Kawasaki Signs Rea for Two More Years in WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea will spend another two years at the Kawasaki Racing Team garage, in the World Superbike Championship paddock, with the British rider signing a two-year contract with the factory Kawasaki team this week. The news is perhaps not a surprise to the WorldSBK loyal, but Rea’s continuance with Kawasaki was by no means a sure thing, with the now three-time World Superbike champion having several competing offers in the paddock, as well as links to rides in the MotoGP Championship. Choosing to stay at Kawasaki, and likely add more race-wins and championship titles to his record in the process, Rea continues the unstoppable force that is himself and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

MV Agusta Debuts Auto-Clutch Tech for Sport Bikes

The concept of an auto-clutch is nothing new, and for dirt bike riders, products like those produced by Rekluse are virtually common place. But, on the sport bike side of things, the use and adoption of this technology is still relatively young. We have seen scooters and other small-displacement machines use continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology before, and Honda is currently proudly touting its dual-clutch transmission (DCT) on several of its models, the latest being the new Honda Gold Wing, but what about the rest of the market? Today we see that MV Agusta is the first brand to strike back in this space, debuting its “Smart Clutch System” (SCS) – an automatic clutch designed with sport bikes in mind, making it an option on the marque’s MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso sport-tourer.

What Everyone Missed About Ford’s Lane-Splitting Patent

If you were reading other moto-news sites this week – first of all, shame on you – then you would have noticed much noise being made about Ford Motor Company applying for a patent on detection technology for when a motorcycle is lane-splitting between cars. What you didn’t notice, along with those other publications, is that this is nothing new from Ford, as the American automobile manufacturer was already granted a patent for this technology over a year ago. Much ado about nothing? Not quite, but the story isn’t remotely close to what was being reported elsewhere. In fact, this news of Ford’s lane-splitting patent strategy is much bigger, and much more important, than what has been in the media thus far.

Harrison, On Chasing a 135 MPH Lap at the TT

On Saturday during the RST Superbike race, Dean Harrison smashed the outright Isle of Man TT lap record with a 134.432 mph lap of Mountain Course. It was the culmination of a long apprenticeship on the roads for the Bradford rider, and having claimed a second career TT victory this week, he’ll be out to impress once again during the Senior TT on Friday. Road racing is in his blood, his father Conrad is a sidecar race-winner, but for Dean the challenge has been to gain the experience to show what he can do on the 37-mile long circuit. That experience has been taking place on the roads, at home studying videos, and racing in the British Superbike Championship to understand more about what it takes to reach the limit of his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

The Honda Super Cub Is Finally Coming Back to the USA

It has been 44 years since Honda offered the Super Cub on American soil. That is a pretty astounding thing to say, when you think about it, because the Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle in the world – with 100 million units sold, as of 2017. Needless to say, the Honda Super Cub is beyond iconic, and it is the go-to people mover in more countries than we can count. Now helping Honda fill-in a price-point hole in its motorcycle lineup, the 2019 Honda Super Cub C125 will be one of the cheapest motorcycle that Honda has to offer inside the United States, with an MSRP of $3,599. Built using the same 125cc single-cylinder fuel-injected engine that features on the Grom and Monkey bikes, the Honda Super Cub C125 features a step-through body design and clutchless semi-automatic transmission, as well as ABS as standard.

Yesssh! The Honda Monkey Is Coming to the USA

There is something about the Honda Monkey that we find adorable and appealing, as we did with the Honda Grom, of which the Monkey shares a platform (namely, its 125cc single-cylinder engine with DOHC). So needless to say, we were thrilled when we heard that Honda would bring the Monkey into production, and today we get confirmation of news we expected: the Honda Monkey will come to the USA as a 2019 model. Priced at $3,999 of the USA ($4,199 if you want ABS), the 2019 Honda Monkey will be available in October, and come in two colors: red or yellow. A retro-styled mini-bike for the masses, the Monkey is unassuming and welcoming motorcycle, which is ideal for younger and newer riders.

The Big, Fat, Comprehensive MotoGP Silly Season Update

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP. So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions that almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen.

Here’s a First Look at the MV Agusta Moto2 Race Bike

After a substantial hiatus, MV Agusta is headed back to the Grand Prix paddock – though the Italian brand’s return isn’t into the MotoGP class. Instead, MV Agusta will take a more measured, and a more curious, entry with a Moto2 team. Set to use a 765cc Triumph three-cylinder engine in the class from 2019 onward, it is a little curious to see MV Agusta racing in the Moto2 series, but the similarities between the British engine and what MV Agusta itself produces in Italy, is perhaps close enough. While we don’t expect to see the MV Agusta Moto2 bike on the track until next month, today we get our first glimpse at what the race bike will look like. Unsurprisingly, the machine looks very much like the three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 supersport.

