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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Past Is A Foreign Country…

Can you complete the second half of the famous quote that forms the headline? I confess I had to look it up to make sure of the correct wording. It was L.P. Hartley’s book ‘The Go-Between’ that delivered its much-quoted opening line “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” into the language.

With still no racing in WorldSBK since the opener in Australia in February/March, and no more absolutely guaranteed for some time yet, everybody and their media outlets are looking into the past for their WorldSBK source material now. We gotta watch and read something.

May as well join the nostalgia fest here, but with the past being a foreign country and all, it may need a degree of translation when comparing early WorldSBK feats to the 2020 versions. Everything and everybody has a past, even if WorldSBK - now in its 33rd year - is decades younger than GP racing.

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From Conflict To Collaboration: How The COVID-19 Crisis Reconciled The MSMA

Once upon a time, the manufacturers reigned supreme in MotoGP. The MSMA – the Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers' Association – determined the shape of the premier class. In the early years after Dorna secured the rights to promote Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the MSMA negotiated a monopoly over the technical regulations in MotoGP.

The rules in MotoGP are made in committee, the Grand Prix Commission, containing representatives of the four parties with an interest in the sport: Dorna as promoter, the FIM as sanctioning body, IRTA representing the teams, and the MSMA on behalf of the manufacturers. While the sporting and other rules are voted on by majority, the MSMA controlled the technical rules.

In the early years of the MotoGP era Rule changes proposed unanimously by the MSMA were adopted automatically, and the MSMA retained a veto over rules put forward by the other members of the GPC. It was the MSMA who asked for the switch from two strokes to four strokes, and the MSMA who insisted on reducing the capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007, when concerns were raised over the speeds of the bigger bikes.

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By The Numbers: Setting Up A Racing Motorcycle Using Chassis Software

Race against time

Riders and teams are in a constant battle against time at the highest levels of motorsport. And I don’t mean just the lap times: every race weekend they have just a few practice sessions to come up with the perfect setup for qualifying and the race. A setup that adapts their bike as well as possible to the nature of the track, helps it to get the best out of the tires on this type of asphalt, and gives their rider the feedback he needs to properly push the bike to its limits. This famous ‘setup’ we so often hear about is actually the combination of all the different parameters that can be adjusted on the bike. And this is where things starts to get complicated, because there are a lot of variables that can be adjusted or changed. And to make matters worse, almost all of them affect each other in some way. In this article I will explain how MotoGP teams deal with the setup.

From graph paper to spreadsheets

In the early days of motorcycle racing, bikes were a lot more basic and had only a few options to ‘tune’ the handling of the bike. Nevertheless, technicians quickly realized that they needed to keep track of some of the bike chassis parameters, such as spring rate, wheelbase, and ride height, just to name a few. With it, you could rebuild a complete bike and not accidentally change the way it handled. The resulting list became known as the setup sheet. It was still a rather short list, but it was enough to help them not to lose their way in tracking how the bike handled. With the lap times added to it later, usually alongside some remarks from the rider about the tires and the gearing, that sheet of paper was all you needed back in the old days.

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Petronas Yamaha Boss Razlan Razali, Part 2: On Making The Sepang Circuit A Success, Managing A MotoGP Team, And Working With Yamaha

In the first part of Tammy Gorali's interview with Razlan Razali, team principal of the Petronas Yamaha SRT team, and formerly CEO of the Sepang International Circuit, the Malaysian team boss talked about how the outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the circuit, and the 2020 season. He also talked about how he views rider contracts, and whether he would welcome Valentino Rossi into the team in 2021.

In the second part, Razali goes into more depth on the decisions he made as CEO of the Sepang circuit, including why he chose MotoGP over F1, the circuit eventually deciding to drop the contract with F1. He talks about the importance of the Malaysian market, and getting local fans into the circuit as spectators.

Part of that drive turned into the creation of what is now the Petronas Yamaha SRT team. Razlan Razali tells Gorali about the team's journey from vehicle to get Malaysian riders into Grand Prix racing via Moto3 into fully fledged team with riders across all three classes. Razali also talks about how they see their riders for 2021, despite the loss of racing. And he discusses the Petronas' team relationship with Yamaha, and the bike the Japanese factory has brought for 2020.

Q: You stepped down from the position of Sepang circuit CEO this month. You were a very bold and unique CEO, like saying to the F1 championship "thank you guys - go and drive somewhere else"...

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Petronas Yamaha Boss Razlan Razali, Part 1: On Canceling 2020, Rider Contracts, And Having Valentino Rossi As A Rider

2020 was set to be a huge year for the Petronas Yamaha SRT team. After an astonishing debut year, Fabio Quartararo had a full factory bike and factory backing from Yamaha, and was expected to win races and challenge for the title. Franco Morbidelli had a year of experience of the M1 under his belt, and a better bike ready to take on the season. Both riders had been fast during testing, showing signs they would live up to their promise.

It was also set to be a big year for Razlan Razali, who was due to step down as CEO of the Sepang International Circuit, home to the Malaysian round of MotoGP and owner of the Petronas team, after nearly twelve years, to focus solely on his role as Team Principal of the team. He had a lot on his hands in that role: expanding sponsorship and the profile of the team, handling the success of last year, and fielding questions about 2021, with all the signs pointing to Petronas Yamaha having Valentino Rossi in the team.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of that. With the death toll around the world now already past 200,000, measures to curb the disease have been put in place across the globe. That has put any thought of international motorcycle racing on the back burner. That, in turn, has forced teams to change their plans, and raised a number of questions which teams had never even thought they would need to answer.

