KTM has exercised the option it held over Miguel Oliveira’s contract, extending it for the second year, according to German-language website Speedweek. The Portuguese rider will now race for the satellite Red Bull KTM Tech3 for the 2019 and 2020 seasons at least.
That KTM should decide to sign Oliveira up early is hardly surprising. The Portuguese rider has been quietly impressive since moving up to MotoGP. He rode well in the first half of the season opener at Qatar, before burning up his tires and dropping down to finish seventeenth.
But he learned quickly, and put on an outstanding display in Argentina, just losing out in the battle for ninth from Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia and brother Pol Espargaro on the factory KTM. In Austin, he finished shortly behind the other factory KTM of Johann Zarco, whom Oliveira has frequently outperformed this year.
The MotoGP riders are just two weeks into their shiny new contracts, but already, there is talk of what happens next.
In Italy, there is a discussion of who gets the factory Ducati seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso in 2020. In Spain, they are looking ahead to 2021, and the option of KTM offering Marc Márquez a contract.
There have been some major shake ups on the WorldSBK grid for 2019, leaving some big-name riders without a ride. Today, one of those big names found a home.
The Go Eleven Team announced they had signed Eugene Laverty to race a Ducati Panigale V4 R in the WorldSBK championship for the 2019 season.
“I’m delighted to join Team Go Eleven to ride the new Ducati Panigale V4 R in 2019! The past five weeks has been a stressful period so it’s great to secure a competitive seat in the end,” said Laverty.
As we expected, the GRT Yamaha squad is moving out of the World Supersport Championship, and into the World Superbike Championship for the 2019 season.
Riding for the GRT Yamaha squad is not who we expected however, though it will be two big names in the sport: former world champions Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese.
Melandri makes the defection from Ducati, where he was reportedly paying for his ride, to Yamaha. He hopes to best his fifth place in the 2018 championship standings. Meanwhile, Cortese comes into the World Superbike racing having just won the World Supersport Championship title.
Factory-backed in World Supersport last year, the GRT Yamaha team will keeps its factory status next year as well, which leaves Yamaha with four factory-backed YZF-R1 racing machines on the grid in 2019.
“When the music stops you need to grab a seat,” is a kids game, but in the grown-up business of the paddock, it is still just as relevant as if you were at a birthday party.
Unfortunately for Eugene Laverty, he’s been left as one of the last riders chasing a seat for 2019, and with Marco Melandri, Loris Baz, Jordi Torres, and Xavi Fores all also running in circles, the clock is ticking until the music stops for good.
Having thought that he’d be sticking with Shaun Muir Racing for next year, as the team switches to BMW machinery, the Irishman now finds himself on the outside looking in. From feeling secure that he would have a good ride for 2019, he suddenly finds himself staring at limited opportunities.
Our Paddock Pass Podcast colleague Neil Morrison is reporting on Crash.net that Tom Sykes has signed with the Shaun Muir Racing team for the 2019 World Superbike season, and that the team is set to switch machinery from Aprilia to BMW.
Markus Reiterberger will join Sykes on the factory-backed BMW team, as he has the correct passport to appease the German brand.
Of course, all of this came as a surprise to Eugene Laverty, who talked about his surprise at the news, which is set to be announced at next week’s EICMA show in Milan.
The LCR Honda team today announced that they have agreed to extend their contract with Takaaki Nakagami through the 2019 season.
The Japanese rider will continue to race a satellite-spec Honda RC213V with the Idemitsu-backed part of the Italian team alongside Cal Crutchlow.
The 2019 MotoGP grid is now as good as complete. Today, the Reale Avintia squad announced they have signed a two-year contract with Karel Abraham which will see him racing a Ducati for the team for the next two seasons.
The announcement had been widely expected. Xavier Simeon has not lived up to expectations and failed to adapt to MotoGP, and Avintia were looking for a replacement. Abraham had been left without a team after the Aspar / Angel Nieto Team passed their grid slots to the Petronas Yamaha team, which had already signed riders for the coming season. Abraham needed a team, and Avintia needed a rider who could bring money, to replace the money lost when Simeon departed.
Ever since MV Agusta announced that it was going to return to the Grand Prix paddock with a Moto2 team, the question has been who would ride the Italian squad’s Moto2 machine, dubbed the MV Agusta F2.
Today, we have that answer, as Romano Fenati has been named as one of two MV Agusta Reparto Corse riders.
The signing of Fenati is an interesting move by Forward Racing and MV Agusta, as the Italian rider has struggled this season in Moto2 (his first season in the intermediate class), and comes with some tumultuous baggage from his Moto3 days.
Still, the raw talent of Fenati is widely hailed, and with the right machinery and the right team environment, that talent can be honed and matured.
Step aside Marco Melandri, because Alvaro Bautista just stole your seat in the factory Ducati World Superbike team. Announcing his signing today at the British GP, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will have Bautista within its ranks for the year.
Additionally, Chaz Davies has signed up again to be on the Ducati Corse squad, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the paddock.
Both Davies and Bautista will ride on the new Ducati Panigale V4 superbike, which will make its first proper racing debut in the 1,000cc format next year.
The street model for this machine has yet to be seen, though we have caught glimpses of the test mule for the race bike making laps around various circuits – and it has shown astonishing speed in the process.
Cal Crutchlow has added an extra year onto his contract with HRC to race in the LCR Honda team for the 2020 season.
This means the Englishman will be remaining at the LCR Honda team for the next two years, bringing him into line with almost the whole of the rest of the MotoGP grid.
At the end of the 2020 season, Crutchlow will be involved in the next wave of contract madness, with all factory seats (with the possible exception of one Ducati seat), falling open at the same time.
Crutchlow’s announcement will not be the only one to take place today. Alvaro Bautista is scheduled to be in the Thursday press conference at Silverstone, where he is expected to announce he has signed for the Aruba.it Ducati team in WorldSBK.