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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.

Ever since the Superbike Commission – the rule-making body for WorldSBK – announced back in October that a third race would be added to the WorldSBK race weekend, we have wondered exactly what this would mean for the class, both in terms of championship points and qualifying position for the second WorldSBK race, held on Sunday.

On Tuesday, the FIM issued a press release containing the missing details for the coming season.

The new schedule impacts both qualifying and the races. The current two-stage Superpole has been abolished, replaced with a single Superpole session for the World Superbike and the World Supersport series.

This week at the EICMA show in Milan, we expect to see the 2019 World Superbike Championship calendar released. However, we do not expect to see the Laguna Seca round listed on it…not yet, at least.

As we understand it, the WorldSBK calendar will be released with a “TBD” in the month of June, where the Laguna Seca round should normally be found. 

With the circuit and Dorna still arguing over licensing fees, and the future of World Superbike racing in the United States, the inclusion of the American round has been put into jeopardy.

Once upon a time, disciplinary measures in MotoGP were simple. If a rider was felt to have transgressed the rules, they were hauled up before the Race Director and given a punishment, and that was just about the end of it.

Sometimes, riders appealed against those judgments, and sometimes, the FIM even found in their favor.

But times change, cultures change, social mores change. What was once regarded as acceptable is now frowned upon. Physical contact and riding with the intent to obstruct others became less and less acceptable. Suspected transgressions were examined more closely and judged more harshly.

The World Superbike Championship needs to do something different, to give fans something unique and different from the other motorcycle racing championships…or so the thinking goes.

Many ideas have been put forward, some more crazy than others, so it doesn’t surprise us to hear that WorldSBK will be making the bold move of going to a three-race format for its race weekends.

Keeping the first race on Saturday, and another full race on Sunday, the World Superbike Championship will now add a sprint race to the Sunday schedule.

The Moto2 Championship doesn’t often make the headlines in the motorcycle racing sphere, but I bet you are hearing all about this weekend’s Moto2 race at the San Marino GP. For those who are late to the story, much is being said about an incident where Romano Fenati grabbed Stefano Manzi’s front brake lever, as the pair hurled down the Misano circuit at over 200 km/h.

Caught on camera, the incident in just one of several between the two riders during the Moto2 race this weekend, as Fenati and Manzi traded paint and hand gestures at several points of the competition, but the focus of the attention remains on the shocking act that Fenati took down the back straight of the circuit.

For the fans in attendance, and for those watching at home, you were witness to one of the most irresponsible events that can take place on a race track – an act that I would argue is tantamount to attempted murder on a motorcycle.

It therefore boggles the mind that at this point in time, Romano Fenati still has a license to race with the FIM, once his two-race suspension is completed.

Episode 82 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Neil Morrison & David Emmett on the mics, as they discuss the recent British GP at Silverstone (or the lack thereof).

For a race that didn’t happen, there is a surprising amount of ground to cover in the show. First, David and Neil explain the circumstances and events from Sunday at the grand prix, and how Dorna and IRTA came to the decision to cancel the day’s races.

Then they discuss how the rain affected the Silverstone circuit, what options were available to the teams and riders, and what can be done for the future of the British Grand Prix…if there can even be one next year.

From there, the show turns to other news in the paddock: the creation of the Petronas SIC Yamaha; the 2019 calendar and how we won’t be racing in Mexico next year, after all; and the silly season contract news surrounding the various available test rider positions.

As usual, the show finishes with our winners and losers from the weekend, which you won’t want to miss.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter 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!

The weather usually plays a role when racing in the UK, in any discipline, but Saturday at Silverstone, the rain took center stage.

Not just because of the way it forced the MotoGP riders to pick their strategy very carefully, making timing and tire management absolutely crucial. But also because a heavy downpour at the southern end of the track created massive problems, and kicked off a serious debate.

More than that, it caused a bunch of riders to crash during FP4, starting with Alex Rins at Stowe, or Turn 7 as the riders tend to call it, to avoid confusion during debriefs. Then Tito Rabat crashed in the same place.

Then Franco Morbidelli, whose bike hit Rabat who was sitting in the gravel, smashing into the Reale Avintia rider’s right leg, breaking his tibia, fibula, and femur, requiring surgery and putting him out of the running for a long time, if not for the remainder of the season.

Having been the first to fall, Alex Rins did his best to emulate Kevin Schwantz at Donington in 1992, running out into the gravel to warn other riders to take care, while all around him, riders headed into the gravel, unable to brake on the water-soaked surface.

Jorge Lorenzo came flying by, as did others, until eventually the session was red flagged.

Those crashes triggered a chain of events which saw the MotoGP race start moved forward to 11:30am local time, to avoid the expected heavy rain on Sunday afternoon, which could have made it difficult to run the race.

It caused delays as the riders were forced to wait for the return of the medical helicopter, which had flown Tito Rabat to hospital in Coventry. And it created a fascinating spectacle during qualifying, where timing ended up being everything.

The announcement of the MotoGP test dates in the middle of last week have given a hint of how the 2019 MotoGP calendar is to take shape.

The official announcement is not expected for another month or so – Dorna are still waiting for the F1 calendar to be published, to try to avoid direct clashes with the premier car racing series.

The F1 calendar will not have the same influence as it had in previous years, however: since new owners Liberty took over the series, they have moved the start time of F1 races to 3:10pm Central European Time, some 10 minutes after MotoGP has finished the podium ceremony.

The MotoGP test schedule sees three official tests taking place over the winter, though one of them is before the official winter break. The MotoGP field will be at Jerez on the 28th and 29th November for the first official test.

This basically converts the previous private test, which most teams attended, into an official one, forcing all of the teams to take the track together, and to an extent, improving the coverage of the test.

MotoGP could be headed back to Brazil. That is the news coming out of the Catalan GP, as Dorna and Rio Motorsports have inked a preliminary agreement to add the South American round to the MotoGP calendar.

If the deal is followed through, it could mean a MotoGP race in Rio de Janeiro as early as the 2021 season.

The big “if” in all this is the building of a new race track near Rio de Janeiro, which once it passes homologation, it could “potentially” be added to the MotoGP calendar as the Brazilian GP, according to a press release from Dorna.

“We would be thrilled to see MotoGP return to Brazil and this memorandum of understanding is fantastic news for the Championship and South American fans,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports.

“We have a truly global sport, paddock and grid and to add another country to our calendar – especially one such as Brazil – is always something to aspire to. It would be a pleasure for MotoGP to race in a country and continent known for its passion and incredible atmosphere.”