If the Movistar Yamaha launch at Barcelona made one thing clear, it is that the feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez will be just as bitter in 2016 as it was in 2015. In Barcelona, Rossi once again repeated the litany of charges he leveled against Marc Márquez at the end of last season. Márquez had decided early in the season he would try to stop Rossi from winning the title, had played with Rossi at Phillip Island, done far worse at Sepang, then stayed behind Lorenzo at Valencia to hand him the title. For Valentino Rossi, nothing has changed since Valencia 2015.
Is this a problem for MotoGP? Those in senior positions in the sport certainly think so. At the Movistar launch, Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis spoke of the need for respect from all parties. On Friday, the FIM issued a press release containing an interview (shown below) with FIM President Vito Ippolito, in which he said the FIM had asked Honda not to release the data from Márquez' bike at Sepang, which Márquez claims shows evidence of a kick by Rossi, to prevent throwing more fuel on the fire.
Entirely predictably, neither strategy worked. When asked about Jarvis' comment on respect, Rossi retorted that neither Márquez nor Jorge Lorenzo had shown him any respect at the end of last year. Ippolito's statement that the FIM had asked Honda not to release the data led to a host of news stories in the media, and more outpourings of rage among fans on social media and forums. This was a conspiracy, to hide the facts from the fans, they said. The controversy was back, and strong as ever.
Why the data is irrelevant
Would it have made any difference if Honda had released the data, as they promised and so many people demanded? None whatsoever, for a number of reasons.
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.
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.
The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin as the official tire supplier for MotoGP promises to be perhaps the most important change to the class for 2016, though the change to spec ECU software runs it a close second. Up until the Valencia tests, held after the final race of the year, the performance of the Michelins was still shrouded in mystery, the official riders contractually obliged to keep quiet about the French tires while Bridgestone was still the official tire supplier.
That all changed on the Tuesday after Valencia. With the handover to Michelin, the riders were free to speak, as were the principal players inside the French tire manufacturer. The teams had a lot of work to do, their job not made any easier by the fact that so many riders crashed at Valencia. Riding styles needed to change, as did the weight distribution of the bikes. But question marks remained over the performance of the Michelin front tire, especially, with so many riders lowsiding over the two days of the test.
On the Tuesday at Valencia, MotoMatters.com got a chance to speak with Nicolas Goubert, the head of Michelin's motorsports program, alongside Israeli TV5 commentator Tammy Gorali. Goubert gave an update on the progress of their MotoGP program so far, and addressed several of the issues they had faced during testing. Of course, Michelin were delighted to be back in the premier class again. "This is our first official test after seven years and it's great to be back in MotoGP," Goubert said. "With the exposure and the riders that we have here it's a great opportunity for Michelin. When you know some people from the past it's nice to work with them again but working with new people and new riders it's always interesting to see their reactions to a new tire that they haven't been working with but both cases have been very interesting."
After its earlier roll out in Austria, KTM has completed its first proper test with the RC16 MotoGP bike at Valencia. On Saturday and Sunday, test riders Alex Hofmann and Mika Kallio put the RC16 through its paces on the Spanish track.
The test sees KTM stepping up the pace of development on the bike. Alex Hofmann has been used as a development rider, to verify the bike is working correctly and is being developed in the right direction. New hire Mika Kallio has been brought in as the performance rider, the 33-year-old Finn freshly retired as a full-time racer, and therefore having the speed to push the limits of the bike. Kallio also has more recent experience of MotoGP machines, having ridden for Pramac Ducati in 2010, and having tested the Suter CRT MotoGP machine in 2012. Kallio was known in his former teams for his attention to detail and ability to pinpoint areas that needed improvement.
Casey Stoner is to leave Honda and work with Ducati as a test rider and brand ambassador from 2016. Two press releases, one from Honda and one from Ducati, today confirmed the rumor which had emerged at Valencia during the race weekend, and especially after the test. Honda thanked Stoner for five years of collaboration, including two years of racing, during which he won fifteen races and a MotoGP championship. After his retirement, at the end of 2012, Stoner continued as a test rider for HRC, but rode only sporadically, no more than a couple of days a year.
