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Superbike Commission: WorldSBK Follows MotoGP In Dropping Penalty Points

After the Grand Prix Commission abolished penalty points at their meeting at Qatar, it was inevitable that they would meet the same fate in World Superbikes. At the latest meeting of the Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, the penalty point system was abolished in WorldSBK, just as it has been in MotoGP.

The reasons given are the same: Race Direction has enough penalties already to deal with any infringements of the rules. The aim is to punish riders immediately, at the same event, rather than collect up penalties over multiple rounds, and only serve a penalty later.

Beyond that, the Superbike Commission adopted a number of minor tweaks to the rules. Electric bicycles were banned for track familiarization, adding to the ban on using scooters. Given that electric bicycles covers a wide range of vehicles, from bikes with moderate pedal assistance to those capable of 80+ km/h, this is understandable. It does mean that riders with leg, foot, or ankle injuries will face greater problems scouting the track.

There were also a host of minor updates to the WorldSSP300 regulations. This should not come as a surprise, given that Aragon was the first outing of the newly created support series. The race itself proved to be highly entertaining, living up to the billing provided beforehand.

The FIM press release containing the rule changes appears below:

FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
Regulation updates 2017

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Gregorio Lavilla (WorldSBK Sporting Director), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative); in the presence of Messrs Daniel Carrera (WorldSBK Executive Director), Paul Duparc and Scott Smart (FIM) in a meeting held in Motorland Aragon (ESP), April 1st, made the following changes to the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike & Supersports World Championship Regulations:

Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations

  1. Slight changes have been carried out to the Sporting rules mainly to clarify which riders are allowed to participate in the Superpoles for the SBK and Supersport classes. As a principle, it was clarified that riders over the 107% lap time recorded by fastest riders in Free Practices will not be allowed to participate in the Superpoles. However, such riders can participate in the warm up (in SBK and Supersport 600cc) and be qualified for the race, provided they set a time below 107% of the fastest riders of their classes (in that case, they will be authorised to start the race from the back of the grid).
  2. In addition to the ban of scooters, it was also decided to ban the use of electric bicycles for track familiarization.
  3. A few changes have been decided for clarifying the start procedure.
  4. Taking into consideration that the WorldSBK Race Direction have many penalty options, the penalty points are no longer necessary. The SBK penalty points are now withdrawn from the list of penalties.

Technical Regulations

Various technical clarifications are to be implemented into the technical rules for 2017. These clarifications concern mainly the Supersport 300 World Championship class, and will be inserted in the regulations for an immediate application.

The 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike & Supersports World Championships Regulations will be available at FIM-LIVE.COM within the next two weeks.


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Qatar To Be Moved To February, Resurfaced, Substrate Heating Added

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While the Losail International Circuit is indeed due to be resurfaced after thirteen years of use, as yet, no contract to do so has been agreed. No plans exist to fit underfloor heating, as far as I know, and given the astronomical cost involved, it seems very unlikely to happen. Normal service has now been resumed... 

The Losail International Circuit is to be resurfaced, with the aim of moving the opening race back to February. The question of resurfacing came to a head after last week's season opener MotoGP round at Qatar, when light rain caused the start of the MotoGP race to be delayed, raising concern among the riders over the evening dew, which starts to form on the track surface at around 10pm. There were serious concerns that the track would become too treacherous to race on, if the race were to be delayed for too much longer.

The surface and condition of the Losail circuit was a talking point all weekend. The asphalt itself is nearly fourteen years old, as the track has not been resurfaced since it was first built. Because the MotoGP race runs at night, the evening dew makes the track slippery, but the dew patches are impossible to see. And the fact that the race runs at night means that the event is in peril if it rains.

Dorna had a possible solution in place for a rain race. If the track had been sufficiently wet during the course of the weekend, an extra session of testing was to be convened, to allow all three classes to ride on a wet track under the floodlights. That would have given everyone a chance to assess how much of a problem glare from the floodlights would have been.

It did in fact rain on Saturday, but the rain was so torrential, and so much fell in such a short time that the track became flooded, and was unsafe to ride on. There was standing water in several corners, as well as in the gravel traps. Testing glare from the floodlights was impossible.

In a series of meetings about the track over the course of the weekend, the circuit reached agreement with Dorna about a radical solution, has learned. One which would address both the issue with dew forming in the evening, and remove any concerns over running a race at night in the wet. The circuit is to be resurfaced, and in the process, it is to have a heated substrate fitted.

