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2018 Qatar Schedule To Undergo Radical Shake Up - MotoGP Only Class To Race At Night

The time schedule for the 2018 round of MotoGP at Qatar is to undergo a radical shake up. As we have previously reported, from next season, the time slots are to be moved up much earlier, with most of the action taking place during the day, and only the MotoGP race to take place completely at night.

The change has been made to address a range of problems at Qatar. The 2017 race came under threat when rain started falling between the end of the Moto2 race and the planned start of the MotoGP race. Fortunately, the track dried sufficiently for the race to start with a 45 minute delay, but the later start pushed the race right into the time period during which the dew usually starts to settle on the track, rendering it treacherous. 

The dewpoint at the track has caused problems ever since the race switched to being held at night. As temperatures drop during what is the most humid (a relative term, admittedly) part of the year in Qatar. That part of the year is also the time at which rain is most likely to fall, despite still being relatively rare. In 2017, rain caused the loss of qualifying for all three classes.

The new schedule sees all three classes holding their early practice sessions during the afternoon. FP2 and Qualifying for the Moto3 class will be late afternoon, while the Moto2 class draws the short straw and will hold its FP2 and Qualifying during sunset, which occurs at 17:44 on the weekend of the race. The setting sun could cause a few problems with vision, as the entrance to turns 6, 9, 10, 14, and 16 all face towards the direction of sunset. This could be even more pronounced during the Moto2 race, which is schedule to start at 17:20.

But the new schedule will help the MotoGP class, in a number of ways. Their afternoon practice all occurs well after sunset, with practice, qualifying, and the race all taking place at 19:00 local time. MotoGP practice also happens directly after Moto2, meaning the teams will have a chance to understand the track as it will be after the Moto2 race with the Dunlop rubber on the track. This should address a consistent point of complaint that the track feels different for MotoGP on Sunday, as at most races, MotoGP practice takes place before Moto2.

The switch to a different time schedule offers better choices in terms of planning as well. The race schedule has been reduced from four to three days again, the same as the other races on the calendar. It also offers the opportunity to run the race earlier in the year, as the dew is no longer a factor at that time of night. This should help if the calendar expands to 20 races in 2019 or beyond. 

A new schedule should also help if rain should disrupt the race schedule again. As Moto3 and Moto2 start in daylight, they can race even if it rains. If it rains before the start of the MotoGP race, then Dorna can either hold a practice session in wet conditions, or wait for a while to see if the track dries. Rain tends to be torrential but short-lived in Qatar, and the track drying out quickly.

The new schedule is still provisional, and has yet to be fully approved. But it is a subject which has been under discussion since the 2017 Qatar round, and the way the weather affected it. After much debate between the teams, Dorna, and the circuit owners, this schedule has been settled on as the best compromise. It is almost certain to remain this way come 18th March 2018.

The proposed new schedule is below:

Qatar Time Schedule For 2018
Friday 16th March
13:00-13:40 Moto3 Free Practice 1
13:55-14:40 Moto2 Free Practice 1
14:55-15:40 MotoGP Free Practice 1
17:10-17:50 Moto3 Free Practice 2
18:05-18:50 Moto2 Free Practice 2
19:05-19:50 MotoGP Free Practice 2
     
Saturday 17th March
13:00-13:40 Moto3 Free Practice 3
13:55-14:40 Moto2 Free Practice 3
14:55-15:40 MotoGP Free Practice 3
16:35-17:15 Moto3 Qualifying Practice
17:30-18:15 Moto2 Qualifying Practice
18:30-19:00 MotoGP Free Practice 4
19:10-19:25 MotoGP Qualifying 1
19:35-19:50 MotoGP Qualifying 2
     
Sunday 18th March
13:40-14:00 Moto3 Warm Up
14:10-14:30 Moto2 Warm Up
14:40-15:00 MotoGP Warm Up
     
16:00 Moto3 Race (18 laps)
17:20 Moto2 Race (20 laps)
19:00 MotoGP Race (22 laps)

 

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Silverstone To Host British MotoGP Round For Three More Years

In a somewhat surprising development, Silverstone has signed up to host the British round of MotoGP for three more years. The Northamptonshire circuit is to hold the race through 2020. 

Since the British round was held earlier this year, it looked like the race would go to Donington. The Leicestershire track had shown renewed interest in the race, after the circuit had been bought by MSV, who also run the BSB series and own several other British tracks. Hosting the series at Donington would have required upgrades in a number of areas, however, and making those in time for August next year would have been difficult.

A delegation from the Silverstone circuit had flown to Valencia to finalize the details with Dorna. Dorna had asked for the track to be completely resurfaced, after the riders had complained about the bumps after this year's race. Silverstone compromised by promising to resurface part of the track, according to British publication MCN, and were given a three-year contract extension.

Despite the new deal with Silverstone, where the British Grand Prix is to be held in the long term is still open. MSV has expressed an interest in upgrading the facilities at Donington Park, and the three-year duration of Silverstone's contract would be a large enough window for MSV to complete the necessary work. The bidding war which had been expected this year could well reopen in a couple of years' time.

Below is the official press release from Dorna announcing the Silverstone deal:


Silverstone Circuit confirmed to host British Grand Prix for the next 3 years

Dorna Sports is pleased to announce that Silverstone Circuit will continue to host the British round of the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship for the next three years. The 2018 event will take place over the weekend of the 24 - 26 August, with the contract securing the future of MotoGP™ racing in the UK following the termination of the Circuit of Wales agreement.

Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone, commented: “A lot of time and money has been invested in recent years to ensure MotoGP fans, teams and riders enjoy what Silverstone has to offer and we are delighted to have secured the contract to 2020. Two wheel racing is as much a part of Silverstone’s heritage as four wheel racing and we are looking forward to welcoming the Championship and its fans back to Silverstone next August. We have been working on a family friendly pricing policy, including the re-introduction of under 11 year olds go free, which we hope will be well received by fans and which will launch via silverstone.co.uk at 10:00 am on Monday 13 November.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Sports CEO, added: “Silverstone is an iconic British circuit, so naturally we are pleased to be able to continue racing at this track. The United Kingdom is an important market for Dorna and has to remain on the MotoGP calendar, especially with the introduction of the British Talent Cup next year, which we hope will inspire the next generation of young British talent. We look forward to giving fans more action over the British Grand Prix weekend and I’m sure fans will be as happy as we are that Silverstone remains on the calendar for the next three years.”

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Pol Espargaro To Start From Pit Lane After Using Tenth Engine Of Season

Pol Espargaro will have to start the final round of MotoGP at Valencia from pit lane. The Spaniard exceeded his allocation of nine engines per season, by taking a tenth engine out in his final run of FP2.

Espargaro is a victim of the pace of development by KTM. The Austrian manufacturer switched from a screamer engine configuration to a big bang configuration at the Le Mans test before Jerez, electing to use it from the Jerez race. The two engines used until then were discarded. 

Chassis development has also been just as rapid for KTM. Until Aragon, the team have got through 18 different iterations of chassis. One of the new chassis had different engine mounting points, meaning that existing engines no longer fit the updated chassis. As a result, Pol Espargaro has a number of engines with relatively low mileage on them sitting in the KTM truck, but unusable, as they don't fit the new chassis. 

As a result, KTM has decided that Espargaro will simply take the penalty, and start from pit lane. The penalty for exceeding the allocation limit is starting from pit lane 5 seconds after the rest of the grid has departed.

The FIM press release appears below:


FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel Notification of Sanction: Pol Espargaró

Dear all,

Please find attached the Notification of Sanction for MotoGP rider Pol Espargaró.

The infringement is using more than 9 engines during the season, as they fitted engine number 10 to Pol’s bike for FP2 (MotoGP is limited to 7 engines per rider per season, but teams with Concessions are allowed 9 engines per rider per season).

The standard penalty is to start the race from pit lane with a 5-second delay from the time the pit lane exit would normally open.

He will do a sighting lap and go to the grid, but will then enter the pit lane on the warm up lap and starts the race from pit lane.

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Yamaha Step Up MotoGP Testing To Counter 2017 Form Crisis

In a sign of how difficult Yamaha's 2017 season has been, they have a busy testing schedule ahead of them in the next few weeks. After the traditional two-day test at Valencia, both the Movistar Yamaha and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team will be heading to Malaysia, for a private test at Sepang.

The testing schedule for Yamaha means that Michael van der Mark will not be taking part in the two-day test at Valencia. Yamaha need the resources from the Tech 3 team to assist Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Johann Zarco get through their program. "They have so much to test here that they need my team to help prepare everything," Van der Mark told the media on Thursday.

The testing schedule and the decision to enlist the help of the Tech 3 team is a sign of how much work Yamaha fear they have ahead of them. Though the Movistar Yamaha riders talk only of having a new engine at Valencia, the scale of testing suggests that there are plenty of other areas which will need to be evaluated as well. Officially, a new chassis will not be ready until the Sepang test next January, but there is reason to believe that new parts could be ready for the private test Yamaha will be holding at Sepang at the end of this month.

With any chance of the title already gone, Maverick Viñales indicated that Yamaha could focus on testing setups for the race in Valencia, rather than waiting for the two-day test on Tuesday and Wednesday. "For sure, Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be more important, because already, with nothing to win or to lose, we are already thinking about 2018," the Spaniard said. "It's true that we have an important race, but anyway this race it's also going to be important to try new things, risk a little bit more than in other races. And go ways that we didn't try during the year."

One of the areas Viñales and his team could explore is a setup they found at the previous round at Sepang. "In Malaysia, in the warm up, we found a completely different set up which worked quite good. So we are trying to reconfirm that improvement, and then let's see. Finally, in the race you have a lot of things to try," he said.

The problems Yamaha have had this season have caused problems in planning for the 2018 season for the Tech 3 Yamaha team. Normally, Yamaha take the bikes used by the factory team out of the Movistar garage on Sunday night after the final race at Valencia and roll them straight into the Tech 3 garage. However, Yamaha are still not sure what their plan for Tech 3 is going to be next year. Much will depend on the outcome of the private Sepang test at the end of the month. The outcome of that test will form the basis for the 2018 plan for both the Movistar and Monster Tech 3 teams.

The good news for Tech 3 – and indeed Yamaha – is that there is distinct possibility that Jonas Folger could be present in Sepang at the end of November. The German has been diagnosed with Gilbert Syndrome, and it is hoped that he will be fit enough to start riding again very soon. He is currently undergoing a detoxification program, and will be following a special diet to allow him to recover faster. But a final decision on his participation will be made shortly before the test is due to take place.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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2018 Provisional MotoGP Rider Line Up

The FIM has published the provisional list of entries for MotoGP in 2018. For the full background on the rider list, including details of bikes and contracts, see our story on the full rider list here.

No. Rider Nationality Team Bike
4 Andrea Dovizioso Italian Ducati Team Ducati
5 Johann Zarco French Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
9 Danilo Petrucci Italian Octo Pramac Racing Ducati
10 Xavier Simeon Belgian Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
12 Tom Luthi Swiss EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
17 Karel Abraham Czech Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati
19 Alvaro Bautista Spanish Pull&Bear Aspar Team Ducati
21 Franco Morbidelli Italian EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
25 Maverick Viñales Spanish Movistar Yamaha Motogp Yamaha
26 Dani Pedrosa Spanish Repsol Honda Team Honda
29 Andrea Iannone Italian Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
30 Takaaki Nakagami Japanese Lcr Honda Idemitsu Honda
35 Cal Crutchlow British Lcr Honda Castrol Honda
38 Bradley Smith British Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
41 Aleix Espargaro Spanish Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
42 Alex Rins Spanish Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
43 Jack Miller Australian Octo Pramac Racing Ducati
44 Pol Espargaro Spanish Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
45 Scott Redding British Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
46 Valentino Rossi Italian Movistar Yamaha Motogp Yamaha
53 Tito Rabat Spanish Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
93 Marc Marquez Spanish Repsol Honda Team Honda
94 Jonas Folger German Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
99 Jorge Lorenzo Spanish Ducati Team Ducati

* = Independent Team Rider

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2018 Provisional Moto2 Rider Line Up

The provisional rider line up for the Moto2 class has been published for the 2018 season. The class is as popular as ever, with 33 riders entered to race for the season. With the arrival of NTS, who will be racing in collaboration with the RW Racing team, there are now 6 manufacturers in the grid: KTM, Kalex, Suter, NTS, Tech 3, and Speed Up. Kalex still dominates, with 19 bikes, but KTM has stepped up its program to a total of 6 bikes, the others all fielding two riders apiece.

As in Moto3, Italian and Spanish riders dominate, with 9 Italians and 7 Spaniards on the grid. But the field will have riders with 14 different nationalities on the grid. 

