Ride in Peace, William Dunlop

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of William Dunlop, who passed away today at the Skerries 100 in Ireland. Crashing near the Sam’s Tunnel section of the road racing course, Dunlop succumb to the injuries he sustained during Saturday’s open practice session. He was 32 years of age. A veteran racer and a member of road racing’s most storied family, William Dunlop was brother to Michael Dunlop, nephew to the legendary Joey Dunlop, and son to Robert Dunlop – all four Dunlops making their mark at a number of road racing events. A six-time podium finisher at the Isle of Man TT, and a race-winner at both the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, William Dunlop was a road racing favorite, with many pegging the 2018 season as possibly his last before retiring.

WorldSBK Team Confirms New BMW S1000RR for 2019

I wouldn’t call it the worst-kept secret in the motorcycle industry right now, but the fact that BMW is bringing a new S1000RR to market for the 2019 model year isn’t exactly new information. In fact, we thought that we would see the new RR break cover last year, as spy photos of the machine showed it out testing, and looking close to production form. A no-show at EICMA however, the timetable on expecting the S1000RR had to be adjusted. Now, we get confirmation of what we already expected, with Althea Racing’s bossman Genesio Bevilacqua confirming the new BMW S1000RR for the 2019 season in an interview with GPOne. Speaking with the racing-focused publication, Bevilacqua confides that BMW’s delivery of the new BMW S1000RR will come very close to the start of the 2019 season.

MotoGP Closes Two Crucial Loopholes in Its Rulebook

Heads up GP fans, as the MotoGP Championship is set to close two crucial loopholes in its rulebook for the 2019 season, which the Grand Prix Commission says in its press release are needed in order to keep the sport within the spirit of the rules. The first loophole blandly affects the spec-ECU and its CAN protocol and connection, which is fairly innocuous until you read between the lines of it, while the second concerns the regulation of aerodynamic bodywork, which should be more obvious to regular MotoGP fans.If you will allow us to Tarantino these two rulebook changes, the MotoGP Championship will impose more regulation on aerodynamic bodywork, namely it will remove the loophole that allows manufacturers to change the internal structure of their don’t-call-them-winglets.

Rumors of a New Aprilia RSV4 Begin

This is the 10th year of the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, and despite that duration, the V4 superbike remains one of the top machines that you can stick in your garage. Part of this is due to the fact that the RSV4 is an incredibly well-engineered high-tech motorcycle. After all, it was the first superbike to use an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in conjunction with traction control, and one of the first superbikes to have a ride-by-wire throttle. The other part of Aprilia’s dominance comes down to the fact that the Italian brand has consistently updated the RSV4 every couple of years, helping keep it at the sharp end of the superbike stick. Now if you believe the rumors, the 2019 model year will be no different.

Cameron Beaubier Headed to WorldSBK for 2019?

When you talk to veterans of motorcycle racing about which American could be the next champion at the international level of the sport, one name is almost always included in that very short list: Cameron Beaubier. This is not only because of Beaubier’s status as a two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion, but also his experience abroad. A promising young rider, Beaubier impressed during the 2007 Red Bull Rookies Cup season, which found him some riders on the international stage before returning to the USA. Now a proven talent on domestic soil, along with his experience abroad, Beaubier is an easy pick to make when looking for Americans to promote to a paddock like the WorldSBK Championship. And now that is exactly the case, with the Cameron Beaubier tipped for ride in World Superbike next season.

More Details on the KTM 790 Adventure R Emerge

The KTM 790 Duke hasn’t even made it to American soil yet — though, it strangely can race in the production middleweight class at Pikes Peak… — and we are already talking about its off-roading sibling, the KTM 790 Adventure R. Built around the same 799cc parallel-twin engine found in the Duke model, the Adventure variant takes things to a whole new level for ADV riders. Promising light weight, plenty of off-road power, and Dakar-inspired chassis components, this should be the adventure-tourer that dual-sport riders have been asking for. With the production version of the KTM 790 Adventure R set to debut later this year at the annual industry trade shows, most of our appetite has been sustained by the prototype bike, which has been making the marketing rounds.

Tom Sykes, Where Will You Be Racing Next Year?

With Jonathan Rea’s future firmly set at the Kawasaki Racing Team, the focus this past weekend at Laguna Seca was on the future of his teammate, Tom Sykes. The Yorkshire man had spared few words in the media for his team and teammate in the days ahead of the California round, and he certainly wasn’t holding too much back once he was at Laguna Seca. You could almost smell the smoke emanating from Sykes, a result of the bridge that was being burned behind him. Sykes is 99.9% not riding with Kawasaki for the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, and he finds himself as one of the top picks in the paddock in the rider market. Chaz Davies is another top rider who is highly sought after in the paddock, and he is likely to remain at Ducati.

