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Revised Schedule For Saturday At Qatar - Updated

The schedule for Saturday at Qatar has been revised. With the track still wet, and rain falling on and off, Dorna and the teams have agreed to test the track first, and then, after the Safety Commission has met and declared the track safe in the wet, run a later schedule for practice and qualifying. The revised schedule is below.

All times are local times for Qatar:
17:00 - track inspection
18:00-18:20 - track evaluation session by MotoGP riders
18:30-18:40 - Safety Commission
18:55 -19:40 - Moto2 qualifying
19:55-20:25 - MotoGP FP4
20:35-20:50 - MotoGP Q1
21:00-21:15 - MotoGP Q2
21:30-22:10 - Moto3 qualifying

The situation could still change if the riders decide it is not safe, or if the weather or track conditions change.

UPDATE:

The extra MotoGP session has been canceled. A new schedule is due to be issued shortly.

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Saturday MotoGP Schedule Under Discussion At Qatar - Revised Schedule Expected Later

The teams and Dorna are currently meeting to discuss the schedule for Saturday's qualifying and practice sessions for all three classes at the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Torrential rain on Friday night and Saturday morning has left the track waterlogged, and while the circuit is doing all it can to clean and attempt to dry the surface, the track is still wet.

A meeting between the teams and Dorna is still ongoing to discuss what to do about qualifying for Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP. An agreement and a new schedule is expected after the Asia Talent Cup, in around an hour. All possibilities are being discussed, from carrying on as normal, moving the times of qualifying and practice, to holding qualifying on Sunday afternoon. 

UPDATE: There is  to be a track inspection at 5pm local time, and based on that inspection, a decision will be made on whether to run MotoGP FP4 at either 6pm or 7:55pm, or cancel it altogether. The Asia Talent Cup has now been canceled, and the circuit is working with blowers to try to clean and dry the track.

Social media was full of dramatic images of the rain in Qatar from last night and earlier today. This short video from MCN's Simon Patterson gives the best sense of just how much water has fallen in the past 18 hours or so:

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MotoGP Considering All Options To Handle Wet Weather On Race Day

Dorna is working on several different scenarios to ensure the MotoGP race at Qatar goes ahead this weekend. All options are still open: the race could be held at night, on a wet track, on Sunday during the day, and even, if the worst comes to the worst, moved to Monday.

The main priority is that the race should take place, as long at it can be done so safely. "The basis is that the worse thing we can do from everyone's point of view is to cancel the race," Race Director Mike Webb told MotoMatters.com. "So from there, we are sorting out what the best options are to be able to have a safe race."

The plan Dorna are working to sees the race going ahead as scheduled as the most desirable option. Franco Uncini and Loris Capirossi tested the track, and determined it was safe to race in the rain back in February. Local races happen at the Losail Circuit at night, whatever the weather, but Webb insisted that MotoGP holds to a much higher standard of safety.

The decision to race in the wet has not yet been taken, however. That will only be taken after the riders have had a session to ride in the wet, and then held a Safety Commission meeting to discuss the findings of that session. Riders from all classes will have a say in whether the race goes ahead in the wet or not, not just MotoGP. 

If the race cannot be held on Sunday night, then Dorna will have to look at other options. Running the race during the day on Sunday would be an option, in that case. "Racing during the day is definitely not plan A," Webb said, "but depending on circumstances, we can't rule it out completely."

Racing on Monday is also an option, but it was by far the least desirable choice, as it would cause massive headaches for everyone involved. Everyone involved in the three races would have to reschedule flights to Tuesday, which would include not just riders, but also mechanics, team staff, journalists, and Dorna support staff. Delaying the race until Monday would wreak havoc on TV schedules, and MotoGP would miss out on the promotional boost of the season opener.

Worst of all, with the weather still predicted to remain unstable at the start of next week, there would be no guarantee of even being able to run a race on Monday. If the race were to be postponed due to rain on Sunday night, there is just as much chance that it could rain on Monday, causing the whole event to be called off.

The whole issue could be moot, of course, as the current forecast is for it to be dry all day on Sunday, including Sunday night. But Dorna are doing everything they can to prepare. "The short answer is, we're trying to be ready for all eventualities," Webb concluded. "Right now, let's wait and see."

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Aprilia Launch 2017 MotoGP Campaign In Noale

The last factory to launch their 2017 bike have done so at last. Today, at their factory in Noale, Aprilia unveiled the colors they will be flying in their assault on the 2017 MotoGP championship. The livery, a design by Aldo Drudi, is based on the Italian tricolor of red, white and green, complete with a blue pane dedicated to sponsor Sky's online TV service Now TV. 

The 2017 version of the Aprilia RS-GP uses a revised weight distribution, with the center of mass having been moved slightly, Aprilia Corse boss Romano Albesiano told the press at the launch. The bike on display used a conventional fairing, one of two different options the factory will use at various tracks. The other fairing Aprilia will use is the aerodynamic package debuted at Phillip Island.

The fairing used in Aprilia showed positive results, Albesiano told the media present at the launch. They will be testing it again at Qatar, and trying to work out which circuits they will get the most benefit from the aerodynamic package. But Albesiano was not happy with the ban on winglets. "This solution is more difficult and more expensive than the winglets," he said. "There was some hysteria in the arguments about aerodynamics. It could have been done better."

Aleix Espargaro has been asking for more power from the Aprilia, and Albesiano said it was an area they were working on. The aim was to produce better power delivery without losing outright horsepower. The aim for 2017 was to finish regularly in the top ten, and challenge for the top five, Albesiano said.

The press release, and photos of the new bike and livery are shown below:


APRILIA RELAUNCHES THE MOTOGP CHALLENGE
Two new riders, Aleix Espargarò and Sam Lowes, and the new 2017 RS-GP, more powerful and technologically advanced.
The new red, white and green livery designed by Aldo Drudi celebrates a fiercely proud, all-Italian project.

ROBERTO COLANINNO: "Staff, technology and a lot of passion. We have everything we need to continue growing. Aprilia's history of success demands that we be protagonists."

ROMANO ALBESIANO: "We grew a lot in the pre-season tests; we intend to do the same throughout the Championship."

Last year the RS-GP made its début in the Doha tests, the first MotoGP bike developed entirely by Aprilia Racing to compete in the premier class of Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing. Just twelve months later, the all-Italian project must now face an important final exam: the constant progress demonstrated in the first season, with 16 Top-10 finishes, was reconfirmed during the tests in Valencia, Jerez, Sepang and Phillip Island.

Aleix Espargarò, a welcome returnee to the Aprilia camp, immediately found the right feeling with his RS-GP, especially in terms of braking stability. The Spanish rider was also able to test the 2017 evolution of the Italian MotoGP bike, approving of the progress made compared with the 2016 version and demonstrating encouraging competitiveness during the official tests.

Sam Lowes, on the other hand, could not help but have a different task than his teammate's. The talented English rider must first of all become familiar with a prototype that is very different from the Moto2 bike he has ridden in the past, both strictly in terms of performance and in terms of the riding style it requires. The progress demonstrated during the tests led to reducing the gap behind the best in the category and, much more importantly, improving his sensations in the saddle.

ROBERTO COLANINNO - PIAGGIO GROUP CEO AND MANAGING DIRECTOR
“Aprilia Racing represents one of the Piaggio Group's points of technological excellence. In fact, racing is the highest point of experimentation and the development of technological solutions from which all the products and brands in the group then benefit. Last year, we introduced our RS-GP, the first MotoGP bike designed and built entirely here in Noale. In the second half of the season, the new bike showed clear progress, consistently finishing in the Top-Ten. This year, we want to continue our growth trend and be a threat to manufacturers who have been in this class for decades and we have everything it takes to achieve this goal: staff, technology, experience and a lot of passion. Aprilia's sport history boasts 54 World Titles, most of which, no less than 28, have been earned since Aprilia has been part of the Piaggio Group. A history with such great success demands that we work hard to always be protagonists with the goal of continuing to entertain and attract the young people who have always been Aprilia's greatest asset.”

The 2017 Aprilia RS-GP comes to the beginning of this season dressed in a new red, white and green livery to celebrate a fiercely proud all-Italian project. The fairing was designed by Aldo Drudi, certainly the most famous designer in the racing world, just one more Italian value that Aprilia will hold high in 2017 on tracks all over the world.

Important partnerships have been renewed this year that go beyond a simple sponsorship relationship, like SAP with whom the Piaggio Group is developing important future projects for connectivity between vehicle and rider and NOW TV, Sky's Internet TV, with a wealth of content such as Cinema, TV Series and Sports, with whom Aprilia Racing will be pioneering innovative content and entertainment formulas.

ROMANO ALBESIANO - APRILIA RACING MANAGER
"For us, 2017 begins with a different situation compared with last year. We already know that we have a bike, the RS-GP, which has reached a good competitive level. The evolutions that we studied and applied in view of the new season concern every aspect of the bike, from its weight, which has been optimised, to overall balance, not to mention engine performance and the electronics package. An all-around operation but without any drastic changes, given the good starting base, with which we want to take another step toward the goals set for the Aprilia MotoGP project. The initial feedback has been encouraging. Aleix likes the new bike and has some rather clear ideas on which characteristics have the most room for improvement, so we will be working in those areas throughout the season. The racing department put in a lot of effort during the winter break. Everyone understands the importance of the challenge we are facing and our front fairing is just the most visible example of Aprilia's dedication to innovation. During the tests we stayed in a group of very competitive bikes and riders, where just a few tenths of a second can make a big difference. Our goal, after showing that we can consistently battle for the Top-10, is to improve further."

ALEIX ESPARGARO
"I am happy to unveil the new livery that we will use this year. It is always nice to officially launch a new project, especially because I have great confidence in Aprilia Racing and the team's work. It will definitely be a good season. We still have a lot to improve, but we have undoubtedly gotten off on the right foot. We are keen to grow. We have specific goals and in order to achieve them, both the team and I will put all of our energy onto the track. All that's left now is to take on the first race in Qatar and see where we stand against our rivals."

SAM LOWES
"First of all, I am happy to be part of this big family with such a strong bond to racing, with a prestigious history of success like Aprilia Racing. I can't wait to get back on the track in Qatar. I think that I was able to express about 85% of our potential in the winter tests and from the first race I would like to identify a good base to build on, improving step by step all the way to Valencia. We are setting our sights on the points zone straight away and then aiming for the Top-Ten and to battle for some important MotoGP placements. I believe in myself and I fully believe in the potential of my bike and my team."

FAUSTO GRESINI - TEAM MANAGER
"We are approaching the 2017 season well aware that we can count on a good starting base: in the tests at Sepang and Phillip Island, the team and riders worked very well. On one side, a determined Aleix got straight to work astride the new RS-GP, finding excellent sensations and providing important indications to steer technical development, which is obviously nonstop and concerns all areas of the bike. On the other side, Lowes has made significant progress, getting much closer to his teammate in terms of times. Sam is tackling this new adventure with the right spirit, aiming at building up the necessary experience. The new RS-GP is very nice and none of us can wait to see it in action in the new colours: we are ready for a new and exciting challenge together with Aprilia Racing.”

With 104 World Championships in its collection (54 Aprilia, 15 Moto Guzzi, 21 Derbi, 14 Gilera) the Piaggio Group is the most victorious motorcycle group of all times, and Aprilia, born into racing, is the true sports banner for the Piaggio Group.

With 294 Grand Prix races won in World Championship GP Motorcycle Racing, Aprilia holds the record for the most wins of any European manufacturer in the history of top motorcycle competition. These race wins are joined by 54 world titles: 38 in the World Motorcycle Championship (20 in the 125 class and 18 in the 250 class), 7 in Superbike (double Rider/Manufacturer title in 2010, 2012 and 2014, Manufacturer in 2013) and 9 in the Off Road disciplines (7 in Supermoto and 2 in Trial). The Aprilia trophy case also includes the 2005 Superstock 1000 FIM Cup, won with the RSV4 RF ridden by Lorenzo Savadori, currently riding an Aprilia in World Superbike alongside Eugene Laverty.

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Hector Barbera Breaks Collarbone In Training Accident

Hector Barbera has broken his left collarbone in a training accident, the Avintia Ducati team announced via their Instagram account. The 30-year-old Spaniard was training with a 600cc sports bike at the Valencia circuit when he crashed, fracturing his collarbone.

Barbera is due to undergo surgery at the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona on Thursday, where Dr Mir will put a plate on his collarbone to correct the problem. 

Barbera's crash puts his participation in the next test at Qatar in doubt. The test is due to kick off on 10th March at the Losail circuit, and run from 10th to 12th March. Barbera could potentially be fit enough to ride, but the value of him riding at a test with a weakened collarbone may be questionable. It would be a more reasonable approach for Barbera to sit out the test, and wait until the start of the season at Qatar two weeks after the test, with practice for the race starting on 23rd March, ahead of the first race on Sunday, 26th March.

