If the second round of the 2018 WorldSBK season is anything to go by the regulation shake-up could see an absolutely compelling season. Buriram gave plenty to talk about...
Michael van der Mark
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the final thrilling race of the 2017 season:
Dani Pedrosa scores great win in Valencia, Marc Marquez 2017 WORLD CHAMPION
Michael van der Mark is to make a second appearance in MotoGP. The Dutchman is to step in once again to replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team at Valencia.
Though the announcement is not yet official, the Dutchman revealed he would be riding at Valencia in a Dutch-language interview for the WorldSBK website, and published by the Dutch website Racesport.nl. Recorded after the final round of WorldSBK at Qatar on Saturday, Van der Mark says, "It's great to be riding in MotoGP again next week in Valencia. It's a shame Jonas [Folger] is still ill, but I'm deeply honored that Hervé [Poncharal] has asked me once again to replace him. It shows that I did my best in Sepang."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after Sunday's race in Sepang:
If there is one thing clear from Friday at Sepang, it is that neither Andrea Dovizioso nor Marc Márquez believe the 2017 championship is done. The two men left in the title fight came out punching, chasing fast times just that little bit harder than the rest. Dovizioso topped both morning and afternoon sessions, blatant about his intentions to make a final bid for the championship. Márquez was a little slower in the mixed-but-drying conditions of FP1, but only half a second behind Dovizioso in a wet FP2. Márquez will give as hard as he gets.
The headline times are deceptive, though, as were the conditions. The morning session started with a track that would not dry fast enough – a persistent problem since the track was resurfaced, and an issue with drainage in certain sections of the track – and riders choosing to sit out the first third or so of FP1. Even once the riders took to the track in earnest, times were variable. It was only towards the end where track was dry enough to start to post quick times.
In the dry, Márquez focused on pace, putting in a single long run, while Andrea Dovizioso got on with setup work, ending FP1 at the top of the timesheets, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista. "I’m really happy about the lap time I did this morning," Dovizioso said. "It was quite fast but the conditions were strange. There was not a lot of rubber on the ground so it wasn’t normal. Anyway, this was the condition for the other riders. We did a good lap time. I was first."
Michael van der Mark is to get his MotoGP chance after all. After missing out at Aragon, when he was called up to replace Valentino Rossi, but Rossi raced to a stunning 5th place, Van der Mark has been drafted in to replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. Van der Mark will take Folger's place at the Sepang MotoGP race next weekend.
This may not be Van der Mark's only appearance on a MotoGP bike this season. Though Jonas Folger is still undergoing tests to diagnose his illness, the most probable explanation is a recurrence of the Epstein Barr virus, which he has had previously. Though very rare, the disease can sometimes flare up again years after first being caught. This makes it likely that Folger will also be forced to miss the final race of 2017 at Valencia, in which case Van der Mark would be the obvious choice to replace him.
Notes from the second World Superbike race in France, from our man on the scene:
Valentino Rossi is to travel to Aragon and attempt to race in the fourteenth round of MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit. After evaluating his fitness on a Yamaha R1M at Misano on Monday and Tuesday, the Italian had his leg assessed by Dr Pascarella, who performed the surgery on his broken tibia and fibula. After that examination, Rossi decided he was fit enough to travel to Aragon and attempt to race.
Rossi faces one more hurdle before he is allowed to race. He will be subject to a further assessment by the circuit doctors at the Motorland Aragon track, who will have to evaluate whether he is fit enough to race. Rossi will have to demonstrate that his leg is capable of bearing the strains of riding a MotoGP bike, which will mean standing on the broken leg, and being able to jump and land on.
Michael van der Mark may be flying to Aragon to replace Valentino Rossi at the fourth Spanish round, but it is still not 100% certain that the Dutch Yamaha WorldSBK rider will get to make his MotoGP debut aboard Rossi's Movistar Yamaha M1.
According to reports in various Italian media, Valentino Rossi is to test his fitness on a Yamaha R6 at Misano this week. Just 18 days after breaking the tibia and fibula of his right leg and having surgery to insert titanium pins into the bones to fix them, Rossi will attempt to ride an R6 to gauge whether it will be worth his while flying to Spain for the Aragon round of MotoGP.
Michael van der Mark is to replace Valentino Rossi at Aragon. The Dutch WorldSBK rider has been selected to stand in for the nine-time world champion, while Rossi recovers from the leg he fractured in a training accident just over a week ago.
Van der Mark faces a challenging weekend. He will have no time on the bike beforehand to acclimatize himself to either the Yamaha M1 or the Michelin MotoGP tires. There is not enough time or testing opportunities to put the Dutchman on the bike ahead of this weekend. He will not have to learn the track, as WorldSBK also races at the circuit, but expectations will not be set too high.
The naming of Van der Mark as Rossi's replacement is something of a surprise. Katsuyuki Nakasuga has subbed for injured riders previously, and has a lot of experience on a MotoGP bike. Nakasuga is scheduled to appear as a wildcard rider at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, though, and this may have conditioned Yamaha's choice.