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If you looked very carefully at the Repsol Honda 2019 livery, you could see a difference. A touch more black under the tail. A dash more white on the tank, and a different line here and there. But other than a large sticker celebrating 25 years of collaboration between Repsol and HRC, the differences were almost impossible to see.

And why should they change? In the previous 24 seasons together, Repsol and Honda have won the premier class championship 14 times, a strike rate of nearly 60%. Marc Márquez, Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Nicky Hayden, and Alex Crivillé have all become world champions wearing Repsol colors.

Repsol Honda riders have a combined 168 wins, 427 podiums, and 177 poles between them. So why ditch that in pursuit of novelty? The Repsol livery is proven, and it is timeless. And so it stays as it was, no matter how much the crowd bays for change.

There was much talk of this long shared history at the Repsol Honda team launch in Madrid. Mick Doohan and Alex Crivillé were present, standing alongside Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo on the stage, a conscious callback to an era when the Repsol Honda team dominated the 500cc era, and two riders won almost every race they started.

There was much talk of a “Dream Team”, both in reference to the 500cc pairing of the late 1990s, and to the two men who will race in MotoGP in 2019.

Episode 90 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see David Emmett, Neil Morrison, and Steve English on the mics, as we look towards the 2019 racing season, as well as look back on the big moments of 2018.

The show is short in duration, and the guys’ conversation give us a jumping-off point for the upcoming racing seasons in both the MotoGP and WorldSBK classes.

With the winter doldrums though, we don’t think you will mind a little racing talk in your earbuds, and don’t worry, the Paddock Pass Podcast is now gearing up to bring you more news from the preseason tests, team launches, and first paddock gossip as it comes to us.

First it was Ducati Corse in Switzerland, and now it is Repsol Honda in Madrid, as the factory-backed MotoGP team debuted its 2019 team and livery. The bikes look the same, the goal hasn’t changed, but the big news from Sepang was seeing Jorge Lorenzo in Repsol orange.

Lorenzo was wrapped in bandages of course, still fresh from the surgery on his left scaphoid, which he broke while training. This meant his leathers had to be cut along the left arm so he could get in and out of them, and it will also delay some of the press photos of the 2019 Honda RC213V race bike.

As far as debuts go, that is not a great start, but it will have little effect on perhaps the biggest shakeup in the MotoGP paddock over the past few seasons.

Just days before the Repsol Honda team launch in Madrid on Wednesday, Jorge Lorenzo has suffered a wrist injury. The Spaniard fractured his left scaphoid in a training accident while riding dirt track.

Lorenzo underwent examinations in Italy and Spain, and is due to undergo surgery in Barcelona on Monday, with Dr. Mir set to operate.

The accident occurred in Italy on Saturday afternoon, and became public when Lorenzo turned up at the Clinica Pederzoli in Peschiera del Garda, in the southeast corner of Lake Garda in Italy.

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:

On Saturday 15th December, Barcelona-based daily newspaper La Vanguardia published a lengthy interview with Alberto Puig.

That is in itself mildly surprising: despite being team manager of the Repsol Honda squad, Puig has little time for the media, and little interest in speaking to them.

What is even more surprising is that it is a truly insightful and fascinating interview, revealing a lot about how Puig views running a MotoGP team, and what makes Marc Márquez tick.

So it is a shame that the discussion the interview has generated has centered around two of the briefest subjects Puig mentioned: his views of Dani Pedrosa, whom Puig thought had not been fully committed in recent years, and his thoughts on Valentino Rossi, whom he believed had seen his moment pass.

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.

The post-season test at Valencia is underway for the MotoGP Championship right now, giving us a hint at what to expect for the 2019 season.

The event is like a first date, with riders often getting their first laps on new machines, many of who are doing so with their new team as well.

This is also our chance to get to see some of the developments that teams have been working on for the next season, with the black fairings of test bikes hiding unknown technical secrets.

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.

One of the best ways of avoiding disappointments is to lower your expectations. Set the bar low enough, and it becomes almost impossible for reality slip below it.

That has been the strategy adopted by Maverick Viñales recently, and with good reason: Yamaha’s run of form recently has been pretty dismal.

No podiums for four races, their longest run off the box since 2007. No victory for 23 straight races, the worst losing streak in their entire history in the premier class.

“I feel more positive about myself, but the expectations are the same,” Viñales said on Thursday. “I have zero expectations. I want to just enjoy riding and see if we can take something positive from this weekend.” It was a message which he repeated on Friday. “As I said, I don’t want to make any expectations. I just want to go riding, enjoy.”

There had been plenty for Viñales to enjoy. The Movistar Yamaha rider’s expectations may have been set low, but he far exceeded them. In the morning, Viñales was fastest, with his teammate Valentino Rossi in second.

In the afternoon, Viñales missed out on the top spot by three hundredths of a second, but Andrea Dovizioso only beat Viñales by putting on a fresh set of soft tires. Viñales had been circulating on hard tires, and lapping consistently in the low 1’31s.