MotoGP series organizer Dorna appears to be pursuing a new strategy in its agreements with TV broadcasters. Where previously, Dorna had been fixed on securing deals with free-to-air broadcasters, recent deals have seen them agree terms with pay-per-view channels, in pursuit of higher revenues.
Spain is the latest market to see this development. The existing deal with Telecinco has been blown open, with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica taking over some of the broadcasting from Telecinco. Telecinco will show 9 races live, and a further 10 on a delayed schedule. Meanwhile, Telefonica's special digital channel Movistar TV will show all races live, complete with six extra camera angles which users can select, along similar lines to MotoGP.com's online video streaming package.
The new deal has been reached as a result of Telecinco's desire to reduce the amount it was spending on MotoGP, according to Spain's leading daily newspaper El Pais. The joint deal means that the contract sum of just over 20 million euros will be shared between Telecinco and Telefonica in the final year of Telecinco's TV contract. Telefonica is expanding its broadcasting, with a focus on motorsports, having picked up rights to both the Formula One and MotoGP.
It is reminiscent of the deal struck in the UK with BT Sport. Both BT Sport and Movistar TV are broadcasting arms of large telecommunications companies, expanding their traditional services into the area of television. The telecoms giants can afford to pay much larger sums for TV rights for sports, as the sports are used to sell their broadband services and expand their customer base. Though the switch to pay-per-view platforms means losing a wider audience for MotoGP, the increased money on offer means that Dorna can invest more heavily in the championship, paying teams and riders more and improving TV coverage.
With MotoGP now on pay-per-view channels in Spain, Italy, and the UK, three major TV markets, this strategy is likely to be expanded. All forms of sport are increasingly disappearing behind decoders, with broadcasters regarding sport as a premium entertainment product, which audiences are willing to pay for.
Below is the press release from Dorna on the deal:
Mediaset España, Telefonica and Dorna Sports make initial agreement on 2014 MotoGP™ season broadcast
- Telecinco will show every World Championship race this year: 9 live Grands Prix and 10 delayed broadcasts
- Movistar TV will broadcast the entire MotoGP™ World Championship live in an innovative, unique and never-previously-seen format in Spain. Up to six additional camera angles will be available during Grands Prix
- This joint sports broadcast rights agreement combines the strategies of delivering mass interest events to audiences on a free-to-air platform with the broadcast of specific exclusive events on subscription based channels, as is commonplace throughout Europe
Mediaset España, Dorna Sports, the commercial rights holders of the MotoGP™ World Championship and Telefonica, on their subscription based audiovisual platform Movistar TV, have made an initial agreement on shared broadcast rights for MotoGP™ in Spain in 2014.
Both media companies will offer full MotoGP™ Grand Prix coverage: Telecinco will show races live from nine Grands Prix and will show 10 events via delayed broadcast. Meanwhile Movistar TV viewers can view every Grand Prix live, including practice and qualifying sessions, via a new dedicated channel which will bring viewers all the latest on and off track news and action. The new Movistar TV channel will include multiscreen broadcast, historic Grand Prix action, documentaries, films and additional World Championship programming.MotoGP series organizer Dorna appears to be pursuing a new strategy in its agreements with TV broadcasters. Where previously, Dorna had been fixed on securing deals with free-to-air broadcasters, recent deals have seen them agree terms with pay-per-view channels, in pursuit of higher revenues.Spain is the latest market to see this development. The existing deal with Telecinco has been blown open, with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica taking over some of the broadcasting from Telecinco. Telecinco will show 9 races live, and a further 10 on a delayed schedule. Meanwhile, Telefonica's special digital channel Movistar TV will show all races live, complete with six extra camera angles which users can select, along similar lines to MotoGP.com's online video streaming package.
The debate on the future of MotoGP continues in full force. On the one side of the argument, those who believe that the factories' freedom to develop electronics should not be constrained, and on the other side, those who say that technology has to be reined in to control costs, and increase the spectacle. On one side of the argument stand the manufacturers, led by Honda; on the other side stand the teams, with Dorna at the helm.
Or at least, that's the way it seems from the outside. The reality behind the politics of MotoGP is far more labyrinthine than it appears. The impending decision of Ducati to switch to being an Open class entry (officially, to be taken only after tests at Sepang, but well-informed sources suggest the decision has been all but taken) has cracked the lid on some of the politics, offering a glimpse of the power structures which underly the rule-making process. With Ducati poised to break ranks with the other manufacturers, the MotoGP series could be set to take an entirely different direction.
Yesterday, leading US magazine Cycle World published one of the best analyses of the situation I have read for years. Veteran technical journalist and eminence grise in the world of motorcycle racing Kevin Cameron lays out with incisive clarity how the current status quo came about, and how Ducati's decision to go Open could upset the delicate balance of power. For anyone interested in why MotoGP is the way it is today, it should be compulsory reading.
The article also links nicely with another piece on the German-language website Speedweek. There, Gunther Wiesinger takes a wider view of the subject, and talks to Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal about Yamaha's view of the Open class. If Yamaha were also to abandon their opposition to limits on electronics, then that would leave Honda standing alone, with a decision to make on their future participation.
With the first MotoGP test of the year due to start next week at Sepang, the new Open class will be a prime topic of conversation. In the run up to the test, we wil be publishing a number of articles explaining the rule changes, and what impact they will have. I will then be flying to Sepang to cover the test in person.
The addition of the EVO category to the World Superbike class has had the hoped-for effect on the grid. From a modest entry list of 19 riders last year, the grid is up to a healthy 27 entries for 2014. The number of manufacturers has increased as well, up to 9, with MV Agusta, EBR (Erik Buell's latest venture) and Bimota all taking part, racing this year under the EVO banner. Bimota's entry is still provisional, subject to homologation of the BMW-based BB3 being approved.
The gamble of introducing a cheaper, lower-spec form of racing appears to have paid off, with 12 riders entered in the EVO category. Like the CRT class in MotoGP, the EVO category makes competing cheaper, with tuning restrictions closer to Superstock levels on engines, while chassis regulations remain the same as for the full SBK class entries.
The expansion in the World Superbike class has been partially at the expense of World Supersport, with teams such as Team Toth and Yakhnich using the opportunity to move up to WSBK. The World Supersport field is down to 23 entries, after years of fields of 30+ riders. The list of manufacturers in WSS is shorter, with just Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and MV Agusta represented. The World Superbike and World Supersport entry lists are shown below.
The 2014 World Superbike rider line up. The latest, updated list can be found here.
|33||Marco Melandri||ITA||Aprilia RSV4 1000 Factory||SBK||Aprilia Racing Team|
|50||Sylvain Guintoli||FRA||Aprilia RSV4 1000 Factory||SBK||Aprilia Racing Team|
|52||Sylvain Barrier||FRA||BMW S1000 RR||SBK EVO||BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team|
|1||Tom Sykes||GBR||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK||Kawasaki Racing Team|
|44||David Salom||ESP||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||Kawasaki Racing Team|
|76||Loris Baz||FRA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK||Kawasaki Racing Team|
|22||Alex Lowes||GBR||Suzuki GSX-R1000||SBK||Voltcom Crescent Suzuki|
|58||Eugene Laverty||IRL||Suzuki GSX-R1000||SBK||Voltcom Crescent Suzuki|
|65||Jonathan Rea||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||SBK||PATA Honda World Superbike Team|
|91||Leon Haslam||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||SBK||PATA Honda World Superbike Team|
|2||Christian Iddon||GBR||Bimota BB3 *||SBK EVO||Team ALSTARE|
|86||Ayrton Badovini||ITA||Bimota BB3 *||SBK EVO||Team ALSTARE|
|24||Toni Elias||ESP||Aprilia RSV4 1000 Factory||SBK||Red Devils Roma|
|59||Niccolò Canepa||ITA||Ducati Panigale 1199 R||SBK EVO||Althea Racing|
|21||Alessandro Andreozzi||ITA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||Team Pedercini|
|23||Luca Scassa||ITA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||Team Pedercini|
|32||Sheridan Morais||RSA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||IRON BRAIN Kawasaki SBK Team|
|84||Michel Fabrizio||ITA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||IRON BRAIN Kawasaki SBK Team|
|10||Imre Toth||HUN||BMW S1000 RR||SBK||BMW Team Toth|
|56||Peter Sebestyen||HUN||BMW S1000 RR||SBK EVO||BMW Team Toth|
|7||Chaz Davies||GBR||Ducati Panigale 1199R||SBK||Ducati Superbike Team|
|34||Davide Giugliano||ITA||Ducati Panigale 1199R||SBK||Ducati Superbike Team|
|9||Fabien Foret||FRA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||MAHI Racing Team India|
|11||Jeremy Guarnoni||FRA||Kawasaki ZX-10R||SBK EVO||MRS Kawasaki|
|71||Claudio Corti||ITA||MV Agusta F4 RR||SBK||MV Agusta RC-Yakhnich Motorsport|
|20||Aaron Yates||USA||EBR 1190 RX||SBK||Team Hero EBR|
|99||Geoff May||USA||EBR 1190 RX||SBK||Team Hero EBR|
* STH: Subject to homologation
The 2014 World Supersport rider line up. The latest, updated list can be found here.