To get a perspective on how things have changed for the Petronas Yamaha team, and for Razlan Razali in particular, leading Israeli journalist and broadcaster Tammy Gorali spoke to the Team Principal. She covered a wide range of subjects with Razali, who spoke from his experience both as CEO of a Grand Prix circuit and as the head of the only team with riders in all three classes.

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A Doping Expert Explains Why Andrea Iannone's Suspension Was 18 Months

On April 1st, the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI) finally issued its judgment on Andrea Iannone's appeal against his suspension for doping. The Italian was handed a ban of 18 months, during which he is not allowed to participate in any events sanctioned by any organization subject to the WADA doping regulations. That includes events organized by the FIM or any national and regional motorcycling federations.

The length of Iannone's suspension was a significant reduction from the ban specified by the rules. Under normal circumstances, failing a doping test for drostanolone, a so-called non-specific substance (because it is not on a list of substances for which there is an alternative explanation), would result in a four-year ban.

Although the CDI did not comment on the case beyond the official press release announcing the 18-month suspension, Aprilia and the lawyer for Andrea Iannone claimed that the court had accepted the Italian's claim that he had ingested the substance accidentally, when he ate some contaminated meat.

Iannone's camp were still unhappy with the length of the ban, which would see him unable to race until 17th June 2021, and would appeal to the CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Italian has until 21st April, tomorrow, to file an appeal.

What are the chances that Iannone will prevail at the CAS? Doping cases are complex and highly technical, and difficult for laypeople to follow and understand. This is complicated further by the fact that the WADA rules are not like a normal legal system: any athlete accused of a doping infringement is assumed to be guilty, and must prove their innocence.

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Interview: FIM President Jorge Viegas - On Calendar Changes, Development Freezes, And Racing After The Lockdown

The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown the world of motorcycling – and indeed, the world – into a state of chaos. Entire countries are in lockdown to try to prevent the spread of the virus, and avoid their healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. With the health of populations the utmost priority, motorcycle racing has taken a back seat. Event after event, in every discipline, has been postponed or canceled.

It has been a tough start for Jorge Viegas, in just his second year as FIM president. As head of motorcycling's governing body, the Portuguese former journalist has the task of coordinating with race and event promoters around the world, to try to find a way of salvaging as much as possible of the 2020 motorcycling season.

It is an unenviable position, as this interview carried out by Israeli journalist and TV commentator Tammy Gorali makes clear. Together, Gorali and Viegas cover a vast range of subjects, from how the FIM has responded to the developing outbreak of the coronavirus, to the measures being put in place to deal with it by the FIM and Dorna, and what will happen once the lockdowns are lifted.

Viegas explains how a MotoGP development freeze is to be implemented for the 2020 season, how many races will be needed for a world championship to be organized, and what options are under consideration as far as racing in January or combining MotoGP and WorldSBK weekends. The FIM president also emphasizes how important it will be for racing to happen once its possible, to give people some much-needed release after a long period of confinement and restrictions.

But Viegas starts off by telling Tammy Gorali about his first reactions to the outbreak of COVID-19, and how quickly the situation got out of control.

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FIM President Jorge Viegas On Iannone Doping Ban: "Everything Will Be Published After The CAS"

Since the announcement on Wednesday that Andrea Iannone's suspension for violating the FIM doping code had been reduced to 18 months, there have been questions surrounding the verdict. In interviews and press releases, Iannone himself, his lawyer, and Aprilia had all contended that he had been found innocent of intentionally ingesting drostanolone, a banned exogenous anabolic androgenic steroid. The International Disciplinary court of the FIM, the CDI, had accepted Iannone's claim that he had accidentally ingested the substance by eating contaminated meat, Iannone and his entourage told the media.

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Crew Chief Diego Gubellini On Fabio Quartararo: Fast, Smart, And Mentally Strong

Fabio Quartararo at the 2020 Sepang MotoGP test

The announcement that the Petronas Yamaha SRT team had signed Fabio Quartararo for the 2019 MotoGP season was met with some skepticism. Why, the critics said, would you sign a rider with just a single victory to his name after four seasons in Grand Prix, and with two other podiums, both of which had come in his first year in Moto3?

Quartararo soon proved the critics wrong. The Frenchman impressed by qualifying in fifth place for his first race, and then again by setting the fastest lap of that first race after starting from pit lane due to stalling on the grid. Four races later, he put his signing beyond doubt, qualifying on pole and battling for the podium until a broken quickshifter took him out of contention.

Since then, Quartararo has gone from strength to strength. The Petronas Yamaha rider ended the 2019 season in fifth place, with six poles and seven podiums, two of which came as thrilling battles to the line with world champion Marc Márquez. He starts 2020 as one of Marc Márquez' main challengers.

Behind every great motorcycle racer is a smart crew chief, and Quartararo is no exception. The Frenchman has Diego Gubellini at his side, an engineer with over 20 years of experience in the Grand Prix paddock, including seven seasons as crew chief with the Gresini, Aprilia, and Marc VDS teams. In 2019, he joined the Petronas Yamaha SRT team to work with Fabio Quartararo.

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