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January 6th

News Round Up 6th January: No, Ezpeleta Hasn't Been Fired, Nakamoto on the RC213V, and More

The start of a new year, and though there is little going on in the world of motorcycle racing in the first week of January, there is still enough to fill our weekly news round up. Here's what happened this week.

Hoax of the week: Ezpeleta to lose CEO job at Dorna?

It seemed like a huge scoop. Bridgepoint, the major shareholder in Dorna, were looking to oust Carmelo Ezpeleta as CEO, according to Paolo Gozzi, World Superbike correspondent for the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport. Gozzi claimed that Bridgepoint executives were unhappy with Dorna's handling of the Rossi affair at the end of 2015, and of the financial results for 2014 and 2015.

Unfortunately for Gozzi, the entire story was incorrect. Italian website GPOne.com asked Ezpeleta about it, and his response was typically dry: "Is it April Fool's Day in Italy?" Though he did not want to dignify the claims with a response, his answer was simple. "There is no truth in this whatsoever."

That the story is inaccurate should be immediately obvious. However you feel about the outcome of the 2015 MotoGP championship, the affair undeniably sparked a massive increase in interest in the championship, and in the sport. All of a sudden, MotoGP was back in sports bulletins in countries outside of Spain and Italy, and in the sports pages of newspapers, not confined to the specialist press. Google Trends, which measures interest in subjects based on search trends, shows a big increase in interest in MotoGP in 2015, with a massive spike around the period of Phillip Island, Sepang, and Valencia. More importantly, the drop in interest after the end of the season was to a higher baseline than in previous years, suggesting that interest in MotoGP will be higher in 2016 again.

January 5th

Maverick Viñales Press Release: Learning From The Best

Maverick Viñales PR team put out a press release celebrating the Suzuki man's Rookie of the Year title earlier this week. It makes for a fun and interesting read, with Viñales talking about the things he learned from riding with the other top MotoGP riders. He also highlights where he feels he still has to improve, and where he improved most in 2015.

The press release interview appears below:


Maverick Viñales: Top of the class

In order to become MotoGP Rookie of the Year, the Team Suzuki Ecstar rider learnt from the best teachers on two wheels in 2015.

Maverick Viñales' first year in MotoGP saw him proclaimed Rookie of the Year for the third time in his career, after having done so both in 125cc and Moto2 previously. The Team Suzuki Ecstar rider finished twelfth in the overall standings with 97 points, making it a successful return to competition for the factory from Hammamatsu.

Viñales stepped up to the challenge in 2015, and he did so by learning from the fastest and most experienced riders. But who were the best teachers for 'Mack'?

"Hot laps"

Year: 
2016

January 4th

Lorenzo Switches Helmet Brands, Signs Three-Year Contract With Shark

Jorge Lorenzo's helmet issues through the 2015 season have finally caused him to switch brands. The Spaniard today announced he has signed a contract for the next three seasons with the French helmet maker Shark. Shark have a long history in MotoGP and World Superbikes, having supplied many top riders such as Olivier Jacque, Carl Fogarty, Randy De Puniet, and Troy Corser. They currently support Aleix Espargaro, Johann Zarco, the Lowes twins Alex and Sam, Tom Sykes, Sylvain Guintoli, Scott Redding and Miguel Oliveira, among others. As such, Shark is an established name in motorcycle racing and a known quantity.

Lorenzo had the chance to extend his contract with HJC, the Korean helmet manufacturer he had been with for the past three years. But Lorenzo suffered a number of issues with his HJC during the 2015 season which caused him to reconsider. At Qatar, he dropped from the leading group after a helmet liner came loose and obscured his vision. At Silverstone, he failed to fit the breath deflector, and suffered severe fogging during a very wet race. This was not the first time he had suffered fogging in the wet, though the issue was made much worse through his own decision not to use the breath deflector. 

Kicking Off 2016: Six Ridiculously Premature Predictions for the Racing Year to Come

A new year is upon us, and with it, a new season of motorcycle racing, full of hope, opportunity and optimism. What will 2016 hold for motorcycle racing fans? With testing still weeks away for World Superbikes, and a month away for MotoGP, it is far, far too early to be making any predictions. But why let common sense stand in the way? Here are some wildly inaccurate predictions for 2016.

1. Doubling down: Honda falls into the horsepower trap again

2015 was a tough year for Honda. Despite proclaiming at the end of 2014 that their goal for the coming year was to build a more user-friendly engine, HRC found it impossible to resist the siren call of more horsepower. They built an engine that was even more aggressive than their already-difficult 2014 machine, and all the Honda riders struggled. By the end of the season, they just about had the situation under control, but it was far from ideal.

