WorldSBK Testing at Philip Island

The final round of testing before the start of the 2020 Superbike World Championship took place at the Philip Island circuit this week with Toprak Razgatlioglu topping the charts at the end of Day one for PATA YAMAHA.

The first session ended half an hour early due there being oil on the track caused by Takumi Takahashi’s Honda (MIE Racing Althea Honda Team) between turns 3 and 4 and after second practice the Honda rider finished in 19th place. Rain interrupted the second session later in the day.

Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlıoğlu the 2020 Wsbk testing at Phillip Island. Image courtesy of Yamaha racing

Toprak and his teammate Michael van der Mark had been trying to find the balance between performace and the durability of the tyres by focusing on small upgrades and Michael finished 7th at the end of day one.

Tom Sykes riding for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK team finished in 2nd by just 0.022 seconds behind Toprak with Loris Baz (Ten Kate Yamaha Racing) finishing just 0.015 seconds behind him in third place – all very close at the top! Baz’s teammate, Eugene Laverty finished in 8th, less than a second off the top time.

Despite a crash (he was okay) at Turn 4, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) finished in ninth place with his reigning Champion teammate Jonathan Rea continuing to show his pace in 4th place. Rea last won at this circuit in 2017 so is looking to change that to a win this year.

This year marks the return of Team HRC as a full-factory outfit so Leon Haslam and Alvaro Bautista have been focusing on various aspects of the bikes in this season’s testing at Portimao and here in Philip Island ending the day in 5th and 15th place respectively.

Finishing the top six was the Ducati ridden by Scott Redding (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) with his teammate, Chaz Davies, down in 10th some 1.373 seconds behind the top runner, Toprak. The ZX-10RR ridden by Sandro Cortese (OUTDO Kawasaki TPR) finished 11th followed by Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) in 12th.

Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) finished ahead of Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) followed by Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) finishing in 16th place ahead of teammate Garrett Gerloff. Finishing off the board was Leon Camier in 18th place for the (Barni Racing Team).

The unofficial top six lap times from day one:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team) 1.’30.740
2. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.022
3. Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.037
4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.256
5. Leon Haslam (Team HRC) +0.456
6. Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.496

Day two of testing resulted in the top 17 riders covered by just 1.5 seconds!
Rain came during the stages with numerous crashes and red flags including Alvaro Bautista, Scott Redding and Jonathan Rea but despite crashing, Rea still finished at the top just ahead of Loris Baz who impressively is still using his 2019 engine! Can’t wait to see what the 2020 engine brings for the Frenchman and the independent Ten Kate Racing Yamaha team.

‘Pocket Rocket’ Leon Haslam finished 3rd on the new CBR1000RR-R whilst his teammate Alvaro Bautista crashed at Turn 4 (he was okay) but finished down in 17th.

Scott Redding – Phillip Island Test 2020. Image courtesy of Matteo Cavadini/Ducati Media

WorldSBK rookie Scott Redding improved in his standings from yesterday’s testing and got up to 4th for the ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati team whilst his teammate Chaz Davies couldn’t quite keep up with him and finished in 13th
Finishing in 5th for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team was 2013 WorldSBK Champion Tom Sykes with his teammate Eugene Laverty finishing in 11th.

Finishing the top 6 was Michael van der Mark despite crashing in the morning at Turn 10 (he was okay) and down in in 7th was Toprak Razgatlioglu despite finishing top of the board in yesterday’s practice.

Impressively the independent Team GOELEVEN finished in 8th with Michael Ruben Rinaldi at the helm.

Sandro Cortese had his first day of testing on the ZX-10RR for the OUTDO Kawasaki – TPR team and finished 13th followed by Xavi Fores riding for (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing). In 15th was Maximilian Scheib for (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) team just ahead of Garrett Gerloff for the (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) closely followed by his teammate Federico Caricasulo

Unofficial top six lap times from day two:
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’30.523
2. Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.235
3. Leon Haslam (HRC Team) +0.359
4. Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.362
5. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.472
6. Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WORLDSBK OFFICIAL TEAM) +0.564

The start of the WorldSBK season starts this coming weekend and is looking like it’s going to be a really exciting season with all to play for.

 

World Superbike Testing at Portimao

Toprak Razgatlioglu. Image courtesy of Yamaha racing

Testing for the 2020 Superbike World Championship continued in Portimao with Toprak Razgatlioglu topping the charts for PATA YAMAHA.

The rain stayed away for the first day of testing with the sun even making a welcome appearance. This was only Scott Redding’s second time at Portimao and he was setting quick lap times on this tight hairpins and long corners circuit. By the end of the day Scott Redding was top of the charts with teammate, Chaz Davies, managing 7th.

At lunchtime Yamaha were placed one, two and three. Loris Baz, with the independent team, Ten Kate Racing Yamaha, was at the top with Toprak Razgatlioglu and Michael van der Mark with the PATA YAMAHA, in second and third respectively. By the end of the day they were all pushed down one place.

Irishman, Eugene Laverty, finished 5th for the (BMW Motorrad) despite suffering an engine failure at Turn 3 at lunchtime resulting in a red flag with his teammate, Tom Sykes finishing a respectable 6th place.

The HRC Team with their CBR1000RR-R slotted into fifth at lunchtime with Leon Haslam but at the end of the day he finished in eight place with his teammate, Alvaro Bautista, down in 15th.

The independent teams of Barni Racing Team finished in ninth with Sandro Cortese, Garrett Gerloff with the GRT Yamaha World SBK Junior Team finished in tenth. Eleventh place went to Michael Ruben Rinaldi with Team Goeleven, followed by Leandro Mercado with Motocorsa Racing despite bringing out the second red flag of the day when he crashed at Turn 14 late in the day.

Riding the ZX-10RR for Kawasaki Puccetti Racing was Xavi Fores who finished ahead of Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) and Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) .

Unofficial top six lap times from day one:
1. Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) 1’41.179
2. Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.573
3. Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WORLDSBK OFFICIAL TEAM) +0.702
4. Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WORLDSBK OFFICIAL TEAM) +0.878
5. Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +1.482
6. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +1.561

Day two brought with it numerous incidents and red flags. Despite being top of the board yesterday, Scott Redding seemed to be saving his pace until the last ten minutes when he was just pipped to the top post by Toprak Razgatlioglu closely followed by Loris Baz.

Chaz Davis, at Portimao WSBK testing 2020. Image courtesy of Matteo Cavadini/Ducati Media

Michael van der Mark finished fourth, Chaz Davies was not in the top ten during the afternoon but found his pace at the end and finished fifth. Finishing the top six was Leon Haslam setting his fastest lap time during testing at Portimao. Haslam’s team mate, Alvaro Bautista, finished down in 15th.

Both the independent GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team riders, Federico Caricasulo and his teammate Garrett Gerloff finished a very respectable ninth and tenth respectively.

Although both the BMW Motorrad riders, Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty finished in the top six on Day One, they were knocked down to seventh and eighth on Day Two despite having a good day of testing.

Unofficial top six lap times from day two:
1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WORLDSBK OFFICIAL TEAM) 1’40.804
2. Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.079
3. Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.190
4. Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WORLDSBK OFFICIAL TEAM) +0.622
5. Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.795
6. Leon Haslam (HRC Team) +0.851

The WSB teams will be jetting off to Phillip Island in Australia next for the final round of testing just before the start of the season. This is shaping up to be really exciting.

 

World Superbike Season is getting started

With thirteen rounds having been confirmed by the FIM and Dorna WSBK Organization for the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship Calendar, taking place across 11 different countries and four different continents, the season will begin in Australia at the Philip Island Grand Prix circuit from 28th February to 1st March with the final pre-season Official test for WorldSBK and WorldSSP on the 24th and 25th February, the week before the first round of the year.

Leon Haslam has joined the new-look HRC WorldSBK team, Michael Ruben Rinaldi has gone to Team Go Eleven Ducati, Toprak Razgatlioglu has replaced Alex Lowes at the Pata Yamaha team with the British rider heading to Kawasaki alongside Jonathan Rea.

BSB champion Scott Redding is set for his rookie World Superbike campaign with Aruba.it Racing Ducati replacing Alvaro Bautista at the factory Ducati team with the Spanish rider heading to Honda.

GRT Yamaha has revealed an all-new line-up of Federico Caricasulo and Garrett Gerloff.

The 2020 World Superbike Championship entry looks like this:

Kawasaki Racing Team : Jonathan Rea & Alex Lowes
Aruba.it Racing Ducati : Chaz Davies & Scott Redding
Pata Yamaha : Michael van der Mark & Toprak Razgatlioglu
Honda : Alvaro Bautista & Leon Haslam
BMW Motorrad : Tom Sykes & Eugene Laverty
Pedercini Kawasaki : Jordi Torres & Lorenzo Savadori
GRT Yamaha : Federico Caricasulo & Garrett Gerloff
Ten Kate Yamaha : Loris Baz
Barni Ducati : Leon Camier
Orelac Kawasaki : Maxmilian Scheib
Team Go Eleven Ducati : Michael Ruben Rinaldi
Puccetti Kawasaki : Xavi Fores
Honda Mie Racing Team : Takumi Takahashi
Team Motocorsa Ducati : Leandro Mercado (From Jerez round onwards)

Winter testing for the 2020 season at Jerez began in late November, five weeks after the 2019 season finale in Qatar at the Losail International Circuit on October 24-26.

At the end of Day One of testing on the 22nd January the top six looked like this:
1) Leon Haslam (HRC Team) 1’52.149
2) Michael van der Mark (PATA Yamaha World SBK Official Team) +0.031
3) Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) +0.064
4) Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.359
5) Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) +0.511
6) Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.948

At the end of final day of testing on the 23rd January the top six looked like this:

1) Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’40.983 (19 laps)
2) Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA Yamaha World SBK Official Team) +0.231 (42 laps)
3) Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.424 (43 laps)
4) Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.659 (44 laps)
5) Michael van der Mark (PATA Yamaha World SBK Official Team) +1.724 (43 laps)
6) Leon Haslam (HRC Team) +1.814 (32 laps)

Although as always you cannot read too much into times in testing due to different conditions etc., it looks like we could be in for a really exciting season.

The WSB are now in Portimao for the next round of testing.

Featured Image courtesy of Matteo Cavadini/ Ducati

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