MotoGP

MotoGP: Marquez grabs another COTA pole after stormy qualifying session

2019, Round 3, COTA, MotoGP

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez secured a seventh straight pole position at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas after setting a 2:03.787 in Q2 to finish 0.273 clear of Yamaha’s second Valentino Rossi, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow completing the front row in Texas.

After horrendous weather throughout the morning in Austin, the lightening and rain was replaced with beautiful blue skies above the Circuit of the Americas for qualifying. Normal service was resumed at the beginning of Q2 as Marquez slammed in a 2:03.787 straight out the gate, chasing down teammate Jorge Lorenzo – who topped the timesheets in Q1 – to put in the best time of the weekend. Lorenzo then encountered a chain issue with his Honda machine heading onto his second flying lap behind the number 93 – a Marquez-style park it and run down pitlane followed for the five-time World Champion.

Meanwhile, Marquez’ scorcher of a time was seemingly well out of sight as the riders completed their first flying laps, with Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales a full two seconds back before his teammate Rossi jumped up to second, 0.733 the gap. No one could get closer than that to Marquez after the first runs though, with Rossi emerging as best of the rest ahead of Pramac’s Jack Miller, Viñales, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Crutchlow.

The riders emerged out of the box for their second time attacks, with Marquez unable to better his sensational first lap at the first attempt on fresh rubber.

Marquez said: “I’m happy to be on pole position but for tomorrow nothing is certain yet. Today we were fastest and got pole, but no one knows about race pace or tyres yet as we lost FP3. We will have to work well in Warm Up to make up for the time we sadly lost to the weather. After Warm Up we will know more but there are many people who could be in the fight.”

But it wasn’t the same story for his rivals behind, with Rossi improving to move within three tenths of P1, with Rins and Miller exchanging laps good enough for the final front row slot just behind. However, neither would occupy P3 for long as Crutchlow crossed the line to displace the duo, the British rider just 0.087 off Rossi.

Miller took top Ducati honours in P4, with KTM’s Pol Espargaro just behind. The Spaniard enjoyed a stellar Q2 session to secure KTM’s best qualifying position in fifth, just 0.685 from pole, with Viñales improving on his last lap to grab a second row start in P6.

The Spaniard’s lap knocked Rins down a place to seventh, with Q1 graduate Danilo Petrucci piloting his Ducati to eighth ahead of Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo. Teammate Franco Morbidelli qualified  P10, ahead of Lorenzo and rookie Francesco Bagnaia on the second Pramac bike.

The major talking points from qualifying were the absence of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso from Q2 and Lorenzo’s bike throwing a chain, with paddock insiders posting the finger at Honda’s carbon fibre swingarm; many speculate that the swingarm now flexes too much to keep a chain on at full throttle on a slow turn.

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MotoGP: Aprilia unveils new 2019 livery and squad

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Aprilia has unveiled its 2019 livery and team line-up for the new season.

As well as a new bike, the team has shaken up its squad in a bid to change its fortunes, appointing Massimo Rivola as new racing CEO, Romano Albesiano’s as technical director, Bradley Smith as test rider, with Andrea Iannone joining Aleix Espargaro.

“The final part of last season and the winter tests were fundamental from a technical point of view,” Albesiano said. “The arrival of Andrea and Bradley added new information to Aleix’s fundamental contribution, helping us to define the RS-GP’s line of evolution. This is a project that has come to fruition this season, with an overall improvement in every aspect.

“A lot of work was done on making it lighter. We made changes to the chassis architecture and electronics management, leaving room for further advancements that will be done constantly throughout the season.

“The reorganisation of the racing department and the reinforcement of the test team were two key factors in preparation over the winter, allowing us to streamline processes and have more precise data analysis. These are essential aspects in MotoGP these days.”

MotoGP: recovering Marquez tops the timesheets on first day of testing

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Despite still suffering the effects of surgery on his left shoulder during the winter break, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez topped the timesheets on Day 1 at the Sepang Test with a 1:59.621, 0.259 faster than Suzuki’s Alex Rins in second and 0.316 quicker than third place rider Maverick Viñales on the factory Yamaha.

