- Dec 3, 2010
The rest herePart 1 - Honda
2019 was something of a Jekyll and Hyde year for Honda. On the one hand, Marc Marquez wrapped up the championship with four races to go, winning twelve races and finishing second in six others, Honda took the manufacturers' crown, and the Repsol Honda team won the teams title. On paper, it looked like a clean sweep for HRC.
On the other hand, the next Honda rider in the championship was Cal Crutchlow, down in ninth place, nearly 300 points behind Marquez. Marquez scored all but 6 of the 426 points which won Honda the manufacturers' championship. And the reigning champion almost single-handedly won the team title for Repsol Honda at Valencia, after a series of injuries ruled his teammate Jorge Lorenzo out for most of the season.
In 2019, Honda had a bike capable of winning, but only if it had Marc Marquez aboard it. That this is a risky position to be in is obvious from the fact that the six-time MotoGP™ champ is coming off major shoulder surgery for the second winter in a row. Marquez seems to bounce extremely well when he crashes – and when I analyzed his 2018 crashes, it was clear he was taking calculated risks at low speed, crashing very rarely at high speed – but there is always a risk of something more serious happening. Without Marc Marquez, Honda would have been in real trouble last year.
The rest herePart 2 - Yamaha
If there is a pivotal moment in Yamaha's path to 2020, it is Saturday, 11th August 2018. Maverick Viñales had qualified in eleventh, over a second behind polesitter Marc Márquez. Valentino Rossi hadn't even made it into Q2, and would start from sixteenth. On Saturday afternoon, before Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales started the debriefs with the press, Yamaha's MotoGP project leader Kouji Tsuya made a public apology, to Yamaha's riders, and to the media. The M1 wasn't good enough, and Rossi and Viñales deserved better.
"Austria was the lowest point, let’s say, where we faced the brutal reality of where we were," Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis told me at Valencia last year. "But I don’t think that Austria was the trigger point, it was the collective result of that season that was the trigger point. What it really came down to is we had been talking a lot prior to Austria and after Austria about needing to change something. What we were doing was not working. We needed to find a new solution."
The rest herePart 3 - Ducati
For Ducati, 2019 was a year of experiments. The Italian manufacturer promoted Danilo Petrucci to the factory team from Pramac, a reversal of the usual policy of top teams, to pair two fierce rivals in the hope they will push each other to greater heights. Signing Petrucci alongside Andrea Dovizioso turned the Mission Winnow factory squad into a true team, the two riders working together to try to improve the bike, and improve each other.
Ducati's experiments in teamwork came on top of Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna's usual experiments with the rules, pushing the boundaries of what is legal in MotoGP™. Ducati have always been at the forefront of aerodynamics, and in 2019, they found new frontiers to explore. With new rules in place further defining what was allowed in terms of aerodynamics, Ducati read the rules closely to see what hadn't been covered.
It turned out that the Grand Prix Commission, who make the rules, and not considered putting spoilers on a swing arm.
So that's exactly what Ducati did, adding a spoiler to the bottom of the swing arm and covers over the front wheel, ostensibly to help cool the rear tyre – tyre temperature is a key factor in tyre wear, an area which Ducati have invested heavily in during the Michelin era. That it also added a small amount of downforce on the rear wheel, helping to improve braking by keeping it in contact with the ground, was merely a useful side effect. So useful that by the end of the year, all six MotoGP™ manufacturers were either running them in races, or testing them for the future.
The rest herePart 4 - Suzuki
2019 was a vindication of a lot of things for Team Suzuki Ecstar. Alex Rins' two victories on the GSX-RR proved Suzuki had made the right decision to come back to MotoGP™ in 2015, the right decision to switch to an inline four engine layout, the right decision in signing Rins as a rookie.
It was also a vindication of the concession rules for MotoGP™: in 2017, Suzuki had taken a wrong turn, and chosen a crankshaft which was too heavy. A season without podiums meant the Hamamatsu factory wasn't constrained by the engine development freeze for 2018, and could bring updates throughout the season. That allowed to get the project back on the right path, and be competitive again. In 2018, Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone racked up nine podiums between them. In 2019, Suzuki managed just three podiums, but two of those were wins, at Austin and Silverstone, and Rins scored a total of 205 points, 36 more than the year before, finishing fourth overall, one better than 2018.
