Mugello Masterclass

Qualifying:

What a difference two weekends make! Not very far away from the LeMans track there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight this weekend at the Mugello circuit.

Mugello circuit. Courtesy of: Honda Racing Corporation website

During the qualifying session, the top 5 riders were so close, each within a shout of taking first place but it was Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) who took his fourth consecutive pole of the season from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), Johann Zarco (Ducati), Aleix Espagaro (Aprilia) and Jack Miller (Ducati) in fifth place. Upon being interviewed Fabio said that it was “…the best lap I have ever done…”.

Meanwhile Marc Marquez (Honda), who was struggling, used the qualifying session as a tester and only managed to gain eleventh on the grid.

Race:

The magic of Mugello was subdued this weekend with a very sombre cloud, following on from the news of Moto 3 rider Jason Dupasquier, who sadly passed away from injuries sustained during the qualifying session on Saturday. Every rider and fan was saddened to hear of his passing and it was another reminder of just how dangerous this sport, that we love, can be.

A minutes silence was held in his honour prior to the race.

From the very start drama reigned, as the riders were finishing their warm-up lap and lining up on the grid Enea Bastianini (Ducati) ran into the back of Zarco, who was slowing down ready to get into position. After this freak accident, Bastianini was unhurt but was unable to start the race, with no start delay announced. Zarco had minor damage to the back of his Ducati and was able to continue.

Bastianini at the start of the race. Courtesy of: BT Sport – MotoGP

For the first time as well this year, Quartararo’s Yamaha had the holeshot device installed, which Ducati first demonstrated in 2019. It is designed to mechanically lower the rear of the bike to reduce wheelieing off the line and improve acceleration at the start of a race. It seemed to do the trick as Quartararo got a great start with 23 laps to go, however it was Bagnaia that took the lead, at his home Grand Prix, from Quartararo and Miguel Oliveira (KTM).

A. Espargaro, starting in fourth place had a terrible start and managed to drop down five places.

Lap two saw the weekend go from bad to worse for Marc Marquez as he crashed out on turn three, after trying to overtake Brad Binder (KTM), causing Brad’s airbag to deploy which meant he had to race the next couple of laps with it inflated. It also caused Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) to have to take evasive action to miss Marquez’s Honda, seeing him travel into the gravel, luckily both he and Binder were able to carry on racing.

Moments later on turn nine, Bagnaia, one of the home heroes, also crashed from the lead, after touching the white line at the edge of the track. (The white lines are notorious for being painted slippery edges that can cause riders to slip out of a race). This mistake granted Fabio the lead.

First place wasn’t Quartararo’s for long as the Ducati power of Zarco quickly took the lead on the straight and gained him the fastest lap.

A mini battle broke out between the two Frenchmen and soon on lap three El Diablo regained first.

Quartararo leading the way. Courtesy of: MotoGP

They weren’t the only pair vying for positions though as Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) and Michele Pirro (Ducati) fought for 9th place and the two Suzuki’s (Joan Mir and Alex Rins) tussled for 5th.

The Suzuki riders were also hot-on-the-heels, and gaining on last weekend’s winner, Miller – who had managed to make-up one place since the start in 4th.

The battle at the front fought on between the Yamaha and the Ducati, neither one of the racers wanting to give in. All too quickly though Quartararo managed to gain a slight lead on lap 4, which was just enough for Zarco not to be able to fight back.

Gapping started to appear on lap 5, with Quartararo and Zarco in the first group, Oliveira on his own and Miller, Rins and Mir in a battling group.

With the first rule of Motorsport – beat your teammate – ringing in their ears, the reigning World Champion – Mir and his teammate Rins continued to fight for fifth and sixth. With Miller holding and defending his position but a small mistake which took him slightly wide, on the last corner of lap 8, saw Rins go past. The straight was the Ducati’s time to shine and regained the place back with ease. Rins was still hanging on though and passed Miller again, later on the same lap Mir went through on Miller and Binder followed, leaving Jack back in 7th.

Courtesy of: suzuki-motogp.com/press

All the excitement happening behind him – Quartararo extended his lead – 1.792 seconds from Zarco then became 2.201 seconds by lap 10. Arm pump no longer an issue for the young Frenchman and the pressure he admitted he felt last year now in the past, he began to show just how metronomic his laps could be.

