Author: Simon Toyne

Lincolnshire Biker and PMF Biker magazine editor, Goodwood ( motorcycle road tester and reviewer, UlsterGP contributor, Paddock chatter contributor, editor, Ducati 749S & Aprilia RSV-R Factory owner, full-time sportsbike lover, part-time deer slayer, petrolhead and owner of Write On Media (

MotoGP – Dovizioso takes first blood at season opener in Qatar


Andrea Dovizioso took top honours at the opening round of the 2018 season, holding off a determined challenge by Marc Marquez to cement his place as the second most successful racer in Ducati’s history.

The Italian rider, who started from Row 2, was unable to get a good start when the lights went out and he crossed the line at the end of the opening lap in seventh place.

However, Dovizioso dug deep, consolidated his position and then began moving up into the leading group, battling with Marquez, Rossi and Zarco before taking over at the front on lap 18.

Dovizioso was unable to shake off Marquez on the Repsol Honda, the Spaniard shadowing the Italian before launching an attack at the final curve. However, Dovizioso held his nerve and was able to get through on the inside and profit from the acceleration of his Desmosedici GP18 to cross the line just 0.027s ahead of his Honda rival.

Dovizioso said: “I’m really happy with this win because we have confirmed the improvements made over the winter and I was able to manage the race well, even though I made a really bad start.

“On the first lap I had to come off the gas, otherwise I would have crashed into Rins I think, but then I began to make up places, trying not to ruin the tyres.. Towards the end, after passing Zarco, I tried to pull out a gap on Marquez and Rossi but I didn’t have any more grip and was unable to increase my lead.

“At the last curve I had to be very careful because I knew that Marquez would try and pass me, and that’s how it went. He closed the door on me even more than in Austria and Japan, but I passed him on the inside of the kerb and then took advantage of the power of my Desmosedici to stay ahead.”

The win means Dovizioso has overtaken Loris Capirossi in the list of most victorious Ducati riders in MotoGP with eight wins to his name, and is now in second place in this particular ranking behind Casey Stoner.

The race was less enjoyable for team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who crashed out with a front brake problem on Lap 12.

The Spaniard said: “It wasn’t one of the best weekends for me. I had a lot of problems and my crash was the result of a problem with the front brakes. Already on Lap 2 I realised that something wasn’t right and I tried to manage the situation, but the problem was getting worse. I thought it was an overheating problem, but when I was about to catch Iannone I wasn’t able to stop the bike and I tipped myself off to avoid worse damage. Now we have to understand what exactly happened to prevent the same problem from repeating itself in the future. It’s a pity because I was lapping with good times and I think I could have got closer to the leading group.”


MotoGP – Zarco smashes track record to take pole at session opener in Qatar



Tech 3 pilot Johann Zarco phenomenally sealed the first pole position of the 2018 season by posting the fastest ever lap on two wheels at the Losail International Circuit.

With his remarkable time of 1’53.680 minutes, the satellite Yamaha rider smashed the 10-year-old track record at the venue in Qatar, after going straight through to Q2.

The Frenchman said: “I’m really happy, it’s truly the best way to start the season. I had a crash in FP4 and while I came away with no harm, it’s not funny to be down before the qualifying.

“Beating the lap record makes me really proud. Tomorrow is the main day. I want to try to win, try to be on the podium. It looks like my pace over the distance is not the best one, but at least starting from pole is the best chance to catch a good result.”

MotoGP – The Doctor signs two-year extension to Yamaha contract


Valentino Rossi will race for two more years with the Yamaha factory outfit in MotoGP after announcing he had signed a new deal which will see him racing through 2020.

The move is hardly a shock – Rossi has always said he’ll race for as long as he feels competitive, and the only surprise about the announcement is that it took so long to announce.

Rossi said: “When I signed my last contract with Yamaha, in March 2016, I wondered if that would have been the last contract as a MotoGP rider. At that time, I decided that I‘d take that decision during the following two years.

“During the last two years I came to the conclusion that I want to continue because racing, being a MotoGP rider, but especially riding my M1, is the thing that makes me feel good.

“Having the opportunity to work with my team, with Silvano, Matteo and all my mechanics, and working with all Japanese engineers, Tsuji-san, and above all Tsuya-san, is a pleasure – I‘m happy.

“I want to thank Yamaha – Lin Jarvis and Maio Meregalli in particular – for their trust in me, because the challenge is difficult: being competitive until I‘m 40 years old!

“I know it‘s going to be difficult and it requires a lot of effort from my side and a lot of training but I‘m ready, I am not lacking in motivation, that‘s why I‘m signing for two more years.”

