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Andrew Gosling Shoots The WorldSBK Test


"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."


Throne


Josh Brookes is on a mission to prove a point, on a privately funded Yamaha YZF-R1M


Warning from the Surgeon General...


Lorenzo Savadori is looking a good deal more dangerous this year after switching to the SMR Milwaukee team


Stefan Bradl on a Red Bull Honda. Still a lot of work to do for the boys at Ten Kate


The real energy drink


The biggest obstacle between Jonathan Rea and a third WSBK title. Insurmountable?


Time to relax with a quick Sodoku before the next session


High hopes for Alex Lowes in 2017


The business end of an MV


Tuning forks


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Kenan Sofuoglu To Miss First Two Rounds Of 2017 World Supersport Season

Kenan Sofuoglu's World Supersport title defense is off to a rough start. The Kawasaki rider has been forced to withdraw from the first two rounds of the 2017 season to have surgery to fix a hand injury he suffered in a training crash. 

Sofuoglu injured his right hand in a fall riding a Supermoto bike, dislocating his thumb, breaking bones and damaging tendons. After surgery to try to pin the broken bones, Sofuoglu attempted to test at Phillip Island, with a view to making it through the first round of the series. The pain proved to be unbearable, however, the Turkish rider only managing a couple of laps before having to return to the pits.

Sofuoglu will now return home to have surgery on his hand, to reattach the damaged tendons. The reigning champion will return to action at the third round of the season at the Motorland Aragon circuit at the end of March.

Sofuoglu's absence will offer a golden opportunity to other riders to seize control of the championship. At Kawasaki, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Sofuoglu's teammate, Kyle Ryde. Former runner up Jules Cluzel will see his opportunity, racing a Honda this year, while PJ Jacobsen, the fastest man on Tuesday, will also see a chance. Lucas Mahias, Gino Rea, and Niki Tuuli are also hotly fancied.

Below is the press release from Kawasaki announcing Sofuoglu's withdrawal


Sofuoglu Out Of First Two Rounds As Ryde Continues Progress

Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and his new team-mate Kyle Ryde have just completed their final pre-season test sessions, at the host venue of the 2017 championship opener, Phillip Island. After struggling with the effects of a recently dislocated right thumb Sofuoglu has acted on medical advice and will not now compete at the Phillip Island race, or the subsequent round in Thailand.

Despite a recent right thumb and hand injury that has required two surgical procedures to try to fix, the most recent only taking place a few days ago, Sofuoglu rode bravely in testing at Phillip Island. He could only do so for a lap or two at a time before he was forced to stop as a consequence of his injury.

Kenan has ultimately decided to miss the first two rounds to have surgery to reattach severed tendons and come back fully fit. The Turkish rider intends to return to race action at the first round in Europe, in early April, at Motorland Aragon.

Kyle Ryde, who is not a novice to the class but is still at the start of his WorldSSP career compared to Kenan, pushed his way up to 13th from the 26 riders at the tests.

Sofuoglu, despite the pain and lack of strength in his right hand, had posted a lap that was seventh best overall. He was the fastest Kawasaki rider at the final official tests of the 2017 pre-season.

After the first race of the year, to be held on Sunday 26th February at Phillip Island, the WorldSSP championship will decamp to Thailand, and the Chang International Circuit near the city of Buriram.

Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “We made a decision that I am going back home and not racing at the first two rounds. Over these two days of testing I tried my best to be on the bike but, honestly, I can do one or two laps but after that the pain makes it impossible to ride. The problem is my right thumb, which is dislocated. It keeps moving and touching my other bones. We think the best way is to stop trying to race now, get surgery and to be ready for Motorland Aragon. I have spoken to a few doctors and all of them say to stop now and have a ligament operation to hopefully ready to race in Spain. We hope for this outcome but it is not sure. I am very disappointed that I cannot race here.”

Kyle Ryde, stated: “The final tests were a case of getting there step-by-step. I am a bit frustrated because I know I can be faster but I think the current set-up on the bike is holding me back. We are still working out what to do to improve it. We do not want to make big changes but the smaller ones we are making now are not enough yet. I enjoyed riding today but wanted to go faster in the afternoon. I am sure by Friday we will be able to make a big step. So far I have been riding around on my own but when I get in with some faster competition I am sure this will give me a boost.”