Marquez completed 29 laps on Day 1 before stopping in the early afternoon to give his left shoulder a rest ahead of the next two days, with the reigning world champion heading for more physio in the afternoon. New team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is sitting out the test due to injury, but there were three Hondas in the top ten as Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda, fastest in Jerez, took seventh and Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) ended Day 1 in P9, just under six tenths off Marquez.

LCR Honda Castrol rider Cal Crutchlow, meanwhile, returned from his ankle injury sustained at Phillip Island with a solid 51 laps on Wednesday, ending his first time back on a bike in P14 with a 2:00.681.

Alex Rins was one of the big headlines of the day, able to put in a substantial 61 laps on board his 2019 GSX-RR and was fastest for some time until deposed by Marquez. He remained second after his earlier fast lap, however, and was the lead Hamamatsu machine by quite a stretch. Rookie teammate Joan Mir ended the day in P23, just behind veteran French test rider Sylvain Guintoli on the Suzuki.

There were positive signs from Yamaha, who are looking to bounce back after trying 2018 season. Maverick Viñales ended the day in P3 after 63 laps with a best of 1:59.937, with team-mate Valentino Rossi in P6 after 56 laps and just over a tenth off Viñales.

New team on the block Petronas Yamaha SRT, meanwhile, had Franco Morbidelli just outside the top ten in P12 after 60 laps – only eight tenths off the top – with rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo a further half a second in arrears in P18 on tight timesheets.

Just behind Viñales, meanwhile, was the first of the Borgo Panigale machines – but it was Reale Avintia Racing’s Tito Rabat who took that honour. Less than half a tenth off Viñales and the last man under the two-minute barrier, the Spaniard impressed on his first day back on a MotoGP machine at fuller strength, having missed much of the latter part of last season following his horrific crash at Silverstone. Just behind him came the first of the factory Ducati bikes in the form of new arrival Danilo Petrucci, with the Italian just 0.003 ahead of Rossi after 54 laps. 2017 and 2018 runner up Andrea Dovizioso, meanwhile, ended Day 1 of 2019 in P8 with a 2:00.197.

Jack Miller wasn’t far off the second factory machine despite a small crash either, with the Aussie taking P11 – three tenths off Dovizioso and lead Alma Pramac Racing machine. Rookie team-mate Francesco Bagnaia – reigning Moto2 Champion – made for close company too, impressing in P15 as the fastest debutant.

Completing the top ten was an impressive day’s work for KTM factory rider Pol Espargaro, with the #44 completing a fitting 44 laps with a best of 2:00.313 despite a crash at the end. The Spaniard took the honours of lead Austrian machine by sixth tenths, although the second KTM on the timesheets was an equally stunning performance: rookie Miguel Oliveira of Red Bull KTM Tech 3. The Portuguese rider finished the day in P16 and only just off fastest newcomer Bagnaia, making a big impression on Day 1 after more difficult tests at Valencia and Jerez. Experienced test rider Mika Kallio was in P19, just ahead of Espargaro’s new team=mate Johann Zarco as the Frenchman continued his adaptation in P20.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was the fastest Noale machine in P13 and said the 2019 bike is a definite improvement, with the Spaniard putting in 55 laps to end the first day of the season just ahead of Crutchlow. New team-mate Andrea Iannone was down in P21 and suffered a crash on his first lap, ending the day 1.6 seconds off Marquez as he continues to get used to his new machinery.

MotoGP: Yamaha factory team unveils 2019 livery

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A new era has dawned on the factory Yamaha MotoGP team with the unveiling of a new livery;  the Movistar colours have been ditched in favour of a darker black-and-blue look for the arrival of new title sponsor Monster Energy.

Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Racing, said: “We like the new colours of the bike a lot. It’s more aggressive and I think that is what we need to be. We need to adopt the attitude of ‘beast mode on’ to be world champions.”

MotoGP: #69 to be retired at the Circuit of the Americas

Nicki Hayden

In tribute to the late, great Nicky Hayden, who passed away in 2017, the number 69 will be retired from Grand Prix racing at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The “Kentucky Kid” rode 69 to the crown and MotoGP Legend status during an impressive career that saw him leave an indelible mark on the sport and the paddock.

