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Scott Jones in Austin: Saturday Shots

Still gunning for glory

Everything's bigger in Texas. Including the views

Cal Crutchlow has been quick so far, quick enough to make it into the "Peasants' Podium" as he calls it

Dovi, in a battle with his teammate for the second seat at Ducati

Too tall? Tell that to Loris Baz

Big air

#99, Smooth as butter

Bradley Smith radically altered the set up on his Tech 3 Yamaha. He needed to, and it paid off

Maniac Joe, in a battle with his teammate for the second seat at Ducati. He may be faster, but he's got to finish

The next big thing

Gray skies mean clear visors, which means Aleix Espargaro's intense stare shows

Pol Espargaro has had the best of the Tech 3 battle so far

If you want to win, you have to beat him

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 Austin: Friday Photos

Unstoppable in Austin

Topic of the moment: the Ducati winglets make the Desmosedici GP look fearsome

But the Ducati winglets are much smaller than the Yamaha items, especially on Jorge Lorenzo's bike

Big things ahead for Maverick

Fast and furious: Rossi is competitive in Texas

A busy man: Michelin's Nicolas Goubert (right) has a lot on his plate after Argentina

Eugene Laverty took a massive boost from his fourth place in Argentina

Getting closer every race

A man on a mission, to stop Marc Marquez

It isn't easy being a Moto3 champ

Honda are behind, but there is real progress being made

When asked about his teammate, Andrea Dovizioso dodged the question

One so fast, one not so fast

Work to do for Dani too

Eye on the prize

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.


Things To Do In Austin: @PaddockPassPod Meetup, Flat Track at COTA,

So you went to Austin for MotoGP? Smart move! But how to fill the weekend beyond the racing? Here's three things to do in the evening:

1. Paddock Pass Podcast/Asphalt & Rubber / PhotoGP / MotoMatters meet up - Friday, 8pm, Handlebar

On Friday evening, the Paddock Pass Podcast crew will be getting together with Photo.GP, Asphalt & Rubber and for an informal gathering at Handlebar Austin, at 121 E 5th St. If you'd like to meet and chat with Steve English, Neil Morrison, Tony Goldsmith, Scott Jones, Jensen Beeler and David Emmett, come along to the HandleBar Austin bar. We will be there from 8pm onwards, and looking forward to seeing you all there.

2. Flat Track at the Circuit of the Americas - Saturday, 7pm, COTA

Saturday evening sees flat track added to the schedule, with a purpose-built half mile oval hosting an official round of the AMA Pro Flat Track series. The big names of the American Flat Track scene wil be competing at the event, including reigning champion Jared Mees, and the racing promises to be as spectacular as ever. 

With most of the MotoGP grid likely to turn up to spectate, there is every chance of bumping into your idol. Ducati and Honda have already confirmed that most of their teams will be attending, and Yamaha are also likely to be out at the race in force. The popularity of dirt track as a method of training means you have a chance to meet the stars of two series, both MotoGP and AMA Pro Flat Track.

The evening kicks off at 7pm, with tickets on sale via the event's dedicated website. Fans with tickets for the MotoGP race will receive a $5 discount on tickets for the event.

3. Handbuilt Motorcycle Show - Friday through Sunday, 1100 E 5th St

The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show is a favorite at Austin every year. Featuring some of the most innovative and fascinating one-off motorcycles, it is a feast for the eyes. The level of engineering and ingenuity on display is always mind-boggling, and it is a fine way to while away an hour or two.

It is also a place to meet MotoGP celebrities. The show is a favorite with the paddock as much as the fans, so if you want to bump into your favorite crew chief or an interesting journalist, it is as good a place to hang around as any.


Circuit of Wales Under Threat as Welsh Government Refuses to Underwrite Project

The Circuit of Wales was dealt a significant setback on Wednesday, after the Welsh Economy Minister refused to offer a 100% guarantee for the £357 million development project. Without the guarantee, the future of the project is now uncertain, with doubts over the willingness of Aviva, a British insurance company, to continue with backing for the project. 

After a long period of preparation, which included a Public Enquiry on the transfer of public lands, work was set to start on the circuit, set just outside Ebbw Vale in South Wales. Work had already started to get the site of the circuit ready to start construction. 

The final piece of the puzzle had been secured several weeks ago, in the form of financial backing from Aviva. However, the Heads of The Valley Development Company had asked the Welsh Government to underwrite 100% of the investment in the project, with reports in the regional newspaper South Wales Argus suggesting that such demands had come from Aviva. 

Welsh Economy Minister Edwina Hart wrote to the Welsh Assembly to inform its members that the Welsh Government could not underwrite the entire project cost. She wrote that there was "a significant question around the viability of the project" and that backing it was therefore an "unacceptable risk". The offer of an 80% guarantee had not been accepted.