Moto2 Builders Out Testing the Triumph Triple

The 2019 Moto2 Championship is rapidly approaching, and next year’s season sees the introduction of a new spec-engine platform. Using a 765cc three-cylinder engine from Triumph, Moto2 competitors have begun testing their new chassis designs for the British triple. Out in Aragon, we get our first glimpse of the front-running race bike providers: Kalex, KTM, and NTS, as well as Triumph’s own test mule, which uses a Daytona 675 chassis. Shaking down their machines ahead of the start of next season, bike manufacturers focused on learning the new race engine and its accompanying spec-ECU. The Kalex was ridden by Moto2 racer Alex Marquez and test rider Jesko Raffin; on the KTM was Julian Simon and test rider Ricky Cardús; and on the NTS was Moto2/MotoGP veteran Alex de Angelis.

Polaris Moving Production to Europe Because of Tariffs?

President Trump’s trade war is about to see another player in the motorcycle industry jump ship from American soil, and this time it is heavyweight Polaris Industries. According to a report by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Polaris is considering moving some of its production capacity to Europe, eyeing a production facility in Poland that would build units for the European market. The move is a direct response to the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union on motorcycle imports, which itself was a response to the Trump Administration’s taxing of steel and aluminum imports.

Here’s Why Suzuki’s New Factory Is Such a Big Deal

One of the more overlooked announcements this week is perhaps one of the bigger ones we have seen in a while, as Suzuki Motor Corp has announced the creation of a new manufacturing plant in Hamamatsu, Japan. The new factory combines engineering, development, engine production, and vehicle assembly into one location, which will streamline operations, increase efficiency, and reduce production costs on Suzuki’s Japanese-made motorcycle models. Over 40 acres in size, the new factory is massive, and it sits in the Miyakoda district of Hamamatsu. Part of a five-year consolidation plan, the new factory replaces an engineering and development facility in Ryuyo; an engine production plant in Takatsuka; and a motorcycle assembly line in Toyokawa.

It is a truism in MotoGP that though they hand out the trophies on Sunday, the race is often won on Friday and Saturday. Practice is when riders and teams can find the setup tweaks they need to go faster, evaluate tire choices, and plan a strategy.

Which tires offer the most potential? Which area of the track can we gain most while sacrificing the least in other points? Is there more to be gained by pushing hard early and trying to manage, or by being patient in the first half of the race, hoping to have an advantage in the second half?

The wide range of tires offered by Michelin make practice even more important. Michelin’s remit from Dorna is to produce three front tires and three rear tires that can all be used during the race.

That requires a certain amount of compromise: labeling tires soft, medium, and hard does not mean that Michelin make three tires with an equal step in between the three different tires. It is more like an indicator of how well the French tire make expects each tire to cope with the heat and stress of a race, and the trade off in terms of grip.

So a soft and a medium tire may use the same rubber on one side of the tire, or on opposite sides of the tire. Or they may use the same compounds with a stiffer carcass, to reduce flex and therefore the amount of heat being generated.

Understanding how all these factors work together, and what that will mean for the race, is what the teams spend their time doing in practice. The team and rider that does this best on Friday and Saturday gets to spend Sunday evening celebrating their victory during the race. If all goes to plan, of course.

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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.

Instead, Lorenzo has signed a two-year deal with HRC to partner Marc Márquez. The announcement was originally due at Barcelona, but the publication by La Gazzetta forced Honda to make a hasty and brief announcement..

The Petronas rumors had plenty of fire to provide the smoke. In an interview with Crash.net, Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato’ Razlan Razali openly discussed the possibility of running Yamahas with Lorenzo and Franco Morbidelli.

Everyone I spoke to – including other team managers, rider managers, riders, journalists – believed that Jorge Lorenzo would be riding a Yamaha in 2019.

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At the beginning of the year, I predicted on MotoMatters that MotoGP’s Silly Season this year would change the face of the MotoGP grid beyond recognition.

The revolution I predicted looks like it is coming to pass, but as with every prediction, the changes happening are beyond even what I had expected.

Young talent is coming into the series – Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira – big names are changing bikes – Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone – and a couple of major names face being left without a ride altogether.

A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks. Contracts have been signed with Andrea Dovizioso, Johann Zarco, Aleix Espargaro, Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, and Pol Espargaro, adding to the contracts signed earlier in the year with Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Marc Marquez, and Pecco Bagnaia.

With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon already having a contract, there are thirteen seats officially taken for next year. Ducati have an option on Jack Miller – and look certain to exercise it – making it fourteen riders in a strong position.

And Taka Nakagami looks very likely to keep his seat at LCR Honda.

But the big news is what happens at Suzuki, Ducati, and Repsol Honda. Rumors that Joan Mir would sign for Suzuki grew very strong at Le Mans, as I wrote on Friday, and now appear to be taking shape.

The reliable Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles is reporting in sports daily AS that Joan Mir has signed a two-year deal with Suzuki, which will see him line up alongside Alex Rins for the next two years.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #73 – French GP

05/22/2018 @ 11:41 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 73 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is uploaded and ready for your consumption.

Covering the French GP in Le Mans, this episode sees Steve English and Neil Morrison on the mics, talking about all the news from the MotoGP round in France, as well as what is happening in the WorldSBK paddock.

