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MotoGP: Marquez extends Honda contract

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The 2018 season may not even have kicked off, but Marc Marquez has become the third rider to secure his long-term future after signing a contract extension with Honda to stay with the Repsol team for two more years, for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Marquez said: “I’m excited to continue to race for Honda’s factory team in the MotoGP class. I’m proud to race as a member of the Honda family, and I appreciate how Honda and the team always do their best to provide me with everything I need. I would also like to thank everyone who has given me such warm support over the years. The first two official tests went well and, with my contract renewed, I can focus on racing in the new season. I will continue to enjoy racing, share my joy with everybody and do my best to reach our shared goals. Thank you!”

The news makes sense – Marquez is very happy with Honda, and at this point in his career, his main ambition is to keep winning races and championships.

He has proven that he is capable of doing that with Honda. And the bike looks to be better than last season’s machine; Marquez has been both very fast and very comfortable in winter testing, his long runs an indication of just how fast he is, even in race trim. With Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow also quick on the bike, the RC213V looks like being extremely competitive this year.

Marquez is the third rider to sign a new contract before the season has even begun.

Maverick Viñales announced that he would be back with Yamaha for two more years at the Movistar Yamaha team launch, before he had even swung a leg over the bike, and Ducati announced they had signed Pecco Bagnaia to the Pramac team for two years.

With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon all having contracts for 2019 with their current teams, that brings the total number of riders already signed for next year up to six.

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MotoGP –Pedrosa sets the fastest time in Buriram, Marquez shows the best pace

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The Repsol Honda team has wrapped up a positive final day of testing in Thailand, which saw Dani Pedrosa setting the fastest time of the day and the best overall with a 1’29.781” on lap 77 of 78.

The Spaniard said: “We leave Thailand with positive feelings. The test was quite tough as the temperatures were high, and we worked really hard over the three days. In the end we didn’t have many tyres left, so we had to carefully manage the planning of our work.

“We worked on many aspects of the bike’s setup, and step-by-step we improved our speed and pace. Among other things, today we tested a carbon swing arm that’s a new area for us to work on, so we’re still in the process of learning and of finding the feeling. I’m very happy with the job my team is doing at the track, and with what the engineers are doing back in Japan. They’re really helping us to improve, and this is good and gives us confidence. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue this trend at the final test in Qatar, which will be very interesting as conditions will be different.”

The session saw both factory riders working on the general development of their RC213V, carrying out tests on the latest engine configuration, chassis, aerodynamics, and Michelin tyres.

Over the three days of testing, Marquez completed a total of 271 laps, Pedrosa  224, and while Pedrosa topped the timesheet, Marquez managed a very impressive 20-lap race simulation in the afternoon, featuring a long string of high-1’30” laps. His quickest time on the final day was a 1’30.143” on lap 27 of 96, the fourth-fastest among all riders (yesterday’s best of 1’29.969” places him third in the combined classification).

MotoGP – Livio Suppo to leave HRC

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Honda has announced that Livio Suppo has decided to leave his role as Repsol Honda’s Team Principal.

Suppo joined HRC in 2010, as Communications and Marketing Director. From 2013 he assumed a dual-role as Team Principal of the Repsol Honda Team and HRC Communications and Marketing Director, giving a precious contribution in marketing, plus team and rider management.

Suppo said: “It has been a real honour to work for HRC over the past eight years. It has been a great professional and human experience, and I will be always grateful to the Company for asking me to be part of it.

“Anyway, after 22 seasons in the motorcycle racing world, I feel that it is time for me to look for new challenges. I leave HRC knowing that in 2018 they will be competitive, because Marc and Dani are very strong and the engineers will as always prepare a good package for them to fight for the championship again. I will never forget all the good days we had together, and one more time I would like to say thanks to everybody in the team and at HRC for sharing these exciting years with me.”

MotoGP – Pedrosa wins, Marquez takes the title in scintillating finale

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The final race of the season was an epic climax to 2018, with with Dani Pedrosa winning the Grand Prix, his seventh at Valencia across all classes and his 31st in the MotoGP class.

But all eyes were on team-mate Marc Marquez and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to see which pilot would take the title.

It was Marquez who got the better start, hustling his way to the front before Tech 3’s Johann Zarco assumed the lead on lap four.

