Bradley Smith has finally found a home for the 2019 MotoGP season, taking on the role of Aprilia Racing’s test rider.
In the final part of our series on test riders, (see also Part 1, with Mike Leitner, Part 2, with Davide Brivio, and Part 3, with Davide Tardozzi) an interview with Michele Pirro, Ducati’s workhorse and arguably the rider responsible for taking the concept of a test rider to a higher level.
Pirro’s path to Ducati ran through the CRT bikes, spending a year on a Honda-powered FTR bike with the San Carlo Gresini team in 2012, after graduating from Moto2.
In 2013, he was hired by Ducati to work as a test rider under Bernhard Gobmeier, who was brought in as head of Ducati Corse, after the Italian factory had been bought by Audi.
A year later, when Gigi Dall’Igna took over as Ducati Corse boss, Pirro was given even more responsibility in helping to turn the program around, which had lost its way in the years after Casey Stoner left Borgo Panigale.
Since then, Pirro has been charged with pushing forward the development of the bike. Pirro’s speed has been key to helping the Desmosedici improve, the Italian consistently capable of running in or around the top ten.
His best finish last year came at Misano, where he crossed the line in fifth, equaling his best result in MotoGP. Wildcards are just one way in which Pirro remains fast, he also races in the Italian CIV championship, which he wins with relative ease.
But his dream remains to return to MotoGP, and to have a shot at proving he is not just a great test rider, but a great MotoGP racer.
Andrea Dovizioso, who came to Ducati at the same time as Pirro, is clear about his importance as a test rider. “His work about test the rider is amazing, because he’s able to make a similar lap time, so we are very lucky to be in this condition. He is testing a lot.”
I spoke to Pirro at the 2018 Sepang test, on a day he was not testing the GP18. Pirro was very open about his aims and goals, and also about the process that had brought him to where he is today, and about the development he has engaged in for Ducati.
Jonas Folger has been forced to pull out of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, and may be absent for the remainder of the overseas triple-header as well.
The German has been taken ill with what could potentially be a recurrence of the Epstein-Bar Virus, which he suffered from previously. Japanese test rider Kohta Nozane is to replace him in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team for the Motegi round at least.
Folger took ill on his travels to Japan, suffering from a complete lack of energy, forcing him to miss a number of official Yamaha events. He had hoped that some rest would mean he was strong enough to race at Motegi, but rest has not helped.
After months of speculation of an impending rider change at KTM, the Austrian factory has issued a press release clarifying its 2018 line up in MotoGP.
The KTM factory team will continue with both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith as their contracted race riders, while Mika Kallio remains contracted as a test rider.
The move will be welcomed inside the team, restoring stability and removing the uncertainty which had surrounded Bradley Smith and his future as a factory rider.
The Englishman had struggled badly to be competitive in the first part of the season, while his teammate Espargaro seemed to go from strength to strength.
Two months ago, we showed you Indian’s very purpose-built v-twin engine, which the American company would use to go flat track racing. Today, we can show you the completed machine, the Indian Scout FTR750.
Back the to the Indian Scout FTR750 though, the bike features an all-new high-reving race-built v-twin engine. The chassis is a bespoke tubular steel frame, with a focus on keeping a short wheelbase, centrally locating the large airbox, and using carbon fiber bodywork.
AMA Pro Flat Track is heating up. First, it was Harley-Davidson announcing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R. And now, we get word that Indian Motorcycle is set to compete as well, debuting today a purpose-built v-twin engine for the job. The Indian Scout FTR v-twin engine is a 750cc liquid-cooled four-valve lump that is specifically designed for flat track racing. Using a specially built chassis, Indian aims to compete in AMA Pro Flat Track, with Jared Mees serving for now as the company’s test rider. Indian says it will compete at a single 2016 event, which is still to be announced, before going after the 2017 AMA Pro Flat Track title in full. Presumably Mees will headline that effort as well, which if the case, should make Indian’s entry a very potent one.
The return of Casey Stoner to Ducati as a test rider has raised more questions than it answered. Fans and media alike are in a state of confusion about his intentions, especially given the times he was setting on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15.
What was he doing? Will he race again? When will he test again? To try to put this test and Stoner’s role into perspective, here is what we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t.
There is a lot to look forward to in MotoGP during the next couple of seasons. New tires and new-spec electronics for 2016; and for 2017, the arrival of a new manufacturer, with KTM due to join the show.
The arrival of KTM has generated much excitement, the Austrian factory having succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations in every racing class they have entered, with the exception of MotoGP.
This time, they have taken the development of the bike completely in-house, a powerful V4 engine being housed in a trellis frame, the company’s trademark in racing.
The bike has already made its debut on track, with Alex Hofmann having given the bike a shakedown test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in October. A few weeks later, the bike got its first proper test in the hands of newly signed test rider Mika Kallio, the man who was Moto2 runner up in 2014.
Kallio was present in Barcelona for the Superprestigio event, where he had been scheduled to race. However, a crash on Friday morning saw the Finnish rider break his leg, which meant he could not actually participate in the event.
Kallio was present, however, and we got the chance to talk to him about the state of the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, his first impressions of the machine, and his hopes and expectations for testing in 2016 and racing in 2017.
Casey Stoner will not be making any public appearances on the Ducati Desmosedici any time soon. Although the Australian has been formally announced as test rider for Ducati, he will not be riding at the official tests at Sepang at the beginning of February.
Speaking to Italian website GPOne.com, Ducati MotoGP boss Davide Tardozzi said “There are still some details to arrange, but for sure, Stoner will do his first test in Malaysia, before the first official test.”
Stoner will test alongside Ducati’s long-time official test rider Michele Pirro, where he will give the Desmosedici GP16 its first run out. The Australian did the same thing at the beginning of 2015 for Honda, testing the RC213V ahead of the official test in early February.
Casey Stoner is to leave Honda and work with Ducati as a test rider and brand ambassador from 2016. Two press releases, one from Honda and one from Ducati, today confirmed the rumor that had emerged at Valencia during the race weekend, and especially after the test.
Honda thanked Stoner for five years of collaboration, including two years of racing, during which he won fifteen races and a MotoGP championship. After his retirement, at the end of 2012, Stoner continued as a test rider for HRC, but rode only sporadically, no more than a couple of days a year.
This, it appears, seems to have been the trigger for Stoner to make the switch to Ducati as a test rider. The Australian had always retained good ties with the Italian factory, and the arrival of Gigi Dall’Igna as the head of Ducati Corse made a return to Ducati even more attractive.
Stoner knows Dall’Igna well from his time racing an Aprilia in 125s and 250s, a period in which he finished as runner up in the 250 championship to Dani Pedrosa.
Casey Stoner is set to make some form of return to MotoGP. The Australian is to switch back from Honda to Ducati, taking on a role as test rider for the Italian firm. There is a chance that Stoner could also be given one or more wildcard rides on Ducati’s MotoGP bike.