Rossi’s new contract brings the total of signed riders to 7 for the 2019 season – Rossi and Maverick Viñales will stay on the Yamahas, Marc Marquez will stay at Repsol Honda, Cal Crutchlow still has a contract with LCR Honda, as does Xavier Simeon at Avintia and Franco Morbidelli at Marc VDS, while Pecco Bagnaia will be making the move up to MotoGP in 2019 with Pramac Ducati.

Tested – Ducati Panigale V4S

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Ducati’s breathtaking Panigale V4S redefines the sportsbike market. But what makes it so special? And why is it such a gamechanger? We got our hands on one to find out…

Ducati’s Panigale V4S is a real game changer for Ducati – it’s the Italian marque’s first mainstream four-cylinder machine to enter production. Yes, the Desmosedici RR was a V4, but that was a strictly-limited production bike and only 1,500 were ever made. It as much a marketing exercise in profiting from the company’s participation in MotoGP as it was an exercise in engineering excellence.

So how did we get here? What has made Ducati turn its back on the booming V-twins that have defined the brand? The answer is that Ducati had simply reached the limits of technology needed to build a twin that is both dynamic and useable.

The centrepiece of the new bike is undoubtedly the Desmosedici Stradale engine, complete with its ‘twin pulse’ crankshaft and firing order. The twin pulse firing order (1 – 0 degrees, 2 – 90 degrees, 3 – 290 degrees, 4 – 380 degrees) resembles the working cycle of a twin cylinder engine and provides the rider-friendly torque delivery which is at its peak from 9000 – 11,750rpm. This give the Desmosedici Stradale engine a really linear feeling with its power, and it’s a motor that revs. Ducati quotes peak power is at 13,000 rpm, but the bike goes well up to 14,500 redline. It’s sublime, and has the perfect balance between peak power and mid-range torque, between raw delivery and smooth operation.

It’s brutal, but so easy to use. It’s intimidating but still holds your hand when you want it to. The power is tractable and smooth, it can be brutally violent when you want it to be, but can also be quite docile too, if you choose. It just depends how brave or committed you are in twisting the throttle. As the revs rise, the engine spins freer and delivers a truly astonishing punch of acceleration. It’s addictive.

It’s very agile too, and this is down to another trick up the Ducati’s sleeve – its counter rotating crank, which is a direct result of the company’s years of campaigning in MotoGP. The theory is that by having the shaft rotating in the opposite direction to the wheels, the gyroscopic effect of the wheels is partially compensated by the crank. This in turn gives the bike more agility and makes it feel more nimble. The theory works. And then some. It tips in like a 600 and requires very little muscling, a feeling totally different to the Panigale 1199m and 1299, which were bikes which were very physical to ride.

It’s next trick is the Öhlins electronic suspension, which rips up the rulebook in an attempt to make the dark art of suspension tuning more accessible to mere mortal riders like me. Instead of having to get your head around suspension settings in terms of rebound, compression, and preload, Ducati has adopted a new approach which breaks the suspension first down into duties – e.g. braking, mid-corner, acceleration, etc – and then offers adjustments on a scale that describes riding behaviour and goals – e.g. more grip vs. more stability. The whole process is very intuitive, which makes it very quick, and easy, to get the bike handling exactly as you want it to. It’s the way all electronic suspension interfaces should operate.

Then there are the rider aids, including slide control, which allows you to drift through corners like a MotoGP god, ABS cornering for the front wheel, traction control, power launch and engine brake control. There are also three riding modes – Race, Sport and Track, and these are all adjustable by the stunning 5in TFT display.

All of this means the Panigale V4S has all the attributes to excel on track, but what’s it like on the road?

Admittedly, the potholed roads are covered in salt and grime, but it’s immediately clear that the bike is good. The temperatures may barely be hovering above freezing, but the bike is shining, and one of the first things you notice is that the front feels good. It feels very ‘weighty’ and provides a lot feedback, and this in turn inspires a lot of confidence.

The engine is phenomenal. Even on a constant throttle when drudging slowly through towns, the throttle feels smooth. Yes, it’s a bit lumpy really low down, a bit fluffy, but that’s as much down to the new Euro 4 emissions as anything, and it disappears quickly as the revs rise. It’s definitely not as noticeable as big Ducati V-Twins of old, but manages to feel very much like a twin. On the move the engine springs into life with explosive power. The 1103cc engine produces 198bhp at the back wheel, but it’s so useable, pulling cleanly from as low down the rev range as 4,000rpm. Acceleration is effortless, but brutal, and you can’t feed it the gears quickly enough. Yet despite this fierce shove forward there’s absolutely no hint of weave, and it feels very stable. And the noise from the exhaust is intoxicating.

It’s also very agile. The bike narrowness lets you feel in control, and this, when combined with the counter rotating crank really lets you tip into corners with ease. It feels proper fluid and is a lot more forgiving, and this makes it a lot easier to ride than the old Panigale too.