The provisional Moto2 rider line up is below:

No. Rider Nationality Team Bike
4 Steven Odendaal S-African RW Racing NTS NTS
5 Andrea Locatelli Italian Italtrans Racing Team Kalex
7 Lorenzo Baldassari Italian Pons HP40 Kalex
9 Jorge Navarro Spanish Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex
10 Luca Marini Italian Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex
11 Sandro Cortese German Kiefer Racing KTM
13 Romano Fenati Italian Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Kalex
16 Joe Roberts USA RW Racing NTS NTS
20 Fabio Quartararo French Speed Up Racing Speed Up
21 Federico Fuligni Italian Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex
22 Sam Lowes British Cgbm Evolution KTM
23 Marcel Schrötter German Dynavolt Intact NTS Suter
24 Simone Corsi Italian Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex
27 Iker Lecuona Spanish Cgbm Evolution KTM
32 Isaac Viñales Spanish SAG Team Kalex
36 Joan Mir Spanish EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex
40 Hector Barbera Spanish Pons HP40 Kalex
41 Brad Binder S-African Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM
42 Francesco Bagnaia Italian Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex
44 Miguel Oliveira Portuguese Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM
45 Tetsuta Nagashima Japanese Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex
51 Eric Granado Brazilian Forward Racing Team Kalex
52 Danny Kent British Speed Up Racing Speed Up
54 Mattia Pasini Italian Italtrans Racing Team Kalex
55 Hafizh Syahrin Malaysian Petronas Sprinta Racing Kalex
62 Stefano Manzi Italian Forward Racing Team Kalex
64 Bo Bendsneyder Dutch Tech 3 Racing Tech 3
73 Alex Marquez Spanish EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex
77 Dominique Aegerter Swiss Kiefer Racing KTM
87 Remy Gardner Australian Tech 3 Racing Tech 3
89 Khairul Idham Pawi Malaysian Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex
95 Jules Danilo French SAG Team Kalex
97 Xavi Vierge Spanish Dynavolt Intact NTS Suter

 

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2018 Provisional Moto3 Rider Line Up

The provisional line up for the Moto3 class has been announced. The field is slightly reduced this year, to 28 entries, partly as a result of the withdrawal of Mahindra. Just two manufacturers remain, KTM and Honda. KTM will be fielding 15 bikes, Honda 13. As ever, Spanish and Italian riders dominate, with 7 Spaniards and 9 Italians on the grid, but there are a grand total of 11 nationalities starting next year, including on rider from Kazakhstan. 

The provisional rider list appears below:

No. Rider Nationality Team Bike
5 Jaume Masia Spanish Bester Capital Dubai KTM
7 Adam Norrodin Malaysian Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda
8 Nicolo Bulega Italian Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM
10 Dennis Foggia Italian Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM
11 Livio Loi Belgian Reale Stylobike KTM
12 Marco Bezzecchi Italian MC Saxoprint KTM
14 Tony Arbolino Italian Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda
15 Alonso Lopez Spanish Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda
16 Andrea Migno Italian Aspar Team Moto3 KTM
17 John McPhee British CIP KTM
19 Gabriel Rodrigo Argentinian RBA BOE Racing Team KTM
21 Fabio Di Giannantonio Italian Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda
23 Niccolo Antonelli Italian SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda
24 Tatsuki Suzuki Japanese SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda
27 Kaito Toba Japanese Honda Team Asia Honda
33 Enea Bastianini Italian Leopard Racing Honda
40 Darryn Binder S-African Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM
41 Nakarin Atiratphuvapat Thai Honda Team Asia Honda
42 Marcos Ramirez Spanish Bester Capital Dubai KTM
44 Aron Canet Spanish Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda
48 Lorenzo Dalla Porta Italian Leopard Racing Honda
58 Juanfran Guevara Spanish RBA BOE Racing Team KTM
65 Philipp Oettl German Sudmetal Schedl GP Racing KTM
71 Ayumu Sasaki Japanese Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda
75 Albert Arenas Spanish Aspar Team Moto3 KTM
76 Makar Yurchenko Kazakhstani CIP KTM
84 Jakub Kornfeil Czech MC Saxoprint KTM
88 Jorge Martin Spanish Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda

 

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Michael van der Mark To Replace Jonas Folger At Valencia

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."

"I'm really looking forward to the weekend at Valencia," Van der Mark said. "I know the bike a bit now, and the most important thing is that we have normal weather conditions in Valencia so that I can try and improve every session. I hope I can score a good result and make the team happy." Van der Mark finished 16th in Sepang, just outside the points.

Though there has been on official update on Jonas Folger's condition, the German is believed to be suffering a recurrence of Epstein Barr, a condition he is believed to have suffered with in 2016. Folger is currently in his native Bavaria, undergoing medical tests and recovering. He is unlikely to see MotoGP action again until the Sepang test in January 2018.