Dovizioso also made a blistering start, forcing his way through the midfield to sit behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez was happy in second – he’d win the title – and stuck behind the satellite Yamaha for 20 laps before making a pass. However, he immediately ran wide in Turn 1, the front wheel closing at full left lock. But Marquez would not be beaten and managed to balance the bike on his knee and his elbow, holding on in the hope the front would come back to him as smoke poured off the front tire. The rear finally gripped and he succeeded in flipping the bike back up again as he headed to the edge of the hard standing on the outside of Turn 1. With something resembling control, he ran off the track and through the gravel, rejoining behind the Ducatis and several seconds behind.

The Ducatis were embroiled in an internal battle of their own. To stand any chance of landing the title, Dovizioso had to get past his team-mate. Lap after lap Lorenzo refused to move over, and then the ‘Suggested Mapping 8’ appeared on his dashboard, the same message which had been shown at Sepang. This was surely the sign that Ducati were ordering Lorenzo to let Dovizioso by, but Lorenzo steadfastly refused to obey.

The same message was sent again just five laps later, and then a lap later it was clear for all to see – Lorenzo’s pit board had an instruction to drop one place, thus allowing Dovizioso through.

The messages kept coming, on both dashboard and pit board, but Lorenzo kept ignoring them, and actually started catching Pedrosa in second, dropping Dovizioso in the process as if to prove a point.

It is this stubbornness which would cost him dearly. He had caught Pedrosa and was starting to push, too hard as it turned out, and lost the front in Turn 5, crashing out.

And just three corners later the title was decided as Dovizioso failed to get his bike stopped on the way into Turn 8, ran straight on into the gravel, and tumbled over at slow speed. Dovizioso remounted his bike, and cruised back to the Ducati garage, where he retired. The title was now Marquez’s, regardless of where he finished.

At the front, the battle continued to rage, with Pedrosa dicing with Zarco for the lead. With four laps left, the Spaniard was clearly quicker than Zarco, and on the final lap he pounced. He was close enough behind Zarco to use the slipstream of the Frenchman to launch himself out of the draft along the straight and grab the inside line as he drew level with Zarco, holding him off on the brakes. The Repsol Honda rider then continued to push while riding defensive lines, and eventually crossed the line to take victory, his second of the season, and scoring enough points to secure the team championship for Repsol Honda.

It was a fitting end to a spectacular season. Roll on 2018…

 

MotoGP – Repsol Honda duo dominate Aragon

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa scored a fantastic one-two result at the Aragon Grand Prix.

The duo, starting from the second row of the grid, Marquez on a hard-hard Michelin tyre combination, Pedrosa on medium-medium, fought their way forward to take the squad’s seventh double podium of the season.

The race got off to a dramatic start, with poleman Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) quickly passed by the fast-starting Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team), as the Ducati man led into the first corner and took the race to the rest of the field.

The Ducati racer led for the next 15 of the 23-lap race, with Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) – who was returning to competitive racing action just 24-days after breaking his right leg in two places – all in close contention.

Lorenzo came under scrutiny from Marquez, before the reigning world champion made his move on lap-16. Once in the lead Marquez pushed all the way to the line and finished almost a second ahead of his nearest rival, a result that increased his championship lead to 16-points.

Pedrosa made his way from sixth on the grid – setting the fastest lap of the race in the process – to follow his team-mate home, and once he had created enough heat in the tyres he was able to produce fast laps and push his way towards the front of the field. Lorenzo made up the trio of riders on the podium as he steered his machine to third. The choice of Michelin compounds was certainly evident on the podium as soft, medium, and hard rear versions were used by the top-three collectively.

Pole-setter Viñales was the next across the line after the top-three, following a spirited fight with his team-mate Rossi. Sixth – and the first independent rider – went to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), as he equalled his best result of the season so far. Dovizioso came home in seventh to consolidate his second position in the championship, with Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) in eighth. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took ninth and strengthened his lead in the Independent and Rookie of the Year title chases. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) rounded out the top-ten.

Marquez’s 60th career win is also his fifth this year and his ninth podium of the season (the seventh out of the last eight races), helping him to pull a small gap of 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso and 28 points over Maverick Viñales, his two closest pursuers in the title chase.

