Features

World Superbike Silly Season Update: Melandri's Back, Bradl Switches, Aprilia Arrives

While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing. With the Kawasaki riders' contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.

The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.

FIM Release Report Analyzing Luis Salom's Crash

The FIM have published a report into the crash in Barcelona, in which Moto2 rider Luis Salom lost his life. The report, which can downloaded from the MotoGP.com website, was drawn up based on information from Technical Director Danny Aldridge and Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, as well as analysis of the data by an independent telemetry expert, Lluis Lleonart Gomez, who was appointed by Luis Salom's family.

The report reaches a number of conclusions. The first is that there is no evidence of mechanical failure on the part of the bike. The right clipon, holding the throttle and brake assembly, was found to be loose when the bike was examined after the crash. However, this could be put down to crash damage, as clipons often come loose when the bike hits the ground. Salom's bike slid on its right side before impacting the wall, and this is the most likely cause of that damage.

The rear wheel was also damaged, but data from the (compulsory) pressure sensors showed that rear tire pressure was at the recommended pressure of 1.5 bar when the bike crashed. The most likely cause of the rear wheel damage was when the bike hit the wall, the air fence not being sufficient to absorb the impact of the bike. On the CCTV footage, it appeared that the rear wheel hit the wall first, catapulting the bike back onto the tarmac runoff and hitting Luis Salom in the chest.

2016 Sachsenring Sunday Round Up - Of Intermediates vs Slicks, Gambling Right, and the Evils of Radio

It was a wild and weird weekend at the Sachsenring. The second in a row, after the bizarre and thrilling two-part race at Assen three weeks ago. The weather proved to be decisive, favoring the brave and the smart. And, perhaps, the lucky, but luck is always a part of racing. Sometimes the conditions come to you, and when they do, you have to capitalize.

That is precisely what happened in the MotoGP race at the Sachsenring – and in the Moto3 race as well, come to think of it. For motorcycle racing's big guns, they started on a soaking wet track with a light drizzle falling, but by the halfway mark, the first hints of a dry line were starting to form. That line would start to grow over the next few laps, and then it came down to two judgment calls: when to come in and swap bikes, and whether to gamble on slicks, or play it safe with intermediates.

Bike swaps are governed by circumstances as well as choice. Windows of opportunity open quickly, but they are often overlooked. The information the riders have to base their decision on is limited to what the team can convey via the pit board, and what they can glean from the jumbotron screens that line the circuit. They find themselves locked in battle with other riders, something which can easily devolve into a game of chicken. Unlike the game of chicken, though, it isn't the rider who blinks last who wins. It's the rider who blinks at exactly the right time.

2016 Sachsenring Saturday Round Up - A Weird Grid, Examining Lorenzo, and the Toughness of Q1

Starting on pole, or at least on the front row, is important at every race track, but at the Sachsenring, it is doubly so. There are very few passing opportunities at the German circuit: Turn 1, though it is not easy. Turn 12, after the run down the hill. And if you are smart, Turn 13, the final corner, but that is usually only possible if you have just been passed on the way into Turn 12, and the rider who passed you is now off line.

So a strong qualifying is crucial. Normally, that means the fastest riders make their way to the front of the grid. But not on Saturday. At the Sachsenring, a series of crashes meant that the grid had a strangely unfamiliar look. Three satellite riders on the two front rows, and two riders universally acknowledged to have the strongest pace well down the field.

At least they weren't crashing in Turn 11. With the sun out, the asphalt significantly warmer, and with riders having learned the hard way that they need to get the line right through that viciously fast corner, riders were instead finding different ways to crash. Andrea Iannone went down unexpectedly at Turn 1. Jorge Lorenzo hit the deck at Turn 8, then again at Turn 1, bringing his crash total for the weekend to three.

John Laverty's Pace Notes: Sachsenring 2016 - On Body Position, and Engine Braking

John Laverty is a former professional motorcycle racer, who raced three seasons in BSB. He is currently manager and rider coach to his brother Eugene Laverty, racing for the Aspar Ducati team in MotoGP. John acts as a track spotter for Eugene, checking what he sees on track from Eugene and other riders, and providing feedback to help the Aspar Ducati rider go faster. John will be contributing his insights into the things he sees at each track on a regular basis.

The Sachsenring circuit presents unique challenges for riders. For Eugene Laverty, it was the final sector, and the section between the two final corners. That was where John Laverty took me to start our brief tour of the German circuit, to see where he could help Eugene to improve and go faster.

John was looking at the body position of the riders, and in particular, the gap between the rider's backside and the back of the seat. "If you look at Rossi, he's right forward," John said. "And this is what I'm telling Eugene, he's sitting much further back. I know he's doing the right thing to try to keep rear contact, but I feel he is doing a lot on track to try to correct faults in the engine braking and chassis set up, which need to be sorted off track by the crew. They can adjust the bike settings to cure the problems."

He produced a handheld video camera, to film Eugene and other riders from the side, to show to Eugene later. This is something a lot of rider coaches do, though they use it only sparingly, often using the official footage.

