The new motorcycle racing season is finally here! After a long, dark winter with no racing to keep us entertained at the weekend, the MotoGP season is ready to go and the new British Superbike season is just a few weeks away.
Riders have come, riders have gone, sponsors and colour schemes have changed but the one thing that remains the same is the passion of the riders, teams and millions of supporters around the world waiting for the flag to drop at the first race of the season. For MotoGP that moment is on Friday 8th March as free practice gets underway out in Qatar, while for the British Superbike teams and fans the date in the diary is the 19th April when the teams head to Silverstone.
Ahead of the new seasons we’ll take a look at some of the riders to watch, some of the biggest changes on the grids and a few of the rule changes to make sure you’re ready for race day.
Lights out, but floodlights on, for the 2019 MotoGP season
Out on the floodlit Losail International Circuit in Qatar the cream of the crop are firing up their engines with plenty of newcomers on the grid and a few big names having made some big jumps across the paddock. While we all sit with our fingers crossed that the only Brit on the grid, Cal Crutchlow, can have another good season, that the G.O.A.T. Valentino Rossi might finally clinch his tenth premier class title, perhaps it might even be Andrea Dovisioso’s turn to take the crown and there’s the impressive pre-season form of the Suzuki’s; all eyes will be on the Repsol Honda garage in 2019 as reigning champion Marc Marquez sets his sights on an eighth world title with a familiar face lining up on the other side of the pit box.
After a highly successful time at Yamaha, and a mixed couple of seasons at Ducati, Jorge Lorenzo has made the move to Honda – taking over Dani Pedrosa’s bike – with the Japanese manufacturer having pieced together what could be either the dream MotoGP team for an all-out assault on the title (and the Constructor’s title, too), or what could be a highly divisive team with both riders wanting to be the number one in the garage as well as on the podium.
Lorenzo and Rossi had their very public rivalry during their time together on the factory Yamaha with a wall put up in between the two garages to ensure that data didn’t flow from one rider to the other; eventually leading to Rossi’s move to Ducati before the Italian returned in 2013. Jorge made the switch to Ducati in 2017 going without a victory in his debut season – the first time he hadn’t won a race since the 2005 season – and lasting just one more year before moving to Honda alongside Marquez.
So what does 2019 have in-store in terms of similar rivalries? With two multiple World Championship-winning Spanish riders on the same bike, will Lorenzo and Marquez experience a similar relationship to the ill-fated pairing of Rossi and Lorenzo, or will the pair put their personal ambitions to one side for the good of the (dream) team?
Only time, results and upgrades will tell!
The new kids on the grid
With plenty of rivalries to talk about and as many as eight riders all competing for a place on the podium according to the pre-race interviews, this MotoGP season is set to be one of the most exciting for some time. While there have been plenty of dramatic moments and some outstanding races in the last few years, Marquez has wrapped up the title with relative ease leaving many fans turning their attentions to the newcomers, the rookies and those performing well without getting the headlines.
2019 is another year in which we’ve seen promising performances from the factory Suzuki team in testing with both Alex Rins and new team-mate Joan Mir who makes the step up from Moto2. Another making the step up to the premier class is 2018 Moto2 Champion Francesco Bagnaia, the Italian having won the title as part of the VR46 team and moves up onto the Alma Pramac Racing Ducati alongside Jack Miller.
Runner-up in the Moto2 Championship in 2018, Miguel Oliverira, also moves up to MotoGP this season joining the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 team where he will partner Hafizh Syahrin. This is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch with Tech 3 having ended their partnership with Yamaha and moved over to the new manufacturer for 2019 meaning both riders go into the season as relative rookies.
The final new addition to the grid is also joining a newly-formed team. The new satellite Yamaha team, to be known as Petronas Yamaha SIC, will have Franco Morbidelli on-board as well as the exciting Fabio Quartararo – a rider who wasn’t even born when Valentino Rossi won his first race!
All-important rule changes
No new season would be complete without a few amendments to the regulations, and 2019 is no different in this respect. The governing body, Dorna, met with a number of other key figures from the world of motorcycle racing to discuss and implement several amendments to the regulations over the course of the weekend, including:
- Riders may obtain assistance from race marshals to get the bike re-started after a crash, or to move the bike to the side of the track
- If one rider passes another under a waved yellow flag, a message to change position will be displayed on the offending rider’s dashboard and the position change must happen within three laps, rather than five under previous regulations
- Allocation of rain tyres will increase from 11 to 13 in MotoGP (six front and seven rear)
Title up for grabs in British Superbike
After one of the most exciting British Superbike seasons in recent memory, 2019 is set to be even more exciting with reigning champion Leon Haslam having left to take up a ride with the Kawasaki World Superbike team alongside Jonathan Rea. This means that the 2019 championship really is anyone’s with some big names having come so close previously now up against some familiar faces from World Superbike – and even MotoGP.
The new season doesn’t officially start until Easter weekend at Silverstone, but testing gets underway out in Spain between 13th and 15th March where we’ll get a good idea on how some of the new faces and teams are shaping up.
One rider that needs no introduction, and who will be one of the favourites for the BSB title, is Scott Redding. The 26-year old has joined the PBM Ducati team on the new Ducati Panigale V4 having spent the past few seasons in MotoGP. Having raced alongside Aleix Espargaro in the Aprilia Racing Team last year, Redding arrives back in Britain for his first season in the Championship where conditions are likely to be vastly different around circuits like Snetterton, Knockhill and Oulton Park compared to those out in Qatar, Malaysia and America.
Australian Josh Brookes, who is determined to add another BSB title to the one he won in 2015, will be one of Redding’s closest rivals in 2019, as will Bradley Ray who was rewarded for his performances on the Buildbase Suzuki in 2018 with a test ride on the factory Suzuki MotoGP bike recently.
Other names to keep an eye out for are the Irwin’s – Glenn and Andrew – plus Jason O’Halloran, Luke Mossey, a revitalised Tommy Bridewell, the evergreen James Ellison and Isle of Man TT-winner Peter Hickman.
We’ll have more on the new BSB season in the weeks to come once testing gets underway out in Monteblanco; but for the time being make yourself a brew, sit back and enjoy the start of the new MotoGP season.