The provisional 2017 World Superbike calendar has been released, but unlike the MotoGP calendar, which is unchanged, there are a couple of minor differences to the schedule. The World Superbike class will contest 13 rounds, just as they did in 2016, spread across three continents. Sepang and Jerez have been dropped, and Portimao makes a comeback.
Brno, Czech Republic
Electronics in MotoGP remain a complex and fascinating subject. To help explain them to us, we had Bradley Smith talk us through the various options at his disposal on board his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1.
In the first part of this interview, published yesterday, Smith talked to us about the different electronics settings he has during practice and the race. In the second part, the Tech 3 rider talks us through how he and his team, under the guidance of crew chief Guy Coulon, arrive at those settings. Smith walks us through the different options available, and how he arrives at the right settings to use at a particular race track
Electronics in MotoGP are an emotive subject. They are blamed for driving costs ever higher, and for taking ever more control out of the hands of the riders. It was these factors that drove Dorna to push for the introduction of spec electronics, first through the introduction of a single ECU provided by Magneti Marelli, then the adoption of a single software platform used to control that ECU.
The rise in the use of electronics and the introduction of spec software have led to some confusion among race fans. Just what the software is capable of, and how much control the riders have over the software, is unclear to MotoGP fans, and to a large section of the media.
So to help clear that up, we had the opportunity at Brno to spend twenty minutes with Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Bradley Smith, who walked us through the electronics systems and their use. Smith is one of the more intelligent riders on the grid, and is able to explain complex subjects in clear and simple terms. In the first of a two-part interview with the 25-year-old Englishman, Smith tells us all about the electronics on his Yamaha M1, what they do, and how he sets them up.
There is a current fashion in moviemaking, of taking proven formulas from the past, giving them a light makeover and then relaunching them, then trying to spice them up by referring to them as a "reboot" or "reloaded". Dorna executives must have been to see Ghostbusters, Mad Max, and many more, as the 2017 MotoGP calendar is best described as 2016 Reloaded.
The 2017 MotoGP calendar is almost identical to the 2016 calendar, with a couple of minor tweaks. Those tweaks are a clear improvement on 2016: there are fewer large gaps, and there are fewer back-to-back races. There have been some changes to help with logistics, and some to help with race organizations.
The final piece of the MotoGP puzzle has finally dropped. Eugene Laverty has decided that he will be switching back to WorldSBK, where he will ride a factory-backed Aprilia RSV4-RF with the Milwaukee Racing SMR squad. The departure of Laverty means that Yonny Hernandez will get to keep his place in the Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati team, filling the final empty slot on the MotoGP grid.
It may seem strange for Laverty to abandon MotoGP, just as his star has been rising in the class. Since Aspar switched from Honda's RC213V-RS Open Class machine to the Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2, the older Ducati working very well with the Michelin tires, more rear grip helping to reduce the understeer the GP14.2 suffers from. He is currently eleventh in the championship, and has a fourth and a sixth as best finishes, Laverty being annoyed that early traffic cost him the chance of a podium at Brno. It took the factory Ducatis on their brand new GP16s six races to get ahead of the Irishman in the championship standings.
So why has Laverty decided to abandon MotoGP in favor of WorldSBK? There are a number of reasons, but all of them boil down to a single issue: Eugene Laverty is a winner, and he likes to win. On two-year-old machinery, in a private team (though with good factory support, unlike other satellite set ups), Laverty's only chance to win in MotoGP would come when the weather acts as the great neutralizer.
The tire degradation during the MotoGP race at Brno was still a hot topic on the test on Monday, after so many riders suffered problems during the race on Sunday. We asked most of the riders who tested on Monday what they felt about the tires, and whether they were safe. We also spoke to Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's technical director, and he explained why he felt that some riders had suffered problems, while others had been able to finish the race.
It’s taken him 98 races and 92 crashes but it’s all been worth it – Crutchlow has finally made it all the way to the top
Andrea Iannone one week, Cal Crutchlow the next; what a difference a week makes. It’s hard to think of two more different winners in the MotoGP paddock: Iannone, the tattooed, coiffured bad boy so in love with himself, and Crutchlow, the scruffy, amiable family man who would happily wrestle a grizzly bear if you gave him half the chance.
Crutchlow’s win at Brno was hugely popular within the paddock because he’s one of the good guys; usually joking, often a bit rude and always straight down the line. He says what he thinks and damn the consequences. Within the shiny MotoGP bubble, where pretence and smoke and mirrors dazzle way too many people, Crutchlow stands out like a greasy-haired rocker in a bunch of preening, perfumed mods. What you see is what you get.
After a tough race on Sunday, managing tires on a drying track, around half of the MotoGP grid headed back to the track on Monday for a day of testing. Not everyone was enthusiastic about that. "Usually we hate Mondays, and this is a Monday that we hate," Danilo Petrucci told us with a wry grin on his face. He pinpointed why testing made a lot less sense for satellite riders than for factory teams. Satellite teams only really have set up changes to test, and the occasional tire, if the single tire supplier has something new. There was a real downside to working on set up at a track you have just raced at, Petrucci said. "If you are angry because you didn't get the best set up on Sunday, you getting more angry if you find it on Monday."
Jorge Lorenzo ended the day as the fastest man at Brno, after a test which was extended due to a late start. A truck had spilled oil on the circuit, and the track needed to be cleaned and then dry. Circuit conditions were far from perfect, after a full day of rain on Sunday.
The two Movistar Yamahas ended the day as fastest, ahead of the Repsol Honda of Marc Marquez. Cal Crutchlow was fourth quickest, ahead of Maverick Viñales on the Suzuki.