Oliveira had condensed the gap between himself and Zarco and had managed to pass him on lap 16. A 4.128 second gap between him and Quartararo however seemed more of an impossible catch. The Ducati power wasn’t enough and the KTM soon pulled away. Leaving Zarco in the clutches of Mir, who soon was able to pass him too.

It was quickly Rins’s turn to go past Zarco with 6 laps to go, taking fourth place. However, whilst trail-breaking into a corner on worn tyres, Rins had his fourth DNF in a row and crashed out, letting Zarco re-gain the position.

On lap 21, it was unfortunately, Honda’s top rider – Nakagami’s turn to also crash out of the race.

But, it was Fabio Quartararo who took the chequered flag for the third time this year and he dedicated his win to the young Dupasquier.

There was controversy with who was second and third on the podium though. Oliveira crossed the line in second and Mir in third. But, Oliveira was given a penalty and had to give a place away for exceeding track limits meaning Mir got second. Minutes later, it became apparent that Mir had the exact same penalty. The decision was made to let them both keep their original results.

Top 10 race results:

First

Quartararo

Second

Oliveira

Third

Mir

Fourth

Zarco

Fifth

Binder

Sixth

Miller

Seventh

A. Espargaro

Eigth

Vinales

Ninth

Petrucci

Tenth

Rossi

It is worth noting that this is Valentino Rossi’s (Yamaha) first top 10 finish in 2021.

Top 5 championship standings:

First

Quartararo

105 points

Second

Zarco

81 points

Third

Bagnaia

79 points

Fourth

Miller

74 points

Fifth

Mir

65 points

Who will be victorious next round in Spain? We haven’t got long to find out.

 

 

 

Thoughts and prayers go out to Jason Dupasquier’s family and friends.

Taken too young – too soon.

Ride on Ja50n Dupasquier.

2001 – 2021 Courtesy of: MotoGP

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of MotoGP)

 

Portuguese GP: The Rollercoaster Awaits

Image: WorldSBK.com

The 2021 MotoGP world championship arrives in Europe this weekend, at the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, on the southern coast of Portugal.

If ever there was a circuit specifically designed to put grand prix motorcycles through the ultimate test, this is undoubtedly it. With its 15 corners (9 right, 6 left), and constant changes of elevation, the circuit is affectionately known by the locals as “A montanha roussa” – The Rollercoaster.

World Superbikes were the first to arrive at the venue back in 2008. Amazingly, it took until the Covid-affected 2020 season before the grand prix paddock arrived – but boy was it worth it, with local hero Miguel Oliveira taking a thrilling victory aboard the Tech3 KTM. Now with the factory Red Bull KTM team for 2021, there is not just hope but expectation to deliver, from the home fans.   

Speaking of expectation, the unknown quantity for this weekend is undoubtedly the returning Marc Marquez. Having been given the green light by his doctor, the eight-time world champion will return to the premier class. The news would have been a morale boost for the Repsol Honda team, as new rider Pol Espargaro and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl endured torrid back-to-back weekends. 

Of course, we do not know what version of Marquez we will have back. Will it be the all conquering, all dominating rider who held an exclusive stranglehold on the championship from 2016-19? Only three riders: Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have won more successive premier class titles. Or will we see an initially more reserved Marquez, allowing his body time to adjust back to the extreme rigors of racing at the highest level? Or will injuries have taken a terminal toll to any aspirations of equaling and surpassing Rossi’s haul of 9 world titles? Certainly all and sundry of the MotoGP fan base have been very vocal in their opinions. 

One thing though is certain – Marquez backs himself to the hilt. He has returned because he feels ready to fight for wins – not merely to make up the numbers on the grid. Love him or loathe him, we all await with bated breath for Sunday’s race. Only then will we truly know which Marquez has returned.   

Marc Marquez pole sitter in the 2019 , Aragón,MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

With the emphasis of this circuit very much on cornering stability and speed, the likes of Monster Yamaha and Team Ecstar Suzuki will be licking their lips in anticipation. For Suzuki, they will be eager to put a difficult opening two rounds behind them and send a statement to the field that 2020 was no flash in the pan. Whilst the factory Yamaha outfit will be hoping to continue their stellar early season form, having taken the spoils in both Qatar outings with Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.

