Assen, The Netherlands
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.
At Assen, Dorna, the FIM and IRTA held a joint press conference announcing their plans for the future of the championship. From 2017, they told the media, the MotoGP teams would receive 30% more money from Dorna, factories would have to make bikes available to satellite teams, all 24 riders will receive financial support from the organizers, and Dorna retain the right to buy the grid slots of the two riders who finish last in the championship.
For MotoMatters.com readers, this is nothing new. We reported on this back in May, after the Jerez round of MotoGP. Only a few details have changed in the intervening period, but those changes are worthy of comment. And it is important to note that the new regime starts from 2017, with 2016 being a transitional year. So what will the future of MotoGP look like? Here's an overview.
For next year, the existing system will continue as it is, with teams receiving free tires from the official tire supplier – Michelin, as of 2016 – and an allowance to cover travel costs. Dorna will support 22 riders for next season, meaning that three riders will not receive any support. Which three those are will be decided by IRTA, on the basis of the results of each rider during 2015. The three riders currently out of the top 22 are Karel Abraham, Alex De Angelis and, rather surprisingly, Marco Melandri. Abraham is struggling with a foot injury, but there have been rumors that the Czech-based team is looking at a switch to World Superbikes for 2016.
De Angelis losing his slot would also not come as a surprise. Though they entered the championship with high hopes, Giampiero Sacchi's IODA Racing team have struggled in MotoGP, unable to field a competitive motorcycle. Withdrawing from MotoGP would be a blow, but would allow them to focus more on their Moto2 effort.
Marco Melandri's position is much more troubling. Although the Gresini Aprilia team is a factory effort, the subsidy from Dorna is very welcome. At the moment, Melandri and Aprilia are at loggerheads over the future. Neither one wishes to continue for the rest of the season, but Melandri will not leave without being paid, and Aprilia are disinclined to pay for such a gross underperformance. If this continues, however, it may be worth their while to pay for Melandri to leave. The Italian is rumored to be on a salary well north of €1 million a season, and he is keen to see that money. The amount of money Gresini Aprilia would be missing out on for 2016 if Melandri (or his replacement) is around €1.5 million, so it may prove to be more costly to keep Melandri at 25th in the rider ranking than to replace him with someone capable of finishing nearer to his teammate, Alvaro Bautista, and ahead of a few other riders.
You would think with the deluge of words which has washed over the incident between Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi in the last corner (and to which I contributed more than my fair share, I must confess) that there were only two riders and one race at Assen on Saturday. Beyond the clash at the GT chicane, there was much more to talk about after Holland.
Whatever the immediate aftermath of the clash between Márquez and Rossi, the longer term implications of the result have made the championship even more interesting. Márquez' decision to switch back to the 2014 chassis for his Repsol Honda RC213V has been proven to be the correct one. Though the engine is still as aggressive as ever, the old chassis in combination with the new swingarm and new forks tested at Le Mans has made the bike much more manageable. Márquez can now slide the rear on corner entry in a much more controlled way than before, taking away the behavior the reigning champion has struggled with most. The Spaniard showed he could be competitive from the start of the race to the end, instead of crashing out as the tires started to go off.
The bike is still a long way from cured, however. Márquez switched to the medium front tire rather than the soft, the only rider to do so. The medium provides a bit more support under braking, compensating for the reduced braking from the rear wheel. That support comes at the cost of extra grip provided by the softer front. Whether Márquez will be able to employ that same strategy for the rest of the season remains to be seen. For a start, Assen is not a very typical track, featuring a lot more flowing corners than usual. At circuits with more corners needing hard braking, the challenge will be greater. The next race is at the Sachsenring, where asymmetric front tires will be on offer. How the Honda deals with that will be interesting.
A more competitive Márquez will certainly liven the championship up. After Lorenzo swept the previous four races, a Rossi comeback gave him back the advantage in the championship. Without Márquez, Rossi would only have extended his lead by five more points, but the Repsol Honda man put himself between the two Movistar Yamaha teammates, meaning that Lorenzo's deficit grew to ten points. With ten races to go, the championship is still wide open, though realistically, it is only between Rossi and Lorenzo. But the influence of a rider who is consistently capable of inserting himself between the two Yamahas could end up having a major effect on the championship.
Bridgestone today issued their customary press release reviewing the performance of their tires after the race at Assen. In this edition, Masao Azuma discusses the unique demands placed on tires by the Assen circuit, and how that affects the front and rear tires differently.
Dutch MotoGP™ debrief with Masao Azuma
Tuesday, June 30 2015
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Extra-soft, Soft & Medium; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Soft (Main), Hard (Alternative)
At last Saturday’s Dutch Grand Prix, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi consolidated his lead of the MotoGP™ championship standings with a hard-fought victory over Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez and fellow Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo who finished in second and third place respectively.
The Forward Racing team issued the following press release after Stefan Bradl's surgery this afternoon:
Successful surgery for Bradl in Augsburg
Following the crash of last Saturday at Assen, in which he fractured his right scaphoid, Stefan Bradl had surgery today in Augsburg, his hometown.
The surgery, performed by Dr. Stefan Krischak, hand specialist, was necessary to reduce the
fracture and to fix it with a Herbert screw. "Everything went well" were the first words of the German rider who will be discharged today from hospital and will return home.
At the moment it is difficult to precisely estimate the time for recovery, more news will follow after more exams will be performed on Stefan during the week.
Stefan Bradl is to undergo surgery to fix a fractured scaphoid in his right hand. The German had a major highside during the race at Assen on Saturday, being thrown from his Forward Yamaha on lap six at Duikersloot. Bradl landed heavily and immediately knew something was wrong. X-rays showed that he had fractured his scaphoid, with photos shown on the Speedweek website indicating that it was a fracture at the waist of the scaphoid.
Bradl was driven back to Augsburg in Germany by his father, former 250cc racer Helmut, where he was examined at a local hospital. He is to undergo surgery in Augsburg to fix the problem, but it is uncertain whether he will be fit for his home race at the Sachsenring on 12th July. Bradl may elect to skip the Sachsenring, as this would give him an extended break and a longer period for his wrist to heal in. The next race after the Sachsenring takes place in Indianapolis on 12th August.
Below is the press release issued by the Forward Yamaha team regarding Bradl's condition:
Bradl back to Germany for undergoing a surgery
Following the incident of yesterday in Assen, where he reported the fracture of the right scaphoid, Stefan Bradl tomorrow will undergo a surgery to reduce the fracture.
Press releases from the teams and Bridgestone after Saturday's exhilarating Dutch TT at Assen:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Saturday's races at Assen:
Great final corners make history, every track should have one. A chicane, or a wide, tight final turn which allows riders to attempt a desperate last-gasp plunge up the inside, or for the exceptionally brave, round the outside, for the win. The truly great corners have just enough options after the turn for the attacking rider to make a mistake and let the rider he just passed retake the lead.
Assen has such a final corner. And not just a great final corner, but also a great sequence of corners which lead up to it, allowing riders to both plan ahead and to react to the unexpected. On Saturday, Assen's GT Chicane, and the complex from De Bult all the way to the exit of Ramshoek, delivered spectacular and exhilarating racing. It also delivered a moment which will go down in the annals of MotoGP history, and be debated for years to come. It might even prove to be the decisive moment in the 2015 championship.
The names of the protagonists should come as no surprise: Valentino Rossi led into the final corner, with Marc Márquez in hot pursuit. What happened next depends on whose version of events you wish to believe, as the participants differ in their perceptions. Rossi says he turned in to the first part of the chicane in front, got bumped wide by Márquez, and had no choice but to gas it across the gravel to avoid crashing. Márquez says he had the inside line in the corner, Rossi cut him off, then cut the corner on purpose to take the win. Which version is the truth? We'll come to that later, but to understand what happened we have to go back to the beginning of the race.
Ducati are to lose their concessions for the 2016 MotoGP season. Meeting at Assen, the Grand Prix Commission decided to apply the system of concession points which was due to take effect from the 2016 season to the results of Ducati for this season. This means that from next year, Ducati will race under the same rules as Honda and Yamaha, which means that they will have seven engines per season, with no development allowed during the season, and testing with factory riders restricted to official tests and a handful of private tests.
That Honda and Yamaha had been pushing for Ducati to have their concessions removed for next year was first reported here after Jerez. After Ducati's strong start to 2015, with six podiums from eight races, it was clear that the Desmosedici GP15 is a competitive motorcycle. Technically, Ducati would only have had their concessions for 2016 taken away if they had won a race in the dry. While the GP15 is fast, it is still a very young project, and needs some work doing to it. Winning a dry race would also require beating Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, not the easiest of tasks at the best of times.
97,150 turned up to watch a 26 lap race on a dry day and they were not disappointed as Assen gave the fans the kind of race they've come to expect.