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David Emmett

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A race track is a large place. 4+ kilometers of asphalt, 15 meters wide. A MotoGP bike is a small thing, under 2 meters long from nose to tip, and 60 centimeters wide. The bikes should get lost in the vast expanse of asphalt on track. Yet somehow, these tiny vehicles always seem to run across each other on track.

The riders are to blame, of course. There are advantages to be gained from following other riders around. In Moto3, a slipstream is vital to gaining extra speed.

In MotoGP, using a rider ahead as a target allows you to judge your braking points better and gives that extra bit of motivation which is worth a tenth or two. And a tenth or two can mean starting a row ahead of where you would otherwise.

When bikes meet on the track, it always sparks resentment. The rider in front is annoyed at being followed, and will slow down to try to force the other rider in front. The rider behind gets annoyed by the antics of the person they are trying to follow.

In the best case, it is all soon forgotten. In the worst case, well, it involves Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi and a small war breaks out in the Italian and Spanish press, and a much bigger war breaks out among the fans.

On a normal race weekend, you might see one or two minor updates in all of the garages collectively. Factories don’t like to debut too many new parts at the same time, as there is not enough time to evaluate them effectively.

And normally, you would test one part at a time and evaluate them separately, to try to understand what difference each specific part makes.

However, there was an official test here at Misano two weeks ago, and so teams had a chance to do the preliminary sifting ahead of the race.

And that is why Valentino Rossi started FP1 with a new carbon-fiber swingarm on both of his Yamaha M1s, tested a new aerodynamic front wheel cover, and both he and Maverick Viñales had one bike each with the new double-barreled exhaust debuted at the test.

“It’s positive, because it looks like that Yamaha is working stronger now and also working in the right direction,” Rossi told us on Friday afternoon.

“For me, from the end of 2016 to the Brno test, in reality everything we test is not clearly better than the old stuff. So technically speaking it was a very difficult period and in fact the gap to the other manufacturers increased.”

“But now, from the beginning of the season something changed and have a lot of different people from Japanese especially but also Europe and it looks like now we start to see the effect.”

Thursday was the first chance most of the media got to talk to the MotoGP riders after the test at Misano two weeks ago, and find out what they really thought about the test, rather than trying to decode the meaning of the press releases issued.

That clarified a lot about the test, answering some of the questions we had been left with, and intriguingly, raising yet more questions which had slipped under the radar.

As always, however, when you ask different riders about a subject, they will have different opinions. Even if they are teammates, like Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. Asked about the state of the track, Quartararo expressed concern about the lack of grip, especially in certain places.

“For me, [track grip] was terrible, but some corners were good, some corners were less, and one corner was totally a disaster, corner 14,” the Petronas Yamaha rider said.

“I think many riders crashed in this corner. I heard that when Marc crashed, he thought it was the white line which they just painted, but as soon as you want to put lean angle in this corner, you crash. And I have a lot of big moments in this corner. Let’s see if it improves this weekend, because in the test it was a really critical place to ride.”

There is a lot to like about the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, aka The MotoGP Race With The Name Which Is Too Long To Fit In A Headline. The track is just a stone’s throw from the Italian coast, so visitors can spend their days at the track and their evenings at the beach, soaking up the atmosphere.

The weather is (usually) spectacular, the food is outstanding, and the area has a long association with motor sports, and motorcycle racing in particular. A quarter of the paddock could probably sleep in their own beds and commute to the track at the weekend.

But the upsides also have a downside. The location of the circuit may be perfect for the fans, but it is a nightmare for crew chiefs and riders. The sea mist which settles on the track most nights brings salt along with it, robbing it of grip.

The spectacular weather in September usually also means the sun burning down, raising track temperatures to the high 40s Centigrade, and into the region where the grip falls off a cliff. The track can be greasy and unpredictable, and despite being resurfaced to address these issues, physics and chemistry will always prevail.

Franco Morbidelli knows the track well. As part of the VR46 Riders Academy, he rides the track on a very regular basis, and knows how it changes throughout the year.

“We all know that we are going to struggle with the grip,” he says. “Misano, especially in this moment of the year has no grip at all. It’s very hot, I think that the salt that comes from the sea somehow affects the grip. I know the track very well, and I know how it reacts, and during the summer, it’s completely different, no grip at all.”

Alvaro Bautista will be staying in the World Superbike paddock and racing a Honda in 2020, it seems.

The plans for a new HRC-run WorldSBK team to be based in Barcelona, racing a brand new Honda CBR1000RR, put an end to any speculation that Bautista might be heading back to MotoGP to take the place of Johann Zarco at KTM for next year.

Rumors and reports from Portimao are solidifying the story that Bautista will be staying in WorldSBK. A thorough piece on German-language publication Speedweek set out Honda’s World Superbike plans for 2020, including the plans for a new bike.

What will change under MotoGP’s revised aerodynamic rules for 2020? In mid-July the Grand Prix Commission reached agreement on how to address ‘grey areas’ in the current regulations.

Their focus had been sharpened by a rare public spat involving five of the six manufacturers over the legality of Ducati’s swingarm spoiler, which went to the MotoGP Court of Appeal.

With the full 2020 amendments yet to be published, we spoke to MotoGP Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli to find out what to expect in terms of the future aerodynamic (and electronics) regulations. Here is a transcript of that conversation.

The Misano MotoGP test may well turn out to be more important than it might seem at first glance. Perhaps precisely because it was a private test, and the teams could work in some privacy away from the prying eyes of most media.

The pit lane was closed, and there were virtually no media present, with the honorable exception of Italian stalwarts GPOne.com.

It meant that factories could test early versions of their 2020 bikes with relatively little interference from outside, other than the usual crowd of engineers from rival factories gathered round as they warm up their bikes.

And that is precisely what Yamaha, Honda, and KTM in particular spent their time doing, while Ducati and Suzuki debuted a few parts which may or may not see use next season.

The advantage of a private test is that work can take place away from the prying eyes of the media.

Some of the MotoGP manufacturers, most notably Yamaha and Honda, have taken advantage of the fact that the two-day test at Misano is private, and have debuted various new parts for both this year and next.

With the pit lane closed to the media, the factories can work more freely.

It had been known unofficially for weeks, but today, the Aruba.it Ducati team announced that they have signed Scott Redding to ride for them in WorldSBK for the 2020 season.

Redding has had a very strong season in BSB since losing his ride in MotoGP with Aprilia, and is currently second in the standings behind Be Wiser Ducati teammate Josh Brookes.

Confidence plays a key role in racing. Having confidence in yourself, in your team, in your bike, in your strategy. If you have confidence in every part of the jigsaw puzzle which goes to make up motorcycle racing, you can exceed expectations.

Motorcycle racing may play out on 300 hp machines around six kilometer stretches of asphalt, but the fifteen centimeters of gray matter between the ears is where winning and losing is decided.

That confidence is what explains so much of Marc Márquez’ success throughout his career. He has confidence in his ability, gained through hours and hours of practice, and hard training in preparation.

He has confidence in his team, having worked with the same group of people for most of his career. He has confidence in his bike: it may not do everything he would want, but he understands exactly what it will and won’t do, and can make it do what he needs it to do.

He has confidence in the ability of his team and himself to come up with a strategy to cope with whatever a race weekend throws at them.

All these things combined are what has allowed him to win five MotoGP championships and 50 MotoGP races. Each of these elements of confidence feeds into the other, in a virtuous circle, making him stronger.

And they allow him to take risks at the right time to gain maximum advantage.