Marquez said: “I’m very very happy with this victory because it was a tough race. Yesterday I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable with the bike, and today I was struggling again except in the warm-up; I don’t really know why. Anyway, racing at one of my favourite tracks, close to my home and in front of my fans, gave me extra motivation. I pushed hard and in some corners I just clicked the off-button in my head, even if I crashed twice yesterday. I saw that Viñales and Dovi were struggling a bit and knew it was the moment to push, so I did.

“There were a few scary moments, once when I was trying to overtake Valentino; he was tighter in that corner than I was expecting, and to avoid a clash I released the brakes, only to realise that Lorenzo was right there. So I went off the track, and at that moment I cooled down a bit, even if I continued to try and close the gap. Once I passed Lorenzo, I had to keep going as I saw that Dani was coming very fast. Anyway, that’s the Marquez style. Of course it’s important to think of the championship, but the situation now requires that we give it everything. So we’ll try to continue with the same motivation and mentality race by race, giving our 100 per cent.”

MotoGP – dominant win for Marquez at Brno

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez took a back-to-back victory at Brno in challenging conditions, his third this year and the 58th in his career, extending his championship lead to 14 points over his closest follower.

It was the fifth flag-to-flag race that Marquez has perfectly mastered thanks to a mix of tactics and determination – on this occasion the Spaniard found himself struggling soon after the lights went off, having fitted a soft rear tyre that he wasn’t at ease with on a drying track.

He was the first to roll the dice and pitted on Lap Two, where his team was ready with his second bike fitted with slick tyres. That allowed him to pull a huge gap on his opponents, which he managed until the chequered flag.

Team-mate Pedrosa was also on form and secured a strong second place, bringing his career podium tally to 150 (and his MotoGP podium tally to 109, one more than Jorge Lorenzo) – Pedrosa switched to his second bike on Lap Four and re-entered the race in eighth position. He immediately started riding at a very fast pace, fighting his way forward to second and setting the fastest lap of the race along the way.

Maverick Viñales finished third on the Factory Yamaha, one place ahead of his team-mate Valentino Rossi with Cal Crutchlow rounding out the top five on the LCR Honda.

The all-Spanish rostrum was a fitting way to honour the “Maestro” Angel Nieto, 12+1 World Champion, who passed away on Thursday.

Marquez said: “This was a very special Sunday because everyone was racing for Angel Nieto, but it was also a very challenging race. On the grid, I took the risk to use the soft rear tyre because I thought it would give me extra grip for five laps before pitting to change bikes, but it didn’t go like that.

“I soon started to struggle a lot and lost many positions. When I saw that, I decided to immediately get in and take the risk of the slicks. When I re-joined the race, honestly it was still too damp in some parts and I nearly crashed during the first lap out. When you go out for the flag-to-flag, it’s so difficult to get the feeling with the bike again, but I tried to quickly understand the grip.

“Honestly, today I took some risks but it was one of those days when you just have to do it. After pulling a great gap, I just tried to manage, to ride well, and to finish the race. I’m really very happy with the result. It’s a track I normally struggle at, one I worry about every year, and getting 25 points was very important. The Championship is still very, very tight; we must be able to be fast in every condition.”

MotoGP – Marquez storms to pole in Brno

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On a sunny and hot second day at Brno, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed a stunning pole position for tomorrow’s Czech Grand Prix, his fourth this season and the 69th of his career.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa was a close third, a mere 0.046” behind Valentino Rossi on the Factory Yamaha in second and just 0.138” off his teammate.
Marquez said: “I’m very happy with today because I knew that making the pole would be tough, as I normally struggle at this track, but I tried for it anyway.
“The test we did here was useful. I felt good already with the first tyre, even if I nearly crashed as I was pushing very hard. I tried to ride smoothly but still brake hard. With the second tyre, I gave it all I had and we got this pole. I’m very, very happy.
“Tomorrow we’ll see what weather conditions we have, as it looks a bit unstable and not as warm. It will be a long, hard race but we should be able to fight for the podium in either the dry or the wet, so we’re looking forward to it and to enjoying the race.”
Both Marquez and Pedrosa had already displayed a fast pace in the FP3 session, taking P1 and P2 respectively despite suffering a crash each in the early stages, Marquez going down at Turn 10 because of an oil spill from another rider’s bike and Pedrosa sliding out at Turn 8 while pushing hard.

MotoGP – Marqyez extends German winning streak

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Reigning Champion takes eighth successive win at the Sachsenring, under pressure from a stunning rookie ride by home hero Folger.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has taken an incredible eighth win in a row at the Sachsenring, extending his run from the 125 World championship to another year of the premier class – with all those wins from pole.

However, it was anything but easy, however – with German rookie Jonas Folger on the Tech 3 Yamaha pushing the reigning champion throughout the race in a stunning ride to his first podium. Dani Pedrosa on the seconf Repsol Honda completed the podium.

Marquez took the lead into Turn 1 from pole, with teammate Dani Pedrosa slotting into second as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo sliced through from P6 on the grid to third, pushing Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci and Jonas Folger back.

Marquez and Pedrosa began to pull away in the lead as Folger charged through to get himself into third, and then started threatening the Repsol Honda duo in the lead.

The Tech 3 rookie look composed and smooth and quickly took Pedrosa and prepared to attack Marquez – pushing through soon after and below lap record pace.

With Petrucci through on Lorenzo into fourth, it was Valentino Rossi on the factory Yamaha who struck next, with the Italian, Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati and Petrucci battling for fourth as Pedrosa began to drop back from the lead duo.

Folger then headed wide and Marquez took the opportunity, but couldn’t shake the German.

That’s the way it stayed – with Marquez’ pitboard remaining +0.1 lap after lap, and the rookie not for giving up. Facing down the reigning.
Finally it was a small mistake that saw Folger run deep, and Marquez pulled the pin to stretch the gap – eventually crossing the line for win number eight just over three seconds clear.

Folger’s tyres were shot, but he kept his head to cross the line in second for his first premier class podium, sealing the deal in an incredible performance at his home race. Dani Pedrosa completed the podium after a more lonely ride in the latter stages, also bouncing back from a tough Dutch GP.

As the top ten battled it out further, Rossi found his fourth under attack from Dovizioso, with team-mate Viñales then joining the fight. After some stunning wheel-to-wheel action, it was Viñales who took P4, with teammate Rossi close behind to complete the top five.

Bautista took P6 after an impressive ride, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro crossing the line in seventh for a good haul of points for the Noale factory ahead of the summer break.

Championship leader going into the race, Dovizioso crossed the line in eighth and remains third in the standings – ahead of a stunning comeback from Johann Zarco (who guided his Tech  Yamaha to ninth after fighting from P19 on the grid. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow completed the top ten, with Jorge Lorenzo crossing the line in P11 after running at the front earlier in the race.

Danilo Petrucci was another who fell back, taking twelfth ahead of another double points finish for Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda completed the top fifteen.

Marquez said: “I’m very, very happy. I knew before the weekend that this was an important moment in the Championship and that the Sachsenring was an important circuit for us. It was the place to take a risk if necessary and to try to win. So I’m happy we took these 25 points and the lead in the Championship before the summer break.

“I wish to dedicate this win to Nicky (Hayden) and his family. I had promised this to myself after his incident because we had some very good moments together and he was a friend.

“The race was very tight. Honestly, before the start I thought I would have to battle with Dani, but actually there was also another very fast opponent. I was very surprised at the beginning to see Jonas there, and I thought he might stay in between with the other riders, but he actually remained there! He was quite a tough opponent!

“The Championship is very close with four riders within 10 points and with Dani also not far away. Everything is open, so we’ll keep the same mentality, the same positivity and hard work. Now we have a few days of holidays, but not too much to be ready for Brno test!”

 

 

MotoGP – Pedrosa takes stunning pole at Barcelona

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Dani Pedrosa delivered an astonishing performance this afternoon in the Catalan sunshine, taking pole position for the second time this year.

Pedrosa started the day by setting the second-fastest time in the FP3 session before going on to top the standings in both FP4 and qualifying. He was the only rider able to crack the 1’44” barrier, setting a 1’43.870 time that earned him his 30th pole in MotoGP and the 48th of his career.

Pedrosa said: “I’m very happy because taking pole is always very difficult, and doing it in front of your home fans is just amazing. Last year we struggled a lot in qualifying, while this season we’ve already earned two poles, so I wish to thank my team for the good work. We’ve worked really hard on this aspect, and we’re getting better and better.