The heating installation is to be fitted below the surface of the entire track, and used to keep the track at a steady 37°C any time the track is used. By keeping the track surface at a constant temperature, the system, based on underfloor heating systems used in large scale industrial facilities where temperature control is critical, will give the Losail circuit a much wider range of use.

The biggest advantage for both MotoGP and WorldSBK is that it will prevent condensation forming on the track in the evening. This will give Dorna much greater freedom in the timing of events for both series. Qatar has the rights to be the first race of the MotoGP season, and the last race of the WorldSBK season, and a heated track will allow both events to be moved earlier and later respectively.

The heated track is a key requirement for MotoGP, especially. With more races being added to the calendar, Dorna are keen to start the season earlier. In 2018, when Thailand joins the calendar, one of the three preseason tests (most probably, Phillip Island) is to be dropped, and the season opener at Qatar held several weeks earlier. That has always been a problem because of the evening condensation, but subsurface heating removes that element from the equation.

Likewise, the heated track also allows the WorldSBK season to be extended. New circuits in Asia can be added, and the season finale moved back to November, instead of October. Sources indicate that Dorna would dearly like to hold the WorldSBK and MotoGP season finales on back-to-back weekends, with a grand awards gala to be held for both series together.

The subsurface heating offers several other benefits. With the evening dew no longer a factor, practice in Qatar can run longer at night. The Qatar MotoGP race is the only event to be held over four days, and teams would welcome having the race weekend be just three days, like the others, as it means lower costs for accommodation, car rental, etc. It might even be possible to cut the length of practice sessions, as constant conditions would allow teams to find a working setup much faster.

Preliminary modeling had shown that a heated track would also help combat the rain. If rain fell during the race weekend, circuit engineers are reportedly confident that the subsurface heating would be able to dissipate the water within approximately 20 minutes, greatly helped by the dry desert winds which constantly blow across the track. This would eliminate the need for a wet track test, and remove any concerns over glare.

Above all, a heated circuit would make it much easier for the official tire suppliers to all three Grand Prix classes. With a constant track temperature, both Michelin and Dunlop can bring tires tailored very precisely to the conditions at the circuit. They could cut down on the number of tires transported, as they would not have changeable conditions to contend with, and be assured of circuit records being broken.

The only objection to a track with subsurface heating is one of cost. The amount of gas required to heat the track to a constant 37°C would be huge, and extremely costly. However, given the amount of money the circuit spends on the floodlight installation to allow the races to run at night, this is not believed to be an issue.

Though a preliminary agreement to fit subsurface heating has already been made between Dorna and the Losail International Circuit, there is still the matter of finding a supplier capable of handling such a complex operation. understands that a local engineering firm is the current front runner among interested parties. The most likely scenario is that the subsurface heating will be the work of Poor al-Ifl.


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Alex Rins Suffers Ankle Injury In Training Crash

Alex Rins has suffered a setback which could see him not participate in the second race of the season in Argentina. The factory Suzuki rider crashed while riding his Suzuki motocross bike, and suffered a partial fracture his talus, the bone which sits at the top of the ankle and transfers the weight between leg bones and the foot.

Rins was examined at the Dexeus Institut by Dr Xavier Mir, who diagnosed him with a partial fracture. Rins is due to have another scan on Monday to determine the extent of the injury, and how it is recovering, but the injury does put his participation in the Argentinian GP at Termas de Rio Hondo in doubt. 

Recovery times for full fractures of the talus bone are long: up to 12 weeks for normal humans, which in racer terms generally equates to half that. If the injury is not too severe, he may be able to make a tentative start in Argentina, and will almost certainly be fit for Austin.

The press release issued by the Suzuki ECSTAR team is below, followed by the tweet sent out by the team. That helpfully includes a diagram of exactly which bone the Talus is.


Team Suzuki Press Office – March 31.

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Alex Rins had a slight accident while training on Thursday with his Suzuki RM-Z motocross machine. Apparently without major incident, but with some pain in the right ankle, he finally decided to have some tests done at the University Hospital Dexeus in Barcelona (Spain). There he underwent further examination which diagnosed a small fracture in the talus bone of the right ankle.

The doctors who evaluated the Spanish rider, led by Dr. Xavier Mir, Head of the Hand Unit, a top Orthopedic Surgeon, and Coordinator of the MotoGP Traumatology Service, and Eugenio Gimeno, Head of the foot Unit Hospital Quiron-Dexeus, concluded after a CT scan that Rins had a partial fracture of the right talus, without displacement, but with bone edema.

After consulting with his colleagues in the Department of Traumatology, the medical team has decided to carry out non-surgical treatment with magnetotherapy and physiotherapy, and they will examine the rider next Monday in the same clinic for a check-up before traveling to Argentina.

We will send new updates concerning Alex Rins’ right ankle condition after further tests next Monday.



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Grand Prix Commission Scraps MotoGP Penalty Point System

The MotoGP penalty point system is no more. The system, introduced for the 2013 season, whereby Race Direction could punish rider infringements with penalty points, which would accumulate throughout the year and could result in a race ban, has been scrapped at the latest meeting of the Grand Prix Commission.

The penalty points system had been introduced in response (at least in part) to a number of incidents involving Marc Marquez through the 2012 season. There were complaints from the fans, but also from teams and other riders, that Race Direction was not being even-handed in applying existing penalties to riders. It was sometimes hard for Race Direction to explain why one rider had been given a particular punishment, but another rider who had done something apparently similar had not.

In an attempt to make the situation simpler for all to understand, a penalty point system was introduced, similar to that used in several countries for driving licenses. Initially, riders who accumulated a total of 4 points would have to start from the back of the grid, then if they reached 7 points, they would start from pit lane. If they accumulated 10 points, they would be given a one-race ban, at which point the slate would be wiped clean.

The ban underwent a number of changes: first, penalty points were given a life of one year from the point of issue. Then, after the controversy surrounding the events at Sepang in 2015 involving Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, when Rossi was given 3 penalty points in addition to one he already had, and forced to start at the back of the grid, the penalties at 4 and 7 points were dropped.

Now, just over a year later, the points system has been scrapped altogether. The official reason given by the Grand Prix Commission is because "the FIM MotoGP Stewards have many penalty options, the penalty points were no longer necessary". 

There is some truth in that, and in the time since the penalty points system was introduced, Race Direction and the FIM MotoGP Stewards (another body set up in response to Sepang 2015), have been given more freedom to hand down penalties to rider transgressions. 

But it appears that the penalty points system was too complex to work in practice, and didn't solve the problems it was meant to. Penalty points were meant to deter Moto3 riders from waiting on the racing line for a tow, but it did not stop them. Moving them back several places on the grid seems to have had more effect. 

Nor has it stopped riders crying foul when issued with penalty points for a particular infraction. They still point at comparable crimes committed by other riders, and demand to know why that action received different treatment. 

The points system was meant to create flexibility, but in the end, it had the opposite effect. Imposing punishments on an ad hoc basis, seems to work better than trying to systematize them. Each rider infraction is unique, and needs to be punished appropriately. 

The fact that the FIM MotoGP Stewards are now on hand to assess rider infractions also makes it easier to impose appropriate penalties faster, and without having to resort to penalty points. The Stewards meet separately during the race, while Race Direction can get on and manage the safe running of the race. They are able to assess penalties during the race, and if necessary impose them while the race is running, including black flagging a rider or handing down a ride through.

Previously, Race Direction would wait until after the race was finished to assess incidents, and check carefully who was to blame. That made a system of accumulating points a more logical system. But it has been superseded by the FIM MotoGP Stewards. 

The FIM press release from the latest meeting of the Grand Prix Commission is below:

FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), Vito Ippolito (FIM), Steve Aeschlimann (FIM) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Losail on 25 March 2017, made the following decisions:

Technical Regulations

Effective Immediately

Machine Construction Materials Moto3 and Moto2 Classes
The ban on the use of titanium has been extended to include the entire chassis including the swinging-arm, suspension, handlebars, swinging arm spindles and wheel spindles. For wheel spindles the use of light alloys is also forbidden.

Sporting Regulations

Effective Immediately

Pit Lane Safety
It was previously announced that the number of team staff working on a MotoGP class machine during bike changes in flag to flag racing and during QP1 and QP2 is limited to four, each of whom must wear a crash helmet.

After representations from the teams it has been confirmed that during QP1 and QP2 a maximum of six team staff are permitted, each of whom must wear a crash helmet. The maximum number in flag to flag bike changes remains unchanged at four.