The general consensus this week is that Ducati may well find the going tough here. Whilst the main straight does play to the strength of the V4 engine, and the bike has improved again on corner turn-in – the alarming rate (and indeed suddenness) with which their tyres wore out will be cause for serious concern. Jack Miller at least will now have full use of both his arms for this weekend. The Australian had been struggling with the dreaded ‘arm pump’ in Qatar, which prompted corrective surgery immediately afterwards.

Ducati’s main hope for success may well lie this week with Johann Zarco on the satellite Pramac Racing Ducati. The Frenchman found success in Qatar due to his very smooth riding style, eking out as much life from the Michelin tyres as possible. With tyre wear levels again expected to be high this weekend, Zarco’s ability to nurse the rubber home may yet ensure that Ducati Corse add another rostrum trophy to their collection. 

The team to watch out for this weekend is Aprilia. The Noale-based outfit have made serious improvements since last season. The new ‘slimmed-down’ V4 engine has brought a vast increase in torque for the lower gears, which has seriously improved cornering speed and stability. The trade off has been a loss of power top end. Aleix Espargaro claimed that he was losing as much as 20kph (12.5mph) down the main straight at Losail. Nevertheless, the team managed to finish round two in P10, but only 5.38 seconds behind race winner Quartararo. Both team and rider will be quietly confident that a maiden podium finish is not far away. 

Aprilia have wasted no time to ensure they keep up in the development race. 3-time premier class runner-up Andrea Dovizioso made his much anticipated debut for the team earlier this week, testing at the Jerez circuit. Whilst the team were understandably tight lipped regarding any data, the strongest rumour doing the rounds suggests that the Italian is closing in on a permanent race deal with the team. 

Credit: Suzuki MotoGP

So the King has returned, but the young pretenders are hungry. In his absence Joan Mir (Team Ecstar Suzuki) has shown he is one who can wear the crown. There are no slow riders in MotoGP, and nobody is given quarter on track for past reputation. Come 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be fixed on the 22 gladiators as the next chapter in the 2021 championship is written.

As the great Nick Harris used to say: “Let battle commence!”

Miller v Mir: The Right Call

Credit: Suzuki MotoGP

The 2021 MotoGP season has got off to a flyer, after two pulsating rounds of action in the Qatari desert. Lap records have been smashed and the rookies have shown already that their time is now! What we’ve also now got is a dose of controversy.

The decision by the race stewards to not penalise either Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo) for their coming together during the latter stages of the Doha grand prix was divisive amongst fans, to say the least. Depending on which rider is preferred, comments have varied from mild annoyance at supposed ‘inconsistent stewards’ to calling for riders’ heads to roll. Impressive really, when you consider that both riders involved finished the race.

Whilst fans of rival riders will always be tribal in these instances (and it’s partly what makes the sport so loved), the accusations that the race stewards are inconsistent could not be further misguided. The referees of the motor racing world have the unenviable job of trying to keep order of 22 adrenaline-fueled racers going at it on track hammer-and-tongs treading an incredibly thin line between heroics and disaster. I say unenviable, but having done some officiating in sport events myself I can confirm it is also a very enjoyable (if often thankless) thing to do.     

To gain an understanding as to how the stewards came to their decision, one must accept that there are a series of protocols that must be followed – protocols ultimately governed by the rules/laws of that particular sport. First and foremost is reviewing the evidence in chronological order, to determine what happened. 

Now knowing that, below is what objectionably happened with the two incidents:

Mir outbreaks himself into turn 6, resulting in his bike overshooting the apex. Mir corrects this by sitting the bike up, however he makes contact with Miller, and the two are forced out wide. However, Miller is not forced to take evasive action, neither are he and his bike sent tumbling into the gravel. Mir – as mentioned – is deemed to be making corrective action. Lastly, Miller is not forced beyond the track limits, so Mir’s overtake is allowed to stand. As such, no ill-intent can be proven, so it is simply classed as a ‘racing incident’. 

So far, so good. Now we move on to the second incidents where the roles are reversed.

Miller outbreaks himself into the final corner, and he overshoots the apex. Miller then ‘squares off’ the corner and begins to sit the bike up. As he does so, he makes contact with Mir. However, as with the first incident, Mir is not forced beyond the track limits, and he is not forced off the bike. If this was a stand alone incident it would be waived straight through as a legitimate overtake maneuver (albeit a very ugly one). 

