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Brno MotoGP Ticket Sales Suspended - 2015 Round Looking Severely Doubtful

This year's Brno round of MotoGP looks to be under severe threat. Ticket sales on the circuit's official website for the event have been suspended as of this afternoon, after talks with Brno city council and the regional government broke down over funding of the race.

The message on the Brno circuit website reads:

With an immediate effect, Automotodrom Brno suspends the sale of tickets for the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2015 due to insufficient funding for the event. The final decision on the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic 2015 will be published on 29 June. In case of cancellation of the event, all paid tickets will be refunded. 

The issue seems to be a disagreement between the circuit, the city council, the regional government and the Czech state. All of the interested parties are keen to see the race happen, but none are willing to cover the costs without imposing conditions. At stake is a total of CZK 50 million, or roughly €1.8 million euros. Funds have been made available by the Moravian regional government, the city council and the Ministry for Education, but the circuit is still trying to reach an agreement with those offering the funds over the conditions for that money. 

The lack of agreement means that the deadline for the circuit to pay Dorna has passed. Talks are continuing between the track and the authorities over a solution, but they will require Dorna's forebearance over moneys not paid to the series organizer. It will be interesting to see whether Dorna is prepared to hang on until the 29th to give Brno a second chance. As the Czech round is the most popular of the season, with the highest attendance figures of the year, it is hard to understand how the circuit can be short of the funds needed to pay the race.

And It's Off Again - Van Der Mark Will Not Be Replacing Abraham At Assen After All

Michael van der Mark will now not be racing at his home MotoGP round of Assen. The deal to replace the injured Karel Abraham at the AB MotoRacing team has fallen through, the stumbling block being who would cover the cost of crash parts.

The deal came very close to fruition. Rumors that Van der Mark would take the place of Abraham first started over the weekend at Misano, emerging publicly on Monday afternoon. HRC had put Van der Mark forward to replace the injured Abraham, and the AB MotoRacing team were very open to having the young Dutchman as a substitute. Things soured on Monday, however, as discussions grew heated over who would pay for crash damage to the Open class Honda RC213V-RS if Van der Mark were to drop the bike. AB MotoRacing wanted HRC to pay for damage, Honda believed it was the responsibility of the team, just as it would be if Abraham were racing. 

In the end, the two parties could not reach agreement. Van der Mark will not now race in front of his home crowd, and it seems likely that Honda test rider Hiroshi Aoyama will once again fill in for an absent rider. The loss of Van der Mark as a substitute will come as a minor blow to the Dutch TT at Assen, with Dutch media interest in the race going into overdrive at the prospect of a Dutch rider in the premier class. The last Dutch rider to race in MotoGP was Jurgen van der Goorbergh, who rode the last of the Honda NSR500s with Erv Kanemoto, working on the earliest versions of Bridgestone's MotoGP tires. Since then, there have been Dutch riders in the junior classes - 125s, 250s and Moto3 - but never a rider in the main show.

Michael Van Der Mark Set To Replace Karel Abraham For Assen MotoGP Round

Michael van der Mark looks set to make his MotoGP debut at Assen this weekend. The 22-year-old Dutchman will be swapping his Pata Honda CBR1000RR World Superbike machine for the Open class Honda RC213V-RS of the AB MotoRacing team, where he is set to fill in for the injured Karel Abraham. Abraham badly injured his foot, severly dislocating his toe, in a fall during FP4 in Barcelona.

Rumors that the Dutchman would get the chance to race a MotoGP machine at his home race started circulating in the Dutch media earlier on Monday. Several sources close to the situation confirmed that the deal was very close to being sealed. There are just a few final details to be settled, including matters such as covering the cost of damage in case of a crash.

