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Dani Pedrosa To Make Shock Moto3 Switch With KTM For 2016

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. First and foremost, Dani Pedrosa's arm pump issues are very real, and he is seeking urgent treatment for the problem. This April Fool's joke was not entirely in the best of taste, for which we offer our apologies, most of all to Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa is one of the finest racers of his generation, as his place in the list of all-time winners shows all too clearly. The joke was meant in the be best possible way. For a more sober reflection on Pedrosa's injury, read the blog piece I wrote for On Track Off Road magazine.

There were lots of clues that this was a joke, however. There is the small matter of Pedrosa being halfway through a MotoGP contract with HRC, set to ride for Repsol Honda in 2016. What's more, Dani Pedrosa will be 31 in 2016, and the maximum age in Moto3 is 28. Pedrosa would never be allowed to enter Moto3. Even more ridiculous is the idea that Pedrosa would leave Honda, having raced for the factory his entire life. He has shown no interest in racing in any other class, either, and will most likely retire from racing when he leaves MotoGP, whenever that happens to be. As for the financial inducements by KTM and Red Bull, well, it is easy enough to calculate just how much they would be worth...

Though we rather regret the lost age of class specialists dominating junior classes, riders like Angel Nieto, Toni Mang and Juan Martinez forming the first hurdle for youngsters on the way to a glorious career, Moto3 is now a stepping stone for young riders entering Grand Prix racing. For another year, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed... 

The cause of Dani Pedrosa's shock announcement that he will be withdrawing from racing temporarily to seek treatment for arm pump has finally been unearthed. MotoMatters has learned that in addition to seeking treatment for the medical condition, Pedrosa is headed to Austria, where he is to test KTM's Moto3 machine ahead of a shock return to the junior class in 2016, in pursuit of a fourth world championship. Pedrosa believes racing the lighter Moto3 bikes will allow him to avoid arm pump, and prolong his Grand Prix career. Alongside racing for KTM in Moto3 in 2016, Pedrosa will help develop the Austrian manufacturer's MotoGP prototype, ahead of its debut in 2017.

MotoMatters uncovered the story while waiting to follow Pedrosa to the VUMC hospital in Amsterdam. A source in Qatar had revealed that the Spaniard would be flying to Holland for treatment at the hospital, with a reputation for dealing with sports injuries. Pedrosa was seen to arrive at Schiphol airport, where he was greeted by a woman wearing an orange uniform. Recognizing the woman as Avril Fisch, long-standing group leader of KTM's engine development department, we approached close enough to be within earshot, without being seen.

When Pedrosa came through the doors of the arrival's hall, Frau Fisch greeted the Spaniard with the words, "So, Dani, ready for your challenge in Moto3 next year?" At that point, we confronted Fisch and Pedrosa, where they confessed their plans.

The entire scheme has come about as a result of Honda's victory in Moto3 last year. KTM is keen to get revenge, and know that they must engage the services of a top rider to ensure that they can beat Honda in the junior class. The plot had been hatched after the first few races of 2014, once it became clear that the Honda NSF250RW was a vastly more powerful machine than KTM's RC250.

The NSF250RW was Honda's response to KTM's original Moto3 bike, built because the Japanese manufacturer felt that KTM had violated the spirit of the Moto3 regulations in 2013. Honda wanted to demonstrate that they, too, were prepared to completely disregard the spirit of the rules, and put their vast engineering might to work to build a bike that would be unbeatable. That bike won the 2014 Moto3 title with Alex Márquez.

Knowing that they would never have the resources of Honda, KTM approached the problem from the other end of the equation. Instead of trying to out-engineer Honda, they set about trying to find the best possible rider they could get to ride the bike. They settled on the idea of signing one of the four so-called 'Aliens' of MotoGP, and putting them on the bike.

KTM first approached Valentino Rossi. The Austrian marque already has links with the Italian, as they supply bikes to Rossi's Sky VR46 Moto3 team. Sensing that his chances of securing a tenth MotoGP title were closer than ever before, Rossi turned KTM down.