“The conditions were quite difficult today, especially for the tyres as it was very hot and the grip wasn’t the best. We tried to manage the situation as well as possible, working a lot on the setup to improve tyre life. The tyres will be the key to the race tomorrow; it’d be great to have the same feeling from today, but we’ll wait and see. We’ll just remain focused and be prepared to do our best.”

MotoGP – dominant Pedrosa writes his name in the history books with Jerez win

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Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa gave a riding masterclass on his way to victory at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España at Jerez.

The Spaniard, starting from pole position, led the race from the first corner to the chequered flag, and set the race’s fastest lap on the way to taking his 30thwin in MotoGP – the 53rdin his career.

In winning the 3,000thGrand Prix race ever held, Pedrosa also earned the Repsol Honda Team’s 100thvictory in the MotoGP class and became the only rider to have won at least one race for 16 consecutive years.

Pedrosa got the holeshot from a great start off pole position, with team-mate Marquez slotting in behind ahead of an almighty tousle for third. LCR Honda rider Crutchlow was initially ahead of that battle, with Tech 3’s Johann Zarco tangling once again with championship leader Valentino Rossi on the Factory Yamaha until the flying Frenchman set off on a charge, taking bike after bike in now-signature style.

Arriving behind reigning Champion Marquez into third, the rookie held station for a lap as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo fought back in a tight midfield, getting past the Yamaha pair of Rossi and then Maverick Viñales. Zarco then took Marquez at the final corner, heading off after Pedrosa in the lead until the reigning Champion hit back.

It proved to be an incident packed race and drama struck further back as Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda and Alvaro Bautista on the Aspar Ducati collided and slid out, before Cal Crutchlow then lowsided into the gravel at Criville – followed shortly by the Red Bull KTM machine of Pol Espargaro. After a short tussle with Viñales, Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone also tumbled out with 17 laps to go.

The gap fluctuated at the front but Marquez was unable to make any real impression on Pedrosa’s lead, with the three-time World Champion pulling the pin in the final laps to cross the line in clear air for another stunning win – making it 16 years in a row the Spaniard has taken at least one victory in the world championship.

Reigning champion Marquez settled for second, with Lorenzo finishing third to taking his first podium with Ducati. Zarco took fourth in another scintillating performance from the rookie, ahead of an impressive fight back for Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who managed to get past Viñales after the Spaniard made a mistake.

Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci stormed back through from P13 on the grid to follow Viñales over the line, with Tech 3’s Jonas Folger putting in a solid ride once again to take eighth.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was another who moved through the field, incredibly taking 2016 Jerez winner and championship leader Valentino Rossi for ninth – the ‘Doctor’ found his pace in freefall in the latter laps of the race, struggling with tyre life in the hot temperatures to complete the top ten – but retaining the Championship lead.

Pramac Ducati’s Scott Redding had a much improved race in 2017 to take P11, ahead of Hector Barbera and teammate Loris Baz on the Avintia Racing Ducati’s. Bradley Smith took more points for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing in P14 after an awesome show for the Austrian factory in Jerez, with Karel Abraham on the Aspar Ducati locking out the top fifteen.

Pedrosa said: “I’m super-happy with this win in Jerez, a track that I love very much, and in front of my family, my friends, and all these amazing fans. I’m enjoying this emotion so much, more than I would’ve done a few years ago, in a more ‘conscious’ way. I’ve had a great feeling all weekend, and the team have worked so well; we’re getting better race by race and I’m very happy for them as well.

“We knew we were in a position to have the race we actually did. I felt the tension a little bit before the start, but I remained concentrated and got away well at the start and just went for it.

“Today the track conditions were a bit worse than yesterday and the front was sliding quite a lot. I chose the hard front because of today’s high temperature, even if the medium was my favourite. The pace probably would’ve been faster with the medium, but anyway I was happy with my choice.

“When Marc started to push, we started a little battle like yesterday in qualifying. I knew he was very fast but I was determined to keep a gap on him. It was easy to make a mistake, to lose the front, so it was a matter of staying on the limit without going over it.

“It’s also a special honour to be the winner of the 3,000th Grand Prix race and be alongside riders like Mick (Doohan, who won race number 2,000) and Angel (Nieto, who won race number 1,000).”

After Pedrosa’s stunning domination on home turf, the championship heads to  Le Mans with Rossi now two points clear of Viñales, Marquez just behind and Pedrosa now fourth in the standings – only ten points back.