It has been a big weekend of news for KTM at Jerez. First, there was Pol Espargaro extending his contract. Then the factory KTM team announced they had signed Johann Zarco.
And now, the first seat at the KTM Tech3 team has been filled, with Miguel Oliveira moving up to MotoGP for 2019.
The Portuguese rider had been widely expected to make the move. Oliveira has progressed all the way through the KTM Red Bull project, from Moto3 to Moto2 and now up to MotoGP.
If the two MotoGP races so far this year have had the kind of internal logic more commonly associated with a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, the Moto2 and Moto3 classes have been rational seas of serenity.
Which, come to think of it, also makes them more than a little like the more pious parts of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. These are topsy turvy times indeed.
When Moto2 first started, it brought the most harrowing and raucous parts of Bosch’ work to mind, voracious insanity unleashed on two wheels, which sensible people feared to look at. Fortunately, motorcycle racing fans are anything but sensible. It is one of their better traits.
But those days are now long gone, and the intermediate class has become processional, races decided almost before they are begun.
A nostalgia for the madness of the past keeps us watching, hoping to see a revival of the old ways. From time to time, the series livens up again, and we start to dream that our prayers have been answered, though such thoughts are usually dashed as soon as they arise.
The Moto2 race in Argentina was very much a case in point. It started out processional, then grew tense, then the tension frayed, then renewed, only to end with bang.
Literally, in the case of Alex Márquez, who ended a long way up in the air before coming down to earth with a solid thump.
Brad Binder has had surgery to fit a new plate to his broken left arm. The original plate, which had been fitted over the winter after he had broken the radius in his left arm, had worked loose, and was not holding the bone together properly. Binder has now had that issue corrected in Barcelona.
The South African had broken his arm in a big crash at Valencia in November, and had undergone surgery to fix the bones in place. This surgery had not taken properly, however, the bone not knitting together properly.
Binder had ridden despite the pain, but in Argentina, the pain had become much worse. An examination of the arm showed that the plate had become partially detached, and the bone had broken again. Despite the pain, Binder rode to a tenth place finish in Argentina, a remarkable result all things considered.
Along with a thrilling weekend of racing, several interesting items of news emerged in Argentina. Brad Binder and Remy Gardner were injured, and face surgery.
Also, discussions were held in the Safety Commission regarding who progresses to Q1 and Q2. And at a press conference, Dorna announced that the WorldSBK championship will be racing in Argentina in 2018, at a new circuit in the west of the country.
If you couldn’t get enough moody goodness from KTM’s photoshoot with their MotoGP race bike, the KTM RC16, here is a look at the Austrian brand’s Moto2 machine that Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira will race in the 2017 season.
KTM will continue to use its steel-tube chassis design in Moto2, with of course a mildly tuned Honda CBR600RR engine powering the race bike, per class rules.
KTM CEO Stefan Pierer had some choice words for Honda at the bike’s debut, chastising the Japanese brand for its time penalties in the Dakar Rally (for an illegal fuel stop) and for the manufacturer’s alleged cheating in the Moto3 race class, where its competes heavily with KTM’s own offerings.
Pierer is said to be much happier with Moto2’s switch to a Triumph supplied power plant, which will begin with the 2019 season and be based off the three-cylinder engine found in the new Triumph Street Triple 765.
With a Moto2 now in place, KTM has a pathway for GP talent, all the way from Moto3 to Moto2 and into MotoGP. With a strong partnership in place with Red Bull as well, KTM is well-positioned to take on HRC’s racing dominance, and the powerhouse that is Repsol Honda. We smell a good rivalry heating up.
Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.
Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.
Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be.
The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself.
Valencia is supposed to be an emotionally charged race. The last round of the season, the grand finale. The last chance for riders to lay it all on the line, in pursuit of glory. The bowl in which the Ricardo Tormo circuit is set focuses and amplifies the cheers of the crowd, carrying the racing to new levels of intensity.
There was an extra layer of emotion at Valencia this year. The excitement is tinged with the bittersweet taste of parting. There is the largest group of riders moving from one garage to another that I can remember in a very long time.
Riders and their crew become very close, a tight unit that works intensely together. They celebrate success together, and share their despair during the bad times. These men and women have been through a lot together, forging bonds that are not easily broken.
