Archive - News Item
August 29th, 2015
Yesterday, it was Bradley Smith, today it is Cal Crutchlow. On Wednesday, the LCR Honda team announced that Cal Crutchlow will be riding with the team for two more seasons. The deal will see Crutchlow staying with LCR for 2016, giving him an option to stay on for 2017 as well.
Crutchlow's deal has been a long time coming. Talks were started as early as Barcelona, with Crutchlow looking for a two-year extension with LCR. Honda were keen to keep Crutchlow within the ranks, as the Englishman has been able to provide valuable feedback to HRC for the RC213V. With Honda having taken a wrong path for this season, having an extra rider to provide development input has been important. Crutchlow's results have been solid this year, including a podium at Argentina, though he has also found himself in the gravel a number of times.
There had been a brief flirtation with Pramac Ducati, Crutchlow entering talks with the satellite Ducati team about racing for the Italian factory once again. This, however, appears to have been more of a bargaining chip to use with Honda, rather than a serious attempt to return to the fold at Bologna.
Bradley Smith has signed on for another season with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. The British rider has extended his contract, and will continue to ride for the team in 2016.
The announcement and its timing had been widely expected, coming as it does just days before the start of the British round of MotoGP at Silverstone. Smith had made it clear since before the summer break that he wanted to stay with Tech 3, but the contract took longer to put together than hoped. Smith spoke of his frustration about the situation at Indianapolis, though by Brno, some progress appeared to have been made. The deal was finalized shortly after the Czech round of MotoGP, just in time to be announced at his home race.
The stumbling block to a new contract was ensuring that Smith received equal treatment with Tech 3 teammate Pol Espargaro for 2016. This had been a thorn in Smith's side throughout the season, as upgrades such as a new chassis arrived on Espargaro's side of the garage, but were not available for Smith. As the Englishman has lead his teammate in the championship throughout the 2015 season, Smith felt that he too deserved better treatment from Yamaha. Talks with the factory at Indianapolis helped clear the air, opening the way for a deal to be signed.
With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP's schedule for 2016 slotted into place. Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.
Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on 4th April, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into. The upside to F1's late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.
Preseason testing is slightly altered for 2016. Instead of two tests at Sepang, the MotoGP teams will head from Sepang to Phillip Island, and then on to Qatar, for a final test before the start of the season. Testing starts on the first three days of February, spending the 1st to the 3rd at Sepang, for the first start of the year. From there, the circus moves to Australia, for a three-day test at Phillip Island from 17th to the 19th February, before heading back across the equator to Qatar. MotoGP will test at the Losail circuit on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of March.
The post-race Michelin tests have been something of a frustration for journalists following MotoGP. With riders barred from speaking publicly about the tires, and no official timing for the tests, it has been hard to make sense of the events. Today's Brno test was even more frustrating. Rain all day, alternating between heavy downpours and a very light drizzle meant that the track was more or less wet all day. The riders stayed in their garages and race trucks, for the most part, with a handful of riders putting in a handful of laps.
Though the test was mostly a washout for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer did get some useful data from the test. Riders went out on three types of tire: slicks, wets, and intermediates, in varying conditions. The return of the intermediates is an interesting step, a tire which uses the hard rain compound with a minimal tread compound. MotoMatters.com ace shooter Scott Jones snapped photos of both the intermediate and wet rears for comparison, and posted them on Twitter:
The Michelin MotoGP rear intermediate, warmed up in by Petrucci. pic.twitter.com/GfRG6KYnri— Photo.GP (@PhotoGP) August 17, 2015
The future of the MotoGP round at Brno has finally been secured. The regional authorities have stepped in to secure funding for the Czech Grand Prix for the next five years, starting from 2016. A deal has been struck with the Czech Ministry of Education and Sports, the City of Brno, and the Moravian regional government to ensure that the Czech round stays for the foreseeable future.
The round had been in doubt for some time, as haggling over finances between the circuit, the city council and the regional government saw the sanctioning fee go partially unpaid for the past several years. The rights to the round have now been placed with a new and separate organization, run by the various regional and national governments involved, who will organize the round at the Brno circuit. With the financing in place, the race will continue for at least the next five years, and probably beyond.
The first part of MotoGP's truncated silly season has fallen into place. As expected, Yamaha today announced that they have extended their deal with Pol Espargaro for another year. Espargaro will race a factory-backed Yamaha M1 with the Monster Tech 3 M1 season in 2016.
The news had been widely trailed, and is a sensible choice for the Spaniard. Though Espargaro is rumored to be taking a significant pay cut for next season, signing a one-year deal puts him in step with the factory riders, whose contracts are all up for renewal at the end of 2016. It means that he will be in a position to take advantage of any openings which arise in a factory squad.
The next move expected is for Bradley Smith to renew with Tech 3. Smith has his contract directly with the team, rather than with Yamaha like Pol Espargaro, and has been stuck in talks with the team for some time now. Current paddock opinion expects a deal to be announced soon, either this weekend or perhaps at Brno.
The Forward Racing team have found a temporary lifeline, and will be back in action at Brno. The MotoGP team of Loris Baz and replacement rider Claudio Corti, and Moto2 men Lorenzo Baldassarri and Simone Corsi will be racing in the Czech Republic, as the team have found the finances for that race at least.
Beyond Brno, however, the question marks remain. The press release issued only mentions Brno, and not the races beyond that. However, racing at Brno will buy current team boss Marco Curioni more time to go looking for more sponsors to try to fund the remainder of the season. Racing at Brno will also show the team's commitment to both IRTA and Dorna about their willingness to try to find a solution, and perhaps buy them more breathing space.
Stefan Bradl's period of enforced unemployment will be mercifully brief. Today, the Forward Racing team announced they had released him from his contract at his request, as the problems facing the team continue. Free from his contract, Bradl looks set to sign for the Gresini Aprilia squad for the rest of the season, replacing Marco Melandri.
Bradl has been caught up in a whirlwind of events since breaking his scaphoid at Assen. Two weeks later, at the Sachsenring, the German was in talks with the Forward Racing team to extend his contract to race the Open class Yamaha for the 2016 season. The day after the race in Germany, team owner Giovanni Cuzari was arrested on his return home to Ticino, Switzerland, on charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. Because of the charges, the Swiss authorities seized the team's computers and financial administration, and froze their bank accounts. The arrest also prompted a number of sponsors to end their contracts, further endangering the future of the team. The team announced that they would not be competing at Indianapolis, and that they could also end up missing Brno.
Forward Racing will not be at Indianapolis for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. As was widely expected, the team formally announced today that they lacked the funds to take part in the race. The team is now focused on making it to the following round, at Brno in the Czech Republic.
The team has been in severe financial difficulty ever since the arrest by the Swiss authorities of team owner Giovanni Cuzari on charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. First, the team had all of its assets seized, as they were all in the name of Cuzari. Then, a number of its sponsors, including MotoGP title sponsor Athina, withdrew their support and stopped payment. With no access to existing funds and payment of new funds impossible, it was clear that making it to Indianapolis would be impossible.
2015 has not been kind to Davide Giugliano. The factory Ducati rider was already forced to miss the first four rounds of the season after fracturing two lumbar vertebrae in testing crash at Phillip Island, a week before the season began. Now he will be forced to miss the remainder of the season, after scans revealed a fracture of the thoracic vertebra D3, sustained in a crash at Laguna Seca.
Giugliano crashed during race 2 at Laguna Seca, cartwheeling spectacularly through the gravel at Turn 6 when a few spots of rain started to fall at the circuit. Though he was initially only diagnosed with some heavy bruising, upon his return to Italy, the Aruba.it Ducati man decided to have another scan, in part to ensure that no further damage had been done to the vertebrae he injured back in February. The scan turned up a fracture of a different vertebra, however, and Giugliano was told that the recovery period would be three months. That effectively put an end to his 2015 season, ruling him out of the remainder of the races.