Below is the Instagram post from the Avintia team:

 

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Repsol Honda Private Test: Marquez Dislocates Shoulder During Single Day of Testing

The Repsol Honda team did not have a great deal of luck during their private test at Jerez. The test, scheduled for two days, was meant to help Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa make a final decision on which engine to use in their Honda RC213V for the rest of the season.

With engines due to be sealed at Qatar, the Jerez test was crucial. The tight nature of the Andalusian circuit brings out the worst in the characteristics of the Honda engine, so testing there would provide the best data on whether the new engine was an improvement or not. 

The elements were far from cooperative, however. The first day of the scheduled two-day test was rained off, leaving Marquez and Pedrosa stuck in their garages. However, as they did not turn a wheel all day, it did not cost them a test day against their allowance of five days of private testing.

The weather was better for the second day of the test, though conditions were far from ideal during the morning. Marquez and Pedrosa got in a full day of testing, putting the 2017 bike through its paces. In a press release (reproduced below), the riders expressed their satisfaction with the test, but did not reveal anything on the testing of the new engine.

The test was not entirely successful, however. In the afternoon, Marc Marquez fell at Turn 7, the first left hander after the back straight. He dislocated his right shoulder in the fall, bringing the test to an end for the reigning World Champion. An inspection at the circuit revealed no damage, which was confirmed by another examination on Monday at the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona. Marquez has been told to rest his shoulder, and is expected to be back at full fitness for the final official test at Qatar from 10-12th March.

Marquez is making a habit of dislocating his shoulder. Though the Repsol Honda works very hard on flexibility, precisely to try and avoid these problems, he has a long history of shoulder dislocations. He has dislocated his left shoulder three times in recent years, at Silverstone in 2013, at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg last year, and in a training crash at Rufea, while riding dirt track.

With the left shoulder popping out more easily, Marquez is considering having surgery to tighten up the ligaments. This, however, is serious enough to require a layoff of many weeks, if not months. At the moment, Marquez is minded to wait for a more serious condition to arise.

Though Marquez' crash was unfortunate, the fact that he dislocated his right shoulder, rather than his left, meant no further damage to his left shoulder.

The press release from the Repsol Honda team after the test is shown below:


Marquez and Pedrosa complete a one-day private test at Jerez

One week after a positive showing at the official test in Australia, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were back on track in Jerez, Spain, for a private test. The schedule initially foresaw two days of work, but recent rain made for less-than-ideal track conditions on Friday, prompting the team to cancel the first day.

Although the skies remained cloudy today, the track conditions were improved, allowing the Repsol Honda men to continue working on HRC’s intense pre-season testing programme.

In the afternoon, Marc suffered a crash at turn 7 and briefly dislocated his right shoulder. A check at the circuit’s medical centre showed no further damage. Despite the crash, Marc was able to complete most of his testing programme as was Dani.

Back in Japan, the HRC engineers will analyse the collected data and prepare for the final winter test, due to take place at Losail, Qatar, 10-12 March.

Marc Marquez

“Today was a productive day, as we were able to do many laps and to work on our bike well. We did most of the work we had planned, which is good. I crashed in the afternoon and dislocated my shoulder, but luckily it was nothing serious. Now I’ll have some rest back at home and get ready for the next test, in Qatar.”

Dani Pedrosa

“After missing yesterday, luckily today we were able to fully exploit the time available, even though the track conditions in the morning were not ideal and we had to concentrate all our testing schedule in one day. We worked really hard but we’re satisfied with what we’ve done here. Now we must keep focused and try and continue in the same way in Qatar in two weeks’ time.”

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Andrew Gosling Shoots World Superbikes, Part 1


Melandri's back, and as fast as if he had never been away


That's one thing the new Honda Fireblade does well. Saves on tire wear too


Which is a serious concern, especially on the left side


Thousand yard stare


Sure, the same three riders were on the podium, but this really didn't feel like 2016 all over again


Alex Lowes gets ready


A familiar look


Technique


All Italian


Nicky Hayden's "I'm not entirely convinced" look


Josh Brookes has a point to prove. Didn't manage to make it in race 1


Baptism of fire for Stefan Bradl. The Honda CBR1000RR still needs a lot more development before it's truly competitive


Take me to your leader


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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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


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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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.

Source: 

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