|54||Kenan Sofuoglu||TUR||Kawasaki ZX-6R||MAHI Racing Team India|
|16||Jules Cluzel||FRA||MV Agusta F3 675||MV Agusta RC-Yakhnich Motorsport|
|65||Vladimir Leonov||RUS||MV Agusta F3 675||MV Agusta RC-Yakhnich Motorsport|
|26||Lorenzo Zanetti||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||PATA Honda World Supersport Team|
|60||Michael van der Mark||NED||Honda CBR600RR||PATA Honda World Supersport Team|
|21||Florian Marino||FRA||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres|
|99||Patrick Jacobsen||USA||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres|
|88||Kev Coghlan||GBR||Yamaha YZF R6||DMC Panavto-Yamaha|
|161||Alexey Ivanov||RUS||Yamaha YZF R6||DMC Panavto-Yamaha|
|11||Christian Gamarino||ITA||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Team GO Eleven|
|44||Roberto Rolfo||ITA||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Team GO Eleven|
|24||Marco Bussolotti||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||Team Lorini|
|84||Riccardo Russo||ITA||Honda CBR600RR||Team Lorini|
|4||Jack Kennedy||IRL||Honda CBR600RR||CIA Insurance Honda|
|7||Nacho Calero||ESP||Honda CBR600RR||CIA Insurance Honda|
|5||Roberto Tamburini||ITA||Kawasaki ZX-6R||San Carlo Puccetti Racing|
|61||Fabio Menghi * tbc||ITA||Yamaha YZF R6||VFT Racing|
|14||Ratthapark Wilairot||THA||Honda CBR600RR||Core PTR Honda|
|TBA **||Honda CBR600RR||Core PTR Honda|
|89||Fraser Rogers||GBR||Honda CBR600RR||Com Plus South Tyneside College SMS|
|9||Tony Coveña||NED||Kawasaki ZX-6R||Kawasaki Ponyexpres Intermoto|
|TBA **||Honda CBR600RR||Lorini Racing Team|
|19||Kevin Wahr||GER||Yamaha YZF R6||Team Wahr by Kraus Racing|
*tbc: To be confirmed
**TBA: To be announced
World Superbikes will be easier to watch for fans around the world this year. The World Superbike series has announced that it is to make an online video pass available to fans this season, making it possible to watch WSBK races live on the WorldSBK.com website, or rewatch them at leisure. The update comes as part of revamping of the series website, bringing it closer inline to the MotoGP.com website, now that the series is firmly in Dorna's hands.
The influence of Dorna is clear in the WorldSBK.com redesign. The layout has been adapted to echo the structure of the MotoGP.com website, and the video player is now identical to the one used on the MotoGP.com website. Using a single player, and Dorna's existing video infrastructue is what has made it possible for the World Superbike series to offer the online video streaming of races and archive of past videos. Though the announcement on the WorldSBK.com website is light on details, it promises live coverage of every weekend, including streaming of races, interviews with riders and 'exclusive video content'. It will likely feature a similar service to that of MotoGP.com video subscribers, which includes an extremely comprehensive archive.