Van der Mark's MotoGP debut is another step in the meteoric rise of his career. The Dutch youngster wrapped up the Superstock 600 title in his second full year in the class, then repeated that feat in World Supersport. He has made a strong debut in World Superbikes, matching and sometimes beating his Pata Honda teammate, the reigning world champion Sylvain Guintoli. Van der Mark had a superb weekend during the WSBK race at Assen in April, scoring a pair of podiums in the two races. HRC were already impressed with the Dutchman after his performance in the Suzuka 8 Hour race last year, and have signed him to race alongside Casey Stoner at the event again this year. His performance on the Pata Honda in WSBK convinced them to ask him to step in at AB MotoRacing, when Karel Abraham's team informed IRTA that they would need to field a substitute rider for Assen.

Van der Mark has an uphill task ahead of him. Though he knows the Assen circuit like the back of his hand, he has only had a single brief test ride on a Honda MotoGP machine. Conditions at Assen are set to be rather changeable, as is so often the case, meaning that the amount of dry track time he will have is likely to be limited. The Open Honda is not nearly as competitive as the satellite machines, and so he still has plenty to learn. But Van der Mark's appearance at Assen is likely to be immensely popular with Dutch racing fans, and will further boost the already high numbers expected on Saturday.

Qatar Extends MotoGP Deal For Another Ten Years

Qatar is to host a MotoGP race through 2026. The Losail International Circuit has extended its current deal, which expires in 2016, for another 10 years. 

The race is to remain a night race, and will stay as the season opener for the foreseeable future. The race is a lucrative one for Dorna, the fee paid by Qatar covering all of the costs of all of the flyaway races for all of the teams for the full season. 

The night race is popular with fans, as it provides an interesting spectacle, and the layout is particularly well suited to motorcycle racing. However, holding the race as a night race means it is impossible to start the season much earlier than late March, as temperatures drop too much at night earlier in the year, causing dew to form on the track, making it dangerous to race on.

Below is the press release issued by Dorna:

Qatar secures 10-year MotoGP™ contract

The Losail International Circuit will be featured on the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship calendar until at least 2026 following a joint announcement by QMMF President Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Dorna Sports CEO Mr Carmelo Ezpeleta. The two parties committed to continue the agreement which has seen the Qatar round become a permanent fixture of Grand Prix racing since 2004.

On Sunday morning at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, Mr. Al-Attiyah and Mr. Ezpeleta penned a 10-year deal from 2017 onwards, meaning the event will run for at least 23 consecutive editions since it’s addition to the calendar in 2004. Since then the Qatar GP has become a key point of the Championship. It has acted as the season opener since 2007 and really made its mark in 2008 when it switched to a night-race format, a first in the history of MotoGP™.

Mr. Al-Attiyah declared: “We are very excited about continuing our partnership with MotoGP™ and securing our place in the calendar for another decade. The night race is a spectacular event that we’re proud to host and we aim to keep perfecting this partnership."

"Since its first edition in 2004, the Qatar GP became a trademark of the MotoGP™ World Championship and continues to provide a unique set-up for racing, so we're pleased to seal this agreement and extend our relationship beyond 2016. Losail International Circuit always creates a magic atmosphere and the brotherhood of the two companies has grown throughout the years", commented Dorna Sports SL CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.

Scott Jones In Tuscany: Race Day At Mugello, Part 1

Pride of Italy: Romano Fenati sporting a stunning Tricolore paint scheme

They tried to catch Jorge Lorenzo, but Lorenzo was not for catching

Yellow Mugello Madness

Heartbreak for Ducati as Dovizioso's rear sprocket rounded...