Speaking to BBC Wales, the Economy Minister said she had been advised the project was too risky to underwrite fully. With Aviva refusing to underwrite 20% of the project, Hart told the BBC "there is no private money in this" and that therefore the risk would have fallen entirely on the taxpayer. This was not a good investment for the public purse, Hart said, telling the BBC "The advice to me was that it was not value for money, it was far too much of a risk for government."

Without the backing of the government, it is unclear how the project will proceed. The HODVC are still confident of being able to complete the project, but must now embark on a mission to find alternative ways of securing the project. In a statement, shown below, HODVC boss Michael Carrick said, "We will continue negotiations with The Welsh Government, the local authorities and Aviva Investors to advance the development on revised terms that will be acceptable to all parties."

The statement from the Heads of The Valleys Development Company is below:

Michael Carrick, CEO, Heads of The Valleys Development Company commented on Edwina Hart's letter (dated 6th April) to Rt Hon Carwyn Jones regarding The Circuit of Wales project:

"We fully recognise and appreciate the support and commitment of The Welsh Government and the private sector partners over many years to get a project as complex as The Circuit of Wales to a point where construction is imminent.

"The Circuit of Wales is a significant mixed-industry development with the potential to deliver widespread regeneration benefits to the South Wales region. Many observers near to the site will have noted that the pre-enablement works and ecology activity has already commenced and we have a range of contractors engaged on creating sustainable employment opportunities in this challenged area.

"We respect and understand the Ministers decision on the support for a 100% guarantee for our private funding. While this was our clear preference and reflective of the negotiations we have held over the past six months, we accept that the project will need to progress on revised terms.

"We will continue negotiations with The Welsh Government, the local authorities and Aviva Investors to advance the development on revised terms that will be acceptable to all parties."

MotoGP Argentina Race Shortened To 20 Laps, Compulsory Pit Stops

Race Direction have once again revised the procedure for the MotoGP race in Argentina. The race has now been shortened to 20 laps, with a compulsory pit stop between laps 9 and 11. The official statement is below:

New Statement from Race Direction, Argentina

The race distance is changed to 20 laps.


Riders must change bikes at the end of their 9th. 10th. or 11th. Lap.

If rain starts and Race Direction consider the situation to be dangerous the red flag will be shown and all riders should enter pit lane.

Teams will be given 15 minutes between the display of the red flag and opening of pit lane to make adjustments to the machines.

The second part of the race will be for 10 laps. Grid positions will be based on the result of the first part and will be declared a wet race.


Riders may enter the pits to change machines only from the end of their 9th. lap.

If the wet race is red flagged for other reasons when more than 13 laps have been completed then the result will stand and there will be no restart.

Race Direction


Race Direction Clarifies Procedure For Argentina MotoGP Race

Race Direction issued the following statement on the procedure for the MotoGP race today:

Statement from Race Direction,
Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina.

The warm up starting at 10:40 will now be for 30 minutes, finishing at 11:10. This will apply whether the track is dry or wet.

If the track is dry for the warm up riders should use the replacement rear tyre (Option Tyre).

If the track is wet for the warm up then the plan to provide extra practice sessions with the Option tyre is cancelled and the race will be held using the tyres from the original allocation.


If the race starts in dry conditions if the warm up has been dry then riders must start with the Option tyre and the race will be for the full 25 laps. The normal flag to flag conditions will apply if the track becomes wet.

If the race starts in dry conditions when the warm up has been wet then riders may use either of the rear slick tyres (Medium & Hard of their allocation for Argentina). However, the race will be “flag to flag” for 20 laps with a compulsory stop to change machines at the end of lap 9, 10 or 11.

If the race starts in the wet and the track dries then Race Direction will decide if it is unsafe for the riders to continue in which case the race will be red flagged. The new “dry” race will then be restarted for ten laps with a 15 minute start procedure. Should the track become wet during this race the riders may change machines as normal.

If the race starts in wet conditions and remains wet then the race will be for the normal 25 laps.

Under no conditions will the use of intermediate tyres be permitted.

Race Direction


Argentina MotoGP Schedule: Early FP Canceled, Plans in Place to Handle Conditions

The problems with Michelin tires yesterday have combined with wet weather at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit to force Race Direction to put a string of contingency plans in place to deal with variable conditions. Here is the plan as it stands:

  • The extra session of warm up for MotoGP has been canceled. The wet track meant the teams could not test the new rear tire on offer from Michelin. That, in turn, would have meant they would have needed a sixth session of free practice if the track dried out again to test the new tires. There were concerns that the teams did not have enough race fuel to cover six sessions of free practice, and the extra morning session on a wet track would have been fairly meaningless anyway. At any other track, if it rained on Sunday, the teams would only have warm up to find a wet set up.
  • If MotoGP warm up is dry, the session will be extended to allow the teams to find a set up.
  • If MotoGP warm up is wet, then it will be extended for 10 minutes to give the riders a chance to get a feel for the wet Michelins, which they have only tested at Brno and Phillip Island.
  • If the track dries ahead of the start of the MotoGP race, an extra session of free practice will be added, to allow the teams to find a set up with the stiffer construction medium tire Michelin brought as a contingency. The timing of that session is to be decided.
  • If the track starts wet, but then dries out, then the current plan is that the race will be red-flagged. However, there were also reports that the medium tire which Michelin withdrew yesterday could be used. Tire temperatures on a drying track will not be an issue, but the riders will not be allowed to do more than ten laps on the tire in the dry, meaning another compulsory pit stop might be possible.

​The situation is changing fast, however. With so many circumstances which cannot be predicted, Race Direction is having to adapt to events as they occur. 

Michelin Withdraws Both Rear Compounds in Argentina after Delamination In FP4

Michelin has taken the highly unusual step of withdrawing not just one, but both rear tire compounds from use at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina. Instead, a different rear tire with a stiffer construction will be issued in the morning, with the teams being given an extra 30-minute session of warm up in which to find a set up for the tires.

The decision was taken after Scott Redding suffered a catastrophic tire delamination with the Pramac Ducati during FP4. The incident happened on a medium rear tire which had been used for just seven laps, according to a statement on the official website. Redding managed to stay aboard, fortunately, but the rear of his bike was destroyed by a large strip of rubber which had detached itself from the tire. That strip of tire also hit Redding in the back, leaving a massive bruise

The incident caused FP4 to be red-flagged, then, rather bizarrely, restarted once again, before being stopped for a second time. However, it was not immediately clear what had caused Redding's tire to self-destruct, and so the session was allowed to continue, as was qualifying. The reasoning behind allowing the session and QP to continue was that the riders would be doing only short runs, which would not stress the tire for long enough for them to become overheated.

After a meeting between Michelin, Dorna, the safety officers of the FIM, and the teams, it was decided that both rear tires would be withdrawn, as they both used the same construction. Because Michelin will only be able to pinpoint the cause of the failure after careful examination back at their base in Clermont Ferrand, France, they were not confident enough that the problem was only down to the compound, and not the construction.

Instead of the withdrawn tires, a new rear tire will be made available. The new rear features a stiffer construction, which should make it able to withstand stress on the rear better, and will use the medium compound. To allow the riders and teams extra time to find some kind of set up with the new tires, the teams will be given an extra 30-minute session of free practice, due to start at 9am local time, before the warm up sessions start. Warm up will then proceed as normal, with the race happening at the scheduled time of 4pm local time.

This is not the first time Michelin have suffered issues with the tires. Loris Baz suffered a massive blowout at Sepang during the first test, though that was later put down to a combination of low pressure and a foreign object having punctured the tire. It is worth noting that both the Baz and Redding incidents happened at tracks with extreme conditions, to the tallest and heaviest riders on the grid, both riding Ducatis, the most powerful bike on the grid.

It is also worth pointing out that Michelin did not get much of a chance to test in Argentina. The scheduled test slot was struck by poor weather conditions, Michelin and Yamaha test rider Colin Edwards spending much of his time sitting in the garage looking out. At a track like Termas de Rio Hondo, which is both abrasive and very fast, tires are already stressed. The added complication of unusually high temperatures makes life even harder for rear tires.

The one problem which is yet to be addressed is that of the weather. At the time of writing, the weather forecast for Sunday was for it to rain all day, making the extra rear slick excess to requirements. What happens if it is wet in the morning and dry in the afternoon, or wet in the morning and we have a flag-to-flag race remains up in the air.

If that happens, a decision will be taken quite late. It was precisely to handle conditions such as this that Race Direction were given the freedom to adapt the race format and strategy after the problems Bridgestone had at Phillip Island, when a newly resurfaced track was generating more heat in the rear tires than the Japanese tire manufacturer expected. Then, Race Direction shortened the race and instituted a compulsory pit stop halfway through. Clearly, that would remain an option in Argentina.


Monza Round of World Superbikes Canceled, Estoril as Replacement?

The Monza round of World Superbikes has been canceled. The rumors that Monza would be taken off the calendar have been circulating since early February, but the cancellation was only officially confirmed today. Unofficially, the circuit has known longer: last week, the circuit replied to an email from a reader that the race would not be going ahead, and he would not be able to purchase tickets for the event on 22nd-24th July.

The reason the circuit has lost the WSBK round is because the track could not obtain FIM homolgation in time. Discussion is ongoing over exactly how the circuit needs to change to allow motorcycles to race there safely, but a satisfactory solution is yet to be agreed upon. In their statement, Dorna made it clear that they had hoped that some agreement could be reached, and that Monza could once again make its return to the WSBK calendar.

Negotiations are currently underway to find a replacement. Originally, Vallelunga, near Rome, had an agreement with WorldSBK to act as a back up venue. That circuit also has safety issues which need to be addressed, and the relatively short notice leaves little time for the track to make the required changes, especially not given the busy schedule most race tracks have. The Dorna press release also mentions scheduling difficulties: Vallelunga is already booked for a motorcycle track event on the weekend scheduled for Monza, making a straight swap impossible.

It now looks as if World Superbikes could head to Estoril as a replacement round. Talks continue with the circuit over a date, with July and September being mentioned as the most likely time. The track's proximity to Lisbon would make it a more popular draw than Portimao, which was a spectacular track set in a location with little motorcycling interest. Estoril is a little better situated, though attendance for MotoGP rounds at the track was also sparse.

Below is the press release from Dorna on the schedule change:

2016 Calendar Update

The FIM and DWO would like to announce the cancellation of the 2016 WorldSBK Italian Round that was to be held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza during the weekend of the 22nd – 24th July.

Regarding the changes needed to bring the WorldSBK paddock back to Monza, all the bodies involved have requested the FIM and DWO for the time required in order to further analyze the project, with a view to confirming its feasibility in the near future.

DWO would further like to announce that the substitute circuit contract with Vallelunga will not be activated, due to scheduling difficulties and the required modifications to the venue that would enable Vallelunga to host a Round of WorldSBK.

At this time, a replacement venue for this Italian Round of the Championship is still being evaluated. Confirmation of both the location and date of the replacement will be provided before the 1st of May, to enable final confirmation of the 2016 WorldSBK Calendar.


Spec Winglets to be Mandatory in MotoGP from 2017

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. Though winglets and aerodynamics are a major issue in MotoGP, we are far from reaching a solution which is acceptable to all parties. With Ducati implacable on one side, and Honda not keen on the other, agreement will be very hard to reach. When there is some kind of genuine agreement, we will report on it, but I doubt that Airbus will be involved. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed... 

Winglets are to be made compulsory in MotoGP from 2017, can exclusively reveal, using a spec design to be implemented much along the lines of the current unified software introduced this year in the premier class.

The decision was taken in response to concerns over costs spiraling out of control should all of the factories become engaged in a winglet war. The marginal gains to be had from increased spending on CFD computer modeling and wind tunnel work were a red flag for Dorna, who have spent the last seven seasons since the start of the Global Financial Crisis tweaking the rules to reduce costs and raise grid numbers. With the grid now healthy, and set to rise to 24 in 2017, Dorna and the FIM feared all their hard work could be undone, and teams would once again be forced out of racing by rising costs.

Though Ducati was strongly opposed to any form of intervention - which went against an agreement by Dorna not to interfere with the technical regulations for the next five season, the length of the current commercial agreements with the factories - they eventually gave in when the proposal for a spec winglet design by committee was put to them. Under the proposal, leaked to, the spec winglet would be designed using input from all of the factories in MotoGP. Those proposals would then be forwarded to a technology partner, who would test and refine them, based on the factories' design parameters.

It was the identity of the technology partner which persuaded Ducati. Dorna has struck a landmark deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus to design and test the winglets, ensuring a generic design which will work with all of the bikes in MotoGP. The deal includes access to time in the wind tunnel Airbus uses at Filton, which is also less than an hour from Rassau, Ebbw Vale, part of the new Circuit of Wales project. The prospect of being able to test designs in the wind tunnel, then take the bike for a short trip across the Severn estuary to try it in practice at the Circuit of Wales was too tempting to resist.

The deal offers Airbus technology advantages as well. Aircraft, like motorcycles, are dynamic vehicles, with a wide range of motion in three axes. While managing airflow at altitude is more straightforward, the problems come during landing and take off, the most dangerous part of any flight. MotoGP bikes bear an unsuspected resemblance to a landing aircraft: they are traveling at comparable speeds with varying attitudes. This in turn affects airflow between the body and wings of the plane and the ground, just as the changing shape of a motorcycle during cornering radically changes airflow. Airbus believes this could provide valuable data towards helping make plane landings smoother and safer. 

The deal was originally meant to stay secret until Silverstone, with a spectacular display at the former airfield to include the landing of an Airbus along the appropriately named Hangar Straight before the start of the MotoGP race. This leak puts an end to that.

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. Though winglets and aerodynamics are a major issue in MotoGP, we are far from reaching a solution which is acceptable to all parties. With Ducati implacable on one side, and Honda not keen on the other, agreement will be very hard to reach. When there is some kind of genuine agreement, we will report on it, but I doubt that Airbus will be involved. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...