They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The more pressing question is how to distinguish between the two. Narratives are easily created – it is my stock in trade, and the trade which every sports writer plies – but where does stringing together a collection of related facts move from being a factual reconstruction into the realms of invented fantasy? When different individuals view the same facts and draw radically opposite conclusions, are we to believe that one is delusional and the other is sane and objective? Most of all, how much value should we attach to the opinions of each side? Do we change our opinion of the facts based on our sympathy or antipathy for the messenger?
That is the confusion which the final round of MotoGP has thrust the world of Grand Prix racing into. What should have been a celebration of the greatest season of racing in the premier class in recent years, and possibly ever, was rendered farcical, as two competing interpretations of a single set of facts clashed, exploded, then dragged the series down into the abyss. Bitterness, anger, suspicion, fear, all of these overshadowed some astonishing performances, by both winners and losers. Looked at impartially, the Valencia round of MotoGP was a great day of fantastic racing. But who now can look at it impartially?
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Here is the one thing which everybody has wrong about Valencia: the 2015 MotoGP championship isn't over by a very long chalk. Whether Lorenzo qualifies on pole or the front row, whether Valentino Rossi starts from his qualifying position or the back of the grid, the championship won't be done until the last rider gets the checkered flag. Everything is still to play for.
Why is the championship still wide open? Because Valencia is a fickle mistress, with a record of throwing up more than one surprise. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have won here, and both men have lost championships here. Both men have dominated, and both men have crashed out. Races at Valencia are rarely straightforward, throwing up startling results more often than not. Throw in a spot of unpredictable weather, and anything can truly happen.
The cause of those surprises? Running a race at the beginning of November in Valencia means the weather is always a gamble. Even when it is dry and sunny, as it is expected to be this weekend, the cold mornings and strong winds can cause tires to cool, turning Valencia's right-hand corners – few and far between – into treacherous affairs. If it rains or is damp, the wind means a dry line forms quickly, turning tire choice into a gamble.
After a successful roll out of their RC16 MotoGP bike, KTM issued the press release shown below, and posted a large selection of photos on their Facebook page. The photos, in particular, are worth browsing through.
SUCCESSFUL ROLL-OUT FOR THE KTM RC16 MOTOGP BIKE
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team has completed the roll-out of the KTM RC16 at Austria’s Red Bull Ring exactly 15 months after announcing its proposed entry into MotoGP in the 2017 season.
Test rider Alex Hoffmann carried out three days of comprehensive testing with the MotoGP racing bike at the venue that will see the return of the Motorcycle World Championship in 2016. The performance tests with the bike that has been completely developed in-house by KTM were conducted in good conditions and went exactly according to plan.
The bike KTM is preparing for their entry into MotoGP has made its track debut. At the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, Alex Hofmann took the KTM RC16 for a shakedown test, to see how the bike would hold up on a circuit. The aim was to check whether the bike would hold together on an actual track, to see if they ran into any unforeseen problems with the basic design. Although both the engine and the chassis have been subjected to many hours of testing on dynos and test beds, this was the first opportunity KTM had to see how it stood up in the real world.
Though neither a press release nor official photographs were issued, there were witnesses to the roll out. One Facebook user posted some footage of the bike on Facebook, which shows the bike quite well, and allows you to hear its engine note. The video confirms what we knew: the KTM RC16 is a 90° V4, sitting in a trellis frame. The bike uses an aluminium swing arm, with underbracing, as is common practice in MotoGP. The bike is using WP suspension (a KTM-owned company) and Brembo brakes.
2015 Sepang MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Mundane Reality Behind Mind Games, The Tow That Wasn't, And Some Title Mathematics
The atmosphere hangs heavy over the Sepang International Circuit, both literally and figuratively. The thick gray haze casts a pall over the circuit, dulling the light, restricting vision, cloying at the throats of everyone at the track, and in the region. There is another oppressive weight over the proceedings, this time of expectation. There is the pressure of a MotoGP title battle going down to the wire, and a Moto3 championship that should have been wrapped up two races ago, before a new rival emerged on the scene. Then there is the electric tension created by Valentino Rossi, when he decided to use the pre-event press conference to accuse Marc Márquez of helping Jorge Lorenzo at Phillip Island.