Disciplinary Regulations

Effective Immediately

Penalty points
Taking into consideration that the FIM MotoGP Stewards have many penalties options, the penalty points were no longer necessary. The Grand Prix penalty points are now withdrawn from the list of penalties.

Appeal against a decision of the FIM MotoGP Stewards
It was clarified that no appeal may be lodged if the FIM Appeal Stewards confirm the previous (disciplinary) decision of the FIM MotoGP Stewards. In this case, the decision of the FIM Appeal Stewards is final.

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


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Qualifying Canceled At Qatar Due To Rain - Viñales, Morbidelli, Martin Awarded Pole

Practice and qualifying at the Losail Circuit in Qatar has been canceled due to track conditions. Torrential overnight rain, followed by another downpour during the day left the circuit wet, with standing water in some sections of the track, as well as in the gravel traps. After waiting for conditions to improve, the organizers were finally forced to abandon any hope of running qualifying or FP4 for any of the classes.

Conditions in several areas were key to calling off all track action. Firstly, there was still standing water on one or two sections of the straight. There was also standing water at the apex of a couple of corners, as well as wide streams of water flowing across the track in a couple of places. Most importantly, there were pools of water both in the gravel traps and on the service roads. A crashed rider who lost consciousness would have run the added risk of drowning in the gravel trap pools, and access for medical services via the service roads was also blocked in places.

At the moment, the race schedule for Sunday remains almost unchanged, though warm up has been extended by an extra ten minutes for all three classes. With qualifying canceled, the grids have been set by combined times from all three sessions of free practice in all three classes. That leaves Maverick Viñales on pole in MotoGP, with Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez alongside him.

In Moto2, Franco Morbidell has pole, his Marc VDS teammate Alex Marquez alongside him, and Tom Luthi the last rider on the front row. 

In the Moto3 class, Jorge Martin takes pole position, ahead of Philipp Oettl and Romano Fenati.

MotoGP Combined Times:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Prev
1 25 Maverick Viñales Yamaha 1'54.316    
2 29 Andrea Iannone Suzuki 1'54.848 0.532 0.532
3 93 Marc Marquez Honda 1'54.912 0.596 0.064
4 5 Johann Zarco Yamaha 1'55.008 0.692 0.096
5 4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1'55.042 0.726 0.034
6 45 Scott Redding Ducati 1'55.085 0.769 0.043
7 26 Dani Pedrosa Honda 1'55.113 0.797 0.028
8 94 Jonas Folger Yamaha 1'55.208 0.892 0.095
9 35 Cal Crutchlow Honda 1'55.211 0.895 0.003
10 46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1'55.414 1.098 0.203
11 9 Danilo Petrucci Ducati 1'55.435 1.119 0.021
12 99 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati 1'55.461 1.145 0.026
13 19 Alvaro Bautista Ducati 1'55.581 1.265 0.120
14 76 Loris Baz Ducati 1'55.624 1.308 0.043
15 41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 1'55.634 1.318 0.010
16 43 Jack Miller Honda 1'55.959 1.643 0.325
17 17 Karel Abraham Ducati 1'56.003 1.687 0.044
18 42 Alex Rins Suzuki 1'56.179 1.863 0.176
19 53 Tito Rabat Honda 1'56.368 2.052 0.189
20 8 Hector Barbera Ducati 1'56.725 2.409 0.357
21 22 Sam Lowes Aprilia 1'56.854 2.538 0.129
22 44 Pol Espargaro KTM 1'57.116 2.800 0.262
23 38 Bradley Smith KTM 1'57.654 3.338 0.538