Hayden’s first successes came in 2003 when he took podiums as a rookie and he went on to win his first Grand Prix in 2005. That created a perfect springboard for the following season and he put together an impressive campaign to become 2006 MotoGP World Champion, wrapping up the crown in the season finale.

Hayden rose from dirt track beginnings to the absolute pinnacle of his sport, taking his unique blend of work ethic, humility and talent from the domestic scene to the world stage and putting his name to an astounding number achievements both within racing and beyond its limits – key amongst which was his moniker as ‘the nicest man in Grand Prix racing’.

Hayden remained a cornerstone of the paddock until his departure at the end of 2015, upon which he was named a MotoGP Legend. The number 69 will now forever remain the number of the “Kentucky Kid”; the man who rode it into the Hall of Fame.

“What a great honor it will be for Nicky’s #69 to be retired at Austin,” says Hayden’s father, Earl. “It is very fitting that it will be done at the US race as these races meant so much to Nicky and he looked forward to them so much every year. For myself in particular this will be very special event because the #69 was my number when I raced and I was very proud to see Nicky run the #69 on his bikes for his entire career. On behalf of my entire family I would like to say a special thanks to Dorna for honoring Nicky in this special way along with the many other gestures they have done to support us through the difficult times.”

MotoGP: Crutchlow ditches Arai to sign with HJC

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HJC Helmets have reached an agreement with Cal Crutchlow to become his official helmet sponsor for 2019 and 2020 in the MotoGP World Championship.

Cal has been a permanent fixture on the MotoGP grid since 2011 and the British rider continues his relationship with Team LCR Honda in 2019 after celebrating three podiums in 2018 including a victory in Argentina. Unfortunately, an injury sustained in Australia excluded Cal from the final three races of the season.

A well-respected rider by all in the paddock, Cal will become a vital part of HJC’s racing program. His maturity and experience on track bring important knowledge to contribute to the development of HJC’s products, building on their 47 years of experience in manufacturing quality motorcycle helmets.

Crutchlow said: “I am very pleased to announce my new partnership with HJC Helmets. They’ve grown their presence in the MotoGP paddock over the past few years, sponsoring races and I’m happy to join the family. Despite being a huge company, they haven’t lost the personal approach and relationship, and this means a lot to me. Their helmet is a great product and I’m looking forward to working with them to continue to develop and evolve their design.”

The move sees Cal ditch his long-standing relationship with Arai.

MOTOGP: PEDROSA PRESENTED WITH TWO GP BIKES AT HONDA THANKS DAY, JAPAN

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Dani Pedrosa has been presented with two of his former Grand Prix bikes during a farewell appearance at the Honda Thanks Day.

The Spaniard spent his entire grand prix career with Honda – starting in the 125cc class in 2001, followed by two seasons in 250 and then 13 years at the factory Repsol team in MotoGP, culminating in his final race at Valencia last month.

Pedrosa and Honda claimed 54 race victories together, 31 in the premier-class, whilst winning the 125cc crown in 2003, then 250cc title in 2004 and 2005.

At the end of this year’s Honda Thanks Day, Pedrosa was given both an RCV MotoGP machine and RS250RW two-stroke by HRC Director Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Honda President Takahiro Hachigo.

MotoGP: Nakagami leaves Jerez test on top

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LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami enjoyed Day two of testing at Jerez, putting in 66 laps on his 2018 Honda to go fastest.

Reigning Champion Marc Marquez wasn’t far behind on his Repsol Honda however, ending the day just 0.025 off Nakagami’s best with a 1:37.970 – with Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales completing the top three within a tenth of the top.

At Honda, the devil was in the details – not just the logo on the number 99’s side of the garage – although there was a new airbox on show. Marquez completed 56 laps – including a Marquez-style save – and says now focus will shift more towards the chassis. New teammate Jorge Lorenzo was also a force to be reckoned with on the timesheets. He put in a 1:38.105 and was just 0.039 off Viñales in third, securing fourth after 65 laps – the third Honda in the top five.

The leading Yamaha on Day Two was Viñales after completing 78 laps. Both he and teammate Valentino Rossi have been testing two different engine specs, with Viñales clear as to which one they should go with.