Instead, KTM opened negotiations with Dani Pedrosa and his then crew chief, Mike Leitner. Though Pedrosa was reluctant at first, KTM won him over with a range of inducements. First and foremost, he would be reunited with his long-time crew chief Leitner. Leitner had left the Repsol Honda team to lead development of KTM's MotoGP project, ahead of the bike's debut in 2017. Leitner and Pedrosa concocted rumors of a less-than-amicable split, to divert media interest away from any thoughts of Pedrosa joining the Austrian engineer at KTM. Pedrosa was also offered a role in the development of the RC16 MotoGP prototype, leading the direction of the project.

In the end, Pedrosa was persuaded by an exceptionally generous financial offer. To demonstrate just how serious they are with this project, Pedrosa was offered 1% of the shares in KTM, as well as 1% of shares in Red Bull, who will be backing the Moto3 team. Furthermore, Red Bull will be backing the factory KTM team once they enter MotoGP. Some sources suggest that KTM have already contacted Casey Stoner about a ride in MotoGP. Stoner has strong ties to Red Bull, and was the first rider to win a Grand Prix for KTM, taking victory in the 125cc class at Malaysia in 2004.

The most shocking part of the entire scheme is that Pedrosa will be leaving Honda with the Japanese factory's blessing. Pedrosa's departure from Repsol Honda allows HRC to move Marc Márquez' brother Alex up into the Repsol squad. Having the Márquez brothers in the same team is a marketing dream for Honda, Repsol, Estrella Galicia, and all of the team's sponsors. The outing which Alex was given on board the Repsol Honda RC213V at the Valencia test in November last year was a trial run of the project. MotoMatters has seen mock ups of a 2016 team presentation provisionally entitled "Márquez Bros - A Day at the Races."

Allowing Pedrosa to leave to go race in Moto3 is a sign of Honda's confidence in their youngest signing, Fabio Quartararo. Already labeled 'the Márquez beater', HRC believes that the French youngster will easily beat Pedrosa, once the Spanish veteran climbs aboard the KTM Moto3 machine.

Drive M7 Claim Trademark Infringement Caused Aspar Sponsorship Deal To Fail

Drive M7, the Malaysian energy drink firm, has issued a response to the claims by Aspar that Drive had pulled out of sponsoring team at the last minute. Last Wednesday, the day before the 2015 MotoGP season was due to kick off, Aspar boss Juan Martinez claimed that Drive M7 had only just told him about their decision to pull out of sponsoring the team the day before. Drive M7 disputes that version of events.

When approached by top British motorcycle racing publication Bikesport News for a response to those claims, the Malaysian energy drink company issued a statement explaining that they understood that the 2014 sponsorship agreement - worth €1.8 million - would not be extended due to ongoing claims of trademark infringement. In June 2014, the Aspar team received a legal notice that they were infringing the trademark of an existing company, who hold the rights to the use of the word Drive for an energy drink in the European Union. Searching the international trademark database TMVIEW turns up a large number of companies using words such as 'drive' and 'driver' - including many breweries - as well as a Spanish firm holding a trademark for Driver EnergyJuice. Whether any of these companies are involved in the dispute is not known.

Aspar claimed their lawyers would deal with the situation, and would report back to Drive M7 once the trademark dispute had been settled. However, Drive M7 never received any further information or updates from the Aspar team, and were forced to conclude that the trademark dispute is still ongoing, and that therefore their Drive brand could be removed from Aspar's customer Honda RC213V-RS MotoGP machines before the end of the season. Drive therefore concluded that Aspar was in breach of the contract, and that it had not been automatically extended.

Drive M7 also claim that Aspar had promised to distribute and market the Drive M7 energy drink throughout Spain and Europe. But Aspar had not fulfilled their obligations in this regard, presumably leading Drive M7 to conclude that the trademark dispute had not been settled. 

Legal action has now been started by the Aspar team against Drive M7. No doubt this will be settled in the courts, long after the entire affair has been settled.

The Drive M7 sponsorship will remain for the SIC Moto3 team. That team is based in Malaysia, with the backing of the Sepang International Circuit. Sponsorship of that team is part of Drive's Asian marketing campaign, and so can be regarded as not infringing on the European trademark.

The press statement issued to Bikesport News is shown below:


DRIVE M7 SDN BHD wishes to clarify the controversy as portrayed in the Internet and blogs with regard to its previous sponsorship of the ASPAR TEAM by the brand trademark “DRIVE M7 ENERGY DRINK”.

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD had a sponsorship agreement to sponsor the ASPAR TEAM in the MOTOGP World Championship in 2014 in consideration of ASPAR TEAM carrying the livery of the “DRIVE M7 ENERGY DRINK” trademark. The agreement was for the season 2014 with separate renewal options for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The sponsorship was for 18 races of which 11 were for races in Europe and European Union territories for the year 2014.

In June 2014 in the midst of the 2014 season a legal notice to cease and desist was served on DRIVE M7 SDN BHD and ASPAR TEAM by a firm claiming trademark stating that continued use of the “DRIVE” mark in Europe and European Union would be trademark infringement and threatening legal action in the European Union, full details whereof are known to ASPAR TEAM.

ASPAR TEAM assured DRIVE M7 SDN BHD that their lawyers would attend to this issue. On this assurance, DRIVE M7 SDN BHD continued and completed the sponsorship for the 2014 season. A sum of about EURO 1,800,000.00 was paid to ASPAR TEAM in satisfaction of the sponsorship for the 2014 season.

Further there was no notification of the official withdrawal of the legal notice of June 2014, advised by ASPAR TEAM to DRIVE M7 SDN BHD. DRIVE M7 SDN BHD has been a responsible supporter of sports and racing sports and places great emphasis on respecting trademarks and intellectual property. In the premises inter alia there was no sponsorship arrangements concluded in so far as DRIVE M7 SDN BHD is concerned for the 2015 season. There were negotiations for a fresh sponsorship for 2015 season wherein reciprocal obligations were agreed including inter alia appointing Messrs. Jorge Martinez Aspar and Facundo G. De La Cuadra from the ASPAR TEAM as the exclusive distributor for the energy drinks in Europe and European Union based on various assurances from them and ASPAR TEAM. These reciprocal obligations are not fulfilled to date and hence no sponsorship are finalised or can be taken to be finalised in so far as DRIVE M7 SDN BHD is concerned for 2015 season.

ASPAR TEAM has recently initiated notice of legal action and DRIVE M7 SDN BHD has responded to the said notice. As there may be impending legal proceeding, DRIVE M7 SDN BHD does not wish to add further, suffice to say that DRIVE M7 SDN BHD will do the necessary to protect their interest.

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD trusts for the present this presents a fair and necessary response to the controversy that has been raised in the Internet blogs and press statement. We regret that ASPAR TEAM has issued press releases without giving DRIVE M7 SDN BHD an opportunity to add their comments to such releases.

DRIVE M7 SDN BHD refutes any suggestions that they pulled out the sponsorship at the last minutes. We wish ASPAR TEAM the best in their endeavours and the good relationship we had enjoyed.

Ducati Qatar Podiums Mean Fuel Allowance Cut To 22 Liters For Factory Option Ducatis

Ducati is to lose the first of the special concessions granted at the start of the 2014 season. The two podiums which Ducati scored at Qatar bring its dry podium total to three, which means that the fuel allowance for all Factory Option Ducati bikes will be cut from 24 liters to 22 liters, as we reported on Sunday night. The allowance of 22 liters is still 2 liters more than the 20 liters used by Yamaha and Honda, who race without any concessions.

