MotoGP: Quartararo Takes Sixth Pole in Final 2019 MotoGP Qualifying

The nineteenth and final qualifying session of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship took place in relatively cold conditions. The contrast between this nineteenth round and round eighteen two weeks ago in Sepang has been drastic, a polar opposite in terms of temperature especially, but it was nonetheless the usual trio of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who were looking to be the favourites.

Q1 was first, though, before the pole position shootout, and it was one rider short with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) missing out after a bizarre FP3 crash at the end of pit lane courtesy of the cold weather draining the temperature from the carbon brakes of his satellite Ducati Desmosedici GP18. The Italian, whilst coming out of the pits braked, unleashing the power of the front carbon brakes, causing his tyre to come to a halt instantly. The end result was to cause Bagnia to face plant the track.   A lack of memory courtesy of the face plant as well as a wrist injury, saw him declared unfit aftert a trip to the hospital.

Of the riders who did compete in Q1, it was Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who advanced through to Q2.

Marc Marquez looking back at his retiring team mate, Jorge Lorenzo at Valencia, 2019 . Motogp, Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

The final pole position of 2019 went to Fabio Quartararo, quite fittingly, as the qualifying master of the season, the one who was usually able to find the most with a fresh soft rear tyre, was able to come out on top of Marquez in their penultimate scrap of the season. Marquez will start alongside the Frenchman, returning the front row after his eleventh-place qualifying in Sepang, while Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completes the front row.

Row two is headed up by Maverick Vinales, who is joined by Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and – more worryingly for the Spaniard, as well as Quartararo – Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who could cause problems for Vinales tomorrow should he get past the #12 in the opening stages tomorrow. It is not easy to pass a Ducati, nor is it easy to pass in Valencia. Additionally, for the Yamaha riders they know that they need to pass early in the lap so they have a chance to build a gap before the main straight because they cannot live with the horsepower of the Ducati. This was Rossi’s problem in Sepang, but as in Motegi it could be the problem of Vinales, and possible also Quartararo now in Valencia with Miller and Dovizioso having the potential to cause frustrations.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) enjoyed a positive final qualifying of his rookie season, taking seventh on the grid ahead of teammate Alex Rins, who will have work to do tomorrow from eighth with his strong race pace, and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) who completes the third row.

Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) heads up the fourth row ahead of Pol Espargaro who was briefly sixth despite qualifying in Q2 on a hard rear tyre. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) disappointingly was the slowest rider in Q2 and qualified twelfth, his fastest time being the first lap of his first tyre and three tenths of a second slower than his FP3 time in the freezing conditions of Saturday morning.

Johann Zarco (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) was the fastest rider to miss out on Q2, qualifying thirteenth in what might be his final ride for LCR Honda, maybe his final ride for Honda and maybe his final ride in MotoGP but it also might not be some of those- it might not be any of them. Joining the Frenchman on row five will be Ducati wildcard Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who crashed three times on Saturday before qualifying.
Row six will see Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) start from sixteenth on his final MotoGP appearance ahead of Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) who may also be competing his final MotoGP race this weekend. The sixth row is completed by Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing).

Jorge Lorenzo at Valencia 2019 for his last Motogp race. Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

MotoGP first-timer Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) made an impressive first qualifying appearance in the premier class, qualifying nineteenth, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing), who join him on the seventh row, as well as Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), his teammate on the satellite RC16 for this weekend, the Malaysian also making his final appearance in MotoGP.

Featured  image courtesy of Yamaha Racing.

Moto2: Navarro Hands Speed Up 15th Moto2 Pole as Manzi, MV Surprise

The final qualifying session of the 2019 Moto2 World Championship saw cold conditions temper performances.

In Q1, Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP) topped the session from a surprising and impressive Jake Dixon (Inde Angel Nieto Team), who went through to Q2 for the first time in dry conditions in his final race with the Aspar outfit; Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) who crashed towards the end of Q1 which complicated things for him with respect to Q2.

Jorge Navarro at the Valencia GP Moto2 2019 race. Image courtesy of Speedup Factory

In Q2, it was Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) who took the final pole position of the year. It was against the odds, such was the dominance of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) over the course of the weekend, but a late lap from Navarro in the final couple of minutes was enough for P1 for the #9. Joining Navarro on the front row for the final race of the year will be Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and the outstanding intermediate class rider of the weekend, Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) who gives MV its first front row since the 1970s, himself his first front row of his GP career and the Forward team its first visit to parc ferme since 2016 when Lorenzo Baldassarri won in Misano.

Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) starts from fourth place  having come from almost nowhere in the middle of the session to trouble the top positions. Joining Marini on row two will be Tom Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) who held provisional pole for a while although a crash just after setting his fastest time meant he could not hold on.

Brad Binder, Valencia Moto2 2019. Image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM

Brad Binder was quite disappointing in seventh, and will be joined on row three by Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) and Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team); while row four sees Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) ahead of Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Mattia Pasini (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) who enjoyed his best performance in a while.

Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) will start from the front of the fifth row in thirteenth place in his final GP, ahead of Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) and the ill newly crowned World Champion Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) who will start fifteenth; while Marcel Schrotter starts from sixteenth ahead of fellow Q1 graduates Jake Dixon and Nicolo Bulega, the Italian only managing five laps in Q2 after his Q1 crash.

Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) was the fastest rider to miss Q2 and will start from nineteenth with Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) joining the Swiss on row seven; while Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) heads up the eighth row from Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox Hp 40) who continues his poor qualifying form.

The ninth row sees Dimas Ekky (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) start ahead of Philipp Oettl (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) in his final GP, before moving to World Supersport, and Iker Lecuona’s replacement at the American Racing team, Sean Kelly who did not disgrace himself on his GP debut. Tomasso Marcon, in for Jesko Raffin at NTS RW Racing GP this weekend as the Swiss is racing in MotoE, will start his first Grand Prix from twenty-eighth, ahead of Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Xavi Cardelus (Inde Angel Nieto Team) who join the Italian on row ten; while the back row is only two-thirds full, with Lukas Tulovic making his and Kiefer Racing’s final GP from thirty-first ahead of last-placed Joe Roberts (American Racing) who did not set a representative lap time.

Moto3: Migno Scores First Pole for 100th GP Start

Qualifying for the nineteenth and final round of the 2019 Moto3 World Championship in Valencia took place in conditions similar to the rest of the weekend, with track temperatures remarkably low.

In Q1, Tatsuki Suzuki’s (SIC 58 Squadra Corse) first lap was enough to move through to Q2 with the fastest Q1 time. Wildcard Carlos Tatay (Fundacion Andreas Perez 77), Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) joined the Japanese in advancing to the second qualifying session for the lightweight class.

Q2 saw Andrea Migno (Mugen Race) score his first career pole position, putting him in the best place possible at the start of what will be his 100th Grand Prix start tomorrow. Jaume Masia ensured a Mugen Race double front row, scoring his first top-three qualifying since Argentina, a race he went on to win. Between the two teammates on the front row for the final race of the season is the in-form qualifier of the junior category, Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) who was denied a third-straight pole by Migno. The front row is important for Ramirez, who is looking to overhaul Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) for third in the championship.

Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) qualified fourth ahead of rookie and emerging star of the fly away races, Canet’s replacement for this season in Estrella Galicia 0,0 Sergio Garcia, and one of the outstanding riders of this weekend, Filip Salac (Redox PruestelGP) who completes the second row.
Row three sees World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) starting ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki and Darryn Binder; while Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) and his teammate Tony Arbolino – who suffered a big high side early in the Q2 session which hampered his chances – were split by the wildcard Carlos Tatay who qualified eleventh in his second ever GP.

John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) had a disappointing final qualifying of the season and will line up thirteenth tomorrow, ahead of Niccolo Antonelli (SIC 58 Squadra Corse) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0); while row six sees Raul Fernandez (Valresa Angel Nieto Team) line up ahead of wildcard Xavier Argtigas (Leopard Impala Junior Team) and Riccardo Rossi (Kommerling Gresini Moto3) who crashed before setting a time in Q2.
Jeremy Alcoba (Kommerling Gresini Moto3) lines up at the head of the seventh row after narrowly missing out on Q2 with his final lap as he replaces Gabriel Rodrigo. Thailand winner Albert Arenas (Valresa Angle Nieto Team) and Qatar victor Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) join the newly crowned CEV Moto3 Junior World Champion on row seven.