Since then, it has been impossible to view any action by either Rossi or Márquez with an objective eye. Rossi's accusations, Márquez' defense, and Lorenzo's entry into the arena color everything that happens, on and off the track. Coincidences disappear, otherwise common behavior is highlighted, and conspiracies, real and imagined, spiral wildly out of control. All eagerly egged on by MotoGP rights holder Dorna, the TV director picking up and highlighting each and every encounter between the protagonists. There have never been so many clips from practice, interviews and specials up on the MotoGP.com website, and TV broadcasters – especially in Spain and Italy – leap onto the bandwagon with their own speculation, interviews, stories and angles. And before anyone points an accusing finger at me, mea maxima culpa.
So when Marc Márquez came up on the back of Valentino Rossi as the Repsol Honda rider prepared to start his time attack in FP3 on new tires, to ensure passage to Q2, he slowed up, unwilling to give him a tow. Rossi, looking back and preparing for his own attack, saw Márquez behind him and slowed to let him down. The pair got slower and slower through the third sector of the track, going through it in over a minute, instead of the normal 38 seconds or so. It looked like a sur place, a standoff in track cycling where two cyclists come to a standstill with a couple of hundred meters to go, each waiting for the other to lead off the sprint. Mind games?
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying practice at Sepang:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 riders after the first day of practice at Sepang:
Mika Kallio is to be KTM's test rider to help with the development of their MotoGP bike. The 32-year-old Finnish rider is to make a return to the Austrian manufacturer and work to get the KTM RC16 ready for its debut season in MotoGP in 2017.
Kallio has a long association with the Austrian marque. He rode for them for four seasons both in 125s and 250s, finishing as runner up twice in the junior class, most controversially in 2005, when he lost out to Tom Luthi by five points after his erstwhile KTM teammate Gabor Talmacsi stole the win from him at Qatar. When KTM decided to pull out of Grand Prix racing at the end of the 2008 season, out of frustration at the decision to abandon two-stroke racing in the intermediate class, Kallio was forced to leave, moving up to MotoGP with Pramac Ducati.
After two years in Ducati, Kallio returned to Moto2, where he was once again championship runner up in 2014. He has not had the same level of success since leaving the Marc VDS team, despite starting the 2015 season on essentially the same bike. Approaching the age of 33, and with only mediocre results this season, Kallio may have decided he has a better future testing with KTM. From KTM's perspective, Kallio already has two years in MotoGP with Pramac Ducati, and worked as a test rider for the Suter MotoGP project which ran under the CRT rules in 2012.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's incident-packed races from Phillip Island:
2015 Phillip Island Saturday Round Up: Lorenzo's Tactics, Iannone's Smarts, Marquez' Speed, And Kent's Pole That Wasn't
Will championships be decided tomorrow? The Moto3 title could well be settled after the race, a lot of bleary-eyed British fans clinging to their cappuccinos in a desperate attempt to stay awake. It won't take much: Danny Kent just has to finish ahead of Enea Bastianini and higher than seventh to be sure. The MotoGP title is still too close to be settled at Phillip Island, but tomorrow's race could well turn out to be pivotal. If Valentino Rossi finishes ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, the Italian will have one hand on the MotoGP crown. If Lorenzo finishes ahead of Rossi, and especially if he can put some bodies between himself and his Movistar Yamaha teammate, then the pendulum might finally start to swing back Lorenzo's way.
Lorenzo put himself in a good position to try to achieve that, ably assisted by Valentino Rossi, and hindered by Andrea Iannone. Once again, Lorenzo and his crew showed themselves to be masters of tactics in the 15-minute qualifying sessions, and not afraid of a little sleight of hand. As the clock counted down towards the start of Q2, Lorenzo's mechanics pushed his bike up onto the starting rollers, and prepared it for him to leave the pits. Lorenzo walked out towards the bike, stood beside it, and looked around to see that the rest of the twelve riders in Q2 were all making their way onto their bikes and into pit lane.
Once certain they were all on their way out, he turned around, marched back inside the Movistar Yamaha garage and sat down for a minute. Pit lane now cleared, and an empty track both ahead and behind, Lorenzo went out for his first flying lap, and attempt at pole. He came up a little short, managing only the third-fastest time, and came in after just one lap. The shortness of Phillip Island, combined with a relatively short and straightforward pit lane, meant he still had plenty of time for a two-stop strategy. His crew put in a new tire ready for another attack at pole, and out Lorenzo went, just behind Andrea Iannone.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Phillip Island:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after practice on Friday: