Joan Mir

2019 Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Honda's Race Pace, Ducati's Revelation, Yamaha's Race Pace, And How The Rain Means None Of This Matters

Qualifying in MotoGP is always important, but at the Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina, it matters just that little bit more. That would seem odd at such a fast and flowing track, but the problem is that the circuit doesn't get used much. That leaves the surface dusty, and without much rubber on the track to provide grip. Over the three days of the Grand Prix weekend, the three classes gradually clean up the track and put down a layer of rubber, adding to the grip.

The trouble is, because it is practice and qualifying, most of that rubber gets laid down on the racing line, as everyone tries to find the quickest line around the circuit. Stray from that line, and you are quickly back in green, dusty tarmac, with nary a hint of rubber on it. The grip is gone. "That's an important thing, because if you go 1 meter wide, you feel the bike like it is floating," is how Danilo Petrucci describes it.

That's why qualifying matters so much. If you start from the first couple of rows, you stand a chance of getting in the leading group, and biding your time until a safe opportunity presents itself. But if you don't qualify up front, or you mess up the start, then you have to take your chances out on the dirty part of the track, and hope your luck holds.

Run wide at your peril

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2019 Qatar MotoGP Race Round Up: From Masterful Management To Youthful Recklessness

For a place which 95% of the paddock hates going to, Qatar certainly knows how to make us want to come back. The area between Doha and the Losail International Circuit has been a mixture of noisy construction, omnipresent sand and dust, and an ever-changing and convoluted road system (the route to the track regularly and literally changing overnight) ever since I first went to a race there in 2009. But once at the circuit, the track layout serves up some of the best racing in the world.

Fittingly, the title sponsor for the Qatar round of MotoGP was VisitQatar, the Qatari tourist office aimed at stimulating inbound tourism to the Gulf peninsula. To be honest, the best thing VisitQatar could do to attract visitors to the country is just play all three of Sunday's races on a loop. In the Moto3 race, the first eleven riders all finished within a second. The first five riders in MotoGP finished within six tenths of a second. And the winning margin in all three races was five hundredths of a second or less. These were races decided by the width of a wheel, the winner in doubt all the way to the line.

The MotoGP race was a thrilling affair, a close race from start to finish, with wild passes as far as the eye can see. Riders jockeyed for position, vying to make their contesting strategies pay off. Yet it still left some fans feeling empty, with the impression that they were being cheated of an even better race if the riders has been willing and able to go flat out as soon as the lights went out all the way to the end.

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Interviewing Suzuki Bosses: How Suzuki Went From Concessions Team To Potential Race Winner In 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Suzuki's MotoGP program, Shinichi Sahara, Ken Kawauchi, and Daijiro Mashita. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR started the 2018 season as a Concession team. Thanks to Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins’ hard efforts, Suzuki managed to score three successive podiums from Round 2 to Round 4. At Aragon, Round 14 of the championship, they finally accumulated 6 concession points in total, which lost them their concession status and restored them to the normal MotoGP rules for 2019 alongside their competitors. At the end of December, we visited their headquarters Hamamatsu to interview Suzuki’s MotoGP Project Leader Shinichi Sahara, Technical Manager Ken Kawauchi, and their engine design team leader Daijiro Mashita. They gave us a lot of interesting answers and honestly revealed their resolutions for the forthcoming 2019 season.

Q: You started the 2018 season in good shape, taking three successive podiums in Argentina, COTA, and Jerez. Were these results just as you expected?

Kawauchi: Even though we had good results in these races, I had to say we weren't confident we could achieve it, to be honest. In fact, we were fortunate to take third place at Jerez, but it was a result of the crash by other riders. So, we recognized we had to improve ourselves to be more competitive.

Q: Concession teams can update their engines during the season. Did you update your engine and other parts from the beginning of the year?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can MotoGP's inline fours return to the fore?

Suzuki and Yamaha have struggled to keep up with Ducati and Honda in recent years, so what are their chances for 2019?

Inline-four MotoGP bikes have won two of the last 30 MotoGP races. That’s why some outsiders predict the end of the line for them.

But if you’ve been paying attention you will know that Ducati’s V4 and Honda’s V4 dominate MotoGP for reasons other than engine configuration. Both layouts have their good and bad points; end of story.

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Tom's Tech Treasures: A Close-Up View Of The MotoGP Bikes At The Jerez Test - Part 1


Honda RC213V steering damper
David Emmett: Honda have switched the location of their steering damper to above the tank. It's a conventional damper (the rules say electronic control of the steering damper is not allowed), but it has been relocated because of the change to the air intake, which now goes straight through the steering head.


Joan Mir’s Suzuki GSX-RR
David Emmett: This is the 2018 version of the chassis. The later version doesn't have the carbon sections glued to the upper part of the frame. Suzuki staff said that working with the carbon sections had allowed them to work on varying stiffness, and they weren't needed any longer.

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Four Predictions For 2019: The Most Competitive Field Yet Means More Winners, More Intra-team Tension, And Thoughts Of Withdrawal

You would think that after writing about what I got wrong in my predictions last year, I would not be so foolish as to try to make predictions again for the 2019 season. As it turns out, I am that foolish, so here is a list of things I expect to happen in the coming year.

2019 certainly looks very promising for world championship motorcycle racing, in just about every class in both MotoGP and WorldSBK. A range of changes mean the racing should be closer and more competitive. Cutting the MotoGP grid from 24 to 22 bikes, and having the Petronas Yamaha team replace the underfunded Aspar squad, means there are more competitive bikes on the grid.

Ducati will field only GP19s and GP18s, and the GP18 is a much better machine than the GP17. Honda will field three 2019 RC213Vs, and a 2018 bike for Takaaki Nakagami, and the fact that Nakagami was fastest at the Jerez MotoGP test last November suggests that it, too, is good enough to run at the front. Yamaha, likewise, will field three factory-spec bikes, with only rookie Fabio Quartararo on a 2018-spec machine. Suzuki made big steps forward in 2018, and have a more powerful bike for 2019.

It's not just in MotoGP either. In Moto2, the new Triumph engine will change the way riders have to ride the bike, and the introduction of electronics – very limited, but still with more than the old Honda ECU kit had to offer – will give teams more options. Ducati's introduction of the Panigale V4R will make the WorldSBK series a good deal more competitive. And the cream of last year's Moto3 crop moving up to Moto2, to make way for an influx of young talent, will make both classes fascinating and exciting to watch.

So what can we expect from 2019? Here are a few concrete predictions:

1. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

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