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Racing season is now truly upon us. MotoGP kicked off ten days ago at Qatar, last weekend the British Superbike championship had their first race of the year at Donington Park, and this weekend sees a bumper crop of racing. MotoGP is at Austin, where MotoAmerica also kicks off its inaugural season since taking over the AMA series from the DMG. World Superbikes heads to the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain, where they are joined by the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 classes. It is going to be a busy weekend.
Despite the bustle of action, the amount of real news emerging has been limited. Teams and riders are too busy racing, absorbing the lessons of the first races while preparing for the next races, to be plotting and scheming beyond that. Here's a rundown of things you might have missed this weekend anyway.
And you thought the Stoner return was a surprise...
The Suzuka 8 Hour race is growing in stature. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment at which this happened, but it seems fair to guess that Kevin Schwantz' participation in the 2013 race. While Honda had always supported the endurance racing classic by sending their top World Superbike riders, the days of Grand Prix riders competing at the event had long passed. Schwantz returning to racing at the event seems to have kickstarted interest in series once again, with some big names coming forward.
Casey Stoner's participation in the event had already been announced, the Australian flagging the event as a race he had always wanted to do, but his busy MotoGP schedule prevented him from doing it. That announcement kicked off a huge buzz around the event, but now it could get a second, possibly even bigger boost. According to ace Spanish reporter Manuel Pecino, writing for Sportrider Magazine, Yamaha is pressuring Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to race in the event.
Yamaha's participation is part of a bigger marketing push for the Japanese factory. According to Pecino, this is Yamaha's 60th anniversary, and the factory wants to celebrate it with a win at the biggest motorcycle racing event in Japan. A win would also boost the profile of Yamaha's brand new YZF-R1, launched this year to replace the old model, as a radically revised and updated version. Originally, Yamaha management asked both their factory MotoGP riders to participate in the event, but both men declined. However, when Casey Stoner announced he would be riding there for Honda, Yamaha have upped the pressure on the Movistar Yamaha pairing, trying to get them to race. No doubt they will face a barrage of questions about the situation this weekend.
The new-fangled R1
Winning the Suzuka 8 hour race will of course depend on how competitive the Yamaha R1 can be. Last weekend, we got the first glance of it competing in a high-profile national series, with the Milwaukee Yamaha squad putting the bike through its paces at the BSB season opener. Josh Brookes had a solid first outing on the bike, finishing in 6th and 3rd in the first double header of the season. The bike is handicapped to some extent by having to use the spec Motec electronics mandated in BSB, rather than the MotoGP-derived kit fitted as standard.
This weekend could provide a better measure of the R1. The bike will be raced at both Austin, in the MotoAmerica Superbike class, and in Aragon, where it will make its debut in the Superstock 1000 class. Both series allow the use of the standard ECU, which on the 2015 model R1 is extremely advanced. Of course, with Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier aboard the bike, the strength of the riders may outshine the actual bike. But the Superstock 1000 races in Aragon may give a slightly better look at the machine.
Whether the R1 is any good is still to be confirmed, but there is no doubting that the Kawasaki ZX-10R is a good standard bike. Shane Byrne leads the BSB series after the first round, having come 1st and 2nd in the two races, while James Ellison and Stuart Easton also took the honors on the bike, Ellison winning race 2 and Easton taking 3rd. Dan Linfoot put the Honda CBR1000RR on the podium in race 1, while Josh Brookes was 3rd in race 2.
2016 – Back to the future?
The basic rules for MotoGP for 2016 and beyond were laid down at Qatar, where the Grand Prix Commission met. Seven engines, 22 liters of fuel, and a minimum weight of 157kg were agreed upon, as well as a continuation of the concessions granted to manufacturers who have yet to score regular podiums or wins. A few minor questions still remain, especially surrounding tires, but some fans still remain confused about the plight of the current Open class teams.