The Valencia test saw two of the major changes for the 2016 MotoGP season make their public debut. Testing with the Michelin tires has been going on since Sepang in February, though Valencia was the first time the riders were allowed to speak about them. The 2016 spec electronics package, the so-called unified software, made its first appearance on track in public, it having only previously been used by test riders at private tests.
The unified software was met with a mixed reception among the riders who used it. Though everyone said it was very much a step back in time, some riders were fairly happy with it, while others were much less so. The main criticisms leveled at it were that it reacted inconsistently, and it was difficult to get a handle on exactly how the software would react from one lap to the next. Whether this is fundamental to the software, or related to the fact that this was the first real outing on the software, and the factory software and engineers needed time to sort the electronics out will only become clear as the season progresses.
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.
MotoGP's big 2016 change
At Valencia last week Michelin more or less matched Bridgestone’s lap times, albeit at the cost of a pile of trashed carbon-fibre and scuffed leathers.
Making exact comparisons between lap times with the French tyres and the Japanese tyres is fruitless, because most riders were also testing Dorna’s compulsory software.
In brief, Marc Marquez was the fastest man on Michelins, four tenths quicker than his best race lap, but half a second off his qualifying best. Maverick Vinales was the best improver: second fastest in the tests, 1.6 seconds better than in the race and two tenths quicker than in qualifying. Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi struggled most, both slower than their race pace.
A few Moto2 and Moto3 riders stayed on for a final day of testing at Jerez on Friday, using the clear skies and good weather to put in a few more laps ahead of the 2016 season. Sam Lowes topped the timesheets on the final day of testing, though his advantage over Taka Nakagami was just a few hundredths of a second. Danny Kent made major steps forward on his second day on the Kalex Moto2 bike, getting within a quarter of his fellow countryman Lowes, and ahead of Moto2 veteran Luis Salom. Moto2 rookie Miguel Oliveira was over a second slower than his teammate, but still made good progress in his adaptation.
Lowes' time was impressive, but he still could not match the time set by Alex Rins on Thursday, Lowes coming up just under a tenth of a second short.
Times at the end of Friday from Jerez:
The final day of testing at Valencia was a repeat of the first day: a lot of crashes on the Michelin tires, the factory Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis working on the brand new spec electronics, the satellite bikes and the Suzukis working on their own 2015 electronics. For the Suzukis, that was not such a problem. The new electronics were likely to be an improvement on their own electronics, both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro said, so missing out now was not such a problem. Suzuki have another test planned at Sepang at the end November, at which they plan to switch the 2016 unified software. With two days of Michelin testing under the belt, testing the spec software should be easier.
Choosing to wait until Sepang could be a smart strategy. There, with more time and test riders to help, Suzuki will have the resources to make quicker progress with the spec software. Honda, but especially Yamaha, showed that progress was possible, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi saying that their second day on the spec electronics had been much better than the first day. "Yesterday, the thing was it was just a check out of the system to understand how they work in which corner, but the power was not done to have the best performance," Jorge Lorenzo said. "We work on that for the next morning and I felt it was much better and I improved during all the day quite a bit." Valentino Rossi agreed. "From yesterday to today already the situation improved a lot. It is still not at the same level for sure, but it looks like we can improve I think quite quickly."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the two-day test at Valencia:
Marc Marquez has ended the final day of testing at Valencia, lapping under the race lap record using the 2016 electronics and Michelin tires, and swapping back and forth between a 2015 and 2016 spec engine. Both Repsol Hondas were fast, Dani Pedrosa setting the third fastest time, also spending the day setting up the 2016 spec electronics. Maverick Viñales sandwiched himself between the two Repsol Hondas, while Aleix Espargaro ended up behind Pedrosa, both Suzuki riders concentrating solely on getting accustomed to the Michelin Tires.
Jorge Lorenzo finished as fifth fastest, having ridden the 2016 Yamaha M1 prototype for most of the day, also focusing on the 2016 electronics. Cal Crutchlow set the sixth fastest time, Crutchlow only having a chassis used by Marc Marquez to test, riding the 2015 Honda and 2015 electronics. Valentino Rossi found a bit of pace towards the end of the day on the 2016 Yamaha M1, having a fraction more difficulty to adapt to the new electronics and the Michelins, but finding a big improvement from the first day.
Times at 2:30pm:
Times at 12 noon: