorldSBK heads to The Netherlands
There are few crew chiefs in MotoGP quite as revered as Cristian Gabarrini. And with good reason: the Italian has worked with some of the most successful riders in the history of the sport. After a spell as data engineer for the LCR team in 250s, Gabarrini moved to Ducati to work on electronics. In 2007, he was paired with Casey Stoner after then Ducati team manager Livio Suppo had dropped Sete Gibernau in favor of Casey Stoner.
It was a match made in heaven. The pairing of Gabarrini and Stoner proved a formidable one, Stoner winning his first race on the Ducati Desmosedici GP7, and going on to take the title at the first attempt. Gabarrini moved to Honda with Stoner for the 2011 season, where they repeated the feat, winning the championship that year as well.
After Stoner retired at the end of 2012, Gabarrini stayed on to work with Marc Márquez and his crew chief Santi Hernandez, helping the pair adapt to MotoGP. After a year as an engineer for HRC, we was paired with another Australian, this time working with Jack Miller to help him make the massive jump from Moto3 straight to MotoGP.
Six races into a new era of WorldSBK and it seems as though we've seen a lot has changed without anything changing. Ducati and Kawasaki are still doing the winning with Yamaha the only manufacturer to upset the podium hegemony enjoyed by the leading manufacturers.
Everyone's a winner