An eventful race for the MotoGP Championship lead, the guys talk about the on-track action briefly, before switching gears and looking ahead to 2019. There are a lot of lucrative seats up for grabs next season, and the very real possibility that we could see Pedrosa and/or Lorenzo without a job.

Discussing those possibilities, and the rest of the rider market, the MotoGP Silly Season is truly in full-swing.

Switching paddocks, the conversation then turns to the WorldSBK Championship, and what contracts are on the tables there. Could Jonathan Rea switch to Ducati? Sykes to Yamaha? What about the Ducati Corse team.

There is some enticing smoke coming from the World Superbike teams, so it will interesting to see what fire comes of it.

Of course the show ends with the guys picking their biggest winners and losers from the weekend’s events, which isn’t as obvious this week as one would think.

We think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

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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Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking.

In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways.

In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa’s brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden’s championship challenge was over.

Valentino Rossi’s heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time.

Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia.

The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship.

And Sunday’s drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn’t finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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There was good news and bad news for the MotoGP paddock after the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas.

The good news is that the work done to the track to try to remove the bumps had not made the track much more abrasive, as some had feared. Tires are wearing normally, so pit stops or worse will not be needed.

The bad news is that the work done to try to remove the bumps has not done anything to remove the bumps. It has moved them about a little, improved them in some places, made them worse in others, but the net effect has been zero, or worse than zero.

What’s worse, the process used has generated a huge amount of dust, bikes coming down the back straight billowing clouds of dust in their wake.

“It’s worse than Qatar,” Jack Miller said. “I said to the guys, ‘I hope you’ve got the air filter in from Qatar, because you’re going to need it’.”

At the first race of the season, the teams have to run a special air filter to prevent the desert dust from entering the engine and causing excessive wear. “The dust is far worse than Qatar, it’s that crappy concrete dust,” Miller explained.

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The announcement that the official MotoGP.com website were to stream the Thursday media debriefs of Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi live raised some hackles in the paddock. The objections to the move differed with the interests of those complaining.

The print media complained that there was no point in flying half the way around the world to cover the series if everything was going to be streamed live anyway. Rival factories complained that the media debriefs of their riders were not being streamed live.

Some fans and journalists complained that by showing the debriefs, Dorna were merely fanning the flames, where they should be trying to calm the situation down.

In the end, there wasn’t much of a situation to calm down. Sure, the media debriefs of Márquez and Rossi were streamed live. But both men went out of their way not to say anything of interest.

The feud lives on, but we didn’t notice because we lost interest in what the protagonists were saying about halfway through. There is much to be said for trite media speak.

To an extent, this is probably a good thing. Aleix Espargaro, whose media debrief really should have been streamed live, as it was a great deal more entertaining than all the other rider press conferences put together, pointed out the irony of the situation.

“Everybody is talking about the Argentina clash and nobody is talking about the tarmac of America, which is more important!” the factory Aprilia rider complained.

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On Saturday after qualifying, I wrote about how one of motorcycle racing’s defining characteristics is its unpredictability. That was written in response to a thrilling qualifying session that saw Jack Miller take pole by rolling the dice on slicks on a drying track, and outperforming everyone else.

The rest of the grid had been pretty unpredictable too: Tito Rabat in fourth on the Reale Avintia Ducati GP17. Marc Márquez, the man who had been fastest by a country mile all weekend, only starting in sixth. Three first-time pole sitters in the three Grand Prix classes. Saturday at Argentina defied expectations.

Sunday at the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit made Saturday look positively straight-laced. Wild doesn’t even begin to cover the events on race day. There were Moto3 riders gambling on slicks on a track with just a very narrow dry line.

There were new names and fresh faces at the front of the Moto2 race, a thriller that went down to the wire. But when MotoGP came around, even those events were made to look positively mundane.

So much happened that it will take several days to digest, let alone do justice to in writing. There were so many facets to this race that I will need more than one report to deconstruct it all. For now, we will start at the beginning, and work our way forwards from there.

It all begins with the weather. Heavy rain all night, followed by the track drying out through the course of the Moto3 and Moto2 races left the track in a difficult condition.

The Moto2 bikes and their fat Dunlop rubber had at least cleared out a dry line around most of the track, but it was not very wide in places, and there was water crossing the track. Then a light rain started to fall as the riders prepared to leave pit lane, making them choose wets instead of slicks.

All except Jack Miller, that is, who rolled the dice on slicks once again, determined to seize an advantage wherever he could find it.

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How Far Can Talent Take You?

04/08/2018 @ 1:45 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

God-given ability can be a crutch or curse depending on the mindset of an athlete. Talent can take you all the way to the top, but eventually you'll face a challenge that can only be overcome through hard work.

Lessons need to be learned along the way to ensure success, and only a handful of riders ever make it to MotoGP on their talent alone.

Most riders marry talent with dedication at an early age in the Grand Prix paddock, and some have had to learn those lessons at a very young age. Vince Lombardi once said that “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

In any sport, to get to the very top you need dedication as well as raw talent, but how far can natural ability get you in motorcycle racing? We set out to answer that question at the recent Qatar Grand Prix.

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