And joy, as Maniac Joe bagged second after a brilliant race

Sam Lowes demonstrates the noble art of backing it in

Lap 2 or lap 18? The Moto3 race was like this all the way to the line

Johann Zarco gives a lesson in managing a championship

The Doctor had his passing lights on

HRC's new swingarm for the RC213V, with a fraction more flex. The swingarm linkage, further forward, is a thing of beauty

Cal Crutchlow could have started the race with new gloves, but new gloves mean tight fingers means arm pump

Tito Rabat, back to winning ways

A bad way to end a race: a dislocated ankle for Cal Crutchlow

Every team's worst nightmare: Italtrans riders Mika Kallio and Franco Morbidelli crashed out at Mugello simultaneously

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

The Michelin Test At Mugello - Improved Tires And Mysterious Front End Crashes

On the day after the Italian Grand Prix, the MotoGP riders were back testing at Mugello. This time, however, it was only the factory riders who remained, to give the Michelin tires another run out. The last time they took to the track on the Michelins was at Sepang, and Michelin had brought the latest iteration of their tires to test.

Due to the commercial sensitivities involved, there was no official timing, and the riders were not allowed to speak to the media about the test. Unsurprisingly: Bridgestone hold the single tire contract for the 2015 season, having spent a lot of money for the privilege, so they do not want Michelin stealing their PR thunder. Nor do Michelin really want to be subject the intense scrutiny which official timing would impose while they are still in the middle of their development program.

That does not mean that the small band of journalists who stayed at the test did not learn anything, however. Michelin had brought four front tires to the test, and the factory men spent the morning and the early afternoon selecting their favorite from the four. The plan was for the riders to then try that tire in a full race simulation, to see how the tire stood up to a race distance of 23 laps.

That plan was quickly canceled. There had been no falls during the morning and early afternoon, but on the first laps of his long run, Jorge Lorenzo crashed out at Materassi. Once the track was cleared, it was the turn of Marc Márquez to go out, but on the second lap of his run, he too crashed, this time at Arrabbiata 1. With the debris of the Repsol Honda out of the way, Valentino Rossi followed, the Italian falling at Correntaio. At that point, the plan was abandoned.

All three crashes appear to follow the same pattern, and a similar pattern to the crashes at Sepang. When the riders start pushing hard, the extra drive and grip from the Michelin rear causes the front to wash out, dumping them on the floor. The Michelins seem to have retained some fundamental characteristics, despite being radically different from the tires which Michelin raced back in 2008. Though riders and teams are forbidden from speaking, some sources suggest off the record that the Michelin rear is fantastic, with a lot more grip than the Bridgestone, while the front is not quite where the Bridgestone front is. The new spec front is believed to be better, to give more support and have more edge grip, but clearly, it is not quite ready for prime time.

The picture is complicated by the fact that the bikes are set up for an entirely different tire. The Michelins are all 17-inch tires, though the tire outer circumference is rather similar to the Bridgestone 16.5-inch rubber. The 2015 bikes are all designed based on years of data with the Bridgestones, and so suspension settings and chassis geometry and stiffness are not quite right for the Michelins. There is a lot of work to do with both the tires and the bikes ahead of 2016.

That is also apparent from the feedback. A member of one team told me that a rider from another team – pinch of salt required – was far less happy with the Michelins at Mugello than he had been at Sepang. In Malaysia, he was faster on the Michelins than the Bridgestones. At Mugello, it was the other way round. There is no doubt that in terms of overall performance, the Michelins are already very close. One insider told me they expected lap records to fall at some tracks, but to be slower at others. It makes for an interesting prospect.

It may have been a factory rider test, but not all factory riders were present. Suzuki were absent altogether, as Aleix Espargaro still has the thumb injury, and as a rookie, Maverick Viñales does not have the experience of the tires to provide useful insight. Andrea Iannone was missing from the Ducati garage, the Italian back at home, and scheduled to have a check up on Wednesday on his injured shoulder. The real mystery, though, was the absence of Marco Melandri. The Italian was missing from the Aprilia garage, and rumors circulating suggested this could be Melandri's last race. According to, Melandri is due to have a meeting with Aprilia staff later this week to discuss his future. Given Melandri's miserable results so far this year, a split looks like the better option. Who would replace him in that case is as yet undecided. Alex De Angelis may move over from the cash-strapped IODA team, or they could bring in a test rider. That decision will only come once Melandri's future has been decided.

