2019 looks set to be a gigantic year for motorcycle racing with major changes in many of the world’s greatest two-wheeled race series almost certain to shake things up for the season ahead.
We’re already in what has to be described as a golden era of MotoGP, but if the last two years haven’t been enough to excite you, there’s plenty to get excited about this year as the grid sees a significant shake up.
Five-time Grand Prix World Champion Jorge Lorenzo makes the move to Honda alongside the formidable Marc Marquez. It’s a peculiar move that turned the heads of even the most knowledgeable pundits when it was announced back in the summer and since then it’s been a key talking point for the 2019 season.
How will Lorenzo, known for being one of the smoothest riders on the grid, get on with Honda’s RC213V, which is known for being a bit of an animal? Each MotoGP bike is so different, changing bikes in the premier class is exceptionally difficult. Even a rider widely considered the greatest of all time, Valentino Rossi, couldn’t get used to the Ducati when he switched from Yamaha in 2011 and we saw how long it took Lorenzo to make that same switch.
Crucially, however, Lorenzo did get there with Ducati and had it happened a little earlier, we could have seen him fight for the 2018 title. Switching from the Ducati to the Honda should be easier than switching from Yamaha to Ducati. While Yamaha have had their problems in recent years, the YZR-M1 is renowned for being a user friendly, easy to ride machine. You only have to look at how Franco Morbidelli shot to the top of the times in testing when he jumped on the M1 having ridden the Honda all year.
Will Lorenzo adapt to the Honda? Most definitely. The bigger question is how long it’ll take, but when he gets there with the bike, the even bigger question will be how he’ll fare against the great Marc Marquez. It could well be the showdown of all showdowns.
Other changes in MotoGP include Danilo Petrucci moving to Ducati, while the battle for 2019 ‘Rookie of the Year’ should be interesting with Joan Mir joining the factory Suzuki team, reigning Moto2 World Champion Pecco Bagnaia joins Pramac Ducati while Fabio Quartararo and Miguel Oliveira will also make their premier class debuts.
Someone who won’t feature on the MotoGP grid in 2019 is Britain’s Scott Redding, who, having been unable to secure a seat in Grand Prix racing, will make the bold move to the British Superbike championship.
Racing for Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Ducati squad aboard Ducati’s all-new V4, Redding will line-up on the grid at Silverstone National circuit (not the 3.6-mile Grand Prix track he’s used to) come April alongside the likes of Bradley Ray, Josh Brookes and Tarran Mackenzie.
While Redding is British, his experience of Britain’s race tracks is limited having been whisked off to Spain at a young age to pursue a career in GPs. Many circuits here in the UK are a far cry away from Grand Prix tracks, they are often more technical and feature less run off than the world class facilities MotoGP visits. Getting used to circuits like these, Cadwell Park, Oulton Park and Knockhill in particular, will be key to just how well Redding can do in BSB.
Should he be able to nail the tracks, he has the tools at hand to do the rest. Ducati’s V4 R is a 230bhp weapon out of the box, so as long as Ducati can get the bike working with BSB’s spec MOTEC ECU, you’d think Redding stands a chance as a former Grand Prix winner.
With Leon Haslam and Jake Dixon having left the series, and six-time champion Shane Byrne still out injured, the BSB field is already more open than ever before in 2019.
While the Ducati V4 is somewhat of an unknown quantity in BSB with MOTEC electronics, one place it looks almost certain to work is in World Superbikes.
Can the Italian marque’s MotoGP inspired race inject some much-needed life into the ailing world series that once challenged MotoGP in terms of popularity? Early signs have been positive, with the V4 R looking pretty rapid in its first couple of tests with Aruba Ducati squad Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista.
What was most impressive was that Bautista, who moves from MotoGP, was just a couple of tenths away from Jonathan Rea on his first day on the bike and that’s with all concerned admitting there’s still work to do. If this bike can compete with Jonathan Rea and the Kawasaki, 2019 could be the year that World Superbikes springs back to life.