However, because this incident has occurred almost immediately after the previous, the stewards are obliged to ensure there was no clear or blatant notion of the rider (Miller in this case) actively seeking revenge on another. This process has been thoroughly enforced following the controversial incidents between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi at Sepang in 2015, and Roman Fenati grabbing a rival’s brake lever at Misano in 2016. 

To aid with this process, the stewards have access to every camera angle possible – TV and closed-circuit cameras. As such, when reviewing the incident they can not just track the incident, but the moments leading up to it. It is the only way to ascertain whether an incident was premeditated or not. With that, it also enables the stewards to determine external events which may have contributed to the incident in question. In this case, both Mir and Miller are clearly under pressure from riders behind them as they make their attempted overtakes. As such there is a need and urgency from the rider to brake as late as possible to ensure not only their overtake sticks, but also keeps the chasers behind. 

Finally, track conditions are also accounted for – around the Losail circuit, when the wind picks up anywhere off the racing line becomes littered with sand and grip levels drop off the proverbial cliff. With this in mind you are left with two options: 1) Ban overtaking if clean passes can’t be guaranteed. 2) Accept that some overtakes will result in contact as riders struggle for grip off the ideal racing line. 

When all is said and done it is therefore impossible to conclude that Miller intentionally set up an avoidable collision with Mir, nevermind any notion of actively seeking revenge – that one shall reside in a box labelled ‘conspiracy theories’. As such, the only decision the stewards can come to is to not penalise either rider. There is no doubt though that race organisers will have had words with both parties following the race that overtakes like that on a regular basis are not encouraged. 

No penalties this time and it was the correct call – but you can be sure the stewards will be keeping an eye on both riders next time out in Portimao just in case…

Racing Legends: Marc Marquez

There are talented racers in Moto GP and then there are those who seem to be born to race. Ones that stand out from the crowd. Marc Marquez is one of those riders. With his natural ability, his intelligence, understanding of racing and his wonderful family support behind him, culminate to an unstoppable force.

Courtesy of: MichelinMotorsport.com

Born February 1993, in Cerevera, Spain. Marquez has always gravitated towards a career in Motorcycle racing. Thriving from his family’s love and encouragement, Marc has gone on to be a phenomenon in his own right. He has shown audiences worldwide that he has the passion, courage and correct character that all great champions need.

Starting off racing competitively in the Catalan and Spanish National Championships Marquez went on to race in the 125’s. Only six races into his first season he scored his first podium. Learning how to use the bike to his full advantage, he carried on this momentum into his second season in 2009. Finishing in the top 10.

2010 became the first actual taste of Marquez’s true talent. Winning the 125 championship, just 17 years and 263 days old. The second youngest 125 champion after Loris Capirossi, who was just 17 years and 165 days old.

Progressing into the Moto 2 class in 2011, Marquez only took one season to learn, conquering in 2012, becoming the new world champion.

Not wishing to carry on in Moto 2, Marquez then progressed again, this time to the Premier Class. Showing his determination to be a Moto GP champion, he won his first race on the Honda, in only the second race of the season in Texas, a new track for Moto GP. It was here that he also became the youngest ever pole setter, the youngest ever race winner of the top class at just 20 years and 62 days and he completed the full set with the fastest lap, a superb achievement.

He was soon breaking all the youngest ever records and setting new ones. In only his first year he managed the impossible – winning the entire championship, by only 4 points, over Jorge Lorenzo. The first time a rookie had won since 1978 (Kenny Roberts Snr). Becoming the youngest ever World Champion at 20 years and 266 days and the youngest rider to win back-to-back Grand Prix races in the Premier Class at Laguna Seca and Sachsenring.

Putting any doubters to rest, saying that he would only be a one-time champion, he won back-to-back seasons in 2014, securing victory with three races to spare. Setting new records for the most wins in a season as well as most pole positions in a year and beating Mick Doohan’s record of twelve race wins in one season. The same year saw his younger brother Alex also win a title, in Moto 3.

Winning five races and retiring in six, Marquez found himself finishing third overall in 2015, having not been able to match the consistency of Yamaha team-mates Rossi and Lorenzo. Having three collisions on-track with Rossi, controversy about his “aggressive riding style” drew criticism, yet again, from his fellow riders, namely Rossi with whom he had battled numerous times for the championship. Some racing fans turned against Marquez, even booing him on the podium, but things soon settled down again when Rossi and Marquez embraced in parc ferme after the race which followed the tragic death of Moto 2 rider Luis Salom.