Scott Jones In Tuscany: Qualifying Day At Mugello

A glorious setting for racing

It's tough at the top. As Marc Marquez is finding out

Desmo Dovi's Ducati Dreams

Aleix Espargaro has torn the ligament between his thumb and finger. Exactly the point you support your weight on under braking

The position and shape of all those welds serve a purpose. What that purpose is, Ducati will never tell you

Bradley Smith is lifting his Mugello MotoGP curse

Claudio Domenicali, Ducati's boss of bosses

Mugello swoops

Viñales, from above

Ducati test rider Michele Pirro is also reaping the rewards of all the hard work he has put in on the GP15

The Master of Mugello


Dani Pedrosa. He's back

The vent on the left hand side of the Ducati leads under this panel to back of the bike

Pole sitter. And deservedly so

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

Scott Jones In Tuscany: Friday At Mugello

Home is where the heart is

You spin me right round, baby, right round

Body position 101: Old school (Michele Pirro) vs new MotoGP (Marc Marquez)

Another example: Pol Espargaro hanging way off the bike


New Honda RC213V swingarm (rear) vs old swingarm (front)


Redding plays peekaboo

Sleight of hand: Pedrosa's mechanics rush to swap a tire from one bike to the other

There hangs a tail

Eugene Laverty has a quick go on the PS3 before exiting pit lane

Speaking of body position...

Dovizioso gets it sideways

The little deflectors which make Ducati's winglets legal

Aleix Espargaro. The bravest man on the grid today. He's going to try to race, despite the pain

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

Bradley Smith And Pol Espargaro To Race Suzuka 8 Hour

The line up for the Suzuka 8 Hour Race looks to be the strongest for years. Today, Yamaha confirmed that Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro are to race for the factory entry at Suzuka, alongside Yamaha test rider and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Smith and Espargaro will face Casey Stoner and Michael van der Mark, who will be racing for the Honda factory team.

Rumors that Yamaha were taking their entry for the race very seriously first emerged at Jerez, where paddock gossip had Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo entering the race in the factory team. At the time, both men pleaded ignorance, saying that they had heard nothing about such a decision. Having the Movistar Yamaha riders race at Suzuka would have placed a massive strain on the team, as the race falls directly between the Sachsenring and Indianapolis MotoGP rounds. With Rossi leading the title chase, and Lorenzo in second place, Yamaha appear to have decided on an alternative strategy, using the riders from the satellite teams instead.

That does not mean that the Movistar Yamaha men are not involved, however. Valentino Rossi has been testing the new Yamaha R1 in endurance trim at the Misano circuit on several occasions in recent months. Whether this is part of preparations for Suzuka is unknown, as those tests have been private.

The choice of Smith and Espargaro may also be a chance for Yamaha to assess the commitment of the Tech 3 pairing. Both men are in the final year of their contract, Smith on a one-year deal directly with Tech 3, Espargaro in the final year of a two-year contract directly with Yamaha. So far this year, Smith has outperformed his teammate, leading Espargaro by 11 points in the championship. Winning the race for Yamaha would be a major boost for their chances of staying at the Tech 3 team, as the Japanese factory has not won there for 19 years, when Colin Edwards teamed up with Nori Haga.

Below is the press release from Yamaha announcing the participation of Smith and Espargaro:

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. Announces YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEAM Rider Line-up at the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race

Iwata (Japan), 25th May 2015

Round 2 of the 2015 FIM Endurance World Championship

The 38th “Coca-Cola Zero” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is proud to announce that the YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEAM will be competing in the 38th “Coca-Cola Zero” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race, which is to be held at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture from July 23 to 26, 2015. This will be the first time since 2002 that Yamaha has fielded a factory team for this prestiguous race.

The team‘s rider line-up will consist of reigning JSB1000 class champion of the All Japan Road Race Championship Katsuyuki Nakasuga and MotoGP riders Pol Espargarò and Bradley Smith. They will ride a factory machine based on the new YZF-R1 and specially developed for competition in the Suzuka 8 Hours as they set out to win Yamaha its first victory in this event in 19 years and its fifth in the race‘s history.

Nakasuga is one of the top Yamaha riders in Japan and is currently in contention to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive title in the premier class of the All Japan Road Race Championship. He has raced in the Suzuka 8 Hours seven times before, with a best result of fourth place in 2014

Espargarò and Smith will be entering the Suzuka 8 Hours for the first time and will bring to the challenge their vast experience in the world‘s premier motorcycle road racing category, MotoGP. They finished the 2014 MotoGP season ranked 6th and 8th, respectively.

Serving as team manager will be Wataru Yoshikawa, the manager of the YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEAM in the All Japan Road Race Championship. Encouraged by the cheers of Yamaha fans, the team members, riders and sponsors will pull together as they aim for a coveted victory at the Suzuka 8 Hours.

Yamaha Motor participates in racing activities around the world under three basic policies: branding, feedback of technology and promotional activities. This season, Yamaha Motor is once again fielding factory teams in three All Japan championships (road racing, motocross and trials) and, with the introduction of the new YZF-R1, new programs have been launched to further stimulate its racing activities in countries around the world.

Factory participation in this year‘s Suzuka 8 Hours is one example of these racing activities, and through this participation Yamaha Motor seeks to prove the performance potential of the new YZF-R1 while at the same time gaining technological expertise, promoting development of human resources and sharing the excitement of rewarding experiences in motorsport as an embodiment of the “Revs your Heart” brand slogan.


Rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga

“This season I am serving as a factory rider for the first time in an attempt to be the first rider ever to win four consecutive titles in the premier class of the All Japan Road Race Championship, while using the new YZF-R1. Now I am very glad that I am being given another new challenge of competing on the factory team in the Suzuka 8 Hours, which I am excited about like never before. I am also looking forward to competing together with two such outstanding riders as [Pol] Espargarò and [Bradley] Smith, and I feel this will be a good opportunity for me to improve my racing skills. Of course, I will be going for nothing less than the win. I will work together with the team to show that the new YZF-R1 is the fastest machine on the track, and I will do my best to bring an experience of the greatest possible Kando* to the fans that have waited so long for the comeback of the Yamaha factory team and a Suzuka 8 Hours victory. I hope everyone will come to the circuit during race week to cheer us on.”

Rider Pol Espargarò

“I am really happy that Yamaha has chosen me to represent them at one of the most famous motorsport events, which is the Suzuka 8 Hour race. I feel honoured to take part in it, but there will be a lot to learn. I am under no illusion that it will be easy as I have never raced in an endurance event before and I don‘t know the YZF-R1, even though a lot of people speak very highly about it. In addition, the MotoGP calendar is very demanding and we will have to work through the training for the event, in between the races. Therefore, we need to work as much as possible in order to be prepared for the race, but I‘m very excited to get this opportunity. Moreover, it will be nice to work with Bradley as a partner where we will fight together, instead of against each other. I think we will complement each other very well and have a great time. The only thing is that neither of us know the Suzuka track, so I hope Nakasuga-san can help us with everything, which includes the circuit, the bike and the correct strategies that we need to have a successful eight hour race. It will be special and we will do our best to reward the faith that Yamaha has put in us.”

Rider Bradley Smith

“Firstly, I want to give Yamaha a massive thank you for considering me to be part of their Suzuka 8 Hour team, which is a legendary event. I‘m looking forward to trying a new form of motorcycle racing and even more so along with my MotoGP teammate Pol and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who has a strong record at this special race. I think it will be an unforgettable event and it will add another chapter to my life with Yamaha. I‘m also very excited to try the new Yamaha YZF-R1, which I have heard a lot about and it will be really great to finally get the opportunity to ride it. Of course, I will take this event very seriously as we are going to be part of the official Factory Team effort, so I will head to Japan with the full intention of getting a high scoring result for Yamaha.”

