Press releases from the MotoGP and WorldSBK teams after the final day of the Misano private test:
It has been a busy couple of days at Misano, with the KTM and Aprilia MotoGP teams, and test teams from Suzuki and Ducati, joined by WorldSBK representatives from the KRT Kawasaki squad, and a small army of Ducati teams. The MotoGP and WorldSBK riders have been able to try out the new asphalt at Misano in the blistering heat of an Italian summer.
Miguel Oliviera is fastest after the first two days, the Red Bull Tech3 rider just a couple of tenths faster on Wednesday than Pol Espargaro had been on Tuesday. Oliveira's best time of 1'32.9 is two thirds of a second off Maverick Viñales' pole time set last September, two tenths off the outright race lap record set by Andrea Dovizioso in 2018, and 1.3 seconds slower than Jorge Lorenzo's pole record from the same year.
World championship motorcycle racing takes another step back to the season returning at Misano. The next three days sees both MotoGP and WorldSBK teams testing at the Italian circuit, preparing for the resumption of hostilities at Jerez in July and August.
Present are the MotoGP teams of KTM and Aprilia, allowed extra testing due to their status as concessions teams. Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith are riding for Aprilia, the second test for the Italian factory. Espargaro was forced to miss the first test, unable to travel to Misano, and so waited for this test to get back on track, as he explained to Tammy Gorali in an interview a week ago. He joins Bradley Smith, promoted from test rider to permanent rider for 2020, to replace Andrea Iannone, still suspended after a positive doping test.
Though racing has stopped, necessity is forcing teams and factories into making choices. With almost everyone in MotoGP out of contract at the end of 2020, and only a few riders already signed up, seats have to be filled for next year and beyond, racing or no racing.
After the early spate of more or less expected signings, the latest round of deals are more of a surprise. None more than the expected deal for Pol Espargaro to join Repsol Honda in 2021, displacing Alex Márquez as brother Marc's teammate before the younger Márquez has had a chance to prove his worth. That, as I wrote previously, will inevitably lead to a parting of the ways between Marc Márquez and HRC, I believe.
It has been two weeks since news of that deal emerged, and yet there is still no confirmation. Despite protestations to the opposite, the deal is very much on. But there is something of a hiccup along the way, in the form of a contractual stipulation that forbids Espargaro from discussing a deal with another factory before September 15th. No announcement will be made before then.
Actions speak louder than words
Aleix Espargaro speaks to me seated in the living room of his Andorra home, in the middle of a very lively and hectic family life. Max and Mia, the Espargaro twins who just turned two years old a few days earlier, are talkative and active playing just a few meters away. Their joyful squeaking punctuates the interview, providing a unique soundtrack. Behind him hangs the Aspar ART bike he was given as a present from Jorge Martinez for his wedding - a location he had to negotiate with his interior designer wife Laura, before she agreed to have it stood pointing skyward, front wheel vertical. When asked, Espargaro said that Aspar was upset when he left for team Forward (2014) and only forgave him when he invited his former team to the wedding.
The older of the two Espargaro brothers has been racing at world championship level since 2005 – it's easy to forget that Aleix Espargaro was the youngest ever Spanish 125cc champion of the 125 all the way back in 2004. He has ridden for some of the biggest teams in the last 15 years, but undoubtedly his contribution to the development of the Aprilia RS-GP in the last three seasons (and before that to the Suzuki) has brought him a well earned third contract with the Italian manufacturer.
Espargaro was never afraid to speak his mind. He was not shy to talk about politics, stand against bullfighting and also share his thoughts about his own team. Lack of staff, mistakes in the development., promises broken by the team and lack of support for the riders with early dismissal of his teammates. He was also the first to commend them about the changes done in the team’s structure.
It was a day of good news and bad news for Aprilia. On the day that the Court of Arbitration of Sport announced that WADA had appealed against the penalty imposed on Andrea Iannone, demanding his suspension be extended to the full four years set out in the doping code, the Italian factory was also able to announce a two-year contract extension with Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard will remain with Aprilia for the 2021 and 2022 seasons in MotoGP.
The move was widely expected. Espargaro has been the mainstay of Aprilia's MotoGP project since arriving at the Noale factory in 2017. In the first three years of his contract with Aprilia, he has had three different teammates, starting with Sam Lowes, then Scott Redding, and finally, last year, Andrea Iannone. Thanks to Iannone's suspension, it looks like Espargaro will have a fourth teammate in 2020, almost certainly Bradley Smith. And that could change again in 2021, if Iannone does not have his doping ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has finally announced that they will be hearing the appeal of Andrea Iannone against his doping ban of 18 months, imposed by the FIM International Disciplinary Court at the end of March. However, in a surprise move, the CAS also announced they will be hearing an appeal against the leniency of the ban from WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, who want the full four-year ban reinstated.
At the heart of the case is the doping test Andrea Iannone failed after the race in Sepang, in November 2019. Traces of drostanolone, a banned anabolic-androgenic steroid, used mainly for weight loss, was found in that urine sample. As a non-specified substance, drostanolone use carries an automatic four-year ban under the WADA code, which the FIM signs up to and incorporates.
V4 MotoGP bikes make more power, inline-fours handle better. That’s why Johann Zarco, Jorge Lorenzo and others struggle when they switch from inline-fours to V4s
Speak to most MotoGP engineers and they will tell you that the two most important words in race-bike engineering are balance and compromise.
Pretty much whatever you do to improve one area of performance impairs another: you make the bike turn quicker and it becomes less stable, you increase peak power and you lose midrange and so on.
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated motorcycle racing in many different ways, some quite unexpected. To address some of those complications, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rulemaking body, agreed a number of exceptions to the rules for the 2020 season, concerning wildcards, concerning concession points, and concerning engine development.
Engine development had already been frozen in response to the coronavirus crisis. In part as a cost-cutting measure, and in part because the European manufacturers had had their factories closed, all six MSMA members agreed to halt engine development and use the engines they were due to homologate for the 2020 season for the start of the 2021 season.
Once upon a time, the manufacturers reigned supreme in MotoGP. The MSMA – the Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers' Association – determined the shape of the premier class. In the early years after Dorna secured the rights to promote Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the MSMA negotiated a monopoly over the technical regulations in MotoGP.
The rules in MotoGP are made in committee, the Grand Prix Commission, containing representatives of the four parties with an interest in the sport: Dorna as promoter, the FIM as sanctioning body, IRTA representing the teams, and the MSMA on behalf of the manufacturers. While the sporting and other rules are voted on by majority, the MSMA controlled the technical rules.
In the early years of the MotoGP era Rule changes proposed unanimously by the MSMA were adopted automatically, and the MSMA retained a veto over rules put forward by the other members of the GPC. It was the MSMA who asked for the switch from two strokes to four strokes, and the MSMA who insisted on reducing the capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007, when concerns were raised over the speeds of the bigger bikes.