Can Oncu, Valencia Moto3 2019. Image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM

On row eight, Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) starts ahead of the injured Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Stefano Nepa (Reale Avintia Arizona 77); whilst Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) starts ahead of Dennis Foggia (SKY Racing Team VR46) and last year’s Valencian GP winner Can Oncu (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in what looks like the Turk’s final race in Moto3 and in grand prix racing for the foreseeable future.

Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) takes the worst qualifying of his rookie season in the final race of the year with twenty-eighth – Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) and Tom Booth-Amos (CIP Green Power) join the Italian on row ten.

An early crash for Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) ended the Japanese’s chances of a good qualifying in what seems to be his final race in Moto3 – the former Red Bull Rookies champion will start from last.

Featured Image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM

MotoGP: Win or Bust in the Last Race of the Season

This weekend the 2019 MotoGP World Championship arrives in Valencia for the final round of the season.

Twelve months ago it was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who triumphed in torrential conditions, bringing Ducati their third victory at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo after Troy Bayliss in 2006 and Casey Stoner in 2010. Repeating such a result in dry conditions would be tough for Dovizioso, the tight and twisty layout of Valencia, which offers little chance to open up the bike and use the power, working against the characteristics of the Desmosedici.

In comparison, for World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) Valencia can work quite well. The compactness of the track means that agility is key, and Marquez’ upper-body strength combined with the RC213V’s compact design means this combination can be deadly at Valencia. Previously we have seen front tyre troubles impact Honda’s performance in this final race, but simultaneously seen Marquez overcome them. For example in 2016 when he chased down Jorge Lorenzo in the latter parts of the race after choosing to save his tyre in the first part of the GP. However, Marquez has not won in Valencia since 2014 in the mixed conditions, his only premier class victory at the track, so dominance akin to what we saw at the last Spanish round in Aragon would be a surprise.

And the surprises at this weekend’s Valencian Grand Prix have already started, with Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) announcing his retirement from grand prix racing at the end of this weekend. ‘Surprise’ might not be the correct word, but it was perhaps unexpected for the five-times World Champion to announce his withdrawal from the World Championship this weekend. It will likely not be a fitting end to Lorenzo’s illustrious career – the Spaniard is without a top ten since last August and his retirement comes as a result of poor performances at least in part injury induced, that Lorenzo does not see a resolution to.

Valentino Rossi at the 2019 Malaysian MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Lorenzo’s retirement means that Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will be the last remaining ‘Alien’ – the quartet of Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Rossi and Stoner who were the men to beat in MotoGP at the end of the last decade and in the beginning of this one – to race in MotoGP, the last one to stop. It is easy to forget that it has been already seven years since Stoner retired at the end of 2012, and Lorenzo’s announcement also highlights Rossi’s longevity in motorcycle racing. Having raced his 400th Grand Prix in Phillip Island, Rossi is about to enter his twenty-fifth season of GPs, but his time too is closing and in twelve months time it could well be the Italian who we are saying ‘goodbye’ to.

Rossi is still without a podium since Texas, having been unable to successfully pass Dovizioso for third last time out in Sepang, and so the end of 2019 will be a welcome relief for the nine-times champion who will be eager get on with testing next Tuesday as much as anything else.

On the other side of the factory Yamaha garage, though, Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will be wishing there were a race in December and another in January because the Spaniard has finally found what he needs to regularly fight for wins. His Sepang victory came off the back of a disastrous end to the Australian GP one week before. The could temperatures of a Valencian November could be helpful for Yamaha and Vinales, as they look to end this season with back-to-back wins.

Elsewhere, but remaining with Yamaha, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) is looking to finish as second Yamaha for the season by beating Valentino Rossi in the championship overall. There are six points separating the rookie from the veteran, so the odds are in Quartararo’s favour. Primarily, though, Quartararo will look to end his first season as a winner in the MotoGP class.

Featured Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

BSB: Redding Leads Brookes to Brands Finale

The 2019 British Superbike Championship concludes this weekend in Brands Hatch, as Be wiser Ducati duo Scott Redding and Josh Brookes battle it out for the title in the season-ending triple-header.

Redding comes into this weekend with a twenty-eight-point lead atop the standings over teammate Brookes, meaning the Aussie has all the work to do. However, it is not out of the question, since the 2015 BSB champion took both victories when the series visited Brands earlier this year, while Redding was third in the dry race one, but made a mistake in tyre choice in the mixed conditions of race two.

Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing Ducati #46). Image courtesy of Ducati

The Ducatis were dominant that weekend, with Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing) splitting the Be Wiser bikes in the first race and completing the podium in the second. Such dominance this weekend could work against Brookes should all three races be dry, but England in October is rarely that reliable.

Similarly, Oulton Park could be a sign of Redding’s potential for this weekend. The first round at Oulton back in May was a tough one for Redding, his first time at the Cheshire track, going 4-5 across the two races. In comparison, in the second Oulton Park round, Redding scored a win in the second race with two third places either side. It was a strong progression for Redding in Oulton Park and if he can repeat that progression from debut to second appearance in Brands Hatch this weekend it could be tough to stop the ex-MotoGP rider from clinching this year’s BSB crown.

Mathematically, the equation also factors in Tommy Bridewell, who is sixty-six points behind Redding. It has been a strong season from Bridewell and the private Oxford Racing squad, although surprising they have only amassed one win. It would take a lot to go his way this weekend for the number forty-six rider to be crowned champion, but before something is mathematically impossible, anything can happen in motorcycle racing.

Realistically, though, Bridewell’s primary goal for this weekend will be to secure a top three spot in the championship. In this fight, he is joined by Danny Buchan (FS-3 Racing Kawasaki), Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha) and Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing), although probably the latter two will wind up fighting over fifth between themselves, such is their respective differences to Bridewell and Buchan.

Brands has not recently been a strong track for Kawasaki, and although Buchan was fourth in both races earlier this season, his difference to the winner was fourteen seconds in the dry race one and six seconds in the mixed conditions of race two. It will, therefore, be an uphill task for Buchan this weekend in his fight with the Ducati-powered Bridewell.

Finally, outside of the Showdown there is the fight for the Riders’ Cup. Currently leading the way in this battle Is Xavi Fores (Honda Racing), although there are only twenty points separating the Spaniard from Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW Motorrad) in tenth, with Andrew Irwin (Honda Racing) and Json O’Hallloran (McAMS Yamaha) in the mix, too, in eighth and ninth respectively.

Featured Image courtesy of Ducati

Moto3: Three Riders in the Fight as the Asian Tour Begins

Two weeks on from Aron Canet’s (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) victory in MotorLand Aragon, the Moto3 World Championship heads to Thailand for the first of the long hauls that indicate the end of the season.

Canet’s MotorLand win was accompanied by an eleventh place for Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). That means that as the championship heads to Asia there are only two points between the top two in the championship in favour of Dalla Porta, while Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) is only twenty-nine points behind the Dalla Porta – essantially, the championship is very close with only five rounds to go.

Aron Canet, Moto3 race Aragon MotoGP 2019. Image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM

While Canet may be the most recent winner in Moto3, his form this season has been up-and-down, if consistently within the top ten or twelve. The KTM certainly seems to be less adaptable circuit by circuit compared to the Honda – perhaps due to the NSF250R’s superior straight line speed – and that could be a factor in Canet’s season. Either way, the Spaniard has been the best rider at managing the KTM’s problems this year and it would be surprising to see a front group this weekend absent of the #44, in spite of him missing last year’s race and thus lacking any racing experience of the track whatsoever.

In comparison, Lorenzo Dalla Porta was second in Thailand last year, beaten by Fabio Di Giannantonio on the final lap. The #48 Honda always seems strong on corner exit and in top speed, and that could certainly prove a potent weapon for Dalla Porta this weekend with the long straights that start the lap.

In Moto3, though, it is safe to assume that the group will be big until the end of the race, and so it is safe to assume that the fight will go to the final corner. In Thailand, that means a heavy braking zone into a particularly tight hairpin. Braking stability, both upright and on angle, will be critical to coming out on top this weekend and, as we saw last year with Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi, it can all go wrong quite easily and quite quickly into turn fourteen on the final lap.

This could be where Arbolino’s aggression and braking prowess could come into play. The Italian tends to have his Honda set more stiff than Dalla Porta, and that allows him superior braking performance compared to his compatriot quite often. His lines tend to be less flowing than those of the championship leader, more like Canet’s – who rides the KTM in a way that the RC250 likes – in fact, but that could be a particular advantage in such a last lap scrap.