The extra fuel allowance was part of a package of extra allowances granted to Ducati to persuade them to remain a Factory Option entry and not to switch to the Open class. Manufacturers entering MotoGP for the first time in 2015, or like Ducati, did not have a dry win during the 2013 season, were granted a number of exceptions to the standard rules. Such factories were given 24 liters of fuel rather than 20, were allowed to use 12 engines a season instead of 5, were not subject to the freeze on engine development, were allowed unlimited testing, and were given the softer tire allocation granted to the Open class entries.

Such concessions are subject to performance penalties, however: 1 win, 2 second places or 3 podium finishes means that the fuel allowance for that manufacturer is reduced to 22 liters. 3 dry wins mean that the manufacturer loses access to the softer tire, and must use the same tire allocation as Honda and Yamaha. 

With Andrea Dovizioso taking second, and Andrea Iannone finishing third, Ducati's podium total since the first race of 2014 climbed to three. Dovizioso had scored another third place at Austin in 2014, also in dry conditions. The podiums scored by Dovizioso at Assen and Cal Crutchlow at Aragon did not count towards this tally, as they were set in wet and flag-to-flag races. This means that Ducati loses 2 liters of fuel, and will race with 22 liters from Austin onwards. All of Ducati's Factory Option bikes - both the Factory Ducatis of Dovizoso and Iannone, and the Pramac bikes of Yonny Hernandez and Danilo Petrucci will have less fuel at their disposal. The Avintia bikes of Hector Barbera and Mike Di Meglio are not affected, as they are Open class entries, and will keep 24 liters of fuel.

The reduction in the amount of fuel will not pose a particular problem for Ducati. At the presentation of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 in Bologna, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna told MotoMatters.com that they were not concerned at losing the fuel. Ducati had not had to use more than 22 liters at any of the races last year. 

The next concession which Ducati could lose is the use of the softer tire. Should Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone (and perhaps even Hernandez and Petrucci) rack up a total of three wins in dry conditions, then the Ducati riders would be forced to use the harder allocation of tires, the hard and medium rears, rather than the medium and soft. Scoring three wins will not be easy, given the level of competition they must overcome.

Losing the tire will be the last concession Ducati could lose. Engine allowance, engine development and freedom to test remain unchanged until the end of 2015. From 2016, a new set of regulations will come into effect, which will see all of MotoGP racing as a single class. For a fuller look at the 2015 regulations, see our MotoGP rules primer.

Below is the press release issued by MotoGP Race Direction:


ANNOUNCEMENT FROM RACE DIRECTION

Ducati fuel allowance reduced after Qatar podiums

Following the Ducati Team’s results at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar last weekend, at which Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone were both on the podium, its fuel allowance has been reduced from 24 to 22 litres.

MotoGP Race Direction has officially notified the Ducati Team regarding the regulations affecting its MotoGP Factory Option entries, which under Article 2.4.4.5.5 of the FIM Road racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations means that the concession of a 24 litre fuel tank capacity will be removed effective immediately.

This is due to the fact that Ducati Factory option machines have now achieved three podiums in dry conditions since the start of the 2014 season: Dovizioso’s 3rd place in Austin 2014, his 2nd place in Qatar 2015 and his teammate Iannone’s 3rd place in the same race.

From the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas until the end of the 2015 season, the fuel tank capacity for all Ducati Factory option machines will be a maximum of 22 litres.

This applies to Ducati machines entered under the Factory Option, which include Ducati Team’s Dovizioso and Iannone, as well as Pramac Racing Team’s Danilo Petrucci and Yonny Hernandez.

The Avintia Racing Open entries of Hector Barbera and Mike Di Meglio are not affected.

