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.


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.”

MotoGP – Viñales extends Yamaha deal until 2020

MYM_240118_Maverick Vinales_21

Maverick Viñales has agreed a two-year extension to his contract with the factory Movistar Yamaha squad which will see him ride for the Japanese manufacturer until 2020.

The young Catalan, who won won three races and took seven podiums with Yamaha, finished third place in the MotoGP Championship standings last year, and is the first rider in the leading factory teams to secure his seat on next year’s MotoGP grid.

He said: “I’m really happy that Yamaha and I have extended our contract by two more years. It’s great for me and the team that we were able to make this announcement this early on, because it gives us a sense of calm: we know that I will continue riding my M1 for the coming three seasons, so now we can just focus on the actual racing.

“I’m very satisfied with this decision. I have a lot of belief in the team and in Yamaha and I’m happy that they feel the same way. I want to thank Yamaha for their vote of confidence, and also the fans, who are always supporting us. We will continue to work hard. We will be pushing to the maximum at all the Grands Prix and I look forward to three more incredible seasons together.”

Team manager Lin Jarvis said: “The announcement that he will be staying with the team for two further years after 2018 is a fantastic way to start the new season: it shows clear commitment by both parties and affirms a reciprocal confidence that together we can achieve our mutual goal of becoming MotoGP World Champions.

“Maverick has been a real asset to the team as soon as he came in. He’s full of motivation and never loses sight of his goals. The 2017 season wasn’t easy, yet he has already delivered Yamaha three race wins and secured the manufacturer its 500th Grand Prix win in his first year with us. Furthermore, he took third in the championship standings after switching manufacturers, which is also an impressive achievement.

“Maverick is still very young, so we see a great future for him in Grand Prix racing, and we are very excited to challenge alongside with him during the upcoming three seasons of MotoGP.”

MotoGP – Viñales shines, Lorenzo crumbles in season opener at Qatar


Rain, delays and uncertainty all combined to create a spectacle at the opening race of the season, one which is easy to criticse but difficult to manage – unless you’re, Maverick Viñales, who kept his cool to deliver a riding masterclass on his competitive debut on the Factory Yamaha.

A stunning start from Ducati’s Andrea Iannone from P2 was soon overshadowed as rookie Johann Zarco slammed his Tech 3 Yamaha into the lead in the first laps, getting away and making a gap as Viñales found himself falling back into the clutches of teammate Valentino Rossi.

The Tech 3 rider looked comfortable at the front, pulling out a gap before sliding out of the lead soon after – leaving ‘DesmoDovi’ out front.

With the number 4 Ducati getting away in the lead, Iannone then crashed out of the fight for second – leaving reigning Champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda, Viñales and Rossi chasing the leading Desmosedici. After a dramatic scuffle between the #46 and 93, the ‘Doctor’ set off in pursuit of his teammate.

And then there were three: Viñales, Dovizioso, and Rossi.

It wasn’t long, however, before there was some fresh air between the leading two and The Doctor, a battle which saw Viñales’ corner speed pitched against the sheer might of the Ducati. After trading places for a few laps and the race impossible to call, the Spaniard was then able to hold off the Italian on the penultimate lap – and made it to the line to take his second MotoGP win; his first in Yamaha colours.

Viñales said: “I feel incredible and it shows in the results. We did a great job during the whole weekend and we started good in the test, then in FP1 we were already feeling really good.

“The race was difficult, it started to rain and there was a bit of confusion because we didn’t know what to do. The first laps were very challenging, the track was so slippery and I wanted to take it easy and stay calm. I knew I had a good pace, so I tried to push at the very end of the race.

“There were many crashes at the front, so I waited for the right moment and finally we took the victory. The feeling when I crossed the line was incredible. As the first victory with Yamaha, it was even more important than the first MotoGP victory, because there was so much pressure. We were leading all the test, “You can do it”, and finally we did, so I’m happy how I handled the pressure and also that the team worked really good. The electronics were ready and the grip of the tyres was really good on the last laps. The third sector was honestly so crucial, because Andrea [Dovizioso] used the soft tyres, so he collected the benefits and could accelerate better all the time and he didn’t waste the tyre, so it was hard to beat him, but in sector three I was really strong the whole weekend.

“I set my best sector three on the last lap and it was the minimum to take the victory, it’s really great, I’m so happy. I hope for a perfect start in Argentina. The start here was good, but I just went outside of the line and when Zarco came he crashed into me, so I had to pick up the bike and then Marquez and Dovi passed me so it was a bit chaotic on the early laps, but then I was able to concentrate. We have to continue like that and maintain this concentration.”

Reigning champion Marquez crossed the line fourth, just ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa by the flag – who took fifth after getting the better of Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia; Espargaro’s result was a historic first top six for Aprilia in the stunning first ride in Noale colours for the rider from Granollers.

Impressive performances from Scott Redding on the Pramac Ducati and Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda saw the two men come home in P7 and P8, with Suzuki’s Alex Rins top rookie in P9 – just ahead of YamahaTech 3 rider Jonas Folger, who completed the top ten.

It was a difficult ride for Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo, with the wet conditions once again messing with the Spaniard’s head. He went wide on the first lap after a solid start, down to near the back of the grid after carefully rejoining and then beginning a steady fight back through the field. Up into tenth with 12 laps to go, the ‘Spartan’ crossed the line in P11 by the end of play – a disappointing end to his debut. And one which must have Ducati wondering whether the money they’ve spent enticing Lorenzo into the red corner would have been better spent coaxing their test rider into coming out of retirement; Stoner would definitely not have folded in such a spectacular fashion.


MotoGP – Vinales is top gun at Qatar


Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales completed his royal flush of incredible preseason form by the end of the Qatar test, topping the time sheets once again on the final day of testing.

Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was the closest challenger after also having gone quickest on Day 1, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa completing the top three on Day 3.

Viñales’ quickest was a 1:54.330 – the fastest lap on Day 3 and overall – leading ‘Desmo Dovi’ by just 0.071 on the final day. The gap back to Pedrosa was smaller again, 0.068, with P4 closer still and only 0.050 in arrears. The man in P4 was new Ducati factory pilot Jorge Lorenzo.

After the Borgo Panigale factory unveiled its radical new aero package on day two, which was first tested by Andrea Dovizioso, it was Lorenzo’s turn on the third and final day of testing; alongside the more traditional fairing design of the Desmosedici. The five-time World Champion did 53 laps in total on Day 3, and showed his real progress since first taking the GP16 out for a spin in Valencia – a 1:54.519 and a tenth off his teammate.

There was more good work by Ducati riders slightly further back. Alvaro Bautista had another impressive day of preseason as it came to a close, locking out the top five for Pull&Bear on his GP16, just ahead of Pramac’s Scott Redding in P6. Bautista also suffered a crash, alongside incidents for a number of other riders on the grid – including teammate Karel Abraham, Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki, Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Ducati, Sam Lowes and Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilias and reigning world champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda.

Indeed, it was a bruising day for Marquez, who completed the day in P10 on the timesheets after crashing three times before the close of action in the final session. However, the Spaniard managed to test a new and more radically different fairing design on his Honda – radical compared to the first adjustment to have broken cover earlier in the test. His best on Day 3 was a 1:54.990, completing 47 laps. But it was the other Repsol Honda which was the faster of the two on Day 3, with Dani Pedrosa flying the flag in P3. A 1:54.469 for the ‘Baby Samurai’ took back the honour of top Honda and moved the Spaniard up more than ten places on his position on Day 2. LCR Honda’s Crutchlow ended Day 3 in P8, with a best of 1:54.821.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookies Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco continued to impress, with Folger again fastest rookie in P7 at the end of Day 3, with a 1:54.807. Zarco was P9 by the end of the day, less than a tenth off his German teammate.

Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi ended the final day of testing in eleventh. The Italian had a Day 2 of two contrasting fortunes with a crash but a huge improvement and breakthrough in pace, before Day 3 saw a more muted presence on the timesheets. Rossi was, however, only two tenths off reigning Champion Marquez’ time.

Andrea Iannone took P12 despite his crash as Karel Abraham split the Suzukis in thirteenth just ahead of rookie Alex Rins. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro ended the final day of preseason in fifteenth, after running much further up the timesheets earlier in the day.

Next up? Same venue, same faces, and a very different reality. Two weeks remain until race day, as Losail International Circuit hosts the first GP of the year from March 23-26.

MotoGP – Yamahas quickest on Day Two at Qatar


Maverick Viñales was second on the first day of the #QatarTest, but the fastest man in Valencia, Sepang and Phillip Island struck back in style to top the timesheets on Day 2 – edging Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi with a lap quicker than Andrea Dovizioso’s Friday best. The 2016 Silverstone winner did a best of 1:54.455 after 49 laps, with a much-improved Rossi 0.277 in arrears. The nine-time World Champion also crashed on Day 2; suffering ‘holes to his fingers’.

Despite the timesheets being dominated by blue, it was Ducati’s new “aero-fairing” that stole the headlines – with a drastic new design unveiled in the latter stages of the second day on track. Similar in appearance to a whale shark, with wide mouth and open gills to the side, it was Andrea Dovizioso charged with the first public evaluations of the innovation. The Italian put in a best of 1:55.583 on Day 2, seven tenths down on his best from Friday. His Saturday laptime was set on the ‘traditional’ fairing tested and put him P13.

Teammate Jorge Lorenzo impressed on Saturday with more progress as he dropped into the low 1:55s, with a best of 1:55.344 to go to P8. The Spaniard was quick out the blocks and went on to complete 53 laps, despite suffering a small crash with no consequence. Fellow crashers on Day 2 included LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller on the Marc VDS Honda, Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Ducati, Alvaro Bautista on the Pull&Bear Ducati, Bradley Smith on the Red Bull KTM Factory bike and the Aprilia Racing Team duo of Sam Lowes and Aleix Espargaro.

Crutchlow got in more running on Saturday after losing some track time to mechanical gremlins on Day 1, ending the session in P4 despite the incident and managing 46 laps on the second day of action. The two-time GP winner was also top Honda once again, this time with a 1:55.032.

Reigning Champion Marc Marquez, however, kept it clean after two falls on Friday and ended the day in P6. The Spaniard set a 1:55.196 as his best, completing 50 laps. Teammate Dani Pedrosa had a tougher day at a track he finds more of a challenge, ending up P16 with a 1:55.875. Pedrosa was P3 at the end of the Phillip Island test and will be looking to move forward on the final day of Qatar.

Jonas Folger kept his crown as top rookie, putting in another stunner to complete the top three on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine. Folger was the only rider able to join the Movistar Yamahas in the 1:54 bracket, putting in an incredible 1:54.917.

Aleix Espargaro finished Day 2 completing the top five for Aprilia despite his crash, with fellow Spaniard Alvaro Bautista also impressing in the top ten to put his Ducati GP16 in P7. Espargaro did a 1:55.121, Bautista a 1.55.245 in a close field.

Scott Redding had a much improved second day to pilot his Pramac Ducati to ninth with a 1:55.353 on his last lap of the day, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookie and reigning Moto2™ Champion Johann Zarco completing the top ten on a 1:55.354.

Andrea Iannone was the fastest Suzuki rider in P12 on a mid 1:55, with teammate Alex Rins in P17. Rins tried the Suzuki “aero-fairing” for the first time on Day 2, ending the session ahead of the EG 0,0 Marc VDS pairing of Tito Rabat – returning from injury – and Jack Miller.

Red Bull KTM Factory racing trio Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and test rider Mika Kallio got through another big program of work for the Austrian factory on Day 2, with Espargaro the fastest ‘Bull’ on a 1:56.648.

The third and final day of preseason testing kicks off on Sunday at Losail International Circuit, before the venue then prepares for the first Grand Prix of the season – with the lights going out on the 23rd March.

MotoGP – Viñales dominates testing at Phillip Island


New kid on the Yamaha block Maverick Viñales has done it again at Phillip Island, going even faster on Day 3 to top the timesheets once more.

Fastest on Day 2 and fastest during testing at Sepang and Valencia, the Spaniard has hit the ground running on the Factory Yamaha – ending the Australia test ahead of the Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in second and Dani Pedrosa in third.

Viñales put in a 1:28.549 early in his impressive day’s work; a time unthreatened until the final flag. Completing 101 laps and able to put in 1:28 laps in a row, the Spaniard also managed to rake in the laptimes in the 1:29 bracket in another ominous show of form.

His teammate – nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi – ended Day 3 in P11 and 0.921s in arrears. The “Doctor” did a best of 1:29.470 in the third session, but is bumped down to P12 on combined times.

