MotoGP – ‘racy’ Lorenzo takes gritty win in Austria

fileDucati’s Jorge Lorenzo deep to take a gritty  victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at thee Red Bull Ring.

The rider from Mallorca, who started from the front row of the grid following yesterday’s third place in qualifying, opted to begin the race with ‘soft’ tyres both front and rear, and after leading over the line at the end of the opening lap, he was then passed by Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.

Lorenzo and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso looked to be falling behind, but on Lap 18 the race sprang into life.

After Lorenzo reclaimed the lead on the next lap, both he and Marquez battled it out until the end, with Lorenzo eventually crossing the line with an advantage of just 130 thousandths of a second.

Lorenzo said: “It was an incredible race, maybe one of the best of my career, quite simply spectacular! Winning with Ducati on this circuit, where I had never won before, after a close quarters battle with Marquez, has a really special taste. Before the race I had thought about which strategy to use, and I decided to do like Brno, administering the tyre wear well and then attacking in the final part of the race, especially because I was one of the few riders who had chosen ‘soft’ tyres and my riding style allowed me to conserve them until the end.

“When I found myself fighting against Marquez I knew that it was going to be difficult to pass him, so I decided to improvise by making the best use of the Desmosedici GP’s acceleration and it worked perfectly. Now we’re third in the championship standings, but above all I’m proud and very pleased with the way we’re working because the feeling with the bike is better and better all the time and I believe we can fight for the win in many other races.”

The next round of the championship will be the British Grand Prix, scheduled for the Silverstone circuit from 24th to 26th August.
 

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MotoGP – Marquez still the king of the ring after another German win

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has re-written another piece of MotoGP history by storming from a ninth pole in a row at the Sachsenring to take his ninth win in a row across all classes. Championship rival Valentino Rossi took second on the factory Yamaha and maintains his second place in the standings, with the Yamaha team-mate Maveric Viñales taking third.

As the lights went out it was Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo who got the holeshot, moving from third into the lead as Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci slotted into second – with Marquez shuffled back into third. Rossi made a good start from sixth to move into fourth ahead of teammate Viñales, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso the key man to lose out from fifth.

Once at the front, Lorenzo set about putting the hammer down, making it the sixth race in succession the Mallorcan has led. It didn’t take too long for Marquez to make his way through the pack and catch his compatriot, however, and a game of cat and mouse began at the front as Marquez reeled in Lorenzo.

Meanwhile Rossi attacked Petrucci for third and moved through, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow crashing out at Turn 12.

Lorenzo was holding firm at the front, but Marquez then chose his moment and struck to take over the lead, with Lorenzo struggling to turn the Ducati in and dropping back into Lorenzo’s clutches.

Rossi pounced quickly, and once past, the rider from Tavullia put the hammer down in a bid to claw back some time to Marquez, but it wasn’t to be. The number 93 pulled the pin with perfect timing, with enough grip left to see him make a gap and keep it until crossing the line for stunning ninth win in a row at the Sachsenring – and all from pole.

Rossi was then safe in second for another podium finish, but teammate Viñales left it late to complete the rostrum. First Petrucci was the man pushing to pass a Lorenzo struggling with grip, before Viñales arrived on the scene and attacked the Mallorcan and then the Italian to take third and a second successive podium.

Petrucci claimed a well-fought fourth, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista on the Angel Nieto Ducati; Bautista was the fastest man on track for a good number of laps and kept that incredible form to the end, the final man able to muscle past Lorenzo by the flag.

Lorenzo took sixth ahead of a tough day for teammate Andrea Dovizioso, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa putting in a solid ride to eighth. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco improved from his worst qualifying of the season so far to take ninth despite the difficult weekend, with an incredible ride from KTM’s Bradley Smith putting the Brit in tenth to take KTM’s first top ten of the season.

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Hafizh Syahrin was top rookie in eleventh and takes over at the top of the Rookie of the Year standings, ahead of Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, who was caught up in an early incident that saw KTM’s Pol Espargaro make contact with Suzuki’s Alex Rins and both riders go down.

Tito Rabat finished thirteenth, ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller in fourteenth and Aprilia’s Scott Redding in fifteenth.

 

 

 

 

MotoGP – Pedrosa to retire at the end of the season

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After weeks of speculation, Honda factory rider Dani Pedrosa has announced that he will end his active racing career at the end of this season, bringing the curtain down on an illustrious career which has seen him win 31 MotoGP races, making him the eighth most successful rider of all time in the premier class.