Surely, after a season like 2015, Honda will have learned their lesson? Apparently not. The latest version of the engine Honda tested at both Valencia and Jerez was still way too aggressive, though the engine was now aggressive in a different way, with more power off the bottom.

Making things worse was Honda's inability to get to grips with the new unified software. HRC technicians were finding it hard to control the RC213V engine using the new software, or create a predictable and comprehensible throttle response. Given that neither Yamaha nor Ducati had suffered the same problems, the issue was not with the software, but the way it was being used.

December 26th, 2015

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 5: The Bottom End - Aprilia, Hayden, Miller, and the Rest

The final part of our review of the 2015 season, takes a look at the riders at the bottom end of the championship. Though they finished well behind the leaders, the list still contains some big names and interesting stories. Near the top are the Aprilias of Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl, as well as the surprising Loris Baz. There is the tough times faced by the Open class Honda riders, including Nicky Hayden and Jack Miller. And at the bottom, the men gritting their teeth through injury, including Alex De Angelis and Karel Abraham.

If you missed the first four parts of our season review, you can catch up with part 1, on the Movistar Yamaha men, part 2, on two Repsol Hondas, part 3, covering Andrea Iannone to Cal Crutchlow, and part 4, from Pol Espargaro to Hector Barbera.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Alvaro Bautista, Gresini Aprilia, 16th, 31 points
Score: 7

Alvaro Bautista started the 2015 season full of hope. Finally back as a factory rider, he hoped to help steer the development of the factory's RS-GP bike ahead of the new prototype to be rolled out in 2016. Bautista had expected a tough season, but he hadn't expected it to be this tough. There was little sign of progress throughout 2015, with new developments rolled out only slowly, and the Aprilia still losing out in too many areas to be competitive. Still very closely related to the Aprilia RSV4R from which it stems, the bike is heavy, underpowered, doesn't turn well, and suffers both in top speed and acceleration.

December 25th

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 4: The Espargaros, The Suzukis, Petrucci, Redding and Hernandez

Our review of the 2015 MotoGP season continues, with a look at the riders who finished in places nine through fifteen. Part 4 covers Pol Espargaro, Danilo Petrucci, the Suzuki riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, Scott Redding, Yonny Hernandez and Hector Barbera. If you missed the first three parts of our season review, you can catch up with part 1, on the Movistar Yamaha men, part 2, on two Repsol Hondas, and part 3, covering Andrea Iannone to Cal Crutchlow.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Pol Espargaro, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 9th, 114 points
Score: 5

This was not the year that Pol Espargaro had hoped for. After a strong rookie season in 2014, when he outclassed his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Bradley Smith, Espargaro took a big step backward in 2015. The Spaniard finished with fewer points – 114, vs 136 in 2014 – and never really looked like getting involved in the battle for the podium, something which many were predicting at the end of last season.

What happened? It is hard to pinpoint exactly where the younger Espargaro went wrong in 2015, but the issue almost certainly lay within himself. The success he experienced in 2014 left him hungry for more, and he tried to push as hard as possible to go faster in 2015. The trouble is, that doesn't work on a Bridgestone-shod Yamaha MotoGP bike. The harder you try, the slower you go. It is all about being as calm, smooth and precise as possible, as Bradley Smith demonstrated.

Taking a Break: MotoMatters.com on Hiatus for the Holidays

With the year nearly at an end, it is time for MotoMatters.com to also take a break for the holidays, to recharge our batteries and prepare for another exciting season of world championship motorcycle racing. As a consequence, do not expect too many updates between now and 2nd January, 2016. There will not be too much news anyway, as riders, teams and organization all spend time away from racing. The final parts of our 2015 Season Review are still to come, and then, we shall be reposting some the highlights of the 2015 season between Christmas and New Year.

If you have enjoyed our coverage of motorcycle racing throughout the year, you can help us keep MotoMatters.com running by supporting us in several ways. The best way, of course, is by taking out a subscription. That keeps us going, and also allows you special privileges, such as commenting on articles directly, without waiting for your comment to be moderated, access to desktop-sized versions of Scott Jones' stunning photography, and a much nicer layout for the site. As a die-hard racing fan, you will of course be wanting to buy the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, to keep track of all of the races for next year's MotoGP and World Superbike series. Best buy an extra copy or two for your friends as well. 

You can also help by sending us money, either by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page. Anything you can spare will allow us to make our 2016 coverage even better than you enjoyed in 2015.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or whatever the reason for the season you choose to celebrate, and we wish you all a happy, healthy and enjoyable 2016, filled with great motorcycle racing!

December 24th

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 3: 5th to 8th, Iannone, Smith, Dovizioso and Crutchlow

In part 3 of our review of the 2015 season, we look a little further down the MotoGP grid, at places five to eight. Though much of the focus was on the Movistar Yamaha riders (covered in part 1) and Repsol Honda riders (covered in part 2), there was much to admire behind them. An impressive Andrea Iannone, who grew stronger throughout the season. A transformed Bradley Smith, who had a genuine shot at fourth in the championship for much of the season. Andrea Dovizioso, who did not benefit from the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 as his teammate. And Cal Crutchlow, how found the Honda RC213V a much harder bike to ride than he expected.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Andrea Iannone, Factory Ducati, 5th, 188 points
Score: 9

Crazy Joe, they used to call him. That was a particularly unsuitable moniker for Andrea Iannone in 2015. If anything, this was the year that Iannone turned out to be calm, measured, and calculating. Iannone had earned his earlier nickname through his propensity to make wildly optimistic moves, which, given his prodigious talent, he pulled off more often than not. When he didn't pull them off, he would crash out.

The 2015 version of the Maniac Joe – a nickname adopted a couple of years back – was very different. He reined himself in, and reaped the benefits. The difference was borne out by number of race crashes between last season and this season. In 2014, Iannone crashed out of four races. In 2015, he only crashed out of a single race, the last one at Valencia, when he had very little left to lose. Even Iannone's madness was calculated.

December 23rd

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Blessed by nature?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Blessed by nature?

The third of our four Hall of Fame blogs examines the dazzling skills of the so-called natural riders: Freddie Spencer, Kevin Schwantz and Casey Stoner

People often talk about naturally talented bike racers, but does such a thing as natural talent to ride a motorcycle actually exist?

It seems unlikely. Our distant ancestor homo erectus lived 1.9 million years ago, while the motorcycle, in any useful form, arrived a little over a hundred years ago, which works out as 0.005 percent of mankind’s time on earth. It doesn’t seem possible that in such a short time a gene might exist that allows some of us to control machinery better than others.

December 22nd

MotoGP News Round Up: Brno vs Indy, Stoner at Ducati, Valencia Fallout, and Some Holiday Entertainment

With Christmas nearly upon us, and very little happening in the world of motorcycle racing, time for a round up of recent news. Here's what's been going on in recent weeks, as well as some recommended reading and listening for over the holiday period.

Brno vs Indy - On or Off?

The news that the Indianapolis round of MotoGP had been dropped came as a huge disappointment to a lot of US fans. Though few people were fans of the track layout – despite recent improvements which took the worst edges off the layout – the event as a whole was well liked, and, for a US MotoGP round, fairly well attended.

In recent weeks, rumors have been circulating that the event could make a return. Though just speculation at the moment, Indianapolis could be being groomed as a possible replacement for the Czech round of MotoGP at Brno. Given the troubled recent history of the Brno round, and the excellent organization behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is a chance that behind the smoke, there is a fire powering the rumors.

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 2: Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa

In part 1 of our review of the 2015 season for the MotoGP grid, we looked back at the season of the two men who fought for the championship, Movistar Yamaha teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. In part 2, we continue with third place in the championship and beyond. If the battle for the championship was thrilling and tense, what happened to the riders behind the leaders was even more intriguing.

A reminder: we review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda, 3rd, 242 points
Score: 8

This was Marc Márquez' worst season in Grand Prix racing since 2009. From 2010 onwards, in 125s, Moto2 or MotoGP, Márquez has finished as either champion or runner up. Not only did Márquez finish outside the top two for the first time since finishing eighth in 2009, but this was also his worst championship points total since that year. You could say this was a very bad year for the Repsol Honda rider.

December 21st

Rating The Riders, 2015, Part 1: Jorge Lorenzo And Valentino Rossi

As the year winds to a conclusion, now is a good time to look back at the 2016 MotoGP season, and assess how the riders have done this year. It has been a fantastic season for MotoGP. The fans have been treated to some of the best and closest racing in years. Several races became instant classics, such as the tight battle at Assen decided in the final chicane, the bizarre rain-hit and incident-packed race at Misano, the scintillating four-way fight at Phillip Island.

The championship went all the way down to the final race, decided in the end by just five points. There was controversy and scandal, with the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez at Sepang following Rossi's accusations of collusion between Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island. There were last minute appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in an attempt to get the penalty imposed at Sepang lifted.

