Scott Jones

Shinichi Sahara Interview: Part 2 - How Suzuki's 2011 Withdrawal Differed From 2022, And Going Out On A High

Suzuki's MotoGP activities finally came to an end with the Valencia GP, the final round of the 2022 season. Since the bombshell news of Suzuki Motor Corporation's decision to withdraw at the end of the season hit the world this May, every venue and every racetrack has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the team members of Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. On Thursday afternoon, before Team SUZUKI ECSTAR's final race at the Circuit de Valencia Ricardo Tormo, we spoke with Shinichi Sahara, the project leader who has been leading the team for twenty years.

In the second part of this two-part interview, Sahara-san discusses how Suzuki's decision to withdraw at the end of 2022 compares with 2011, when Suzuki paused participation in the premier class. He talks about what will happen to the team at the end of the season, the chances of a return, and the joy of Alex Rins' victories at Phillip Island and Valencia.

Q: Your withdrawal is inevitably compared to that of 2011, but in 2011, it was an announcement of “suspension of activities".

Shinichi Sahara: In that sense, it is different from this time. Although it was a suspension, returning to the racing was very tough. And after returning, it needs a lot of effort to become competitive and fight at the top level. Therefore, even at that time, we did everything to persuade them not to suspend racing activities. In that sense, this is the second time we have worked like this. Although there are some similarities, suspension and withdrawal are different things. Anyway, I think once is enough for this experience!

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Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Pecco Bagnaia And Gigi Dall'Igna - The Long Road to The Championship

Pecco Bagnaia celebrates in Parc Ferme with Ducati

Gigi Dall'Igna has done it at last. After nine seasons, the Italian engineer has achieved his dream, and done what Ducati hired him to do: win a MotoGP title. After 125 and 250 titles with Aprilia, he now has a MotoGP crown to add to his trophy cabinet.

Of course, it is Pecco Bagnaia who will actually hold the title. And it goes without saying that it was Bagnaia who did the hard work of winning out on track. Seven victories is the best total for a Ducati rider since Ducati's last world championship, Casey Stoner in 2007 (Stoner won 10 races), and the way he dominated the second half of the season was phenomenal. In the final ten races of 2022, Bagnaia was averaging 19 points a race, and missed out on the podium twice: a crash at Motegi, and that tense final race in Valencia.

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Andrea Dovizioso Interview: On Struggling With Yamaha, Battles With Marc Marquez, The Undaunted Documentary, And The Future

As he approaches the 346th and final Grand Prix of a storied career, Andrea Dovizoso gives his impressions on the current state of MotoGP, a 21-year career and what the future holds.

There’s no dressing it up. His latest – and last – career foray has not gone to plan for Andrea Dovizioso. The veteran Italian, who has racked up a world championship and 15 premier class wins across a decorated 21-year stay in the grand prix paddock, had visions of fighting for race wins and more when he returned during a career sabbatical last September.

Instead, the 36-year old has been reduced to a bit-part player in a series where he used to have a leading role. His struggles aboard the 2022 RNF Yamaha M1 have been so bad that he’s claimed just eleven points from the first 13 races. After failing to confirm he’d complete the full season before the summer break, it was announced Dovizioso would call time on his career six races early, after competing at Misano – his home GP.

It’s been tough at times to watch the figure that pushed Marc Marquez hardest between 2017 and 2019 struggle in such fashion. Across the past six months, there have been no real signs of progress, and only a few fleeting moments when he claims to have felt comfortable, more natural aboard a bike which requires a polar opposite riding technique to Ducati’s Desmosedici machinery, which he commanded for eight years. Prior to his final race, Dovizioso had failed to finish closer than 20 seconds to the race winner – an eon to a man of his pedigree.

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Europe vs Japan: Why European Factories Are On The Rise And Japanese Manufacturers Are In Decline

For nearly half a century, Japanese motorcycles have dominated the premier class of motorcycle racing. Since Giacomo Agostini switched to Yamaha and beat his former teammate Phil Read on an MV Agusta in 1975, Japanese manufacturers have won every single rider championship bar one, Casey Stoner's 2007 title won with Ducati. Honda, Yamaha, and to a lesser extent, Suzuki, ruled grand prix racing with a rod of iron.

But that control has started to wane over the past few years. Since the return of 1000cc four strokes, European manufacturers have slowly started to assert themselves in MotoGP. Ducati started the shift after Gigi Dall'Igna took over as head of Ducati Corse, Andrea Iannone winning the first race for the Desmosedici in 2016, six years after Casey Stoner had departed the Italian factory, and their winning ways with him.

The following year, Andrea Dovizioso would win six races on the Desmosedici, and go on to challenge for the title every year through 2019. KTM were the next to succeed, getting on the podium for the first time in 2018, winning multiple races in 2020, and winning every year since then.

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Why There Are No Quick Fixes To MotoGP's Dearth Of Overtaking

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month or so, you will have heard the criticism of MotoGP. Though the field is close, it has become harder and harder to overtake the riders in front. The Le Mans race was a case in point: the 27-lap race featured only a handful of overtakes, most of which were made possible only by a mistake by the rider ahead.