While Viñales seems content, the nine-time World Champion wasn’t quite as happy after Day 1, saying that it was good enough for fourth – if they can capitalise on others’ misfortunes. On Day 2 though, Rossi finished 11th fastest after setting a quickest time of 1:38.596, 0.651 from Nakagami’s benchmark after completing 67 laps.

In the Petronas Yamaha SRT garage, it was another good day for both Franco Morbidelli and rookie Fabio Quartararo. For the former, asixth finish after 68 laps and just 0.173 from the top sees him continue his quick adaptation from Honda to Yamaha. For Quartararo, it was another vital 58 laps in the bag – and it was another hugely positive day. The Frenchman finished the day twelth on the timesheets after setting a fastest lap of 1:38.761, just over a tenth off Rossi’s fastest lap and under a second from Nakagami.

Meanwhile Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso put in 44 laps with a fastest of 1:38.292 to put him in P8, and it was new teammate Danilo Petrucci who flew the flag highest in fifth, a 1:38.109 his fastest of 68 laps.

Pramac’s Jack Miller was fastest for a brief time in the afternoon, and ended the day in seventh overall after 57 laps, the best of which was a 1:38.207. His rookie teammate Francesco Bagnaia, meanwhile, made for close company and was the quickest of the new kids on the grid. The Pramac duo were split by Dovizioso but ‘Pecco’ was only just over a tenth off Miller and the Italian debutant did 50 laps.

Tito Rabat was another impressive performer on Ducati machinery. The Spaniard, who is still coming back from his leg break sustained at Silverstone, managed 60 laps and ended the day in thirteenth. The best lap from the recovering Reale Avintia Racing rider was a 1:38.876 – with teammate Karel Abraham putting in a 1:39.744 after 40 laps, taking seventeenth.

For Suzuki, Alex Rins was able to continue to test the new GSX-RR engine and chassis combinations, alongside test rider Sylvain Guintoli. Rins was able to post the tenthth quickest time on Day 2, his 1:38.522 0.577 off Nakagami’s pace as he completed 63 laps on Thursday. For teammate Joan Mir, it was another 55 laps under his belt as he continues to impress, bouncing back extremely well from a fast crash on Day 1. Fourteenth on the timesheets for the Spaniard and under a second from P1 shows the 2017 Moto3 World Champion is continuing to adapt well, and he also got to try the new Suzuki engine and chassis on Thursday.

It was a tough test for Aprilia with Aleix Espargaro missing the whole of Day One through illness, while also missing the morning of Day 2 to complete just 11 laps. In addition, after a crash on Day One, Andrea Iannone was riding with an injured foot as the Italian completed 36 laps by the end of the second day to finish eighteenth on the timesheets. This left new test rider Bradley Smith with the majority of the testing duties, the British rider getting 59 laps done on Thursday, and Matteo Baiocco was also on circuit for the Italian factory once again – with 48 laps completed for the latter.

At KTM, Pol Espargaro was once again the quickest Austrian machine as the Spaniard put in a best of 1:39.144 after 60 laps – putting him fifteenth on the timesheets. Work continued on many different parts of the RC16, with Espargaro testing what Team Manager Mike Leitner called “bigger items”. Johann Zarco, meanwhile, was getting to better grips with his switch to the machine – with Leitner confirming his adaptation to the bike and vice versa. The Frenchman was seven tenths off his teammate on Day Two.

KTM Tech 3 Racing, meanwhile, had Hafizh Syahrin on a 1:40.520 and rookie teammate Miguel Oliveira with a best lap of 1:40.577 – only half a tenth off the Malaysian. They put in 54 and 61 laps respectively as they both switch machinery – the former from Yamaha and the latter from Moto2.

MotoGP: own a KTM racebike, yours for a cool €250,000

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KTM’s slogan is ‘Ready to Race’, and the Austrian manufacturer is living up to its ethos by offering two lucky riders the chance to own a full-factory RC16 MotoGP race bike.

Placing the advert on the KTM Factory Racing social media pages, the €250,000 package also includes a full set of Pol Espargaro’s race kit, along with a signed helmet. The price also gives the successful buyer the chance to be a member of the team for the weekend with a paddock and pitbox tour, a meet and greet with Espagaro and newly-signed Johann Zarco at a Grand Prix of their choice and a complementary set of team wear. 

