Thursday at Valencia was one of the strangest days in MotoGP that I have known since I first started covering the sport professionally. Maybe it's just the fact that the usual schedule was disrupted. Every race weekend has a rhythm: on Thursday, it's a late start, then rider debriefs, then a press conference, then work; on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it's an early start, watch practice, rider debriefs/press conferences and then work.
That rhythm was wildly out of sync at Valencia. Earlier start, Moto3 press conference, HRC press conference, a couple of rider debriefs. Then an unnatural lull, as the riders headed into the press conference room for their meeting with the Permanent Bureau, consisting of Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta and FIM president Vito Ippolito addressed the MotoGP riders and their team managers. Ten minutes after the riders started streaming through the paddock on their way to the meeting, they were all heading back out again.
What happened in the meeting with the Permanent Bureau? The first rule of meeting with the Permanent Bureau is don't talk about meeting with the Permanent Bureau, apparently, as no one was willing to tell us about it, apart from some platitudes from Jorge Lorenzo about it being interesting to get different perspectives from people to get new ideas. Not that anyone truly believed that the riders came out with new ideas, but still.
Press releases from the teams and Bridgestone ahead of the final round of MotoGP this weekend at Valencia:
The Permanent Bureau issued the following official statement ahead of this weekend's race at Valencia:
FIM MotoGP World Championship
Statement from the Permanent Bureau
Please find below the statement issued by the Permanent Bureau during the meeting with the MotoGP riders at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana:
First and foremost, sport must prevail. This Sunday is the last race of the year, and it is sport that needs to win.
We are proud of the magnificent races you have given us this year. They continue to foster interest in our championship all around the world. We also want to thank you for that.
Over the past days, there have unfortunately been some controversies that have surpassed the limits of a healthy passion and, on occasions, logic itself. You have millions of followers all around the world. They watch and admire your achievements on the track. And they also listen closely to what you say.
What you do and say, could have consequences that are not in keeping with the noble values of our sport.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport issued the following press release, after the CAS dismissed Rossi's appeal for a stay of his penalty at Sepang:
FIM MOTOGP CHAMPIONSHIP 2015
VALENTINO ROSSI – REQUEST TO STAY THE EXECUTION OF THE FIM STEWARDS DECISION IS DISMISSED
Lausanne, 5 November 2015 – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed Valentino Rossi’s request to stay the execution of the decision issued by the FIM Stewards on 25 October 2015. Accordingly, the decision of the FIM Stewards to impose 3 penalty points on Valentino Rossi’s record following an incident with Marc Marquez during the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix race held on 25 October 2015 stands and Valentino Rossi will commence the next (and last) event of the season, to be held in Valencia/Spain on 6-8 November 2015, from the last grid position.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has rejected Valentino Rossi's request for a stay of his penalty, given to him at Sepang. The 3-point penalty, handed to him at Sepang for the incident he was involved in with Marc Marquez, means he will start from the back of the grid for the final race of the season at Valencia.
Rossi will still be entitled to participate in Q2, if he finishes in the top ten after the three sessions of free practice, but the position he secures in Q2 will not count for his grid position. Everyone who qualifies behind him will be moved forward one position on the grid.
The CAS ruling is only on Rossi's request to have the penalty suspended for Valencia. The full case will still be heard in front of the panel of arbitration, but that will still take between six and twelve months, and will have no impact on the outcome of the the 2015 championship. It also means that Rossi has now served his penalty, and he will not have to serve it again after the hearing has completed.
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.
One decision has come early in the hearing before Court of Arbitration for Sport on Valentino Rossi's appeal against his penalty at Sepang. Today, the CAS announced that it had rejected a request for intervention by lawyers representing Jorge Lorenzo. With that request rejected, the case will now be solely between Valentino Rossi and the FIM. The outcome of the preliminary hearing to suspend the penalty issued against Rossi will be made public by Friday, 6th November at the latest.
Lorenzo made a request to intervene in the proceedings under rule R41.3 of the CAS procedural rules. Lorenzo did so as a third party having a material interest in the outcome of Rossi's appeal, and more especially, his request for a stay of the penalty he had been given. Rossi appealed to the CAS in the hope of getting the three-point penalty imposed on him at Sepang suspended, so that he will not be forced to start from the back of the grid, and give him a better chance of defending his championshp lead. Lorenzo requested to intervene in that appeal as he has an interest in Rossi starting from the back of the grid, to give him the best chance of winning the championship at Valencia. The fierce battle the two men have fought out on track during the year has been extended into the courts.
In response to Honda's press release issued on Monday, Yamaha today issued the following press release on the incidents at Sepang:
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Official Statement
Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 3rd November 2015
We refer to the press release issued by Repsol Media Service on Sunday 25th October 2015, titled “Pedrosa wins and Marquez crashes after unsportsmanlike kick from Rossi”, as well as the press release issued by Honda Racing Corporation on Monday 2nd November, titled “Q&A with Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC Executive Vice President”.
Yamaha would like to express its disagreement with the words that have been used to report on the incident between riders Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
Both press releases included words that accuse Valentino Rossi of kicking Marc Marquez‘s bike that is something not proven by the investigation of the Race Direction.
We therefore reject the wording used in the said published statements that do not correspond with the findings of the Race Direction.
