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MotoGP Rules Update: Tire Allocation Expanded, Open Class Killed Off

The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, met last week to make a few minor updates to the rules for MotoGP in 2016. The two biggest changes to the rules relate to the two biggest changes to the series for next year: the change of tire suppliers and the switch to spec electronics.

The change that will most please the fans will be the official end of the Open class. All references to both the Open and Factory classes are to be removed from the regulations, as the switch to spec electronics, all teams running both the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and official Dorna unified software, mean there is only one class in MotoGP again. This does not mean that all factories are equal, however. Special concessions remain for factories which have not won a race and have not yet accrued six concession points (based on podium positions). Manufacturers with concessions will be allowed to use nine engines for a season instead of seven engines, they will be allowed unlimited testing with factory riders instead of test riders, and engine development will not be frozen. 

Those concessions are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future. The aim of the concessions is to slow the rate of progress of the successful factories to give newcomers and less successful factories a chance to keep up. The progress Ducati have made in 2015 has confirmed to the series organizers that this is a successful policy, and will be continued.

The one thing which manufacturers with concessions will lose is access to the soft tire. From 2016, Michelin will supply the same two rear tire compounds to all teams at every race. The extra soft tire was originally intended to help the CRT teams, racing bikes with much less horsepower than the full factory machines. Now that the CRT class has gone, along with the Open class, there is no need of the softer tire.

The tire allocation is to be changed in other ways as well. Teams are to get more tires for every type of conditions. The number of slicks is to be raised from 21 to 22, with teams getting an extra rear tire (now 12). This should benefit the riders at tracks where only one of the tire choices is working well, giving them an extra tire to run. It should also help riders who have to go through Q1 to get to Q2, giving them an extra rear tire for qualifying.

Riders will also get more rain tires, a total of seven fronts and seven rears. This should give them at least one set of wet tires for every session of the weekend, should it rain all weekend. Each rider will also receive three sets of intermediate tires, for when conditions are neither wet nor dry.

Other changes were also agreed, some more significant than others. One item with a possible long-term effect is the approval of new regulations for safety equipment, such as helmets, leathers, gloves and boots. With the advances made by Dainese with their D-Air system, and Alpinestars with their Tech Air system, it is clear that rider equipment is the next area where safety gains will come from. Imposing standards on rider equipment is a simple, effective way of improving the safety of the sport.

The last change worth touching upon is the change to homologated engines. With Ducati supplying three satellite teams as well as their own factory team, the maximum number of three different homologated engine specifications was more difficult to manage. This has been altered, to allow each factory to supply a maximum of five different homologated engine specifications, depending on the number of satellite teams being supplied. 

Though relatively insignificant in itself, it may possibly be a pointer to more changes in the future. Before 2015, there was a general agreement that each factory would supply two factory riders, plus a maximum of four satellite riders. The change to engine allocations implies that this limit is to be dropped, and that manufacturers will be allowed to supply more satellite teams. Dorna has long wanted factories such as Suzuki to supply satellite teams as well as their factory teams, hence the stipulation being added that each factory must agree to supply at least two satellite riders as well as the factory riders. If Ducati continues to supply eight bikes, then the need for Suzuki to supply bikes to a satellite team would disappear. However, if the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR is as big a step forward as many hope, then it may yet be an attractive option. With factories currently required to supply satellite bikes at a maximum cost of €2.2 million per rider from 2017 onwards, that situation is one to keep an eye on for the future.

Below is the press release from the FIM with the complete list of rule changes:


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
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 10th of December 2015 in Madrid, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations

Effective Immediately

Re-Starting Interrupted Races

In order to minimise the time taken to restart an interrupted race a new procedure has been approved for all classes. This will involve a shorter time spent in the pit lane before the new sighting lap and a significantly shorter countdown on the grid prior to the warm up lap. (Engines will not be stopped and only one mechanic per rider will be permitted onto the grid).

In the Moto3 and Moto2 classes when there is more than one race interruption the length of the restarted race will always be 2/3 of the previous race, with a minimum of five laps. So, for example, if the first restarted race was 2/3 of the original race distance then the distance of the second restarted race would be 2/3 of that distance – always with a minimum of five laps. In situations where a restarted race has been interrupted after less than five laps then the distance for the next race will be determined by Race Direction with a minimum of five laps.