2016 Sachsenring Friday Round Up: Turn 11 Again, Replacing the Sachsenring, and Marc vs Maverick

It was a wasted day at the Sachsenring. The day started cold but with a dry track, then, ten minutes into MotoGP FP1, a fine mist of rain started to fall, making already tricky conditions positively terrifying. A few journalists walked through the Sachsenring paddock up towards the end of pit lane, where the fences give you great views of Turn 1 and Turn 11.

Just as we arrived, Scott Redding's battered Pramac Ducati returned to the paddock in the back of a recovery trailer. When we turned around to watch the bikes coming through Turn 11 again, Jorge Lorenzo slid through the gravel towards us, his foot caught up in his bike for a while. While we were watching Lorenzo hit the gravel, we heard another bike scrape across asphalt and into the gravel. It was Stefan Bradl's Aprilia, the German having lost the front at Turn 11, just as Lorenzo had.

The rain continued, never really heavy enough to soak the track properly, only lifting towards the end. A few riders went out on wet tires to check their repaired bikes, coming straight back in again. The morning session was lost to the weather conditions. The afternoon session was a little better – at least it was dry – but the track temperatures meant that the tires never really got to the operating range they were designed for.

2016 Sachsenring MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Asymmetric Tires, Terrifying Turn 11, and Aprilia Upgrades

There are good times to talk to MotoGP riders and there are bad times. Among the bad times are when sessions of other classes are on, or when other major sporting events intervene. Valentino Rossi's press debrief on Saturday afternoon is one example. When it clashes with the start of the Red Bull Rookies Cup race, Rossi can be distracted as he watches the opening laps on TV screens in the Yamaha hospitality. Though Rossi is the consummate professional, always giving relevant answers to the questions we put to him, sometimes we have to wait, as fourteen Red Bull Rookies all try to fit into a corner where only three will go.

On Thursday, the press debriefs of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders were up against the last twenty minutes of the Tour de France stage which finished near the top of the Mont Ventoux. (Not actually at the summit: strong winds meant the finish was moved 6km from the top.) Cycling is something which MotoGP riders tend to become passionate about, as they do it so much to maintain fitness. And the finish to this particular stage became so intense that both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro remained glued to the screen, as did most of the journos who had come to talk to them, including myself. We talked a lot with the Tech 3 boys, but none of it was about MotoGP.

Well, not quite none. As I prepared to rush from Tech 3's hospitality through the tunnel under the track to a press conference I was already late for, I quickly asked about the asymmetric front tires Michelin have brought to the Sachsenring. "We'll see tomorrow," was Bradley Smith's answer, followed by a comment that he was more happy that the French tire manufacturer has brought the extra soft front rain tire, as the soft had still proved too hard at Assen.

2016 Sachsenring MotoGP Preview - Can the Hondas Make it 7 Years in a Row?

If there is such a thing as a Honda track, then the Sachsenring is surely it. Of the nineteen premier class races held at the tight, tortuous circuit, Honda have won twelve. That includes the last six races in a row: From 2010 through 2012, nobody could touch Dani Pedrosa around the circuit. From 2013 onwards, Marc Márquez has been unbeatable at the track.

What makes the Sachsenring such a Honda track? Maybe it's the two key braking points at the circuit, going into Turn 1, and at the bottom of the hill for Turn 12. Maybe it's the ability to use the Honda horsepower going up the hill out of the final corner, across the line and into Turn 1. Or maybe it's the tight corners, the Honda always a strong bike in turning.

The Sachsenring circuit is invariably described in disparaging terms – "Mickey Mouse", "a go-kart track" – but that does not do the track justice. It may not challenge the bikes in terms of horsepower, but it demands an awful lot of the riders. From the moment they arrive at the end of the short, uphill front straight, brake hard for the sharp right-hander of Turn 1, and pitch it into the corner, the bike barely leaves the edge of the tire until the plunge down the Waterfall after Turn 11. There is a brief moment of respite between Turns 7 and 8, before heeling the bike over again for another series of lefts going up the hill to the circuit's crowning glory.

2016 Laguna Seca WorldSBK Review: Looking Back at Laguna, Forward to 2017

The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.

Jonathan Rea's dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defense.

Moto2 Silly Season: Who Replaces Rins, Lowes, and Zarco?

The first half of 2016 has seen a long and intense period of speculation, gossip and conjecture over which rider ends up where in MotoGP. Big names have jumped from one factory to another, the entry of KTM has opened up opportunities for established satellite riders, and there has been much talk of the rookies entering MotoGP from Moto2 – Sam Lowes to Aprilia, Alex Rins to Suzuki, and Johann Zarco to Tech 3 (though the latter is still to be announced).

What there has been much less talk of is who is to fill their seats. Traditionally, Silly Season for Moto2 and Moto3 starts much later than for MotoGP, speculation and negotiations commencing in the run up to the flyaways and often only being finalized at Valencia. But with three of the strongest teams in Moto2 having seats to fill, team managers are looking ahead a little earlier than usual.

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