The closest chasers to the impressive pace of Viñales were Repsol Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. Marquez, who did 107 laps on Day 2 and is the only other rider in the illustrious 1:28 club, did a best of 1:28.843 as he prepares for his title defence – with another impressive 96-lap workload completed. Pedrosa, who was ill on Day 2 and only went out on track for the afternoon, was back on form on Day 3 and put in 65 laps with a quickest effort of 1:29.033, just missing the 1:28s and slotting into P3 on both Day 3 and combined timesheets.

The fastest rookie on Days 1 and 2 kept his crown on the third and final day of testing, as Tech 3’s Jonas Folger shot up into P4. The German, who did an incredible 1:29.042, also suffered a crash but remained just ahead of 2016 Australian GP winner Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda. Folger’s teammate, double Moto2 champion Johann Zarco, ended the test in P15 on combined times with a 1:29.670.

With Crutchlow locking out the top five, another impressive rookie was hot on the Brit’s tail: Suzuki’s Alex Rins. Beating new teammate Andrea Iannone on the timesheets on Day 2 and repeating the feat on Day 3, Rins put in a 1:29.103 to end up only 0.002 off the number 35 on the combined timesheets – despite a small crash. “Maniac” Iannone ended up P13 overall and twelfth on Day 3, completing 77 laps in the final session with a best of 1:29.547.

Seventh and eighth was a Ducati Team lockout. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were separated by less than a tenth, and both completed more than 70 laps. “DesmoDovi” was in full testing mode for the team, with “Spartan” Lorenzo’s focus more angled at adapting to the Desmosedici. The Italian’s best was a 1:29.248, with the Spaniard just behind on a 1:29.342.

Local hero Jack Miller was the next man up, with the Australian impressing once again on the Marc VDS Honda after proving a constant force to be reckoned with in the top ten. 2016 Assen winner Miller did a best of 1:29.358 to line up just behind five-time World Champion Lorenzo.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was another who impressed, taking P6 on Day 2 and locking out the top ten on combined times. The Spaniard, whose best lap was a 1:29.361, put in 65 laps on Day 3 for the Noale factory, with rookie teammate Sam Lowes adding another 57. Lowes’ best was a 1:30.200.

Espargaro’s compatriot Alvaro Bautista on a satellite Ducati was one of the few riders to not improve on Day 3, but his time from the second session is enough to keep him P11 on the combined timesheets – just ahead of Valentino Rossi. Former 125 World Champion Bautista’s best was a 1:29.411.

Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci was the final rider in the top fifteen, taking P14 overall – just ahead of Zarco. The Italian, on the GP17 Desmosedici, did a 1:29.615 to end the Australian test just over a second off the best lap by Viñales.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing made a huge leap up in laptime on the third and final day at Phillip Island. Both riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith put in laps under the 1:30 barrier, with the Spaniard’s best a 1:29.857 and the Brit’s a 1:29.978. Both within a second and a half of P1, the timesheets bode well for the Austrian factory as the road to Qatar gets shorter.

Next up is Losail International Circuit for another test – the last – from the 10-12 March, before the lights go out at the same venue later in the month and 2017 hits the gas.


BSB – Brookes is back and gunning for second title


 Josh Brookes is making a spectacular return to the BSB grid this year gunning for a second title as he is reunited with Yamaha in Anvil Hire TAG Racing colours.

Brookes celebrated a debut MCE BSB title in 2015 claiming an incredible 13 wins and a further ten podium finishes in his title-winning campaign with Yamaha against arch rival Shane Byrne before moving to the World Championship.

However, a move to the WSBK paddock and a jump to BMW machinery saw the Australian struggle to gel with the S1000RR and he jumped at the chance to return to Yamaha.

Brookes said: “I am happy to be back in BSB; it is all really positive for me as I have probably raced more years in this championship than any other so it is my most familiar territory. I am looking forward to coming back, racing on the tracks and meeting the fans again.

“I was exploring a lot of different possibilities but this deal was the best option for me. To be riding the Yamaha again is the icing on the cake; I know what it is like to ride, I found my rhythm with it before and I know it suits me. My goal is still the same and that is to maximise the potential and environment I am in. I won’t start focusing on other riders and what they are doing until the Showdown and hopefully we will be in a position to then focus on our main rivals.

“I think for me to win a second title would mean as much as the first because I have a constant hunger and desire for racing and remain as passionate as ever to leave Australia behind for the season to pursue a championship. I am always in search of results and improving on previous years. Every test, practice and qualifying session or the races I always approach with the same motivation and that is to try and beat the competition.”

Brookes becomes the tenth different race winner to feature on the 2017 grid with the countdown to the opening round at Donington Park (31 March – 2 April) continuing as the team prepare to embark on their pre-season testing programme in Spain.



MotoGP –Rossi sparkles in the sun at Motegi to claim pole


Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi scored a sensational pole after posting a blistering lap the Twin Ring Motegi for the Japanese GP, as the Italian legend fought off Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in a close Q2 to take his 64th pole – and equal the number of pole positions held by both Marquez and Rossi’s teammate, reigning Champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi said: “It’s my third pole position of the year. I’m very happy because this year in qualifying I’m strong. We were struggling during this weekend to find the right balance and I’m also not a 100% fit, I’m suffering physically, I’m not feeling fantastic. In FP4 we improved the balance of the bike a lot and I did a very good lap and great braking in turn 11 and that was good. Starting from pole is always important and now we wait for tomorrow.”

Day two at the Twin Ring Motegi was characterised by more somewhat uncharacteristic sunshine, with the venue providing near-perfect conditions as Q2 got underway. Marquez was the early leader in the session after also going fastest in FP3 and FP4, with the championship leader then finding himself trailing Rossi on a hot lap and running wide – as the Italian then took over at the top.

Marquez regrouped and was looking good in his final attempt but an incident in front of him on track for LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow forced him to roll off, thus thwarting is bid for pole.

Lorenzo, battered and bruised following a highside in FP3 that saw the five-time world champion heading to hospital for a CT scan, came back in stunning ‘Spartan’ style in qualifying to grit his teeth through the pain barrier, qualifying in third as he looks to take a record fourth premier class win at the venue.

2014 polesitter Andrea Dovizioso, piloted his Ducati to fourth on the grid as the lead bike from the Borgo Panigale factory, with former teammate Crutchlow crashing in the final minutes of the session. However, the Brit, who won at Brno, was still quick enough to secure fifth, and he will be lining up alongside Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro. Surprisingly Espargaro outpaced teammate Maverick Viñales at the Hamamatsu factory’s home race, and the younger Spaniard lines up in seventh.

Hector Barbera had a solid session as he replaces injured Andrea Iannone on the Factory Ducati to qualify eighth, with Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci and Satellite Yamaha pilot Pol Espargaro completing the top ten.



MotoGP test – Lowes impressed by M1 on MotoGP debut


Pata Yamaha WSBK rider Alex Lowes got the chance to ride a MotoGP bike yesterday as reward for winning the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.

Lowes joined Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider and fellow Suzuka team-mate Pol Espargaró at Brno to experience the YZR-M1 during the official one-day IRTA test.

The Lincolnshire lad had to wait until the last hour of the day before he could sweep his leg over the bike, but he soon got a feel for the power of the M1 and improved his first hot lap by over a second when he set a fastest time of 1’59.558s.

Clocking the twelfth fastest time and managing a 1.146s improvement in just fifteen laps, the test unfortunately ended a prematurely when Lowes suffered a small front end crash at the end of the session.

Lowes said: “Obviously this was one of the best days of my life! From when you’re a kid you dream about an opportunity to ride a MotoGP bike and it was fantastic. Obviously I didn’t do too many laps, but the feel of the bike was incredible. The power of the bike and the way that it turns was everything that I expected and even more than that, so it was an incredible experience.

“The brakes and the tyres are quite a lot different from a WSBK bike, but the biggest difference is the power. When I came from my first lap onto the straight I felt the engine’s full power and it was amazing, I couldn’t believe how fast it was, so I would say the biggest difference is the power.

“The crash was on my last couple of laps, nearly at the end of the day and obviously the reason was because I tried to push a bit too much without understanding everything. I braked a bit more and lifted the rear a bit, went a little wide and the track was a bit dirty and I lost he front. It was only a small crash but I’m feeling really sorry for that.

“Honestly, it was a fantastic experience and I really enjoyed it, even if I did only 15 laps, they were the best 15 laps I ever had. I have no experience of anything like this before and the way you go from one side to the other, it’s like you are on a bicycle, it is really easy. So many things felt a lot better for me but were also difficult to understand in the limited time available, but it’s been great.”