Bradley Smith

2016 Mugello MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Engines, Disappointment, and Blistering Battles

The 2016 Italian Grand Prix at Mugello was many things, but above all, it was memorable. It's not just that the three races ended up with incredibly close finishes – the margin of victory in Moto3 was just 0.038, and that was the largest winning margin of the three races – but how they were won, and what happened along the way that will leave them indelibly imprinted on the memories of race fans. There was drama, a bucketful of heartbreak, and plenty of chaos and confusion thrown into the mix. If there was a script for Sunday, it was torn up and rewritten a dozen times or more before the day was over.

The drama started during morning warm up. As the final seconds of the MotoGP session ticked away, Jorge Lorenzo suddenly pulled over and white smoke started pouring out of the exhaust of his Movistar Yamaha. His engine had suffered a catastrophic failure. This was a worry, as it was a relatively new engine, first introduced at Jerez, with twelve sessions of practice and two races on it. The other two engines Lorenzo had already used had 21 and 23 sessions of practice on them, and had also been used for two races each (including the flag-to-flag race at Argentina).

Though the engine allocation has been increased from five to seven engines for 2016, losing engine #3 at just the sixth race of the season could end up cutting things rather fine by the time we reach Valencia. Losing an engine so soon before a race seemed like a stroke of incredibly bad luck for Lorenzo. In fact, it would prove to be exactly the opposite.

2016 Mugello MotoGP Friday Round Up: Of Intermediates, Seizing Opportunities, and Permanent Pain

"This morning was not Mugello weather," joked Pramac Ducati team manager Francesco Guidotti when we went to speak to him on Friday evening. It was cold, wet, and overcast, with a track still damp from the overnight rain. The Tuscan sun stayed hidden behind the clouds, lending no hand in burning off any water on the track. It was that horrible half-and-half weather that teams and riders fear so much, a completely lost session in terms of preparing for the race.

It was also precisely the kind of conditions that had prompted the return of intermediate tires. Fearing empty tracks – and consequently, dead TV time – Dorna had asked Michelin to produce tires that might tempt riders out on track, give TV viewers something to watch, and TV commentators something to talk about.

It didn't really work. At the start of MotoGP FP1, a group of riders went out on the hard wet tires, switching to intermediates as the track started to dry out a little. But it was still only about half the field, the rest preferring to remain safely ensconced in the pits, only venturing out at the end of the session to do a test start or two. Why, fans and journalists alike asked, did the riders not make use of the tools they had been given?

Viñales Confirmed at Yamaha, Iannone Confirmed with Suzuki for 2017 & 2018

The next two pieces of the MotoGP puzzle for the coming seasons have fallen into place. This morning, Yamaha announced that Maverick Viñales would be joining them for two years from Suzuki, and Suzuki announced that Andrea Iannone would be taking the place of Viñales. Both riders signed two year deals with their respective factories.

With the earlier announcements of Andrea Dovizioso at Ducati and Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda, the confirmed 2017 line up looks like this so far:

2016 Le Mans Sunday MotoGP Round Up: On Crashes at Le Mans, and a Wide-Open Championship

Three race at Le Mans, three winners, and all three displays of complete control. In the first race of the day, Brad Binder waited until the penultimate lap to seize the lead, and render his Moto3 opposition harmless. Alex Rins took the lead much earlier in the Moto2 race, toyed with Simone Corsi a little more obviously, before making it clear just how much he owned the race. And in MotoGP, Jorge Lorenzo faced fierce competition at the start, but in the end he did just what Valentino Rossi had done two weeks ago at Jerez: led from start to finish, and won by a comfortable margin.

Lorenzo's victory was hardly unexpected. The Movistar Yamaha rider had been dominant all weekend, quick from the off, and peerless during qualifying. Everyone lined up on the grid knowing they had only one chance to beat him: try to get off the line better than the Spaniard, and enter the first chicane ahead of him. Lorenzo knew this too, and his start was picture perfect, no one close enough to launch an attack into the chicane. Andrea Dovizioso came close, but launching off the second row gave him too much ground to make up at the start, and he had to slot in behind Lorenzo and settle for second.

Lorenzo did not have it all his own way in the early laps. Both Andreas on the Factory Ducatis kept him honest for the first five laps, Dovizioso leading the charge at first, until Iannone took over. Iannone felt he had the pace to run with Lorenzo, perhaps even beat him, but that required the one thing he has not excelled at in 2016: staying upright. If the Le Mans race was meant to be an audition to be the rider Ducati will keep for next season, then it was a gambit that would fail. On lap 7, Iannone hit the deck, his race over.

2016 Le Mans Saturday Round Up: Pedrosa Again, Tires, & Qualifying Strategies

The report last night that Dani Pedrosa will replace Jorge Lorenzo in the Movistar Yamaha garage had a devastating effect on the paddock on Saturday. It provoked an almost universal panic among everyone peripheral to the decision. Maverick Viñales' manager Paco Sanchez – strictly speaking, the lawyer who is helping Viñales with his contract negotiations, as Viñales is managing himself – was interviewed by every television broadcaster in the MotoGP paddock, along with nearly every radio station and most journalists. Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo and Movistar Yamaha team director Maio Meregalli did pretty much the same, answering the same questions over and over. It was Silly Season at its most frenetic.

As an example, the Spanish sports daily – Spanish journalists are chasing this story hardest, as they have the most at stake – AS featured the following vignette on its website. Reporter Mela Chercoles walked past Albert Valera, manager of Jorge Lorenzo, Aleix Espargaro and others, and heard him berating Alex Salas, assistant to Maverick Viñales. "Tell me that Maverick won't let the Yamaha train get away from him," Chercoles reports Valera as saying. The sense of disbelief in the paddock is huge.

2016 Le Mans MotoGP Post-Qualifying Press Releases

Press releases from the MotoGP teams after qualifying at Le Mans:


LORENZO POWERS TO POLE POSITION IN LE MANS

Today Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were back in action at a dry and slightly overcast Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit to determine their place on tomorrow’s starting grid. They pushed their YZR-M1s to the limit during an intense 15-minute qualifying session and took first and seventh place respectively ahead of tomorrow's Monster Energy Grand Prix de France.

LE MANS (FRANCE), 7TH MAY 2016

2016 Le Mans Friday Round Up: On Tires, Winglets, and Pedrosa Going to Yamaha

They say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. There are also two certainties in MotoGP so far this year: at every race, Michelin will introduce yet another new tire, and the Ducati Desmosedici GP will sprout a new set of wings. For Le Mans, Michelin brought a new rear tire, with a slightly softer construction but identical compounds, to try to generate a little more grip and address rider complaints about the rear spinning without creating drive, even in high gears. The new wings on the Ducati were much larger than the previous versions, to perhaps address the need for drive out of the many first gear corners at Le Mans.

Michelin bringing yet another tire to another race may sound like they are still flailing around, but in reality, it is a sign that the French tire maker is starting to settle on a development direction, after their plans had been sent astray by the double Ducati disasters of Loris Baz and Scott Redding. The rear tire raced at Austin and Jerez was the so-called "safety tire", a construction Michelin was certain would make race distance without any nasty surprises. It was raced without any real testing, meant only as a back up, not seriously intended for competition.

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