Johann Zarco

Phillip Island MotoGP Preview: Great Track, Wrong Season, Retirement Rumors, And Silly Season Kicking Off Early

From one seasonally misplaced track to another. Fresh from Motegi, which MotoGP visits at the tail end of typhoon season, the Grand Prix paddock heads south – a very long way south – to Phillip Island, on the south coast of Victoria in Australia, perched on the edge of the Bass Strait. It is a glorious location at the end of the antipodean summer, with good weather very nearly guaranteed. But unfortunately, MotoGP doesn't visit at the end of the antipodean summer in February or March.

Instead, MotoGP is condemned to brave the elements in October, when it is spring in the southern hemisphere. And all because the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the company which runs the MotoGP round at Phillip Island, is also the promoter of the Australian Formula 1 race, held in Melbourne Park, pays a premium to host the first F1 race of the year.

With Melbourne just under two hours away, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation doesn't want to have its two biggest events too close together, to prevent fans from being forced to choose between the two races. And having paid to make the F1 race the first of the season, moving MotoGP to October is the obvious choice. An understandable choice too: the F1 race at Melbourne Park draws over 100,000 fans on race day. Race day at Phillip Island sees around 35,000 paying customers through the gates.

Real racetracks

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How will Johann Zarco go on the Honda as he returns to MotoGP?

The Frenchman is on his way to Phillip Island with his brand-new Alpinestars LCR Honda leathers. So is this judgement day for Johann Zarco?

Johann Zarco expected to watch MotoGP’s final few races from the comfort of his sofa in the south of France. Now, thanks to Takaaki Nakagami’s troublesome right shoulder injury – sustained at Assen when he got sideswiped by Valentino Rossi – he will spend the last three races sat somewhat less comfortably on the Japanese rider’s 2018-spec LCR Honda.

Before we wonder how Zarco will fare on the RC213V, we should ask why this is necessary. Why is Nakagami going under the knife when the 2019 championship isn’t over?

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LCR Honda Press Release: Zarco Confirmed As Nakagami's Replace For Last 3 MotoGP Rounds

In a press release today, the LCR Honda team confirmed that Johann Zarco would be taking the place of Takaaki Nakagami in the LCR Honda Idemitsu team for the last three races of the 2019 MotoGP season. For more background on the story, see our articles yesterday and last week.

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Takaaki Nakagami Confirmed With LCR Honda For 2020, To Miss Last Three Races For Shoulder Surgery

Takaaki Nakagami will be staying with the LCR Honda team for 2020, HRC and the LCR Honda team have officially confirmed.  After a long period of negotiation, Honda and Nakagami have finally reached terms which will see the Japanese rider staying in Lucio Cecchinello's team for another season.

The announcement had long been expected. Nakagami was one of a few riders without a confirmed contract for 2020, but as his place in the LCR Honda Idemitsu team came with direct support from Honda and Japanese oil brand Idemitsu, there seemed little doubt he would be back. 

The sticking point in the negotiations was which bike Nakagami would be riding. Throughout the summer, Nakagami insisted he wanted a 2020-spec Honda RC213V for next year. However, as the flyaways approached, it became increasingly clear that the Japanese rider was resigned to settling for a 2019-spec machine.

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Johann Zarco To Replace Takaaki Nakagami At LCR Honda For 3 Races - Prelude To 2020 Contract?

Johann Zarco is set to replace Takaaki Nakagami for the final three races of 2019, and race the 2018-spec Honda RC213V for the Idemitsu LCR Honda team. The news was first broken by Oriol Puigdemont of Motorsport.com, and though nobody contacted by MotoMatters.com would comment on the news, it was later confirmed by Zarco to Thomas Baujard of the French publication Moto Journal.

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Buriram MotoGP Preview: Can It Be Even Closer Than Last Year?

On paper, the Chang International Circuit at Buriram is a very simple proposition. A tight corner followed by a short straight, then a tight corner followed by a very long straight, and then a long hairpin followed by a medium-length straight. And then a bunch of complicated twists and turns to get back to the start and finish line.

Of course, a track is never the same on paper as it is when motorcycles actually race on it. Sure, Buriram has three straights which determine a lot of the circuit's character. But there is much more to it than just getting the bike turned and getting on the gas as quickly as possible. There are a plenty of places with a choice of lines, where a canny rider can find an opening on the rider ahead. And the nature of that tighter interior sector is such that a bike which isn't a basic drag bike can make up a lot of ground.