The ride feels less harsh than the outgoing model and the suspension feels very plush. The whole bike feels more cushioned without losing any off its edge, and it deals with the bumps and ruts with ease.

And it’s remarkably comfortable. Yes the pegs may be higher, but after a couple of hours riding I have no aches and pains. The tank feels grippy, the bars aren’t too low and the seat is comfortable, but that soon gets hot thanks to the sheer amount of heat the exhaust generates. This is a godsend today, but I can imagine it would get really hot in summer. Could I live with this fact? Good yeah…

The only thing I’m not sold on is the styling. It looks too much like the bike it replaces, and the front, complete with that funny snub nose, looks like an afterthought.

MotoGP – meet the 2018 Aprilia RS-GP


Aprilia has unveiled its racing platform for the 2018 MotoGP – an updated version of the Aprilia RS-GP.

The bike features a new aluminium frame, a new new carbon fibre swingarm, a new airbox and new exhaust are also new.

Other changes include a new aero package and new suspension – Öhlins TSB46 forks and an Öhlins TRSP44 rear shock..

The Aprilia RS-GP will be raced by team stalwart Aleix Espagaro and new recruit Scott Redding.

MotoGP – Tech 3 to become a KTM satellite team in 2019



After taking on the premier class for the first time last season with impressive results – including seven top ten finishes – KTM will now have even more representation on the MotoGP grid next season, announcing a new partnership to supply Tech 3 with machinery from 2019 and bring the number of RC16s on the grid up to four.

The move comes soon after the Tech 3 team revealed its long-standing  partnership with Yamaha would be coming to an end at the close of 2018, with the two having raced together for two decades.

“We are very happy to join forces with Tech 3 in MotoGP from 2019,” says Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director.

“The team has many years of experience and achieved a lot of great results in this championship. Their professional structure will make us even stronger. Having four KTM RC16 on the grid is also another big step for us, both for the development of our MotoGP bike and expanding KTM’s structure in the paddock. From the Red Bull Rookies Cup up to MotoGP there is a clear path to the top. We are looking forward to start a great cooperation and I’m thankful towards Hervé Poncharal for the future trust in KTM.”

MotoGP – Zarco sets the pace on final day of testing in Qatar

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With a masterful lap of 1:54.029 Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Johann Zarco dominated the MotoGP field on the last day of testing before the start of the 2018 season.

The remarkable Frenchman took over the top spot with two hours to go, before he carried out a race simulation in order to be perfectly prepared for the first race, which takes place in two weeks’ time under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit.

Zarco said: “That was a very good third day, I’m delighted to finish with the top lap time. I think it was even possible to ride inside the high 53s, but we have to accept that we have to understand step by step how to ride at this speed. We did some great work with the team and with everything we did during these three days, I felt more confidence and I could work well on this. When I did a very long run to test the race, it was not too fast. I did 17 laps in a row, but probably a bit tired after this intense days here. Anyway, we are constant and I can relax a lot on the bike. I’m really happy about that and I need to keep this feeling in mind to start the race weekend well in a fortnight.”

MotoGP – Iannone fastest on Day Two at Losail


The second day of testing at the Losail International Circuit saw teams shift their focus to race set-up ahead of the first GP of the season on March 18, and Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone finished the session at the top of the timesheets.

While focusing mainly on finding base race settings, Iannone was able to string together a run of 15 highly consistent and quick laps. The Italian confirmed the fast pace he showed on the first day, and was once again the strongest rider through sector T2 and T4. All of this, combined with a boost in confidence and a comfortable feeling with the front of the bike, earned him the fastest time of the day and he ended the session on the top of the time sheet with a 1:54.586.

The Italian said: “Here, since yesterday, the bike has given me a good feeling. I am able to ride more and more with my usual style, and we struggle less where we don’t have hard braking. Today I completed a short race simulation and it was quite positive, we still have some room to improve but the team and Suzuki are doing a good job. We’ve taken all the information from the first two tests and tried to build a competitive bike. So far I’m very happy with how things are going here in Qatar!”

