“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.
Will we see a Ducati vs. Honda showdown at Motegi? After the first day of practice at the Japanese track, it looks like that is still on, though we lost one potential protagonist. Jorge Lorenzo went out to test how well his injured wrist would hold up, but found his wrist unwilling to play ball.
He did two out laps, but couldn’t cope with the immense strain that the braking zones at Motegi – the toughest on the calendar – put on him. After those two laps, Lorenzo decided to withdraw from the Japanese Grand Prix.
“Yesterday my feelings weren’t very positive and unfortunately today I had confirmation not only of the pain, but also that there was a serious risk of making the fracture worse,” he said afterwards.
“On hard braking I couldn’t push with my left wrist and I had a lot of pain in the left corners and especially in the change of direction. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t comfortable and I wasn’t safe, so there was no meaning to continue.”
Despite the loss of Lorenzo, Ducati are still in a very comfortable position, Andrea Dovizioso having finished the day as fastest, despite sitting out FP2.
The Italian wasn’t alone in that choice: Marc Márquez, Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro, and Jordi Torres all elected to skip the afternoon session, which started out damp, the track never really drying out fully by the end of the session, though half the field managed to squeeze in a couple of slow laps on slicks on a drying track at the end of the session.
MotoGP’s Asia-Pacific races tend to get lumped together in the popular imagination. They are “The Flyaways”, formerly three, now four races in parts East, a long way away from the homes of the vast majority of the paddock.
The triple header – Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang – is especially susceptible to this, as the three back-to-back races tend to leave the paddock in a state of constant befuddlement, fatigued from jet lag, and spending much of their time on 8+ hour flights between the various venues. Everything tends to become one big blur.
Yet there are vast differences between all four flyaways. Leaving the crushing heat of Thailand, the paddock heads east to Motegi, a track where conditions can be almost Northern European, with mist, rain, and cold mornings.
Across the equator to Australia, and the edge of the Bass Strait, from a massive circuit complex to an old-fashioned facility perched on a cliff above the sea, from stop and go to fast and flowing. Then north again to Malaysia, and more oppressive tropical heat.
Conditions, tracks, and cultures, all are different. Buriram lies in the heart of Thailand, a long way from the tourist-filled beaches. Motegi is up in the hills in central Japan, a place where the 21st Century meets a very traditional culture.
Phillip Island can be boiling hot or arctic cold, those two extremes often within 20 minutes of each other on what is essentially a vacation island. Sepang sits next to Kuala Lumpur, the epitome of a fast-growing Asian city, and a hodgepodge of cultures. The contrasts could hardly be greater.
BMW Motorrad will debut nine new motorcycles during this new bike season, and one of the machines we are expecting is the BMW G310RR supersport. Sharing a platform with the TVS Apache RR 310, this made in India small-displacement is built off the BMW G310R street bike, and hopes to take on the likes of the Honda CBR300R, Kawasaki Ninja 400, KTM RC390, etc.
Today, we bring you what could be the first photos of the 2019 BMW G310RR. First spotted by our friends at Oliepeil, the BMW G310RR on display at the BMW Motorrad Days in Japan is dripping in carbon fiber, has “G310RR” blast on its fairings, and is looking the part in its race bike form.
The Japanese automotive industry is being rocked by an emissions and fuel efficiency scandal right now, and it involves the Yamaha Motor Company motorcycle division as well.
All told, five of the eight automotive companies in Japan have been found incorrectly testing and reporting the emissions and fuel mileage of their vehicles.
The scandal started in 2016 with Mitsubishi, which lead to findings last year where Nissan and Subaru were found manipulating the results of their emission results. These findings then caused the Japanese government to require other automotive companies in Japan to check their testing operations.
Upon this internal review, Mazda and Suzuki found and reported that their cars had been improperly tested, with Yamaha finding similar results with its motorcycle standards testing.
In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation.
This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands.
Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike.
This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.
The winningest team in the FIM EWC – by a considerable amount – SERT struggled during the 2017/2018 season, finishing 6th overall in the championship. Surely as they sort out the new GSX-R1000R, SERT will once again be on top of the game.
In the hunt at Suzuka, it was the Yoshimura Suzuki team that was carrying the banner for Suzuki, finishing 10th – of note, behind the Suzuki team of S-Pulse Dream Racing – IAI, which finished 4th.
A man on a mission, Steve was able to get a bunch of shots of the Yoshimura Suzuki bike before it took to the track. You should check them out, and if you haven’t already, you should see his captures of the Suzuka race bikes from Red Bull Honda, Yamaha Factory Racing Team, and Kawasaki Team Green.
Perhaps the most important race to the Japanese manufacturers, the Suzuka 8-Hours is seeing a return to its former glory, with several manufacturers putting together truly factory teams.
The show covers this new dawn for the Suzuka 8-Hours race, as well as the action on the track, of which there was plenty. It may have been eight-hours long, but this was a proper sprint race, with only 30 seconds separating first and second place.
On the show we are also joined by Jonathan Rea and Michael Laverty, who shed a ton of insight into what it’s like riding the Suzuka Specials, the differences in tires at the Japanese track, and what it takes to win this iconic race. You won’t want to miss those conversations.
All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the Suzuka paddock.
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 race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race.
What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm.
As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.
The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race was the biggest effort that we have seen from Kawasaki, which enlisted the help of its future WorldSBK team (Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, and part of the KRT pit box), to join the Japanese engineers and All Japan Superbike rider Kazuma Watanabe.
Part of the effort involved honing the specially prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR race bike for the Suzuka 8-Hours, and this included a considerable amount of pre-event testing, with WorldSBK crew chief Pere Ribe overseeing the bike’s development.