Archive

December 22nd, 2015

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. 

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why did MotoGP get nasty?

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.


Why did MotoGP get nasty?

Who to blame for the poisonous end to the 2015 MotoGP season: (in alphabetical order!) Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez or Valentino Rossi? Or how about none of them? How about thinking about the problem a little more deeply and investigating its root causes?

Here’s a theory. This problem has been coming for years and we’ve been cheering all the way, unaware of what’s at the bottom of the road we’ve been travelling down. We get excited when the first four rows of the grid are separated by just one second and last April we greeted the Argentine GP – the first premier-class GP in which the top 20 finishers were covered by less than a minute – as a wonderful moment.

December 12th

Brad Baker Holds Off Marc Marquez To Win Barcelona Superprestigio

Brad Baker has won the third edition of the Barcelona Superprestigio, holding off a strong challenge from Marc Marquez to take his second victory in the event. Jared Mees, who got boxed in at the start, took a comfortable third.

It was Baker who got the holeshot in the Superfinal, the American having gotten stronger and stronger through the Open class finals, and getting a practice run in the last of the Open finals. Marquez chased him, but could never get close enough to mount a final challenge. He tried on the last of the sixteen laps, the two touching, but Baker held him off comfortably.

Jared Mees took third, the reigning champion getting boxed in at the start, and having to fight his way through the pack. By the time he hit third place, the gap to Marquez was too great to catch him. Fourth place was Alex Rins, the Moto2 rider impressive, despite having missed the first day of practice.

Results:

Superprestigio Qualifying: Marquez And Elias Fast As Brindley Shines

Marc Marquez was once again fastest during qualifying for the Superprestigio event at Barcelona. The Spaniard clocked a fast time of 12.237 during the first session of qualifying, holding off a strong challenge from Toni Elias. Elias has learned a lot from his excursion to Las Vegas for the US Superprestigio held last month, and that is paying off.

Third fastest overall, and fastest of the Open class riders - the best of flat track and other off-road disciplines - was British rider Oliver Brindley. The 17-year-old had also raced at Las Vegas, making it all the way to the Grand Final, racing against US road race stars who grew up on dirt track. Brindley finished ahead of Italian Francesco Cecchini, who did well at the Superprestigio last year, beating out French Supermoto star Thomas Chareyre. The two American stars were sixth and seventh fastest, Jared Mees 0.160 slower than Marquez, Brad Baker 0.169 behind the Spaniard.

The full results for the Superprestigio class are below, then the results for the Open class, and finally the combined times for both classes.

December 11th

Superprestigio Day 1 Practice: Marc Marquez And Toni Elias Lead Jared Mees And Brad Baker

The first sessions of practice for the Barcelona Superprestigio event took place on Friday evening, and the man behind the event is fastest, as might be expected. Marc Marquez posted a lap of 11.797 during his second run on the track, ahead of Toni Elias, with an 11.8. Jared Mees and Brad Baker were the fastest of the Open riders, for off road and dirt track specialists, both posting times in the 11.9 bracket.

Headline times are not the full story, however, with Marquez' times less consistent than the two Americans. Brad Baker was particularly impressive, posting a long strings of 11.9s, showing he has good race pace. Both Mees and Baker had the added disadvantage of being first out on track, when there was the least rubber laid down. The track is in excellent condition, though, the organization having learned its lesson in the first two years for track preparation. If anything, the track is too smooth and hard packed, with little room to allow moisture to enter.

Barcelona Superprestigio To Be Streamed Online In The US

Fans in the US wishing to watch the showdown between the cream of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and the best dirt trackers in the world, to be held on 12th December, will be able to watch it online. An agreement between organizers RPM Racing, AMA Pro Racing and US publishers Bonnier Corporation will see the Superprestigio in Barcelona streamed via the FansChoice.tv website. The event will also be streamed on the Cycle World website as well as Motorcyclistonline.com.

December 10th

Valentino Rossi Withdraws Appeal Against Sepang Penalty, Case Now Formally Closed

Valentino Rossi has formally withdrawn his appeal against the three penalty points handed down to him in the clash at Sepang. The Italian had originally appealed the three points handed down by Race Direction for the incident with Marc Marquez at Turn 14 at Sepang, first to the FIM Stewards, and after the FIM Stewards had rejected his appeal, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

After filing the appeal to the CAS, Rossi then filed an appeal for a stay of the three-point penalty. If that stay had been granted, then Rossi would not have had to start from the back of the grid at Valencia. However, Rossi's request for a stay was rejected, and Rossi was left at the back of the grid. Finishing fourth meant he lost the 2015 MotoGP title to his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

With the 2015 MotoGP title settled, Ross must have felt there was no point in continuing with the appeal. Even if the CAS ruled in Rossi's favor, all they could have done is reduced the number of penalty points he had been awarded. That would not have had a material outcome on the 2015 title, and given Rossi's otherwise near-impeccable record, it is unlikely to have an outcome in 2016.

Motor Sport Magazine's Hall Of Fame: Vote For The Greatest Motorcycle Racers To Be Inducted

The debate over who is the greatest racer of all time is one that rages on endlessly, with arguments being made for Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi as the two most successful riders, while others argue that it should be Freddie Spencer for winning in two categories at the same time in the modern era, or Casey Stoner for winning on the Ducati, a bike no one else could, or Mick Doohan, for dominating the class as no one has done since.

Instead of discussing which one rider is the greatest, the respected British publication Motor Sport Magazine has set up their own Hall of Fame, to honor many of the great legends of racing. As Motor Sport Magazine is primarily focused on four-wheeled sport, the Hall of Fame is currently filled mostly with the luminaries of Formula One, such as Jackie Stewart, Colin Chapman, Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda, along with a few of the greats from other branches of car racing, such as Colin McRae and Mario Andretti.

Michelin Schedules Extra December Tests To Prepare For 2016

Michelin is stepping up preparations for 2016 by scheduling an extra tire test in December. The French tire maker has invited the MotoGP factories to spend two days at Jerez before Christmas, testing new front tires in cold conditions, according to GPOne.com.

Three manufacturers have accepted, Ducati, Honda and Aprilia preparing to send their test riders to put in some laps on the latest iteration of tires at the Spanish circuit on 21st and 22nd of December. As the test falls in the middle of the winter test ban period, contracted riders - that is, riders who will be permanent MotoGP entries for 2016 - are forbidden from riding, and only the official test riders can take part. As a result, Michele Pirro will be attending for Ducati, Mike Di Meglio for Aprilia, and Honda will send both Hiroshi Aoyama and Takumi Takahashi.

The main objective of the test is to try out new tires in cold conditions, the situation in which the Michelins are struggling most at the moment. Michelin are keen to collect as much data as possible ahead of the winter break, in order to have tires ready to test at Sepang, and more importantly, at Qatar, where track and ambient temperatures are always relatively low due to it being a night race.

December 9th

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Lawson, Rainey and Doohan: giants of their era

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.


Lawson, Rainey and Doohan: giants of their era

I blame it on Kenny Roberts, but it would’ve happened anyway. When ‘King’ Kenny arrived in Europe in the late 1970s he upped the ante: he rode harder, trained harder and thought more about his racing than anyone else.

The arrival of bike racing’s all-American pro had an instant effect: it blew cigarette-smoking, girl-chasing Barry Sheene into the weeds. The longer-term consequence was the careers of Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Mick Doohan.

These men were the foundation of modern racing, because they took the sport forever beyond the point where cocaine-snorting hedonists and gym-shy child prodigies could win glory at the very top. They were also the giants of their era, winning 12 500cc world championships over a 15-year period: Lawson four, Rainey three, Doohan five.

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