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2018 Provisional WorldSBK Calendar Released: Argentina, Brno Added, Jerez, Lausitzring Out

The FIM today released the provisional 2018 WorldSBK version. Just as last year, the schedule contains thirteen rounds, spread out from February to late October. Two circuits visited in 2017 are out, Jerez and the Lausitzring, while Brno makes a return to the WorldSBK schedule, and a brand new circuit in the west of Argentina, near the border with Chile.

The schedule starts as ever at Phillip Island in Australia on 25th February, with the WorldSBK and WorldSSP classes competing. As is traditional, the race is preceded a couple of days earlier by a two-day official test. The start of the series is once again rather fragmented, however, as WorldSBK fans will have to wait four weeks for the second round of the series at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.

The series then heads to Europe, with a back-to-back weekend at Aragon and then Assen. At Aragon, the series is joined by the WorldSSP300 and Superstock 1000 series. The Assen round is the first clash of the year, running on the same weekend as the Austin round of MotoGP at the Circuit of the Americas, but as they are running in different time zones, the races themselves will not clash.

The spring and summer follows a familiar pattern, with visits to Imola and Donington Park, before heading to Brno, the first time the series has raced there since 2012. From Brno, the WorldSBK class heads to Laguna Seca for its traditional weekend together with the MotoAmerica weekend, before coming back for the final race before the summer break at Misano.

The summer break this year is a yawning expanse of 10 weeks, before the paddock reconvenes in Portugal for the round at Portimao. The gap is a result of the loss of the German round and the addition of Brno: with the Czech round of MotoGP in August, it is feared that not enough fans would turn up to a WorldSBK round held there in the same month.

After Brno, the series heads to the traditional last European round at Magny-Cours, before heading overseas again. The first trip is to the brand new El Villicum circuit currently being built just outside San Juan, in the west of Argentina. The circuit is not far from the border with Chile, and around 500km from the Chilean capital, Santiago. The circuit is yet to be homologated, as it has not seen world championship racing before, but an inspection by the FIM will take place in the coming months.

The final round of the 2018 WorldSBK season takes place in Qatar, as always, a privilege for which the Losail Circuit pays handsomely. The Qatar round is the second clash with the MotoGP series, but once again, as MotoGP is racing in a completely different timezone at Phillip Island that weekend, there is no clash in race times.

The two circuits missing from the 2018 calendar are Lausitzring and Jerez. The absence of the Lausitzring is easily explained: the circuit is to be transformed into an automotive test facility by the circuit owners DEKRA. Finding an alternative home for a German round was difficult, with few spectators making the trip to the Nurburgring, where the race was previously held. The loss of Jerez from the calendar is simply down to poor attendance. Crowds at the Spanish circuit were simply too small to make it viable, and Jerez plays host to plenty of other events throughout the season.

Below is the press release from the FIM with the provisional calendar:


MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship
FIM Supersport and Supersport 300 World Championships
European Superstock 1000 Championship

2018 provisional calendar, 2 November

DATE COUNTRY CIRCUIT WSBK WSSP WSSP300 STK1000
23-25 February AUS Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit X X    
23-25 March THA Chang International Circuit X X    
13-15 April ESP MotorLand Aragón X X X X
20 -22 April NED TT Circuit Assen X X X X
11-13 May ITA Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola X X X X
25-27 May GBR Donington Park X X X X
8-10 June CZE Automotodrom Brno X X X X
22-24 June USA Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca X      
6-8 July ITA Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” X X X X
14-16 September POR Autódromo Internacional do Algarve X X X X
28-30 September FRA Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours X X X X
12–14 October ARG* El Villicum X X    
25-27 October QAT Losail International Circuit X X    

*(STH) Subject to homologation

2018 OFFICIAL TESTS

  • 19-20 February, Australia, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit (WorldSBK & WorldSSP)
  • 23-24 August, Portugal, Autódromo Internacional do Algarve (WorldSBK)
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Tom Luthi Declared Unfit For Sepang, Franco Morbidelli 2017 Moto2 Champion

Tom Luthi has been ruled unfit to race after his massive highside during qualifying for the Sepang round of Moto2. The Swiss rider fell very heavily during qualifying, and fractured his ankle in the fall.

Luthi's participation had been in doubt after the crash on Saturday, but doctors ruled that he would have to pass an examination on Sunday morning before being allowed to race. Luthi failed that exam on Sunday morning, and has been ruled out of the Moto2 race on Sunday.

With Luthi out, Franco Morbidelli's lead of 29 points becomes unassailable. Morbidelli is now officially the 2017 Moto2 Champion.

Dorna posted a video of Luthi's horrific crash on their Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/MotoGP/status/924436102664130560

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