QATAR TEST – Classification after Day 2:

1. IANNONE, Andrea Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 1:54.586 45 / 45

2. DOVIZIOSO, Andrea Ducati Team 1:54.627 0.041 0.041 33 / 41

3. MARQUEZ, Marc Repsol Honda Team 1:54.753 0.167 0.126 58 / 59

4. ZARCO, Johann Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:54.874 0.288 0.121 27 / 49

5. RINS, Alex Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 1:54.967 0.381 0.093 39 / 41

6. CRUTCHLOW, Cal LCR Honda CASTROL 1:54.992 0.406 0.025 20 / 51

7. VIÑALES, Maverick Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:55.051 0.465 0.059 51 / 52

8. PETRUCCI, Danilo Alma Pramac Racing 1:55.188 0.602 0.137 17 / 30

9. MILLER, Jack Alma Pramac Racing 1:55.236 0.650 0.048 44 / 47

10. PEDROSA, Dani Repsol Honda Team 1:55.282 0.696 0.046 21 / 35

11. ROSSI, Valentino Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:55.316 0.730 0.034 30 / 45

12. ESPARGARO, Aleix Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1:55.460 0.874 0.144 36 / 47

13. NAKAGAMI, Takaaki LCR Honda IDEMITSU 1:55.539 0.953 0.079 58 / 61

14. LORENZO, Jorge Ducati Team 1:55.562 0.976 0.023 30 / 53

15. REDDING, Scott Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1:55.708 1.122 0.146 35 / 57

16. SMITH, Bradley Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1:55.798 1.212 0.090 37 / 49

17. RABAT, Tito Reale Avintia Racing 1:55.875 1.289 0.077 44 / 61

18. ABRAHAM, Karel Ángel Nieto Team 1:55.876 1.290 0.001 10 / 37

19. MORBIDELLI, Franco EG 0,0 Marc VDS 1:56.074 1.488 0.198 48 / 55

20. BAUTISTA, Alvaro Ángel Nieto Team 1:56.104 1.518 0.030 25 / 70

21. SYAHRIN, Hafizh Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:56.263 1.677 0.159 31 / 46

22. LUTHI, Thomas EG 0,0 Marc VDS 1:56.295 1.709 0.032 27 / 38

23. SIMEON, Xavier Reale Avintia Racing 1:56.795 2.209 0.500 29 / 46

24. KALLIO, Mika Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1:57.218 2.632 0.423 50 / 56

MotoGP – Viñales fastest on day one at Losail test


Yamaha factory rider Maverick Viñales enjoyed a positive first day’s testing at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, finishing the session in first place.

Viñales tried various tweaks to the basic setting, gradually improving his feeling on the bike as well as his position, slotting into second place, behind team-mate Valentino Rossi, with more than three and a half hours to go.

He spent the remaining time of the session concentrating on his riding style and setting a consistent pace – he set a 1’55.053s on lap 50 of 64 laps in total, and ended the first day in first place with a 0.051s margin over his closest rival.

He said: “We had no confidence to push in Thailand. Today it looks like we improved in that area. In the beginning I didn’t feel well with the bike, but after trying some set-ups we felt better and I could push the front more, and step-by-step the lap times became lower. We are trying to make the bike the best we can. I started to feel better and better every time I exited pit lane today.

“On the last run I was doing many laps, focusing on my riding style and it looks to be going well. The bike is very consistent and I was able to ride well, but we still need to work on the corner speed, turning and acceleration, so we need to stay focused and keep working. Anyway, in the area that we wanted to improve, we improved – that’s positive.”

WSBK – double joy for Melandri at season opener at Phillip Island



The Ducati WSBK factory team enjoyed a memorable first round performance at Phillip Island as Marco Melandri took two extraordinary race victories.

Race One saw Melandri fight with the leading group of Rea and Sykes before the Italian closed the gap from Sykes at the top, eventually taking the lead with five laps to go and defending his position until the checkered flag.

His team-mate Chaz Davies also enjoyed a strong race, coming back from sixth to third position in the second half of the race to take a deserved podium.

Race Two was shaped by a mandatory tyre change, a decision taken by Race Direction for safety reasons, which prompted the riders to pit-in from lap 10 to 12.

At the end of lap 11, Melandri enjoyed a near perfect pit-stop and rejoined the race in second position, behind team-name Davies. While trying to build a gap at the front, however, the Welshman crashed out, leaving Melandri to fight it out with Rea for the win. The duel went down to the wire and was decided by just 0.021 seconds, with Melandri taking the photo finish.

The win was Melandri’s 22nd win in WSBK, making him the most successful Italian in the production-based series.

Melandri said: “Race One was fantastic. Sykes got off to a strong start and it wasn’t easy to follow him and Rea early on. As the race went on, I managed to cut the gap. Once in the lead, it wasn’t easy anyway because the wind gusts were even stronger. The last lap seemed to last forever, but we hung on and brought home the victory.

“Race Two was a crazy race. The tire change made it impossible to come up with a strategy, as many riders could be fast for 10 laps. It was a big fight, with many aggressive moves. We still tried to look after the tyres after the pit-stop, and in the last five laps we found our rhythm. Towards the end, it was difficult to pass Rea under braking so I decided to focus on the final sprint and catch the slipstream out of the last corner, in which we were particularly fast, and the plan worked.”