Riders may only be moving a couple of garages away, the parting is no less painful for that.
Those departing felt compelled to put on a good show for the people they leave behind, and they did not disappoint. In Moto3 and Moto2, the departing champions put on brave fights to reprise their title-winning ways, with supporting stars offering fierce opposition to add some luster to their victories.
In the MotoGP class, all the factory riders switching garages dug a little deeper inside themselves, and pulled some outstanding performances out of the bag. The extra emotion of the final weekend of the season produced three great races at Valencia, with three truly deserving winners.
Is there such a thing as an Alien? The provenance of the term is uncertain, though most people believe that it was coined by Colin Edwards in 2009, after he kept finishing in fifth place behind Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa.
Whatever he tried, he could not stay with them. “They are riding out of this world,” he said.
The term has stuck. Since then, the term Alien has been applied to the top four riders, the only difference being that Marc Márquez has been swapped for Casey Stoner now that the Australian has retired.
The reality is that since Jorge Lorenzo entered the class until the start of the 2016 season, the five MotoGP Aliens had accounted for all but two of the 143 MotoGP races held.
The two non-Alien wins were by Andrea Dovizioso (Donington 2009) and Ben Spies (Assen 2011). Both of those races came in unusual conditions. The five Aliens dominated the podiums throughout that period as well.
2016 looks like becoming the year the Alien died. Or perhaps more realistically (and less dramatically) the year we had to readjust the concept of a MotoGP Alien. The season was going very much to plan up until Assen, when Jack Miller won an interrupted race in the driving rain.
Then in Austria, Andrea Iannone finally did what everyone has been waiting for, won a race with a Ducati. Cal Crutchlow used a drying surface to his advantage to win at Brno, and then Maverick Viñales won at a dry but cold Silverstone. Questions were asked whether Maverick Viñales was the next Alien.
Momentum. That’s what the last race before the Australasian triple header is all about. Momentum heading towards the end of the championship. Coming out on top and carrying it forward to Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang is vital.
The deal may get done on one of the flyaways, but Aragon is the place where the riders put their chips on the table.
All three races on Sunday had a huge impact on the MotoGP championship. In the first race of the day, a title was settled. In the second race of the day, the championship was blown even further open.
The final race of the day saw another brick hammered into the wall of Marc Márquez’s third MotoGP title, and further cemented his legacy. It was a good day’s racing.
There are a lot of ways to win titles, but the way the 2016 Moto3 championship was settled was about as fitting as it could be. At the end of a classic Moto3 race, where a strong group battled for control until the final four laps, four men broke away from the pack.
That group consisted of Brad Binder, the two men who could still mathematically challenge Binder for the 2016 title, Enea Bastianini and Jorge Navarro, and rookie revelation Fabio Di Giannantonio.
Is there such a thing as momentum in sports? Athletes – that includes MotoGP racers, who are in peak physical condition and should be considered as such – believe strongly in momentum. Statisticians disagree.
Momentum exists for as long as a team or an athlete keeps winning, or achieving success. Once they stop, then the momentum is gone. But there is never an explanation for why they lose it, and why something tagged as momentum should so suddenly disappear.
Whatever statistics may say, if athletes believe momentum exists, then momentum matters. And if there was a moment when momentum matters, it is going into the three-race flyaways.
After Sunday night, the MotoGP grid faces a brief break, and then three races in three weekends with long flights in between. It is the toughest part of the MotoGP schedule, and it helps to go into it with a strong mindset.
A good result on Sunday will help a lot in that respect. If that is what momentum is, then momentum matters.
KTM’s Moto2 project officially debuted today, with Aki Ajo managing the team that will consist of riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira. Like KTM’s MotoGP project, with the KTM RC16 race bike, the Moto2 project uses some intriguing elements.
Namely, the frame is of a steel trellis design, the suspension is provided for by WP, and of course the engine is a lightly tuned Honda CBR600RR lump.
If looks could win races, the WP KTM Moto2 machine would already be a contender. That being said, we have high expectations for the racing program in next year’s Moto2 Championship.
Until then tough, we’ll let you drool over the high-resolution images we have waiting for you, after the jump.