Track Familiarisation

For all classes the regulations have been amended to ensure that when a rider uses a machine of the same capacity as the relevant MotoGP class, this can only be a standard production road homologated machine.

Penalties for Using Engines over Allocation

In the Moto3 and MotoGP classes, where more than one extra engine is taken at a single event then penalties for the second and any subsequent extra engines will be carried forward to the next event(s).

Technical Regulations

Effective Immediately

Rider’s Safety Equipment

Following consultation with all major suppliers of helmets, leathers, boots, etc., new regulations have been approved covering the specifications of equipment used by riders. Procedures for control and testing were also approved.

MotoGP Class Tyres

In line with the appointment of Michelin as the Official Tyre Supplier, the allocations of slick tyres have been modified. Riders will now be permitted to use a maximum of 22 tyres (10 front and 12 rear).

For wet tyres the allocation is a maximum of 7 front and 7 rear.

Riders will now also have the option of an intermediate tyre with a maximum allocation of 3 front and 3 rear.

Engine Allocations – MotoGP Class

It has already been agreed that manufacturers can homologate three different engine specifications which may be used by different riders during the season. It has now been agreed that manufacturers who lose “concessions” may homologate additional engine specifications for the first season after losing those concessions. However, the maximum number of different specifications is related to the number of Satellite teams being supplied. The formula to be used to calculate this number is:

  • One Factory team + 2 Satellite teams = 3 different specifications
  • One Factory team + 3 Satellite teams = 4 different specifications
  • One Factory team + 4 Satellite teams = 5 different specifications

MotoGP Class – Effective Immediately

Previous regulations made frequent reference to “Open” and “Factory” classes and machine types. All such references will now be removed.

Moto2 Class Regulations

Teams will be able to refer to the FIM website to check a list of approved dataloggers and sensors.

The regulation concerning throttle control has been clarified to specify that the control valve must be exclusively controlled by mechanical means, i.e. twistgrip and cable.

Moto3 Class Regulations

Regulations already exist which define which certain chassis parts are “performance parts” and need homologation. The regulations have been modified to state that only homologated parts can be used at events.

Only the oil provided by the official supplier may be used in all parts of the engine including crankcase, gearbox and clutch.

Official Fuel Supplier for Moto3 and Moto2

The appointment of the Total/Elf company as the official, exclusive supplier of fuel was approved.

Grand Prix Medical Code

Effective Immediately

An updated and revised Medical Code, produced by the FIM in consultation with other MotoGP medical staff, was approved.

A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix World Championship Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/grand-prix/

World Superbike Races Split Over Saturday And Sunday, Homologation Numbers Reduced

The World Superbike championship is to undergo a radical shake up. Today, the Superbike Commission, WSBK's rule-making body, announced two major changes aimed at improving the health of the series.

The first change is the most noticeable. As predicted when the 2016 WSBK Calendar was published, World Superbike races are to be held on both Saturdays and Sundays, with Race 1 being held on Saturday, Race 2 on Sunday. This means that Superpole has now been moved to Saturday morning, rather than the afternoon. 

The move, the Superbike Commission says, is to provide a fuller experience for fans at a WSBK weekend. The move has been made after consultation with the teams, TV broadcasters and with circuit owners, which produced positive feedback. How fans will react remains to be seen: the AMA ran races on Saturday and Sunday during the DMG era, which met with a mixed reception, but that era in the US was so tainted by the DMG it is hard to know whether the issue was with the format or much wider. 

New for the schedule is a change to World Supersport qualifying. No longer will the support class use a single session of qualifying, but WSS will now also adopt the two-stage Superpole format used by World Superbikes, and taken over from MotoGP. Places in Superpole will now be decided on times set during Free Practice on Friday, for both World Supersport and World Superbike.

Much less visible, but potentially with a much bigger impact, are the changes being made to the homologation procedures. After a period during which homologation numbers were increased, causing problems for smaller manufacturers, the numbers are to be reduced again. From 2016, the minimum quantity of homologated units to be sold is now 500, down from 1000 for 2015.

This change is possibly designed to reflect the changing market conditions for sportsbikes. Sales have been consistently falling, though a thriving market for more expensive, highly specialized machines continues to exist. Yamaha have produced a special racing version of their R1, the R1M, and Honda are said to be working on two different bikes for 2017, an uprated CBR1000RR for road use, and a more extreme V4 bike for racing purposes. Production runs of 500 make much more sense in that context, rather than factories having to gamble on selling enough of a homologated machine. This will also help factories such as Ducati and Aprilia, which have struggled to be competitive on their bikes for mass production. Now, Ducati and Aprilia can produce more highly tuned versions of their Superbikes, and still expect to sell enough to make the homologation numbers. 