Well It’s Official: HRC Signs Jorge Lorenzo for MotoGP

Yesterday the shock news from the MotoGP paddock was that Dani Pedrosa was to leave the Repsol Honda team, after 18 years with HRC and Honda. Now, the news continues to astound, as HRC has confirmed that is has signed Jorge Lorenzo to a two-year contract with its MotoGP program, which will see the three-time MotoGP world champion join Marc Marquez in the factory Honda team. The terse HRC announcement confirms reports that were published yesterday, almost immediately after Dani Pedrosa’s departure from Honda was made public. A bit of a surprise to paddock pundits, who had widely tipped Lorenzo as headed to a satellite Yamaha effort, Lorenzo’s jump to Honda is certainly an interesting one.

Making the Jump From BSB to Ballagarey

Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes are two riders who have proved that short circuit riders can still make the switch to the roads. Twenty years ago the, top British short circuit riders were all racing on the roads. Whether you were an up and coming John McGuinness, or an established star like Michael Rutter, it was expected that you would join the list of short circuit racers that raced on the roads. The practice was as old as factory contracts, and it was expected that if you wanted to have the best bikes in the British championships, you would race at the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT. That practice has slowly faded out, but in recent years the move has been made by some short circuit riders to return to the roads.

WorldSBK Buriram Debrief – A Recap from Thailand

03/25/2018 @ 10:00 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

If the second round of the 2018 WorldSBK season is anything to go by the regulation shake-up could see an absolutely compelling season. Buriram gave plenty to talk about!

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The opening WorldSBK round of the year showed that the regulations have helped to shake up the order but the real test will be in the coming rounds.

Buriram, host of the Thai Round of WorldSBK, has been a Kawasaki stomping ground in recent years, and while the green machines will be favorites once again, the effect of the changes could see their wings clipped.

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Episode 68 of the Paddock Pass Podcast covers that last two test of the MotoGP preseason, as Neil Morrison hosts on the mics with a special journalist guest, Spain’s Manuel Pecino (you should be following him, if you aren’t already).

A long-time journalist the GP paddock, Manuel brings a unique perspective to the show, and is able to communicate what is beyond the headlines and stories that come out of MotoGP.

As such, we think you will find his perspective on the riders – namely Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, and Valentino Rossi – especially interesting, as the three are highly intertwined in their careers.

Recording from Qatar, the pair talk about the events from Buriram and Losail MotoGP tests, and thus provide us our last glimpse into how the 2018 season is going to stack up.

As we get closer to the start of the 2018 season, keep your eyes out for a preview show, with our full assemble cast of hosts.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Have we emerged any the wiser after three days of testing at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand by the MotoGP field? That is hard to say.

The test was more for the benefit of Michelin than for the teams, and the French tire maker brought some 2000 tires for the 24 riders who took part in the test.

The track itself was not particularly challenging or instructive in terms of understanding how well bike development was going. “This track is also not so easy or so difficult, it’s intermediate,” is how Monster Tech 3 Yamaha replacement Hafizh Syahrin summed it up.

Is it possible to draw conclusions about how the 2018 championship might play out on the basis of the Buriram test? “No, impossible,” Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso said, before proceeding to do just that in some detail.

“I can see Marc in a better shape than at the beginning of last year,” Dovizioso said. “I can see Dani in a good shape, I can see Zarco with a little bit more experience, so a little bit better for the championship than last year.”

It was harder to judge the Movistar Yamahas, Dovizioso said. “It’s very difficult to understand the two factory Yamahas, because they will be fast in the race, on race weekends, for sure.”

“But when you look at the riders and the teams from outside, it’s impossible to know the details, so I don’t know. I can see the Pramac riders are fast, they are happy with the bike, so I think they will be quite fast during the season.”

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It is always easy to get carried away by testing. Seeing a particular rider at the top of the timesheets, it is tempting to start constructing a narrative which sees that rider dominate the season, while writing off the rest.

That, of course, is nearly always a mistake. And in the case of the second day at Buriram, Thailand, it is definitely a mistake.

That doesn’t mean Marc Márquez won’t be fast for the rest of the year, as well as Saturday in Thailand. He has won the MotoGP title in four of his five seasons in the class, so topping the timesheets was not, as one journo joked, because Michelin gave him special tires for his birthday.

Márquez had been fast, and consistently so, through both the Sepang and Buriram tests so far. But the order behind Márquez probably doesn’t reflect the true relative strength of the field.

The reason? Tires, of course. On Saturday, Michelin brought a new rear tire for the riders to test, after the rears used on Friday had shown some signs of degradation. The original allocation of rear tires were the same as used at Brno, Argentina, Sachsenring, and Sepang.

The new tire was the rear used at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That is relatively unsurprising, given that the place everyone compared Buriram to the first time they saw it was Austria.

The different compounds in the Austria rear were better placed to withstand the stresses of Buriram, especially along the three successive straights in the tropical heat.

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The MotoGP riders have had their first laps of the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, and the reviews are in. Simple to learn, but more fun than it looks on paper, is the short version.

“The layout, I remembered it was more similar to Austria, so I was very worried,” Valentino Rossi said, summing up the general feeling. “But when you ride maybe it is more similar to Argentina. It’s good to ride, you have a good feeling, you enjoy. The track is not very difficult but anyway it’s fun.”

It was a change from what he had said at Sepang, when the Italian dismissed the Buriram circuit as “boring”. “I rode the track in 2015 with a Yamaha 300 together with [Jorge] Lorenzo and [Pol] Espargaro,” Rossi explained. “I remember that the track was similar to Austria. But in reality it’s better, have good corners. Technically it’s quite easy, but it’s not boring.”

On a side note, Rossi ended the day in eighth, less than four tenths behind the fastest man Cal Crutchlow. He finished three place and a tenth of a second ahead of his young teammate Maverick Viñales, the rider who was prematurely anointed world champion after preseason testing in 2017.

Friday was Rossi’s thirty-ninth birthday, and the start of his twenty-third season in Grand Prix racing, and nineteenth season in the premier class.

To still be racing at his age and after so many years is a remarkable enough achievement. To start the season as a legitimate championship contender – or perhaps, to still have the desire, the discipline, the ambition to do what it takes to start the season as a legitimate championship contender – is truly the mark of his greatness.

When Valentino Rossi retires (not yet, he looks certain to sign on for two more years) he will be remembered for his titles.

But to my mind, what marks him out above all other riders is the fact he is still competitive even now, when so many others have (understandably) given up on the hard physical and mental slog that racing at the very highest level demands.

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Now that the riders have seen the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, (though so far, only on foot, bicycle, or scooter) they can at last express an opinion on it.

The consensus so far is entirely unsurprising. “It’s quite similar to Austria, the layout, but it’s very flat,” Danilo Petrucci summed up the feeling of most. Petrucci did not mourn the lack of elevation, however.

“I don’t know if this is maybe a good point for me, because in Austria I always struggle a bit, even though I have a Ducati.”

Johann Zarco agreed with Petrucci. “I was watching many videos of the World Superbikes, and the first feeling is that it looks like the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, but flat.”

But the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was broadly positive. “Finally I did many laps with the scooter, and I also ran on the track. I like it. I think it’s going to be easy to learn, but easy to learn means that all riders will be so close, and the gap between maybe the first ten or fifteen positions will be very small. So that can make the game complicated.”

When a track has fewer secrets to unlock, Zarco explained, it meant that everyone got the knack of the track quickly, leaving little to differentiate between them. No Casey Stoner at Phillip Island, no Marc Márquez at Austin.

“I think it’s easy to learn, you quickly know which line to use. I think Texas is more complicated to learn, with 20 corners. But easy means that many riders are able to be fast, but there is only one winner. That’s the difficult point,” Zarco said, before pausing and joking, “Well, in Superbike they have two winners, but in MotoGP, we have one!”

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Preview of the MotoGP Test at Buriram, Thailand

02/15/2018 @ 8:08 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The Sepang MotoGP test proved to be most instructive, both for the fans, who got a first taste of what the 2018 season could look like, and for the factories, who put the first imaginings of this year’s bikes – and especially engines – through their paces.

We learned that Ducati has taken another step forward, that Honda has improved, that Yamaha has solved one problem but possibly created another, that Suzuki is showing promise, that Aprilia is still waiting on a new engine to match their new chassis, and that KTM is starting to realize that closing in on the top ten was much easier than getting into the top five will be.

From Sepang, MotoGP moves to Thailand, some 1300km almost due north. The Chang International Circuit – mostly referred to as Buriram among the MotoGP faithful, as the circuit is owned by (and named after) the main Thai rival to Official MotoGP Beer Supplier Singha – may prove a good deal less instructive than Sepang, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it offers more of the same, especially from a climate point of view. And secondly, it offers less, in terms of variety of corners and bike maneuverability.

The layout of the Buriram circuit is relatively simple. There are no real elevation changes, though the track has one or two crests and dips.

The track consists of three straights strung together with tight corners, and then an ornery section of tightish corners taking the riders back to the final first-gear corner, and back onto the relatively short start and finish straight.

It is, unsurprisingly, a Hermann Tilke track, and exactly what you would expect as a result.

That doesn’t mean the track is completely without entertainment value. Turn 4 is fast left hander with a lot of run off behind it, giving riders the confidence to attack it. The long Turn 9 is relatively slow, but it leads onto a complex left-right section taken at speed which demands a lot of effort from the rider.

The final corner is a favorite overtaking point, but it tends to bring out the worst in riders. The only pass available is one of the kamikaze variety, offering glory or the gravel trap. To see a lap of the Buriram circuit, watch this video on the WorldSBK website.

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Red Bull KTM MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro is to miss the upcoming MotoGP test at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, KTM has announced.

The 26-year-old Spaniard is suffering with a hernia in his L4 vertebra, for which he underwent surgery on Monday night in Barcelona.

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Thailand Set to Join 2018 MotoGP Calendar

08/30/2017 @ 10:11 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The news that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta is on his way to Thailand to sign a contract with the Buriram circuit to host MotoGP from 2018 signals that the publication of a 2018 provisional MotoGP calendar is imminent.

The Thai round of MotoGP is the final piece of the puzzle needed for putting together next year’s Grand Prix schedule.

The 2018 calendar will consist of 19 races, with the Thai round being added to the Pacific flyaways held in October. The series kicks off March 18th, at Losail in Qatar, a week before the Formula 1 season-opener in Australia.

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