Pedrosa, just 32, broke the news in a special press conference held ahead of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring. He said: “Next year, I will not compete in the championship, this means I will finish my career this season in MotoGP. This is a decision I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and it’s a very hard decision because this is the sport I love. But despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with such an intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life.

“I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity. It’s been an amazing life to be racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. So I can say I achieved way more than I expected and I’m very proud of everything I’ve done in the sport. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and this is something I didn’t expect as a kid watching on TV.”

The Spaniard came close to announcing his retirement at Barcelona four weeks ago, but the approach from the Petronas Yamaha Team due to race in MotoGP next year had forced him to consider his choice carefully. He said: “In Barcelona I had the feeling and a more or less clear idea of what would be my decision, but an opportunity showed up, and you never have to close the door to opportunities in that way,” Pedrosa said. “Finally, I considered the options, and with a bit more time, it’s always better to take these decisions with more time and with your people and with your family, and think about it a little bit longer. But finally, the feeling is the feeling.”

“You have to live the races to the limit and I had to give everything that I had. Looking at the project and being realistic this is the direction I have to take. I gave everything I had on the track as well as off it and it’s simply this; I’m a rider that gave my best. Like I said it was something already coming for a long time and the opportunity I had was a great chance and nothing to say about. It’s just my feeling, my way of approaching life and racing and being honest with myself… This was the decision.”

Pedrosa is one of the best racers to have never won the championship, injuries taking their toll on his ability to make a sustained title charge. The Spaniard was never a prolific crasher, but when he did, he nearly always ended up injured, often seriously.

Pedrosa has had 21 injuries during his time at the top, the most serious of which occurred at Motegi in 2010, in yet another crash caused by a mechanical error when a sticking throttle caused him to be thrown into the gravel at Turn 9, badly breaking his left collarbone in the incident. The surgery to plate that collarbone was as successful as it should have been, the plate and screws putting pressure on his subclavian artery, which supplies blood to the arms.

In race conditions the plate was reducing blood flow to the arm leading to Pedrosa feeling he was losing strength in that arm, and unable to grip the handlebars successfully. The Spaniard struggled with that feeling for nearly six months, his doctors unable to pinpoint exactly what the problem was. It left him both physically and mentally drained, Pedrosa giving serious consideration to retiring unless a solution could be found. Once the issue with the plate was identified, he was able to have surgery to solve the problem, and get back to full fitness again.

But the crash had also left him wary of surgery. When he was taken out by Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans the following year, Pedrosa deliberated for a long time before agreeing to surgery to plate the collarbone. It remained an issue for the Spaniard throughout his career, and in the end, pushed him towards retirement.

It is hard to say whether Pedrosa’s diminutive size and weight played a factor in the severity of the injuries he has accumulated over the years, but it was always a question for debate.

Pedrosa’s old team boss Livio Suppo is convinced that Pedrosa’s physical stature held him back, and that if he was just 10cm taller, he would have won the MotoGP crown at least four times. He said: “MotoGP is all about traction. Dani has the talent and riding skill, but if he was just 10cm taller, that would give him all the traction and grip he’d need to dominate the class. Of that I’m absolutely clear.”

This theory is backed up by LCR rider Cal Crutchlow, who is convinced that Pedrosa would have won multiple title had he switched to Yamaha, a bike which is much less physically demanding to ride.

Of course, Pedrosa also has the misfortune to have raced in the golden age of MotoGP, and his team-mates Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez are arguably the two most naturally talented riders to race in the championship with Stoner taking one title with Honda, and Márquez winning four of the five championships he has competed in.

So, Pedrosa has decided to bow out at the top, but his place in GP history is secure; he will be formally inducted as MotoGP Legend at the final race of the 2018 season in Valencia.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said. “I think it’s a small contribution from the championship, for what he has been doing throughout his career. It has been a big pleasure, as Dorna CEO and a friend of Dani, to share with him all these years and I hope he will continue with us, doing other things.

“The decision he has made, and he didn’t say nothing, it’s a very honest and loyal decision. He had – in the last discussions – everything to continue. But being honest with himself, he has decided to retire. Not all people would do the same. I want to tell him again, thank-you and thank-you for the example you have given to us.”

So, the greatest rider never to win a premier class title has decided to hang up his leathers. Here’s to hoping he adds more wins to his impressive haul before the chequered flag drops at the final round in Valencia…

Road racing – William Dunlop dies after crash during practice at Skerries 100

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William Dunlop has died after a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 in County Dublin.