Scott Jones In The Desert: Race Day In Qatar


We thought it was a steely, thousand-yard stare. But it was Pedrosa, steeling himself for the pain he knew was to come


An old man prepares


Moto3 maniacs must maintain massive momentum


Jorge Lorenzo started well, but his helmet would let him down at the end of the race


Marc Marquez, on the other hand, had a disastrous start, messing up his braking and running wide


Unluckiest man of the day. Johann Zarco controlled the Moto2 race right up until a gear lever bolt let him down


The old man didn't get a great start, but started cutting through the field like a razor


A cool head could have ensured victory for Sam Lowes. Shame he didn't bring one


After two races without a podium, the hopes of Spain rested on Jorge Lorenzo


But there were three Italians who were sick of hearing the Spanish national anthem


Valentino Rossi and the Ducatis of Dovizioso and Iannone on the podium? Italy was closed on Monday.


The old man showed that age is truly irrelevant


Even at Qatar, with an attendance of 8,000, a Rossi victory is enough to fill pit lane with fans


This could have been lap 1 or lap 15: the Moto3 race was a barnstormer from start to finish


Not many people had Jonas Folger to win Moto2. But a mixture of luck and talent got him his first win


Best helmet on the grid: Danilo Petrucci


Ducati gives you wings. Where have I heard that before?


Honda gave it both barrels in Moto3


Just because...

 


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

Dani Pedrosa Suffering Intractable Arm Pump Problems, Facing Uncertain Future

Dani Pedrosa is to seek urgent treatment for a severe arm pump problem. After the race at Qatar, in which Pedrosa could manage just a sixth place, the Spaniard revealed that he has been suffering with severe arm pump for the past year, which has badly affected his results. Pedrosa spoke to a lot of specialists over the winter, all of whom suggested avoiding surgery, as the Spaniard has already had surgery to try to fix the problem last year, which has not proved successful.

The less aggressive treatment he tried over the winter has failed to solve the problems, which arose immediately during the very first race. Pedrosa will now try to find another solution to this problem, and will seek further medical advice on treatment. His main priority, he told the media, was to fix the problem with arm pump, before trying to race again.

Though Pedrosa did not give a straight answer, his immediate future is not clear. Whether he will race at Austin is uncertain, and whether he could miss more than one race is equally unknown. It seems likely, given Pedrosa's history with the problem, that he could miss part of the season. If he does miss any races, it is unknown at this time who Honda might select to take his place. The most likely candidate will be either HRC's official test rider, Hiroshi Aoyama, or someone from a satellite or Open Honda team. Aoyama is the most likely candidate, as he raced until the end of last year. Although Casey Stoner is officially a HRC test rider, he has made it amply clear that he has no desire to race in MotoGP.

In the post-race press release, Pedrosa was quoted as saying the following:

"Tonight’s race didn’t go to plan and unfortunately, I had serious problems with my right forearm which isn’t good news for me. I worked very hard over the winter in order to find a solution, because I was suffering in every race last season. Every doctor recommended that I not undergo another operation and I have tried to look for alternatives, but by the looks of things nothing is working positively for it. Now I have to assess my options and see what I can do. It is probably the most difficult moment of my career. I will do my best to find a solution but in this moment it is difficult to imagine what it could be."

Scott Jones In The Desert: Friday Photos From Qatar


Pol Espargaró beat brother Aleix last year. That may not be so easy in 2015


Can this bike...


... stop this man? So far it has been advantage Márquez


The fuel tank under the seat of the GP15. Lower and a little further forward than the GP14


Fuel in the same place on the Suzuki, but their electronics are in the tail


The white knight under the lights


The Maniac and his posse roll into the desert


Yonny Hernandez gets last minute instructions before he leaves the pits


Jorge Lorenzo assumes the position


The tail of Honda's Moto3 machine, without the massive silencers at the rear


The trouble with being a tall rider. Scott Redding has a large tank spacer to keep him from sliding forward


To allow him to get his position right on the bike


Still looking ahead


Bradley Smith had a tire that didn't work for him on Friday


The Aprilia RS-GP is beautiful in its simplicity. Now it just needs to be fast.


The engineering on the RC213V-RS is just as beautiful as on the RC213V


The dark horse of 2015. You get the feeling Dani Pedrosa is faster than he is letting on.


The Ducati winglets are back. Will they last?


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

Scott Jones In The Desert: Thursday Photos From Qatar


Suzuki came back to MotoGP, and they came prepared


The world's most expensive snowglobe: the onboard gyroscopic rotating camera


All's fair in love and motorcycle racing. Especially espionage


Where his rivals are


Aspar, sponsored by Aspar. The loss of Drive as sponsor has at least improved the look of the bike


By the end of 2015, all of the Moto2 riders will be clamouring for a Speed Up


A man reborn. 10kg lighter, and more motivated than ever, Danilo Petrucci is proving his mettle at Pramac


Loris Baz, or what a normal-sized European looks like on a MotoGP machine


Still hungry, after all these years


There is a lot of work ahead for Aprilia


Fabio Quartararo: get his signature soon, it will be worth a lot of money very soon


Pipe in a pipe. Clearly Ducati are under the minimum weight with the GP15, as they can afford aesthetic flourishes to the exhaust


The champ. Nice to see Tito Rabat rocking the #1 plate


Third bike in three years. So far, so good


KTM want the Moto3 title back. Miguel Oliveira could be the man to do it


Let there be light. And let there be motorcycle racing too, while you're at it.


Is that what chatter looks like?


Yonny Hernandez, getting the bike turned


If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of Scott's fantastic photos, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. If you'd like a print of one of the shots you see on the site, then send Scott an email and he'll be happy to help.

Casey Stoner To Race Suzuka 8 Hour Race Alongside Van Der Mark And Takahashi

Casey Stoner is make a brief return to motorcycle racing. The Australian is to compete in the Suzuka 8 Hour race as part of Honda's factory MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO team, racing alongside Pata Honda WSBK rider Michael van der Mark, and Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi.

The first inklings that Stoner might try his hand at another form of motorcycle racing came when Stoner tested the Honda CBR1000RR bike HRC is preparing for Suzuka. He rode the bike while testing Honda's RC213V MotoGP bike, in his capacity as official test rider for HRC. In a press release afterwards, he was very positive about the experience, saying, "in general it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being able to feel the rear of the bike step out!".

In early March, in a blog on the website of Italian broadcaster Sportmediaset, Italian journalist Max Temporali claimed that Stoner was preparing to enter the Suzuka 8 hour race. Three weeks later, Temporali has been proved right.

Having Stoner race in the Suzuka 8 Hour once again raises the profile of this classic meeting. The race has always been very important to the Japanese factories, who in the past sent their top factory GP riders to compete. Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Colin Edwards, Dajiro Katoh, Tohru Ukawa and Valentino Rossi have all competed in the event. The problem with the race is that it falls in the middle of the season, as it is traditionally held in July. As the importance of the MotoGP championship has increased, the factories have been loath to risk their top riders getting injured at the race, and potentially damage their championship chances. As the World Superbike series has a longer summer break, WSBK riders such as Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Carlos Checa, and Michael van der Mark have all competed there in recent years.

In a press release issued by Honda, Stoner says that this was one factor which had prevented him from racing at the event in the past. "It's always been an event I wanted to do and something I was never able to consider when I was racing in MotoGP, due to our busy schedules." Now freed of any racing commitments, he has the opportunity to compete in the event. Stoner's participation will draw a lot of media attention to the race, and with the Australian riding with last year's winners Takahashi and Van der Mark, HRC will be hoping to win this race.

Stoner's decision to race at Suzuka does not presage a return to MotoGP. His comments in the press release mark this out as a bucket list item he is now able to tick off. Though now independently wealthy from his MotoGP career, appearances such as this, and his attempt to break the lap record at Eastern Creek in Australia during the Top Gear Festival weekend, supplement his income from the money he earned while racing. Stoner made it explicitly clear he had no intention of returning to MotoGP in a long interview with Adam Wheeler of On Track Off Road magazine.