Two questions remain unanswered: what will the video pass cost, and where will it be available? The answer to the first question is completely unknown at the moment, though WorldSBK.com will have to make an announcement fairly shortly. It seems unlikely that it will be set at the same level as the MotoGP.com video pass (€99.95 for the standard pass), given that the level of interest in WSBK is not the same as MotoGP. However, Dorna's past record on streaming video suggests that it will not be cheap.
Availability is also uncertain. The WorldSBK.com website only mentions that the service will not be available in all countries. Previously, World Superbikes representatives have explained that online streaming video was made complicated due to existing contracts with TV broadcasters, many of whom have also secured the rights to stream the video live on their websites. With Dorna's streaming infrastructure in place, streaming video is being handled differently as contracts come up for renewal. Such existing contracts mean that streaming video is unlikely to be available inside Europe, as Eurosport has its own online streaming package showing World Superbikes via the Eurosport Player. However, enquiries by the estimable Asphalt & Rubber website indicate that the pass will be available for fans in the US and Canada. More details will surely be announced soon, via the World Superbikes website.
US World Superbike fans will also be able to watch the series on TV. At least, they will if they have access to the oddly-capitalized beIN SPORTS channel in their cable package. Just as it did last year, the channel will be showing every World Superbike race live, both on TV and via their beIN SPORTS PLAY mobile app. Whether the races will be streamed on the beIN SPORTS website is as yet unclear.
It looks like Movistar is on the verge of a return to MotoGP. Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that the Spanish telecoms giant is close to signing a deal with Yamaha to sponsor the Japanese factory's MotoGP team of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. According to the report, the sponsorship deal is set to be announced at the first Sepang test, at a press conference to be held there.
Just how accurate this report is remains to be seen, but there are many indications that the deal could happen. Movistar was a major supporter of motorcycle racing in the past, having backed teams at many levels of racing. Movistar sponsored the junior cup competition in Spain run by Alberto Puig, which unearthed the talents of Casey Stoner, Chaz Davies, Leon Camier, Joan Lascorz and many more. Through Puig, they also backed Dani Pedrosa through his years in the 125 and 250 classes. Movistar was also active in the MotoGP class, backing the Suzuki team of Kenny Roberts Jr, and the Gresini Honda squad of Sete Gibernau at the start of the century.
Movistar (and Telefonica, the telecoms giant which owns the Movistar brand) eventually pulled out of racing over a disagreement with Honda and Repsol. When Honda signed Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica had wanted to continue their backing of the Spaniard, having funded his way through the junior classes. Petroleum giant Repsol insisted that if Pedrosa was to be in the factory team, he should be racing in Repsol colors, not in Telefonica colors. Seeing their investment in Pedrosa going to waste, Telefonica pulled out of Grand Prix motorcycle racing altogether.
They have been biding their time for a return, however. Rumors emerged two years ago that Telefonica had been in talks with Yamaha, but had decided against backing the factory after market research indicated limited return on investment. With MotoGP going to South America - a key market for the Spanish telecoms giant - the sponsorship equation may now make more financial sense. At the presentation of the MotoGP in Jakarta earlier this month, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told Indonesian blog TMCBlog that more sponsors would be announced before the season started. We shall see at Sepang whether Movistar is among them.
Though widely expected, it appears that the Brazil round of MotoGP is on the verge of being canceled. Reports in Italy, on both Motosprint and InfoMotoGP, suggest that the company granted the contract to organize the Brazilian GP has not been able to secure the funding to renovate the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet circuit in Brasilia, the Brazilian capital (not to be confused with the circuit of the same name in Jacarepagua, near Rio de Janeiro).
It was known when the contracts were signed that the circuit in Brasilia would need a lot of work done, both in terms of safety improvements and to bring the facilities up to Grand Prix level. According to the reports from Italy, no work has been done on the circuit, and the company involved is on the verge of bankruptcy. Motosprint reports that there are proposals from Brazil to relocate the race to the Autódromo Internacional Ayrton Senna in Goiania, but those proposals face the same difficulties: not enough money to carry out the necessary updates.
The dropping of the Brazil round of MotoGP would come as no surprise. Speaking off the record, sources confirmed to MotoMatters that none of the teams have yet made any plans to travel to Brazil for the race. If Brazil is dropped, it will cause a minor reshuffle of the calendar. With Misano, Aragon and Brazil currently scheduled to run on consecutive weekends, the Aragon round looks likely to be postponed a week to the 28th September, the date currently penciled in for Brazil. This would also mean that the Aragon MotoGP round would no longer clash with the 24 hours of Le Mans motorcycle race, probably the most important race on the World Endurance Championship calendar.
With the 2014 MotoGP season about to get underway, at least one team is likely to miss the first test of the year at Sepang, from 4-6 February. Speaking to the official MotoGP.com website, new signing Leon Camier said that the plan was to skip the first Sepang test and only attend the second test, taking place at the end of the month.
The reason for the delay is simple. The IODA Racing team is yet to sign a contract with Aprilia to supply them with bikes, despite the season being close to starting. According to the Italian magazine Motosprint, IODA are still haggling over the price with Aprilia, though an agreement is likely to be reached. Both Aprilia and IODA have an interest in reaching an agreement: IODA, as they do not really want to spend another season on the Suter BMW, undeveloped almost since its introduction two years ago; and Aprilia, as the IODA team is the only team willing to take the ART machines, with PBM having only signed up to use Aprilia's engines.
At the EICMA last year, Piaggio boss Roberto Colaninno announced Aprilia will be back in MotoGP as a factory team in 2016, and to achieve that, the Noale factory needs a team to assist with development. The IODA team would appear to be a strong candidate, led as it is by Giampiero Sacchi, the man who ran Aprilia's racing program for many years. IODA's problem is money, and Aprilia will have to finance a good deal of the effort themselves.
The bike which IODA would use would be a 'laboratory bike' being used to develop a machine for Aprilia's factory return. Motosprint reports that a new engine could be ready for use this summer. Though no details have been announced, it is expected that this could include the pneumatic valve cylinder head and seamless gearbox which Aspar had discussed with Aprilia at the end of 2013.
Yamaha today launched their 2014 MotoGP livery in Jakarta Indonesia. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were present at the launch, along with Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis and the MotoGP group leader Kouichi Tsuji.
The new livery resembles both the 2013 and 2012 color schemes very closely, with this year's color scheme featuring a lot more white. Conspicuous by their absence were any new sponsor names, though Lin Jarvis assured Indonesian motorcycling blog TMCBlog that more sponsors would be announced before the season started. Earlier reports that a deal with Adidas was close appear not to have had much truth in them.
The reports yesterday that Jorge Lorenzo had reached a pre-agreement with Ducati for 2015 were also denied, by both Lin Jarvis to TMCBlog and in the press release itself, by Jorge Lorenzo. Jarvis told TMCBlog 'I don't think Jorge has signed any deal with Ducati. Will ducati make him a proposal? Maybe, but right now there is no truth of this rumour and hopely Jorge will be stay with us in the future.' In the press release, Lorenzo is quoted as saying 'I have to clarify that there is no truth in the rumours that there is a contract with another manufacturer and I would like to start negotiating as soon as possible for my future with Yamaha. My dream is to retire after my career as a Yamaha rider.'
The choice of Jakarta for Yamaha's launch underlines the importance of the region for Yamaha. The launch took place at a large dealer meeting in Indonesia, and with the Indonesian distributor being one of the main sponsors behind Yamaha's MotoGP project, the Japanese factory is keen to expand in the region. Lin Jarvis has spoken repeatedly and publicly of the need to go back to racing in Indonesia, or at least expanding the number of races in the region. The problem for Indonesia at the moment is the lack of a suitable facility, with the Sentul track not up to current safety standards. However, it seems inevitable that more races are likely to be added in South East Asia in the next few years.
Below are photos released by Yamaha of the new livery, and below that, the official press release:
Jakarta (Indonesia), 17th January 2014
Yamaha Factory Racing stars Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi kicked off the new MotoGP season today by unveiling the 2014 Yamaha YZR-M1 live in front of nearly 4000 members of the Yamaha family at the 3S Dealer meeting in Indonesia.
The two-day visit saw both riders engage in a number of activities for their first official outing of 2014. Yesterday Jorge met with a number of local media before heading off to take part in a soccer game with a team of Lorenzo fans and members of the Yamaha community.
This morning Jorge and Vale went together to meet Mr. Joko Widodo, the current Governor of Jakarta. The threesome spent some time cycling and chatting together before the riders moved on to join the thousands of Yamaha dealers gathered to witness the unveiling of the 2014 YZR-M1 that marked the start of the 3S Dealer Meeting.
Jorge and Vale wrapped up the day by recording a local TV show and shooting a Yamaha TV commercial before heading to the airport and saying goodbye to Indonesia once again.
Jorge Lorenzo - Yamaha Factory Racing Rider
“It’s always nice to come into a sunny country with happy people, especially Indonesia, a country that gets crazy about MotoGP. Both Vale and myself have a lot of fans. Everyone recognises us in the street and gives us a lot of love so it's a good place to promote Yamaha.
Every year this Asian market gets more and more important so our visits here increase. This time we decided to do the launch here, in front of thousands of Yamaha people.
I like the new bike a lot, it's very smart and elegant with more white. It’s not just the colour though; I’m excited to see what’s inside the bike in Sepang!
My expectations for this season are very high. This winter I had an operation to take out the metal plates in my shoulder so I’m a bit lighter but I’m also a bit fatter after Christmas! I am training hard to lose some kilos and I will try to start the season well like last year and be straight onto the podium. This will be important to get points and gain confidence to keep going through the season. Our rivals will be tough but I think if we’ve improved in some areas then we have a good chance to win the title again.
When you are fast and winning races all the big factories want you, this is normal. I have to clarify that there is no truth in the rumours that there is a contract with another manufacturer and I would like to start negotiating as soon as possible for my future with Yamaha. My dream is to retire after my career as a Yamaha rider. If our bike is even better this year then it will be easier!”
Valentino Rossi - Yamaha Factory Racing Rider
"It’s always great to come to Indonesia. The Indonesians are the best fans in the world, with a lot of passion for MotoGP and the Yamaha Factory Team, even though they have no races in their country. Yamaha Indonesia plays a big role in Yamaha’s global business and I truly hope that Jorge’s and my presence here gives a further boost to their local business. This morning I had the pleasure and the honour to spend some time with Mr. Joko Widodo, Governor of Jakarta, and I could not have expected any better welcome to my arrival in Indonesia.
This season is very important for me and the fact that we officially start the season here in Jakarta makes it even more special. I can’t remember any previous unveiling by Yamaha made outside Europe, so today’s event was special for several reasons. Yamaha deliberately decided to offer the Indonesian dealers the chance to host the unveiling of the 2014 M1 during their big annual meeting here in Jakarta and this is another sign of the increasing importance of the SE Asian market for the global business. I truly hope to be able to race here again, very soon, before it’s too late!!
We unveiled the new livery for 2014 today; it’s very nice, very elegant and has more white than last year. It’s still very much in the Yamaha Factory style and I like it a lot.
The expectations for the coming season are very high. My target is to try and do better than last year, be more competitive and fight for the podium every weekend. I am sure our bike will be very competitive again. It was already very good last year and Yamaha engineers were able to develop it further through the season therefore I expect a lot from my new M1 and I am sure it will get even better during the season."
“I am very happy that I was able to attend the Yamaha Motor Indonesia Dealer Convention here today with our President Mr. Yanagi, Jorge, Vale, and Tsuji-san to give the Indonesian dealers an exclusive preview of our new colours for the 2014 season. The Indonesian market is the biggest in the world and MotoGP is enormously popular here so I really hope we can come here to race in the future.