The 32-year-old rider from Ballymoney, County Antrim, was a member of the Dunlop dynasty of racing greats and a repeat winner of the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.

Dunlop enjoyed a distinguished career on Ireland’s national road racing scene, accumulating some 108 wins, including four victories at the North West 200 and seven at the Ulster Grand Prix since beginning his career in 2000.

A statement released by the the Skerries 100 organisers, said they “deeply regret” to announce he “passed away following injuries received in a tragic accident”.

“The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club extends their heartfelt sympathy to William Dunlop’s family and friends,” the statement added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very sad time.”

Following lengthy discussions with the family, their sponsors and few riders, the club has taken the decision to continue the Skerries 100 races, with he entire prize fund going William’s family.

It will be a non-champiuonship meeting which the club hopes everyone will consider a fitting tribute to William and his previous race performance and results at the Skerries 100.

Tragedy has struck the Dunlop family before; his father Robert died as a result of an accident at the North West 200 in 2008 and his uncle Joey was killed racing in Estonia in 2000.

 

MotoGP– sensational showdown at the Cathedral of Speed sees Marquez take top honours

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Assen was the venue for a sensational battle royale as eight riders duked it out for the win in one of the most incredible MotoGp races of all time at Assen.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez emerged from the melee to take the win on premier racing’s 70th visit to the track, but the headlines were stolen by the close racing as Marquez battled with Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, Ducati factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow.

It was Marquez who took the holeshot from pole, with Crutchlow initially on his tail from second on the grid until Lorenzo sliced through from tenth to P2 after another awe-inspiring launch.

The Italian and Catalan GP winner didn’t wait long to strike for the lead either, attacking Marquez with the the two riders locked side-by-side in a war of wills until Lorenzo edged ahead.

Marquez hit back a lap later at Turn 15, before Lorenzo repaid the favour once more. The duel was the first of many; an early taste of what was to come.

Rossi then made his first attack of the race at the final chicane, a first rehearsal, and set off after Lorenzo – with the Spaniard missing a gear soon after and Rossi smashing into the rear of the Ducati, unable to avoid him. Incredibly, both riders stayed on and retaining their track position, with Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting at the front.

Marquez took Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso took Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins took Rossi and then Dovizioso…but Lorenzo held firm at the front. With eight riders within a second, from Lorenzo down to Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha at the back of the train, the touch paper was well and truly lit on an absolute classic.

The war continued before another bout of bigger drama with 15 laps to go as Rins attacked Marquez and the two made contact, with the reigning champion suffering a big moment as he got back on the gas. That dropped him back off the lead, with Lorenzo chased by Rins and Dovizioso.

The Italian fought his teammate for the lead soon after and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly, with Viñales then taking the lead for the first time with just eight laps to go.

Next time around Marquez had sliced back through into the lead, before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as they both ran wide.

It was then Rossi’s turn to shine with a clinical move at the final chicane, but he couldn’t make it stick and Dovizioso immediately struck back..

A four-way tussle for the front saw no inch given by any of the riders, before Marquez pulled the pin to make his way back into P1…and once past he managed the gap to take a stunning win; his fourth of the season.

The battle behind wasn’t over, however, and Viñales had pushed through to second before a last lap attack from Rins – with the Suzuki rider taking his second ever premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third , his first time back on the podium since Texas.

The fight for fourth was equally intense and showed why Rossi had been rehearsing; the ‘Doctor’ left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap, and he was ahead – but the Ducati pilot took him back on the exit, gaining such good drive that the had almost caught Viñales over the line.

Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller completing the top ten in one of the greatest races contested on two wheels.

Speaking after the race, Marquez said: “It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport. I was expecting something like this before the race, but nothing like it actually was. We were a wild bunch, everyone fighting against everyone; I think all of us made contact with somebody else at some point. We had to attack and defend, attack and defend. We had so many ‘big moments’ and risked crashing.
“It was crazy out there and impossible to define the best strategy, so eventually I decided to just fight and see what we could do in the end. In the last three laps, I gave it everything, no matter the tyres, no matter the amount of championship points available. I had been trying to reduce the group because when you’re fighting for the title, you just want the fewest riders possible at the front, but it was difficult. Only when I saw I had more than one and a half seconds of advantage before the last lap did I think, Okay, we’ve got it, let’s just finish this lap.
“It was an important win and 25 very important points, but we need to keep going, keep pushing, and keep this same level.”

WSBK – rampant Rea does double at Laguna Seca

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Jonny Rea claimed a double win at laguna Seca, one again showing the rest of the field that he his the benchmark by which all other riders are judged.

After qualifying third fastest in Superpole on Saturday morning, Rea spent the early laps right behind eventual race one second place rider Chaz Davies on the factory Ducati, before pouncing to lead on lap seven; Davies ran wide at the entrance to the famous Corkscrew chicane and Rea instantly took his opportunity on the inside line.

Rea built his lead from then on to ease out to an eventual clear advantage of 2.978 seconds after 25 intense laps, on a tricky track surface that rose to over 50°C under the hottest conditions of the weekend so far.

Speaking after the race, Rea said: “In the early laps I felt good behind Chaz, although his pace was really fast. I knew as soon as he made that mistake I wanted to go through, set my rhythm, and tenth-by-tenth slowly build up a lead.

“It was not easy, much more difficult than I expected. The front grip was dropping quite a lot at the end so I just had to ride accordingly. We have not had that issue all weekend but the temperature change today, that extra ten degrees on the track, was massive. We learned some things from the race today to be a little bit stronger tomorrow.”

Race Two saw Rea start from the third row, under the reverse grid rules for race two at each event.

Rea had got up to fifth on lap one and then into the lead by lap eight at the intense 3.610km long hillside circuit. He went unchallenged to claim his eighth victory of the season, giving him a 50% winning record for the season so far. It was also the Ulsterman’s 25 career WorldSBK podiums today.

In winning for a fourth time in his career at Laguna Seca, Rea extended his championship lead to 75 points over runner-up in race two, Chaz Davies.

Rea, said: “An incredible weekend. I expected to be strong here but I had no idea how strong. Two weekends in a row now, Brno and here, we have been the reference. Weekends like that do not happen all the time so we have to really absorb it and enjoy the moment. A double win at Laguna in the sunshine – it does not get much better.

“I am so so so happy, to have a weekend like we’ve had – to be so strong. It doesn’t happen every weekend, this weekend – aside from my tip off on Friday – its been plain sailing. I was able to make my passes, make them stick and go away.

“Laverty had a really good pace and was a really good marker. I was in no urgency to arrive and then step by step I got there, and then made my rhythm. It was awesome to see my rhythm increasing, and then just five or six laps to go I was absorbing the feeling in Laguna Seca in the sunshine I just felt so blessed to be here and it’s a cool moment.”

MotoGP – Lorenzo dominates to claim second win in a row

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Two weeks after his Mugello triumph, Jorge Lorenzo made it two in a row by winning the Catalan GP at the Montmeló circuit.

The rider from Mallorca, who started from pole, moved into the lead of the race onLap 2 when he passed Honda’s Marc Marquez, and then firmly held onto that position right until the chequered flag, finishing more than four seconds ahead of his Honda rival.

Lorenzo has now moved up to seventh place in the overall standings on 66 points, followed by Dovizioso with the same haul, while Ducati now lie second overall in the Constructors’ championship with 132 points.

Lorenzo said: “Today’s win was really fantastic! We showed that we can win not only by entering the first turn in first place, but also by recovering and overtaking the others. It was actually a complicated race because I got off to a bad start and lost a lot of metres to Marquez, but I told myself that the race was long and I had to keep calm.

“It wasn’t too difficult to take Marquez, because I had that little bit extra under braking, but he stayed pretty close to me right down to the flag.

“Now we’ve got a very competitive package and I think that this is the most complete Ducati bike of all time:  We must capitalise on this situation because the Desmosedici works well at virtually every track, it doesn’t consume the tyres too much, and this is a big advantage. Now let’s enjoy this win and then we’ll think about the next race.”

The next race of the MotoGP championship will be in the Netherlands, in two weeks time, at the Assen circuit for the Dutch TT from June 29  to July1.

WSBK – Rea extends Kawasaki contract

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The first piece of the 2019 WSBK rider jigsaw has fallen into place after Kawasaki’s Jonny Rea announced he will spend another two years riding for the Japanese manufacturer.

Rea’s extension with Kawasaki comes after week’s of speculation that the Ulsterman was set to turn his back on the factory outfit for a ride with Suzuki in MotoGP or by switching allegiance within the WSBK series and signing for Ducati.

Choosing to stay at Kawasaki, Rea looks set to dominate the series for the immediate future on board the all-conquering ZX-10RR.

Rea said: “I am more than happy to continue in these next two seasons with the Kawasaki Racing Team. Since the end of last season we have already started to talk about continuing our partnership, so it’s nice to finalize everything now, so that we can concentrate on the remaining races of 2018.

“From the moment I arrived at the end of 2014, I was welcomed into the Kawasaki family and since then we have achieved success beyond our wildest dreams. Here is where I want to stay. Of course, it feels natural to keep writing this incredible story together, and I want to thank everyone in the Kawasaki Racing Team for believing in me and for this opportunity.”

“Together we will work harder than ever to keep the ZX-10RR at the front of WSBK in the future. I have the best team of people around me to ensure that we can continue fighting for the World Championship.”

The singing will trigger intense activity among the rest of the field and the question is now is where Rea’s rivals will land for 2019 – with rumors still circling about the futures of Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes, and the bikes they could possibly be riding next season.

The future of Sykes at Kawasaki seems perilous; Sykes and Rea have clashed ever since Rea joined the team, and their recent clash in Brno has brought things to a head.

Sykes has been linked to several rides in the WSBK paddock, especially Yamaha, and it is widely believed he will replace Van Der Mark within the team.

Sykes is expected to announce his plans imminently, and this will then trigger a flurry of moves.

MotoGP – Lorenzo in, Pedrosa out at Repsol Honda

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Big changes are afoot at the factory Honda squad after it has emerged that Jorge Lorenzo will replace the outgoing Dani Pedrosa, who is leaving the Repsol team after 18 years with HRC and Honda.

Lorenzo has penned a two-year deal which will see the three-time MotoGP world champion join Marc Marquez in the factory Honda team.

In a terse statement after his maiden win on the Ducati at Mugello, Lorenzo accused the Italian factory of not doing enough to give him a bike to win, publicly slating their lack of support and development.

Many paddock insiders saw this as a sign he was heading to a satellite Yamaha effort, but Lorenzo’s leftfield jump to Honda has caused shockwaves in the paddock.

The move means Honda now has its very own dream team; the two riders share a total of 11 Championships, 130 victories and 255 podiums between them, many of which have been fought against each other. The two are also the only riders to have been crowned MotoGP world champion since 2011 – Lorenzo in 2012 and 2015, adding to his first premier class crown taken in 2010, and Marquez in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Lorenzo is now a rider who has two wins for two different manufacturers, and he will be keen to add a win on a third to prove the many doubters who have written him off wrong.

But, how will Honda manage the relationship between Marquez and Lorenzo, both of whom are convinced they are the best rider in the world? The job of handling two of the biggest egos in the paddock will fall to Alberto Puig, a man who is also known his the size of his ego. Expect fireworks to fly…

What is clear is that HRC now has two of the most successful riders of recent times in its factory team. How they get along, or don’t, will determine whether the team continues its stranglehold on the title.

Watch this space…2019 will be explosive….

Eleven things I’ve learnt from this year’s TT…

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01) Hickman’s 135mph lap was sensational, but every rider who races is a warrior and I salute every single one of them, regardless of where they finish…respect
02) Bikes are a great leveller. It doesn’t matter, what your background, or your social standing, we all have something in common
03) It is possible to stab yourself in the nose and draw blood while eating a pizza, eh Yag?
04) The scones at the Ballacregga Corn Mill are smaller and drier than previous years…disappointing
05) There’s nothing better than being told by a copper to ‘go for it’ from the Creg because he likes the look of the Tuono and he’d like to hear the V4 ‘given some’
06) Speaking of which, the Tuono 1100 APRC may just be the best bike ever…comfortable, fast, nimble and THAT noise…stunning. Race mode has never felt so good. Thanks Griff
07) The peanut butter cheesecake at The Forge is still out of this world
08) There’s nothing funnier than watching your mate stall it at the traffic light GP…than seeing him paddle round a corner in your mirrors because he can’t restart it. Then learning he did it in front of an unmarked police car. Poor Flo…
09) A BMW M3 at full chat on the island is a giggle a minute. And the noise on the overrun…mmmmmmmm
10) The Steam Packet company still treats bikers with contempt. Why there’s a need to line the bikes up so close together while waiting for the boat baffles me
11) Racing is a cruel mistress, but everything should be done to protect the TT…if you’ve never been you won’t understand, but if you have…