Dennis Foggia, Moto3 race,,Aragon MotoGP 2019. Image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM

Of course, this is Moto3, and more riders will be involved in the battle. For example, Dennis Foggia (SKY Racing Team VR46) is arriving this weekend at the circuit where he took his first World Championship podium one year ago as well as coming off the back of his second GP podium in MotorLand two weeks ago. Similarly, Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) was on the World Championship podium for the first time in Aragon, and will be looking for another strong result this weekend with his home race next up on the calendar. Additionally, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was strong in Aragon and appears to be getting stronger with each race inside the Petronas Honda squad; while his teammate Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) needs a strong result here ahead of his home race in Motegi.

Finally, in place of Niccolo Antonelli at SIC 58 Squadra Corse this weekend is Kevin Zannoni while the #23 recovers from injuries sustained in Misano; and in place of Romano Fenati in VNE Snipers is again Julian Jose Garcia.

MotoGP: First Title Shot for Marquez in Thailand

The fifteenth round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship takes the series to Thailand and Buriram for the second time after the Chang International Circuit was added to the Grand Prix calendar last year.

The Thai track offers a reasonably unique challenge. Unique enough, at least, for Michelin to bring a tyre construction to Buriram that only otherwise sees action in Austria.

Last year, it was this tyre which allowed Yamaha to be competitive, giving them the rear support they require to exit turns with good drive. The same tyre allowed the M1 to finish 3-4-5 in Spielberg earlier this year, and so it is expected that it could see the slowest bike on the grid be strong this weekend as well.

This is counter-intuitive when looking at the layout, which is dominated by long straights and hard braking zones in the first half. The second half lends itself more to the M1, courtesy of an abundance of corners of varying lengths and radii, as well as direction changes where the cornering stability of the Yamaha becomes overtly advantageous.

The divided nature of the Buriram track means that several bikes can find lap time, as we saw last season when the two factory Yamaha riders fought with the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and the factory Honda of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).

The gains made by Honda in the engine department this season mean that a repeat of last season’s last lap duel is not guaranteed. In 2019, the RC213V can live with the Desmosedici in the straights and, in the hands of Marquez, out-turn it in the corners and in particular the short corners, like turn three in Austria or the final corner in Buriram, something which could prove pivotal for the outcome of the race should it come down to a final lap scrap once again.

Marc Marquez whilst in the paddock area in Thailand 2019. Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

All of this is good for Marquez, this weekend perhaps more than any other, as the reigning World Champion needs to out-score Dovizioso by two points on Sunday to win his eighth Grand Prix title and his sixth in the premier class. This year Marquez’ racing philosophy has changed; whereas before he lived for the fight, he now lives for the twenty-five points. Such a change in strategy has seen him produce some devastating performances, for example in Aragon two weeks ago where he won by almost five seconds and at one point led by over seven. In the context of this weekend, his new way of racing could see him make things dull for the viewer, disappearing in the first laps to allow him the option to cruise to the flag and pick up another championship, four races from the end of the season.

There are two people who can stop Marquez from walking away from Buriram with another title: himself and Dovizioso, the Italian being the more likely. In 2018, the Ducati rider took Marquez to the final corner, as he did in Austria in the first race back after the summer break. Such a performance will be required once again from Dovizioso if he is to put off the inevitable until Japan at the beginning of the triple header.

It will not, though, be a case of a duel. At least, that is unlikely. The two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders, Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi, should be there in the fight as they were last season. Especially for Rossi, the stiffer casing of the rear tyre should be a benefit this weekend. Additionally, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) should be in the mix as he has so often been in 2019, as well as perhaps the factory Suzuki of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who will be keen to respond to his poor race in Aragon. On the contrary, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) will be looking to continue his form from Aragon, where he was third, and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) too after he finished sixth in MotorLand and felt he had podium potential.

Andrea Dovizioso at the Thailand GP 2019. Image courtesy of Ducati

One thing which could spoil all the plans is the weather. With WorldSBK having a round earlier in the season in Buriram, the MotoGP race is forced to happen later on, in what happens to be the back end of the rainy season in Thailand.

Rain is predicted for the weekend, and a wet race would be a first for the CIC. Furthermore, should practice be compromised by rain, riders will be on the limit to try to make Q2 directly whilst also trying to find a good race set up should Sunday remain dry.

Finally, after his injury in practice at Aragon, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is back in action this weekend aboard his RC16 to partner Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in his second race in place of Johann Zarco.

Featured Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

WSBK: Razgatlioglu Doubles Up in Magny-Cours Superpole Race

After the unexpected rain of Saturday, dry conditions on Sunday morning were welcomed by the teams as they looked to find some sort of setup for the remaining two races of the weekend at Magny-Cours, round eleven of the 2019 Superbike World Championship.

The Superpole race on Sunday morning once again saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) starting from the pole position he earned on Saturday morning, while race one winner Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) had to start once more from his qualifying position of sixteenth.

It was a strong start from Rea but it was Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) who made the holeshot to take the lead, one he held for the opening lap.

Michael van der Mark at Magny-Cours WSBK2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Already by the end of the first lap there was a breakaway group of three, with van der Mark, Rea and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) breaking away from Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) in fourth.

On lap two, on the entry to the Imola chicane, Rea took the lead from van der Mark, whilst Razgatlioglu had been making strong progress – fifth from sixteenth by the end of the second lap, and on lap three he passed Sykes for fourth and Haslam for third.

At the front, Rea wasn’t escaping from van der Mark, and Razgatlioglu was closing in third. Additionally, the ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati riders, Alvaro Bautista in eighth and Chaz Davies in fourth, were displaying strong pace.

Onto lap five and Razgatlioglu passed van der Mark for second, setting his sights on Rea as Davies closed in on the leading trio from behind.

By the end of lap six Rea and Razgatlioglu were distinctly a pairing at the front, detached from van der Mark in third whose attentions were being further taken by Davies.

Lap seven saw Rea lose the lead to Razgatlioglu, and he held it to the beginning of the final lap. Rea passed for the lead into the hairpin in turn five, but ran wide and Razgatlioglu was able to square him off. Rea was not close enough to make another attempt, meaning Razgatlioglu once again came from sixteenth to win – perhaps more impressively on this occasion considering he had only ten laps to do the job.

Second place for Rea saw a further extension of his championship advantage, which now stands at 103 points ahead of the final race of the weekend in which he will have an outside chance of wrapping up his fifth World Championship.

It was third place for Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), a positive result for the Dutchman after the disappointment of race one. Of course, the results of the Superpole race determine the front three rows of the second full length race of the weekend, meaning all of the top three will start from the front row.

Chaz Davies was ultimately unable to get close enough to attack van der Mark for the podium and finished fourth ahead of teammate Alvaro Bautista who took fifth ahead of Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), both Bautista and Lowes repeating their results of Saturday’s race.

Chaz Davis at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Matteo Cavadini/Ducati

Seventh place went to Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha), who was able to take advantage of Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) and his struggles towards the end of the race to finish seventh while Sykes took eighth. Ninth place went to Leon Haslam who dropped off significantly after the opening laps where he was in the leading group – in the end the #91 was over ten seconds off the win. The top ten was rounded out by Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) who was clearly much more comfortable in the fully dry conditions than in the half-half of Saturday.

Sandro Cortese took eleventh place ahead of GRT Yamaha WorldSBK teammate Marco Melandri in twelfth and Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) in thirteenth; while Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was fourteenth and Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) took the final point in fifteenth.

Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was sixteenth, unable to repeat his impressive result of Saturday, ahead of Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) in seventeenth, Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) in eighteenth, Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) in nineteenth and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who was the final classified rider in twentieth, the Japanese remounting after a crash.

WSBK: Bautista, Razgatlioglu Collide as Rea Seals Fifth World Title

The second full-length race of the eleventh round of the 2019 Superbike World Championship saw different conditions face the riders compared to the morning in Magny-Cours, with overcast skies and strong winds.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), winner of the first two races of the weekend, started from pole position alongside Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK).

It was a decent start from the Turk from his first pole position but it was Rea who made the holeshot ahead of him.

A mistake from Razgatlioglu in turn five saw him run on and drop back to fourth behind van der Mark and a strong-starting Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) who moved up to third.

Alvaro Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu at 2019 WSBK Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Ducati

In an attempt to come back through on Bautista in turn eleven, Razgatlioglu lost the front and left the Spaniard nowhere to go. The pair of them went down, leaving van der Mark leading from Rea out front whilst Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) was third.

With seventeen laps to go, Lowes started to close in on the leading pair, although Rea seemed to have a pace advantage on van der Mark.

Rea decided to go to the front with sixteen to go, possibly sensing Lowes closing from behind and wanting to avoid adding another variable in the fight for the win.

Rea, though, was unable to drop van der Mark initially, and Lowes continued his push towards the lead, just eight tenths back on the end of lap seven.

Van der Mark returned to the front at turn five on lap eight, bringing Lowes closer still, and by the end of the lap it was affirmatively a trio at the front.
On lap twelve, Rea hit the front again, squaring van der Mark off at the hairpin. It was clear that Rea thought that this would be his chance to get away.

However, he was denied once more by van der Mark one lap later at the hairpin, to which Rea was able to respond on the entry to the Nurburgring chicane.

Michael van der Mark, Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Rea led as they entered the final nine lap, but both Yamaha riders were still there and a mistake from Rea in turn one allowed van der Mark through on the inside in turn three again. Rea responded once more into the Nurburgring chicane and with each reactive move from Rea to maintain his lead it became more clear that Rea felt he could get away with a few clear laps.

As the race drew into the final five laps, Rea began to stretch out his advantage and it reached to over half a second. Visibly van der Mark was on the limit to try to match Rea’s pace, the championship leader seemingly relatively comfortable in comparison.

With three laps to go the lead approached one second, and in the end it was a relatively straightforward ending to the race for Rea who took victory to claim his fifth straight Superbike World Championship, perhaps the most unlikely one against the strongest opposition he has faced so far in the shape of Alvaro Bautista. It was an unlikely happening coming into the weekend, but the circumstances were right and Rea did not let the opportunity pass.

A second podium of the day was as much as van der Mark could do. The Dutchman was quite spectacular in this race as he tried to stay with Rea, to try to be in a position to attack in the last part of the race, but finally he missed the small amount he needed to really fight with the newly crowned five-times World Champion.

Third place for Alex Lowes was perhaps unexpected but the result of a solid ride from the #22 for his first visit to the podium in a full length race since Thailand.

Fourth place went to Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) who had strong pace, possibly enough for the podium. The problem for Davies came when he had to take to the grass on the inside of turn eleven to avoid Razgatlioglu and Bautista, which cost him a lot of time and positions. In the end, fourth place was a good recovery from the Welshman, finishing ahead of Loris Baz whp had a nother strong ride on the Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha YZF-R1.

Sixth place was quite distant – almost twenty seconds back to Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who was ahead of Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK), Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) who completed the top ten.

Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was eleventh, ahead of Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance), Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who completed the points scorers.

Sandro Cortese – GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R11 Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) was sixteenth, ahead of Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) who had a trip across the gravel early in the race and dropped a lot of times and positions as a result – the Italian crossing the line last of the seventeen finishers at the end of the twenty-one laps.

Aside from Bautista and Razgatlioglu, only Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) failed to finish the second race in Magny-Cours, the final European race of the 2019 season.

Featured image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

WSBK: Razgatlioglu Defeats Rea in Thrilling Last Lap Duel for First Superbike Win

The eight-hundredth race in the history of the Superbike World Championship took place in Magny-Cours at the eleventh round of the 2019 season, as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) took his maiden victory in the Superbike class.

The Turkish rider started well, recovering from a poor starting position of sixteenth – obtained in Saturday morning’s wet Superpole session – to end the first lap in seventh place.

Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) was another rider who made a strong start to the race, coming from eleventh on the grid to lead on lap three before a mistake dropped him back to fourth. It was in trying to recover from this mistake that Davies crashed, nearly taking out Razgatlioglu in the process. It was a strange incident, at the penultimate corner, where Davies never seemed interested in making a move but rather seemed forced into diving to the inside to try to avoid the Turk. A similar incident later in the race for Davies’ factory Ducati teammate, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati), pointed towards perhaps a characteristic of the bike pushing its riders into these errors. Either way, it wa s abig shame for Davies who looked capable of fighting for the podium and perhaps the win.

The incident between Davies and Toprak split the pack a bit. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorlsSBK) was out front from Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) while Razgatlioglu was fourth.

On lap five Sykes began to suffer more with the handling of the BMW, coming under pressure from Rea who in turn was under pressure from van der Mark.

