Month: October 2016

WSBK – rea takes second world title at Losail

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Under the lights that illuminate the Losail International Circuit at Doha, the setting for the last round of the WSBK season, Northern Irish rider, Jonathan Rea of the Kawasaki Racing Team was crowned FIM Superbike World Champion today for the second consecutive year.

The twenty-nine year-old, who finished second in Race One behind Ducati rider Chaz Davies, has been with the Kawasaki team since last year and, since his arrival, he has led the Akashi-based manufacturer in winning both the Manufacturers Title and the Riders Title.

It was a weekend with all to play for and Rea arrived at this last round with a 48-point advantage over his teammate, English rider Tom Sykes, who had to settle for fourth place in the race and second place in the Championship.

The action began with a sernsational Superpole ession, and Rea made it abundantly clear straight away that he was eager to end the battle for the championship title as soon as possible and, with a time of 1’56.356, not only did he take the best position on the starting grid, but he also broke the track record set by his teammate, Tom Sykes in 2015 by almost half a second.

In Race One, Rea secured the championship, the first rider since Carl Fogarty to successfully defend the title. Ducati’s Chaz Daviescontinued his blistering recent form and got off the line well, overtaking both the Northern Irishman and Honda’s Nicky Hayden to take the lead, with Tom Sykes languishing in fourth place, one ahead of Yamaha’s Sylvain Guintoli.

The top two positions would remain unvaried for the entire race, with Hayden, Sykes and Guintoli taking turns in third. In the end, the Frenchman had the upper hand and crossed the line behind the Welshman and the new 2016 World Champion.

Race Two saw Nicky Hayden forced to start from pit lane as he had already gone through all the engines allowed by the rules. Even before the start, the race had also already lost another potential protagonist, Ducati’s Davide Giugliano, who decided not to take part in Race 2 due to a physical problem.

At the start, Jonathan Rea started lightning fast from pole position, but by the end of the first lap, Chaz Davies had already overtaken him and, under pressure, he went wide on a turn, losing several positions.

Behind the Ducati rider, Tom Sykes gave chase ahead of Sylvain Guintoli and the race looked to be a re-run of Race One until Lap Seven when Al Sulaiti’s bike caught fire, forcing the marshals to red flag the race.

At the restart there were ten laps to race. Davies remained in the lead, followed once again by Tom Sykes in second and Pedercini Racing’s Leon Haslam in third. Before the end of the second lap, however, the latter had already yielded his position to Jonathan Rea.

During the fourth lap, Rea began to be a threat to his teammate, Tom Sykes, overtaking him a lap later to move into second place. This pass temporarily clinched second place in the final overall Championship standings for Chaz Davies.

However Rea, played the team game and slowed on the last lap, allowing Sykes to pass and thus secure second in the overall standings. It was a gesture which no one saw coming, especially considering the open animosity between the two, and reaffirmed Rea’s position as the consummate professional.

Thus the race win and a well-deserved third place in the Rider World Championship went to Chaz Davies, finishing first to bring home a double win for Ducati, the fifth this year, after a surprising season finale with no less than seven consecutive wins.

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MotoGP – Crutchlow wins with riding masterclass at Phillip Island

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Cal Crutchlow took a stunning second MotoGP win at Phillip Island, as the LCR Honda pilot kept calm and kept his gap at the front ahead of Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales, who finished second and third respectively. The move fully justified Crutchlow’s gamble to use the hard front, and proved his win in the wet earlier this season was no fluke – this boy can ride and deserves to be at the front of the GP pack.

There were no miracle starts for those frontrunners starting further back for the Australian GP, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo getting the best from P12 to move up to P9, and teammate Valentino Rossi gaining two places to P13 – with Maverick Viñales moving up only one. It was Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro who got the holeshot from P3 on the front row, with polesitter Marquez the biggest loser off the line before the 2016 MotoGP world champion swept back around the outside of Doohan Corner to take back P2 and then fight off Espargaro through Lukey Heights and down into T10.

Once at the front, the Motegi and Aragon winner found his rhythm and began to build up his lead as the battle for second behind him intensified. The fight for P2 between Crutchlow and Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro saw the Brit emerge on top, and this was the point which also saw Rossi begin to cut his way through the field – picking off Pol Espargaro and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso with clean and clinical precision befitting a doctor.

Rossi then began setting his sights on Aleix Espargaro and soon getting past the Spaniard, and with Crutchlow starting to close the gap to Marquez there was suddenly a Repsol Honda cartwheeling through the gravel at Turn 4 – and Marquez was out of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Crutchlow then found himself in the lead, hoping the 2014 flashback for Marquez wouldn’t touch him after a last lap crash two years ago on the Ducati. The low temperatures were clearly a worry but the British rider dug deep and continued pulling away.

Behind him the battle for second continued to rage with Rossi getting a warning shot at Turn 4 that saw him run deep and lose ground, and the new fight for the final podium spot saw Aleix Espargaro locked in fierce battle with Dovizioso and Viñales.

After swapping positions in a three-way fight, Turn 4 then claimed another victim as Aleix Espargaro lost his Suzuki machine with just five laps to go, before teammate Viñales pounced to take third from an increasingly nervous looking Dovizioso, and this is where they remained as they crossed the finish line.

After his storming start, Pol Espargaro took a solid result as he crossed the line in fifth, ahead of a struggling Jorge Lorenzo, the former champion clearly out of sorts and unable to make up big ground after his good launch off the line.

Further back saw the Pramac duo of Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci leading a seven rider fight for seventh with home hero Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda, Ducati’s Hector Barbera, Aprilia’s Stefan Bradl, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith and Nicky Hayden on the factory Honda.

‘Kentucky Kid’ Hayden, standing in for injured Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, put in an impressive one-off return to his 2006 championship winning colours as he battled well within the points, before Miller took Turn 4 a little overenthusiastically and Hayden was the casualty, sliding out.

Hector Barbera was another crasher, leaving Redding to lead compatriot Bradley Smith over the line for seventh, with the top ten completed by Petrucci and Miller. As well as the solid result for Miller, fellow Australian Mike Jones scored a point on his Avintia Racing machine, impressing once again.

Crutchlow said: “I was terrified of losing heat in the front and I went really weak into that corner for the whole race. I knew it was critical towards the end of the race – I crashed there two years ago when I had 10 seconds behind me also, so I was quite scared to be honest and I didn’t want to make the same mistake but I knew I had to keep pushing or we’d lose the heat in the front tyre. I’m really pleased for my team, I was confident I could have won even with Marc in the race. I look forward to the last two races and then we’ll see what happens next season.”

MotoGP – Marquez claims seventh pole of season at Phillip Island

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has taken pole position at Phillip Island, as the new World Champion chose the perfect moment to head out in the changeable conditions on full slick tyres. It was his 37th pole in MotoGP and the 65th in his career, which is also the new historical record, at just 23 years of age. It’s also Marc’s seventh pole of 2016, meaning that the Spaniard has already won the BMW M Award for the best-qualifying MotoGP rider of the season, a feat he has achieved every year since entering the premier class.

With Q1 seeing some incredibly high profile casualties, it was LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo who moved through to fight for the front, leaving Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales and Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi behind – with Rossi in P15 on the grid in his worst qualifying since 2011.

The track was drying in Q1, and drier by the start of Q2. With rain forecast to hit halfway through the second qualifying session however, the pressure was on to do a good lap – and choose the right tyre. With some heading out on intermediates, Marquez then came back in quickly to switch to slicks – untouchable from that point on, and 1.5 seconds clear a few minutes later until the grid began to reel him closer. Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro was late to switch, attempting a fast lap on the intermediates, before coming back in for slicks and then taking the front row – as Crutchlow didn’t quite take the full gamble, and set his front row qualifier on an intermediate front and slick rear.

Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro shone in the session to challenge for the front – just beaten over the line by his brother – and will start fourth, ahead of Aussie Jack Miller on the Marc VDS at his home race, who completed the top five in his best ever qualifying result. Locking out Row 2 is Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider Danilo Petrucci.

Nicky Hayden, riding in place of injured Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, took an impressive P7 on his return to MotoGP, ahead of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Stefan Bradl – who is also set to become Hayden’s teammate in 2017 at Honda World Superbike Team. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso is ninth to complete the third row, finding going a little tougher as the track dried. His teammate, Hector Barbera – standing in for injured Andrea Iannone – completed the top ten.

Pramac’s Scott Redding will start from eleventh, ahead of five-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who once again struggled in the tricky conditions after having graduated from Q1.

Marquez said: “I’m happy because, in addition to the pole, I was able to put in five laps and I noticed some things we can improve tomorrow. For example, we can get more grip, especially with the rear and on corner entry. In FP4, in the wet, I felt very comfortable, so this weekend we’re getting things right and we have to maintain this dynamic. Tomorrow’s race is still an unknown because we aren’t sure what tyres we’ll use, nor who our rivals will be, but we’ll try to make the best of any situation we find.”

 

MotoGP – Crutchlow on top at wet Phillip Island

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After a wet morning of action at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, the red flag then came out during the second session for MotoGP – and it was decided to cancel the remainder of the session, as well as FP2 for Moto2.

With few bikes venturing on track during the early part of the session, it was Ducati’s Hector Barbera who went quickest and found himself unthreatened at the top of the timesheets in FP2. His Avintia Racing replacement, Mike Jones, was the next man in the table in his second MotoGP outing to impress once again, with Marc VDS rider Tito Rabat completing the top three. Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Ducati was only a few hundredths off the Spaniard’s best in fourth, with the other two riders to venture out, Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Yamaha’s rider Valentino Rossi, more than two and a half seconds further back.

Times set in a wet but faster FP1 were therefore the only ones representative on the combined timesheets, and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow led the way from Danilo Petrucci and Marc VDS’ home hero Jack Miller.

Valentino Rossi had set some representative laptimes in the first session of the day, before the Italian was given a penalty by Race Direction. Having used one of the Michelin wet tyres for more laps than the allowed 10 in total, the rider from Tavullia saw his laptimes when set on that rubber deleted – leaving him down in P20 by the end of the day, just behind teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who didn’t put in much track time.

Behind Miller and moving up a place on the combined times after Rossi’s penalty was Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), after the freshly-crowned World Champion put in a lap five hundredths off that of Miller. Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso completed the top five.

 #1Simon, A moment ago

Whatever happened to racer cool?

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So Nicky Hayden will be riding a Factory Honda at Phillip Island this weekend, standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa, a case of the nicest man in racing deputising for the unluckiest.

I love Pedrosa’s current Samurai lid, and this got me thinking about what has happened to replica paint jobs. Sure, Arai issued a limited edition RX7-GP Joey Dunlop replica a couple of years ago, which looked stunning, and has reissued some classic paint on its Chaser V range – Doohan, Schwantz and Spencer designs – all of which look suitably cool, but there is a distinct lack of eye-catching designs across today’s racing paddocks.

I love a loud lid me – the louder the better as far as I’m concerned – but the helmets today’s racers sport are distinctly dull. Jakub Smrz was proudly flying the flag for cool with a distinctive pink and baby blue number in his WSBK heyday and debut BSB season, but has since reverted to a more subdued number to match his team’s colours.

Cast your eyes across the MotoGP and WSBK paddocks, and Rossi aside, with his regular one-offs, there’s a distinct lack of distinctive designs. Sure, Lorenzo tries, but his ‘Shark’ Shark was about as inspiring as his press conferences.

The only rider who seems to be pushing the envelope in recent seasons is Nicky Hayden, who has worn several versions of Starline Design’s innovative ‘face’ design.

The problem may be that helmet painters are finding their creativity limited more and more by riders (and the teams) sponsors. With an ever increasing number of riders signing sponsorship deals with the same few energy drinks companies, all of which insist on having their logos feature prominently on their riders uniforms, Monster’s green and Red Bull’s red, blue and yellow, are increasingly having to be incorporated into any design.

Compare this with the road racing scene, where the riders stand out far more. The helmets of Michael and William Dunlop, Guy Martin, Lee Johnston, Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes, Ryan Farquhar, Keith Amor, John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson are all easily identifiable as belonging to that rider, making it much easier for spectators to follow the action. Sometimes less is more…

New metal – Ducati Project 1408

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Ducati has released a micro website for Project 1408, the name of its secret new super superbike.

While the site itself has no information as such – it doesn’t even tease what Project 1408 could be – insiders within the factory have hinted that the bike will be a new Superleggera model, based on the Ducati 1299, which makes extensive use of the company’s MotoGP and WSBK involvement.

The bike will be far more than just a 1199 Superleggera with a new 1299 engine, and will feature carbon fibre throughout – for the frameless chassis, headstock, airbox and swingarm.

The wheels will also be carbon fibre, and will be manufactured by British company BST. Other trinkets include Öhlins suspension and a WSBK spec exhaust which ditches the underslung unit in favour of an underseat system.

rather than underslung below the chassis.

The motor too will be close to WSBK-spec, and should be good for some  220hp, which means Project 1408 will be the most powerful superbike ever from the Italian factory.x

This bike will be the final version of the Panigale line, with a replacement superbike, likely to be a V4, expected to be launched in 2018.