Despite not winning the 2015 title, Marquez was still putting himself firmly in the history books. Becoming the first rider to win six consecutive races at one track – Sachsenring – his most successful track.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. A seemingly impossible save

However, having this set back in 2015 spurred him on to win in 2016 and once again be crowned Moto GP World Champion, in Japan. The culmination of new Michelin tyres and new bike restriction rules saw audiences witness nine race winners during this season.

Struggling at the start of the 2017 championship, Honda decided they needed to find a suitable set-up for Marc’s personal riding style. They soon found it and he went on to win the races at Germany, Czech Republic, Misano and Australia. Dovizioso, who was his closest rival that year, kept the championship alive up to the final round, but ultimately Marquez held onto his title.

Courtesy of: Asphalt & rubber.com. Soaking up the championship win.

With history repeating itself the following year, Dovizioso seemed to be Marquez’s main on-track rival in 2018, but several crashes ruled out his contention to be Moto GP Champion and Marquez once again won the title. This same year Dani Pedrosa, Marc’s team mate decided to retire, he was replaced by fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez won eleven races in 2019, sealing victory with an impressive four rounds left until the end of the season. This was now his sixth Premier Class Championship title, having only been in the top-class for the past seven years. He has become the youngest rider in the history of Moto GP to win seven World Championships and the youngest rider to have won five premier-class titles. At the end of 2019 Lorenzo also retired, leading the way for Marquez’s younger brother Alex to partner up with him at Honda.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. Celebrating the 2019 win with brother Alex.

This team looked to be the perfect match, with the brothers being so close, they would share everything and hopefully bring both sides of the Honda garage together.

However, this was not to be. Having done so many impossible saves, Marc was unable to save his bike and had a very heavy crash in just the first race of the new season, in Qatar on lap 20 and broke a bone in his arm. This resulted in him having to miss the entire year. Having gone under numerous surgeries since the accident, he is determined to come back strong and fighting again in 2021.

Hopefully we will witness the same Marc Marquez we have grown to admire. With his unique racing style and positive attitude, there surely will be more records set and broken.

MotoGP eSports 2018 Final: Trastevere73 Becomes Double World Champion in Valencia

After several rounds of qualifying and two semi-finals, the twelve fastest MotoGP 18 riders arrived in Valencia for the final of the 2018 MotoGP eSports Championship.

Ahead of the final race of the second season of MotoGP eSports, there was a ten-minute qualifying session, in which reigning champion Trastevere73 took pole position on the factory Ducati GP18. EleGhosT555 (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) and Cristianmm17 (Repsol Honda) joined him on the front row for the final. Meanwhile, paul_ig7 (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha), AndrewZh (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Luigi48GP (Gresini Racing Aprilia) made up row two; Vindex813 (Givi LCR Honda), ADRIAAN_26 (Pramac Ducati) and timothymcgarden (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completed the third row. The fourth and final row of the grid featured Davidegallina23 (Angel Nieto Team Ducati), RLLORCA26 (Reale Avintia Ducati) and XxBoMbeR_45xX (Ecstar Suzuki) who completed the grid, 0.5 seconds off pole position.
Between qualifying and the race, pole sitter Trastevere73 received his Tissot pole position watch from Jorge Lorenzo.

 

Trastevere73 receives a Tissot watch from Jorge Lorenzo. Photo curtesy of MotoGP.com

 

The start of the ten lap race was extremely action-packed, with two riders going down before the first two turns: Cristianmm17 dropping the Repsol Honda in turn one, before Davidegallina23 crashed the Angel Nieto Team Ducati on the exit of the first turn. It was unclear from the cameras, but it seemed like contact may have been involved in both of these incidents. This isn’t surprising with such a tightly-compacted group going into the opening corners, and the pressure involved in a situation like this too; a pressure which was only heightened by the addition of Marc Marquez in the commentary box.

From an early stage, it was clear that Trastevere73 and EleGhosT555 had a pace advantage on the field, maybe with the exception of AndrewZh. The gap between the Ducati Team rider and the EG 0,0 Marc VDS pilot went back and forth for the entire race, and it never looked like any other rider could get involved.

What became clear were three things: track limits, with all riders looking to maximise their lap time; the pace between all the riders was very close, as had appeared in qualifying; and that in turn caused overtaking to be extremely tough. Especially because of the incredibly short braking zones, and the high amount of time the riders were spending on the side of the tyre, at maximum lean angle.

From experience playing this year’s MotoGP game, I can say that it is not possible to brake a little bit later than your limit because you lose the front very fast and have no chance to save it. Since these riders were on the absolute limit (the front tyres were completely locked for 20 metres or more on almost every corner entry), braking later was not much of an option. The slipstream effect also seemed almost completely negligible from more than a bike length or two. So, the riders found it difficult to get alongside one another in a straight line to make a pass. EleGhosT555, therefore, spent the entirety of the MotoGP eSports Final staring down the virtual exhaust pipe of Trastevere73, unable to do anything about it.

 

Trastevere73 wins the MotoGP 2018 eSports Championship, his prize is a BMW M240i. Photo curtesy of MotoGP.com

 

So, with a lights to flag win, Trastevere73 took the second MotoGP eSports crown in history, and the second of his career. If you like, it was also Ducati’s first MotoGP World Championship since 2007, and their first win at Valencia since 2008. It also seemed like a precursor to Sunday’s premier class race, which Andrea Dovizioso won for Ducati to end the 2018 season.
EleGhosT555 was just 0.298 seconds away from the MotoGP eSports crown in second place, ahead of AndrewZh who completed the podium.

Fourth place went to timothymcgarden, ahead of paul_ig7 in fifth; then came Luigi48GP, Cristianmm17, Vindex813, RLLORCA26, XxBoMbeR_45xX, Davidegallina23 and ADRIAAN_26 who was the last of the 12 riders.

eSports tends to get flack from some motorsports purists, but whatever your opinion on it, you cannot deny that the emotion is there. Trastevere73’s celebrations were a prime example of that. For a lot of people video games are just that: games, but for the elite players, who dedicate themselves to it, it is a way to show their talent. Now with MotoGP eSports it is possible for these gamers to showcase their skills on the world stage, in front of a live audience who are the same as them: MotoGP fans (as well as people like Marc Marquez and Paolo Ciabatti).

 

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MotoGP Valencia Test, Part 1: Ducati, Yamaha and Honda

Tuesday saw the beginning of the 2019 MotoGP season, as preseason testing started for the premier class in Valencia, following the conclusion of the 2018 World Championship on Sunday.

There was plenty to see: the Ducati GP19 had been highly praised ahead of the test; Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda) would get his first taste of the Honda RC213V; Yamaha had two new engine specs to try in their search for tyre life; Franco Morbidelli (SIC Racing Team ) took to the Yamaha M1 for the first time; Danilo Petrucci moved to factory Ducati; Johann Zarco moved to KTM, as did Tech 3; and there were four rookies getting the chance to try out MotoGP machinery for the first time.

However, things did not go the way the teams would have liked. The first part of the morning was unusable for them because of overnight rain. Zarco was the only rider to go out before the track dried, but only for a couple of laps.

Eventually, the track dried and the riders were able to get their 2019 campaigns underway.  Starting with Ducati, they did not manage to get much of anything done on the first day. Andrea Dovizioso spent the time he had making a base setting with the GP18, since he did not have the opportunity to run in the dry in the weekend. This was the same for everyone, of course, but the time Dovizioso spent on the 2018 bike meant he did not get to try the GP19 until Tuesday. It was the same situation on the other side of the garage, as Danilo Petrucci was acclimatising to his new box, and new team. That said, when they got around to the new bike, Dovizioso was enthused by what his team had discovered, and Petrucci essentially said the GP19 was perfect. Nonetheless, the next test in Jerez will be important for the factory Ducati team to confirm what they found in Valencia, and to determine their direction for the winter before Sepang.

Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) was also highly impressed with the first version of the GP19, saying he couldn’t understand how it was derived from the GP17 he has ridden in the 2018 season. Miller noted that the biggest thing with the new bike compared to the 2017 Desmosedici was the ease with which the 2019 bike changes direction. They have only had one day on the GP19 so far, but already the three factory Ducati riders look strong for the new season.