To ensure that costs do not spiral out of control once again, engine modifications remain limited, and the price cap for the bikes remains in place. The maximum retail price for a bike homologated for World Superbikes remains €40,000. 

A further concession has been made to manufacturers, allowing them to stagger their production schedules. It will now be possible to homologate new motorcycles mid-season, instead of having to wait until the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Suzuki is likely to be the first manufacturer to benefit from this change, the Japanese factory expecting to launch a brand new and radically revised GSX-R1000 in the middle of 2016. Though no one will be racing Suzukis in the World Superbike class next year, the bike could be homologated and developed in the Superstock 1000 class during 2016, ready for Suzuki's expected return to WSBK in 2017.

Below is the press release containing the changes and the revised schedule from the FIM:


Motul FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Changes to Regulations for 2016 (and beyond)

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (DWO Executive Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director) met at Madrid, at the Dorna HQ, on 10 December 2015 in the presence of of MM Corrado Cecchinelli, Gregorio Lavilla, (Dorna), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Charles Hennekam, Scott Smart and Paul Duparc (FIM Representatives).

The following changes have been decided in the 2015 FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and Superstock 1000 Cup Regulations:

New time schedule and Introduction of a Superpole in the Supersport category.

For 2016, the FIM and Dorna WorldSBK Organization (DWO) are proud to unveil a new era for the well-awaited Motul FIM Superbike World Championship Race Schedule, marking a turning point in WorldSBK history.

After positive feedback and input from the WorldSBK Series Promotors, Circuits, Manufacturers, Sponsors, and TV Broadcasters, DWO has worked tirelessly to bring forward a new, revamped WorldSBK race weekend schedule. Traditionally held on Sunday morning, Race 1 will now take place on Saturday afternoons, with definitive timetable changes aimed at creating a flexible time schedule for fan experiences to enjoy a more complete and exciting WorldSBK experience from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon

In this new format, Saturday is aimed at offering increased fan attendance and especially the chance to feel the adrenaline of WorldSBK racing during the 3 day event. In addition, Organisers and Sponsors will be able to offer an even bigger selection of special events and shows, allowing fans to enjoy both on and off track action in a way never previously possible. These fundamental timetable changes will prove pivotal in getting WorldSBK fans closer to the action, both those in the grandstands and the millions watching live TV around the world. With more flexibility afforded to the schedule, the new time slots will ensure that each and every fan is able to enjoy the best of the WorldSBK paddock, either at the track or at home. Athletes and Teams will be more available with less timing constraints, whilst the new time slots will give more flexibility to Organizers to actively design and dedicate activities within each and every event, ensuring the proximity and engagement of Fans attending.

Free practice sessions and those timed for qualifying will now take place on Friday, an addition for 2016 will see also the FIM Supersport World Championship adopting the Superpole sessions format as like WorldSBK, which will take place on Saturday mornings, before the lights go out for the first WorldSBK Race 1 in the afternoon. Sunday morning will be dedicated to Warm Up sessions before WorldSSP and WorldSBK kick off the racing action for the second time over the weekend giving fans a further opportunity to experience one of the most exciting and exhilarating motorcycle racing championships in the world.