Any interested buyers should now contact rc16@ktm.com for more details.

MotoGP: Dovi masters the wet to win at season finale in Valencia

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Andrea Dovizioso gave a wet weather riding masterclass to take a dominant Valencia victory in the restarted race.

The Ducati rider capped a strong end to 2018 with victory in Valencia, Ducati’s first at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo for a decade and the first of his career at the track, with flawless wet weather riding in each MotoGP race following the initial start’s red flag on 15 laps after a large number of riders fall foul of the tough conditions – not least reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi.

On the original start, Suzuki’s Alex Rins had destroyed the field to gain a huge lead after only a couple of corners, and the rain was falling but not heavy. The conditions remained difficult, however, and a good few big names – including some wet specialists – found themselves sliding out. They included a highside that skittled Marquez into the gravel from podium contention, and a high-speed tumble for Viñales after a good initial getaway. Pol Espargaro crashed out of P4 at Turn 3 after a stunning start, but he was incredibly able to re-join. Brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing), teammate Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also all crashed out and couldn’t get back in it, but Rossi? At that stage, he was only getting faster as the rain was getting worse.

Eventually, however, the volume of rain was starting to beat the circuit’s ability to drain and the Red Flag came out. The race would be re-started for 14 laps, and the grid would be decided by the standings as of the last completed lap – meaning it was Rins on pole, Dovizioso second, Rossi third and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) lining up fourth in his final race. 14 laps and the end of an era for many…

The front row held station as the lights went out for ‘Race 2’ and all 16 riders safely negotiated the opening exchanges, with Rins leading. However, Dovizioso was once again able to get the power down on his GP18 to slice past Rins heading onto lap 2 – with Rossi in close pursuit. The three leaders quickly gapped fourth place Espargaro by 2.9 seconds, and Pedrosa tucked in behind the KTM in P5.

By then, the rain was starting to fall once again and conditions were still incredibly tough. Nevertheless, the leading trio were all lapping in the low 1:43s – two seconds quicker than anyone else as it soon became a three horse race for the final win of 2018.

On Lap 6, Dovizioso then pulled the pin to create a one-second gap back to Rins – a 1:49.921 creating that gap, with 1.5 seconds then splitting the trio. Another fastest lap soon followed for Dovi, as Rossi made his move past Rins at Turn 4 – 1.5 down on  the Ducati. However, with six to go, the gap was up to 2.4 and a lap later, the Ducati rider’s lead was over three seconds. But then, the drama hit again and ‘The Doctor’ was down at Turn 12 – rider ok, but lifting Espargaro and KTM up to a podium place.

As the last lap began, Dovizioso’s advantage was four seconds to Rins as both safely waded their way to the finish line – the Italian taking his first win since Misano and Rins grabbing a fifth podium of the year to claim P5 in the Championship. Then, emotional scenes followed as Espargaro kept Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) at bay to take both his and KTM’s maiden MotoGP podium – phenomenal from rider and factory alike after the number 44 rider had crashed earlier. Behind him and Pirro came the new MotoGP Legend, pedrosa, who took home a hard-earned P5 from his farewell Grand Prix ride on home soil as he helped Repsol Honda secure the triple crown. Behind the three-time Champion was fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), the Japanese rookie taking home a career-best P6 as top Independent Team rider in the race, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) taking the overall 2018 Independent Team rider honours after crossing the line in P7. The Frenchman held off Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who grabbed his best KTM result on his final ride for the team.

Replacement rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda Castrol) crossed the line in P9, with Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) rounding out the top ten – a great ride, but not quite enough to beat Morbidelli to ‘Rookie of the Year’. On his final Grand Prix appearance, Scott Redding (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) claimed a season-best P11, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) bringing his Ducati career to an end with a tough P12 on the comeback from injury. Rossi remounted to ride to P13 and take third in the championship, with Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) and Jordi Torres (Reale Avintia Racing) claiming the final point-scoring positions.

Dovizioso, who finished runner-up in the overall rider standings, said: “The mix of the [new] tyre and the set-up worked well so I am so happy in the way we worked this weekend. Also every practice our speed was good but we never were the fastest. In the end in qualifying and the race we were there so I am so happy to finish the season like this. I am happy to give this victory to my team.”