In an interview with the leading Spanish sports newspaper AS ahead of the first race at Qatar, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta laid out his vision for the series. His idea, he said, is to have twelve factory bikes and twelve satellite bikes from 2017 onwards. With the switch to the spec software from 2016, the advantage offered by factory electronics should disappear, he said, creating a much more level playing field. The idea is to have each factory supplying two bikes to a factory team, and two bikes to a satellite team.
That would require Suzuki and Aprilia also supplying satellite teams. Suzuki has been extremely reluctant to supply a satellite team in the past, the last of the privateer Suzukis dying out in the mid-90s. Aprilia has been more willing in recent years, but have only supported teams at a very low level. And KTM's plans do not include a factory team at all: the whole concept of the KTM RC16 is to build a bike for sale to private teams, to compete at a reasonable cost. KTM have, as yet, shown now interest in competing as a factory squad, an understandable decision given the high cost of such a move.
Just how close to reality Ezpeleta's dream will come remains to be seen. However, MotoGP is currently in robust good health, with bikes available and costs no longer spiraling out of control. MotoGP is not cheap, and costs are still rising. But they are not rising as exponentially as they did previously.
Casey Stoner was a candidate to replace the injured Dani Pedrosa. The Australian had discussions with HRC about stepping in to take Pedrosa's place during his absence. In the end, it was decided that a return would not be possible at such short notice. It was decided that Hiroshi Aoyama would be a better choice of replacement in the circumstances.
Asked via email by MotoMatters.com whether Honda had had discussions with Stoner over replacing Pedrosa, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo confirmed that they had. "We spoke about the possibility for Casey to replace Dani," Suppo admitted. But Stoner would have faced major challenges replacing Pedrosa for the next two MotoGP rounds. The Australian has never raced at either Austin or Termas de Rio Hondo, the two tracks having been added to the MotoGP calendar after Stoner retired from MotoGP. He has also had only very limited testing, having spent three days on the factory Honda RC213V ahead of the first Sepang test, while the rest of the MotoGP grid has had eight days of full testing plus the first round of racing at Qatar.
Suppo cited the lack of preparation, and the undoubted weight of expectation from the fans as factors in the decision. "Overall, we believe that a comeback of Casey in MotoGP would be something to properly prepare, as the expectation would be huge," Suppo said. Fans would expect Stoner to be battling at the front straight away, ignoring the disadvantages he had from a lack of testing and racing. "We are sorry for the fans, who would have loved to see Casey back, but overall, we think this is the right choice," Suppo added.
The comparison with the return of Troy Bayliss is easily drawn. When the legendary Australian stepped in to replace the injured Davide Giugliano in the Ducati World Superbike team, fans were expecting him to immediately be on the podium and challenging for the win. The fact that Bayliss had been out of racing since 2009, and the Ducati Panigale R has not been a fully competitive package in recent years was conveniently ignored. Bayliss only once managed to finish inside the top ten, falling short of expectations, but still adored by the fans.
The news that Casey Stoner actively considered racing again in MotoGP can be seen at the very least as something of a surprise. Since retiring from full-time racing at the end of 2012, Stoner has made it very clear in interviews that he has no intention of making a return to the series. My own research, talking to friends of Stoner's, corroborated this. Nobody felt that Stoner had any desire whatsoever to race in MotoGP again. Both the politics and the excessive and increasing influence of electronics on the MotoGP bikes were factors which soured him to the sport. Testing seemed to fulfill his need for speed, and RC model car racing scratched his competitive itch.
Perhaps the news that Casey Stoner is to race at the Suzuka 8 Hour race in July, was a sign that the Australian is ready to make some small, limited return to motorcycle racing. At just 29 years of age, he is still young enough to start racing again, should he so desire. Given all that Stoner has said, the chances of the Australian making a full-time return to MotoGP seem extremely unlikely, if not impossible. But coming in as a substitute rider, or who knows, even a wildcard, now seems a very real possibility.