 

MotoGP –Hayden gets Factory ride filling in for Pedrosa at Phillip Island

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Former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden is to roll back the years and  throw a leg over a Factory Honda again, filling in for Repsol Honda’s crocked Dani Pedrosa at Phillip Island.

Pedrosa broke his collarbone in a monster highside during free practice at Motegi, and Honda WSBK pilot has got the call, fresh from filling in for an injured Jack Miller earlier in the season.

Hayden said: “First of all my best wishes to Dani, I’m sure he will come back stronger than ever like he always does. For me it’s crazy hard work but it’s a chance, ten years after winning my world title, to get back to my old “dream team”!

“Doing a weekend in Phillip Island on a factory Honda, it’s pretty emotional for me to even think about it, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity and the trust that Honda gives me. I want also to thank my current team for allowing me to go and do this, and the sponsors. Everybody worked a lot on every detail to make it possible for me so now I’m excited to get on a plane, to get down to Phillip Island and hopefully I can do a good job for the team.

“Regarding Phillip Island there are two things to always consider, the weather and the tyres but it’s a track I love and I can’t wait to ride the bike there. Let’s get started on Friday morning and go forward”.

WSBK – Davies takes double at Jerez

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Race One from Jerez may have seen the win go to the number 7 Ducati ridden by Chaz Davies, but thanks to the podium finishes of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea, respectively second and third across the line, Kawasaki secured the 2016 manufacturer’s title, the second in a row for the Akashi manufacturer.

In Race One, Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea got off the line well, but poleman and teammate, Tom Sykes, stayed solidly in the lead.

On the second lap, Ducati’s Davide Giugliano and Xavi Forés on the Aprilia were both forced to retire from the race after making contact.

It was a race with a high rate of attrition, as just a lap later, Alex Lowes on the Factory Yamaha was also forced to retire after crashing. In the meantime, Rea fell back to third place, overtaken by Chaz Davies on the Factory Ducati, who also overtook the other Kawasaki standard-bearer for the lead in the fourth lap.

The top three spots would remain unchanged until the end of the race, with Davies finishing more than three seconds ahead of Sykes and more than seven ahead of Rea. Fourth place went to Honda’s Nicky Hayden, who crossed the line some thirteen seconds behind the Ducati rider.

Race Two saw Davies complete the double, with the Welshman claiming his fourth win in a row and ninth of the season – tied with championship leader Rea – to maintain the momentum that saw him win five out of six races after the summer break.

Thanks to a blistering start from sixth position on the grid, Davies entered Turn One in second place and soon after took the lead and adopted the same strategy as in Race 1, progressively building a gap with an unequaled pace to cross the line with a comfortable lead over the chasing pack. To underscore his masterful performance, he also set the fastest lap with a 1:41.492.

Davies said: “To win four races in a row is just unreal. Lately I’ve been very confident and able to push 100 percent every lap, just dancing on the bike. Also, I managed to get the best start of the year and entered Turn One just behind Sykes. I think he was trying to save his tyres, so I took the opportunity because I knew we could run our pace for the whole race.

“Today, the key was to manage the grip. I was a little mindful at the start, because the hotter conditions made the track more slippery, but in the end I could see the gap building and then it was just a case of bringing it home. Without getting overconfident, we’ll try to make it six in a row to get second position in the championship.”

BSB – Byrne takes title in showdown at Brands

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Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne is celebrating an unprecedented fifth BSB title at his home circuit of Brands Hatch after a season-long battle with arch rival Leon Haslam.

Byrne held a 27 point advantage ahead of the second race of the weekend and the Kent contender knew what he needed to do to deliver the title for the Be Wiser Ducati team to strengthen his statistics as the most successful rider in the history of the series.

Ellison had hit the front of the field in the second race of the weekend in drying conditions on the Grand Prix circuit ahead of Christian Iddon and John Hopkins but title rivals Haslam and Byrne were initially languishing outside the top ten on the opening lap.

The pair were on the move and then continued to gain ground, but at the front the leading trio had edged away from the pack and Ellison ensured that he defended hard to hold off his American rival who scored the ePayMe Yamaha team their first podium finish.

Race one winner Peter Hickman was back on the podium for the second consecutive race after Iddon suffered the heartbreak of a technical problem with just two laps remaining which forced him out of third place.

Haslam and Byrne had battled the nerves of the title fight to move into fifth and sixth respectively after some hard charging moves on Glenn Irwin, Tommy Bridewell and Jason O’Halloran who dropped to ninth in the closing stages of the race.

Ellison was focused on a repeat performance in race two and he gave it his all to celebrate a double victory to claim third in the overall standings and end his 2016 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship season on a high in a ten lap sprint for the third and final race of the season.

The race began with Ellison, Hopkins and Ryuichi Kiyonari duelling at the front of the field, but the race was red flagged when James Rispoli’s Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha suffered a technical problem, leaving an oil line at Hawthorn.

A ten lap restart saw a sprint race to the finish line, again Ellison hitting the lead at Paddock Hill Bend on the opening lap with Hopkins, Kiyonari and Iddon in close contention. Iddon was instantly attacking and on the second lap fired the Tyco BMW ahead of Kiyonari at Paddock Hill Bend, closely followed by a hard-charging Haslam.

Ellison was under pressure from the growing freight train; Hopkins, Iddon, Haslam and 2016 champion Byrne were all battling for the final podium positions of 2016. An incredible scrap went all the way down to the wire with Haslam and Byrne making contact on the final lap in their last dash for supremacy in 2016.

Byrne made it through to third, pushing Haslam back to fourth on the final lap as Ellison celebrated the final spoils of the 2016 season ahead of double podium finish Hopkins for the ePayMe Yamaha team.

Byrne said: “I must admit, it’s a strange feeling to have won the championship with a sixth place finish, but to do so with a new manufacturer is a massive achievement for both myself and the team.

“The conditions in the first race today were very tricky and the bike was strong in the wet part of the track and not so strong in the other parts so it made it very difficult to overtake. Leon came by and I realised I needed to keep one place behind him to clinch the title and while he pulled away initially, he gradually came back to me and we got the job done.”

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, race two result:

1 James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)

2 John Hopkins (ePayMe Yamaha) +0.093s

3 Peter Hickman (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +4.559s

4 Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +21.528s

5 Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +24.422s

6 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +24.513s

7 Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) +26.109s

8 Tommy Bridewell (Bennetts Suzuki) +26.679s

9 Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +26.752s

10 Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) +27.043s

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Brands Hatch, race three:

1 James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)

2 John Hopkins (ePayMe Yamaha) +0.083s

3 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.254s

4 Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +0.335s

5 Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +0.896s

6 Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +2.245s

7 Ryuichi Kiyonari (Smiths Racing BMW) +6.139s

8 Tommy Bridewell (Bennetts Suzuki) +6.428s

9 Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) +6.556s

10 Broc Parkes (ePayMe Yamaha) +6.635s

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings:

1 Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 669

2 Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 640

3 James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 610

4 Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) 602

5 Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) 568

6 Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) 550

MotoGP – Marquez takes the win, and the title, at Motegi

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Marc Marquez took a remarkable victory at Motegi, his first on Japanese soil, to become the 2016 MotoGP world champion with three races to go.

Marquez got off to a brilliant start and immediately engaged in a fight for the lead with title rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. On the second lap he overtook the Italian at turn eight and began to pursue Lorenzo, taking the lead on lap four.

He immediately showed that he had the rhythm and speed to make a breakaway, putting in a series of laps in the 1’45 range and pulling a half-second gap on his countryman.

Lap six brought the first major turn of events, as Rossi fell at turn seven and was forced to retire. Marquez continued stretching his lead until Lorenzo also slid off, with five laps remaining.

With his fifth win of 2016 and the 55th in his career (across all classes), Marquez became the youngest rider in the history of the sport to earn five World Championships (125cc in 2010, Moto2 in 2012 and MotoGP in 2013, 2014 and 2016).

Marquez is also the only rider in any class to score points at every race so far this year. Today’s victory also extended Honda’s lead in the Constructors World Championship to 28 points, and it is the sixth Honda victory in the last eight races.

The Spaniard said: “It’s incredible! Before the race I didn’t expect to be champion, and I said that here it would be impossible. However, when I saw that Rossi was out of the race, I decided to push hard for the victory. I was riding my hardest, and when there were three laps to go, I read on my pit board that Lorenzo was also out; on that same lap, I made mistakes in four or five corners, as it was difficult to stay focused.

“I’m very happy because this title is very special considering some of the crashes I had last year, and also because it came at Motegi, Honda’s home. Honda has worked so hard this year, and you could see the fruits of that effort also at this track, where we’ve struggled in the past.

“I myself also improved during the season; for instance, I learned how to better use the front Michelin tyre. It has been a demanding year, but a fantastic one. It’s great for my team, and of course I don’t want to forget my grandmother, who passed away this year and would be very happy with this World Championship. Now we can just enjoy it and go into the last three races with maybe a more ‘Marc Marquez’ style.”