There is no doubt that the Suzuki GSX-RR was an outstanding motorcycle. Jack Miller put it most colourfully, after he had Alex Rins dive up the inside of him at Mugello. "That Suzuki can turn on a dime piece, because the first time Rins passed me, I had not even a metre between myself and the kerb, and he was able to make it fit and scared the crap out of me as he went past," the Australian said, shaking his head. "And he did the same thing to Dovi."
The rest herePart 5 - KTM
It is not easy to succeed in MotoGP™. Even for a factory as well-funded and well-prepared as Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. The Austrian factory arrived in MotoGP™ after two years of preparation, test rider Mika Kallio giving the RC16 its debut outing at the final round of 2016 in Valencia. The objectives were clear, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer said at the launch of KTM's MotoGP™ project at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in 2016. "For sure we are facing a learning curve when we go into a segment, but we will reach the podium and the dream of my life is to be world champion in MotoGP™," he told the assembled media.
The learning curve has been steeper than they expected, perhaps. KTM finally racked up their first podium at Valencia in 2018, though it came in torrential conditions, when Pol Espargaro rode a brilliant shortened race on a rain-soaked track. They all count, of course, but KTM didn't come to MotoGP™ to succeed only when conditions allow. The Austrian manufacturer has succeeded in every discipline of motorcycle racing they have taken on; they expect the same success in MotoGP™.
2019 proved to be a year of painful but useful lessons. The Austrian factory had signed Johann Zarco very early – over a year before the 2019 season even began – with the intention of having an obviously podium-ready rider to take the bike to the next level. In his first year in MotoGP™, Zarco had led his first race, started from pole twice, and the front row six times, and finished on the podium three times. Surely that would translate to even greater success in a factory team?
The rest herePart 6 - Aprilia
Of the six manufacturers in MotoGP™, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini is the greatest unknown. There is not much we can learn about 2020 by looking back at what happened in 2019, because 2019 was a year of treading water for the Italian factory. Nor are there many conclusions we can draw from testing: apart from some work on electronics and a few other minor parts, all the Aprilia riders were doing was gathering data. That made for some interesting photographs, with outlandish looking laser sensors fitted to outriggers on the front and rear axles, measuring precisely how the wheels tracked over the surface. But it didn't provide any clues as to what ideas Aprilia have for the coming year.
That is because the biggest changes for Aprilia came inside the racing department and the way it was organised, rather than the hardware of the bike. Massimo Rivola joined Aprilia as Racing CEO at the end of last year from Ferrari's young driver program, and his first task was changing the way the Aprilia Corse worked, to make it more efficient.
The way Rivola has gone about that is reminiscent of what Gigi Dall'Igna did when first joined Ducati (ironically, after leaving Aprilia). Rivola focussed on improving communication, getting everyone on the same page. He took over the organisational side of things from Romano Albesiano, allowing Albesiano to focus on engineering, and building a much faster bike. He brought in new engineers, to work on the engine, to work on the chassis, to work on the electronics, giving Albesiano the resources he needed to make a big push to improve the Aprilia RS-GP.
That seat assembly makes me want to gouge my eyes out, but everything from the seat forward is, indeed, a thing of beauty.
More here. Article doesn't once mention Rossi. Could this be his last year or would it be a straight swap to the SRT Petronas team if he wanted to continue?Quartararo joins Viñales at factory Yamaha for 2021-2022
2019 Rookie of the Year Fabio Quartararo will join Maverick Viñales at Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team in 2021 and 2022. Last year’s results showed that Quartararo is a unique talent and a rider with a bright future in MotoGP™. The 20-year old from Nice, France, scored seven podiums (5x second place and 2x third place) in his debut season with PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, which at the time was a brand-new Yamaha satellite team.
He came tantalizingly close to his first premier class win on a number of occasions. Though it wasn‘t to be, his exceptional performances impressed many in 2019. Ultimately, he secured fifth place in the overall MotoGP™ standings, earning him the Best Independent Team Rider honour by 27 points, as well as the Rookie of the Year title with a 100-point margin to the runner-up.