Team Manager Wataru Yoshikawa

“This time we have assembled a great team that really has me personally very excited. [Katsuyuki] Nakasuga is a rider with a wealth of experience racing at Suzuka Circuit and in the Suzuka 8 Hours, and in addition to running fast times, we will need his presence as a team leader to help propel us to victory. A critical point for our success will be to have [Pol] Espargarò and [Bradley] Smith learn from Nakasuga‘s Suzuka experience and then deliver the performances that they are capable of as such outstanding riders. To do this, we will need to supply them with a highly competitive machine that they will feel good riding on, and to create an environment that enables them to concentrate fully on their racing. The Suzuka 8 Hours is a very tough race, but we are determined to win it and show that we are the strongest team of all. To win, it is also vital that we have the support of the fans. Let‘s all strive together to get the victory and share the Kando that it will surely bring.”

Talks Held On MotoGP Return To Sentul In 2017

Indonesia may finally get the MotoGP race it has long desired. Carmelo Ezpeleta and Javier Alonso met with senior Indonesian politicians and the management of the Sentul International circuit, to talk about the possibility of staging a MotoGP race in the country from 2017 onwards. Though the meeting produced no concrete agreement, the two sides expressed their commitment to working together to make an Indonesian round of MotoGP happen.

Dorna and the manufacturers have been eyeing Indonesia for some time now. The populous Southeast Asian country is one of the biggest markets for motorcycles in the world, sales consisting mostly of small capacity scooters. The numbers are mind boggling, in the tens of millions of units in total. So the factories are very keen to get their riders in front of Indonesian fans and help promote their brands. The fact that the Indonesian distributors of both Honda and Yamaha are sponsors to the factory teams speaks volumes in this respect.

Dorna, too, are keen to capitalize on the opportunities presented by Indonesia. The country is a major source of internet traffic for most racing-related websites, and supplies a large proportion of followers on social media to racers, teams and journalists alike. With a growing economy and a fast-expanding middle class with expendable income, Dorna has its eyes on the TV market and on selling merchandise, video content and mobile apps to Indonesia.

Two problems have always faced any attempts to race in Indonesia. The first is the smaller of the two: the lack of a suitable venue. Facilities at the Sentul International circuit, where MotoGP last raced in 1997, have fallen into a state of disrepair, and the track is in no way capable of hosting a round of MotoGP as the track stands. There have been constant rumors of new tracks being built, but so far, nothing has come to fruition. During the meeting on Wednesday, Sentul director Tinton Soeprapto promised to work towards complying with all of the demands of the FIM, but also asked for their help.

The bigger issue in Indonesia is the corruption in the country. At Sepang, I spoke to one senior member of the paddock, who asked not to be named, who expressed both the great desire of all concerned to go to Indonesia, and the problems which corruption caused when putting on a race. The teams feared problems at every level: getting equipment in and out of the country, moving people in and out of the country, and even something as simple as getting into and out of the track, my source told me. Planning for a race was almost impossible if you could not be sure your equipment had made it through customs, been transported from the airport to the circuit, and deposited in the right place. Costs were impossible to estimate if each of these steps required bribes to be paid to various officials. The support of the police was vital, but that, too, was often subject to financial inducement, both at the highest level and at the level of individual police officers demanding money to let team staff past to enter the circuit.

Arranging a race in Indonesia is only possible with support from the highest levels of government. The presence of Indonesia's Minster of Tourism, Arief Yahya, was a very positive step in this regard. Though getting rid of corruption would be the best solution, that is beyond the remit of even Dorna. The subtext of Carmelo's Ezpeleta's visit seemed to be ensuring that Dorna have the backing of the Indonesian government before committing to holding a race.

Though Dorna expressed the hope that Indonesia will be able to host a race from 2017, there is clearly still a lot of work to be done to make it happen.