It seems safe to say we are living in a new Golden Age of MotoGP. The stomach-churning tension of 2015 was followed by an unimaginably wild 2016 season, the racing turned on its head by the combination of Michelin’s first season back in MotoGP and the switch to fully spec Magneti Marelli electronics.
2017 saw the surprises keep on coming, with new and unexpected names such as Andrea Dovizioso and Johann Zarco becoming serious factors in the premier class. The field got deeper, the bikes more competitive, domination a thing of the past. All the signs are that this trend is going to continue in 2018.
Preseason testing has shown that there is now little to choose between four or maybe five of the six different manufacturers on the grid, while the sixth is not that far off being competitive as well.
Where we once regarded having four riders capable of winning a race as a luxury, now there ten or more potential winners lining up on a Sunday. This is going to be another thrilling season, with the title likely to go down to the wire once again.
The sad fact is, you likely won’t ever ride a MotoGP bike in your lifetime. Even the best of us, those who become professional motorcycle racers, have such a slim chance of riding these ultralight fire-breathing race bikes, which make north of 250hp.
When you start doing the math on the number of people who have ridden a MotoGP machine, the number is certainly less than the number of people who have been into space (533 have reached Earth’s orbit, by our last count), and this is fairly remarkable.
So with that woeful fact in mind, today we bring you an experience that is likely the closest you will get to riding a MotoGP bike, courtesy of some basic VR technology.
The 2018 team liveries continue to debut, and this weekend the ECSTAR Suzuki squad took the wraps off its design for the Suzuki GSX-RR…which looks pretty much like the old one.
As we have seen from Yamaha and Ducati, these unveils are now becoming less about showing off the new machines for the upcoming season, and instead are becoming more of a PR exercise to get attention for their sponsors – with little substance offered for the affair, we might add.
That being said, we can catch a couple interesting glimpses from Suzuki’s photos, as the MotoGP team focuses on evolving its 2017 racing platform.
Of note is that ECSTAR Suzuki has seemingly acquired the carbon fiber fork tubes from Öhlins, which Ducati was last year with positive results. It also seems that the tail fairing design is longer than last year’s, likely to aid aerodynamics. Can you spot other changes as well?
With Andrea Iannone seemingly showing a renewed commitment to the team, and Alex Rins finally in good health, Suzuki is looking to build upon its otherwise unremarkable 2017 MotoGP season.
Can the Suzuki GSX-RR fight for races in 2018, though? That remains to be seen.
If you watched the Japanese GP this weekend, then you have already seen that the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has updated its aerodynamic package for the season, adding a more radical design to the Suzuki GSX-RR, in the pursuit of better lap times. The new aeros take some visual inspiration from what we have already seen from Ducati Corse, adding a complex shape that mimics a winglet design, while staying within the letter of the law of MotoGP’s current winglet ban. Unlike some of the designs that we have seen, namely the ones from Honda and Ducati, Suzuki’s doesn’t appear to have the capacity for modular changes – that is to say, the aerodynamic package doesn’t appear to be adjustable for different conditions.
It is not often that journalists get to speak to team managers at length, but test days provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. So it was that a small group of journalists attending the tests sat down with Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio to discuss progress so far.
There was a lot to talk about. There have been rumors that Andrea Iannone is not fitting in well with the ECSTAR Suzuki team, and is currently engaged in talks with Aprilia about moving there for the 2018 season. Some of Iannone’s issues are down to his problem adapting to the bike, and trying to fix his feeling with the front end.
Brivio spoke to us about Iannone’s situation, and the development of the GSX-RR. He also talked about the benefits of a satellite team, what Suzuki is doing to improve the spec electronics package, the test program at Barcelona, and the return of Alex Rins for the test.
It was a long discussion, but there was plenty to go over. We think you will enjoy it.