Take Turn 3 (the long back straight has a kink formally designated as Turn 2), the long hairpin at the end of the straight. Not perfectly flat, it offers a choice of two lines: stay inside and hug the inside kerb, and try to make the ground up on corner exit; or run in wide and cut back to the second apex carrying more speed. Both lines work. Both lines get you to the corner exit at roughly the same point in time. And both suit two very different bike characters. It may look point and shoot, but it really isn't.

Fast and fear-inducing

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Tom's Tech Treasures: Yamaha's New Exhaust And Swingarm, Aprilia's Holeshot Device


Rear wheel cover on the GP19 and carbon swingarm.
David Emmett: The full set of rear aerodynamics on the Ducati Desmosedici GP19, from the swingarm spoiler to the rear wheel covers. The rear wheel cover mounting points are clearly visible: at the rear of the chain tensioner, and at the front below the aluminum bracket with holes. The rear swingarm spoiler caused huge controversy at the start of the year, and now all manufacturers bar KTM have one.
Ducati used a loophole in the regulations to use the swingarm spoiler and wheel covers, but this loophole will be closed for 2020. For next season, all parts which are not part of the structural part of the motorcycle will be classified as part of the aero body, and so their designs will have to be homologated, with one update allowed during the season. So Ducati can start the season with one spoiler, and alter it once during the year.


Lighter front mudguard on the KTM RC16.
Peter Bom: Although it is a little bit difficult to see in this photo, the mudguard ends immediately after the double L of Bull. This leaves more of the front tire exposed, helping it to run a little cooler and prevent overheating. Some KTM riders have complained of this previously.

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Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez The Merciless, Yamaha Progress, And Pit Beirer On Zarco

Everyone not called Marc Márquez will be worried at the Motorland Aragon circuit. They will be worried at the fact that the reigning champion, and last year's winner, went out and put in a fast lap in FP1 on soft tires. They will be worried because that lap was 1.6 seconds faster than anyone in FP1, and 1.1 seconds faster than anyone in FP2.

But above all, they will be worried that it was a demonstration of his confidence in his own pace. Márquez went for a quick lap during FP1 thinking of Saturday, and the likelihood that rain would prevent anyone from going faster during FP3. More importantly, it allowed him to spend all of FP2 on his race pace, in conditions likely to be similar to race time on Sunday afternoon.

It was a typical stroke of strategic genius, Márquez and his team giving himself a head start on preparing for the race. Not only has he had more time figuring out whether to use the hard or the soft rear tire for the race – as so often, the medium is neither fish nor flesh, the drop not much smaller than with the soft, the grip not much more than with the hard – he has also had time to work on race setup. Márquez is already two steps ahead of everyone else before they have even lined up on the grid.

Fast out of the blocks

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Aragon MotoGP Thursday Round Up: The Zarco Situation, Wild, Wild Retirement Rumors, And How Fabio Goes Fast

It was supposed to be a quiet year for rider rumors. Most riders have a contract for 2020, and much of the speculation had been about when negotiations for 2021 would start. The biggest controversy looked like being whether Takaaki Nakagami would get a 2020 Honda RC213V or a 2019 bike.

Then we came back from summer break, and it's all been insane since then. First there were the reports of Jorge Lorenzo talking to Ducati about a possible return for 2020, taking Jack Miller's seat at Pramac Ducati. Then on Sunday night at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, KTM's home race, we learned that Johann Zarco had told KTM that he wanted to leave at the end of 2019, after just one year of his two-year contract.

So far, so shocking. On Tuesday, KTM announced they were replacing Zarco with immediate effect, and giving his bike to Mika Kallio to ride. Zarco was left without a ride for the rest of the season, and facing an uncertain future. More about that in a moment.

Pulling the rug

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Mika Kallio Replaces Johann Zarco In Factory KTM Team For Rest Of 2019 Season

KTM have decided to replace Johann Zarco effective immediately. From Aragon until the end of 2019, current KTM test rider Mika Kallio will take the place of the Frenchman in the factory Red Bull KTM team.

Though the decision comes as a surprise to the outside world, it makes sense from the perspective of KTM. Zarco has announced his intention to leave at the end of the season, and given his options are limited for 2020, is looking at becoming a test rider, and has been linked to a possible vacancy at Yamaha. With so much work happening on the KTM RC16, and a constant flow of new parts in the garage, KTM have decided it is better to have test rider Mika Kallio on the bike than keeping Johann Zarco.

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