FRIDAY
TIMING DURATION CATEGORY PROGRAMME
08:45 10:15 1:30 WorldSBK Technical/Sporting Checks
09:15 10:00 0:45 STK1000 Free Practice 1
10:15 11:15 1:00 WorldSBK Free Practice 1 Timed for Qualifying
11:30 12:30 1:00 WorldSSP Free Practice 1 Timed for Qualifying
BREAK
13:30 14:30 1:00 WorldSBK Free Practice 2 Timed for Qualifying
14:45 15:45 1:00 WorldSSP Free Practice 2 Timed for Qualifying
16:00 16:45 0:45 STK1000 Free Practice 2
17:00 17:30 0:30 European Jr Cup Free Practice
SATURDAY
TIMING DURATION CATEGORY PROGRAMME
08:45 09:00 0:15 WorldSBK Free Practice 3 Not Timed for Qualifying
09:15 09:30 0:15 WorldSSP Free Practice 3 Not Timed for Qualifying
09:45 10:15 0:30 European Jr Cup Qualifying 1
10:30 10:45 0:15 WorldSBK Superpole 1
10:55 11:10 0:15 WorldSBK Superpole 2
11:30 11:45 0:15 WorldSSP Superpole 1
11:55 12:10 0:15 WorldSSP Superpole 2
BREAK
13:00   WorldSBK RACE 1
14:15 14:45 0:30 STK1000 Qualifying
15:00 15:30 0:30 European Jr Cup Qualifying 2
15.45     Pit Walk - Spectator activities
SUNDAY
TIMING DURATION CATEGORY PROGRAMME
09:00 09:15 0:15 WorldSSP Warm Up
09:25 09:40 0:15 WorldSBK Warm Up
09:50 10:05 0:15 STK1000 Warm Up
10:15 11:00 0:45 MKT  Alfa Romeo Laps Experience
10:15 11:00 0:45 Pit Walk Pit Walk
11:20   WorldSSP RACE
BREAK
13:00   WorldSBK RACE 2
14:20   STK1000 RACE
15:15   European Jr Cup RACE
16.00     Spectator activities

Additional Sporting, Technical and Medical Regulations

Slight changes to the Regulations have been decided:

  • Clarification of practice restrictions: the principle being to give to the teams/riders a lumpsum of testing days for events other than at the WorldSBK. A waiver will be granted by the WorldSBK Race Direction if the teams/riders participate really to the other events with the machine conforming to the technical requirements of this distinct Championship.
  • SBK Class: race distance and new parameters for restarted have been reviewed.
  • The homologation rules have been updated to allow for the homologation of new motorcycle models, part way through the season and to allow these to compete during the same season. The minimum production requirement has been reduced to 500 machines (units).
  • Revised Medical Regulations were adopted.

The 2016 sporting, technical, disciplinary and medical regulations will be available on the FIM website shortly.

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/superbike/

Barcelona Superprestigio To Be Streamed Online In The US

Fans in the US wishing to watch the showdown between the cream of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and the best dirt trackers in the world, to be held on 12th December, will be able to watch it online. An agreement between organizers RPM Racing, AMA Pro Racing and US publishers Bonnier Corporation will see the Superprestigio in Barcelona streamed via the FansChoice.tv website. The event will also be streamed on the Cycle World website as well as Motorcyclistonline.com.

Entries include Marc Marquez, the man behind the revival of the Superprestigio event, and his brother Alex Marquez. Alex' Moto2 rival Alex Rins will also be present, along with Maria Herrera, Xavier Simeon, Nico Terol, Mika Kallio, Mattia Pasini, and Joan Mir. In the Open class, for flat trackers and other off-road racers, current and former AMA Flat Track champions Jared Mees and Brad Baker will be defending the honor of the US, along with the cream of the European dirt track scene, as well as Supermoto, speedway and enduro racers.

Racing starts at 6pm CET (12 noon Eastern, 9am Pacific), and culminates with the Superfinal, to be held at 9:10pm CET. To convert the event time to your time zone, use the handy timeanddate.com website.

Valentino Rossi Withdraws Appeal Against Sepang Penalty, Case Now Formally Closed

Valentino Rossi has formally withdrawn his appeal against the three penalty points handed down to him in the clash at Sepang. The Italian had originally appealed the three points handed down by Race Direction for the incident with Marc Marquez at Turn 14 at Sepang, first to the FIM Stewards, and after the FIM Stewards had rejected his appeal, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

After filing the appeal to the CAS, Rossi then filed an appeal for a stay of the three-point penalty. If that stay had been granted, then Rossi would not have had to start from the back of the grid at Valencia. However, Rossi's request for a stay was rejected, and Rossi was left at the back of the grid. Finishing fourth meant he lost the 2015 MotoGP title to his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

With the 2015 MotoGP title settled, Ross must have felt there was no point in continuing with the appeal. Even if the CAS ruled in Rossi's favor, all they could have done is reduced the number of penalty points he had been awarded. That would not have had a material outcome on the 2015 title, and given Rossi's otherwise near-impeccable record, it is unlikely to have an outcome in 2016.

Rossi still has four penalty points to his name, one picked up at Misano for cruising on the racing line, plus the three from Misano for the breach of section 1.21.2 of the FIM Grand Prix regulations. Should he incur another three points before mid-September 2016, he could be forced to start from pit lane. That, however, remains unlikely.

