Andrea Dovizioso

2017 Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Wasted Test, The Benefits Of Aerodynamics, And Yamaha's 2018 Frame

MotoGP is fated not to escape the influence of the weather this season. There has barely been a race which has not been affected in one way or another. Even when it hasn't rained, it has been stiflingly hot, sizzling tracks causing tires to wilt. So why should things be any different at Misano?

Heavy overnight rain left the track still spotty and damp in patches in the morning, Moto3 getting the worst of it, MotoGP just being left to deal with the occasional stubborn spot of dampness where the water took longer to dry. It caused a spate of crashes in the morning, and though the track dried nicely and blue skies dominated, it was cooler than normal. When Marc Márquez tried the hardest front tire, that proved just a little too critical, the Repsol Honda rider washing out the front in the final corner.

The rain had also washed any residual rubber from the track, radically altering the grip level. That was a major setback for the factories which had tested at Misano prior to Silverstone, in preparation for this Grand Prix. "The feeling is completely different than at the test," Aleix Espargaro complained. "It looks like all the settings we had were not working. The grip is completely different. No grip at all. It feels like ice."

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2017 Misano MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Unchanging Championship Strategy, And A Technology Bonanza

Does the absence of Valentino Rossi from the Misano race make much difference? It is too early to tell. Certainly the media center feels a little more empty, but this is a trend which has been underway for a while. Print media has less money to spend, and non-specialist media is increasingly choosing not to report from the race track, taking their information from publicly available sources such as the ever-expanding TV coverage.

Specialist print media and websites are also suffering, though their very rationale depends on being at the track, and so they have little choice. So maybe a more empty press room is a sign that Italian newspapers have decided against sending a correspondent because Valentino Rossi is not racing. Alternatively, it could just be a sign of a more general decline in media presence.

The paddock feels pretty busy, but then it was only Thursday, and the real frenzy doesn't start until the bikes hit the track. We won't really know how badly Rossi absence affects the Misano race until the flag drops on Sunday, and official figures and empty spots on grandstands tell the true tale.

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2018 MotoGP Rider Line Up So Far - One Seat Left To Fill

After the announcement that Tito Rabat is to take the GP17 at Avintia Ducati, there is only a single seat still left open on the 2018 MotoGP grid. Xavier Simeon is expected to take that seat, but nothing is yet decided. There are still question marks over Bradley Smith's future at KTM, team bosses unhappy with the Englishman's performance this year. A decision on Smith will likely be taken after the Aragon round of the series. 

Below is the line up as it stands on the Thursday before Misano:

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2017 Misano MotoGP Preview - A Glimpse Of A Rossi-less Future?

Will we get a glimpse of a MotoGP future without Valentino Rossi at Misano? The news that the Italian icon had broken his right leg in an enduro accident will have caused hearts to sink at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, just a few kilometers from Rossi's home in Tavullia. Recent editions have been packed to the rafters. With motorcycling's biggest draw out of action, ticket sales, the biggest source of revenue covering the cost of hosting a MotoGP race, are likely to be down.

How much, is the question, of course. Yes, Valentino Rossi is still unquestionably the biggest name in motorcycle racing, but there are plenty of reasons to be watching right now, and plenty of things for Italian fans to cheer for. An Italian rider, Andrea Dovizioso, is leading the championship on an Italian motorcycle, the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. The racing is closer than it has ever been, with any of five or six riders in with a realistic shout of the win, and a handful more a chance of a podium. More often than not, races are won on the last couple of laps, and surprisingly often, in the last corner. Though the loss of Rossi is an undeniable blow, the show will likely be as good as ever.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the signs are that numbers will be down. There are still plenty of tickets on sale for Sunday at Misano, both in the grandstands and for general admission. Normally, tickets would be few and far between. There is every chance that the grandstands, and more especially the paddock, will be a lot quieter than in previous years.

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Subscriber Only Feature: Gigi Dall'Igna On MegaRide, The Tire Management Project, And Intelligent Riders

The announcement by MegaRide, an Italian vehicle dynamics start up, that they had signed a collaboration agreement with Ducati Corse to supply and develop tire simulation software set the motorcycle racing rumor mill alight. The wording of the press release, combined with a general lack of knowledge among many MotoGP fans and journalists about exactly how the spec Magneti Marelli operates, left many questions about the exact nature of the software, and how Ducati were using it.

Fans and journalists interpreted the collaboration to mean that Ducati were already using the MegaRide software to extract greater performance from the Michelin tires. The fact that Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo would regularly be able to use the softer compounds Michelin brought to races was seen as proof of this.

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2017 Silverstone Sunday Round Up: A New Kind Of Alien

If there is one thing that makes real life much more interesting than fiction, it is that real life is no respecter of plausible plot lines. If you were to take a script of the 2017 MotoGP season so far to a movie producer or a fiction publisher, they would reject it 30 seconds into your pitch. It is all a little too implausible.

Five riders battling for the championship after 12 rounds? Never happens. A championship leader with a record low number of points? A ridiculous notion. Riders winning races one weekend, then struggling to make the top five, or even top ten the next? A horribly transparent plot device to create tension. Championship leaders conveniently crashing, struggling with tires, or suffering bike problems? A little too convenient to be credible.

How about the supposedly colorless second rider in a team suddenly blossoming into a championship contender? The most trite of clichés, like the mousy librarian who transforms into a babe once she takes her glasses off. The struggle of a rider swapping bikes to become competitive, making up and down progress, and a big step forward when handed a technological MacGuffin? So blatant it's obscene. No professional writer of fiction would stoop to such depths.

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2017 Silverstone MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Who Will Survive The Bumps?

Is it going to be Argentina or Austin on Sunday at Silverstone? Two of the bumpiest circuits of the first half of the season had very different outcomes. At the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit, Marc Márquez took off like a scalded cat to try to take the win, and claw back the valuable points from Maverick Viñales he had handed him at Qatar. In undulating Austin, Márquez rode his usual imperious race to take victory, while it was Viñales' turn to make a silly mistake.

The perils of a American bumps were rather bike-specific. It wasn't just Marc Márquez who crashed out of the lead in Argentina, Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa managed the same feat. Cal Crutchlow rode cautiously to finish third, while there were four Yamahas in the top six. At Austin, Márquez won, Pedrosa finished third, Crutchlow fourth. Valentino Rossi's charge came too late, and he finished well behind Márquez. A year earlier, it had been Rossi making a silly mistake in Texas, and slipping off.

So how does Silverstone compare to the two American tracks (North and South)? In Austin, the bumps were on corner exit, Maverick Viñales explained, whereas at Silverstone, the bumps are on corner entry. "So it seems more difficult to ride," the Movistar Yamaha rider said. In Argentina, it wasn't so much bumps as massive undulations which were causing the problems.

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2017 Silverstone MotoGP Preview: A Race Saved, Best Over The Bumps, And KTM Making Moves

The 2017 British Grand Prix at Silverstone is the race which nearly didn't happen. OK, that's an exaggeration: Dorna was always going to ensure that a British Grand Prix would happen. The British Isles are such an important market that it is unthinkable for the series not to race here. But the collapse of the Circuit of Wales project meant that a lot of negotiation had to go into ensuring that the British round of MotoGP would actually take place.

For many observers, the refusal of the Welsh Government to underwrite the construction of the circuit was inevitable. The numbers being claimed seemed at best wildly optimistic, and at worst woefully inaccurate. Was Dorna wrong to get into bed with the Heads of the Valley Development Company, the organization behind the Circuit of Wales? Possibly. Dorna have form with making deals with circuits that never get built, as anyone who can recall the saga of the Balatonring can surely tell you.

Then again, what have Dorna lost? They signed a deal with the Circuit of Wales for five years starting in 2015, with an option to extend for a further five years. The deal was reportedly lucrative, well above what Silverstone was offering to pay to host the race. Donington Park was no competition at the time, the circuit in financial difficulty and badly in need of upgrades. Since the deal was signed, Dorna have had two successful races at Silverstone, for which they have been well paid. When the Circuit of Wales project collapsed, Silverstone stepped in to take over. Dorna will still be paid by Silverstone, though it will be less than the Circuit of Wales would have paid.

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MotoGP Factories Busy Testing At Misano: Race Preparation And Tire Preservation The Focus

It has been a busy few days at the Misano circuit. MotoGP teams have come and go, with five of the series' six factory teams having tested at the track between Saturday and today. Honda and Yamaha tested at the weekend, with Aprilia, Ducati and KTM taking to the track at the start of the week. The private tests were the last for most of the factories, with Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati having burned through their testing days for the year.

The main objective for most of the factories was preparing for the race at Misano. Especially for the riders in contention for the title, arriving at the race with a working setup can mean the difference between victory and missing out on a podium. With the title fight so close this year, the smallest details are making the difference.

When Yamaha took to the track on Sunday, they had one main focus: to solve (or at least improve) the issue of excessive tire wear which has plagued them all season. After an impressive start to the season, the Movistar Yamaha team riders have struggled. The issue has been a major problem since MotoGP returned to Europe. At Jerez and Barcelona, the Movistar Yamahas struggled badly, but it has been tough at other tracks as well. A large part of the tire wear issue can be solved with electronics, but bike balance and swingarm parts will be vital as well.

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