With the holiday season upon us, the world of motorcycle racing has entered its annual period of hibernation. There is very little going on in terms of MotoGP or WorldSBK, riders, teams, and factories all spending time with their families.
Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But who was the best rider of 2016? This is the MotoMatters.com top ten riders of the 2016 WorldSBK season.
Reading motorsports websites all over Europe today, you would think it was Doomsday for motorcycle racing, and all forms of motorized sports. Even in as august a publication as The Times (of London, that is), the headlines warned of impending disaster:. "EU insurance rule ‘will destroy British motor sport’". Is the end nigh for motorsport in Britain?
The short answer is "No, but it's complicated". So where did these warnings that the sky is falling come from? On Wednesday, the MCIA (the Motorcycle Industry Association, the body representing the British bike industry), the ACU, and the AMCA (both representing motorcycle racing, on road and off road) issued a joint press release, warning that motorsport in the UK could come to an end due to a ruling by the European Court in Luxembourg.
The ruling stems from a judgment in the case of Vnuk v Triglav, case C-162/13 before the European Court of Justice, and known as the Vnuk judgment. The case involved a Slovenian farm worker, Damijan Vnuk, who was injured when he was knocked off a ladder by a tractor reversing with a trailer. Vnuk was working on a farm at the time, and sued for compensation from the motor vehicle insurance policy of the tractor. The lower Slovenian courts rejected his claims, but the Slovenian Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ.
The second of our in-depth look at MotoGP rider aids explains how anti-wheelie works – a handy gadget when you’ve got 260 horsepower on tap
Why were winglets such a big deal during the 2016 MotoGP season? Because the anti-wheelie program in Dorna’s unified software is the weakest of all the rider aids, so the downforce created by the wings helped keep down the front wheel during acceleration.
The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans.
The biggest change to be announced is the adoption of Michelin's wireless technology that allows them to automatically identify which tire a rider is using, and pass that information back to the Dorna data feed. This data will then be available to all teams and riders, but far more importantly, it will also be available to TV broadcasters. No longer will they have to rely on the sterling work of pit lane reporters such as MotoGP.com's excellent Dylan Gray, they will have the information at their fingertips.
Though the press release issued by the Grand Prix Commission does not mention it, fans will have to fervently hope that tire selection will also be made public on the official MotoGP.com live timing website, and on the MotoGP mobile app. That would add an extra dimension to fan enjoyment of practice and the race.
The Superprestigio is supposed to be a bit of fun, a way to release a last burst of energy before the holidays start in earnest. They are not meant to be taken seriously, and the title of Superprestigio winner conveys little or nothing: no prize money, no FIM status, nothing more than a little bit of December glory in the depths of winter.
But of course, these are motorcycle racers we are dealing with here. There is no such thing as "racing for fun". Every opportunity to compete is grasped with both hands, their will to win battling with their fear of losing, pushing them to give their all at whatever they turn their hand to. The late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly summed up every professional athlete's attitude perfectly: "Football is not a matter of life and death... it's much more important than that." For football, substitute racing. Or cycling. Or even a game of Monopoly.
So it was no surprise to see the dejected look on Brad Baker's face after losing the Superfinal to Marc Márquez. It was an echo of the anger Márquez had felt at losing the first edition to Baker, though the Spaniard was a little better at hiding it, raging privately and out of sight of the press. Or most of them, anyway.
With most of the Paddock Pass Podcast crew gathered in Barcelona for the Superprestigio dirt track race, we used the opportunity to record a couple of shows. The first show covers the reason we were all in Barcelona in the first place: the fourth edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio, which featured another clash between MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and former AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National champion Brad Baker. This time, it was Marquez who came out on top, tying the series 2-2, and setting up a sequel for next year.
Marc Marquez has taken revenge at the event he helped to create, winning the 2016 edition of the Superprestigio in dominant style. The 2016 MotoGP champion had dominated the qualifying heats, and chose the inside gate to start from. Though he dropped behind the excellent French Supermoto champion Tom Chareyre off the line, he entered the first corner in good position, with AMA star Brad Baker tight on his tail. The pair quickly slid through to take the lead.
Qualifying for the Superprestigio at Barcelona saw Marc Marquez top the timesheets, both in the Superprestigio class and overall. The Spaniard posted a time 12.054 seconds on the 180 meter track. Former Moto2 champion and current MotoAmerica Yoshimura Suzuki rider Toni Elias was second fastest, just under a tenth of a second slower than Marquez, while Tech 3 rider Xavi Vierge was third quickest.