The problem was brought into stark relief by last weekend's WorldSBK races at Estoril. Alvaro Bautista, Jonathan Rea, and Toprak Razgatlioglu put on a dazzling display of passing in all three races on Saturday and Sunday, finding ways to jam their bikes ahead of each other into the first corner, the fourth corner, the Parabolica Interior, and the tight, awkward uphill chicane. They produced three glorious races.

The spectacle of Rea, Razgatlioglu, and Bautista knocking spots off one another reinforced that the problem is indeed down to the technological point at which MotoGP finds itself. With limited aerodynamics and no ride-height devices, the WorldSBK trio found no problem diving out of the slipstream and outbraking each other.

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History Deep Dive: Why Suzuki's Withdrawal From MotoGP Won't Be Like Kawasaki In 2009

Two years after starting the blog which would eventual morph into MotoMatters.com, I felt it was time to quit my job and do this full time. It seemed like the perfect moment to pursue my dream of writing about MotoGP for a living, so I handed in my notice to my erstwhile employer and prepared to strike out on my own. That was late August, 2008.

Two weeks later, on September 15th, Lehman Brothers collapsed, kicking off the Global Financial Crisis which would plunge the world into recession. My timing turned out to be absolutely terrible.

Why am I looking back to 2008? Because the financial crisis sparked by the collapse of the US housing market and the worldwide banking system would have a profound effect on motorcycle racing, and would go on to shape MotoGP as it is today. It would create the conditions where there were six manufacturers racing in MotoGP. It would also reshape the politics of MotoGP to put Dorna in a much stronger position to cope with Suzuki's decision to withdraw from the series.

What will Dorna do and how will they handle Suzuki's withdrawal? To understand their current position, you need to go back to 2008, and the aftermath of that terrible September.

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Stefania Palma Speaks: Mother Of Valentino Rossi & Luca Marini On Racing, Retirement, And What The Future Holds

After 26 years in the World Championship and more than three decades of racing, Valentino Rossi retired from competing on two wheels. His mother Stefania Palma looks back on the achievements of her son and the future in an exclusive interview.

There is something quiet, calm, gentle and very calculated in the way Stefania Palma speaks. Her eyes are penetrating yet beautiful, delicate and soft at the same time. She radiates warmth, acceptance, patience but she is also direct and resolute.

Stefania, or Steffi as her sons call her, does not share the same surname as Valentino - Graziano's son, a past racer - or like Luca - the son of Massimo Marini, who coaches soccer goalkeepers by profession - and seems quite comfortable with the fact that the family name gives her some anonymity.

Stefania met Graziano when he was already pursuing his dream of becoming a motorcycle racer. Parallel to her studies she accompanied the young rider through his career at the World Championship, even when he suffered serious and life-threatening injuries that led to his retirement - and might have also had an influence on their separation when their only shared son Valentino was a young boy.

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Casey Stoner On Adapting To The Motorcycle, Rather Than Adapting The Motorcycle To You

Casey Stoner has made a return to the paddock. He turned up at the Algarve round of MotoGP for a number of media appointments, which included a press conference in which he discussed several fascinating subjects at length. Although I will be posting the entire transcript at a later date, I want to highlight one or two of his statements to discuss.

Despite the fact that he hated talking to the media – we did not help him go any faster, so we were wasting his time – Stoner was always one of the best people to ask about technical aspects of riding, or machinery. He had both a deep understanding of bikes and riding, and the eloquence and clarity of thought to be able to explain it deeply. It helped that English is his first language, of course (at least for those of us with the same mother tongue).

So it is worth highlighting some of the things Stoner talked about, and examining it a little closer. First up is something he said about adapting to the bike, rather than adapting the bike to you. He was asked why it was so difficult for MotoGP riders to switch bikes. Jorge Lorenzo took a year and a half to adapt to the Ducati after he left Yamaha, and Andrea Dovizioso is finding it similarly challenging aboard the Yamaha, after so many years on the Ducati.

The Australian started off with a proviso: "I’m not inside that person or their mind or anything like that." But went on to explain the way he saw things. "Everybody has their way and their system of getting to grips with things. Lots of people like to do lots of laps and get their feeling. They want this feeling to sort of come to them."

Working with the bike

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Decline And Fall: Explaining Valentino Rossi's Final Year In MotoGP

Though there will still be two more races for Valentino Rossi after Emilia-Romagna round of MotoGP, Rossi's second home race feels like the grand finale to his career. Misano is just a few kilometers from Tavullia, where he grew up, and where he lives and trains. And it is a track where he has seen some success in recent years, winning races and finishing on the podium.

After Misano, we head to Portimão, which has only been on the calendar since last year, and to Valencia, historically one of Rossi's worst tracks, with mostly unhappy memories. So if there is to be a grand farewell for the most significant figure in motorcycle racing, and arguably, in all of motorsports, it is more likely to come at Misano, with Portimão and Valencia served up as an encore.

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2021 MotoGP Calendar Update: Why Brno Won't Host MotoGP, And Where The Season Starts

The 2021 MotoGP season continues to be a fluid affair. With the Argentina and Austin rounds already canceled (technically postponed, but with no real chance of them actually taking place), it is now clear that Brno will not host a MotoGP round in 2021. And there are more signs of a shake up coming.

The biggest, and saddest news is that the Automotodrom Brno circuit today announced that they would not be hosting any world championship motorcycle racing for the foreseeable future. The cancellation had been expected, but still comes as a blow to MotoGP.

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