Yamaha has no wish to enter into further discussion regarding this unfortunate affair and our desire is to conclude the 2015 MotoGP season in the best possible way.
If what happened on lap seven at Sepang was bad for MotoGP, the events which have followed have made it infinitely worse. Rossi's single act of frustration has unleashed a tidal wave of insanity which has battered MotoGP, washing away the good and leaving it battered and stained. And every time you think it has finished, yet more madness emerges to engulf the sport, dragging it further down into the depths. It is a hard time to be a fan of the most exhilarating sport on the planet.
The incident itself was ugly, but it can hardly have come as a surprise. When Valentino Rossi launched his surprise attack on Marc Márquez in the press conference, accusing the Spaniard of trying to prevent him from becoming champion, a reaction from Márquez was inevitable. These are the two biggest egos in the MotoGP paddock, and with some justification. Rossi is the legend who both raised the profile of the sport and has dominated the sport for longer than any other rider in history. Márquez is the prodigy who set about smashing the record books on his entry into MotoGP, and is the man set to usurp Rossi's place in the history books. Neither man is willing to step aside, both feel they are deserving of exceptional respect.
So two angry men took to the track on Sunday, and inevitably, once their paths crossed, bad things happened. Márquez, apparently furious at being attacked on Thursday, raced Rossi as if it was the last lap of the race and the title depended on it. Rossi, unable to beat Márquez outright, lost his cool and ran the Spaniard wide and caused him to crash. It seemed like the lowest point in MotoGP for a very long time, but much worse was to come.
In another twist to the Rossi vs Marquez tale at Sepang, the FIM today announced that all of the teams and riders in MotoGP have been called to a special meeting with the Permanent Bureau on Thursday, ahead of the final round of MotoGP. The Permanent Bureau, consisting of the president of the FIM Vito Ippolito and the CEO of Dorna, Carmelo Ezpeleta, are to talk to the riders at 3:30pm local time on Thursday, in an attempt to calm the situation down. To further ensure that the situation is not made even worse, the pre-event press conference to be held on Thursday has been canceled.
The briefing is a sign of just how far out of hand the situation has gotten. Though the two protagonists have been laying low in recent days, the conflict still hangs in the air. Canceling the press conference is not likely to make the situation any better. Instead, riders will be given the chance to speak individually at their press debriefs, which may lead to even more inflammatory statements. Though the meeting will take place behind closed doors, what is said in the meeting is sure to leak out, especially as the camps around Rossi and Marquez will want to add their spin to what goes on.
Below is the press release from the FIM:
MotoGP™ riders and teams to be summoned by the Permanent Bureau
The FIM have released another provisional calendar for the MotoGP series, in response to yet another shake up of the F1 calendar by Bernie Ecclestone. With F1 and MotoGP having an informal agreement not to have their dates clash, and with MotoGP losing out in terms of TV audience whenever they do, the MotoGP calendar released in September had too many conflicts with F1.
As a result of those clashes, four races have now been moved to different dates. The German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring has been shifted back a week to 17th July. Silverstone, scheduled to be held on the 17th, has been moved to the 4th September. The Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang has been moved from the start to the end of the Asia-Pacific triple header, and will now be run on 20th October. That shift means that the Valencia race has been pushed back a week, to 13th November.
In the ongoing controversy surrounding the incident between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi at Sepang, Honda Racing Corporation have found it necessary to issue the following press release, in which HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto gives Honda's side of the events.
Q&A with Shuhei Nakamoto, HRC Executive Vice President
“First of all, we would like to state that we believe it is very important to speak about the facts, not about assumptions. A fact is a fact and there is only one interpretation. Assumptions can be translated in different ways, depending on which side you are. For the good of our sport, we would like everybody to just consider the facts that occurred and these are clearly the following:
– Marc Marquez won the Australian GP, overtaking Jorge Lorenzo on the last lap, and therefore taking away 5 points from him in the Championship.
– On Thursday prior to the Malaysian GP in the Pre-Event Press Conference, Valentino Rossi accused Marc of racing against him in Phillip Island to help Jorge Lorenzo.
– In the Malaysian GP, Rossi intentionally pushed Marc out of the racing line which caused him to crash. Race Direction gave him a penalty for this action, confirmed by FIM.
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.
Valentino Rossi has lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the penalty imposed upon him at Sepang for his role in the incident between Marc Marquez and himself. Rossi has asked the CAS to issue a stay of the penalty, effectively suspending it until the full case can be heard before the court. A ruling on the stay is to be issued by 6th November.
The penalty was imposed on Rossi after he and Marquez collided on lap seven of the Sepang round of MotoGP, causing Marquez to crash. At the time, Race Direction ruled that Rossi was to blame for the crash, and imposed three penalty points on Rossi. That brought his points total to four, meaning that he must start at Valencia from the back of the grid, regardless of the position he obtains in qualifying. Rossi immediately appealed against the penalty to the FIM Stewards, who sit in judgment at every MotoGP round to rule on Race Direction penalties.
With the Race Stewards upholding the Race Direction penalty, Rossi could no longer take his appeal any further within the FIM. However, he did have the possibility to take the case to the CAS, which rules on conflicts between interested parties (usually athletes) and the international federations and governing bodies of sports. Rossi had five days to submit an appeal, deciding to go ahead with the appeal on final day.