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Another day, and another factory MotoGP team debut. This week’s entry is actually a two-fer from the KTM camp, as we see in their race livery both the factory-back Red Bull KTM team debut (Pol Espargaro & Johann Zarco), as well as the factory-supported KTM Tech3 squad (Hafizh Syahrin & Miguel Oliveira).

KTM will be looking to make big steps this year in the MotoGP Championship, as the team stalled on its progress last year. This is part of the reason for a two-pronged approach in the paddock, and for the Tech3 outfit getting substantial support and involvement in the development of the KTM RC16 race bike.

What is one more press launch for today’s news cycle, am I right? A bit of a shakeup to the lineup, the Monster Energy Yamaha team debuted in Jakarta today, and as you would expect from the name, the energy drink company takes over as title sponsor from Movistar.

The names and faces are the same though, with Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales at the helm of the 2019 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP race bike, which has a new livery on its side.

Like most of the MotoGP team debuts that we see ahead of the Qatar preseason test, what is offered as a first look at the 2019 racing platform is really more like the 2018 bike with next year’s livery.

That doesn’t make the sight any less fantastic though, as detailed photos of these apex predators is always a treat.

Next up on our list from the MotoGP paddock is the ECSTAR Suzuki squad (check out Ducati and Honda too), which includes Alex Rins and Joan Mir.

Not much changes for the livery in the 2019 season, though we do see Suzuki has updated the fairings a touch. The tail section has a more dramatic drop as it comes to a point, and the vents on the front fairing have slightly different shapes than what was shown to us in 2018.

Episode 90 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see David Emmett, Neil Morrison, and Steve English on the mics, as we look towards the 2019 racing season, as well as look back on the big moments of 2018.

The show is short in duration, and the guys’ conversation give us a jumping-off point for the upcoming racing seasons in both the MotoGP and WorldSBK classes.

With the winter doldrums though, we don’t think you will mind a little racing talk in your earbuds, and don’t worry, the Paddock Pass Podcast is now gearing up to bring you more news from the preseason tests, team launches, and first paddock gossip as it comes to us.

The MotoGP racing season is almost upon us, as the next few weeks will serve as launching points for their championship bids for this year. First up is Ducati, debuting its 2019 team at the Phillip Morris R&D Cube in Neuchatel, Switzerland.

Of course, the star of the show is Ducati’s MotoGP race bike for the 2019 season, the Ducati Desmosedici GP19.

Sporting a very red livery, the design harken backs to the liveries of yore for the Italian brand, complete with a barcode-esque logo on the side, which slings the team title of “Ducati Winnow”.

As usual, Ducati is pretty mum when it comes to actual details about its two-wheeled offering, and merely quotes a peak power figure of “over 250hp” for the 1,000cc desmodromic V4 engine.

KTM has been on a phenomenal track for the past eight years, seeing record set each successive annum.

Part of the secret sauce to that success has been KTM’s partnership with KISKA, the Austrian design firm that is largely responsible for making KTM’s bikes look good, both in real life and in the media.

As KTM ramps up its lineup of two-wheelers, and continues to push into new markets and segments, the motorcycle manufacturer is looking to secure its stake is KISKA, announcing plans to take its ownership position from 26% to 50%.

You would think that after writing about what I got wrong in my predictions last year, I would not be so foolish as to try to make predictions again for the 2019 season. As it turns out, I am that foolish, so here is a list of things I expect to happen in the coming year.

2019 certainly looks very promising for world championship motorcycle racing, in just about every class in both MotoGP and WorldSBK. A range of changes mean the racing should be closer and more competitive.

Cutting the MotoGP grid from 24 to 22 bikes, and having the Petronas Yamaha team replace the underfunded Aspar squad, means there are more competitive bikes on the grid.

Ducati will field only GP19s and GP18s, and the GP18 is a much better machine than the GP17. Honda will field three 2019 RC213Vs, and a 2018 bike for Takaaki Nakagami, and the fact that Nakagami was fastest at the Jerez MotoGP test last November suggests that it, too, is good enough to run at the front.

Yamaha, likewise, will field three factory-spec bikes, with only rookie Fabio Quartararo on a 2018-spec machine. Suzuki made big steps forward in 2018, and have a more powerful bike for 2019.

It’s not just in MotoGP either. In Moto2, the new Triumph engine will change the way riders have to ride the bike, and the introduction of electronics – very limited, but still with more than the old Honda ECU kit had to offer – will give teams more options.

Ducati’s introduction of the Panigale V4 R will make the WorldSBK series a good deal more competitive. And the cream of last year’s Moto3 crop moving up to Moto2, to make way for an influx of young talent, will make both classes fascinating and exciting to watch.

So what can we expect from 2019? Here are a few concrete predictions:

If you live in the United States and like World Superbike racing, then we have good news for you, as the 2019 WorldSBK Calendar now includes Laguna Seca as a destination for next year.

After many indications that the World Superbike Championship would not be coming to the United States next year, after a contract dispute with the California track and Spanish racing series, that course has seemingly made a 180° turn.

Therefore, Laguna Seca will play host to the World Superbike series – sans World Supersport or Supersport 300 – during the July 12th-14th racing weekend.

Energica is making big moves for the 2019 model year, and they are getting ready to announce them this weekend in New York, at the next installment of the International Motorcycle Show.

Giving a taste of the news to come however, Energica tells us that sizable price cuts are going to feature on its range of electric sport bikes.

The Italian brand also has a number of dealerships coming to the USA for next year, helping bolster its presence in this important market.

Lastly, fresh on the news that Energica will be supplying bikes to the MotoE World Cup, we will see track-focused kits for the Ego superbike coming from the company.

For the 2019 model year, we say goodbye to the Honda CBR650F, a fine enough machine in its own right, but one that didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and instead we say hello to the Honda CBR650R, which gets a more aggressive styling and a bevy of features, to help it earn that “R” designation at the end of its name.

Easy to sport is that the new bodywork, which draws a direct line to the Honda CBR1000RR superbike, the Honda CBR650R comes also with a sportier riding position, and the electronics and feature package to match.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were talking about the actions of Romano Fenati at the San Marino GP, where he reached out and grabbed the front brake lever of a competitor’s bike, while going over 120 mph.

The act saw immediate outrage in the MotoGP paddock. It led to Fenati being sacked by his 2018 squad, the Marinelli Snipers Team, and then booted from his 2019 outfit, the MV Agusta Moto2 team being lead by Forward Racing.

A two-race ban by the FIM Stewards also was handed down to the 22-year-old, which was later turned into a ban from racing for the rest of the year by the FIM. Soon afterwards, Fenati announced his intention to quit motorcycle racing all together, and the matter seemed finally at its conclusion.

Forever has been short-lived however, as rumors from the MotoGP paddock tip that “Naughty Fenati” will be back on the race track next year, returning for the 2019 Moto3 season with the same Marinelli Snipers Team…the same team that fired him earlier this season.