Stefan Bradl is to replace Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda at the next round of MotoGP at Sepang, a week from today. As HRC's official test rider, Bradl was the easy choice to take the place of the injured Crutchlow.
Crutchlow was ruled out of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix after a huge crash at Turn 1 during FP2 on Friday. His right leg took a beating in the fall, fracturing his ankle in three places. Crutchlow was flown to Melbourne, where an external cage was placed on his ankle to fix the bones in place while the swelling subsides. Crutchlow is due for further surgery on Thursday to have the bones plated.
That rules Crutchlow out of the race at Sepang, and makes him doubtful for the Valencia race in three weeks' time. A decision on Valencia will not be made until much nearer the event, but it is conceivable that Crutchlow will decide to sit out the race, and focus on being fit for the last test of the year at Jerez at the end of November.
Stefan Bradl will take the place of Cal Crutchlow in the LCR Honda team at Sepang, and if the Englishman is not fit to race at Valencia, then at the final race as well. Bradl would have been present at Valencia anyway, both because of TV duties with the Austrian Servus TV, and for the first post-season test at Valencia on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the race.
Franco Morbidelli has been forced to withdraw from the German GP at the Sachsenring. The Marc VDS rider was suffering too much pain in his left hand, which he broke in a crash during practice at Assen.
Morbidelli had been hopeful he would be able to ride when he spoke to the media on Thursday evening. "The fracture is recovering pretty well so I decided to come and try to race," he said. "It is a left-hand circuit. but what gave me confidence is that it’s a track when you spend a lot of time on the edge, so you don’t have to make a lot of changes in direction."
Morbidelli's optimism proved premature, however. In the end, his left hand was causing him too much discomfort, and he was forced to withdraw. Morbidelli is to be replaced by Stefan Bradl, currently an HRC test rider, and already present as a TV presenter working for the Red Bull-backed Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.
The importance of a private test can sometimes be measured by the lack of news emerging from the track. For the past three days, the Jerez circuit has resounded to the bellow of MotoGP and WorldSBK machines, as Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, and KTM have shared the track.
Yet other than a couple of social media posts on Twitter and Instagram, there was next to no news from the test. The only official source was a brief news item on the official website of the Jerez circuit.
For the next three days, the Jerez circuit will resound to the noise of MotoGP machinery, as private testing gets underway. The Repsol Honda team will be the first to take to the track on Monday, with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa riding behind closed doors. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Stefan Bradl takes over the Honda testing duties, while Aprilia, Pramac Ducati, and the Ducati WorldSBK team takes to the track.
The fact that Marquez and Pedrosa are testing is noteworthy. Repsol Honda are using the first of their five days of private testing (Yamaha and Ducati used their test days in November at Sepang and Jerez respectively, Aprilia, Suzuki, and KTM have unlimited testing as concession teams). With HRC having been completely focused on getting the engine right during preseason testing, they have done little work on the chassis. Now that the season is underway and the engine design is frozen for 2018, Marquez and Pedrosa will turn their attentions to improving the chassis and suspension.
Marquez and Pedrosa will use just one of their five days for testing, before handing the bikes to Stefan Bradl, now test rider for HRC.
Though the world of motorcycle racing slowed to a crawl over the holiday season, that does not mean that nothing happened whatsoever. Racing news trickled out from around the globe, as riders, teams, and factories made decisions, and racing collided with the real world. So here's a round up of some of the news stories you may have missed while we were away over the past couple of weeks.
Rossi's Ranch wins in the courts
The year started off with good news for Valentino Rossi. Ever since it was built, some local residents have complained about the noise and nuisance caused by Rossi's dirt track ranch, situated just east of his home village of Tavullia. A group of locals lodged formal complaints against the ranch with the Tavullia council, alleging several violations of local rules, such as missing documents including an environmental impact assessment, as well as complaints about excess noise and noise outside of normal operating hours.
Those complaints were dealt with by a regional court earlier this week, the Regional Administrative Tribunal (TAR) of the Marche region, where Tavullia is located. The court rejected the complaints, dismissing a part as having no grounds to proceed, a part as being inadmissible, and rejecting the remainder.
Stefan Bradl is to miss the rest of the 2017 WorldSBK season. The Red Bull Honda rider's wrist injury, sustained in a crash at Portimao, is more serious than initially thought, and the recovery period required means he will not be fit for either the Jerez or Qatar rounds of WorldSBK.
The decision was taken after surgery on Bradl's right wrist. Pins were inserted and a torn scaphulonate ligament reattached, damage sustained in the crash. The surgeons who performed the operation have ordered Bradl to keep his wrist immobilized to allow the damage to heal. This effectively makes it impossible for him to ride for the rest of the season.
The first round after the summer break is always one that fans and paddock personnel get excited about. But the German round of the WorldSBK calendar hasn't captured the imagination, because of its remote setting and, for the riders, the bumpy track surface.
With Jonathan Rea easing his way towards the history books as the first rider to win the championship three years in a row, there was a feeling from some quarters that it was merely a matter of marking time rather than making a mark. That being so, once the weekend got underway it did throw up plenty of excitement in what appears to the final race at the Lausitzring.