|18 March||Qatar*||Losail International Circuit|
|08 April||República Argentina||Termas de Río Hondo|
|22 April||Americas||Circuit of The Americas|
|06 May||Spain||Circuito de Jerez|
|20 May||France||Le Mans|
The FIM today released the provisional 2018 WorldSBK version. Just as last year, the schedule contains thirteen rounds, spread out from February to late October. Two circuits visited in 2017 are out, Jerez and the Lausitzring, while Brno makes a return to the WorldSBK schedule, and a brand new circuit in the west of Argentina, near the border with Chile.
The schedule starts as ever at Phillip Island in Australia on 25th February, with the WorldSBK and WorldSSP classes competing. As is traditional, the race is preceded a couple of days earlier by a two-day official test. The start of the series is once again rather fragmented, however, as WorldSBK fans will have to wait four weeks for the second round of the series at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.
The series then heads to Europe, with a back-to-back weekend at Aragon and then Assen. At Aragon, the series is joined by the WorldSSP300 and Superstock 1000 series. The Assen round is the first clash of the year, running on the same weekend as the Austin round of MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas, but as they are running in different time zones, the races themselves will not clash.
Dominique Aegerter has been stripped of his victory in the Misano Moto2 race for use of illegal engine oil. The oil was sent for testing directly after the Misano race, and found to be in contravention of the rules, which mandate the use of oil from the official supplier to Moto2, LIQUI MOLY.
Aegerter and the Kiefer Racing team were notified of the violation at the Aragon round, and immediately asked for the B sample (the second sample taken to rule out contamination or mistakes) to be examined. That was done between Aragon and Motegi, and the same result was found. At Motegi, the FIM Panel of Stewards confirmed the penalty. The Kiefer team maintain their innocence, and issued a press release denying any wrongdoing, but accepting the ruling, and waiving their right of appeal.
The delay in finalizing the punishment is due to the process required to establish the facts of such an offense. The oil samples have to be sent to labs for testing, and the findings of that analysis presented to the team and the rider at a hearing. Given that riders, teams, and FIM Stewards are scheduled to be in the same place every race weekend, such hearings are normally held at race events. That means there can be several weeks in between an infringement and a penalty being imposed for such an infringement.
In many ways, the MotoGP season is structured like a Hollywood action blockbuster. There is preseason testing, the opening sequence in which we are introduced to the main cast of characters. After the opening credits, we start off by flying across continents to a range of exotic and colorful locations, where the first threads of plot are laid out, some of which will turn out to be red herrings later in the season. There then follows a regular sequence of dramatic action sequences, the narrative of the season taking dramatic twists and turns along the way.
If MotoGP is a Hollywood blockbuster, then the Pacific triple header of flyaway races is the frantic last 10 minutes, where the protagonists face off again and again leaving the audience barely a moment to catch their breath. It is where the battle for MotoGP reaches its crescendo, the drama of the season raised to another level and compressed into the briefest of windows. The flyaways are intense.
If the fans feel the triple header takes its toll on them, just imagine what it's like for the riders. Back-to-back races within Europe are usually manageable, as the riders are only a few hours away from their homes, and spend the weekends in their motorhomes, which are a home away from home. For the flyaways, the riders spend four weeks on the road, moving from hotel to hotel. They kick off the trip with a 15-hour flight to Japan, follow it up with an 11-hour flight from Japan to Melbourne, then another 9-hour flight to Malaysia.
Why do manufacturers go racing? That is a question which has intrigued me for years, and to which I have spent many years trying to get a straight answer. All of my attempts to get factory bosses to quantify exactly what the returns are, and in what areas, have fallen on barren ground.
The simple answer, of course, is that there are three reasons why manufacturers go racing. In no particular order, they are: as a platform for engineering research and development; as a platform for marketing and brand positioning; and as a training ground for engineers. The relative value for each of these remains a mystery, which the factories are either unwilling, or unable to specify.
At the launch of Ducati's Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, presented to the media at the Misano round of MotoGP, I got a chance to ask Gigi Dall'Igna, the boss of Ducati Corse about the value of MotoGP in developing engines for the street. Much was made by Ducati of the Stradale's heritage, as a direct descendant of the Desmosedici GP15 bike. The engine shares a layout with the GP15, as well as the same bore. (The stroke is longer, to give the engine more torque at lower revs, and make it more ridable.)
20 days ago today, Valentino Rossi fell off an enduro bike at slow speed, breaking his tibia and fibula in the crash. That night, he had pins fitted to fix the bones, and went home the next day to recover. It looked like his championship was over. He would have to miss both Misano and Aragon, and that would put him too far behind to ever catch up.
20 days later, and Rossi has already ridden a motorcycle on track. Twice. On Monday and Tuesday, he rode a Yamaha R1M around a damp Misano. A few laps on Monday, a total of 20 laps on Tuesday. The press release Yamaha issued said that he finished the second day "with an improved feeling and a more positive impression compared to yesterday." Translation? He's going to try to ride at Aragon.
The Movistar Yamaha team sent out the following press release after Valentino Rossi rode at Misano once again today:
ROSSI SUCCESSFULLY WRAPS UP SECOND RIDING SESSION
The Movistar Yamaha team issued the following press release after Valentino Rossi rode a bike for the first time since his accident on August 31st:
Valentino Rossi's test to see if he is fit enough to compete at Aragon was brought forward a day. The poor weather expected for Tuesday and Wednesday forced Rossi to take to the track at Misano on Monday afternoon, according to reports from well-informed local paper Rimini Today.
The Italian paper reports that Rossi did four laps of Misano, before being forced to pull in due to the rain. Conditions were far from ideal, however, the track still having some damp patches from the poor weather the area has suffered. The report states that he rode a Yamaha R6 at the track, yet the (admittedly blurry) photos on the Rimini Today website seem to suggest this was an R1M, which Rossi often uses to train at the circuit.
The photos (if genuine, though there is little reason to believe they are not) also show Rossi sitting very naturally on the bike, with a bent right knee and foot. That suggests his recovery is proceeding apace, though four laps on a road bike is nothing near the same as 27 laps at full speed on a MotoGP machine.
Michael van der Mark may be flying to Aragon to replace Valentino Rossi at the fourth Spanish round, but it is still not 100% certain that the Dutch Yamaha WorldSBK rider will get to make his MotoGP debut aboard Rossi's Movistar Yamaha M1.
According to reports in various Italian media, Valentino Rossi is to test his fitness on a Yamaha R6 at Misano this week. Just 18 days after breaking the tibia and fibula of his right leg and having surgery to insert titanium pins into the bones to fix them, Rossi will attempt to ride an R6 to gauge whether it will be worth his while flying to Spain for the Aragon round of MotoGP.