With the withdrawal of his appeal, Rossi's case against Race Direction is now closed, and a line can be placed under the 2015 MotoGP championship. The debate will no doubt continue among fans and media, but as far as the organizers of the sport are concerned, and the individuals involved, the affair is over and done with.

The press release issued by the Court of Arbitration for Sport is below:


Tribunal Arbitral du Sport - Court of Arbitration for Sport
MEDIA RELEASE

FIM MOTOGP CHAMPIONSHIP 2015
VALENTINO ROSSI WITHDRAWS THE APPEAL HE FILED AT THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT

Lausanne, 10 December 2015 – Valentino Rossi has withdrawn the appeal filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the FIM Stewards’ decision to impose 3 penalty points on his record following an incident with another rider during the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix race held on 25 October 2015.

In his appeal to the CAS, Mr Rossi sought the annulment of the penalty, or at least a reduction from 3 points to 1, since on the basis of the FIM Regulations, a rider with 4 penalty points must start the next race from last grid position. Together with his appeal, Mr Rossi filed an urgent application to stay the execution of the challenged decision in order not to lose his place on the starting grid at the final event of the season which was held in Valencia/Spain on 6-8 November 2015.

On 5 November 2015, the Sole Arbitrator appointed by mutual agreement of the parties, Prof. Ulrich Haas (Germany), dismissed Valentino Rossi’s request to stay the execution of the challenged decision. The Sole Arbitrator found that the conditions to grant the stay were not met, and accordingly, Valentino Rossi began the Valencia race from the last grid position.

Mr Rossi has now informed the CAS that he does not wish to continue with his appeal. Accordingly, the arbitration procedure has been terminated and the FIM decision will continue to remain in force.

Motor Sport Magazine's Hall Of Fame: Vote For The Greatest Motorcycle Racers To Be Inducted

The debate over who is the greatest racer of all time is one that rages on endlessly, with arguments being made for Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi as the two most successful riders, while others argue that it should be Freddie Spencer for winning in two categories at the same time in the modern era, or Casey Stoner for winning on the Ducati, a bike no one else could, or Mick Doohan, for dominating the class as no one has done since.

Instead of discussing which one rider is the greatest, the respected British publication Motor Sport Magazine has set up their own Hall of Fame, to honor many of the great legends of racing. As Motor Sport Magazine is primarily focused on four-wheeled sport, the Hall of Fame is currently filled mostly with the luminaries of Formula One, such as Jackie Stewart, Colin Chapman, Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda, along with a few of the greats from other branches of car racing, such as Colin McRae and Mario Andretti.

This year, the focus is on motorcycle racing, however. In recent weeks, MotoMatters.com contributor Mat Oxley has made the case in his blog for riders such as Geoff Duke, Barry Sheene, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson to join the trio of motorcycle racers already in Motor Sport Magazine's Hall of Fame. Those three – Giacomo Agostini, John McGuinness and John Surtees – need no explanation of their place in the Hall of Fame.

This year, more motorcycle racers are due to be inducted, and you can vote on who you think should join them. The list of candidates contains all of the legends of the sport you might expect, and more. The choices are: the greats from the early period of Grand Prix racing, Geoff Duke and Mike Hailwood; Grand Prix racing's first superstar Barry Sheene; Kenny Roberts, the man who revolutionized 500cc two stroke racing, and knocked Sheene off his perch; Freddie Spencer, the rider who in turn displaced Roberts, and is perhaps the most naturally talented racer ever to swing a leg over a racing motorcycle; the greats of the Golden Era, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz; Valentino Rossi, widely regarded by many fans as the greatest racer of all time; Casey Stoner, the man who beat Rossi, and gave Ducati their first ever MotoGP title; and Joey Dunlop, a man who can rightly claim to be the greatest roads racer of all time, and still has a special place in the hearts of many racers around the world.

To hear a thoughtful and considered opinion on the names on the list, you can listen to the special episode of the Motor Sport Magazine Podcast, featuring Mat Oxley and former Grand Prix racer Jeremy McWilliams. Once you've heard what they have had to say, you can vote for the riders you believe deserve to be in the Hall of Fame here. Given their status and their ability, the only shame is that you cannot vote for them all.

Michelin Schedules Extra December Tests To Prepare For 2016

Michelin is stepping up preparations for 2016 by scheduling an extra tire test in December. The French tire maker has invited the MotoGP factories to spend two days at Jerez before Christmas, testing new front tires in cold conditions, according to GPOne.com.

Three manufacturers have accepted, Ducati, Honda and Aprilia preparing to send their test riders to put in some laps on the latest iteration of tires at the Spanish circuit on 21st and 22nd of December. As the test falls in the middle of the winter test ban period, contracted riders - that is, riders who will be permanent MotoGP entries for 2016 - are forbidden from riding, and only the official test riders can take part. As a result, Michele Pirro will be attending for Ducati, Mike Di Meglio for Aprilia, and Honda will send both Hiroshi Aoyama and Takumi Takahashi.

The main objective of the test is to try out new tires in cold conditions, the situation in which the Michelins are struggling most at the moment. Michelin are keen to collect as much data as possible ahead of the winter break, in order to have tires ready to test at Sepang, and more importantly, at Qatar, where track and ambient temperatures are always relatively low due to it being a night race.

Michelin's biggest problem at the moment is that the riders, used to the relatively forgiving Bridgestone front, are finding it hard to understand where the limit of the front tire is. That has led to a spate of crashes in both private and public testing so far, with nobody immune from the front end lowsides. The data Michelin hopes to collect at Jerez will be used to try to improve that issue. It will also be useful for the factories to gain a better understanding of how the front Michelin works, and work towards a weight distribution and bike set up better able to produce feedback from the front tire.

Testing with the contracted riders resumes again at Sepang, on 1st February.

Casey Stoner - Private Tests Only For The Foreseeable Future

Casey Stoner will not be making any public appearances on the Ducati Desmosedici any time soon. Although the Australian has been formally announced as test rider for Ducati, he will not be riding at the official tests at Sepang at the beginning of February.

Speaking to Italian website GPOne.com, Ducati MotoGP boss Davide Tardozzi said "There are still some details to arrange, but for sure, Stoner will do his first test in Malaysia, before the first official test." Stoner will test alongside Ducati's long-time official test rider Michele Pirro, where he will give the Desmosedici GP16 its first run out. The Australian did the same thing at the beginning of 2015 for Honda, testing the RC213V ahead of the official test in early February.

The most important thing for Ducati was not that Stoner should be fast from the off, but that he should get used to the feel of the bike, and work his way towards being as fast as possible. "We don't want to force him too soon," Tardozzi told GPOne, "but when you can push at the limit as we know he can, his feedback will be very important to us. We are organizing a few tests with him so that he can understand the bike and get his confidence back."

Stoner is likely to be in Italy some time soon, however. Ducati are trying to arrange for him to visit the factory in Bologna, so that they can measure him up for a bike, and figure out where the footrests, seat, handlebars and tank need to be. Getting the seating position and dimensions right on the new bike is crucial, but Stoner also has a few more details of the contract to finalize. All of this is likely to be finalized before Christmas, Stoner still having a house in Switzerland, and possibly combining a skiing vacation with a trip to Bologna.

What Stoner's program will be after Sepang is unknown. Ducati are likely to have private tests for the test team at Jerez and Mugello, and the test team will likely be active ahead of the official tests at Phillip Island in the middle of February and at Qatar in early March. There is still no word on whether Stoner will do any wild cards, but if he does, the Phillip Island round is the most likely place for that to happen.

Suter Officially Withdraws From Moto2 - Three Chassis Manufacturers Remain

Suter will not be competing in the Moto2 championship in 2016. In an official statement on their Facebook page, the Swiss engineering firm announced they would not be applying for a constructor's license for Moto2 in 2016, and concentrating their efforts on working with Mahindra on their Moto3 machine, and supplying a range of parts for various teams and factories in the series.

The withdrawal from Moto2 was an inevitable consequence of the steady decline in the number of bikes Suter was producing for the class. After winning the first three manufacturer's championships, from 2010 to 2012, teams started switching en masse to Kalex. The rider's championship with Marc Marquez and manufacturer's title in 2012 was the high point of their stay in Moto2, but by then, the exodus was already underway. Despite some solid performances in 2014, in the hands of Tom Luthi, Dominique Aegerter and Johann Zarco, just two Suters lined up on the grid at Qatar in 2015.

For 2016, only two teams had chosen to race a Suter, making a grand total of three bikes. Both teams would be fielding rookies: Ioda Racing had signed Efren Vazquez, and AGP had former Moto3 rider Remy Gardner, in his second year in Grand Prix racing, and newcomer Federico Fuligni. Without an experienced rider to guide development, and with no top level rider capable of immediately challenging for podiums and wins, it made no commercial sense for Suter to continue. The costs involved in developing and racing a Moto2 bike would never be recovered through sales in the Moto2 class and to other championships. How Ioda and AGP will replace the Suters is unknown at present.

The loss of Suter is in part down to performance, but much more a sign of the incredible conservatism which reigns in Grand Prix paddocks. Teams see other teams winning, and try to copy their success by choosing the same equipment. Riders struggling with results point to more successful riders, and tell their teams, "give me the same bike as him, and I will beat him". Using the same chassis, suspension, brakes as other teams eliminates one possible variable from the equation, leaving teams and riders free in their minds to concentrate on getting the best out of the equipment.

This conservatism has led to the Moto2 class becoming a virtually entirely spec class. In 2010, in the first year of the class after it replaced the 250s, there were fourteen manufacturers who entered and scored points. The following year, that was down to just seven (or eight, if you count the Pons Kalex as a different bike to the Kalex). By 2013, that number was down to five, and then four the following year. For 2016, just Kalex, Speed Up and Tech 3 remain, with 26 of the entries being Kalexes. Just how Moto2 is to become a more diverse environment again is a mystery.

The statement from the Suter Facebook page appears below:


OFFICIAL STATEMENT SUTER RACING 

With immediate effect, Suter Racing ends its involvement in the Moto2 GP class and will not apply for next year’s MotoGP constructor’s license. As no teams with winning riders are available to show the huge potential of our fully developed 2016 machine, Suter ends its commitment for now, having won 3 constructors titles and in 2012 also the riders championship with Marc Márquez. At the moment, our racing department is fully committed to engineering mandates for bigger motorcycle manufacturers in the Moto3 and MotoGP class. But of course we will develop and produce also in future our own brand of racing motorcycles. The planning for a new motorsport program is already well underway. 

The Ideal Winter Break? Barcelona Superprestigio Set For 12th December Again

The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on 12th December in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona's Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona. Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s. Marquez lost out in the first edition of the race to Brad Baker, then beat Jared Mees to win the second edition in December of last year. Both Mees and Baker will be present again, representing the AMA Flat Track series. 

A host of other stars of MotoGP and World Superbikes will be joining Marquez. Moto2 rookie of the year Alex Rins will also be racing this year, as will his former teammate and Marc's younger brother Alex Marquez. Bright young Italian star Lorenzo Baldassarri will also be taking part: as part of the VR46 Rider Academy, Baldassarri has a lot of experience riding dirt track on Valentino Rossi's dirt track ranch in Tavullia. Moto2 race winner Xavier Simeon will be representing Belgium, while former Moto2 rider and now KTM test rider Mika Kallio will be racing in Barcelona as well. Jordi Torres will be representing the World Superbike series, along with Nico Terol and Toni Elias, though rumor has it Elias could be bound for BSB.

Brad Baker and Jared Mees top the Open Class - for riders from flat track and other off-road disciplines - line up, and they are joined by riders from a wide variety of off-road sports. Speedway and Long Track racer Joonas Kylmäkorpi is the second Finnish racer in the line up, while speedway star Fredrik Lindgren will be representing Sweden. From Supermoto, Tom Chareyre makes a return, and the British and Spanish dirt track series have a strong representation. British champion Aidan Collins is joined by runner up Oliver Brindley, and third-place man Alan Birtwistle. Italian dirt track champion Francesco Cecchini makes a return, whil Franc Serra, Ferran Cardus and Jaume Gaya are just a few of a strong local representation. 

Practice starts on Saturday, 12th December at 11am. Doors open to the public at 4:30pm, with the event getting underway at 6pm. Racing starts half an hour later, and culminates with the Superfinal, which sees the best riders from both the road racing group and the off road group go head to head for the championship. That race is due to start shortly after 9pm. MotoMatters.com will once again be attending the event, and providing coverage on the website. Tickets for the event start at €30, and can be bought online at the RPM Ticketing website

Flights and accommodation in Barcelona are very reasonable, it being the off season. But most of Barcelona's many attractions, such as the Sagrada Familia, are still open, and much easier to visit as the crowds are much thinner. The shops are busy, of course, with Christmas shopping in full swing, though not quite as busy as in Northern Europe, the tradition in Spain being to exchange gifts on Twelfth Night, linking the gift giving tradition to the arrival of the Magi, rather than the arrival of Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas.

Milwaukee Take BSB Champion Josh Brookes To World Superbikes With BMW

The World Superbike championship promises to bring new excitement for 2016. New bikes, and above all, new riders are adding an international flavor and much more interest to the series. WSBK had already gained a top-flight American rider, with Nicky Hayden joining the Ten Kate Honda team, but now they have a top Australian rider as well.

Today, the Milwaukee team run by Shaun Muir announced they will be making the switch from the BSB championship to World Superbikes, taking reigning BSB champion Josh Brookes along with them. Brookes had been angling for a ride in WSBK for a couple of seasons now, but with the Milwaukee team moving up, the choice was made very simple. Brookes was very impressive throughout his 2015 BSB campaign, lifting the title by a comfortable margin, despite the tortuous Showdown process used by BSB to settle the title.

Brookes will be joined by Karel Abraham, the Czech rider leaving the MotoGP paddock now that the AB Racing team have withdrawn from the premier class. Abraham is a Moto2 race winner, and spent the last five years riding a motley assembly of machinery in MotoGP.

The biggest change for the Milwaukee squad is a change of equipment. The team won its BSB title on board Yamaha's new R1, Brookes proving the bike could be competitive right from the off. When Yamaha announced they would be returning to World Superbikes in an official capacity, Shaun Muir's Milwaukee squad were in the frame to run the team for a long time, losing out in the end to the Crescent Racing outfit who had until then been running Suzukis. That occasioned a switch to BMW, Milwaukee running with strong support from the German manufacturer in 2016. That the BMW S1000RR should be competitive next year was demonstrated at the test last week at Jerez, where the Althea BMW team posted fast times with Markus Reiterberger and Jordi Torres.

BMW's involvement in both the Milwaukee and Althea squads offers an interesting insight into their approach to racing. Although they announced that they were withdrawing from WSBK as a factory effort at the end of 2013, they have been very closely involved with private teams ever since. Milwaukee will receive support with engines and electronics from BMW, with the German manufacturer supplying personnel to help the team get the best out of the bikes. This approach has allowed BMW to achieve some level of success in the past at a much reduced cost, and with a much lower risk for the brand. With the Althea and Milwaukee teams, BMW have a strong chance of garnering success from World Superbikes without much risk.

Below is the press release from the Milwaukee BMW team:


Brookes and Abraham join Milwaukee BMW in World Superbikes for 2016

Reigning British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes and former MotoGP star Karel Abraham will take to the World Superbike grid next season as team-mates in the new Milwaukee BMW team.

Both Brookes and Abraham will ride BMW S 1000 RRs built by Shaun Muir Racing and backed by Milwaukee Power Tools after a three-year extension to their title partnership deal was agreed.

BMW Motorrad Motorsport will provide support and technical know-how, and its experts will work alongside the team throughout the whole season, along with engines and electronics. The team will be responsible for the development of the bike during the season, and manage the sporting and logistical aspects of its participation in the series.

Australian Brookes last raced in World Superbikes nine years ago and is looking forward to going back on to the global stage to race against the best Superbike riders on the planet.

“I’m excited to be back in World Superbikes and to go there with the same team I won the BSB title with is perfect. I haven’t raced a BMW before but the bike and factory are proven, and I am certain it will be competitive,” said Brookes.

“Having the support of BMW Motorrad Motorsport is crucial to our efforts and having their experts on site with us will be a big help. We will test early in January before heading to Phillip Island and I am looking forward to riding in front of my home fans.”

Czech Republic rider Abraham spent the last five years in MotoGP, scoring points regularly, but sees WSBK as the next stage in his career.

“Moving to World Superbikes with a team like Milwaukee BMW is hugely exciting. It will also be a challenge as I haven’t ridden a Superbike and a lot of the tracks will be new but I am sure that we will be able to get up to speed quickly,” said Abraham.

Team principal Shaun Muir concluded: “As a team, the support and enthusiasm shown by BMW Motorrad Motorsport was hugely confidence-building. They know exactly what we need to be competitive and the level of backing has made our decision to join them much easier.

“I am incredibly impressed with the amount of technical support we will have and it bodes well for a great debut season in World Superbikes.”

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