As the world of motorcycle racing has gone mad with speculation over who is to replace Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, and by extension, either Maverick Viñales at Suzuki or Dani Pedrosa at Honda, focus has also turned on the World Superbike paddock.
There has been much talk of which riders could make the transition to MotoGP, and in turn, which MotoGP riders could try the switch to World Superbikes.
The one name that was consistently raised was reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea. Given Rea’s previous experience standing in for an injured Casey Stoner in 2012, there had been much speculation that Rea had both the ability and the interest in making the switch to MotoGP.
Today, Rea put an end to any such speculation. The man from Larne extended his contract with Kawasaki to remain in World Superbikes for another two years. Rea will now be racing for Kawasaki until at least the end of 2018.
I know a fair number of photographers whose main body of work is covering motorcycle racing, and the one tune they all sing in perfect harmony is how difficult it is to cover the expenses of traveling to races and then make some profit on top of that.
Some of these photographers do outstanding work, as many of you have seen here on the pages of Asphalt & Rubber, and yet they are trying to survive in an economy where the supply far outpaces the demand.
The demand that exists doesn’t often pay a premium price for premium work, preferring instead to get photos as cheaply as possibly.
This is understandable given that many teams and sponsors in motorcycle racing are themselves operating on shoestring budgets, with some fighting on a race-to-race basis merely to stay involved at their current level of competition. In this, they share something in common with many photographers.
One friend of A&R is the first we know of to use a crowdfunding site called Patreon to help stay involved in MotoGP. Scott Jones is bringing some pretty cool new content to his fans who support him in this way.
They say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. There are also two certainties in MotoGP so far this year: at every race, Michelin will introduce yet another new tire, and the Ducati Desmosedici GP will sprout a new set of wings.
For Le Mans, Michelin brought a new rear tire, with a slightly softer construction but identical compounds, to try to generate a little more grip and address rider complaints about the rear spinning without creating drive, even in high gears.
The new wings on the Ducati were much larger than the previous versions, to perhaps address the need for drive out of the many first gear corners at Le Mans.
Michelin bringing yet another tire to another race may sound like they are still flailing around, but in reality, it is a sign that the French tire maker is starting to settle on a development direction, after their plans had been sent astray by the double Ducati disasters of Loris Baz and Scott Redding.
The rear tire raced at Austin and Jerez was the so-called “safety tire”, a construction Michelin was certain would make race distance without any nasty surprises. It was raced without any real testing, meant only as a back up, not seriously intended for competition.
The 2016 World Superbike calendar will have just thirteen rounds. Attempts at finding a replacement for the canceled Monza round have failed, causing the calendar to definitively lose a round.
Dorna had been in talks with several other circuits to replace the races at Monza, with the Estoril circuit being the most popular candidate. However, no agreement could be reached with any of the replacement candidates, and Dorna had no choice but to cancel.
All hope is not lost for Monza, however. Work continues at the iconic Italian track, including efforts to make it suitable for motorcycle racing. The circuit could yet make a return, but not this year.
Four rounds into the WorldSBK season we have seen three different race winners, two manufacturers vie for the title, but unfortunately one man proving the dominant force.
After eight races it’s hard to imagine Jonathan Rea’s title defence having gotten off to a better start, but it’s happened, despite his lack of comfort with the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The Northern Irishman has not been comfortable with his new mount.
The much discussed “low inertia” engine has clearly taken some of the edge off Rea’s confidence in the bike. With a different engine braking characteristic, it has forced him to adjust his riding style to get the most from the machine.
Rea has a very natural style while on a race bike, it is something that has been similar on everything he has ever ridden. Whether it’s a Supersport, Superbike, or even a MotoGP machine, Rea has been able to ride in the same way. He’ll continue to adapt to the new bike and mould it to allow his style to flourish.