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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.

Ducati launched their 2019 MotoGP campaign at the Philip Morris R&D cube in Neuchâtel, Switzerland this evening.

The Mission Winnow Ducati team, as it is now called, consisting of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci were presented to the world on stage in Switzerland, in a new livery with a lot more red and a lot less white in it compared to previous years, in a throwback to the 2008 color scheme.

Like that color scheme, there is a link to Philip Morris once again, though this time, indirectly. But much more on that later.

In a tightly-scripted presentation, Ducati managed to let slip just enough information to make the presentation interesting, without giving too much away.

But, what they did let slip was enough to allow observers to read between the lines for an insight into the factory.

Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna spoke briefly about the bike for 2019, but more importantly, sketched a picture of how the team and the team’s two riders will function in much more of a partnership. This was in stark contrast to the combative atmosphere which prevailed when Ducati had both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo aiming to win the championship.

The objectives given at any team presentation are always the same: to try to win the championship, and win as many races as possible along the way. But for Ducati, those objectives are actually realistic.

Reigning champion Marc Márquez will start the season as strong favorite, but it is Andrea Dovizioso who has finished second in the MotoGP championship for the past two seasons, and pushed Márquez hardest.

“I was going to make it...or I wasn't,” was how King Kenny Roberts summed up one of his Grand Prix victories in the late seventies.

The three-time 500GP world champion knew the importance of momentum and psychology on a race track better than anyone, and knew that at times, riders need to take a win it or bin it mentality.

That mentality was at the front everyone's minds as they watched last weekend's Czech WorldSBK round, where the importance of coming out on top of an internal team battle bubbled under the surface.

On Saturday, Jonathan Rea claimed his 60th career victory, but on Sunday the tensions of four years at Kawasaki overflowed.

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The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond.

Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.

That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday.

While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall’Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season.

New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.

Andrea Dovizioso has spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to.

A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years” is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge.

Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. “The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years,” he said. “There are many riders who can win races. It wasn’t like this in the past.”

MotoGP team launches are always the triumph of hope over experience. Each year, the bosses of every factory in the series tell the media that their objective is to win races and fight for the championship. Sometimes, they even believe it.

At last year’s launch of the Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna said they hoped to be fighting for the championship. That, after all, is why they signed Jorge Lorenzo to what is reported to be a very lucrative contract.

The assembled press was skeptical, despite the clear progress that Ducati had made in the past couple of seasons, its first wins coming in 2016.

Such skepticism was unwarranted, though you get the distinct feeling that even Ducati was surprised at how close Andrea Dovizioso came to clinching the 2017 MotoGP title.

Ducati was delighted by the Italian’s first win at Mugello, amazed at his victory in Barcelona a week later, and impressed by the way he beat Marc Márquez at Austria.

By the end of the season, Ducati had come to expect to win races, and realized just how far they had come on their journey since the dark days of 2013, when they didn’t score a single podium all year.

So on Monday, when Dall’Igna echoed the words of Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali in Bologna, that Ducati’s objective was to win races and challenge for the championship in MotoGP, they were deadly serious.

There is no doubt that Ducati is capable of doing just that – Dovizioso’s results and Lorenzo’s improvement in 2017 demonstrate that – and though they are all too aware of the dangers of complacency, Ducati start the 2018 season with both a firm expectation and belief that they are candidates for the 2018 MotoGP title.

After the departure of both Shuhei Nakamoto and Livio Suppo from HRC and the Repsol Honda team, Honda has announced that it will be making Alberto Puig Team Manager of the Repsol Honda team. 

The appointment of Puig did not come as a surprise. Puig has a long and storied history with Honda, having raced for them in 500GPs, then moving on to a variety of management roles associated with Honda.

Puig was instrumental in the Movistar Cup, the series from which a vast array of talent came, including Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, Toni Elias, and much more.

He went on to become Dani Pedrosa’s personal manager, before moving on to run the Honda Asia Talent Cup and work with the British Talent Team in recent seasons. 

But this appointment also marks a break with recent history. Alberto Puig is a very different character to Livio Suppo, who he nominally replaces.

Another day, and another MotoGP team launch (there’s a bevy of launches over the next few days, if you didn’t already know). Today, it was Ducati Corse’s time to shine, with the Italian brand’s MotoGP team taking the stage in Bologna.

As was the case with the Yamaha MotoGP team launch, the bike on display was last year’s model, with new a livery. But, the event did give us our first chance to see Jorge Lorenzo in his new Ducati colors, and it was an opportunity to hear the 2015 World Champion talk about his new home at Ducati Corse.

Much of the launch focused on the collegial atmosphere inside Ducati Corse – an interesting topic to focus upon – with Lorenzo echoing the feeling of hope and progress, also talking extensively about the collaboration inside the MotoGP team.

The comments were interesting because of the contrast they present to the former teammates of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo. One thing is clear though, Ducati expects strong results for the 2017 season, and they are taking the matter very seriously.

As such, don’t expect to see the team’s new aerodynamic package until the first session of the Qatar GP. Until then, enjoy the bounty of high-resolution photos we have of the Ducati Desmosedici GP in its 2017 livery, after the jump.

Indian Motorcycles is getting into a flat track racing in a big way. We have already seen the American brand’s purpose-built race bike, the Indian Scout FTR750, which looks quite the business with its purpose-built 750cc v-twin race engine.

Now, we get word that Indian will have an all-star team of riders competing on the  Indian Scout FTR750, with Bryan Smith, Brad Baker, and Jared Mees lined up to be Indian’s new three-man “wrecking crew” on the race track.

As expected, Romano Fenati has been formally released from his contract with the Sky VR46 team. The Italian was suspended from the team after an incident at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. That was a temporary measure, but it has now been made permanent.

Fenati was released for behavioral issues. The Italian had been abusive towards members of the team, and had not behaved in a professional manner.

The incident in Austria was just the latest in a long line of breaches of behavioral conduct, which included confirmed reports of verbal abuse and unconfirmed and unsubstantiated reports of physical conflict.

Romano Fenati will not be on the starting grid at the Austrian round of MotoGP on Sunday. The Italian has been suspended by his team for “repeated behavior not in line with the disciplinary rules of a team.”

Though the team has not made a statement on the exact reason for suspending Fenati, there are reports of repeated bad behavior by Fenati in the team.

Motorsport states that Fenati became abusive towards his crew during qualifying at the Red Bull Ring, and this was the final straw.

It is hard to overstate just how important the relationship between a motorcycle racer and his crew chief is. A rider must have complete confidence that his crew chief both understands what he needs from a motorcycle to go fast, and is capable of giving it to him.

A crew chief must be able to interpret the sometimes confusing and mixed signals from his rider, filter out the non-essential information, identify priorities from that which will offer the greatest gains, and assign the work to the rest of the crew in the garage.

There has to be complete trust between the two, or neither rider nor bike will achieve their full potential.

This was made all too apparent when I interviewed Ecstar Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaro and his crew chief Tom O’Kane for a story I wrote recently for the Dutch publication MOTOR Magazine, due out later this month.

One part of the interview which did not make it into the magazine was the relationship between Espargaro and O’Kane, and how they first started working together. However, it is a story which offers a fascinating insight into how a rider and their crew chief work together.