I would like to thank our hosts for making us so welcome and for their invaluable support to our MotoGP project. We now look forward with impatience to the first Sepang test in just over two weeks from now to start our 2014 title campaign.”Yamaha today launched their 2014 MotoGP livery in Jakarta Indonesia. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were present at the launch, along with Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis and the MotoGP group leader Kouichi Tsuji.The new livery resembles both the 2013 and 2012 color schemes very closely, with this year's color scheme featuring a lot more white. Conspicuous by their absence were any new sponsor names, though Lin Jarvis assured Indonesian motorcycling blog TMCBlog that more sponsors would be announced before the season started. Earlier reports that a deal with Adidas was close appear not to have had much truth in them.
MotoGP silly season this year is expected to be pretty frenetic, with just about all of the riders either out of contract or with escape clauses written into their contracts allowing them to leave at the end of 2014. But even by those standards, the first shot in the battle sounds like madness. According to a report on the Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Ducati have tempted Jorge Lorenzo into agreeing to a precontract to race for the Italian factory from 2015 onwards.
According to the report, Ducati Corse's new boss Gigi Dall'Igna phoned Jorge Lorenzo personally to persuade him to sign for the Italian factory. The contract on offer is reported to be tempting: Onda Cero claim that Ducati offered Lorenzo 15 million euros a season to race for them. Lorenzo is reported to be racing for 9 million a year with Yamaha, plus a 2 million euro bonus if he wins the championship. Both Honda and Yamaha are also chasing Lorenzo's signature for 2015, both claimed to have offered him 12 million euros a year.
How much stock should be placed in this report? It is hard to say. The interest in Jorge Lorenzo comes as no surprise, given that he is one of only three men capable of challenging for the championship. Lorenzo was the only rider to match the pace of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, on what is widely acknowledged to be a lesser bike. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto has made no secret of his desire to sign Jorge Lorenzo, having already made a major play for Lorenzo the last time his contract was up, at the end of the 2012 season. Likewise, Ducati have also previously made moves for Jorge Lorenzo, having offered the Spaniard some 8 million euros to join Ducati during Casey Stoner's absence through illness in 2009. That move proved at the time to be the catalyst for Stoner's departure to Honda.
What is surprising is the timing of this report. Jorge Lorenzo has only just landed in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he and Valentino Rossi are due to present the 2014 livery of the Yamaha MotoGP team tomorrow. Allowing such news to leak ahead of such an important occasion would not be well received in the Yamaha camp, though it would provide a very useful way of putting pressure on the factory. Yamaha are already struggling to pay the salary currently demanded by Lorenzo, and stretching it much further could put him out of reach of the Japanese factory. Yet Yamaha know they have no choice, as Lorenzo has proven to be the only Yamaha rider currently capable of challenging for the title. If leaking the news is a negotiating tactic, it is a very crude instrument.
The biggest question mark remains what reason Lorenzo would have to go to Ducati, beyond the simple question of money. At the moment, Ducati is a far from promising prospect, the bike still a long way from being competitive. In fact, so far off is the current bike that Ducati look set to switch to becoming an Open entry, racing with the spec Dorna software on the Magneti Marelli ECU. Though the great raft of changes currently being pushed through at Ducati by Gigi Dall'Igna are widely regarded as necessary steps to a return to competitiveness, they will still take a long time to take effect. The Desmosedici will surely be better by the first race of 2015, but whether it is championship material remains to be seen.
The fear must be that Ducati is trying to fix their problems in the same way they did last time: by signing a rider of exceptional talent to ride a bike beset by problems. Such a move could come at the behest of Ducati's main benefactor Philip Morris, who are demanding results after three years of mediocrity following the departure of Casey Stoner. Whether Lorenzo could overcome the problems the current bike has, as Stoner did in the past, is open to question. Lorenzo has a radically different riding style to Stoner, thriving on smoothness and his ability to carry corner speed, rather than bully the bike into doing what he wants, as Stoner did. Corner speed is very much the weakness of the Ducati, as its vicious power delivery, all of which run totally counter to Lorenzo's strongest point, his fluid smoothness.
If anyone can persuade Lorenzo, then it is surely Gigi Dall'Igna. The pair had a strong relationship during Lorenzo's 250cc period, when he won two championships for Aprilia, where Dall'Igna was head of the racing department. Lorenzo knows what Dall'Igna is capable of, but he also knows the challenges which he would face there. All he needs to do is look across at the other side of the garage, at teammate Valentino Rossi. The prospect of spending two years in the wilderness as Rossi did cannot be an attractive one for a man so clearly addicted to winning. Choosing to ride for Ducati would require a massive leap of faith.
~~~ Update ~~~
As might be expected, Ducati has already denied the rumors they have reached an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo. Speaking to GPOne.com, Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali joked sarcastically 'yes, and we've signed Marquez too, it's cheaper than developing the bike.' The focus, Paolo Ciabatti reaffirmed, was on developing the Desmosedici. 'Our riders are not the problem,' Ciabatti told GPOne.com.
The long wait for motorcycle racing fans is over. The winter test ban for the World Superbike ends today, and a number of teams will take to the track in Spain and Portugal over the next four days, weather permitting.
The World Superbike paddock is split between Portimao in Portugal and Almeria in southern Spain for the next few days, with Aprilia, Pata Honda and Ducati heading to Portimao, while Kawasaki and Voltcom Suzuki start at Almeria. Suzuki will pack up after two days at Almeria and join Aprilia, Honda and Ducati at Portimao until the 20th of January. The Yakhnich MV Agusta team will also be testing at Portimao, as will the World Supersport teams of PTR Honda and Mahi Kawasaki.
Kawasaki and Honda will be back in southern Spain in early February, with the factory Kawasaki team being joined by the Pedercini squad and Pata Honda for two days at Jerez. Everyone then packs up and heads much further south, to Australia, for the season opener at Phillip Island on 23rd February.
Below is the preseason testing schedule for the World Superbike, World Supersport and Superstock teams for the next few weeks:
|16-20th January||Aprilia||Marco Melandri, Alex Hofmann|
|16-18th January||Pata Honda||Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Michael vd Mark, Lorenzo Zanetti|
|17-20th January||Ducati||Chaz Davies, Davide Giugliano|
|19-20th January||Voltcom Suzuki||Eugene Laverty, Alex Lowes|
|MV Agusta YMS||Claudio Corti, Jules Cluzel, Vladimir Leonov|
|PTR Honda||Jack Kennedy, Nacho Perez, Ratthapark Wilairot|
|Mahi Kawasaki||Fabien Foret, Kenan Sofuoglu|
|DMC Lorenzini||Kev Coghlan, Vladimir Ivanov|
|16-17th January||Kawasaki||Tom Sykes, Loris Baz, David Salom|
|Voltcom Suzuki||Eugene Laverty, Alex Lowes|
|Team Pucetti Kawasaki||Roberto Tamburini|
|5-6th February||Kawasaki||Tom Sykes, Loris Baz, David Salom|
|Pata Honda||Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Michael vd Mark, Lorenzo Zanetti|
|Team Pedercini||Alessandro Andreozzi, Mark Aitchison, Lorenzo Savadori, Balasz Nemeth, Romain Lanusse|
The long wait for motorcycle racing fans is over. The winter test ban for the World Superbike ends today, and a number of teams will take to the track in Spain and Portugal over the next four days, weather permitting.The World Superbike paddock is split between Portimao in Portugal and Almeria in southern Spain for the next few days, with Aprilia, Pata Honda and Ducati heading to Portimao, while Kawasaki and Voltcom Suzuki start at Almeria. Suzuki will pack up after two days at Almeria and join Aprilia, Honda and Ducati at Portimao until the 20th of January. The Yakhnich MV Agusta team will also be testing at Portimao, as will the World Supersport teams of PTR Honda and Mahi Kawasaki.Kawasaki and Honda will be back in southern Spain in early February, with the factory Kawasaki team being joined by the Pedercini squad and Pata Honda for two days at Jerez. Everyone then packs up and heads much further south, to Australia, for the season opener at Phillip Island on 23rd February.Below is the preseason testing schedule for the World Superbike, World Supersport and Superstock teams for the next few weeks: