Jonas Folger

Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Inside Jobs

After the first few races of the 2021 WorldSBK championship some trends have already become apparent.

One, the usual one, is that nine races/nine podium man Jonathan Rea is leading the championship by a fair margin of 20 points. That’s equivalent to a second place in a full race. Four 2021 race wins under his awning already, he became the first rider to smash through the 100 race victory barrier in WorldSBK history at the opening round.

Two, Toprak Razgatlioglu is now turning into the more rounded, consistent force his talents have always pointed towards. Maybe his factory Yamaha too? Hence it is he and not two-time race winner Scott Redding who went from 35 points behind Jonathan Rea after Estoril to 20 points behind after the long-awaited return of Misano after two years. Redding is himself a full race win of 25 points behind Razgatlioglu. So that’s 45 points - yes, numerology is clearly not just for cranks and conspiracists - of deficit to the leader for the person many thought would challenge Rea most strongly after his great 2020 ‘rookie’ season. And he still might, of course. He’s still many people’s best bet, for obvious reasons.

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Jonas Folger Interview: The Comeback Kid

Every racing fan remembers the great battle in Sachsenring between local rider Jonas Folger and champion Marc Márquez. Folger, then racing for Yamaha in the Tech3 satellite team, gave the Honda rider a great fight, but had to settle for second place and the sympathy of the home crowd at the end of the thrilling race.

It seemed like the start of a promising racing career for the rookie, but five rounds later Folger announced he was suffering from a health problem that did not allow him to continue competing, and retired from the rest of the season. Although he had already signed on for another season with the French team, before the start of testing for the 2018 season, Folger announced that he would not compete again.

It was not clear what happened there, and rumors flooded the paddock that Folger had abandoned the sport because he could not handle the pressure. Folger had not reached the top category with a long list of titles, but Hervé Poncharal saw something in him, and as great as the expectations were, so was the disappointment.

Folger disappeared. He took time at home with his partner and daughter who was born when he was not yet 20. A year after retirement Yamaha put the German back in the headlines when they signed him to be their test rider for the 2019 season.

Slow return

Slowly, Folger started frequenting racetracks again. He arrived as a replacement for several rounds. In 2020 he competed in a full season for the first time since his break, racing in the IDM, the German Superbike Championship on the Yamaha YZF-R1.

For the 2021 season, the 27-year-old rider will return for the first time to compete at the world championship level, this time in WorldSBK on the M 1000 RR, BMW's new and improved Superbike weapon.

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What Will The 2021 WorldSBK Grid Look Like?

Same old, same old in WorldSBK season. Jonathan Rea walking away with his sixth consecutive title. Kawasaki doing the same with the manufacturers title. No matter what happens Rea and Kawasaki have all the answers and the title all sewn up.

That’s the narrative spun by many about WorldSBK but the reality is very different. Rea and Kawasaki might have won the titles, but this was a challenging season for both that ended with the ZX10-RR clearly outmatched at two of the last three rounds. Ducati had the bike to beat in 2020 but too many riders fighting with one another.

Yamaha are close, very close, and have a hungry rider line-up. The return of a full-blooded factory effort from Honda showed lots of encouraging signs. BMW were a write off this year but still claimed two pole positions and have an all-new bike coming for next season. The future is brighter for WorldSBK than it has been for many years.

New era?

The season began with a classic in Phillip Island. Three great races and a tenth of second the combined victory margin. It was a terrific blend of strategy and different bikes. It encapsulated why WorldSBK is looking forward rather than to the past. We don’t have to look at the “golden age of Superbikes” any longer. We’re living one. Seven different riders won races. Ten riders stood on the rostrum.

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Yamaha's MotoGP Test Program: Jonas Folger Out, But Who Will Take His Place?

With MotoGP testing becoming ever more restricted for full-time MotoGP riders, the so-called contracted riders, the importance of test teams has grown. Where in previous seasons most Japanese manufacturers have used Japanese riders based in Japan to push the development of their MotoGP bikes, in recent years, they have all switched to using teams based in Europe with ex-MotoGP riders as test riders. Suzuki have Sylvain Guintoli, Honda have Stefan Bradl, and Yamaha had Jonas Folger for 2019.

But not for 2020, it seems. In an interview with German-language publication Speedweek, Folger announced that Yamaha have decided not to continue with the German for next season. "This bad news came as a surprise to me," the German told Speedweek. "They gave me a verbal assurance that Yamaha wanted to continue with me. We were already discussing what the test plan and other events might look like. But then they canceled, despite saying I would get the contract." Folger said that he had been told Yamaha would continue with Japanese test riders.

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Sepang CEO Razlan Razali Interview: On MotoGP, Future Moto2 Plans, And Sepang's Place In A 22-Race Calendar

Few people are involved in as many different aspects of MotoGP as Razlan Razali.

The Malaysian is not only Principal of the Petronas-backed MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 teams, but CEO of the Sepang Circuit and helps with management duties for the likes of local star Hafizh Syahrin.

The following interview, conducted at Catalunya, was equally wide-ranging - Razali giving his views on the success of the newly-formed satellite Yamaha MotoGP team, the race-winning Moto3 project, rider replacements and future plans for Moto2, Syahrin's 2020 options, Sepang's future on the MotoGP calendar and more…

Q: What are your personal highlights of the season so far?

Razlan Razali: My personal highlight would be the 1-2 in qualifying at Jerez [This interview was done before Fabio Quartararo's poles and podiums at Barcelona and Assen - DE]. That was something quite unbelievable. So in some ways we are now starting to get used to the fact that we are there for qualifying, but now the next step is to capitalize on the qualifying position for good race results. That is something also we discussed internally and with Yamaha as well.

But, we want to give our riders time because racing is all about experience and improving every race. Of course, the Yamaha is a bit weak when it comes to racing. But I’m confident in the plans, about what Yamaha is going to do for the rest of the year. It will give time for our riders to gain that experience and hopefully then we can do better when it comes to racing.

Q: In general, what is it that is missing in the race that is there in qualifying?

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Busy Days And Record Times At Aragon Private MotoGP Test

A number of the MotoGP teams have had a busy test at the Aragon circuit over the past two days. This is the test which played a role in not being able to move the Silverstone race to the Monday, a public holiday in the UK, as the trucks needed to travel the 2000km from Towcester to Alcañiz and set up ready for testing.

On Wednesday, Suzuki, Yamaha, and KTM were the factories taking to the track, with the Pramac Ducati squad also present. Thursday saw Yamaha and Pramac depart to make way for the factory Ducati squad. The teams were met with much better weather than at Silverstone, allowing two full days of testing, with the track improving as it got cleaned up with bikes circulating.

No press releases were issued after the test, though plenty of riders posted images on Social Media (such as Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Viñales, Alex Rins, Bradley Smith, and KTM substitute test rider Randy De Puniet). But Italian website GPOne.com spoke to Alma Pramac team manager Francesco Guidotti after the test.

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Mid-Season MotoGP Silly Season Update: 22 Bikes - Marc VDS Out, Petronas SIC In

The summer break – if an extra weekend off can be counted as an actual break – marks the end of the first half of the 2018 MotoGP season, but it also marks a significant point in the MotoGP Silly Season. With Marc van der Straten telling the riders and crew of the Marc VDS MotoGP team that the team will not be competing in MotoGP in 2019 and beyond, the final shape of the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost clear.

There was no official announcement to mark the withdrawal of the Marc VDS squad, it was indirectly confirmed when the team sent out a press release (shown below) announcing that they had extended their deal with Alex Márquez for the Spaniard, younger brother of Marc, to remain in Moto2 for another season. Emilio Alzamora, who manages both Márquez brothers, had been pushing for Van der Straten to keep at least one grid slot in MotoGP for Alex Márquez, a move which had the strong backing of his brother Marc. Alex Márquez remaining in Moto2 is tacit confirmation that there is no seat in MotoGP for the Spaniard.

The withdrawal of the Marc VDS team, and the transfer of the Angel Nieto Team's grid slots to the Petronas SIC Yamaha team (whose existence was confirmed officially in a press release between the Dutch and German rounds of MotoGP) means that the MotoGP grid will be smaller in 2019. There will be 22 riders lining up at Qatar, rather than the 24 who started at Losail this season. The loss of two riders from the grid will not overly trouble Dorna: with uncertainty over who will broadcast MotoGP in Spain next year, saving around €6 million in team subsidies will create some negotiating room for the series organizer.

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Kalex Press Release: Successful Triumph Rollout With Folger, Marquez, Raffin

Kalex issued the following press release after their test with the Triumph Moto2 engine and Magneti Marelli electronics:


PROMISING CONCLUSION OF FIRST TEST WITH 2019 RACE SPEC TRIUMPH ENGINE

From this week’s Tuesday to Thursday, the German chassis manufacturer KALEX Engineering continued its developing process and preparations for the next season with a three-day test at Spain’s MotorLand Aragón circuit.

Alex Marquez on the Kalex Triumph Moto2 bike

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Motorland Aragon Moto2 Test Sees Triumph Make Debut, Folger Make Temporary Return

Two days after the Barcelona round of MotoGP had completed, some of the Moto2 riders were back testing again. At the Motorland Aragon circuit, a number of Moto2 teams gathered for a private test. Alongside them, the Moto2 chassis manufacturers were there for the first roll out of their 2019 chassis, housing the Triumph 765 Moto2 engine and Magneti Marelli electronics.

Three of the current Moto2 chassis manufacturers were there with their test riders. KTM had Julian Simon and Ricky Cardus, NTS had Alex De Angelis, and Kalex had official test rider Jesko Raffin, and to some surprise, Jonas Folger, who withdrew from the Monster Tech3 Yamaha MotoGP team at the start of this year.

The test was important for the manufacturers, as it was not just a chance to try their chassis with the Triumph engines, but also to test them with the Magneti Marelli electronics. The spec Magneti Marelli electronics package is significantly more sophisticated than Superstock package used with the Honda CBR600RR engines currently being used.

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Hervé Poncharal – "I Will Never Take Any Rider With A Contract"

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger's announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement.

It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. "You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from," told MotoMatters.com. "There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract."

That attitude is born not just from a sense of what is right, but also from self interest. "At the end of the day, everybody is working hard, everybody is trying to finalize and make a plan," Poncharal said. "Finally you end up with a contract, and when both parties sign, this needs to have a value, because if a rider signs something thinking, 'OK, worst case scenario, this is what I have, but if there is a better opportunity, I'm going to take it...' then why do we sign a contract?"

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