 

Valentino Rossi during Testing in Valencia. Photo curtesy of Movistar Yamaha Factory Racing

 

The factory Yamaha squad’s entire focus over the course of the test was on the two new engine specs they took with them. On Monday, the focus was on an engine which they had already tried at Aragon. Both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales were happy with the engine, especially Vinales who was particularly enthusiastic about the engine braking. Rossi reflected Vinales’ opinions, but was more realistic in insisting that there is still work for Yamaha to do before they’ll be in a position to fight consistently. A newer engine spec on the second day seemed indifferent to the one tried on Monday. Vinales could not decide which he preferred, whilst Rossi didn’t seem too happy with either of them. Whilst both of these engines helped in the engine braking, they were still not helping with the acceleration or the tyre life either. However, both riders were happy with the direction after a 2018 season plagued with technical issues.

Yamaha also had Jonas Folger out for his first MotoGP experience since September 2017. Whilst the German’s work in these two days was perhaps not so important, he could be critical for Yamaha come the middle of 2019.

 

Marc Marquez during the Valencia Test. Photo curtesy of Repsol Honda Team.

 

Honda face a difficult winter, and Valencia was the beginning of that. Marc Marquez is injured, as is Jorge Lorenzo (who is new to the bikes) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who may still be unfit come the Sepang tests in 2019. Stefan Bradl was on the LCR Honda on Tuesday, but was just testing different suspension, whilst Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) got his hands on 2018 HRC machinery, and was somewhat taken aback by the progression made from 2017 to 2018. Marquez was limited in his track time, due to that injured left shoulder, but had three bikes to test. One was the 2018 spec, there for comparison, and then he had two black bikes, which were 2019 prototypes. Marquez couldn’t say much of his testing, but it seemed as though at least one new engine spec was there for him to try. There was also a new chassis for Marquez to try, but because of limited track time, he and Honda will need to use the Jerez test next week to confirm their feelings from Valencia.

 

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Champion Commits to Honda

The reigning MotoGP world champion, Marc Marquez, today signed an extension to his contract with the Repsol Honda factory team. The new deal commences as of today and expires at the end of the 2020 season. It also silences the growing rumours that the 25-year old was eyeing a move across to KTM for next season.

Marquez’ decision to extend his stay with the team should not come as a surprise to anyone. After all, Repsol have supported him throughout his Grand Prix career ever since he made his debut in the old 125cc class at Portugal in 2008. All of Marquez’ six world championship titles – 125cc (2010), Moto2 (2012, MotoGP (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) – have been with the support of the same sponsor. In a sport sometimes known for the egotistical tendencies of many of its leading stars, Marquez’ decision to stay demonstrates a refreshing sense of loyalty. That trait was very much in evidence during his statement when the extension was announced:

MM: “I’m proud to race a member of the Honda family, and I appreciate how Honda always do their best to provide me with everything I need. I would also like to thank everyone who has given me such warm support over the years. The first two official tests went well and, with my contract renewed, I can concentrate on racing in the new season. I will continue to enjoy racing, share my joy with everybody, and do my best to achieve our shared goals.” 

There may well come a day when Marquez feels his relationship with Honda has gone as far as it can, and seek a new challenge with another team. Valentino Rossi moved from Yamaha to Ducati in 2011 to attempt to become the first rider to win three premier class titles with three different manufacturers. Jorge Lorenzo switched in 2017 to try and win the championship with a second team and mould them around him. Marquez has the effort of HRC concentrated on him, much in the same way that Rossi had with Yamaha between 2004-2010.

There is no doubt that Marquez is a superstar of the sport – and indeed the whole racing world – but the careers of top class motorcycle racers tend to be much shorter than for other sports. A fact which cannot be ignored when it comes to a contract negotiation.

There is no doubt that Marquez has the potential to win more world championships. Perhaps he may even go on to pass Rossi’s total of 9 titles. To do that, one cannot afford to waste years on noncompetitive machinery. KTM, despite their brilliant debut season are still very much a developing team. Suzuki, whilst capable of consistently finishing inside the top 10 places, lack the budget of Honda or Yamaha. This is a crucial factor when the championship becomes as much a race to develop the bike, as it is a race on track. Ducati have the resources to compete with Honda and Yamaha but, as Lorenzo is proving, requires a rider to completely rework their riding style to control the bike.

As such, for the immediate future, Marquez sees Honda as the team that has the best chance of helping him achieve more world championships.

Ultimately, everything else is an after thought.

As long as both rider and team continue to achieve those “shared goals”, why should they look to part ways any time soon?