The ECSTAR Suzuki squad rolled on the track day with its new aerodynamics package on full display, showing how the Japanese manufacturer was going to cope with the ban on winglets on its GSX-RR race bike. Like the solutions we have seen thus far from other manufacturers, Suzuki is using vanes that are covered by an external fairing to channel the airflow and create downforce. The solution is a clever adaptation to the MotoGP rulebook, and solutions like Suzuki’s should allow for teams to to tune their aerodynamics package during the season, without running a foul of the homologated fairing rule. As my colleague David Emmett pointed out, the design should carryover to future street bikes, where we would expect the 2018 Ducati V4 superbike to be the first model to show such advances
Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.
In a few hours time, the grandstands at the Sepang International Circuit will echo with the booming assault of MotoGP machines being pushed to their limits. The entire MotoGP grid has assembled for the first test of the preseason, meaning that the 2017 MotoGP season is about to get underway, at last.
That, at least, is the plan. The reality is that the grandstands may echo only to the sporadic rasp of a MotoGP bike being warmed up, and the occasional intrepid test rider being sent out to test conditions.
The resurfaced Sepang continues to be plagued by drainage problems, water remaining on the track for a long time. In high humidity, relatively low track temperatures and without the burning tropical sun, the water left by unusually heavy rains is not evaporating.
Parts of the track remain wet all day, making it impossible to push the bikes to the limit, and very risky to try.
Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio expressed the concerns shared by most teams.
“You never know how many hours you can test, because the track remains wet for a long time. And if it rains a lot in the evening, maybe you have to wait a long time in the morning. So it’s a little bit of a question mark now, how much you can test.”
If there is such a thing as a Honda track, then the Sachsenring is surely it. Of the nineteen premier class races held at the tight, tortuous circuit, Honda have won twelve.
That includes the last six races in a row: From 2010 through 2012, nobody could touch Dani Pedrosa around the circuit. From 2013 onwards, Marc Márquez has been unbeatable at the track.
What makes the Sachsenring such a Honda track? Maybe it’s the two key braking points at the circuit, going into Turn 1, and at the bottom of the hill for Turn 12.
Maybe it’s the ability to use the Honda horsepower going up the hill out of the final corner, across the line and into Turn 1. Or maybe it’s the tight corners, the Honda always a strong bike in turning.
The Sachsenring circuit is invariably described in disparaging terms – “Mickey Mouse”, “a go-kart track” – but that does not do the track justice. It may not challenge the bikes in terms of horsepower, but it demands an awful lot of the riders.
From the moment they arrive at the end of the short, uphill front straight, brake hard for the sharp right-hander of Turn 1, and pitch it into the corner, the bike barely leaves the edge of the tire until the plunge down the Waterfall after Turn 11.
There is a brief moment of respite between Turns 7 and 8, before heeling the bike over again for another series of lefts going up the hill to the circuit’s crowning glory.
After the MotoGP round in Austin, the Paddock Pass Podcast crew (including yours truly) stayed for Suzuki’s private test at COTA, and recorded the latest episode of the show. For bonus points, Episode 23 comes with the tonal sounds of the Suzuki GSX-RR’s crossplane inline-four engine, in the background.
A lengthy show, we discuss the tire debacle in Argentina, starting with the weekend’s constantly changing schedule, the inclusion of the “safety tire” to the program, and the aftermath of all that.
We then turn our attention to the on-track action in Texas, which saw a number of riders hitting the asphalt, as they continue to learn the new Michelins. We finish the talk with some silly season speculation, some of which has already come true, and a look at the Moto2 and Moto3 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!
May you live in interesting times, runs an apocryphal Chinese curse. The first Grand Prix of 2016 certainly provided us with plenty of events which might be termed interesting, in both the common sense of the word and the apocryphal curse.
The three races at Qatar were thrilling, tense, intriguing, and mind-bogglingly bizarre.
It is hard to know where to start. The first race of the day proved to be the most conventional, Moto3 serving up its usual treat.
A very strong group of eight riders, including all of the championship favorites bar Fabio Quartararo, battled all race long for victory, Niccolo Antonelli finally coming out on top by just 0.007 seconds, beating Brad Binder into second.