New bikes, new factories and the resurgence of Ducati thrilled fans as well. Gigi Dall'Igna's ability to get a racing department to work smarter, not harder, paid off for Ducati with the Desmosedici GP15, perhaps the most competitive motorcycle Ducati have built since the GP7, or even the GP6. Suzuki brought the GSX-RR, a brilliant bike with bags of potential but lacking a seamless gearbox and a stableful of ponies. The M1 was the best bike which Yamaha have ever brought to MotoGP, while Honda's RC213V was probably their worst since 2007. Even Aprilia turned up and took it seriously, though 2015 was more of a data-gathering year than an attempt to challenge. We will be talking about this season for a very long time to come.

So how did each rider do? We review the performance of each rider below, giving them a mark out of ten for their ability to live up to or exceed expectations. As every year, we cover the riders in the order they finished in the championship.

December 17th

Interview: Mika Kallio On The KTM MotoGP RC16 - "The Bike Is Already In Good Shape"

There is a lot to look forward to in MotoGP during the next couple of seasons. New tires, and new spec electronics for 2016, and for 2017, the arrival of a new manufacturer, with KTM due to join the show. The arrival of KTM has generated much excitement, the Austrian factory having succeeded beyond everyone's expectations in every racing class they have entered, with the exception of MotoGP. This time, they have taken the development of the bike completely in-house, a powerful V4 engine being housed in a trellis frame, the company's trademark in racing.

The bike has already made its debut on track, with Alex Hofmann having given the bike a shakedown test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in October. A few weeks later, the bike got its first proper test in the hands of newly signed test rider Mika Kallio, the man who was Moto2 runner up in 2014.

Kallio was present in Barcelona for the Superprestigio event, where he had been scheduled to race. However, a crash on Friday morning saw the Finnish rider break his leg, and meant he could not actually participate in the event. Kallio was present, however, and MotoMatters.com got the chance to talk to him about the state of the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike, his first impressions of the machine, and his hopes and expectations for testing in 2016, and racing in 2017.

First, though, we asked Kallio about the crash which ruled him out of the Superprestigio:

Mika Kallio: We had a bit of bad luck yesterday. We went to practice mainly to try to improve the starts. I crashed on the first corner, but nothing happened. That's usual, the speed is quite low in this type of race track, so you just slide on the side of the track. Then I tried to pick my bike up, and one guy behind me crashed after me. I didn't see it, because I was looking at my bike, and he slid right into my leg, and my leg was between his bike and my bike, and it got crushed.

KTM Testing? Will this affect your testing? When was your next test planned for?

December 16th

MotoGP Rules Update: Tire Allocation Expanded, Open Class Killed Off

The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, met last week to make a few minor updates to the rules for MotoGP in 2016. The two biggest changes to the rules relate to the two biggest changes to the series for next year: the change of tire suppliers and the switch to spec electronics.

The change that will most please the fans will be the official end of the Open class. All references to both the Open and Factory classes are to be removed from the regulations, as the switch to spec electronics, all teams running both the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and official Dorna unified software, mean there is only one class in MotoGP again. This does not mean that all factories are equal, however. Special concessions remain for factories which have not won a race and have not yet accrued six concession points (based on podium positions). Manufacturers with concessions will be allowed to use nine engines for a season instead of seven engines, they will be allowed unlimited testing with factory riders instead of test riders, and engine development will not be frozen. 

Those concessions are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future. The aim of the concessions is to slow the rate of progress of the successful factories to give newcomers and less successful factories a chance to keep up. The progress Ducati have made in 2015 has confirmed to the series organizers that this is a successful policy, and will be continued.

World Superbike Races Split Over Saturday And Sunday, Homologation Numbers Reduced

The World Superbike championship is to undergo a radical shake up. Today, the Superbike Commission, WSBK's rule-making body, announced two major changes aimed at improving the health of the series.

The first change is the most noticeable. As predicted when the 2016 WSBK Calendar was published, World Superbike races are to be held on both Saturdays and Sundays, with Race 1 being held on Saturday, Race 2 on Sunday. This means that Superpole has now been moved to Saturday morning, rather than the afternoon. 

The move, the Superbike Commission says, is to provide a fuller experience for fans at a WSBK weekend. The move has been made after consultation with the teams, TV broadcasters and with circuit owners, which produced positive feedback. How fans will react remains to be seen: the AMA ran races on Saturday and Sunday during the DMG era, which met with a mixed reception, but that era in the US was so tainted by the DMG it is hard to know whether the issue was with the format or much wider. 

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