Archive - News Item
February 11th, 2016
With Ducati refining the already competitive GP15 into the Desmo16, and Suzuki bringing a seamless gearbox and new, more powerful engine for the GSX-RR, the battle among the manufacturers in MotoGP is getting closer. The one exception so far has been Aprilia, who soldiered on through 2015 with an uprated version of the ART machine, which was still based on the RSV4 production bike, while they worked on a brand new prototype.
That prototype has at last made its debut at the track. On Wednesday, Aprilia test rider Mike Di Meglio took the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP out for its first official spin. Di Meglio was performing a basic shakedown test, making sure that everything worked and there were no unexpected problems with the bike, giving Aprilia time to address them before factory Aprilia riders Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl get their first chance to ride the bike at a private test at Qatar, two weeks before the official IRTA test at the circuit.
The FIM have today at last finalized the 2016 MotoGP calendar. The two circuits which were still subject to contract, Brno and Jerez, have now had their contracts confirmed. The calendar is unchanged from the provisional calendar published between Sepang and Valencia last year.
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
2016 Calendar, 10 February
The FIM and Dorna are pleased to confirm that the FIM Grand Prix World Championship calendar published as provisional on November 2 is now final.
It is no secret that Dorna and the manufacturers active in MotoGP are keen to stage a race in Indonesia. The sport enjoys unrivaled popularity in the Southeast Asian country, and as one of the biggest markets for scooters and small capacity motorcycles in the world, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki are desperate to race there. The burgeoning middle class in Indonesia also make it a key target market for European manufacturers such as Ducati, who have seen their sales explode in the region, albeit from a very small base.
Throughout 2015, Dorna officials met with senior figures in Indonesia, including the Minister for Youth and Sports, Imam Nahrawi, and the CEO of the Sentul Circuit Tinton Soeprapto, in an attempt to hammer out an agreement. So far, Dorna have a letter of intent signed by the Minister, and a preliminary deal which would see the race staged in Indonesia for three years, starting in 2017.
The Circuit of Wales is edging ever closer to becoming a reality. BBC Wales is reporting that UK insurance giant Aviva will be backing the Circuit of Wales project, and providing funds to allow building work on the track near Ebbw Vale in South Wales to start. Construction will take some time, however, and Silverstone will continue to host the British round of MotoGP for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the race only moving to the Circuit of Wales from 2018 onwards.
The news that Aviva is to provide financial backing for the Circuit of Wales still leaves many questions unanswered. It is not clear from the reports by BBC Wales exactly how much money Aviva will be putting into the track. The circuit needs £300 million in private investment, on top of roughly £30 million in public funding in the form of loans. Whether Aviva will be providing the full £300 million for the Circuit of Wales, or sufficient seed money for building work to start is unclear.
As we reported back in January, Marc Marquez has ended his agreement with Valentino Rossi's VR46 Racing Apparel company to produce and sell merchandising for the Spaniard and his younger brother. Today, official confirmation came in the form of a press release from his management company, Alzamora Communications. The agreement with VR46 RAcing Apparel has been officially terminated.
The ending of the contract is part of the fallout from the incident between Marquez and Rossi at Sepang, in October last year. That episode effectively destroyed any relationship that existed between the two riders, though it had been gradually deteriorating throughout the 2015 season. Rossi's accusations, both after Sepang and especially after Valencia, caused Marquez to lose any faith he may have had in Rossi, and made him decide to sever all business ties with Rossi and those linked to him. In addition to the merchandising deal, Marquez will also be ending his association with GP Rooms, the room rental business run by the Nieto family, after Marquez felt that they had taken sides against him.
The press release from Marquez' management company is below:
Barcelona, 8th February 2016
As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction. For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action. These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.
From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race. Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually. In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.
Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday.
The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards. Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel. They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.
Exactly who will be in the panel is unclear at the moment, but the aim is not to have any Dorna staff in it. The fact that Javier Alonso, a senior executive of Dorna and one of the inner circle at the heart of the company, sits in Race Direction has occasionally been a concern from some of the manufacturers, with accusations of bias surfacing on occasion.
KTM have surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partners WP. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday.
The existence of KTM's Moto2 project had been kept a closely guarded secret, and came as a surprise to many. The fact that Moto2 uses a spec Honda CBR600RR engine has been a huge obstacle to manufacturers wanting to get involved in the class. Aprilia had originally planned to enter Moto2, but decided against it for this very reason.
KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.
Having a Moto2 bike would complete KTM's line up. The Austrian manufacturer appears to have accepted that to enter Moto2, they will have to build a bike to house an engine not manufactured by them.
Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.
Jack Miller is to miss the Sepang MotoGP test, due to start on Monday, 1st February. The Australian broke bones in his right leg during a motocross training accident two weeks ago, and will not be fit in time for the opening three-day test of the 2016 MotoGP season. Miller is continuing his recovery, and already back in training, working on his fitness with the aim of being ready to participate in the second MotoGP test, at Phillip Island in his native Australia, on 17th February.
Miller's absence means that Tito Rabat will be the sole representative of the Marc VDS team. The MotoGP rookie and former Moto2 champion will be focusing on his adaptation to the premier class, working methodically to understand the Michelin tires and spec electronics which are to be used for the 2016 season. Rabat has swapped his Kalex Moto2 machine for a Honda CBR1000RR, and has spent the off season preparing by riding around Almeria's new layout on the Fireblade.
Below is the press release from the Marc VDS Racing Team announcing Miller's absence:
Rabat ready to get the season underway in Sepang
Gosselies, Belgium – 28 January 2016: Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS head to Malaysia this weekend, to get their 2016 MotoGP campaign underway with a three-day test at the Sepang International Circuit.
Aprilia's MotoGP project has suffered a setback. The 2016 version of their RS-GP MotoGP machine will not be ready in time for the first official IRTA test at Sepang, according to a report by Crash.net's Neil Morrison. Instead, it will make its debut in a private test at Qatar, ahead of the third preseason test of 2016, with its first public outing coming in that third and final test, two weeks before the start of the 2016 season.
The delay is a sign that the project is at least a couple of weeks behind schedule. At Valencia, Aprilia spokespersons said that the original plan was to hold a shakedown test at a private Italian racetrack, with the bike making its public debut in Sepang. Designing a radically new bike is taking longer than expected, however: the 2016 machine will be a brand new prototype, designed from the ground up, at least 10kg lighter than the current RS-GP, and is rumored to have a different angle between the cylinders. That is an incredibly complex and time-consuming process, so delays are not entirely unexpected.
The feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez shows no signs of abating. It emerged today that Marquez has severed a number of links which tied him to the Italian, including ending prematurely a contract for merchandise with Rossi's VR46 Racing Apparel company, and ending his lease of accommodation in the GP Rooms portable hotel run by the Nieto family.
The news, broken by Speedweek and confirmed to MotoMatters.com by sources with knowledge of the situation, is a reversal of reports from Valencia last year. Then, Spanish websites were reporting that Valentino Rossi had decided to terminate the contract, at the end of the second year of its three year term. Those reports were denied, but now it appears that it is Marquez who has decided he does not want Rossi's VR46 business selling his merchandise. Marquez' management and VR46 are currently in negotiations to terminate the contract, with the VR46 company wanting financial compensation for Marquez' decision to terminate the contract prematurely. Marquez will want the situation to be resolved quickly, and certainly before the first European round in Jerez, where he can expect to sell a large amount of merchandise to Spanish fans.
Jack Miller has broken his right leg in a motocross training incident. The Australian was riding at the Bellpuig motocross track in Spain on Sunday, when he landed heavily, fracturing both the fibula and tibia down near the ankle joint. In a post on Instagram, Miller explained that he had been forced to shut off the throttle when another rider lost control on the up ramp of a triple jump. He had not crashed, but the impact of the landing had caused the damage to his ankle.
Miller was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona, where he was examined by Dr. Mir, and then had both the bones in his leg plated with screws. Examination after the surgery confirmed that it had been successful.
The future of the Brno round of MotoGP has been secured for the foreseeable future. On Monday, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta signed a contract with the "Spolek pro GP ČR v Brno", an association set up to promote the Czech Grand Prix, to host the race at the Masarykring in Brno from 2016 until 2020.
MotoGP at Brno has been shrouded in doubt for the past few years. An ongoing dispute between the Masarykring circuit, or Automotodrom Brno, and regional authorities left the circuit in debt to Dorna after failing to pay the sanctioning fee demanded. The circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and Ivana Ulmanova, the circuit manager, were caught in a power struggle with the city council of Brno and Michal Hašek, the president of the South Moravia region. Dorna had threatened to take the race off the calendar unless all of the monies owed to the circuit were paid, and a long-term solution was found to prevent further problems.