Moto2 Combined Times

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Prev
1 21 Franco Morbidelli Kalex 2:00.349    
2 73 Alex Marquez Kalex 2:00.372 0.023 0.023
3 12 Thomas Luthi Kalex 2:00.422 0.073 0.050
4 30 Takaaki Nakagami Kalex 2:00.502 0.153 0.080
5 44 Miguel Oliveira KTM 2:00.555 0.206 0.053
6 52 Danny Kent Suter 2:00.568 0.219 0.013
7 77 Dominique Aegerter Suter 2:00.774 0.425 0.206
8 97 Xavi Vierge Tech 3 2:00.791 0.442 0.017
9 42 Francesco Bagnaia Kalex 2:00.793 0.444 0.002
10 40 Fabio Quartararo Kalex 2:00.806 0.457 0.013
11 54 Mattia Pasini Kalex 2:00.866 0.517 0.060
12 49 Axel Pons Kalex 2:00.907 0.558 0.041
13 10 Luca Marini Kalex 2:00.922 0.573 0.015
14 23 Marcel Schrotter Suter 2:00.972 0.623 0.050
15 7 Lorenzo Baldassarri Kalex 2:00.981 0.632 0.009
16 2 Jesko Raffin Kalex 2:00.999 0.650 0.018
17 9 Jorge Navarro Kalex 2:01.001 0.652 0.002
18 19 Xavier Simeon Kalex 2:01.017 0.668 0.016
19 55 Hafizh Syahrin Kalex 2:01.173 0.824 0.156
20 11 Sandro Cortese Suter 2:01.226 0.877 0.053
21 45 Tetsuta Nagashima Kalex 2:01.273 0.924 0.047
22 41 Brad Binder KTM 2:01.303 0.954 0.030
23 87 Remy Gardner Tech 3 2:01.429 1.080 0.126
24 24 Simone Corsi Speed Up 2:01.435 1.086 0.006
25 32 Isaac Viñales Kalex 2:01.769 1.420 0.334
26 60 Julian Simon Kalex 2:01.903 1.554 0.134
27 89 Khairul Idham Pawi Kalex 2:01.919 1.570 0.016
28 68 Yonny Hernandez Kalex 2:01.951 1.602 0.032
29 57 Edgar Pons Kalex 2:01.975 1.626 0.024
30 88 Ricard Cardus Speed Up 2:02.299 1.950 0.324
31 5 Andrea Locatelli Kalex 2:02.635 2.286 0.336
32 62 Stefano Manzi Kalex 2:03.553 3.204 0.918
33 8 Saeed Al Sulaiti Speed Up 2:03.564 3.215 0.011
34 96 Nasser Al Malki Speed Up 2:05.506 5.157 1.942

Moto3 Combined Times

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Prev
1 88 Jorge Martin Honda 2:06.817    
2 65 Philipp Oettl KTM 2:06.981 0.164 0.164
3 5 Romano Fenati Honda 2:06.989 0.172 0.008
4 64 Bo Bendsneyder KTM 2:07.162 0.345 0.173
5 23 Niccolò Antonelli KTM 2:07.207 0.390 0.045
6 36 Joan Mir Honda 2:07.239 0.422 0.032
7 16 Andrea Migno KTM 2:07.319 0.502 0.080
8 44 Aron Canet Honda 2:07.373 0.556 0.054
9 19 Gabriel Rodrigo KTM 2:07.380 0.563 0.007
10 58 Juanfran Guevara KTM 2:07.388 0.571 0.008
11 42 Marcos Ramirez KTM 2:07.426 0.609 0.038
12 7 Adam Norrodin Honda 2:07.514 0.697 0.088
13 17 John Mcphee Honda 2:07.545 0.728 0.031
14 8 Nicolo Bulega KTM 2:07.748 0.931 0.203
15 71 Ayumu Sasaki Honda 2:07.810 0.993 0.062
16 21 Fabio Di Giannantonio Honda 2:07.976 1.159 0.166
17 14 Tony Arbolino Honda 2:07.994 1.177 0.018
18 11 Livio Loi Honda 2:08.073 1.256 0.079
19 33 Enea Bastianini Honda 2:08.139 1.322 0.066
20 24 Tatsuki Suzuki Honda 2:08.149 1.332 0.010
21 12 Marco Bezzecchi Mahindra 2:08.202 1.385 0.053
22 84 Jakub Kornfeil Peugeot 2:08.279 1.462 0.077
23 75 Albert Arenas Mahindra 2:08.373 1.556 0.094
24 95 Jules Danilo Honda 2:08.405 1.588 0.032
25 48 Lorenzo Dalla Porta Mahindra 2:08.442 1.625 0.037
26 6 Maria Herrera KTM 2:08.527 1.710 0.085
27 40 Darryn Binder KTM 2:08.740 1.923 0.213
28 27 Kaito Toba Honda 2:08.750 1.933 0.010
29 96 Manuel Pagliani Mahindra 2:09.061 2.244 0.311
30 41 Nakarin Atiratphuvapat Honda 2:09.068 2.251 0.007
31 4 Patrik Pulkkinen Peugeot 2:11.242 4.425 2.174


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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.


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 "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:

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.

“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.

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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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