On a personal note, Stoner's return has clearly proven me wrong, and not for the first time. I have always believed that Stoner was done with MotoGP altogether. I remember the look of barely suppressed irritation whenever he had to speak to journalists like us, especially the ones who had written him off in the past, attributing his success on the Ducati to electronics, and casting aspersions at his absence due to lactose intolerance. I caught a glimpse of Stoner as he drove out of the paddock for the last time, on the Monday of the Valencia test in 2012, after he had said his goodbyes to his team. The look of relief was palpable. Perhaps, now that he has had time away from the paddock and from racing, the sport is a little easier for the Australian to bear.
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2016 MotoGP Rules Clarified: 7 Engines, 22 Liters, 157kg, Concession Points Performance Balancing Introduced
The Grand Prix Commission have filled in the last question marks over the 2016 MotoGP regulations. While the decision on the amount of fuel the bikes would be allowed to run had already been decided last year, the rules on a minimum weight, the number of engines to be used, and how and whether the concessions allowed to manufacturers without a win would be extended into 2016 and beyond. All of these questions were settled at Qatar.
The GPC meeting, where Dorma, the FIM, the manufacturers and the teams meet to agree a set of rules, confirmed that all bikes in MotoGP next year will use 22 liters of fuel. They also agreed that the minimum weight would be 157kg, and that each rider would be allowed a maximum of 7 engines to last the year. Both these measures were compromises: originally, there was a proposal to reduce the minimum to 156kg, but after a reduction to 158kg for this year, it was felt that may be too fast.
As for the number of engines, the Italian manufacturers found themselves pitted against the Japanese. Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha all wanted the number reduced to 6 engines per season, while Ducati and Aprilia lobbied for 9 engines. As the MSMA could not reach a unanimous conclusion, Dorna proposed a compromise, and the figure of 7 engines a season was accepted. Engine development will remain frozen, as before.
This does not apply to all of the manufacturers, however. Factories without a dry win between 2013 and 2015 will still be allowed to use 12 engines, as well as the other concessions currently granted to Ducati, Aprilia and Suzuki. Those factories will be free to test as often as they like with contracted riders, and engine development will still be allowed.
Manufacturers can lose concessions, however, and a more formal system of point scoring has been introduced. With 3 points for a win, 2 for second and 1 for third, any manufacturer racking up a total of 6 concession points will lose the right to unlimited testing with immediate effect, and all concessions for the following season. If, for example, Ducati do not win a dry race in 2015, and score a total of 6 concession points in 2016, then they will have to compete with 7 engines, no development and restricted testing from the 2017 season onwards.
Two interesting twists have been added to the new concession points system. The first is that concessions can be granted as well as lost. Any manufacturer not scoring a single podium (and therefore no concession points) during a season will have the full set of concessions granted for the following season. And to level the playing field a little, podiums scored in the wet will count towards losing concessions or not. So far, only results in they dry have counted.
The aim of the concession system is clear. By allowing factories which have so far been unsuccessful free development, more engines and more testing, they have the chance to catch up with the factories which are winning. Successful factories will not be able to extend their advantage over the rest too far during the season. It is a rather broad scale form of performance balancing, but implemented over the medium term, rather than the short term.
The GPC also discussed the matter of electronics. Honda and Yamaha had reportedly been unhappy with the current state of development, and had wanted more input into the spec software which is due to be introduced for 2016. The three manufacturers who in 2014 accepted the proposal to introduce of spec software for 2016 - Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati - have been given a veto over the software. Any changes which Magneti Marelli wishes to make to the software must be unanimously agreed to by the three factories. Conversely, if the three factories unanimously propose a change to the software, then that change must be made. The cost of doing so, however, must be borne by the three factories.
The change means that the spec software is likely to be more complex than was envisaged originally. The real intrigue will come from whether the three factories will remain unanimous in their demands. Over the past couple of years, Ducati has shown itself to be more than willing to break ranks with Honda and Yamaha, while the Japanese factories have always acted as a single front. This arrangement puts a lot of power into the hands of Ducati, and its racing boss Gigi Dall'Igna.
The press release containing the rule changes appears below:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 27 March 2015 in Losail (Qatar), made the following decisions:
Further to the decision made at the previous meeting concerning the procedure to be adopted when there is a change in climatic conditions after the riders have reached the grid after their sighting lap.
In the Moto3 and Moto2 classes, when a change in conditions leads to a start delayed procedure, the race distance will be reduced to 2/3 of the original race distance. This brings the procedure into line with that for restarted races in these classes.
The number of engines that may be used in a season of up to 20 races is seven, with frozen specifications.
The minimum vehicle weight will be 157 kg.
The maximum fuel tank capacity will be 22 litres. (Already announced following the previous GPC meeting).
Concerning the unified software to be used in 2016 the following decision was made:
a). The strategies of the 2016 unified software will be based on the present version, (2015 start of season version), of the Open Class software.
b). Starting from July 1st 2015 and until the end of 2016 season, if a change of the unified software is requested unanimously by Ducati, Honda and Yamaha, then the Organiser must adopt this modification, but the cost is the responsibility of the manufacturers.
c). Conversely, during the same period as above, if the Organiser wants to make a change to the unified software, this change must be approved unanimously by Ducati, Honda and Yamaha; otherwise the Organiser can’t update the software.
Concessions - MotoGP Class
All concessions granted to MotoGP class Manufacturers who have not won a race in dry conditions in 2013, 2014 or 2015 will continue to apply. However the criteria for losing concessions has been redefined and will be based on "Concession Points" calculated as follows.
|First place||3 concession points|
|Second place||2 concession points|
|Third place||1 concession point|
The effect of this will be:
In 2015 a manufacturer achieving three Concession Points in dry races must immediately reduce fuel tank capacity from 24 litres to 22 litres.
(Note: the criteria for losing concessions concerning the use of Open class tyres and testing with contracted riders remains at three race wins in dry conditions).
In 2016 a manufacturer achieving six concession points in dry or wet conditions will immediately lose the right to test with contracted riders and will lose all concessions from the following season.
However, with effect from the 2016 season, any manufacturer who gains no concession points, (effectively meaning no podium places), will benefit from the full package of concessions in the following season.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:
The operation to fix Dani Pedrosa's arm pump has been judged a success. Dr. Angel Villamor performed a fasciectomy via microsurgery today, removing the membrane that encloses the forearm muscles to allow them to expand. The procedure is a radical one, but having had two prior fasciotomy operations - where the membrane is merely opened, but not removed - which failed to alleviate the symptoms, it was one of the very few courses of action left open to the Spaniard.
Pedrosa is due to be discharged from the hospital shortly, and wil return home to begin his recovery. During the period of physical rehabilitation, Pedrosa's progress will be monitored very closely, to ensure it progresses well.
The recovery period is at least four to six weeks, which means that Pedrosa will miss the Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP. Whether he will return for Jerez is not certain: Pedrosa will only return to racing once Dr. Villamor has judged the surgery to be a complete success.
The press release issued by Honda on Pedrosa's surgery is shown below:
Successful surgery for Pedrosa in Madrid
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa underwent surgery this morning in Madrid, performed by Dr. Angel Villamor – orthopaedic surgeon and Medical Director of iQtra Medicina Avanzada. The surgery, aimed to fix Dani’s problematic arm pump, took just over 2 hours with Dr. Villamor confident of its success.
The operation, aimed to fix Dani’s problematic arm pump, took just over 2 hours with Dr. Villamor confident of its success. During today’s surgery, Dr. Villamor completely removed the layer of fascia – the casing around the muscle that gives it form and shape – which is causing problems for Dani.
It is expected that Dani will be discharged from the hospital in a few hours, after confirming that his post-operative evolution is positive. He will visit Dr. Villamor regularly in the coming weeks for check ups and then begin a custom physiotherapy program. A recovery time of 4 to 6 weeks is expected, however his return to racing won’t be confirmed until Dr. Villamor can ascertain the success of the surgery.
Dr. Angel Villamor:
“The surgery was complicated and aggressive using a microsurgery technique and microscopic lens. It lasted two hours, and was done under a local anaesthetic. We examined the muscle fascia, which were hypertrophied and had to be opened up and released. The muscle fascia has been dissected and removed from the forearm. This increased volume engorged the muscle within the inelastic fascia resulting in increased pressure within the compartment, and causing a painful condition of oxygen deprivation – thus causing intense pain in the forearm which collapsed after exercising during riding. We will now monitor Dani over the next few weeks to measure the success of this surgery.”
Dani Pedrosa is to undergo surgery on his right forearm to treat the arm pump that has plagued him for the past year. The Spaniard is to be treated in Spain, by Dr Angel Villamor, who has treated many other racers for the same problem. Surgery is scheduled to take place on Friday morning, with a recovery period of four to six weeks afterwards, meaning that Pedrosa is certain to miss both the Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP. Hiroshi Aoyama will replace Pedrosa for the two upcoming rounds.
News of the surgery comes after Pedrosa's shock announcement that he was temporarily leaving racing to seek urgent treatment for arm pump. The Spaniard had been struggling with the condition for over year, after surgery carried out by Dr Mir in May last year failed to provide a solution. In that operation, Dr Mir opened up the fascia, the membrane enclosing the muscles, using microsurgery, to reduce the surgical impact and limit the chance of complications. Dr Villamor has more experience of treating arm pump, having successfully operated on riders such as Julian Simon, Nicky Hayden and Toni Elias. Simon explained to the Spanish newspaper AS.com that the procedure which had been successful for him involved not just opening up the fascia, but also removing it. This procedure, known as a partial fasciectomy, has had success in other sports, such as running and motocross.
The HRC press release makes clear that the operation Pedrosa has elected to follow is much more invasive than his previous operation. Special attention will be paid to the healing of the surgical wound, the press release says. This means that Pedrosa could be out for longer than just four weeks, only returning once surgery has been assessed as a success by the doctors.
In his absence, Hiroshi Aoyama will take his place. Aoyama is an official HRC test rider, and rode at the first MotoGP test in Sepang earlier this year.
Below is the press release issued by HRC:
Pedrosa confirms further surgery to fix arm pump issues
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will unfortunately need further surgery to fix his arm pump issues that continued to plague the Spanish rider during the first round of the 2015 MotoGP Championship. This common problem among motorcycle racers is a build-up of pressure in the forearm causing great pain, and makes riding a bike exceptionally difficult when the muscle becomes too big for the ‘sack’ that it sits in.
Dani tried very hard over the winter in order to find a solution, after struggling to perform at his top level throughout the 2014 season, and even had surgery last year – after the Jerez GP – but it was unsuccessful. During this time doctors advised against any further surgery. Then throughout all the Winter testing it seemed that in theory the problem was solved, unfortunately the issue came back again under the stresses of the race situation.
After his sixth place finish in the opening race of 2015 in Qatar last weekend, Dani returned to Spain on Monday and met with specialists in Barcelona and Madrid. Their recommendation was for him to undergo surgery as soon as possible, which Dr. Angel Villamor will perform in Madrid. Special attention will be paid to the closing of the wound as this will guarantee better recovery and less risk of the problem arising again in the future.
Surgery is planned for the morning of Friday 3rd April with an expected recovery time of four to six weeks, this means Dani will certainly miss the Red Bull Austin and Argentina races. His return to racing won’t be confirmed until doctors can ascertain the success of the surgery.
His replacement will be HRC test rider Hiroshi Aoyama.
Dani Pedrosa 26
Rider – MotoGP
"Obviously this isn’t the news I wanted to be sharing with everyone. However, after speaking with some key doctors and medical professionals that I trust, they are all in agreement that this is the only option for me. We will have the surgery on Friday and they will use a special technique to help close the wound to try and prevent this issue continuing to affect me. Let’s hope it’s a success. I want to thank all my fans for their support, but especially Honda, Repsol, Red Bull and all our sponsors for their understanding in this matter."
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, 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 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 184.108.40.206.5 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.