Gino Rea (Team GOELEVEN Kawasaki) placed 11th, Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) 12th - just ahead of Kyle Ryde.

Kazuki Watanabe (Team GOELEVEN Kawasaki) ended up 17th, Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI) 18th and Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) 19th. Local rider and full-time WorldSSP runner Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing Kawasaki) was 21st in testing, less than two seconds from the fastest rider.

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Andrew Gosling's Phillip Island Test Photos Part 2


The mystery box. Now Danilo Petrucci has one


Watch out. Marquez is ready


Marquez better watch out. Viñales is ready too


A quick peek inside Suzuki's aerodynamic ducts


Johann Zarco has impressed down under


Redding. Loves life


Jack Miller at home. In several sense of the word


The dark horse emerging from testing. Alvaro Bautista


Now that's what I call braking


And that's how you keep the brakes warm enough to brake that hard


Alex Rins hadn't looked good after Valencia. His prospects have turned around completely at Phillip Island


The Brains Trust: Crew chief Silvano Galbusera, data engineer Matteo Flamigni, and some old Italian guy


Go time


Corner speed is still an issue for the Ducati. But not that much of an issue, obviously


Jonas Folger, making Hervé Poncharal look like a genius


The rough and tumble of a factory rider, visible in Pol Espargaro's leathers

 


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

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The Winglet Loophole: Ban Allows Unlimited Development Of Internal Wings

Winglets may have been banned for 2017, but the drive for aerodynamics development continues. This time, however, winglet development will continue on the inside of the fairing, rather than the outside. The development ban applies solely to the exterior surface of the fairing, and not the interior. 

What this means in practice is that while the shape of the fairing must be homologated at Qatar, with one update allowed during the season, that only applies to the outer surface of the ducts, and not to the vanes (the small struts or winglets inside the ducts which control the airflow and can be used to alter downforce) inside those ducts. Development of aerodynamic control surfaces will still be allowed, as long as the changes remain on the inside of the fairing.

An eagle-eyed MotoMatters.com reader spotted the gap in the regulations. Section 2.4.4.7.10 of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations reads as follows:

Only the external shape, excluding the windscreen, is defined in this regulation, so the following parts are not considered as part of the Aero Body: windscreen, cooling ducts, fairing supports, and any other parts inside the external profile of the bodywork.

When reached for comment by email, MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge responded "You are correct in the fact that I only control the external shape/profile of the fairing. Meaning, Yamaha can in theory change or adjust their inner supports as often as they wish. When the regulations were being discussed with the MSMA, this was one of the criteria that they requested in the wording of the regulations."

The shape of Yamaha's new fairing helped to give the game away. As you can see in the photo by Andrew Gosling below, Yamaha's fairing consists of an outer duct fitted to the exterior of the fairing, with two supports or vanes on the inside. Yamaha can alter the position, size, and shape of those supports to suit the characteristics of each different track, or as they learn more about the performance of their ducted vane fairing.

On Thursday, Suzuki and Aprilia also rolled out their new aerodynamic fairings. Both took a different approach to creating downforce and aerodynamic surfaces to Yamaha, as you can see in the photos shared on Twitter by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast regular Steve English.

The solution selected by Suzuki most closely resembles the Yamaha design, though its placement is very different. Where Yamaha chose to put its duct on the upper part of the mid fairing, Suzuki have added it on the side of the nose. Clearly visible in English' excellent picture is the central strut or vane which will provide downforce. Suzuki are free to modify this vane as much as they like.

Aprilia's solution is very different, consisting of an open aerodynamic duct either side of the nose. Downforce in this design is generated by the shape of the inner channel, and the shape of the outer duct. There does not seem to be as much room for internal modification of the duct as on the Suzuki or Yamaha. 

Aprilia's design may also spark debate over what constitutes the outer surface of the fairing. The wording of the rules is ambiguous, though an initial reading of the rules suggests that the inner surface fo the duct is not considered to be a part of the "external profile" of the fairing.

The wording of the new regulations also makes clear that the ban on winglets was only introduced on the grounds of safety. And in a sense, the rule makers were bound by this, as the Grand Prix Commission only has the right to ban a technology on safety grounds, if the manufacturers in the MSMA want to allow it.

By having enclosed, smooth surfaces on the outside of the new aerodynamic fairings, the manufacturers are complying with the rules on safety grounds, while continuing their development of aerodynamic fairings and exploring the effect of downforce on motorcycle dynamics. Though many senior officials inside Dorna feared the cost explosion which will likely ensue from allowing aerodynamics, the genie is out of the bottle, and they have no grounds to ban it.

With Yamaha, Aprilia and Suzuki having unveiled their aerodynamic solutions, we now await what Ducati, Honda and KTM will do. Ducati have already hinted that they are keeping their aerodynamics under wraps until Qatar - either the test, or a private test before the race. Honda remain evasive, but are likely to also have some form of aerodynamic assistance before the start of the season. Only KTM have shown no interesting in developing aerodynamics so far. But as this is their first year in MotoGP, the Austrian factory already have a massive list of areas they need to work in.

The good news for riders of road motorcycles is that the designs being tested in MotoGP are far more likely to make it onto road bikes than the previous generations of winglets. Getting type approval for motorcycle fairings with internal aerodynamic devices is far easier than for fairings with external wings attached. How quickly this technology actually trickles down to street bikes remains to be seen.

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Andrew Gosling's Phillip Island Test Photos, Day 1


He may be old, but he's still plenty fast


99 problems


A novel way of keeping the bike narrow. External clutches


Marc Marquez is impressively consistent at Phillip Island


Bradley Smith is having to completely relearn riding a MotoGP bike. The KTM is the very opposite of the Yamaha


Michele Pirro: not just a test rider, now Jorge Lorenzo's track analyst


Impressive once again from Viñales


Lukey Heights: stunning at any time of year


Andrea Iannone has taken to the Suzuki like a fish to water


Trying. Always trying.


Test start time


That's plain rude, Jack Miller!


Aleix Espargaro plays peekaboo


Tough day for Sam Lowes. This was one crash


Sliding along the tarmac


Then hitting the grass and sliding


Looks fine on one side...


Not so much on the other


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

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Jerez To Be Confirmed For October Round Of WorldSBK

The 2017 WorldSBK calendar is close to being finalized. When it was announced at the combined WorldSBK/MotoGP test in November of last year, the calendar featured thirteen rounds of racing, only twelve of which had been confirmed. The missing round, many present at the test felt, was a Jerez-shaped hole waiting to be filled. Now, MotoMatters.com has learned, the penultimate round of World Superbikes will indeed take place at Jerez.

The big issue for Jerez was whether the round would be financially viable. The circuit has struggled financially numerous times in the past, and with uncertainty over future funding, they were unwilling to commit to hosting a WorldSBK round in November last year.

The circuit has a long history of financial problems, dating back to the turn of the century and beyond. Disputes over unpaid debts to contractors over circuit improvements left the track on the verge of bankruptcy. The Jerez circuit has relied on funding from the city council and autonomous community of Andalusia to be able to host MotoGP and WorldSBK.

Back in November circuit officials stressed that while hosting WorldSBK was a priority for them, it was a commitment that they would only undertake when it was 100% viable. Last year saw an increase in ticket sales and the largest Sunday crowd since the track rejoined WorldSBK in 2013, crowd numbers up by 5% over 2015 over the entire weekend.

While no official announcement has yet been made, circuit officials did confirm to MotoMatters.com that "Jerez will once again be host to WorldSBK in 2017. Regarding dates this is something to be announced by the FIM and Dorna."

The original dates penciled in on the calendar were 13th-15th October. While nothing has been officially confirmed, MotoMatters.com has learned that those dates are likely to be pushed back a week to 20th-22nd October, creating a two-week gap between Jerez and the final round of the season in Qatar. This would also avoid a clash with the final round of the British Superbike championship.

With Jerez now close to confirming dates, the FIM and Dorna are likely to issue a full and official WorldSBK calendar soon.

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How Michelin's Tire Identification System Will Work

Identifying tires has always been something of a dark art. Ever since MotoGP went to a single tire supplier, identifying which tire a particular rider is on and when has become ever more important. Fast laps mean a lot less when a rider sets them on soft rubber.

So far, identification has been done visually, by colored stripes painted on the sidewall of the tire. That worked fine when Bridgestone was still tire supplier as the colors they used - red, white, plain, and green - based on their corporate colors were easy to spot, and applied in a big thick stripe. It got more difficult with Michelin, as their corporate colors - blue, white, and yellow -  are more difficult to spot from the side of the track. Journalists and fans were mostly reliant on the eagle eye of Dylan Gray, pitlane reporter for MotoGP.com, to spot who was going out on what and when.

Identification is to become a lot easier in 2017, with the introduction of an automatic identification system. At the Sepang test, Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert explained how the system will work. As part of their job as official tire supplier, Micheiin already maintain a list of which tires have been allocated to each rider. Since last season, each wheel rim is also fitted with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which communicates electronically with the ECU to log tire pressures, and ensure that they are never too low. 

From 2017, when each Michelin fitter fits a tire to a wheel rim, they will note both the barcode of the tire, and the ID of the TPMS of the wheel they fitted the tire to. That information will then be passed back to Dorna and race control. 

When a rider exits the pits and crosses a timing loop for the first time, the ID of the TPMS will be sent back to race control (and Dorna) by the ECU via the transponder. When race control and Dorna receive the ID of the TPMS, they can look up which tire is fitted to the wheel using that TPMS, and display that information on TV for users.

The system has just one minor drawback. The information is only passed to race control after riders exit the pits and cross one of the timing loops. As each track has between 12 and 20 timing loops fitted, the delay between exiting the pits and the tire information being displayed will only be brief. 

Michelin had initially looked into a system using RFID gates at the exit of pit lane, but Dorna had rejected that on the grounds of safety, Goubert told us. Having physical gates partially obscuring pit lane exit were a potential cause of injury. That persuaded Michelin to devise this alternative system, which is much safer.

Test were run at Sepang, with a few teams trialing it successfully. Not all of the teams were ready to try it, as it required some code to be added to spec ECU to pass the information through to the transponder. But Goubert was hopeful the system will be up and running at the first race in Qatar.

The one question many race fans and teams will have is whether each riders tire choice will appear on the results sheets. Currently, that information is not published, but it should be a simple addition to the program used to generate the results to add it in.

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Chaz Davies And Marco Melandri On The Jerez WorldSBK Test

Far from sitting on their laurels after winning seven of the last eight WorldSBK races of 2016 Ducati came out of the blocks swinging at Jerez with a busy testing program. Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri had a host of upgraded parts in the Spanish sun.

Davies spent the majority of his time working on chassis development with Melandri focusing on the engine. Afterwards the Welshman gave a revealing insight into the makeup of the mindset of one of the world's top racers.

"It's easy to say that testing is fine tuning but it really isn't fine tuning," said the Welshman. "We want to take steps forward with the bike and don't want half a tenth; we want to find tenths of a second. You won't get those tenths by changing a little bit of this and a bit of that and thinking that we won seven of the last eight races. We need to take steps forward because our biggest competitor has come out with a new bike and it's up to us to react and step up to the challenge."

Having Melandri, a former 250GP champion and MotoGP race winner, on the other side of the pit box will undoubtedly help Ducati to step up to that challenge. The 19-time WorldSBK race winner has looked to be in a very positive mindset since returning to the class and ended the test marginally faster than Davies overall.

"It’s been a really positive test," commented the Italian. "The team is doing a great job and everyday I feel more comfortable on the bike. We still struggle a bit on fresh tires, also because with the cold climate it’s more difficult to warm them up, but we’re heading in the right direction. I would have liked to do a race simulation, but we’ll wait until Portimão because I had some blisters in my hands after such a long break. Physically [after my surgery] I feel fine though."

Having completed 132 laps over the two days Davies said that he worked through a comprehensive program trying to find those big steps forward. With the work being undertaken he was clearly not as concerned about the overall lap time as he was in finding out what worked and what didn't work on the Panigale R.

"In testing when you get a part you put it into the bike and you find out how it feels," explained Davies. "You put laps on the part and then try a few things with it but it's time consuming and by the time you've done that you need to move on to the next part. We've a list as long as my arm to focus on and you end up moving quite far away from what would be the base bike. There's no disasters and it's just testing of these parts rather than [when we're racing where we] put together a package that cherry picks all the best parts.

"Having Marco does lessen the load and it helps. There's a lot of stuff to test and it's time consuming to get through it all. You think that you have all day to get through the workload and that eight hours will be enough but the time goes like that. We split the work today and Marco tried some new engine parts and I tried some chassis parts. If something is way off for us it won't get tested again but in Portimão we'll cross over to each other what we both liked here."

With four days of testing remaining before the start of the 2017 WorldSBK season in Phillip Island the Ducati team will continue trying to find their best overall package. The team has yet to tip their hand and show their true raw speed, as shown by Melandri setting the fourth fastest time and Davies the fifth fastest, but with the relaxed nature of the garage throughout the test it was clear that there is a quiet confidence of maintaining their 2016 form.


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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Alex Lowes And Michael van der Mark On The Jerez WorldSBK Test

After their return to WorldSBK in 2016 Yamaha did not shy away from admitting that there is plenty of work to be done to turn the YZF-R1 into a front runner. That work was certainly being undertaken at this week's Jerez test with Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes the busiest riders on track over the two days.

The pair completed a total of 283 laps of the Spanish circuit and with a host of new parts on the bikes it's clear that the bike should be more competitive in 2017. Lowes trialled a new underslung swing arm and while the Englishman commented that it didn't offer an immediate lap time improvement it did offer greater consistency over a race distance. For Van der Mark the improvements came with setup changes that improved his feeling on turn in.

"The bike is very new for this year," said team boss Paul Denning. "At the moment the engine is basically the only carry over from 2016 but it's due an upgrade as well. There is a lot of new stuff with the rest of the bike. The durability of the package has been good and we were able to see that the bike is easy to work on and maintain and while that's not very interesting for headlines it makes a big difference in WorldSBK with the one bike rule."

Lowes ended the two day test fifth fastest after a busy second day saw him complete 83 laps and a race simulation.

"We've tried a lot of stuff in this test," said Lowes. "I did a race simulation in the afternoon it was really good. I did every lap in the 41's which isn't as quick as the Kawasaki or Ducati but it's a good pace to have. Where we are with the bike it was a good run and I'm quite happy. There's a couple of things in terms of the balance of the bike, with the new swing arm, that we may be able to learn from to get the benefits of it from another way.

"There are positive and negatives to both swing arms. Over a race distance I think that the new one is better and more consistent...over a single lap with a brand new tire it's harder to find that difference. The older swing arm was a bit more flexible and you could push really hard with it, we had some good qualifying performances last year, but our race and consistency was what we wanted to improve."

Denning also commented on Lowe's race simulation.

"Alex did more laps than anyone on the second day and even though he was interrupted on his race simulation after a couple of laps he did 22 laps in the 1m41's. We didn't use the qualifier and were still able to set some competitive times. There's a long way for us to go to run at the front but it was a positive start to the year."

For Van der Mark the test is another step in his learning curve of how to get the most from the Yamaha. At the November tests he was given his first sampling of the Yamaha and immediately commented to feeling at ease with the bike. Having ridden the Honda for the last two years the differences are stark but this week he felt that he had made another step forward.

"This test has been easier for me and I feel much more at home on the bike compared to when I rode it in November," said the Dutchman. "There's a lot of things for us to do but I felt happier in this test, I thought that Ifelt happy in November, but when I got back onto the bike this week I felt a big difference. We have improved the turning this week and we made a big change on the second day and even though it felt good on Tuesday it felt even better on the second day. I didn't know that I needed us to make that step because everything is new but at the end I'm quite happy with the work that we have done."

There are still improvements to be made with Van der Mark commenting that drive grip needs to be found because, "when we pick up the bike, we are spinning sideways rather than driving forwards. This is the one area that we are missing with this bike at the moment."

While top end power was an issue for most of 2016 an upgraded exhaust made a clear difference in Qatar, allowing Sylvain Guintoli to finish on the rostrum. A new fairing also offered some improvement at this test with Lowes saying, "If you look at the speed traps here it looks quite good, the new fairing meant that I felt a lot less wind on the bike now."

The 26 year old did pinpoint a couple of areas that he will focus on finding improvement at the Portimao test.

"I'd like a bit more confidence as I pick up the gas and over a race when the front tire grip goes I'd like to find a better feeling on corner entry. It's quite simple really and they're the two main things that I want us to try and work on. We'll try and work on everything with the bike obviously but if I can find, say 5%, more feeling in those areas I'd be quite happy going to Phillip Island."


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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