Michael van der Mark – Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R11 Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Of the three, it was van der Mark who seemed the most comfortable with the setting of his bike, while in comparison Sykes seemed to be suffering in the braking and Rea had some problem with the front of his bike, running on several times into turn eleven.

As the two in front began to struggle more with the pace, van der Mark began to take advantage, taking second from Rea on lap six and one lap later relieving Sykes of the lead.

One lap after Sykes had lost the lead he was down to fifth, as Rea, Razgatlioglu and Loris Baz (Ten Kate – Yamaha) all passed the #66 on lap seven.

Over the next laps, the two Kawasaki riders, Rea and Razgatlioglu, started to pull away from Baz – who eventually dropped back in the end and fought with Sykes. The stablemates, however, were unable to make much impression on van der Mark who was consistent out front, making few mistakes aboard his Yamaha.

Once Rea found his rhythm, however, the gap started to come down to the leader. The pressure was growing on van der Mark, and finally Rea forced the error in the Adelaide Hairpin. Van der Mark lost the front on the entry having found himself in slightly too deep, and when it folded there was no way for him to save it. Rea inherited the lead as a result, and found himself with an advantage of over one second with just over two laps to go.

It seemed a tall ask for Razgatlioglu to reel in Rea in the time he had left, even going onto the final lap the gap was close to one second. But the #54 was able to make a strong first half of the last lap , and going into turn eleven, where Rea had been having so many problems throughout the race, Razgatlioglu was able to dive on the inside of the World Championship leader and squeeze through. It was a tough move, but fair, one which Rea would have been delighted with had the roles been reversed. Not only did Razgatlioglu manage to get passed, but he also got a strong enough exit to ensure that Rea had no way to respond in the remaining four corners.

It was a well-deserved and arguably overdue victory for Razgatlioglu, who has looked likely all season to take a win. The emotions were mixed in parc ferme, as team owner Manuel Puccetti both celebrated his first triumph in the premier class of production derived motorcycle racing, but also pondered the future in the knowledge that the rider who brought him this victory would be leaving next season.

Second place for Jonathan Rea could quite easily have been much less, his lack of comfort with the bike making things complicated for the reigning World Champion. On top of that, the race was hectic, and especially in the beginning there were many overtakes, and a lot of them were on the limit. It was a fantastic race, one fitting of the eight-hundredth in the history of the series, but no doubt one which Rea will be as glad to survive as he was to step once more on the podium. The Northern Irishman’s points lead now stands at precisely one-hundred points, meaning the title possibilities remain open for tomorrow should results go his way.

Tom Sykes was able to rebound in the second half of the race after fading in the back end of the opening ten laps. Loris Baz began to drop off once he lost the carrot of the two Kawasakis ahead of him. That dropped the Frenchman back to his ex-teammate who was able to take advantage and claim his first podium in a full-distance race since the second race in Donington.

Loris Baz – Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R11 Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Yamaha racing

It was a shame that Sykes’ success had to come at the cost of a podium for Loris Baz in his home race. The Frenchman had a strong opportunity to be on the podium in his home race, and although he missed it the fact he was there proves the progress the Ten Kate team are making with the R1.

Rounding out the top five was Alvaro Bautista on the Spaniard’s first trip to Magny-Cours. It was a tough race for Bautista, who spent much of the twenty-one laps alone and was close to crashing in an almost identical incident to his teammate, Davies, when trying to pass Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK). The world title slipped further still from the #19’s hands in this race, but his souring relationship with Ducati management means that his focus is likely already heavily towards 2020 when he goes to HRC.

Lowes ended up sixth, almost six seconds back of Bautista. Behind the Yamaha rider was Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who had a good ride on his return to racing having been out since Imola in May, the #2 coming home in seventh, a couple of seconds ahead of Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha) WorldSBK). Eugene Laverty (Team GoEleven) was ninth, ahead of Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who completed the top ten.

Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) was eleventh ahead of Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) in twelfth and Michael van der Mark who remounted after his crash to finish thirteenth. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) was fourteenth after starting from the second row, whilst Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) took the final point in fifteenth.

It was a difficult race for Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who, whilst his teammate was finishing on the podium, came home in sixteenth ahead of Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who was the final classified finisher in eighteenth.

There were only two retirements, the first being Chaz Davies, and the second being Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who had a nasty high side on the exit of the final chicane but appeared to be mostly unhurt.