The FIM today released a provisional calendar for MotoGP in 2016, featuring much that was expected and a few surprises. The calendar will once again have 18 races, with Indianapolis dropped and Austria taking its place. The biggest change in the calendar is the moving of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which vacates its late August slot for the middle of July.
That move, and the scheduling of Austria and Brno back to back, will not be popular with the circuits. The British MotoGP round comes just three weeks after the F1 race at Silverstone, due to be held at the end of June. Silverstone will fear that having the two biggest events of the year in the space of a month will mean that they cannibalize attendance, with spectators choosing to attend either F1 or MotoGP. When there were two months between the two races, the chances of fans attending both were greater.
As for Brno and Austria, the Brno circuit feared that having Austria a week before their race would see German fans choosing to go to Austria rather than Brno, with an impact on attendance. So far, though, Dorna has prevailed in discussions.
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.
Michelin Speaks: Piero Taramasso On 2016 Tire Allocations, Front Tires, Intermediates, And Performance
The change of official tire suppliers for MotoGP, with Bridgestone departing and Michelin arriving, is arguably the most significant change to the class since the series went to a single tire in 2009. Changing tire manufacturers has a massive impact on everything, from bike design to rider preference, and Michelin face a huge challenge to get everything ready in time. Bridgestone helped by staying on for an extra year to allow Michelin to properly prepare, and the tires which the French manufacturer have been developing are looking very promising.
Their preparations have not been helped by conditions. Test days have been hit by rain, with testing severely hampered. This was also the case at Brno, when the majority of the MotoGP field was due to get their first outing on the Michelins since Sepang, though the factory riders had a chance to test after Mugello. The rain did give a group of journalists a chance to grill Piero Taramasso, Michelin's manager of two wheel motorsports activities.
Had the weather affected their plans for the test at Brno, we asked? "The plan was to test in dry condition so it looks like it will be not the case," Taramasso replied. "We brought some new solutions for the front. For example we had the same profile with two different casings and three different compounds. For rear tires same profile, two different casings, and two different compounds. So this was the plan."
Qatar is to host a MotoGP race through 2026. The Losail International Circuit has extended its current deal, which expires in 2016, for another 10 years.
The race is to remain a night race, and will stay as the season opener for the foreseeable future. The race is a lucrative one for Dorna, the fee paid by Qatar covering all of the costs of all of the flyaway races for all of the teams for the full season.
The night race is popular with fans, as it provides an interesting spectacle, and the layout is particularly well suited to motorcycle racing. However, holding the race as a night race means it is impossible to start the season much earlier than late March, as temperatures drop too much at night earlier in the year, causing dew to form on the track, making it dangerous to race on.
Below is the press release issued by Dorna:
Qatar secures 10-year MotoGP™ contract
The Losail International Circuit will be featured on the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship calendar until at least 2026 following a joint announcement by QMMF President Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Dorna Sports CEO Mr Carmelo Ezpeleta. The two parties committed to continue the agreement which has seen the Qatar round become a permanent fixture of Grand Prix racing since 2004.
Sam Lowes is a rider on the move. After impressing in both BSB and World Supersport, the Englishman made the switch to Moto2 in 2014, joining Speed Up to race the bike designed and built by the team run by Luca Boscoscuro. His first season in Moto2 was much tougher than expected, Lowes crashing often and never getting close to a podium, despite often showing good pace in practice in qualifying.
His 2015 season has gotten off to a much better start. Lowes has been fastest in both testing and practice, and with Johann Zarco, Tito Rabat and Alex Rins, has shown himself to be a true title contender for this year. A win at Austin confirmed that, as has a podium in Argentina and pole position at Qatar. On the Thursday before the Texas round of MotoGP at Austin, a small group of reporters had a long and fascinating conversation with Lowes, in which he covered a lot of territory, ranging from finding confidence when riding in the rain, to how the Speed Up bike has changed, to the value of looking at the data of other riders. Over the next couple of days, we will share some of that conversation with you.
One of the biggest changes in Sam Lowes' fortunes came as a result of a change to the bike. The carbon fiber swing arm which Speed Up have been running since they first starting building their own bikes back in 2012, and is a legacy of Boscoscuro's days working with Aprilia, has been replaced with a more conventional one made from aluminum. That switch had made a huge difference to the feel of the bike, giving Lowes and the other Speed Up riders much more feel for the rear tire of the Speed Up, and putting an end to a string of inexplicable crashes.
The Pramac Ducati team today issued a press release, containing an interview with team boss Francesco Guidotti. In the press release, Guidotti reviews the Qatar race, the performances of Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci, and the achievement of Ducati. The interview appears below:
Francesco Guidotti: "Back from Qatar with a definitely good evaluation. In Austin we do want to improve"
The euphoria for the terrific debut in the 2015 MotoGP season is still visible.
Pramac Racing Team acted as one of the protagonists over the last week end that was rich in emotions on the Losail circuit in Qatar and just a few hours before leaving to Austin where on Sunday 12th the second race of the 2015 GP will take place, there is another chance to stand out as the Team Manager Francesco Guidotti (in the picture with Paolo Campinoti, CEO of Pramac), confirms.
The first memory is well represented by the three Italian flags waving on the background of the podium in Losail.
2016 MotoGP Rules Clarified: 7 Engines, 22 Liters, 157kg, Concession Points Performance Balancing Introduced
The Grand Prix Commission have filled in the last question marks over the 2016 MotoGP regulations. While the decision on the amount of fuel the bikes would be allowed to run had already been decided last year, the rules on a minimum weight, the number of engines to be used, and how and whether the concessions allowed to manufacturers without a win would be extended into 2016 and beyond. All of these questions were settled at Qatar.
The GPC meeting, where Dorma, the FIM, the manufacturers and the teams meet to agree a set of rules, confirmed that all bikes in MotoGP next year will use 22 liters of fuel. They also agreed that the minimum weight would be 157kg, and that each rider would be allowed a maximum of 7 engines to last the year. Both these measures were compromises: originally, there was a proposal to reduce the minimum to 156kg, but after a reduction to 158kg for this year, it was felt that may be too fast.
As for the number of engines, the Italian manufacturers found themselves pitted against the Japanese. Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha all wanted the number reduced to 6 engines per season, while Ducati and Aprilia lobbied for 9 engines. As the MSMA could not reach a unanimous conclusion, Dorna proposed a compromise, and the figure of 7 engines a season was accepted. Engine development will remain frozen, as before.
Dani Pedrosa's announcement after the Qatar Grand Prix that he would be withdrawing from racing to seek urgent treatment for arm pump immediately triggered an explosion of speculation over who might replace the Spaniard during his absence. Fans and pundits offered a barrage of possible names to take Pedrosa's place: Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow, Michael van der Mark, Jack Miller, Nicky Hayden. Coming as it did just before April Fool's day, it even triggered a spate of hoax stories: Casey Stoner, Mick Doohan, Alex Marquez and Fabio Quartararo were all offered in jest.
Hiroshi Aoyama was always going to be the man to replace Pedrosa, however. For a range of reasons, Aoyama is the only reasonable candidate to take the place of Pedrosa in the short term, all the other names being bandied about subject to sponsor conflicts, race conflicts, contractual obligations or just plain unwillingness. Here's a rundown of why Aoayama got the call, and the others didn't.
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.
Rossi: The Movie
It was American author Mark Twain who said that fact is stranger than fiction. It must be, he said, because fiction is limited by the human imagination, whereas reality is limited by nothing.
The Valentino Rossi story is way too far-out to be fiction. If someone wrote a Rossi-inspired movie (a kind of two-wheeled Days of Thunder) it would get laughed out of the cinemas. What a load of Hollywood nonsense – that kind of stuff never happens in the real world.
Bridgestone issued their customary post-race debrief after the first round of MotoGP at Qatar:
Qatar MotoGP™ debrief with Shinji Aoki
Wednesday 1 April 2015
Bridgestone slick compounds: Front: Soft, Medium & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium (Asymmetric) & Hard (Symmetric)
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi won an entertaining MotoGP™ season opener at Qatar’s Losail Circuit, the nine-time World Champion emerging the victor in an epic battle with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso. It was an all-Italian podium at the first Grand Prix of 2015, with Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone clinching third place to join Rossi and Dovizioso on the rostrum.
Weather conditions for the race were warmer than in previous years, thanks mainly to this year’s Qatar Grand Prix commencing an hour earlier compared to previous years. The track temperature throughout the twenty-two lap race remained at a steady 26°C.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
The Qatar Grand Prix was the competitive debut for Bridgestone’s 2015 specification MotoGP™ tyres. How do you feel the first race weekend of the season went for Bridgestone?
Ducati is to lose the first of the special concessions granted at the start of the 2014 season. The two podiums which Ducati scored at Qatar bring its dry podium total to three, which means that the fuel allowance for all Factory Option Ducati bikes will be cut from 24 liters to 22 liters, as we reported on Sunday night. The allowance of 22 liters is still 2 liters more than the 20 liters used by Yamaha and Honda, who race without any concessions.
The extra fuel allowance was part of a package of extra allowances granted to Ducati to persuade them to remain a Factory Option entry and not to switch to the Open class. Manufacturers entering MotoGP for the first time in 2015, or like Ducati, did not have a dry win during the 2013 season, were granted a number of exceptions to the standard rules. Such factories were given 24 liters of fuel rather than 20, were allowed to use 12 engines a season instead of 5, were not subject to the freeze on engine development, were allowed unlimited testing, and were given the softer tire allocation granted to the Open class entries.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's thrilling opening round at Qatar:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races: