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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:

The start of the year is traditionally a chance to look ahead, and make predictions for what is to come.

But as an old Danish proverb, sometimes ascribed to the brilliant Danish physicist Niels Bohr, says, it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.

To demonstrate just how hard, we will kick off the year taking a look back at predictions I made last year, and what I got wrong.

I started last year with an article in which I made three predictions for the 2018 season:

Episode 89 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see David Emmett, Steve English, and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as we cover the 2018 WorldSBK Championship season.

The conversation starts with the champions, Jonathan Rea and the Kawasaki Racing Team, and we discuss how this has become the wining package in the WorldSBK paddock, especially with the contrasting fortunes of Tom Sykes.

The discussion includes a short interview with Leon Haslam, as he got his leg over the KRT-spec superbike during the Jerez post-season test.

It’s been a difficult test at Valencia. The weather simply hasn’t played ball. Tuesday started wet, took a few hours to dry out, then rain started falling around 3pm, meaning the riders effectively had around two and a half usable hours on track.

Rain on Tuesday evening meant the track was wet on Wednesday morning, and in the chill of a November morning, it took a couple of hours before the track dried out enough for the riders to hit the track.

At least it stayed dry and sunny throughout the day, and the last couple of hours saw the best conditions of the test, times dropping until falling temperatures put paid to any thought of improvement. The teams may have lost time, but at least they had a solid four and a half hours of track time to work.

For half the factories, what they were focusing on was engines. Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki all brought new engines to test, and in the case of Yamaha and Honda, two different specs.

Ducati was mainly working with a new chassis, aimed at making the bike turn better. Aprilia had a new engine and a new frame to try. And as usual, KTM had a mountain of parts and ideas to test.

If you want to see the law of unintended consequences in action, just take a look at MotoGP testing. The nature of testing has changed as manufacturers have suffered the consequences of not fully understanding the effects of the engine development freeze during the season.

Honda suffered, Suzuki suffered, and now Yamaha have suffered when they made the wrong choice of engine in preseason testing. They learned the hard way they had to get it right.

This has meant that the Valencia MotoGP test has become first and foremost about getting the engine in the right ballpark, giving the engineers enough data to work out the fine details over the winter. A tight track and cold air temperatures sees engines at their most aggressive, with plenty of horsepower on hand and very little room on track to actually use it.

The addition of Jerez as an official winter test – to be held at the end of next week – makes this even more explicitly an engine test. If the factories bring an engine that is manageable at both Valencia and Jerez, they are in good shape for next season.

As an aside, going to Sepang rather than Jerez to test in the past couple of seasons may be one of the factors that led Yamaha down a blind alley with their engine. Sepang is hot, wide, and fast, sapping power and allowing a MotoGP bike to stretch its legs.

It is the kind of track that can hide an overly aggressive engine, which then can rear its ugly head when the season is underway, the engine spec is frozen, and it’s too late to fix the problem.

While the line up for the 2019 MotoGP season was settled surprisingly early in the year, the opposite has been the case for WorldSBK. With just two weeks to go to the first full test of 2019, there are still a whole range of seats open, and questions going unanswered.

One of the reasons for the delay became clear at the EICMA show in Milan last week. While the manufacturers were presenting their newest bikes, including some of the key machines that will star in World Superbikes next year, a couple of manufacturers also presented their racing programs for 2019.

Perhaps the biggest story came from Honda, where HRC presented Althea and Moriwaki as their new partners in running their WorldSBK program. After a partnership of three years, and a relationship going back nearly two decades, Ten Kate are out, with the Italians and Japanese taking over.

It wasn’t just Ten Kate: title sponsor Red Bull were also out. The energy drink firm had signed up when Nicky Hayden was with the team, a big name draw for sponsors, and a rider with a long connection to Red Bull.

It was Red Bull who brought in Jake Gagne, the American who never really found his feet in the WorldSBK championship. After two years of poor results, Red Bull withdrew.

Honda is making waves in the World Superbike paddock for next season, as HRC has pulled its support from the Ten Kate team, and is instead creating a factory team inside the garage of Althea and Moriwaki, who will jointly run the Red Bull Honda WorldSBK racing effort.

Contracted to HRC, Leon Camier will remain on the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 next season, and he will be joined by Ryuichi Kiyonari. Possessing the correct passport, this news means that the 2019 season will mark nearly a decade’s worth of time since Kiyonari last started a World Superbike race.

As we understand it, Althea Racing will run the logistics and hospitality of the new Honda WorldSBK team, while Moriwaki will handle what happens in the pit box and out on track.

Where this news leaves the Ten Kate team remains to be seen, though the championship is currently without representation from Suzuki, Aprilia, and MV Agusta – the latter making its plans to leave WorldSBK racing clear, earlier this year.

Stefan Bradl is to replace Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda at the next round of MotoGP at Sepang, this next race weekend. As HRC’s official test rider, Bradl was the easy choice to take the place of the injured Crutchlow.

Crutchlow was ruled out of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after a huge crash at Turn 1 during FP2 on Friday. His right leg took a beating in the fall, fracturing his ankle in three places.

Crutchlow was flown to Melbourne, where an external cage was placed on his ankle to fix the bones in place while the swelling subsides. Crutchlow is due for further surgery on Thursday to have the bones plated.

That rules Crutchlow out of the race at Sepang, and makes him doubtful for the Valencia race in three weeks’ time.

It had been widely rumored, and long expected, but KTM has finally confirmed that Dani Pedrosa will be a test rider for the Austrian factory for the next two seasons. Pedrosa will take on the role alongside current test rider Mika Kallio.

Rumors that Pedrosa would take on a testing role with KTM have been circulating for some time, ever since it became clear that Pedrosa would not be part of the Repsol Honda team.

The Spaniard had been linked to the Petronas Yamaha seat as well, but in the end, he felt that some of the joy had gone out of racing, and he didn’t feel he had the intensity to keep racing beyond the end of this year.

“The secret,” said Niki Lauda, “is to win going as slowly as possible.” That racing maxim, first recorded by legendary writer and broadcaster Clive James (and how did I miss that he wrote about F1 in the past?) is as true now as it was back in 1984, when Lauda stated it to a press conference in Portugal. And as true as in the early 1950s, when Juan Manuel Fangio may have first uttered it.

If you want to see that maxim in action, watch a MotoGP race in 2018. The action is often thrilling, usually tense, and always absorbing. Race after race, we see podiums separated by tenths of a second, not tens of seconds. The reason for that is simple.

The field is close in terms of rider talent and bike performance, and the Michelin tires can be applied in many different ways, except for one: if you try to take off and disappear at the front, you risk using up the best of your tires, and being caught in the latter stage of the race.

So MotoGP has become a chess game. A battle of minds, as much as machines, of brains as much as bodies. Riders pace around one another like wolves around a herd of caribou, watching out for any sign of weakness, waiting to pounce and destroy their prey. And sometimes, getting it wrong and suffering a severe kicking from their intended victims.