The press release from Honda appears below:


Casey Stoner returns to racing in 2015 Suzuka 8hr

Honda Racing Corporation are pleased to announce Casey Stoner’s return to competition racing. The two-time MotoGP Champion (2007 and 2011) will form part of Honda’s MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO three person team at this year’s Suzuka 8hr race, taking place on Sunday 26th July.

Casey, together with Honda’s World Superbike rider Michael van der Mark and MFJ All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship and HRC test rider Takumi Takahashi, will be looking to clinch Honda’s sixth consecutive win in the prestigious endurance event which runs for eight hours consecutively where entrants (composed of two or more riders) alternate during pit stops.

Having recently renewed his testing contract with HRC, Casey tested the Suzuka CBR1000RR machine during January’s Sepang test, reporting positively on the machine to Honda engineers.

Casey will have further opportunities to test the Honda machine on the 7th/8th and 14th/15th July.

Casey Stoner:

“After riding the bike in Sepang a few months ago, I’ve been speaking closely with Honda about the possibility to take part in Suzuka. It’s always been an event I wanted to do and something I was never able to consider when I was racing in MotoGP, due to our busy schedules, so I’m really looking forward to taking part! The bike is very different to a MotoGP machine, but it will be a new challenge and a chance for me to try something new and unlike what I’ve been used to in my racing to this point. I’ve been impressed with Michael van der Mark this season and Takumi Takahashi has a lot of experience on this machine, so I’m looking forward to hearing their comments and working together with them in preparation for the July race. Now I need to concentrate on my training to be ready for the race!”

Shuhei Nakamoto – HRC Executive Vice President:

“We are very happy that Casey agreed to take part in the 8hr with Honda. It will be great to see him back on a bike in a racing environment and I’m sure he will enjoy it. Together with van der Mark and Takahashi they form a strong team to compete in this endurance race – I’m excited to see how they will do.”

Shigeki Honda – Team Principal MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO:

“This year, MuSASHi Racing Team HARC-PRO is aiming to win the Suzuka 8hr for the third consecutive year. In addition to our riders, Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi, who together have celebrated the past two victories , we are very happy to invite the legendary Casey Stoner to join our team. Casey has an enjoyed an incredible career and achieved a huge amount of success. We believe that with his fantastic experience, coupled with our team’s know how after many years of involvement at this event, we can make our dreams come true.”

Michael van der Mark:

“The Suzuka 8 Hour race is such a special event for all the fans and the Japanese people and not many riders get the chance to take part, even though many would like to. I also know what an important event it is for Honda so it’s a greathonorfor me to be asked to race the CBR1000RR once more, and this time with Casey as our teammate! The testing and race schedule is quite tough to combine with the World Superbike Championship but I really enjoy riding at Suzuka so I’m very happy to make time for it. The bike is very different to my World Superbike CBR but it’s easy to ride so it’s not big problem to change. I’ve had two fantastic years with a great team and it would be really nice and something quite special to get a hat-trick of wins.”

Takumi Takahashi:

“The Suzuka 8hr this year means a lot to me and my team since our goal is to win for a third consecutive year, and I’m even more excited to take part together with Casey. Nonetheless, we know our rivals are all set to beat us, so I know it will not be easy to accomplish this goal. I will try to get the best out of the remaining few tests so that we will be able to run the 8hr race as fast as possible without any mistakes. We guarantee to demonstrate our extreme professionalism and excitement to those who will come to Suzuka to support us!”

Aspar Team Loses Drive Energy Drink Sponsorship On Day Before Season Opener

It has been a tough day for sponsorship news in the MotoGP paddock. After news earlier of LCR Honda's title sponsor CWM being subject of a fraud investigation, the Aspar Honda team have lost their title sponsor, Drive M7. The Malaysian energy drink firm have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team on the day before the 2015 season was due to start.

According to German language publication Speedweek, the Drive M7 management told team owner Jorge Martinez about the decision on Tuesday night. The decision was a surprise, as it had been expected that the deal would continue in 2015, with both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty riding in Drive M7 testing colors during preseason testing.

No reasons for the withdrawal have been given, but the checkered history of energy drinks suggest that the smaller brands find it hard to justify the major investment which investment in top-level racing requires. The Gresini Honda team suffered a similar fate last year, when sponsor Go&Fun failed to pay sponsorship owed and withdrew in the middle of the season. There is a long list of brands which have come and go, including Dark Dog, Grizzly, Power Horse, and Troy Corser's personal sponsor, Pussy. 

Drive M7's withdrawal could pose a larger problem for Aspar than the issues facing the LCR team. Though the cost of leasing the Open class Honda RC213V-RS is lower than the factory RC213V, LCR is believed to have taken a large part of its sponsorship as a down payment, ensuring that the team still has funds. Aspar now faces the loss of a major part of their budget. Jorge Martinez has very strong connections to the business community in Valencia, but with several investigations ongoing into corruption related to the F1 race at Valencia, including into former business associates of Martinez, those potential sources of sponsorship are drying up.

LCR Honda Sponsor CWMFX Subject Of Fraud Enquiry By London Police

LCR Honda's title sponsor, foreign exchange trading firm CWMFX, is the subject of a police investigation by the City of London police and Financial Conduct Authority, the UK body charged with regulating the financial services industry. Police raided the firm on 3rd March this year, arresting thirteen people for a range of fraud charges. Since last night, the CWMFX website has been offline, with only a contact form on the site.

The arrests come as part of a wider investigation into an offshore Ponzi scheme allegedly being run by Belvedere Management Limited. Research by independent financial advisors deVere Group, as well as the investigative financial services publisher OffshoreAlert revealed that $16 billion of investor funds was involved in the Belvedere scheme, which was based in Mauritius. Major investors such as hedge funds, life insurance, investment management and much more had started withdrawing their investments from the firm, bringing Belvedere to the brink of bankruptcy. CWM is believed have $130 million of investor's fund committed to one of the Ponzi schemes allegedly operated by Belvedere, and run out of the Cayman Islands. It is this involvement which has caused the City of London police to make the arrests and charge CWM staff with various fraud offences.

CWMFX acknowledged the arrests to London newspaper City A.M. last night, but said the arrests came as "a result of allegations for which we believe there is no sustainable basis". The loss of the CWMFX website was due to the partnership with trading platform Leverate ending, CWM said. The company claims that this partnership came to an end due to contracts expiring. Leverate is a Forex trading platform based in Cyprus, and therefore falling under Cypriot law, and subject to compliance and oversight by the Cypriot financial services authority.

This is not the first brush with the Financial Conduct Authority which CWMFX boss Anthony Constantinou has had. Constantinou was previously CEO of Aixia Limited, a financial services firm which was wound up after the FCA issued a warning that it was trading without authorization in the UK.

Whether the arrests at CWM affect the LCR Honda team's 2015 MotoGP project remains to be seen. MotoMatters.com has learned that both Honda and LCR studied the company closely before signing the sponsorship deal with the firm. It is customary in such cases to ensure that funding for the deal is secure before the start of the season, with payments made in advance, or at least spread over the season. Even if there were to be some kind of shortfall in sponsorship from CWM, the team should be able to manage for the rest of the year. The LCR Honda team still has a strong portfolio of secondary sponsors behind it, and with Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller, two high-profile riders. Crutchlow is popular with British and American fans, and Jack Miller has a rapidly growing fanbase in Australia. Both riders are key assets for Dorna in helping to sell TV rights, and Miller has a three-year contract with HRC.

MotoGP was not the only sponsorship interest the firm had. CWMFX had been announced as a partner to English soccer club Chelsea FC in January, and also sponsored the London Boat Show earlier this year.

 

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